Friday, 1 December 2017

Mourning My Father

My father died a touch after 10am on Tuesday, November 14th. Yesterday, we cremated him.

Despite the crushing inevitability of it, when the call came to say that he had gone, the shock was indescribable.

That was just over a fortnight ago - a fortnight which seems more like a month, and a period of time which has been consumed by the horrible consequences of his passing. Like watching my family capitulate. Tending to funeral arrangements. Sorting out his confusing affairs. Attempting to wade through his house and his things. Speaking to all manner of people to inform them, whether they’re friends and associates or the customer service department of a utility company. There are so many people to tell. Either way, they’re all sorry for my loss.

It’s been relentless. And yet in those fleeting moments where my mind has the temerity to find solace in a different territory, or those first beautiful minutes after waking, where sleep washes my mind clean, I suddenly remember that he’s dead and the thought strikes me like a cold slap across the face. As I reel from the blow, I’m flabbergasted how I can be hit so hard and so unexpectedly by something I already know.

In grief, silence suddenly has a sound. I hear it at its loudest in the middle of the night when sleep eludes me and I’m overcome because it’s dawned on me for the hundredth time that I won’t ever speak to, or see, my Dad again. I hear it when I go to pick up the phone to check in with him as I did on a daily basis. But I can’t and the habit is hard to break.
I am heartbroken.

I lost my Mam when I was 23 and now my father at 41. My Mam was 61 when she died. My Dad had just turned 70. I feel thoroughly fucking swizzed. I feel too young not to have any parents left. I’m so angry and I don’t know what to do with it. In fact, I don’t quite know what to do with myself, full stop. I’ve never been one for laying in bed or sitting about aimlessly, but at the moment that’s all I want to do. I can’t concentrate on anything, whether it’s a book or a bit of telly.

Dad’s cavernous absence is like a constant ringing in my ears. The rawness of the grief has manifested itself in the strangest of ways. It's like I’ve developed some kind of mania. One minute I’m fine and then the most tenuous of triggers reduces to me to tears while I’m dithering around the milk in Sainsburys. I pull myself together but the oddness continues at the checkout where I inexplicably greet the checkout operator as though I’m Miranda. This happened today when I minced towards her and said, in an eerily joyous tone, ‘And a hearty good morning to you, kind sir!’ This was at 4.30pm and the woman - her name was June according to her badge - didn’t appear to be that thrilled about being mistaken for a bloke. Then I started laughing which morphed into tears. I paid the bewildered-looking June for the milk and made my way outside to find that I had absolutely no idea where I’d parked my car. No clue whatsoever. My short term memory is in tatters. One minute I’m in the middle of saying something and then - mid sentence - it’s gone, like someone has just yanked the plug from the socket.

I feel like I’ve had to hold it together since that horrible call and now that the funeral is over, I’m unravelling.

The relationship that I had with Dad was complicated to say the least and for the first time in my life, I feel as though I’m having to confront regret. He was a man of towering extremes and we often crossed words. In fact, we always seemed to occupy opposite sides of any spectrum. There were many times when we found great comfort in each other but for the most part, I often felt as though my Dad didn’t like me very much. I know he loved me - I have never, ever doubted that - but he never really liked me.

I don’t think he ever really forgave me for moving to London at 19. Just because you’re born in a place, it doesn’t mean you belong there. And that’s how I felt about home. It was like an ill fitting suit and I needed to escape for a variety of reasons. Dad mistook this as both an act of treason and pretension; as though I thought I was better than home and the people there. That I had ideas above my station. Nothing could be further from the truth. I just felt like the squarest of pegs in the roundest of holes. I was always anchored to the periphery - both socially and at home. I wasn't happy. Both my parents had their favourites. I was neither of theirs and Dad made it quite clear on many occasions. I refused to stand for it, which made it worse as Dad thought that as the father figure, he should be worshipped. The thing is, I did. He was my superhero in so many ways. He was ambivalent towards me; always blowing either boiling hot or freezing cold and this continued up until he died. I often think about the time I put a novel out a couple of years ago and he ignored it. To me, it was a bit of a big deal. He, however, could not have given less of a shit. I didn’t even tell him I was writing it. The first he knew of it was when I sent him the proof copy which had a dedication to him in the front. A week passed and I heard nothing. When I finally called him to see if he had received it, he told me in a rather despondent tone that he had, but that he was in the middle of reading something else and that he would get around to it when he could. Then he put the phone down. We never spoke about it again.

I only wanted to know if he’d seen the dedication. I’m not precious about my writing. Some people might like it and others hate it. It’s like anything. It’s always lovely to get good feedback, but I certainly don’t expect it. Later that night he told my brother that I had called him for an ‘ego massage’ - to this day, I find that response completely devastating. I probably always will. I’m certain that if I had a child and they sent me a novel that they had written, I’d be over the fucking moon. I’d be so proud. No matter how good or bad it was. The fact that my father showed me only disdain makes me profoundly sad. The saddest thing is, that I feel as though my Dad didn’t actually know me. He had a certain view of who he thought I was but I don’t actually think I’m anything like that person. I’ve already said this but it bears repeating: despite his inconsistent approach to me, I never felt unloved. Strangely, he would not tolerate the behaviour he often showed towards me from anyone else. Even in the last few months, he was hugely defensive. He has genuinely offered to kill every single one of my ex boyfriends. Even recently, when I told him about a disagreement I had with someone, he offered to come to London and ‘chin them.’

Every conversation we had would end with telling each other we loved each other. That said, there was a just a tangible disconnect between us at times. I couldn’t please him. One day, when I realised that doing so was as easy as filling a hole-laden bucket using only a knackered sieve, I stopped trying and he didn’t like that either.

At the core of the chasm that existed between us was the gay thing, I’m sure.

My Dad was of a certain generation; a generation which didn’t much like the queers. I came to terms with my sexuality at 23. Dad came to terms with it when I was 36. He’d known for years (in fact, he later claimed he always knew), but when I was 36, he was able to tolerate it. I say tolerate because I feel as though that was what he did. He wasn’t happy about it but he was able to frame it in his own head and there was no longer any need for secrecy and lies. It made him sad that ‘my condition’ (chortle!) meant that I would never have children. I saw that as a bit of a blessing to be perfectly honest, but he often verbalised how sad he was that I wasn’t going to pass on my genes, which, thinking about it, is quite a lovely compliment. During that first open conversation, I told him that he was not to worry about me and that if he had any questions, he should ask. An hour later the phone rang. The display told me that it was Dad. Before I could say hello, he immediately asked, ‘Who’s the train driver and who’s the tunnel?’ Needless to say, I now view Thomas the Tank Engine in an entirely different light.

My Dad was brilliant in so many ways. His best friend has spoken about how he, ‘would light up any room and the lives of those in it.’ I couldn’t put it better myself. In my opinion, his strongest gift - and he had many - was his charisma. As a kid, I would observe as the recipients of his attention became putty in his hands; whether it was someone serving him in a shop or one of my teachers. Yes, it helped that he was good looking, but he had that X factor about him. He was funny too. So very funny. He was clever. He was magnetic. He had both a physical and emotional presence but it was always on his terms and he was able to switch it on and off at will. People either loved him or feared him. Sometimes both.

When he was on form, there was no one kinder. No one more understanding. No one better. No one more protective. Once upon a time, my Dad punched a fucking donkey. He was the biggest animal rights advocate going. He punched it because the donkey kicked me. It every right to: I was standing too close. I was a fat kid and the donkey probably had enough problems without having to cart my considerable rump around a waterlogged car park. But when my proximity became too much, it bucked and I went flying, which wasn’t acceptable as far as my Dad was concerned. The donkey had crossed a line, so he decked it.

Like I’ve said, he was a man of extremes. Black or white with no grey sandwiched in the middle. For me, the pendulum would swing from overwhelming love and generosity to unjustified cruelty. It’s hard trying to reconcile the father and the flawed human. It’s going to take me years to unpick the relationship. For now, I can’t quite believe that he’s gone. The enormity of his presence in this world has lead to a gaping hole in the wake of his death. Despite everything, I’m so proud that he was my father. I love him and I miss him desperately.

I always will.  

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Alternative Career: Property Developer Extraordinaire!

The older I get, the more convinced I am that daytime television is a sinister government ploy to lessen dependency on the state. Ten minutes into Shit in the Attic or watching Peter Andre aimlessly piss about on ITV2 and it’s clear to me that the unemployed have got as much motivation as they will ever need to get a job. That or kill themselves. I mean, as far as the government is concerned, it’s win-win, no?

Thanks to my spectacular inability to win the lottery, I have no other choice other than drag myself out of bed and go to work each day. This means that I avoid any telly-box offerings until I get home, when I can overdose on Netflix, gin and frantic self-chill. This week, however, I’m off work and having had a couple of lie-ins, I’ve taken in some mid-morning telly while coming to life. T’other day I gagged as the TV offered me a repugnant slice of Jeremy Kyle - a bizarre hour where stupid people with awful dentistry get shouted at by a sanctimonious, shark eyed bully while the audience points and laughs. There was a lie detector in there somewhere, but I couldn’t face sticking around for the results. Instead, I fingered the remote until I found something much more palatable and BBC One seemed only too happy to oblige: Homes Under the Hammer. Oh, how marvellous! How come I’ve never seen this before? And how come I’m not a property developer? I could do that...

PROS: It seems really easy: find a derelict shit hole for sale via an auction and keep raising your hand until you psych-out your competition and end up winning the dump. Then get filmed walking around, inspecting the litany of dry rot and woodworm while you stroke your chin and ruminate upon the fact that the property probably used to belong to Fred West. Lovely. Next, you will be expected to look into the camera with a straight face as you answer questions about your property portfolio. You will be asked about renovations that you might want to make while chortling through sentences about open-plan living, en-suites and - if you’re feeling particularly exotic - installing an Aga. They will reveal that you need to spend about ten thousand on the roof alone. The asbestos removal will be another couple of grand; the bathroom and kitchen need ripping out and the staircase needs moving. You will be reluctant to reveal that your budget is about £15 and a bag of chips. And yes, that includes contingency, whatever the bloody fuck that’s supposed to mean.

In reality you will simply paint every room white, put down new carpet and forget to excavate the bodies in the walls. You will stick a mirror in the pantry, optimistically hoping that this will fool prospective buyers into thinking that it could double up as a games room or an office. You will blow your budget on glade candles, crap you don’t need from Ikea and bleach before selling the whole SHEBANG on for a profit of £9.80. And that’s before capital gains tax.

CONS: Puh! It turns out that the auction is not actually a guessing game - you have to pay for what you win. How, then, is that WINNING? Apparently, getting a mortgage on a dilapidated squat still occupied by saggy-titted hippies involved in some kind of death cult might be problematic. Especially when the sinkhole in the back yard isn’t actually a half constructed swimming pool like you thought it was. Oh, and rumour has it that said shithole was erected on an ancient red-indian burial graveyard. Even though it’s in Derby. Eeek.

In order to save money, it’s apparently a good idea to do most of the work yourself. Which, in principle, I agree with. But then I think about the time I spent a WEEKEND trying to put up a curtain rail which was so stressful that by the time Monday rolled around I had alopecia and cirrhosis of the liver. I’m more about the spirit and less about the level. Truly. Ugh. I’d rather pay a professional although that’s not going to do the budget much good. And you know what? Even if everything turned out just dandy, you could bet your bottom dollar that thanks to Brexit or whatever, house prices would drop quicker than a slag’s pants soon after completing the work. My ‘gorgeous’ investment would be worth little more than knicker elastic. Effing typical!

CHANCES: Can anyone lend me a hundred grand? I’ll go fifty-fifty with you on my, ahem, profit. Go on, you stingy so and so. You know you want to...

Monday, 23 October 2017

Learning From Your Mistakes...

I’ve recently decorated my new office. Given the lack of budget, I didn’t use a professional, I didn’t venture down to Farrow & Ball and I certainly didn’t have a gander down the aisles of B&Q, mainly because B&Q makes me want to punch myself in the throat until I lose consciousness.

Given the financial constraints, I decided to get creative which basically translates as: I pinched a load of inspirational quotes from The Google and plastered them to the walls with a load of Blu-Tak. I know what you’re probably thinking, ‘Sounds bloody horrendous!’ but actually, for a small office where people often come to discuss the POOR CHOICES THAT THEY HAVE MADE, it works. It’s colourful, eye catching and there’s approximately two hundred motivational messages that anyone can ruminate upon as they ponder their latest blunder. Like punching their friend, who called their mum a fat slag. And while none of my pilfered posters says: ‘Don’t call your mate’s mum a fat cow! She’s not that fat!’ there are a few words of wisdom that I often refer to as we get down to business: ‘Forget the mistake, remember the lesson,’ and the infinitely more fabulous, ‘If you stumble, make it part of the dance,’ although the latter is often used as an excuse to practise being the sassy salsa lady emoji - the best of all the emojis, I think you’ll find - so I can sashay my way out of the room when things get too awkward.

Seriously, though, I think there is something to be said from learning from your mistakes, from dropping a huge bollock and watching your life unravel before gluing it back together with an economy Pritt-Stick and hoping for the best. I’ve done it no end of times. Sometimes you have no other option other than to bounce back. Or draw upon your sassy salsa lady dancing abilities as you flounce out of the room…

Mistake 1: Relationships. Once upon a massive fuck up ago, I thought it would be a good idea to go out with someone who had all the grace and charm of freshly thrown up kebab. Whatever possessed me, I have no idea. I know what you’re thinking, we’ve all been there; and you’re right, we have. Except, this one was an expert in being an awful human. I’ve perhaps spent far too much time writing about him over the years as I’ve tried to process how someone that I loved could lie to me so completely from day one before running up fifty thousand pounds worth of debt in my name, taking everything I had of any worth and vanishing into thin air, which was quite an achievement, given the fact he was about 25 stones. What annoys me is that I failed to call it. Not only did I fail to listen to my gut instinct, I actively ignored it, despite the all round domestic abuse and general shocking behaviour. The more elaborate his stories became, the more I sucked it up with wide-eyed wonder. Looking back, I was such a massive, gullible twat, and once I reconnected with reality, I fell into an emotional abyss. Dark days and drama. While my recovery didn’t take place overnight, I got myself through it. I built myself back up and reconstructed my life. I lived and worked abroad for a while and then returned to the UK where I changed my life for the better.  Whereas Fatty is now dead, so there you go.

Inspirational quote: Karma kills. Hurrah!

Mistake 2: Other relationship miscalculations. Never enter someone else’s relationship. It probably won’t end well. I did this five years ago. It ended terribly. No matter how tempting it is, don’t do it. In my rather shabby defence, it was him who started it and pursued me relentlessly until I decided to meet for a coffee. It was that or a restraining order. I gave in to an attraction that I can no longer see. They say that love is blind: it had to be. A balding ginger with smoker’s teeth and a collection of chins. Like, yum. When someone gets with you while they’re with someone else, it says something about them. It says that they’re probably a bit of a cunt. He understood this and during our first date told me that he was a decent bloke trapped in an unhappy relationship. Then finish it, I told him. I will, he said. I promise. What I should’ve done was LISTEN TO MY TRUSTED CHUMS who advised me to give him a wide berth until he’d got rid of his ex. But no… Convinced that this sub-par specimen was The One, I threw myself in, head first. And when he finally told the ex (over a year later and only when I gave him an ultimatum), they continued as nothing had happened and I had to suck it up. It was such a bizarre situation that I inexplicably tolerated. We only saw each other when his ex was away. We never went on holiday, and yet he and the ex went to Germany and Japan. He went away all the time. Just SANS MOI. In retrospect, holidays probably wouldn’t have worked between us as I like maximum heat and tannage.

Inspirational quote: Sun’s out, gingers in.

Mistake 3: Smoking. Irritating as this will sound to current smokers, I can’t believe I ever smoked. It’s disgusting. Despite knowing about the PLETHORA of smoking related illnesses, blah, blah, blah, I still took it up when I was at uni. Then one day, while out on the razz, my mate attempted to talk to me in a noisy bar soon after having a fag. I literally gagged on his breath. In fact, it nearly KILLED ME, which would’ve been ironic, don’t you think? After that, I was OUT.

Inspirational quote: Bad oral leads to no oral. Ever.

Mistake 4: Honesty is the best policy. Listen, I quite like to think that I’m pretty honest as things go, but there are times when telling the truth is a stupid thing to do. Like the time when I dated a massive Star Wars fan and tried to impress him by talking about Dr Spock’s ears, not realising that Star Trek was a different kettle of fish, entirely. When he called me out on not knowing my arse from my elbow, I decided to tell him that Star Wars was a load of shit and that Muriel’s Wedding was infinitely better. Which it is, but did it get me laid? No. Perhaps a good thing. When you think sci-fi, you don’t think, great in bed, do you? I tend to think CLUMSY MISSIONARY and PLEASE TAKE YOUR THREE DAY OLD SOCKS OFF and PLEASE LEAVE MY LIFE IMMEDIATELY.

Inspirational quote: Liar, liar, bum’s on fire.

Mistake 5: Mistaking The Google for a doctor. Listen to me and listen well: if you have any sort of symptom, get yourself down the quacks. Do not - I repeat, DO NOT - search for symptoms online. You know why? Because irrespective of what’s wrong with you, The Google will send you directly to hospital. Or a hospice. You will not pass go. You will not collect two hundred pounds. Every innocent search will return hideous results. That sniffle you’ve got? The Google says you’re riddled. That patch of dry skin on your forehead? The Google thinks it’s probably ebola. I recently investigated what I thought might be Tennis Elbow. Turns out I have a prolapsed vagina. Who knew?

Inspirational quote: An apple a day keeps anyone away if you chuck it hard enough.

Friday, 20 October 2017

The Somewhat Tragic Confessions of a formerly (but perhaps still a little) obsessive Madonna Fan…

Over the years, I’ve often been asked by the odd, bland heterosexual, ‘Why do you gays love Madonna so?’ The answer is simple: it’s because we’re renowned for our fabulous taste. Not all gays love Madge; these people are called liars who are just attention seeking. You know who you are and SHAME ON YOU. *insert sassy z-click as appropriate* I mean, what’s not to like? There have been so many incarnations over her 35 year career that there’s a Madonna for everyone. Every new era brings a new look and a new sound that evolves from the one that went before. There’s a reason that she’s the most successful female artist ever. You can keep your caterwauling divas, your pop tarts and your rock chicks who look as though they could do with a bath. Just give me a large slice of Madge pie and make it snappy. Of course I like a lot of other artists and, like most people, I have an extensive, eclectic range of music cluttering up my iTunes account. It’s just that while I love a lot of stuff, I love my Madge the most. I always have and I always will, ever since I was the age of eight and I watched her dry her armpits on a hand dryer in a dingy club while singing Into The Groove. My love was immediate and unrelenting and for a while in my teens, it was perhaps the stuff of restraining orders or a psychological case study.

While catching up with a friend recently, we looked back at the depths of my inner loon and we laughed. But - just like Madge herself - I’m not the least bit sorry. I’m not your bitch, don’t hang your shit on me, etc.

  1. It’s February 1995. The bleak midwinter, in other words. Where was I? I was in London, wearing only a Madonna t-shirt and a terrible haircut, seemingly fashioned on a spent brillo. I was 150 miles from home standing outside Madonna’s hotel with about 100 other fans, who The Times would describe as ‘bedraggled’ in the the next day’s edition. Front page, bitches. Check me out, etc.  I’d always wanted to stand outside the hotel and get caught up in Madge-related drama and this was my time. Our Glorious Leader was in town to perform Bedtime Story at The Brit Awards. We stood there for hours until she appeared, causing the army of obsessives to go PROPERLY MENTAL as she clambered into her Daimler. Obviously, the mere sight of her almost caused me to have a minor bleed but before I could do this with a modicum of dignity, I was PROPELLED forward by the HEAVING THRONG and found myself REBOUNDING off the passenger door of Madge’s car while she was in it. Basically, SHE RAN ME OVER AND LEFT ME FOR DEAD, which would have been a better headline than what The Times offered. Bedraggled indeed.
  2. Back in the day when record shops existed, I would always make a beeline for the Madge section, even though I already owned everything that they offered. Still, I would do two things religiously: 1. Tidy up her bit; 2. Take a generous handful of her CDs and place them over her SORRY, INFERIOR competition (most of whom are now either dead or obese.) I was once caught doing this in HMV and was asked to leave. Years later, the business collapsed. Karma, I think you'll find that's called. I just wish there was a modern way of doing this in iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, etc. Oh, to be a bandit hacker type person!
  3. As a teen, I would listen to the Late Night Triple play on my local radio station, Trent FM. As the name suggests, it would offer up a trio of songs by one artist - usually syrupy ballads, designed to provide a sonic version of Viagra as listeners would be encouraged to call up and dedicate the section to their lovers. I’m being a total unapologetic bitch when I say that I rang up, requested my three Madonna songs and dedicated it to myself. I was an 18 year old virgin at the time with pretty much zero chance of that changing anytime soon. Mr Palm and his five lovely sons was as jiggy as it got. I could hear the depth of pity in the DJ’s voice as he realised what I was doing but I just DIDN’T CARE. He employed the same tone when he announced it to his listeners over the waves. All four of them. It doesn’t end there: I recorded it (on a cassette!) and took it into Sixth Form the following day where I played it on the communal stereo at full volume during morning break. At the time, everyone was into depressing shite like Nirvana and what they called Grunge: lots of guitar based, unintelligible, fun-free moaning, basically. And not only did I do this, but I acted ALL SURPRISED when my name was read out and TRIED TO MAKE OUT IT WAS LIVE. Hmmm, why was I LIKE A VIRGIN again?
  4. I once had a Madonna jumper which I wore THAT much that it almost bonded itself to my skin. I had so many t-shirts, it was fabulously ridiculous and I wore them with pride. A Madge T-shirt for every occasion. Then one day I came home from university for the summer and discovered that my Mam had turned one of my most prized tops into a DUSTER. She even cut off the arms and the neck to increase its grip-cleaning efficiency. Well, colour me DEVASTATED. The extent of my ensuing strop was disproportionate to say the least. Or was it? Probably not, thinking about it.
  5. Around the age of 15, I sent off for a Madonna mug. I’d wanted - nay needed! - one for years, except they didn’t sell them around my way. My local shop offered women’s magazines, the local newspaper, cigarettes and stale bread. Rubbish. Instead, I used a mail order company advertising in the back pages of the magazine that came with the deservedly-defunct News of the World newspaper. I’m pleased that the paper went out of business - not because it was hacking people left, right and centre, but because the mug NEVER CAME even though the cheque got cashed. The dirty, evil, robbing motherfuckers! That said, even though this was 26 years ago (or thereabouts, not that I’m counting, etc), I still live in hope that it might appear. Or maybe the neighbour took it in and forgot to let me know.
  6. Madonna art. Oh, the hours I spent trying to sketch out the iconic portrait that is the True Blue album cover. Nine times out of ten the finished article looked like someone with bad eyebrows in the midst of a stroke or a tedious orgasm. I once thought it would be a good idea to decorate a wooden chair with all the song titles of her songs. I thought it would look brilliant, but sadly it looked really fucking shit. Mainly because it wasn’t exactly a great idea in the first place, but in terms of its execution, I tried to do bubble writing, which is what all the 14 year old fat slags were doing at the time. I am not good at bubble writing.
  7. As a child, teen and young adult, I wanted a Madonna tattoo. Something tasteful, you know, like The Immaculate Collection album cover trailing down my arm, or perhaps the word LOVED etched into the back of my neck, like Madge has in the What It Feels Like To Be A Girl video, which is one of the best videos in history, closely followed by the OSCAR WORTHY Bad Girl and the bit in the Hung Up video where she walks across the floor on her front bottom. I secretly still would like a tat of her, but let’s face it, I’ve got enough problems as it is. I’m notoriously fickle and not the greatest fan of tattoos to be honest. I might just scrawl Vogue on my thigh in felt tip. At least I can wash it off when I realise how sad I am.
  8. I once re-enacted Like A Virgin from the Blonde Ambition Tour in public. On stage in fact. You know, the version where she simulates having a frig in the name of performance art. And no, I didn’t compromise my artistic integrity, before you ask. In my defence, it was a) for charity and b) I went down a storm. I also accidentally flashed the audience too. Get in. I gave them value for money, much like Madge.
  9. When I was younger, if anyone said anything remotely negative about her, I would immediately HATE that person and privately plot their doom. I once read an article where Roxette (who, up until that point, I quite liked) slagged her off. Moments later, their album went straight in the bin. Spit! These days, I like to think that everyone is entitled to their opinion but be mean about my Madge and I will kill you like a rabid dog in the street and then wazz on your grave. Well, I might not take it that far, but you get the gist.
  10. I once wrote to Madge via the fan club, telling her how marvellous I thought she was. I also offered my services, should she require a chubby fourteen year old to provide questionable backing vocals on, say, her next album or world tour. Thing is though, once I posted the letter (to America of all places! The money I’ve spunked on her!) I started to PROPERLY WORRY what I would do if SHE WROTE BACK, TAKING ME UP ON MY OFFER. I can see it now, ‘Dear Johnny, please come to America at once! I want you to do the third harmony on my great new song called Rain. And if you could ooh and aaah as I rerecord the vocals to Deeper and Deeper, that would be great. Do something else, do my eyebrows. Don’t be a motherfucker. Love, M.’ Yes folks, I honestly thought she might write back to that effect. I spent far too much time panicking about my parents reaction to me telling them that I was dropping out of school at Madge’s request to tour the globe. It would be cathartic, I would tell them. Strangely - and much like the mug - I am still waiting for her to get back to me. Tsk!

Friday, 6 October 2017


Years ago, before the thankless task of education seduced me with it’s promise of endless holidays and thrice weekly strikes, I used to work in industry. In IT in fact. For a big, rancid corporation. People would ask, ‘what do you do for a living?’ and I would say, ‘I work in IT,’ in a hushed tone that didn’t invite further questioning. And even though I would be aloof and would harness my thespian essence to look as though further interrogation might bring on a minor cerebral bleed, they would selfishly press on: ‘Ooh, IT? What does that mean? What do you actually do?’ I would freeze in horror, wondering how I could - in all my lefty glory - say, ‘I manipulate software environments in order to save the reptilian Rupert Murdoch millions of pounds.’ Nor could I tell them that I spent a lot of time hiding in the loo with a pocket sized book or articles printed off the internet, probably entitled, How did it come to this?

There were several things that I detested about my job. Firstly, the role itself, which was more boring than Songs of Praise: The Movie. Secondly, the fact that my commute demanded that I wake up at 5.30am and then have to pootle through the veritable piss-hole that is Greenford in a Nissan Micra. Just awful. Thirdly - and while I loved a few of my colleagues - I had to attend meetings which involved a ridiculous amount of Twat Speak.

If you’re wondering, the corporate world is riddled with such a discourse - a strange, mysterious language based on a blend of pretension and cuntiness that will most likely give you rectal itching. It is the linguistic weapon of choice in corporate meetings. I would feel ridiculously out of place as I would cross out the word ‘agenda’ on the piece of paper that sat before me and scrawl: ‘bollocks that we will boringly chew over before coming to no clear conclusion.’ And that’s what I would do in order to contribute as little as possible to these tedious charades: look busy. I would write endlessly, as though I was taking meticulous notes when really I would be indulging one of my most enduring hobbies - making lists. Food shopping; things that I need to do but never will (such as checking my oil and my tyre pressure - like, yawno!) When I was all listed out, I would decorate my pad with stars or practice alternative signatures, like I did when I was fourteen. Ahem.

This would all be done as a distraction to the plethora of Twat Speak, where we would no longer send an email, but FIRE THEM OFF as though they’re an incendiary North Korean device or a particularly ambitious marital aid. If this wasn’t terrifying enough, we wouldn’t be tipped off or given any advance warning about a communicative firework was heading our way. Oh no, we would be given a HEADS UP, where we would be instructed to not REINVENT THE WHEEL, but to THINK OUTSIDE OF THE BOX. Meanwhile I would furiously scribe a note to my increasingly desperate self that would read, ‘what is wrong with the phrases, think laterally or, please don’t be so fucking obvious, thicko.’ We would not work collaboratively. Nor would we BRAINSTORM. Instead, we would drench our pathetic selves with IDEA SHOWERS. We wouldn’t be ambitious. Why would we be when we could simply employ BLUE SKY THINKING, like any self respecting wanker might? Problems were off the menu. They were now CHALLENGES - even though rebranding them in a more unicorn-friendly way wouldn’t actually change the huge fuck-off calamity heading our way. But fear not! What we needed to do would be to look for things that we could sort out immediately to stop us getting the sack, becoming destitute and having to move to Greenford. This was referred to as a QUICK WIN or picking LOW HANGING FRUIT, which reminded me to add bananas and apples to my food list, even though I would simply place them in a bowl in the kitchen and steal the odd glance at them until they rotted and required binning. Or GARBOLOGISING. Whatever.

In the corporate world, we couldn’t just look at some information, analyse it and then say, ‘Hey dude, looks like we’re fucked. Shall we go to the pub?’ Oh no. We had to do a DEEP DIVE before DRILLING DOWN into the data (often pronounced ‘dayda’) before coming the same inevitable conclusion. And when we were given a list of actions that would take several light years to complete, the boss was unlikely to ask if we could cope with the workload. Instead, he would stand there, looking like a tragic scrotum in drag before asking if we HAD THE BANDWIDTH. As I would flee the often pungent office, gripping my collection of lists and trying not to stab self in the eye with my pen, said boss would encourage me to HIT THE GROUND RUNNING when all I really wanted to do is hit the bottle. Which I always did. Hurrah!       

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Alternative Career: Terrible Film Critic...

Please find to follow a rather shabby review of the film, Arrival. You have been warned.

Serving suggestion:
What do you mean, these are reserved for bland food displays slapped on the side of corned beef cans? What a load of old pony. I can do what I like, thank you please. Ahem. In order to enjoy this film to its fullest extent, I suggest watching this film at 9am on a Monday when everyone else is at work. Pull a sickie, take a day’s holiday. Whatever. Wear nothing but pants (like I did), but feel free to wrap yourself in a fleece blanket if you’re feeling a bit nippy. Or shy. The film is best viewed with toast, coffee, a mild hangover and the imminent promise of getting your leg over. Trust me, I know what I’m talking about.

Who's in it?
I don’t know. A-list actors of the world: unless you’re Tom Hanks, Tom Hardy, Tom Cruise or Tom Foolery (tee hee, etc), I probably don’t know who you are. As I get older, the less interested I am in celebrity and I wasn’t that fussed in the first place. I mean, I sat and watched it and all that but I couldn’t tell you the names of the actors. Oh that’s a lie. Him with the wonky eye. Forest Whitaker. My friend Google assures me that the lead actress is called Amy Adams. Never heard of her. She was very good though.

Sci-Fi. The cinematic weapon of choice for the geeky virgin. Maybe hang-fire on the imminent promise of getting your leg over in that case. Maybe a cheeky wank will have to suffice. Bless you. Don’t feel bad.

What happened?
Not a lot, thinking about it. In a nutshell: some aliens come to Earth and park up in their space ships that look like rather massive chocolate Pringles. Unsurprisingly everyone the world over goes mental. Meanwhile, our Amy - who, as it turns out, is quite good at decoding shizzle - is roped in by wonky-eyed Whitaker to work out what the fuck the aliens are blathering on about. She ‘ums and ‘ars a bit but then works their language out. Phew. They basically tell her that they want to help. And how do they do this? By telling us to stop fighting amongst ourselves. Yeah, that’s it. Then they tell Amy that they’ll be needing our help in three thousand years and with that, they’re off. And we all live happily ever after. For the first half of the film, you get the impression that the aliens might be evil and could blow us all up any second. At this point, you'd be forgiven for getting wistful as you reminisced about ET dragging up and getting hammered with the perennially-irritating Elliot. But then the aliens turn out to be disappointingly lovely. I do like a baddie.

Is that it?
Erm, yeah, I think so. There was a subplot about a dead kid that our Amy kept having flashbacks about. Oh yeah, it turns out that she was some kind of psychic and could predict stuff but then she would forget that she’d predicted it until the Chinese president reminded her that she saved the world at the end of the film. Yes, really. Another thing: the scientist she worked with during the decoding process turned out to be her ex-husband and father of dead child. Hurrah! I say hurrah because they got back together at the end, not because they split up after the kid slipped off the dish. If I'm completely honest, I'm not I sure I got it. It was a bit confusing. There were times that I felt a bit thick, much like I do when watching Countdown and can only make a half a swear word or 'it' or 'cat' or even 'a' out of the stingy jumble of letters they offer. Rubbish.

Any good?
Actually, yeah. I’d give it six out of ten, which means it’s perfect for day-old pants viewing on the sofa. I’m pleased I didn’t go to the cinema to see it though, not least because I can hardly stand going in the first place. I mean, firstly you have to sell an internal organ in order to be able to afford the pick and mix and then you have the horror of having to deal with the general public eating noisy food. Popcorn. Nachos. The dregs of a flat coke being sucked through a straw. There’s just no need, is there? The last time I went to the flicks I almost took out a fatwa on a silly pissed-up mare who thought it would be appropriate to comment on every scene as though she was doing the ‘director commentary’ on the DVD. Actually, I hope she wasn’t - otherwise on the extras of Bridget Jones’s Baby you’ll hear me threaten to cut a bitch using an empty packet of revels that cost me eight thousand pounds and my left kidney.


Saturday, 25 March 2017

Alternative Career: Medic...

Pros: Today, I completed a two day first aid course and to be honest with you, I’m full of it. So much so that I feel like singing a duet of Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better with Mother Theresa, except I can’t because, you know, she’s dead. And to be honest, as kind and motherly as she looked, she didn’t appear to be the singing type, so perhaps it’s best all round (that we aren’t doing the duet, not that she’s dead.)

You want mouth to mouth? I’m your man! You need some part of your anatomy flooding with my own harmless (yet very lovely) fluids due to third degree friction burns? I’ve got your back. And not only do I have your back, but I know exactly where to whack you (five times) if you’re choking on something entirely inappropriate. My new skills will be enough to save you from an embarrassing trip to your local A&E. You don’t want nurses with bad perms laughing at you behind your back as they empty your bedpan, do you? And if I can’t dislodge the errant marital aid by rupturing your spine, I can have you bent over and chucking up the offending article as I deliver my own version of the Heimlich Manoeuvre (it’s two parts Heimlich, one part Hokey Cokey and one part reverse twerk, if you’re wondering.) Today, I was even crowned king of the bandage, which made me disproportionately proud until I realised that the course instructor (possibly a direct descendant of Charlie from Casualty) said bandage and not bondage. She was a bit incoherent, to be honest. She pronounced my name Shonny as opposed to Johnny, even though she wasn’t even a little bit French. I quite liked it although I don’t think she liked me very much. In fact, she seemed to take against me when I disappeared to the toilet for twenty minutes this morning, just after she started rambling on. It wasn’t my fault. It was the fault of the curry I inhaled last night.

Upon my shamefaced return to the room, I couldn’t do anything right for the next hour. She corrected me for the way I was giving CPR to Chucky, a terrifying looking plastic baby and then when I did what she asked, it turned out that I was wrong again and she made me do it the way I was doing the first time around. I don’t think it helped my case that when I finished giving CPR, I thought it would be funny to say, ‘Time of death: 10:46.’ She may not have been French, but she sure had the sense of humour of particularly dour Parisian.

Cons: It turns out that I can’t take anything seriously. Who knew? This was not good for the instructor’s resting bitch face, which was of an Olympian standard throughout. Apparently, when considering when to call the ambulance for an unresponsive, non-breathing person, the correct answer is not: ‘Depends on who it is.’ Also, it turns out that it’s not a good idea to check a baby’s responsiveness by shaking them as though they’re a particularly rattly Christmas present. At least I know that now. Phew.

Fortunately, I made a rather lovely chum on the course and we kept each other sane through a series of well timed nudges and comedy winks. But you know how wherever you go, there’s always one? And by one, I mean one utter and complete twat. Well, for a change, it wasn’t me. The One in question - let’s call her Mrs Dickhead, because if the phallic-shaped cap fits, then Mrs Dickhead shall wear it. And not only will she wear it, but she will give you a ten minute run down about how she is an expert in both dicks and caps and how her children are also proficient in a variety of penis-shaped head decorations. I was weary of her from the outset. We were compelled to introduce who we were and share something interesting about ourselves to the whole group. I know: horror, cringe, no one cares, etc. At least we didn’t have to wear DIY name badges as though we were all simple or disabled. Mrs Dickhead thought it would be appropriate to say, ‘Hi, I’m Mrs Dickhead and what is interesting about me is that I enjoy cross-stitch.’ A resounding argument for enforced euthanasia, I’m sure you’ll agree. Not only does she love a lovely cross-stitch (how she manages to keep her heart rate down is a mystery to me), but she’s also brilliant at talking over everyone. She is first class at correcting people (including the instructor) and telling them that they’re doing it wrong, only to massively fuck it up herself or just start inexplicably gesturing wildly, as though she’s a really dramatic Kate Bush video. Case in point: she shouted at me for using one finger to raise a baby’s chin to open the airway (which was correct, thank you very much Mrs Penis Bonce) before having a bash herself where she performed what looked like a karate chop to the forehead. At one point, the instructor asked what we would do if we chanced upon a child who had drunk some bleach. Mrs Dickhead thought that the right answer was, ‘I’ve been to almost ALL of the Caribbean Islands!’ Silly cunt.

Chances: Given my general propensity towards calamity, it might be best that I give this one a bit of a swerve. Besides, isn’t the fundamental principle of all medics to do no harm? To be honest, if Mrs Dickhead needs an ambulance, I can’t promise that. Especially as I might be the reason she needs it in the first place.


Friday, 10 March 2017

Rainbow Insanity...

Colours, but not as you know them
For some unknown reason - possibly insanity - I found myself wandering the isles of B&Q recently. This is an extremely rare occurrence because I cannot stand DIY stores and will avoid them at all costs. I'm just going to say it out loud: the only sort of DIY I'm into... well, it doesn't involve depressing, fun-free stores that reek of body odour, depression and dysfunctional marriages.

It doesn’t help that my handy-man skills have all the grace and charm of a flatulent hippo with ADHD. Try as I might, I just cannot do the most straightforward of DIY tasks. Shelves? Forget it. Besides, I don't know if anyone has told you, but ornaments actually look shit and no one is that interested in looking at your books. Not really. A bit like your holiday photos: no one really cares. As for plastering? I can't even spread butter over bread without the end result looking like an aggravated assault.

The erection (tee-hee and guffaw, etc.) of flat-pack furniture is the worst. Just thinking about Ikea is enough to make me break out in hives and go on the rampage with a tube of mastic and a spirit level - mainly because I don't know what else to do with them. The end result is always the same: the job rarely gets finished in the way that the confusing, badly-written pamphlet demands. I always end up with bits left over that have nowhere to go, yet seem important. Like large chunks of wood, more screws that you can shake a stick at and a set of alan-keys that have gone untouched through the misery that was construction. I often always have to rely on my talent for bodging to get things completed. Take the last thing I attempted to create: a CD case. The manual said that the job should 45 minutes. It took me six hours over the course of two days. During this mission, I cut myself three times, nearly took my good eye out, said the eff word a lot, lost a third of my own bodyweight, resisted ransacking and looting my own bedroom and considered throwing all of my CDs away. Then I saw sense and got help from a girl.

And so, at 10am last weekend, I found myself parking up outside the local B&Q. In other words, high doom. I'd like to tell you that I was hiding out from the rozzers or even dogging but, less interestingly, my bedroom needs painting. I'm flirting with the idea of a ‘feature’ wall, which sounds horribly pretentious, but will look rather lovely when it’s done. And at least this way, I get away with only painting one wall rather than four. Win-win, etc. But what colour? Hmmm…

After consulting the colour charts, it appears that in the years that I have happily remained persona non grata in DIY circles, things have changed beyond recognition. All I wanted was a tin of red paint. Dark red to be more specific, but it doesn’t exist anymore. If you want red – normal red I mean, like fire engine red - you have to ask for a shade of red called DIVA. Yes, DIVA. All capital letters and shouty. I was a bit intimidated just looking at it, to tell you the truth. It gets worse though: if you want to go a shade darker, then there is no point asking for a litre of burgundy. Oh no. You need to request something called CRIMSON LIPS. I can just see my Dad coming to visit and admiring the freshly painted wall while I come over all theatrical (for a change, like) and say, ‘Here, Daddad, do you like my CRIMSON LIPS? I was going to go for DIVA, but thought CRIMSON LIPS was a touch more moi…’

Now, I understand that the people who produce the paint charts have to get creative with names but some of the names I saw today were just fucking ridic. For example, can you guess what colour SUNDAY DRIVE is? It’s white. Why they can’t just call it white, I have no idea. If you wanted to go a notch towards cream, then what might you ask for? Beige? Magnolia? Don’t be silly. The answer – obviously – is CHESHIRE HIGH JINX. I shit thee not. If you wanted to go a touch whiter instead, what have you got? Brilliant white? Angel-Jizz White? Er, no. The answer – and I’d sit down for this if I was you – is VINTAGE FROCK. I wonder what size that comes in?

Can you hazard a guess as to what colour MAYPOLE MERRIMENT is? I’d naturally opt for brown (fnaarr!) But no. It’s beige. And what about FUZZY SLIPPERS (yes, really). Well, that’s beige too. A bit more towards cream. In fact I’d call it creamy-beige, but I’m  dead common, me, so it’s hardly a surprise. Poor old beige really has been reinvented and then some: it also masquerades under the following names: SPOTTED DOG (snigger!), CREAM TEA IN THE COUNTRY (chortle!), TOWERING FAƇADE (cackle!), MINCE PIE (oooh, yum) and REAL CIDER (ugh – I once threw up after a night on cider and now the mere suggestion makes me retch.)

The people who came up with these names must have been off their tits at the colour christenings. How else can you explain dumping the name ‘orange’ and replacing it with CONSTABLE’S TRUNCHEON? The green family has also been remixed beyond what seems absolutely necessary. What I thought was olive green is now called… NAUGHTY CROCODILE. A much paler green – which I’d call, erm, pale green, is now strangely named FAMILY GATHERING. What’s green about a family gathering? My favourite shade of green, though, has to be UNEXPECTED CAY, which I initially read as UNEXPECTED GAY, which is why I liked it in the first place.

What’s next? I can just imagine next year’s chart. Beige could take on several new identities altogether – I’m thinking PISSED UP TRAMPS FART or LIDL RABIES FOAM. We could revive blue as SUMPTUOUS HYPOTHERMIA; yellow could be TWENTY A DAY TEETH and my favourite shade of green will be called KERMIT IS A CLOSETED ALCOHOLIC.

Oh dear. It’s all too much for me. Looking at a rainbow will never be the same again. In fact, I think to lie down whilst I assimilate this new information. Either way, I don't think I can be arsed to decorate. It's too much confusing and stressful.

Until next time, take care people.

Lots of love,


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