Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Seconds Out :: Year Two

Someone said to me the other day, ‘How on earth are you going to follow 2008?’

‘Oh, I don’t know, 2009?’ I replied, hilariously.

‘No, but blog-wise,’ they insisted, wilfully unamused, ‘what are you going to do? You’ve found a woman, you’ve got a book deal, you lost most of the weight you were trying to lose. You stopped smoking. Mostly. It’s like, what’s left to do? What’s left to blog about? And the answer has to be – as far as I can see: nothing. What’s the point? There’s no point.’

I pooh-poohed the pointlessness. After all, most of what I blogged in 2008 was just ordinary stuff that happened to me: relationships I was having, things I was getting up to, stories from the past. And despite the fact that I won’t be speed dating or whoring myself online in ’09 – fingers crossed – I’ll still be getting up to stuff. I’ll still be having ridiculous conversations with idiots. I’ll still be doing and saying idiotic things myself. So I don’t think things round here will change so radically. Not really.

But still, something worrisome lingered like a foul smell. Maybe it was all that pooh-poohing, maybe it was the fact that in 2008, there’s no denying that this blog did have a hook. An angle. Something that made it a bit special, and gave me a raison d’etre. In 2009 however – unless I come up with something a bit special – it’ll just be another run-of-the-mill blog, and I’ll just be another navel-gazing cyber-diarist, regurgitating an unspectacular existence like a shouty old man in a train station with stuff in his beard.

So, what I’ll have to do – obviously – is come up with something a bit special.

Hmmm. That may take some time.

In the meantime, here are my general intentions, in the traditional, timely manner.

New Year’s Resolutions :: 2009

1. First and foremost I resolve to write the best book I can possibly write. It has to be good enough so that anyone looking forward to reading it is not disappointed. It also has to be good enough to afford me the possibility of writing another one. In fact, ideally, it’ll spawn a career which takes in novels and screenplays and this time in 2010, I’ll be poolside in Malibu, sipping margaritas with Charlie Kaufman and Audrey Tautou. It’ll be purely platonic between Audrey and me however, despite her best efforts and leechlike attentions.

2. Secondly, I resolve to ensure that this blog remains readable. The last thing I want to do is become one of those bloggers who get lucky and then turn their back on their blog. I’d rather jack it in altogether than let it fester and ossify, and I have no intention of doing that.

3. Thirdly, I resolve to purchase or otherwise procure for myself a kitten. I recently saw some pictures of Bengal kittens and I resolved to have one of those.



But then I thought, no. They’re too pretty. I would get one, fall in love with the little thing and then some evil swine would take it away, torture and skin it. You know what human beings are like. And I would never recover. So I resolve instead to get an ordinary moggy. This makes more sense. I’m more of a moggy man really.

4. Fourthly, I resolve to grow my own vegetables and make the healthiest soup known to man. The garden is a bald mess at the moment so the transformation I intend to visit upon it will probably make for some exciting blog posts too. No, really.

5. Fifthly, I resolve to love well and with ecstasy aforethought. (This should maybe have been further up the list.) (Oops.)

6. Sixthly, I resolve to learn a foreign language. Maybe French. Maybe Mandarin Chinese. (Probably French.)

7. Finally, I resolve to carry on in my attempts to become healthy. This means eating well, attending a new gym regularly and generally doing as much as possible to compensate for my increasingly sedentary lifestyle. Ideally I’d like to get down to around twelve or twelve and a half stone by the end of this year.

Then I’d be happy.

But as it is, I’m pretty happy anyway, and I can’t wait to get going on all of the above just as soon as I’m back from Bonnie Scotland.

So all that remains to be said is a gargantuan thank you for reading this year, all of you, even the evil stalker. It’s been a fantastic year and it genuinely would have been nothing without all of the feedback I've received from all of you. And I hope you all have a fantastic 2009.

See you next week.

x

Feel free to leave your own resolutions in the comments. I’d love to hear them.



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Sunday, 28 December 2008

Christmas Feedback :: Oiling The Festive Perineum


bulk :: nah, let’s not get into that just now. It’s really not relevant. This is a time of hedonism and self-indulgence, not asceticism and abstention. Really. Don't even think of it.
alcohol units :: really, let’s just skip the rest of this, eh? Yeah, we can start this again next year, maybe. We’ll see.


This blog post comes to you direct from deep within the puckered folds of the Festive Perineum, that tender temporal crease which ties Boxing Day to New Year’s Eve. A strangely timeless time in which normal rules of engagement don’t really apply and all flesh seems of its own accord to expand miraculously. The Festive Perineum is enjoyed to its fullest of course, when massaged gently with the languorous tongue of Free Time and, ideally, intermittently prodded with the well-lubricated fingertip of Sybaritic Indulgence.

I think I’ve probably stretched the perineum metaphor far enough there. Stretch it too far of course, and it snaps, and that’s something you don’t want to happen, for when the Festive Perineum snaps, the guts of the entire year spill out onto the floor, making a terrible, untimely mess. Then you have to suffer the hideous indignity of having the whole year stuffed back in the year hole and the year hole stitched up again. It’s extremely uncomfortable I hear, and you have to spend the first few months of the next year learning how to walk again.

So be careful. But not so careful that you don’t enjoy it, as it’s probably the freest you’ll ever feel without leaving the country.

Speaking of which, in a couple of days, I’ll be leaving the country. Nothing drastic or permanent – not even a place where I have to take a phrase book. I’m off to Scotland! To spend a few days and see in the new year with Morag’s dad, stepmum and three half-brothers. I have to admit, it’s kind of daunting, but then I’ve been daunted a lot recently, and the fact that I’ve managed to get to the other side intact gives me hope that this will be OK too. I’m not entirely sure what the plan is yet, but there have been rumblings of some kind of road trip. I’m assured it will be ‘gey braw’ and that I oughtn’t ‘girn’ or ‘greet’. I think I might get hold of a phrase book anyway, just to be on the safe side.

Finally, Morag and I received an unexpected late Christmas gift this morning. I’m not going to say what it was because it’s a little raw and personal, but it made me shed a little tear. Still, no harm done. And now I know what I want for next Christmas.

So, I hope you’re all enjoying the Festive Perineum as much as I am and that you’re all giving it proper laldy.

x

PS. Whatever you do, do not do a Google image search for the word 'perineum'. Now I must go and cleanse my mind.



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Wednesday, 24 December 2008

What Uncle Did Next

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, and of the comments – which, let’s face it, are often the best bits – then you have almost certainly on occasion read the remarks of the one who calls himself ‘Uncle Did’. Maybe you are him. Well, if you are, good, because I want to talk to you. Nothing weird, nothing important, although I did dream about you last night. Go on, drop me a line.

And that’s that.

It’s Christmas!

And to celebrate, my disturbed friend Keith has made a festive image, which I reproduce without permission here (click to make big)…



Have fun, everyone.



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Monday, 22 December 2008

Christmas Present :: Bye, Humbug!

If I knew then what I know now, I’m not sure it would have made much difference, but it would have made some, and that would have been the difference between feeling ashamed and self-pitiful, and feeling self-pitiful and somehow immune. But I didn’t know then what I know now. All I knew then was that Christmas was a time that other people seemed to love but that I really hated.



Humbug.

I hated Christmas because my parents would use it as an excuse to drink themselves into oblivion.

I hated Christmas because I had to go to midnight mass and pretend that I believed in the concepts which I invariably heard expressed there, concepts such as love, acceptance, forgiveness, peace and compassion. Concepts such as God and the family. I hated church. I hated church because my parents would also be pretending, and they would put on a show for the people they knew at church, the people they called friends, and then when we got home they would revert to the scowling, cursing, ruthless vulgarians that deep inside they truly were.

I hated Christmas because I was a child like any other and I wanted Sonic the Hedgehog and a PC and I wanted videos, hundreds and hundreds of videos, but unfortunately Christmas gifts that were anything other than absolutely necessary were in our house deemed frivolous and irrelevant. One year I received a new school blazer. Another year I received a new carpet for my bedroom. Sometimes however, if I was lucky and my parents were feeling particularly festive, one of them would bung twenty quid in an envelope. We never had a tree.

I hated Christmas because I had to stay at home for most of it and pretend.

I hated Christmas because the only bit of Christmas I loved was spending time round Keith’s house. This caused a real schism within me. On the one hand, it was wonderful to be given the opportunity to be able to understand what Christmas was all about and to see why other people enjoyed it so much; on the other hand, it brought home everything that was lacking in my own family. On the whole though, I cherished the time I spent at Keith’s house, or – as I came to know it – The Great Escape.



And then I escaped for good, and was miserable to discover that I had begun to hate Christmas for new reasons.

Primarily, I hated it because I was scarred, and because hating it had become a habit.

As an adult, I spent quite a few Christmases alone, despite protests from people who knew me – to some people there is no greater crime against nature than spending Christmas alone. For the most part I never minded those Christmases though. I’d tell myself I was going to write, then I’d watch six films back to back instead. It was fun, but yeah, kind of sad fun. One Christmas I had a tin of meatballs for Christmas lunch. That was quite sad actually. I remember feeling rather unhappy at that point.

Then last year there was change and I had excellent fun. Christmas with kids is a a whole new kettle of fish and I hope to spend many more Christmases in future with children. Inshallah. Last Christmas seems like a long time ago now, and indeed it was. It was almost a year. It marked the beginning though, of a turning point.

This year promises to be even better, and this is the first time I can actually remember actively looking forward to Christmas.

This feels like the first Christmas of the rest of my life.

I can’t wait. I'm going to go mental this year.

The particularly great thing about this Christmas is that I already have everything I could possibly want, so everything else is a bonus.

Awww.



And what about you? What do you want for Christmas?

Whatever it is, I really hope you get it.



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Friday, 19 December 2008

Feedback Friday :: Life Is Other People


bulk :: 15st 5 (Meh. Maybe this is how much I’m supposed to weigh. Everybody has to weigh something. Fifteen and a half stone is not so bad. I can live with it… Hold on a moment, what am I saying? NOOOOoooooo! Jesus, I nearly convinced myself there. No, no, no, no, no. I’ll take on a little Winterspeck in the traditional manner, then it’s time to join a new gym. I promise. Phew.)
cigarettes smoked :: 0
alcohol units imbibed :: 12
other intoxicants taken :: 0
carrots :: 7
sticks :: 1
government jobs concluded :: 1
medical moments :: 2
tests lined up :: 4


So I made an appointment to have my pains checked out yesterday and I must say, I was completely blown away by the wonderfulness of the doctor I saw. Let’s call her Dr Fine. Dr Fine was lovely. Every bit as lovely as Dr Lovely in fact. Equally as willing to talk and to listen, perhaps even a little more humorous. Especially when we were joking about cancer and stool samples and twisted testicles. Oh, how we laughed.

The upshot is that I have to have a bunch of new tests. So, fingers crossed I’m not dying. How tedious that would be. Typically, the pains seem to have disappeared. I have this terrible fear that I’m just wasting everyone’s time. If I am, at least it isn’t deliberate.

This morning I wrapped up the work I was doing for the government. As I left the office and boarded the tube, I felt a sense of euphoria that I haven’t felt for a very long time. Ever in fact. The fact of the book suddenly seems real. Having talked about it here and tied up all my other responsibilities, it’s now sitting there, in front of me, like a happy ghost at the bottom of my bed poking me with its fleshy fingers. ‘Go on then,’ it says. ‘Let’s see what you can do.’ Also, the bookmakers are not messing around. They’re already got going on trying to sell the thing, long, long before it’s written.

All of which has got me thinking. About life. About writing. About getting what you want.

The best thing about writing a blog is that you have complete control and can write whatever the hell you please. For example, if I wish to declare that in my opinion, Sebastian Horsley is an impotent bore, then I can, without fear of reprisal, and without fear of dissent.

Alternatively, if I feel the need to start a fan site for Robert Mugabe, then start a fan site for Robert Mugabe I jolly well will, just so long as I'm not seen to incite racial hatred along the way. Incidentally, I recently heard Mugabe described as 'an African Rupert Murdoch', which although just a little bit silly, made me titter. Oh, hold on – maybe it the other way around. Yes, it was. Murdoch was a Western Mugabe. That was it. Actually, that makes much more sense.

By the way, I feel I should point out, just in case there’s any doubt, I do not feel any need to start a Robert Mugabe fan site. Still less a fan site for Rupert Murdoch. But, the point is, if I wanted to, I could.

Also, importantly, if I choose to discuss the possibility of starting a Robert Mugabe fansite merely in order that I can then poke a peck of harmless fun at Rupert Murdoch (the Western Robert Mugabe), then I can do that also. Because this is my blog and I’m responsible to no one but myself.

Or at least that was the case until I agreed to write a book. Now I have to be careful. After all, what if Harper Collins also published Sebastian Horsley? Would I not then be morally or professionally obliged to big up my impotent dullard of a stablemate? And what if Rupert Murdoch were involved somehow, somewhere along the line? God, that would be awful.

The fact is, the moment you enter into a partnership with another person or group of people, things begin to change. Even if this is a partnership that you’ve been willing with every fibre of your being, it will still bring change, and that change will inevitably cause tension.

This applies to all aspects of life of course, to relationships as well as to work.

Morag, for example, is already making noises about me getting rid of some of my ‘junk’ – as she sees it – when she moves in with her ‘not junk’ next month. This has me feeling rather defensive and anxious, and I can already see that it’s going to call for some skilful and diplomatic compromise. Or, if you will, ‘backing down’. (I shan’t say on whose behalf, however, although my testicles are beginning to sing again just thinking about it.)

My instinct tells me that the way to get through the challenges of collaboration is to carry on being yourself. After all, these people wanted to associate themselves with you in the first place, because of who you are, so if they’re genuine about their feelings, then they’ll stick with you. At least until their feelings change.

So, being myself, I have to say, the spelling mistake in this cover is hilarious.



Now, this afternoon, I need to buy and decorate a tree. I also need to unpack the rest of my stuff, sample my stool and take it to the hospital. Ich. How horrifically undignified.

Then it’s the last weekend before Christmas! Huzzah! It's probably time to do a bit of shopping. Christ, I used to hate Christmas, but in truth I’m rather looking forward to this one. What a pleasant change.

What are you up to this weekend? Anything nice?

x



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Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Rage, Rage

One of the very few reasonably significant things we can say we know with any degree of absolute certainty - about life, I mean - is that it ends. One of the others is that until it ends for you personally, it goes on, no matter what. And the third is that when the end comes, often it will scream with so much poignancy, passion and terror that it will seem as if it’s been engineered by a particularly malicious god, or a particularly heavy-handed, washed-up sit-com writer.

In my fairly limited experience, death and suffering always come mired in layer after layer of suffocatingly cruel irony or coincidence. It’s as if God doesn’t just want us to die, He wants us to die laughing – Him laughing that is, whilst we shake our heads, baffled by the unfairness of it all, incredulous at the bad taste timing. But then, I imagine, there’s probably never a good time to die.

There are a couple of people I know reasonably well who are going through some terrible things at the moment. Things which are pretty much as terrible as it’s possible for things to get. Life and death things. You know the kind of thing. And there are a couple more whom I know only virtually, living through similarly terrifying times.

When I think about these people, I shake my head. I can’t get my head round it. I’m baffled, incredulous and scared.

It isn’t right.

And it’s everywhere. Every which way I turn at the moment, someone has died, or been diagnosed with something scary or been rushed to hospital. It’s like there’s an epidemic of bad news out there and it’s taking all my concentration not to panic or take it personally. What I try very hard to do instead is to force into my head some sense of perspective; I try to use this litany of personal tragedy to reinforce awareness of infinite possibility and actual reality, and to feel gratitude for my own good fortune and determination to make the most of it. Or – if you prefer – I count my blessings. Because of course, as I mentioned yesterday, at the moment I’m the lucky exception that proves the bad news rule. At the moment everything is going swimmingly for me.

Which is precisely why I found myself on the verge of panic earlier today.

It's like, how long can it last?

How many times can a coin turn up heads?

In general, I like to think of myself as realistic rather than particularly pessimistic or cynical. I observe life, and I draw what I like to think of as fairly even-handed, reasonable conclusions. Therefore I am frightened. I am frightened because my observations have led me to conclude that life could not be any more cruel, or any more unlikely, even if it were written by the most world-weary, sensationalist hack imaginable. Therefore, when things start going exceptionally well for someone, I fully expect them to turn on their head and start going exceptionally badly. I expect that lucky someone to come a cropper. Because that’s what would happen in fiction, because fiction is emotional manipulation brought on by unexpected and often cruelly unfair or ironic happenstance, and life is nothing more than live three-dimensional fiction, author unknown.

So I’m paranoid. For the last three days I’ve been getting a pain in my left testicle, increasingly regular, increasingly sharp. I know, I know, I know. I’ve been trying to get it seen to, I honestly have. Along with the pain in my gut which I was complaining about a couple of weeks ago. That too. But I have reasons for not having done it as yet, including work, moving house, new doctor waiting lists and old doctor bizarre appointment systems ruled out by work.

I mention it now because it’s got to such a stage whereby I am pulling out all the stops to get seen. As in pushing back work. I’m scared. It’s painful. I’m paranoid.

And it doesn’t stop there.

Lately when I’m out and about, I’m alert, I’m waiting, watching, expecting the unexpected. I’m paranoid. I know it’s going to come now, because things are going well, and if we know anything about Death, we know that it strives for irony, even irony on a very base level, hardly irony at all in fact, just the worst imaginable luck or nasty poetic injustice.

So I’m ready, and even as I’m knocked into the path of the hurtling full Circle Line train, I compose haunting tributes on your behalf. ‘It just doesn’t seem fair. He was so close to getting everything he ever wanted.’ ‘He was just about to finally show the world what he was made of.’ ‘He was on the very meniscus of excellence. He could have been the next Tommy Steele.’ ‘Life is impossibly cruel.’ ‘Not only was he a great writer, but he was also really good at sex. I was blessed to have known him. In that way.’

Then I drift for a second and drive into the side of a bus or a train in the rain or I step out - distracted by some nonsense playing out in my head, some worry or fear or death scenario, I step out into the path of a taxi, a motorbike or an ambulance. John Lennon’s mum was killed by a drunken policeman. Thousands of people are killed every year by emergency vehicles in a hurry. And sometimes they're not even drunk. Sometimes it's my own fault.

Then I hear the screech, crunch and whistle of cold steel contorting, tearing and exploding at 100 miles an hour. Seconds later I’m torn to pieces myself, my body popped and pasted between concrete, metal and plastic. I never discover whether it’s an arbitrary engineering catastrophe, a single bolt for example, coming loose in the train or the track at exactly the wrong time; or something mucked up in the fabric of society, a single screw for example, coming loose in the head of some loon. It doesn't really matter.

On my way home, late, walking down unfamiliar streets, walking back from an internet café, I am stabbed in the gut, in the heart, in the face, every night without fail. Sometimes there is real irony and the knife cuts out the cancer in my belly, inadvertently saving my life. Sometimes it misses my heart by a millimetre. Sometimes the blade is dragged deep from my crotch to my neck like a giant zip and my insides flop to the floor in a wet heap. Sometimes I stop the blade with seconds to spare and disarm the villain with my lightning reflexes. Sometimes I sit on him till the police turn up. Sometimes I turn the knife and take furious, disproportionate revenge. Sometimes I even go on a rampage myself.

Sometimes, when I’m finally opened up after months of grumbling, the tumour in my belly has spread into my groin. Sometimes it's gone up into my lungs and I’m given six months. Sometimes I arrived just in time and I'm successfully exorcised. Sometimes my pains are passing trifles, niggling innocuous nothings of less than no import. Sometimes they’re stress bubbles, physical manifestations of fear and insecurity. And sometimes they’re self-fulfilling prophecies somewhere down the worried line, tumours within tumours within tumours within tumours...

I have been going mental with this stuff lately. Morag tells me again I will worry myself sick, which is a horrible thing to tell a hypochondriac.

But I’m being seen tomorrow. Finally. The testicle ache has today reached touching point, which is to say I have become a very sombre Michael Jackson, two gloves, surreptitiously checking myself out, giving myself a little squeeze, consoling, it’ll be alright, wincing.

But soon at least, eventually, I’ll know one way or the other, then I can get to work on the fatal freak occurrence fixation. Because I’m beginning to think it isn’t healthy.

But even now I’m not entirely sure. I mean, a certain amount of awareness of how fragile and precarious it all is, of how sheer and frangible is the thread by which we all hang is, I think, definitely a good thing. It encourages you to live more acutely, to appreciate more keenly. I personally also feel naturally drawn to death. Not in a morbid way, I don’t feel. Just in a fascinated, shocked and awed way. But when does that become unhealthy? I don’t know. And that’s part of the reason I wanted to talk about it here. Plus the fact that it’s been weighing on my mind of late. Increasingly.

Like a shadow.

Creeping. Encroaching. Imminent.

I know, I know, but the thing is, other people’s bad luck keeps knocking the stuffing out of me, and although I accept that my life will end, I just don’t want to be taken by surprise by it. I want to see it coming. I want to pre-empt Death, not in order to avoid it, just to show it that I was onto it, that I was intelligent enough to predict it.

Maybe that’s what it comes down to.

I don’t want Death to make a fool of me.

But of course it will. Just like Life.

Aaaah, Death.

It’s absolutely everywhere. Just like Life.

It lurks in the dark and leaps out when you least expect it. Just like life. Or else it squats in your peripheries, expressionless, for weeks, months, years. Forever.

Just like Life.

They have a lot in common.

In fact, the only reasonably significant distinction to be made is that unlike Death, Life goes on. Right up until it stops, the fucker goes on.

And Life is never more acutely appreciated, and Death never more acutely feared, than when the latter slips out of your peripheries and into the foreground, edging toward centre-stage, creeping toward the camera. That's when we have to fight. Or as Dylan Thomas put it:


'Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.'


I like that.

If you are sick, or scared or scarred, or just feeling battered by the cruelty of life and death, my thoughts and hopes for the absolute best are with you.

x



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Monday, 15 December 2008

One Year On :: Happy Anniversary

On December 15, 2007 – a year ago today – I started this here humble blog. The idea behind it was to use my words to spur me on to change my life for the better. Specifically, and most importantly, I wanted to lose weight, get fit, make some friends and fall in love. I gave myself a year.

Piece of cake.

On February 6, 2008, I received an email from one of my first regular commenters and brand new blog friends, Suburban Hen. Hen wrote:


‘It used to be easy to find a good blog to read, there were so few to choose from. Only people who were genuinely interested in writing as a medium actually bothered with starting a blog. It was for nerds. And then it suddenly wasn't, which is terribly depressing for those of us who really enjoy reading a good blog; like some people might enjoy reading a good book or the daily newspaper.

You will become increasingly popular and in as such you might change. Your blog might change. It might all go to your head and where once there used to be thoughtful posts about how ugly you are and how much weight you have lost and how delighted you are to receive one comment from a lady expressing her desire to nob you, there might instead be short posts that read something like this...

"...Oh, my EDITOR is so demanding. He/she is expecting me to finish the third draft of my BOOK by next week and woe is me, I just can't find the time, what with meeting up with MY AGENT to finalise the locations for my BOOK SIGNINGS, and with all the INTERVIEWS, you must understand that I haven't really felt much like blogging at all. As I'm sure you can all imagine..."

Please don't misunderstand my annoyance with them as begrudging their success, but that in their success they have mostly left behind the very medium that gave them their voice. I begrudge them that. I begrudge them...well, Mike said it better than me...

"From my own highly subjective little corner of the blogosphere, 2007 was the year that the Bloggers With Book Deals started yielding tangible end results (otherwise known as, coo er gosh, BOOKS!), with many more to follow in 2008. As The Blogsbury Set came of age, and as "portfolio sites" started to make their presences felt, you could also detect the first rumblings of an increasingly widespread shift in priorities. ("Sorry I haven't had much time for blogging recently, but I've been SO BUSY, agents, deadlines, press & PR, oh it's all been such a GIDDY WHIRL!") And what with stunts such as Shaggy Blog Stories, which saw over 200 bloggers left out on the pavement as the Blogsbury glitterati sailed through the velvet ropes, and Post of the Week (over 200 blogs shortlisted to date, so why wasn't YOUR blog GOOD ENOUGH?), there was a distinct sense of competitiveness in the air, as a new élite basked in self-regard ("SO wonderful to see my DEAR FRIENDS doing SO well!") while the Not So Beautiful People muttered seditiously behind their backs ("Who the chuff does HE think HE is, and SHE'S nothing special, and who the f**k made HER the Queen of Bloody Sheba?")"

This is me, introducing myself to you and saying hello, I love your blog. I love the way you write.

And that other people are going to come along, people more engaging and more important than me (if they already haven't. For all we know you're possibly being watched by an agent AS I WRITE) and they are going to fawn over you. While one can't begrudge another person friendship or success, one can sit back and wonder at it all. Coming into your own is one thing, but friendship because it's cool to be mates with the ugly guy... I dunno. I hope it doesn't happen, is all. I hope that if you find friendship with people through your blog, or better still, a lady love, that you will keep your feet firmly rooted to the ground... Meeting a lady love through your blog is probably going to happen, by the way. Completely. Because it happens to the best of them. Don’t Go To Vegas, for example.

Anyway, enough from me.

dix
aka suburbanhen


My reply began:


‘Hello Diana

Thank you for your kind, if to my mind rather overripe, words. You’re the second person to suggest that my writing might change as I get more readers. I’m torn between thinking, ‘well that would never happen’ and ‘so what if it did?’ I’ve been writing, mostly corporate hogwash, for around 10 years, and it’s pretty soul-destroying on the whole. I’ve written other things, for my own pleasure, some of which I’ve tried and failed to get published. So this blog is actually the first time more than two people have read my words, and I do get a big kick out of it, yes. Therefore, if someone offered me money to write about something that wasn't pharmaceuticals or cosmetics or higher education, I would be delighted. Would I then start posting about the stresses and strains of lunch at the Ivy and pressing book draft deadlines and the like? YES!!’


And ended with:


‘Anyhow, I can’t help feeling that you’re rather over-egging the pudding with your confidence that agents and publishers might be interested in big old me… I think the idea of finding love through the blog is more likely than finding a new career, simply because there are lots more people out there looking for love than for someone to publish.

Anyway, we shall see.’


So. You’ll never guess what’s been happening over the last couple of months…

Well, you know I started seeing Morag properly? Well, I did. And this time round we’re having fun. But serious fun. Grown-up, going out and forsaking all others fun, with no messing about, no mind games and no nonsense. Well, that’s the plan, and thus far it’s going well. I think not blogging about it all makes it easier. So I should really shut up right now, before I say anything I might regret. Although this is different obviously. Here I’m just sketching an outline, I’m not giving away personal details about Morag’s body hair, or loud toilet habits or the fact that she doesn’t clean her teeth of a morning. Oh. Those were just examples by the way, of idiosyncrasies a person might exhibit. I realise I made it sound like I was describing my lovely Morag there. I was not. Sorry.

Anyhow, as I say, it’s going well. So well in fact, that we’re planning on spending Christmas together, just me, Morag and the occasional special guest or two. And that’s not all. We’re also planning a trip to meet Morag’s old man and her step family, in Scotland, just after Christmas. And that’s not all. Also – on the sole condition that nothing goes horribly wrong between now and the end of the year – we're planning to give living in sin a shot come January.

In the same house.

I know this might seem a little previous to some of you - it certainly does to me - but it's what we both want, so we're going to just cross our fingers, hold our breath and jump. Just like Butch and Sundance. And if that means we're destined to die in our prime in a hail of poisoned pig-bullets, so be it. At least we gave it a shot. I’m very excited. And a little scared. But I want it. It’ll be fun. We have fun together, Morag and I. And as long as we continue to have fun together, I think we’ll be alright.

So that’s pretty good. I’m happy. Very happy actually.

Now, ordinarily this news would be more than enough of a wonderful thing to be able to make the anniversary post sufficiently special.

But these are no ordinary times.

Second big news item coming up… Drum roll…

You remember that writing project I mentioned on Friday? Well, it's a rather special one. I still can't quite believe I'm about to write these words, but here goes...

I’ve got a book deal.

Ha!

Actually, 'ha' doesn't really do it justice, even with an exclamation mark. What I really feel like doing is running up a few walls like Donald O'Connor at the end of Make 'Em Laugh. But I don't want to be writing this book from a wheelchair. So instead, let's just imagine, just for one moment, that this is me...



Ha!

Diana. You saw it. I shook my head at you, and I smiled and thought, ‘Who is this silly, simple-minded wretch?’ But you were right. And I take my hat off to you. Furthermore I promise, with my hat held out in front of me like – alas – a skull, I promise that I shall never sully these pages with tedious talk of deadlines and blog star-fucking. Also, I promise I will never whinge about the pressures of good fortune. Or if I do, I will grovel on the ground and wring my hands in abject and heartfelt apology just as soon as it’s pointed out to me.

The truth is, I have no intention of spending any time whatsoever with the agent, or the publisher – not because they’re dim-witted, spineless, self-serving imbeciles, as I’m certain they’re not – but because I’ve got a book to write, and as of yesterday, a garden to tend. More importantly, I've got a wonderful woman whose company I crave, and in a few weeks’ time, I’ll have a kitten to raise and tutor in the ways of righteousness. And frankly speaking, a kitten, a garden and the company of a wonderful woman are just about pretty much all I've ever wanted, so I can't see myself giving them up to go and hang around with publishing people.

Indeed, as far as the day to day business of my life goes, I promise that nothing will change. Except perhaps, I will be a lot happier as I potter around, from litter tray to oven glove to knicker drawer. (I am obsessed by the concept of the knicker drawer by the way. I would like to write about it at some length, but of course I simply don’t have time. Deadlines to meet, lunches to do, bloggers to schmooze....)

So there we have it. One year on and I can safely say, the decision to start this blog was by far the best decision I ever made in my entire life.

Thank you, the internet.

What a contrast this post is to this one of just three months ago. It just goes to show, something you probably don't really need reminding: life is irrepressibly, relentlessly surprising. But also, sometimes, sometimes, the surprises are pleasant.

Two more things worth noting:

1) Yesterday was my birthday. I am 31.

2) This is my 200th post.

Life - for the moment at least - is sweet.



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Friday, 12 December 2008

Feedback Friday :: Goodbye Peckham and All This Cock and Bullshit, Hello Hysteria and Cock A Happy Hoop!

bulk :: 15st 6
days without blogging :: 6 (Aaaaaaaaaarrrrgggghhh! If it reaches a whole week without a decent excuse, it dies, like a Tamagotchi.)
Peckham hours remaining :: 12
boxes surrounding me :: 15 (all filled with books)
imminent arrivals :: 1
pipes down :: 3
fresh starts :: 4

Dead blog! Dead blog!

Blimey. Sorry about that. Is it already a week? I can barely believe it. Time flies when you’re working for the government. Ssshhh! Keep Mum. She’s not so dumb. Not much longer now though. In fact, the good news is, I’ve only got one more week doing this cock and bullshit, then I’ve got a much more interesting job lined up. A writing job. This is great news. This pleases me more than a very friendly woman with five eager mouths. I’m cock-a-hoop!

In other news, life has taken a number of exceedingly interesting turns over the last few weeks. Quite incredible things are, have been and will be afoot, and life, my faithful friend, is full of surprises. In fact, if I were to ever tell you exactly how my life has changed just recently, and in exactly how many ways (oh so many), you would probably cough up a kidney in the process of trying to actually comprehend it all. You might very well refract internally just trying to get your head round it. Then I’d have to rush you to hospital and sit by your bed all night, holding on to your hand and mopping your brow until you slipped into eternal oblivion at the crack of dawn. Incidental bystanders would stand by incidentally, arms folded, shaking their heads in disbelief as I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed, enough tears to drown a unicorn in a silver bucket.

I’ll tell you about it on Monday, if you’re around. In the meantime, Keith has just pierced the M25 and I have to prepare the lubricants for the evening’s entertainment. He’s on his way down to help me celebrate this monumental weekend and shift my capacious ass out of Peckham with a bang.

That all sounds slightly gay, doesn't it. Well, when the cat's away, the mouse's homosexual tendencies will bubble to the surface like tiny cocks with teeth. No, I'm just kidding. But now I must go. For this is my last night. And I intend to have fun.

Come back on Monday. It’ll be lovely.

And have a good weekend yourself.

I kiss your face.



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Friday, 5 December 2008

Friday Feedback :: Looking Forward


bulk :: 15st 7
gym visits :: 2
cigarettes :: 2 (eek!)
medical moments :: 2


I’m stealing moments of unprotected neighbourhood wireless here and there where I can, skulking in internet pissoirs when I can’t. A pound an hour, a tenner a day. Getting on with work, looking forward.

Life is suddenly going very very quickly. Slow down, you bugger, say I, but does it listen? Does it arse.

I’ve got two very important weekends coming up. Next weekend I’m moving, leaving Peckham. To be perfectly honest, this can’t really come fast enough. At first I was fond of its no frills, Brixton-lite, urban grit, and I loved Khan’s Bargain Store – their website says it all really, Peckham to a tee – but now, after a few short months, I’ve had enough. Mostly I’ve had enough of trudging up greasy streets thick with McDonald’s packaging and coke cans. Oh, and people spitting, inches from my face. It happens all the time in Peckham. It’s like spitting is perceived as a social grace here. Animals.

Oh, and yesterday I was in Morrisons (I'm not proud), looking at the cheap DVDs (yeah, whatever) and this guy walked up and stood in front of me, his back inches from my face, totally blocking the DVD display. I laughed, in a disbelieving way. He turned to stare at me. He was large, taller than I am and and much more muscular. He already looked really offended. We had the following conversation:

Me: [gesturing] Excuse me. Cheers.

He says nothing and glares at me like I am a chicken and he is about to wring my neck.

Me: I was looking at the DVDs.

He glances at his friend who guffaws. He seriously looks like he is about to attack me.

Me: Are you alright?

Him: I was until I saw you.

Me: [sighing] I tell you what then, here's a suggestion: why don't you get out of my way, go somewhere far away with your retarded friend here and just have a long, hard think about why you're such an unspeakable cunt? Eh? Why don't you do that before you get hurt?

Him: [his expression changing to one of creeping fear and dawning realisation that he is in the presence of a superior being] OK, mate. Sorry. You've taught me a very valuable lesson about life. Thank you. Oh, and before I go, here, have a fiver.

Actually, as you may have already imagined, some of that conversation I made up. It actually ended with me skulking off, remembering what someone said in the comments here yesterday, taking deep, calming breaths and thinking that soon I'd be gone, away from this vicious neanderthal and his rotten South London ilk.

Actually, thinking about it, I don’t think I’ve ever been so eager to move before in my life. A week to go and I’m already packed. Everyone who needs to be informed has been informed and everything is in place. In eight days' time, I will be gone.

This weekend however, I'm going a little bit further south for something much, much more important. Which I’m not going to tell you about. Not yet anyway.

Oh, and by the way, I haven’t got AIDS!

Hurrah!

Now you. What are you up to this weekend? Anything interesting?



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Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Worried Wednesday :: Child Abuse, AIDS, Cancer and Virtual Isolation

A big thank you to those of you who wished me well for the weekend. It went well. Very well in fact. Right up till the moment I almost made the news for abusing a baby.

How I wish I was joking.

Oh God, I can barely bring myself to tell this. Every time I think of it, I cringe and shout out. I don’t know why I shout out. But I do. It’s an automatic reaction when I think of something which really embarrasses me. I did it just now. For reasons I’ll come to in a moment, I’m sitting in an internet café in Peckham – more of an internet toilet if I’m honest – and, thinking about what I’m about to tell you, I shouted out. Nothing in particular, just a loud, strange-sounding grunt. The kind of noise mad people make. The guy who runs this place and the two other people on nearby computers all turned to look at me. They think I’m crazy. Am I crazy? I think I might be.

So. On Monday evening I was with some friends of Morag. One of them, the one whose house it was – let’s call her Beth – has a four-year-old son called Jamie. Jamie took rather a shine to me, and frankly I to him, so he was crawling all over me, and I was being a bit silly, making him laugh, tickling him and so on. All good innocent fun, and obviously a great little brownie point-earner as far as Morag and her friends were concerned.

But then it all went wrong.

Basically I made the mistake (I see in retrospect) of tossing Jamie up in the air. Just a little. I had hold of him under the arms and I pretended to throw him up in the air and catch him. I barely let go of him at all. Maybe for a second, but I made a big show of throwing him away, pretending to try and frighten him. You know how it is. Kids love that shit. And Jamie proved no exception. ‘More!’ he said, chortling and gurgling.

‘Careful, Stan,’ said Morag.

‘I know,’ I said, slightly fractious. ‘Don’t worry,’ I said. ‘I don’t work for Haringey Council.’ And I faux-tossed Jamie in the air again, walking slowly around Beth’s large living room as I went, tossing and catching. ‘More!’ he cried, amidst wild giggles. His mother didn’t seem to mind at all and I was perfectly in control so I continued. ‘I’m going to throw you away!’ I said, and I tossed him up in the air again.

‘More!’ he cried.

And then it happened. In the blink of an eye, Jamie’s giggles turned to the most ear-piercing screams I think I’ve ever heard as his head cracked loudly against the concrete ceiling.

Basically, the wall between Beth’s living room and dining room was at some stage removed to make one large room… except for one column in the centre of where the wall used to be, and maybe a metre of wall hanging down from the ceiling all the way across. I’m sure there’s an architectural term for what I’m making a pig’s arse of describing here, but obviously I don’t know what it is. Basically there’s a bit of the wall left and I didn’t see it, didn’t even know it was there until I smashed a baby’s head against it.

Oh, God. I just shouted out again.

When I realised what had happened, I instinctively squeezed Jamie closer to me and started rubbing the top of his head. With his face bright red, soaking wet and contorted in agony, he pulled away from me and reached out to his mum, who was there in seconds. I tried to explain what had happened as she took her son away from me.

It really was one of the worst moments of my life. I felt hideous. I felt like a monster.

In retrospect, I guess the fact that he was still conscious probably meant that no lasting harm had been done, but at the time that didn’t occur to me. At the time, I was just terrified that I’d damaged a little boy’s brain.

In the end, he was fine, and Beth was really nice about it, much nicer I fear than I would have been if some stupid fucker had bashed my son’s head against the ceiling. And Morag forgave me before the night was out. So in the end, no harm done. But still, what an incredible doofus I am.

I still can’t believe it.

What if he’d just died? I... it doesn't bear thinking about.

God. I can’t get over it. I’ll be cringing for the rest of my life because of this. And rightly so.

So yes, apart from that, the weekend went well, and Morag’s friends seemed to like me. God knows what they’re saying about me now though.

Let the paranoia commence.

In other news, as soon as I've posted this, I’m going back to the doctor to get my stomach checked out again. I’m terrified I’ve got stomach cancer. Morag tells me that if I don’t stop stressing about it, I’m going to worry myself a tumour. This has made me even more scared. Can you actually worry yourself a tumour? Oh God, I bet you can. Right, no more worrying.

Easy.

Then, tomorrow I’m going for my first ever in-relationship AIDS test. Woo hoo! To be honest, there is very, very, very little chance I have AIDS, but I suppose you never know. Mostly I’m going in order to give moral support to Morag. I’m still slightly nervous though.

On reflection, this seems quite personal.

Hmmm. Actually, forget I mentioned any of that. But wish me luck.

Oh, and when I got back from Brighton yesterday, I found that my internet had been cut off. I’m trying not to go crazy and kill everyone in a 12-mile radius because frankly, that wouldn’t be fair. Basically, the sub-human to whom I spoke last week misunderstood what I said by two weeks and now wants to charge me lots of extra money for their mistake.

I am rising above it. I am gritting my teeth and rising above it. Because life could be worse. In fact, it may be. But fingers crossed, it isn’t.

The upshot of this is that there may be a lot less blogging between now and the end of the year. But as I say, it could be far, far worse.

Oh, also, I’m getting a cold.

Stupid life.



I suddenly feel rather down. Please, if you can, tell me something cheery in the comments. Go on, it'll do you good too.

Thanks.



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Friday, 28 November 2008

Feedback Friday :: Ichbaaaaaa



bulk :: 15st 9
gym visits :: 3


I am too fat to blog.

Sorry.

Also, I’m working too hard. For the government. I’m a government man.

Also, I’m trying to sort out things for the move well in advance and yet still I’m being provoked to impotent fury by the criminals that are Virgin Media. I’m not going to take this lying down, you fuckers.

Also, I am mourning the loss of my coat, which I left in a taxi on Wednesday night. £200, gone in the winking of an eye. Of course I’ve reported the coat as lost and they said they’re looking into it, but really, what are the chances? Bah. Serves me right for trying to impress Morag by splurging on a taxi.

Also, I’m going to Brighton for a few days and I need to prepare myself.

Also, my stomach is still hurting and I have a pain in my left testicle.

Also, everything is just too weird at the moment. Honestly. Life is too weird.

So tell me, what are you up to this weekend? I like it when you tell me. It makes me feel somehow connected to the rest of the world. Also, it’s like a snapshot of the whole cockeyed carnival that is life. I like it.

I’m going to Brighton and I’m going to meet some of Morag’s friends.

That'll be fun.

Or hideous.

I'm nervous.

Bah.

What about you? Anything nice?



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Monday, 24 November 2008

Noise

This morning I was awoken at 5.40 by the bloke upstairs, whom I do not know more than to nod at in passing. He was playing music. I suppose I should be grateful that it was classical music and not Slipknot or Slayer, and indeed I am. But not much. I think it was Bach, but I’m not sure. Lots of organs. Very brooding. And very, very loud.

I got out of bed, quite calmly, and I located the corner of the room where I keep all of the long things: the poster tubes, the discarded barbell, the golf flag (don’t ask). And I located the metre-long iron pole. I don’t know where this came from, and I don’t know why I refuse to throw it away every time I move – or at least I didn’t know until about half an hour ago, when I realised that I’d been keeping it for this occasion. Carefully I lifted the flat end of the iron pole up to the ceiling, then firmly I gave four stout raps. Something gave. Then I remembered that this flat has polystyrene tiles on the ceiling. White flammable powder fell onto my face. The music however, was swiftly turned down. Then up again. Not to the same volume – nowhere near in fact, but still loud enough to irritate me.

I got back into bed. I couldn’t sleep. Jesus. Who the hell listens to organ music in the middle of the night? I got out of bed, pulled on a tee-shirt, left my bedroom and opened the front door. I put the latch on, left the flat and climbed the fire escape stairs. I knocked on my neighbour’s front door. Nothing. I knocked again. Still nothing. I came back downstairs.

I had not been locked out. Thank you, Jesus.

Five minutes later I got back out of bed and came to the other room. I’ve got work to do. The government job I mentioned before starts today. So I made an early start. At my desk my 6.

I hate noisy neighbours. They’re so difficult to cope with. From the stomping and the door-slamming to the shouting and the music late at night. And not knowing what to do is the worst of it. Shall I bang on the ceiling or is that what yahoos do? Shall I go up and knock or will I be stabbed? Shall I just put up with it? Am I being unreasonable? Shall I poison them?

I was born to live in a detached house, surrounded by fir trees and quietly weeping willows.

Thank God I’m moving out.

So tell me, what’s your worst experience with a noisy neighbour?



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Friday, 21 November 2008

Feedback Friday :: Balance


bulk :: ?
glad factor :: 8
sad factor :: 2


I confess, I’ve fallen off the health wagon ever so slightly. But that’s OK, you know? It’s allowed. And I’m tackling it. I’ve wiped the crumbs from a thousand chocolate Hob Nobs off of my tee shirt and trousers, my face, my laptop, the walls, the ceiling – I’m like Cookie Monster when I get going, Cookie Monster fending off two Tasmanian Devils. And I’m putting on my smelly old trainers as we speak.

This is the first time in a year I’ve refused to get on the scales. Actually, that’s not true. I did get on the scales, but I didn’t activate the digital readout first, so all I got was the backwards ‘E’. For Doofus. Then, rather than doing it right, I got off and walked away. Walked? Who am I kidding. I ran away. The thing is, I know I’ve put on a bit of weight over the last week. When you weigh yourself a lot, you can feel it, you can sense it as you settle on the scales, you can speak your own weight, to the pound, before the machine tells you. And although all I got was a backwards ‘E’, I knew I’d put on quite a few pounds over the last two weeks.

Actually, I knew even before I set foot on the scales. I knew because I’ve been eating like a scabby horse that’s just escaped from between two mattresses, and I haven’t been to the gym for a week. I’ve been eating out at restaurants a fair bit too, even on my own. I really like eating out on my own. It feels like a really special thing to do. A glorious treat. It feels like a celebration. And I am celebrating at the moment. It’s important to celebrate. Good times don’t come along often enough to let them pass unmarked. So I’ve been squirreling myself away in restaurants and cafés, just me, a book and a three course meal. Maybe a bottle of wine if I really want to celebrate. And a jar of pickled eggs. No, sorry, I’m being silly now. But you know what? That’s OK too. It’s OK to be silly. It may even be important to be silly. In fact, I’m convinced it is. But it’s also important to be serious. Balance. That’s what it’s all about. But also extremes. And at the moment, I feel good. Extremely good. I feel full of magic beans. I feel defiant. Stalker, stalk this.

Some people think that eating out alone is a bit sad. Like going to the cinema alone (which I also enjoy). I don’t feel that way. I think it’s the opposite of sad. I think it’s one of the most joyful, life-affirming, exultant things a human being can do. But then, on the whole, I rather enjoy spending time on my own. I’m a people person for sure, but I’m also a bit of a loner. I’d like to say I’m actually quite a private person, but I think a blog is probably not the best place to say that. But with my time, and sometimes with my space, I’m discriminative. And I find there are few people who really come close to me when it comes to pleasant and comfortable, if not always scintillating, company. Occasionally scintillating though.

Having said all that, I must now say, that now is the time for the celebration to end and life in earnest to begin again. So I’m off to the gym. And then I’m going to the shop to buy some greens.

Aside :: Every time I go to the gym I think of Douglas Adams.

Other news: I’ve come to an arrangement with Keith’s landlord. I’ve paid the rent and I’m going to get the place professionally cleaned, then I’ll hopefully be able to collect Keith’s deposit. I may even deign to offer a part of that back to Keith. But then again I may not. We’ll see.

Then, on Saturday 13 December, I will move into my new home. What makes this remarkable is that one year ago to the day – by which I mean Saturday 15 December 2007 – was the day I started this blog.

Awwww. I like symmetry a great deal.

And I like the fact that I’ll be spending Christmas in North London.

That’s nice.

Now, gym.

...

So tell me, what do you enjoy doing alone?

And also, what you up to this weekend?

Me? I’m entertaining.



Have fun!



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Thursday, 20 November 2008

Dear John...

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I’d written to thelondonpaper in the hope of becoming their ‘columnist of the day’. Arrogantly, I must say, I thought inclusion would be a cinch. Turns out not so, for I sent 400 nuggets of absolute solid gold to them, and they didn’t even have the decency to laugh in my face. I mean, I know that – particularly with this feature – thelondonpaper tends to specialise in badly-written, horrifically uninteresting ichbaaaaaa, but I assumed that this was because no one who could actually write well ever sent anything in. Not so turns out. They actually like that shit.

So anyway, the bit I wrote was in response to this guy, who can’t get a woman for the simple reason that he’s got no personality to speak of. However, instead of taking time to work on the whole personality thing, which can be tricky, he stumped up and got himself a whore. The response to John’s column was fairly staggering. It was overwhelmingly positive. Every time I picked up the paper for the rest of that week, readers were either crawling up John’s cockstand to sympathise with his plight, or else moved to exhaustion, weeping at the base of his stem.

Just in case you don’t follow the link - and please, you really shouldn’t – here is perhaps the most ludicrous excerpt:


In today’s world of celebrity, even the plainest of women want a Frank Lampard or a George Clooney. The worst thing is they are prepared to put up with anything to get them and keep them. I’ve lost count of the conversations I’ve heard between women complaining of inconsiderate, rude, thoughtless, cheating and lying boyfriends. I stand there thinking, “I wouldn’t have forgotten your birthday. I wouldn’t have carried on watching Match of the Day when you had something important to say. I wouldn’t have chatted up that girl at the bar.” But it’s all worthless because five minutes later the boyfriend arrives and, after one look, all her anger just melts away because he’s her Frank Lampard.


Ah, John. John. What are you on?

So, I got quite wound up by all this and I wrote a reply. It was rather too offensive I'm afraid. And cruel. So I tore it up and wrote a rather more considered reply, which I hoped that they would consider for publication. (Oh, to be 'columnist of the day' and get a BORE-rating of 100! That would be quite special.) Anyhow, here it is. It’s exactly 400 words too. I was disproportionately proud of that.


Dear John

I understand perfectly why you ended up paying for female company, but I’m writing this to let you know that there is an alternative.

Last year I reached a low point in my life. I had never had a girlfriend. I spent my days curled up in the living room with my cat, curtains closed to keep the day at bay, watching DVDs and eating Sugar Puffs. I hardly ever left the house. My weight was inching up to the 20 stone mark. My flesh was the colour and consistency of cold gruel and I was about to turn 30.

I realised I was in grave danger of becoming one of those tragic souls who have to have the walls of their house removed so that they can be lifted by a crane to the nearest hospital for gastric bypass surgery, so I gave myself one year to lose the equivalent of Kate Moss in weight and – more importantly – to find someone to love.

I knew I couldn’t do this on my own however, so what I did was this: I started a blog. Blogging about my quest to lose weight, turn my life around and find someone to love was the best decision I ever made. It introduced me to hundreds of people I would otherwise never have met, and a couple of them even deigned to go to bed with me. Free of charge. They both went on to break my heart of course, but you can’t have everything. Where would you put it?

As for your comments about personality counting for nothing and women these days lusting after looks and little else, I think you’re generalising wildly. In my experience, women are a lot less superficial than men when it comes to looks. All you have to do is string a sentence together and have a sense of humour and you’d be surprised how many women will overlook the fact that you’ve got a face like a bag of elbows and a belly like a bag of bowling balls.

Seriously. I’m living proof that you can blog your way to happiness. It might not last forever, but... well, it might. Your column last week was hopefully your first step in the right direction. Get yourself online. The blog is mightier than the whore. (Unless of course you’re Belle de Jour.)
Good luck,

Bête de Jour


After a week or two I finally bit the bullet and accepted that I had definitely been rejected by thelondonpaper. Then I decided to end it all. Then I thought, no, fuck it, my time will come, and even if it takes another ten years, when it does come, I’ll be able to say, with my hand on my heart, ‘Well, at least on the way up, I never sucked on Rupert Murdoch’s skinsock. Nope, not even a nibble.’ (Did you see that horrible shagsack trying to nobble Obama? What a frickin’ sleaze.)

Anyway, fuck him and fuck his parochial rag. I’m over it.

Plus, John, you completely put me off the idea of paying for sex at a time when I was seriously considering it. So thanks. I spent the money on a coat.

...

Now, I have a question :: what's your favourite name for a cat, ever?



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Wednesday, 19 November 2008

News Of A Personal Nature :: I Feel Pretty

Oh, so pretty.

I feel pretty.

And witty.

And ‘gay’.

Seriously though.

And furthermore, I pity any girl – or indeed, any boy – who isn’t me today – or indeed, any day. Actually no, not any day. Just today.

Actually, thinking about it, to be fair, ‘pretty’ might be pushing it a little. I've still got a head like sack of aubergines pulled from a burning pork scratchings factory, but I was just checking myself out in the bathroom mirror there, with a bit of product on the old thatch and my £200 coat on. And you know what? I kind of half-fancied myself.

I had candles on and – if I say so myself – I looked like a ne’er-do-well in a noirish thriller. A bit dodgy for sure, but doable nonetheless.

So, yes, you may be wondering what has occurred to make me feel so pretty. So witty. So ‘gay’. You may not. I do not know. I lay claim to the ability to peer within the nether regions of neither your soul, your mind nor your pocket. All I can say is this: you know when someone you know – let’s say a friend – is going out with someone you really don’t think is suitable for them? Often you’re dead against the relationship, but you have to respect your friend’s decisions, or at least pretend to, so you bite your lips and nibble your cheeks and say nothing.

Then your friend splits up with their partner, you get drunk together and it all comes out. Everything you’ve ever thought about that good-for-nothing bag of rats. ‘Thank goodness you’re shot of that piece of human excrement,’ you say. ‘Trust me, worst thing that ever happened to you. You’re so much better off without them. In fact, and I probably shouldn’t say, but you were pretty unbearable yourself, while you were together.’ Then before you know it, they’re back together and frankly, things become a little uncomfortable.

Well, brace yourself, for I have news of a personal nature.

Morag and I are back together!

Yes, and by Christ, it definitely deserves at least one exclamation mark. Maybe more. But let’s not go mental.

This time we are going out with one another. None of that modern nonsense. Fuck buddies! I mean, come on. Who were we trying to fool? What were we thinking? In this day and age. Stuff and nonsense. Fuck buddies be buggered. A man needs a wife! No, I’m just kidding. I mean, maybe it’s true. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Although we have made a commitment to each other. And we’re talking about Christmas. And London. And generally being a couple.

That is all I have to say on the subject and I command you – with all of the stentorian muster of Brian Blessed bellowing through a megaphone into a microphone on the main stage at Glastonbury, with the speakers turned up to 11 – to have nothing but good feelings for me. If you don’t mind.

I know most of you will anyway, but a couple of you said some pretty harsh things about Morag when I was stupidly washing our dirty laundry in public a couple of months ago. Or whenever it was. I know you were just trying to be nice to me, but – nothing. Let’s say no more about it. Seriously.

Except this: I am very happy. And what’s more, for a fairly unambiguously ugly bloke, I feel pretty. Sing it!



Now leave your good wishes in the comments and let’s tuck into a celebratory box of Wispas.



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Friday, 14 November 2008

Feedback Friday :: Glad To Be Glad

I don’t know if this is some kind of manic episode – I know I’ve teetered on the meniscus of manic in the past – but I just can’t help feeling incredibly glad at the moment. Change is a remarkable thing. And the future is bright.

With all of this in mind, this week’s feedback comes in the form of 15 Things I Am Glad About. Oh yes, I’m going to have you puking up your pelvis before this passes…

1) I’m glad that my reactions to the challenges of life are much more robust now than they were just a year ago.

2) I’m glad that because of my reactions to the challenges of life, there are finally opportunities on the horizon.

3) I’m glad I’ve got the day off.

4) I’m glad that Keith is doing something noble and selfless and good, whether he sees it that way or not.

5) I’m glad that I have a chance to undo some of the ungood that was done to my family.

6) I’m glad that more people are starting to send me photos of bad English. Very glad indeed. It’s a great feeling. I’m also particularly glad that compared to the poor old bugger to whom this chart belongs, I am in incredibly good health.

7) I’m glad I found out how easy it is to change one's life, whilst also discovering that it’s even easier to change back.

8) I’m glad I have friends.

9) I’m glad that a couple of nights ago I took MDMA and had a big soapy bath in the middle of the night, with apples and candles and good old me-time.

10) I’m glad I’ve found a nice house where I can live and grow. (Green fingers crossed.) I’m so looking forward to growing again.

11) I’m glad that the landlady of the new place said it was OK to have a kitten. Oh, yes, she did! A kitten! Actually, to hell with glad. I’m absolutely ecstatic about that.

12) I’m glad I’ll soon have something else to write about, because frankly, I’m beginning to tire of the sound of my own voice.

13) I’m glad that athlete’s foot is treatable.

14) I’m glad that I’m running out of things to be glad about because, frankly, if it was that easy, it wouldn’t really count for that much.

15) Oh, and finally, I have to say, I’m very glad that I’ll be popping down to Brighton this weekend. Say no more.

So what are you glad about? Come on, it’s a beautiful day. Share your gladness with me at once, you gorgeous thing!



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Thursday, 13 November 2008

The Platform of Lost Parables

Yesterday was hectic. I was in a horrible hurry, on my way to see a house, stressed and furious, sweating and scowling, traipsing through the city with a terrific cob on, Pollyanna snivelling in my wake, nursing a black eye.

Hush now, child. Be glad it wasn’t both eyes.

I am between destinations, changing lines, cussing and sighing and surly because inconsiderate people are failing to read my mind – not even trying if you ask me – when a serious-looking gentleman in a suit which is both sparse and spruce, moves toward me to speak. He is lost. He is looking for Woolwich.

The train pulling in behind us is – I think – heading in the right direction, but I can’t be absolutely sure. There is no map in sight. ‘I think it’s this one,’ I say, as it pulls in and sicks up another fifty suits, ‘but we should really find a map.’ I gesture for him to follow me and head off on my impromptu quest; he thanks me happily and hops blithely onto the train.

When I notice his mistake, I yell, slightly melodramatically, almost in slow motion, ‘Noooooo-ooooo-oo!’ At which he hops back off the train, neatly, and the doors close behind him. ‘Come with me,’ I say, laughing merrily at his utter bewilderment. He is like a Turkish Mr Bean.

I mouth the words ‘Let’s go’ at him. Then I decide to speak them. This proves much more effective and we head off together. After a little aimless shambling, we find a map, and lo and behold, Woolwich is not even a tube station. I try to explain. ‘You need a train, mate. Upstairs.’ I point.

‘Yes!’ he cries. ‘Train!’ He pulls out a piece of paper with some words scrawled on it, amongst them ‘LONDON BRIDGE’ and ‘TRAIN’. I throw back my haircut and have a good old laugh. And my friend has a good old laugh too. And we’re both of us standing there, in this giant underground cavern, this no-man’s land between trains, having a good old laugh.

‘The train station’s upstairs,’ I tell him. He looks around him, snakes his eyes around the giant steel barn, with its stairs and tunnels, its tubes and funnels – are there funnels? Let’s say there are – and he smiles. He’s probably thinking of the barn he grew up in. Poor little mouse. ‘Where are you from, old pal?’ I say.

‘I am Kazakh man,’ he tells me, but he keeps it meek, not like you might imagine when you read the words ‘I am Kazakh man’. He is just stating a fact, as best he can. No frills, no implication. ‘Kazakhstan,’ he adds, helpfully.

‘Come on then, old sport,’ I chirrup. ‘Let’s get you onto that train.’

‘Thank you,’ says Kazakh Man.

Then we made our way along a relatively deserted platform. I didn’t speak. I wanted to, but it was too much like hard work, frankly. Bonding without language on the underground – and in a non-sexual way – is not as easy as you might think.

As I was thinking about that, a blind or partially-sighted man darted out of a tunnel to my left and came at me with his white cane. I side-stepped him neatly and was carrying on down the platform as if nothing had happened when I realised that he was speaking to me.

‘Is there a member of staff on the platform?’ he wanted to know. He needed some help getting somewhere.

I stopped. I looked. There was no one. But I did see one of those information-cum-emergency push-button intercom contraptions bolted to a wall. I asked him if that would do. He said that it would and asked me to take him to it. All the while Kazakh Man was loitering patiently. I thought for a second of introducing them. But I didn’t do it.

So there I was, plucked from the solipsistic porridge of my unspeakable rage and planted on the platform of lost parables, hand in hand with a man who couldn’t see, and a man who couldn’t speak. On we trudged, stronger for our union.

I started to laugh. Kazakh Man granted me a smile.

I left the Blind Man at the intercom system. I pressed the information button for him. He said it wasn’t an emergency. I wished him luck.

And I dropped off Kazakh Man at the ticket hall in the train station and I wished him luck too.

Then I made my way to the house, and as I made my way, I realised that I was happy. My random encounters had bucked me up no end. Good old London.

I was glad that I’d met Kazakh Man, and I vowed to take with me on my journey through life some of his humility, and some of his simple empathy, which was pure and warm and instinctive and beyond language in a way that this sentence never could be.

And I was glad that I’d met the Blind Man. He wasn’t old by the way, the blind man. He was younger than me. I wondered how long he’d been blind. I wondered if he’d become blind later in life, and if so, if he’d raged against the dying of the light for a period. He must have learned incredible patience.

So I take this too, and I make my way to the viewing with a spring in my heels.

The house, I am overjoyed to say, is awesome. Well, it’s OK. And it’s got a garden. And it felt both cosy and spacious. I liked it immediately.

When I’d done the tour I was informed that there were two more parties coming to view the property in a few hours. The pressure was on.

I took a little walk in the rain, and the dark, and the fairly biting wind, and I had a think. It’s winter. Keith’s off to take care of his dad for a while. I need somewhere to live. It almost feels like a Fresh Start is in the offing.

I caught my bank just before it closed and took out the money to cover the holding deposit. Then I went back to the agent and handed it over. I also signed a bunch of contracts. All that remains now is for my references to check out, one of which - my landlord's reference, I'm writing myself.

I am alone.

I am moving forward.



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Tuesday, 11 November 2008

TV :: Gory Gory Hallelujah

I had a couple of extraordinary viewing experiences over the weekend. I’d like to tell you about them. The first was Dead Set, Charlie Brooker’s Big Brother-zombie mash-up, which I finally managed to devour from start to finish, and absolutely loved. I’ve never been a great fan of zombies, I have to say. The occasional parody can be fun, but for me zombie horror always falls down on the shambling gait of its undead protagonists.

There’s just nothing scary about dead people shuffling over the brow of a hill like a whiff of pensioners in a post office queue. It hardly matters that they have the power to rip off your skullcap and devour your brains. Look at them. They’re shambling. Why, with only the most rudimentary ambling skills, you’d still be able to evade even the nimblest of them. Considering zombiedom is such a terrifying concept, the monsters themselves never really seemed as scary as they ought.

But in Dead Set the zombies don’t shamble; they sprint, and they’re dead fast, and proper hideous.

Keith disagrees with me on this and maintains that the old-style shambling was integral to the power of your traditional zombie in that it inspired creeping dread and a much more profound psychological discomfort. But I say bollocks to that. Give me in-your-face, balls-in-the-fire, sprinting death terror every time. Give me hell hurtling toward you with a jackhammer bite and apocalypse-blue eyes.

Brooker recognises that the rules changed with 28 Days Later, when the infected masses refused to bow down to the tyranny of tradition and got their arses in gear. I like that. I like to see the rules broken. I’d like to see it taken further though. I’d like to see a zombie film where the first word of the film was ‘zombies’, and the dead weren’t stupid but were reasoning and cogent, and in the scenes where they’re tearing their loved ones to pieces, they know exactly what they’re doing, and it’s killing them, and they’re sobbing as they rip the flesh from the bones of friends and relatives, but they just can’t help themselves. It’s a compulsion. An infection. That’s what it is to be a zombie. That’s the film I’d like to see. Although I must admit, it doesn’t sound like much fun. Dead Set on the other hand, was fantastic fun.




The humour was appropriately double-death dark and never really let up. The impotent rage of the zombie in a wheelchair (I know, I know, it’s really serious), baffled by forward propulsion, frustrated by the disabled, non-sprinting corpse it’s been saddled with, will stay with me forever. As will Davina McCall blatting her bolshy body against the same door for three episodes. But best of all was Big Brother producer, Patrick, part rapacious peddler of reality porn, part (one imagines) pitiless word-wizard and helpless misanthrope Brooker himself. Patrick was breathtakingly odious from start to sensationally gory finish and was given all the best lines.

The absolute best thing about Dead Set however – in my very most humble opinion – is the ending.

Spoiler alert.

As the tension mounts and the number of survivors continues to dwindle, the memory of the swimming pool scene clings like the smell of decaying flesh. These zombies have a weakness. Their weakness is water. The fear of an unwarranted happy ending creeps in and threatens everything. Will someone activate the sprinklers in the Big Brother house? Will their be a sudden purgative storm which washes the plague away?

I was certain there would be.

I was wrong.

Everyone dies.

No one is spared.

It’s so refreshing.

I can’t remember the last time I saw a mainstream television drama with the balls big enough not to pander to bland optimism. Dead Set was as unremittingly bleak as any zombie apocalypse ought to be. Totally unsanitised by knee-jerk philanthropy. Utterly, utterly hopeless. I was so pleased.

Then there was the portentous parable aspect. Oh yes there was.

Crap will eat itself.

In the Kingdom of the Bland, Vernon Kaye is King.

My second viewing pleasure was not quite so misanthropic.

I remember seeing Pollyanna at some stage when I was just a willowy wee boy, wrapped up in bed with my portable telly, and I can’t really remember it having that much of an effect on me. Except perhaps for cultivating in me an almighty crush on little Hayley Mills. You know, in The Parent Trap, there are two of her.



Thankfully, that crush has subsided.

When I happened across Pollyanna on Saturday afternoon however, all glum and gloomy and innocently avoiding sport, I remembered enough to stick with it a while. Sunny little Hayley reeled me in with her joyous smile.

There was darkness in my heart however, as I knew roughly what I was in for: saccharine, wholesome garbage, gingham, gospel, vapid all-conquering optimism and weak-chinned acceptance in the name of a loving God and a proud flag. And I was right. But what I hadn’t banked on how much it moved me.

Four times it reduced me to tears in the space of an hour. The last time I was wholly inconsolable.

And what it was was that I totally believed her. Little Hayley. Pollyanna. I believed entirely in her innocence and as such, it completely removed by cynicism. Like I’d had a cynisectomy. I was wholly purged by Pollyanna and I rejoiced in her simple, heartfelt message: not just that we should look on the bright side, but also, that we should look for the good in people.

She’s right.

And of course, her love of life is just as contagious as any cannibalistic, necromantic rage-plague.

Pollyanna brings joy and play and love where once there was merely sadness, and duty, and despair.

Nobody dies.

Everyone is spared.

Lessons are learned.

It’s so refreshing.

These are very strange times.

Mark my words.



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Friday, 7 November 2008

Feedback Friday :: Change

It’s been a funny old week. While the rest of the world’s been getting high on hope, I’ve been getting increasingly depressed on trains and tubes, and increasingly sick of spending my days in a small room with a man with a gastric problem. I also found out this week that the government job I was hoping for has been put back again. I should still get it, but not for another week or two.

God, I’m bored.

Also, it looks like Keith is leaving London. I’m not sure he’s making the right decision personally, but of course, it’s his decision to make. Not mine. Now, don’t tell anyone, but he plans on doing a rent-runner at the end of the month. This is because he hasn’t yet paid this month’s rent yet and landlord Dudley – because he’s rich as Croesus and has more properties than I have teeth - hasn’t even noticed. So Keith’s skipping town, leaving behind – as well as one month’s unpaid rent – one broken bed and one horribly, suspiciously stained and torn living room carpet. He’ll lose his deposit of course, but Dudley will still come out on top, so Keith figures it’s fair. I figure he’s probably right. Ish. This means I have until the end of the month – or until Dudley notices that the rent hasn’t been paid – to find somewhere new to live. Or of course I could take over this place, but frankly, this place, and Peckham as a whole, has rather lost its charm.

So. Back to Gumtree I go. Or I suppose I could start doing the rounds of agents. I do so despise them however. I’ve never met an agent who wasn’t either unscrupulous and self-centred to the point of pure evil, or, if not evil, severely mentally retarded. It's not uncommon of course, to meet a rancid melange of the two.

Still, needs must.

So. Keith may well be Burnley-bound as soon as the end of this coming week. So this weekend, we're going to buy some drugs.

In other news, I had this dream that I was sitting around with Stephen Fry and Simon Amstell and we were trying to think up cat-related Beatles song puns. I have no idea why, but it was possibly a new round on Never Mind the Buzzcocks.

‘Let It Beep,’ offered Stephen.

Simon and I looked at one another. Simon was wearing that expression he wears when he’s about to say something terrible and mean, but he didn’t want to say anything terrible and mean to Stephen Fry. Rather, he wanted to have snuggle up with him on a large bed.

‘Cats, Stephen,’ I said. ‘Cats don’t beep.’

‘Oh,’ said Stephen. ‘No, that’s right. Sorry.’

‘That’s OK,’ I said. ‘Try and think of another one.’

‘I’ve Got A Feline,’ said Simon.

‘Moggie Mae,’ I added.

‘Maxwell’s Silver Hamster,’ said Stephen.

Please,’ I said. ‘Stephen. You're ruining this for the rest of us.’

'Sorry,' said Stephen, ashamed.

‘Please Please Miaow,’ said Simon.

‘I Want To Hold Your Paw,’ I added, pleased with myself.

‘Sergeant Puppy’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,’ said Stephen.

Which was when it occurred to me that Stephen was merely toying with us. Of course he could think of cat puns. He was Stephen Fry. He could think of cat puns until the cow puns came home.

Which was when Simon Amstell turned to me and said, ‘Remind me. Why are you here?’

‘Oh, don’t be mean,’ said Stephen, but he was tittering like he didn’t mean it, like he was enjoying the meanness.

Which was when I noticed that Morag was sitting on Stephen Fry’s lap with her blouse unbuttoned and her bra pulled down to her navel. Stephen Fry seemed to be weighing her breasts in each of his hands. ‘So what’s the point of these exactly?’ he said.

And then, as Morag began to suckle Stephen Fry, I awoke, strangely depressed, and horribly aroused.

I wonder what it can mean.

So, this weekend, as well as attempting to procure some send-off narcotics, I’m going to start packing my life into boxes again.

Oy.

And you? What have you got planned?



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Thursday, 6 November 2008

Gumtree II :: Anything Goes When Nothing Exists

And then there was this...


Thursday, 16 October 2008 17:05

Hello,
My name is Harry Crown.Just want to drop few lines to let you know i have a one bedroom apartment in Clapham for rent.Rent goes for 700GBP monthly all bills inclusive,deposit 600GBP.
Pls let me know if you interested.
Regards.
Harry Crown




Thursday, 16 October 2008 22:45

Hi Harry

Your apartment sounds perfect, and very reasonably priced. Before we arrange a viewing however, I have a couple of questions.

1. Would you mind if I have a cat?

2. Would you mind if I get up every morning at 5am and wake the neighbours by loudly banging together the thigh bones of the many old ladies and young children I have murdered and eaten in the name of Satan?

Let me know.


Stan



Friday, 17 October 2008 12:20

Hello,
How are you doing today?It was nice reading from you.I do not mind if bring a cat in as i will not be staying in the apartment with you and also to let you know the apartment is alone and so you will not be disturbing anybody with whatever you are doing.
I work as a Contractor,currently supervising the building construction of an hotel in Edinburgh which would be finishing soon before i leave for Italy where i start my new job.
For this reason,i wont be living in the apartment,i only inherited it and haven't lived in it for too long.I wouldn't like to leave it dirty and untidy so i need clean and responsible tenant.
Apartment amenities include. Central Heating,Refrigerator,Ironing Board,Good wireless internet Connection,Washing machine,Dishwasher,Microwave Oven,Television with Built-in DVD Player,Coffee Maker,Double Sofa bed in Sitting Room,Dining Area,Hairdryer just to mention a few.
Unfortunately my phone is bad and wouldn't be able to receive phone calls at the moment,so communication via email would be better at the moment,probably i could give you a call later when i get on a pay phone as am not thinking of buying a new phone here as am leaving in few weeks.
As regards the viewing,i think we could fix a date i come down for the viewing and we reach an agreement.Have been very busy with work lately so its hard for me to spare time,i would like to be more certain about your intentions before booking my plane tickets for this.
I would be staying in Italy for more than 4 years so its up to you to decide how long you want the apartment for.
Please let me know what are the things you have in mind...how many people would be occupying the apartment and for how long you want the contract to last for.
Also let me know when you intend to move in and more other details you feel necessary for me to know.
Whereabouts do you live in currently?
Please find attached pictures of the apartment.
Waiting to read from you.
Harry.T




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