Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Unwise Words

From Britain’s Next Top Model on Monday night:

‘My stomach literally fell out of my body.’

I can’t remember who said it but I think it was chicken-lips Lauren. It wouldn’t have been so bad if she’d been talking about her first run-in with bulimia or the norovirus. But she wasn’t. She was talking about the length of some heels she had to walk in or something.


Stefanie to win.


And Karloff for Mayor.

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Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Happy Sundays

Sunday started with floods of tears and deep, deep sadness. In fact, I don’t think I’ve cried so hard in quite a while. Certainly not this year. I’m almost embarrassed to share this, but… well, the reason I was crying so hard was… there’s no easy way to say this so I’m just going to spit it out. Stepmom. I watched Stepmom on TV. God. I almost passed out toward the end. Couldn’t get my breath. It was like Terms of Endearment all over again.

I’m not proud.

Then I went to bed, still feeling rather emotional, and I daydreamed vigorously into an old pair of briefs.

Then on Sunday morning proper I cleaned the flat from top to tail, just in case, then went out to meet Sally at the British Museum. Was it a date? I assumed I’d find out sooner or later.

We hugged hello, then went to the café inside the museum for a coffee. Sally had read Friday’s blog entry, and the accompanying comments. ‘It’s a bit like living in The Truman Show,’ she said. She said that reading other people’s interpretations of her life gave her the fleeting desire to start her own blog, so that she could have her say. Together we imagined a world in the near future where people no longer spoke in real life, choosing instead to communicate solely through their blogs. She said something about it being really rather tragic that some people are prepared to say things anonymously online that they don’t dare say in real life. I agreed. Then I realised she was being rather pointed. ‘Ah,’ I said. ‘So is this a date or what?’

She laughed. ‘That’s more like it,’ she said. ‘That’s what I’m talking about. A bit of balls. A nice bit of spunk.’

‘Balls and spunk,’ I repeated. ‘Is that what you’re talking about?’

She nodded enthusiastically, her silver eyes flashing like tiny trophies in the sun. ‘Balls and spunk,’ she said, looking into my eyes. ‘Man spunk,’ she added. ‘So,’ she said. ‘Have you got an erection right now?’

‘Raging,’ I replied. ‘Do you have any plans to actually answer my question or not?’

She smiled and nodded. ‘Sorry, yes. Um… I don’t know what this is. I like you a lot and I like spending time with you. Which is why we’re here, right?’

‘Sure,’ I said. ‘Spending time.’ (Vincent Gallo, Buffalo 66.) ‘Spending time.’

‘I don’t fancy you at the moment, if I might be brutally honest.’ I winced. ‘But maybe that will come in time. I’m a great believer that physical attraction is something that can grow. And it already has grown to some extent. You know? What do you think?’

What I thought was that even if nothing ever happens between us, she’s great fun, and gorgeous to boot, and I’d be insane not to want to spend time with her, given the opportunity. I told her I thought she was lovely. She told me she thought I was lovely too, and ever so gently, she touched the side of my face, elbows and all. Ever so gently, I raised the table we were sitting at with my knees, as if to suggest that I had some kind of bionic penis.

Sally laughed. And called me a dirty old man.

Then we finished our coffee and with the words, ‘Come and have a look at my etchings’, Sally took me to upstairs to The American Scene :: Prints From Hopper to Pollock.

At this point I should perhaps mention in passing how much I love London. I really couldn’t imagine living anywhere else in this country. I know there are great museums all over the country, but obviously nowhere near as many, and frankly, most of them probably nowhere near as good. This exhibition at the British Museum was fantastic and – amazingly – it was free. (I love free things. Even things I really don’t want – if they’re free, I can’t help but embrace them.)

Sally is something of an expert when it comes to art. Although photography is her bag, she also knows rather a lot (certainly more than me) about other media. So it was great seeing this exhibition with her, as she was able to explain to me how the prints and the etchings we were looking at were made, which certainly added to my enjoyment. Even without a knowledgeable sex kitten to guide you however, it’s a great exhibition. Look at these:

It’s a good size too, so that even if you really take your time, it’s not going to eat up more than a couple of hours of your day. (Because let’s face it, art’s all very well but it shouldn’t get in the way of real life.)

After the exhibition we walked into Soho, in the rain, sharing an umbrella, singing that dreadful song and imagining we were making slow tender love. That last part may have been just me. Maybe. Hungry after all that culture, we sheltered in a Wagamama, where we were shown to our table by an incredibly surly homosexual gentleman. When we were then served another (thankfully less surly) homosexual, Sally whispered behind her hand, ‘Fagamama’. I laughed. Then I reprimanded her and accused her of violent homophobia. She countered that she wasn’t even remotely phobic of homosexuals, and that not only were some of her closest friends homosexuals, but she had on occasion even shared hugs, kisses, beds and bodily fluids with certain of her homosexual friends. Gosh.

When we asked for the bill, we were attended to by a young woman with a rather provocative, heavily lipsticked mouth and a series of deep purple lovebites around the base of her neck. When she disappeared to get the card payment thing, Sally went back to whispering. ‘Slagamama,’ she said. I could feel her breath on my ear. I shook my head in grave disappointment and the table lifted of its own accord.

‘Let’s go see a film,’ she said.

I gasped with something akin to joy.

‘So are we going out together or what?’ I said.

She laughed, thankfully, and told me to chill out. ‘Don’t fence me in, Daddio,’ she said. ‘Let’s just see how things turn out,’ she said. But for now, she really wanted to see Persepolis. And whatever Sally wants, Sally gets. If I’ve got anything to do with it.

We both agreed Persepolis was alright but not especially brilliant.

We said goodbye at Clapham Common.

We kissed.

It was no big deal. I was like, whatever.*


In other news, Keith has gone back to the drawing board (my title) and has started drawing again. I think he’s pretty damn good, and I know my art. Alright, alright. But I do know what I like.

*This is me using psychology.

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Friday, 25 April 2008

Feedback Friday :: Onwards!

bulk :: 16st 2
alcohol units imbibed :: 20ish
cigarettes smoked :: 0
runs run :: 0 (Very very bad. This is the fault of work. Not me.)
swims swum :: 0
deadlines met :: 4
decisions made :: 3
promises broken :: 0
books begun :: 2. The House With a Clock In Its Walls by John Bellairs and Preston Sturges by Preston Sturges, by Preston Sturges (and Sandy Sturges) (with a foreword by Tom Sturges) (That’s a lot of Sturgeses.)
dates enjoyed :: 1. Maybe. Or possibly 0.

So I went out with Sally last night. And it went very well. I didn’t know beforehand whether it was a date in the conventional sense, or just friends meeting and eating together. And by the end of the evening I was still none the wiser. Nothing happened to suggest it was anything other than friends eating food together, except perhaps the erection I was hiding under the table throughout the meal, which was particularly potent. (The erection I mean, not the meal.) Oh, and maybe the fact that Sally was very complimentary about how much weight I’ve lost and how I have ‘lovely eyes’. (I don’t. I don’t think.) Oh, and maybe the fact that she split up with her boyfriend a couple of weeks ago, then is suddenly asking me out to restaurants willy-nilly.

I don’t want to keep bringing up Charlie Kaufman in Adaptation, but I keep being reminded of him, of the scenes with Amelia, when it’s clear she wants him and he’s so full of self-loathing that he just can’t see it. Because there are definitely, obviously signs that Sally might be interested in me. Sexually I mean. And if my life were on film and I were watching it, I would be thinking, it’s obvious – of course she wants him – why else would she invite him out and tell him he had lovely eyes? That fact alone is proof enough. But then, back in the real world, I know what I look like and I know what she looks like and I know therefore how unlikely it would be that she would consider meshing her face and body against my face and body.

But then I think, ‘oh, shut up. Not everyone is obsessed by looks. You’ve got a delicious little personality and a sterling sense of humour and that’s obviously what interests her. There’s more to you than an oversized head, a bunch of eczema scars and an arse like a pair of malignant airbags.’ And then I slip my trousers around my knees and pleasure myself to emission.

I’m sorry I had to share that. But I did.

So anyway, whether it was a date or not, it was a lovely evening and well worth sacrificing a speed-dating session. At the very end, Sally gave me a hefty hug and a slightly wet peck on each cheek. Furthermore, we agreed that we’d go to the cinema sometime, maybe at the weekend.

So. Are we going out together now? Have I got a girlfriend?

I have no idea.

The great thing about keeping a blog of course, is that I can simply take all the questions I’m too terrified to ask in real life, and ask them right here!

Crafty eh?


A couple of projects I’ve been working on come to an end today, which is a great relief and means I’ll be able to do some more interesting writing next week. Hopefully. Actually I have something in mind, which I’ve been working on sporadically for the last couple of weeks. An interactive thing which will hopefully stop me getting so depressed about plummeting traffic. I know I’m destined to sound like a petulant worm just mentioning it, but lack of traffic and comment really brings me down. I feel all alone. I’m pathetic I know. But I can’t help it.

Oh, and I have to move out of my house. I knew this might happen ages ago and I did nothing about it. Now I have just over a month to find somewhere else to live. I’ve decided that as I have to move, I should move properly – out of South London. I’ve never lived north of the river before, so I figure now’s the time. And if there’s anyone out there who can help, that would be grand. Basically I’m looking for a one-bedroom flat, Pablo-compatible, somewhere nice, like Hampstead or Belsize Park or St John’s Wood, for about £800. Yeah, whatever. Price is negotiable for the right place. If you happen to have a place yourself that you’re moving out of or renting out, then please let me know. Thank you!

Now, to the weekend.

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Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Mumbleweeds For The Journey :: Robert McKee

‘Nothing happens in the world? Are you out of your fucking mind? People are murdered every day. There's genocide, war, corruption. Every fucking day, somewhere in the world, somebody sacrifices his life to save somebody else. Every fucking day, someone, somewhere takes a conscious decision to destroy someone else. People find love, people lose it. For Christ's sake, a child watches her mother beaten to death on the steps of a church. Someone goes hungry. Somebody else betrays his best friend for a woman. If you can't find that stuff in life, then you, my friend, don't know crap about life.’

- Robert McKee, Adaptation

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Monday, 21 April 2008

Death, Dating and Other Natural Disasters

Sally didn’t fancy the funeral in the end, which is a shame because it was extremely moving. Ange’s mum was evidently very much loved. For some reason (blind prejudice) I had come to assume that the inhabitants of Dartford were all vile soulless cretins no more capable of genuine human emotion than a bucket full of piss and clams. But that was wrong of me. And yesterday brought that home.

Sylvia Charlton had two miscarriages and a still birth before Ange came along, all healthy and bouncing and bold. Then, even though they wanted more, Sylvia and her husband Ed stopped trying to have kids of their own. They thought they'd quit while they were ahead and Ed had a vasectomy. They loved kids so much however, that – as well as cherishing Ange, obviously - they did everything they possibly could for everybody else’s kids. I guess they realised more than most how truly sacred young life is and they wanted to do everything within their power to nurture it, and to make it great. And so they became community child carers in a way which would never be possible today. (I am led to believe that these days, before you can even blow a raspberry at someone else’s child, you need a qualification in midwifery and a certificate from the local council.) In the 70s and 80s however, children were not made of sugar glass and you could still throw half a dozen rocks into a crowd of people without necessarily hitting a paedophile.

So basically Ange was raised in a community crèche. And although she never had any siblings of her own, other people’s kids were always around and she never wanted for company. Sometimes she got jealous of course, and on occasion she lashed out, but that’s only because she was – in Sylvia’s words – ‘a proper little madam’.

Naturally, as she spent a lot of time looking after their kids, Sylvia spent a lot of time with the young mums of the area. Consequently, she got to know them, and when they had problems – problems of a sensitive nature – they would confide in her, and Sylvia discovered that she had a knack for sorting them out, giving them the right advice and helping them help themselves to get their lives back on track. And so, as well as her role as community childcare consultant, Sylvia became the first port of call for any young couples in need of any kind of advice. As far as I could gather, she gained a reputation as a kind of a cross between Dr Ruth and Dr Spock.

Consequently her funeral was a very emotional affair, with a long line of friends and relatives taking turns to pay tribute to Sylvia, to tell their stories of how she’d helped them better their lives, and to thank her for all that she’d done.

Then when they were all done, we listened to The Green Green Grass of Home by Tom Jones. I don’t think there was a single person in the church who was not crying.

Sylvia loved Tom Jones.

Tom Jones and Dr Hook.

Despite that, I wish I’d known Sylvia, and although I never met her, I found myself missing her. Grief is infectious. At some stage it seemed odd to me to be weeping over a woman that I never knew; but then later it occurred to me that it wasn’t at all odd. Funerals are an emotional business, and as any decent film or book proves, just a couple of tales of human kindness and suffering are enough to move a person. In fact, by the time I got back home this morning, I felt like I’d been dragged through a particularly involving episode of Six Feet Under.

In the absence of Sally, Keith accompanied me to the funeral. It was the first time (as far as I am aware) that he’d seen Ange since they slept together. Ordinarily such a meeting might have been slightly fraught, but death has a way of putting things in perspective. And although Keith may have ruined a decent relationship by putting his thing in Ange, at least no one had died.

On the whole, Sylvia's funeral was pretty amazing. Indeed, and I don’t mean to be in any way disrespectful or inappropriate when I say this, it was truly wonderful. It was everything a good funeral should be. It was a mega-moving celebration of a life tremendously lived.

‘There’s something I need to tell you,’ said Keith.

This was this morning, on an early train back into London. We were a little hungover and probably still slightly mawkish from the funeral. I already knew about the results of Keith’s MS tests. He told me last week. He asked me not to mention it here because he was intent on getting on with his own blog. But that hasn’t happened. And if I want to tell you what Keith said next, which I do, I have to tell you what Keith said before. So here goes.

Last week Keith went to see the specialist to talk over the results of his various tests. There was good news and there was bad news. The bad news was that he does have MS. The good news is that he has a very mild form of MS and apparently there’s no reason it should get any worse than the intermittent tremors he experiences now. Although it might. But there’s no reason it should.

And that was that.

As I say, that was last week.

This morning, Keith said, ‘There’s something I didn’t mention.’ He looked me in the eye. The right eye. It twitched. ‘There’s something in my brain,’ he said. ‘The size of a blueberry.’ He smiled. ‘It’s not supposed to be there.’ He shrugged, looked out of the window.

He had a brain scan. And they found this area, this small dark patch. A shadow. It could be anything. It could be nothing. Well, not nothing. It’s definitely something. But it could mean nothing.

He has to go in for more tests this Wednesday. So he’ll find out soon enough. Well, not soon enough, but… you know what I mean.

Last night I had Ange crying on my shoulder, sobbing that she wouldn’t know what to do without her mum. I told her everything will be alright. Will it? Probably. One way or the other.

This morning I had Keith, all wet-eyed and looking elsewhere as the grey Kent countryside blurred past him like quotidian hyperspace. I told him everything will be alright. Will it?

We hang by a thread.

And sometimes it really scares me.

Meanwhile, in other, somewhat lighter news, Sally wants to take me out for a meal, which is as queer as it is exciting. (Queer in the old-fashioned sense). But she can only do Thursday. Which means that speed dating will have to be sacrificed. Apart from the fact that I’ve already paid, this actually makes me feel rather gay. (Also in the old-fashioned sense.) So… rather than throwing the money away, is there anyone out there who’d like a potentially humiliating experience on me? If so, drop me a line and I’ll give you all the details.


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Friday, 18 April 2008

Feedback Friday :: All Work And No Play Makes This A Dull Blog

bulk :: 16st 5 (Bollocks bollocks bollocks)
alcohol units imbibed :: 12
cigarettes smoked :: 0 (Hurray!)
joints smoked :: 0
runs run :: 0
swims swum :: 0
writing jobs accepted :: 4
grieving friends comforted :: 1
silver linings :: 1

Typically, just as I’d decided to devote more time to writing stuff that interests me, I got offered a lot more work writing stuff that doesn’t interest me. Which I would be a lunatic to turn down. This means that my entire week has been eaten whole by deadlines. Except for the small part of it which has been dedicated to helping Ange come to terms with the death of her mum.

I never met Ange’s mum, but by all accounts she was a wonderful woman. She’d been ill for a while and she suffered a second stroke last weekend. Then, just as she was recovering from that, she suffered a fatal heart attack. Ange was there when she died. She took it hard, blamed herself, got drunk, had sex with a stranger, cried during the sex, ran home in the middle of the night without any knickers and took the week off work. Then she phoned me on Tuesday in tears. Mutual schoolfriend Karen was also there by the time I arrived. I spent the rest of the week popping back when possible to keep her from beating herself up and helping her arrange the funeral.

The funeral is on Sunday.

Oh, and next Thursday, I am going speed dating. I booked it on a whim, a bottle of wine and a prayer, before I could talk myself out of it.

So next week at least, should be interesting. This week however, all told, has been rotten. I had so many things I wanted to get on with and I couldn’t get on with any of them. One interesting thing however: I received an email from Sally (she of the silver eyes and Araki obsession), asking me how I am. I haven’t replied yet. Because I am cool.

If you’re still reading this, Sally, how do you fancy coming to a funeral on Sunday? Go on, it'll be dead good.

Now I must work.

How very very dull of me.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

RIP Sylvia.

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Monday, 14 April 2008

Tatyana :: My Russian Doll

Tatyana got in contact a couple of weeks ago through Love and Friends. I was very excited because Tatyana was a) blood-pumpingly beautiful, and b) incredibly keen on me, particularly considering she’d never even seen so much as a photograph. In fact, it almost seemed too good to be true. Here is what she wrote:

Hello Dear Friend !!! I am very pleased, that you have decided to answer mine the letter. It means, which us will connect friendship. But I to think, which will be time of pass and we can answer on each other with mutual feelings of love. Yes??? Now I wish to inform you about me directly. My full name Tatyana. My name means "Womanly both soft. Lyrical both shy. Hot and indulgent. It externally careless, in complex situations it is unexpectedly independent. To make imagination before loss of feeling of the validity. This loved and love. Given birth mum."

To me 26 years. My Placed Birth May 1. On an Kozerog of the Zodiacs, I am left. And when your Day Birth??? I average growth, my growth 170 centimeters and my weight of 55 kg, I think, the rest to operate about me you can see all in my photo which I have sent you in this letter. For me the question is very important, whether my appearance of you liked??? In Russia there is such statement "Meet on clothes, and see off on opinion." :) Therefore I think, that the first impression is very important. Though for me occurrence does not play value. I examine, that the person should be beautiful from within and beautiful should be this heart. You agree with me, my dear Friend???

I live in Russia, in city, which Cheboksary addresses to. This city the purest city in republic Chuvashiya. My city - very beautiful city. At us a lot of interesting, though also city not such big. At us it is a lot of museums, parks, monuments, restaurants, cafe, clubs.

I work as the hairdresser and the stylist. I work at this job 3 years. And to me very much to like. I think, that my job is good business. To me there come many people: women and the man, also ask to make their beautiful. I try him to help. If you want, I can send you some photos of hairdresses by which I do.

Now it is a little about my family. I live one. My mum and daddy were lost in accident when I was still absolutely small. And I almost do not remember them. Me has brought up and my grandmother has brought up. But she too has died one year ago. It is hard, when you remain absolutely alone. But I have many friends and girlfriends who always support me. Probably, you will ask me, why I still unmarried and why I do not search for the friend and the future husband in Russia??? I shall answer you it simply. Because 3 long years, I cannot find anything here. And I have decided to try to find my love abroad. My girlfriend has advised me to address in the Internet. My girlfriend is already married. 2 years ago she has met on the Internet the future husband, and now they live happily.

My dear! I to think, that I can answer you to time in two days, but I can be and once a day. I shall try to answer you as it is possible - more frequently. As I very much wish to study you as soon as possible! You also want it??? My Fine The friend! On it I shall finish my letter to you. I shall wait with big impatience of your letter.

Your girlfriend Tatyana.

Now you may have heard similar words before. Tatyana may even have sent those very same words to you. The reason – and it breaks my heart to tell you this – is that Tatyana is a goddamned whore. Turns out she’s been feeding the same line to millions of blokes all over the world.

The horrible thing is, I really wanted to believe it. Part of me ached for Tatyana to be real.

OK, sod it, I should be honest: I actually started replying to Tatyana. My first thoughts were, this is obviously spam, maybe a bunch of Russian Mafia types sitting in an office in Tbilisi or Rotherhithe, stinking of sweat and cigarettes and semen, spending all day trying to trick poor desperate dating site saddoes into stumping up the flight money so Tatyana can come out to London, or Sheffield or Mumbai or Carcassone, and blow them. But then I thought, ‘Hold on a minute though, you never know. Life is full of very strange things. She might be real. There really is a genuine possibility that this beautiful woman, whose grasp of English isn’t strong enough to pull a hair from an old woman’s head, was so severely impressed by your scintillating - but probably for her quite difficult to understand - profile, that she simply had to declare herself your girlfriend instantly. Happens all the time.'

So I started replying to her email. And sincerely. Trying to be funny and sweet and all of the wonderful things that I really am. Then I did a search for ‘Kozerog’, figuring it was her star sign in Russian and I’d find out which one and pretend that my mother was also Kozerog, or some such delicious bagatelle. Then, in the course of my searching, I came across this, a website dedicated to Russian dating spam, and there she is two thirds of the way down. Tatyana. My girlfriend.

I was upset. Very upset. To be honest, I was momentarily destroyed by the ease with which one waves aside common sense when one is thinking with one’s dick, or one’s lonesome heart, or any other part of the body that isn’t one's brain.

So then I pulled myself together and wrote and sent the following reply:

Dear Tatyana

Yes! Da da da! My Fox-Coated Queen! My Gull-Eyed Wolf-Woman! My Kozerog Blood Orange! My Own One!

I have been waiting all of my life for a woman like you. No, not for a woman like you, but for you, Tatyana, and no other. Your words have touched me deeply. They have melted my heart like naked flames of sweat-drenched passion all over a chocolate moth. And all the while your silver-brown moon-foxed face gives me full throb, hard and wet, something akin to a cement mixer and a tropical dishwasher going at it like mechanical bullfrogs in full view of a thousand cock-fisted jackhammers. Christ, woman, do you know what you’ve done to me? You’ve given me hope again! You have brought music back into my life!

I trust at this least answers on you mutual feelings of love from my part. My Day Birth is December 14, making me also Kozerog! It’s in the stars! And you can bet your six pair of sweaty balls I absolutely adored your appearance! Not only do you float my boat, you sail it to the moon and back on a sea of writhing lesbians. Not only do I agree with you wholeheartedly that the person should be beautiful from within, but also, I totally very much wish to study you as soon as possible. I’m here, baby. Truth on the table, I’ve just recently been hurt – I guess you could say I got in too deep, too quick, then suddenly I was left danglin’, high and dry – it’s the same old story and I’m still sore like a open wound in a brine storm if you want the God’s honest. Or in a family bag of salt and vinegar crisps. Your choice. And I’m ready for more. Now tell me about your vagina in unnecessarily gruesome detail. Just to get the ball rolling like.

Your boyfriend,
Stan (It means “Unexpectedly gullible”.)

Tatyana replied saying she was more than happy to come to London and blow me, but she’d need help with the airfare first.

Bloody Tatyana. I really thought we coulda had something.

I even had a wank over her.

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Sunday, 13 April 2008

Three Months In :: First Quarter Assessment

I had another blog before this one. It was supposed to be funny, rather than say, confessional. I would look at what was happening in the world, and then make clever pronouncements upon it all. But it wasn’t good because when the clever didn’t come, as it often did not, I just forced it, forced it out through clumsy, dense little fingers. And it showed. Then, because I didn’t even enjoy it, I stopped forcing and eventually deleted it.

Then time passed as it so so often does, and I decided to stop moping around and get on with my life. So I started this blog to push myself to lose weight, stop smoking and make valiant efforts to find someone to love. However, primarily because of the people I’ve come into contact with through the blog, it quickly became an enormous amount more than that. And from those who’ve helped me out with advice and ideas and even translations, right down to the Horsley lot who just witter on about genocide and whores in the corner, I’ve been overwhelmed by the friendship I’ve been shown. I know there are some people who say, you know, the internet is shit and everything, but… well, I think they’re shit.

This time around, blogging has been an absolute revelation to me. It’s not so much that I’m born again; rather that I’m born for the first time. I know I’m on the very meniscus of going frightfully overboard here, but what the hell. Forty pints of Tree Syrup in a week will make anyone emotional. Starting this blog has probably been the single best decision I’ve ever made. I realise that’s the kind of statement that comes back to haunt, and I’m practically crying out for blog-bred catastrophe to come and heap itself upon me, but… well, so be it. Every action has consequences. Some of them will be good. Some of them will make you cry and punch bus shelters. And they might still be the good ones.

I’ve always felt at a distinct disadvantage in real life, because of my looks, because of the psychological baggage I attach to my looks, and because I’m so very gauche. But in all seriousness, I’ve never felt more free than I do now. I’ve never felt that I have so much of an outlet for life, and more importantly, so much of an incitement to life.

I used to believe in God when I was a kid, but in a very contrived way. Now I’m 30 and the feelings I get from keeping a blog are very much closer to how I believe God should really feel; much closer than growing up Catholic ever felt. God was supposed to be someone to whom you could always turn, no matter what devilry was going on in your mind, and not only would he be there to hear you, but he would also offer guidance and support. He would set you on the road to being a better person. Which is great and everything, really great…. Except he never did.

In the blogging community however, things are different. For one thing, bloggers actually exist. And they listen to you, and they hear you, and they offer you their guidance and support like you’d known them all your life. And that, at times, has overwhelmed me.

Now, some of these people that have come to my blog have said lovely things about me and my writing over the last three and a bit months, and I’m afraid a few of these may rather have gone to my head. To give one example, when proper journalist ‘Hendo’ wrote a week or so ago that I’ve ‘got to be a pro’ because I write too well, I was flattered, for sure, but it was also a little queer. I felt like a freshly deflowered young woman whose one and only lover insists that there’s no way on God’s green earth that’s the first time she’s done that. I am flattered and glad my efforts please, but really, one mustn’t underestimate the talents of the amateur. There’s really no need to assume deception and liken me to a washed-up old whore-bore like Irvine Welsh. (Pride of place on the Trumpet Tower that one. Thanks for that.)

Actually I didn’t think any of that at the time. I just thought that Hendo must be a bit of a looney. But then I thought, no, Hendo’s not a looney. He’s a proper journalist, maybe even respected, and if he thinks it’s possible that I could write for a living, then sod it: that’s good enough for me. I’m going to give it a go.

And that’s my news.

I’ve really loved the last three months or so of blogging, much more than I ever imagined I would. I thought I’d really struggle to manage a post a week, as I have in the past, but thus far that hasn’t been a problem. I think it was the switch from looking without to looking within that sealed it. I guess, when you’re writing about yourself, even a slow week is not the end of the world because there’s always so much to remember and steal, and if shit comes to shovel, as it often does, you can just play around like a child and hope that something fun turns up. And if something turns up and it’s not fun… doesn’t matter! There’s always tomorrow.

In stark contrast, my current proper job is like blogging on an Etch-a-Sketch, wearing boxing gloves and a blindfold. It's like public speaking in a ball-gag. What I churn out for rent is lifeless, glib trash, mostly specialising in description, instruction and advertorial. And I’m really really sick of it. I want to stop pretending to give a damn about product. I want to stop writing praise, PR and half-truths just so that other people can make more money. It’s utterly soul-destroying and I don’t enjoy it in the least. And I’m 30, for God’s sake. I need to make something of myself. I’ve wasted so much time already, and now I really must crack on. Because I do want to do something interesting with my life. I hate the idea of spending fifty years attached to some account. I want to be able to get on and see what I’m capable of. I mean, ideally, obviously, I want to change the course of history. I want to be the man who kills the Video Star. Ideally.

But for the moment, instead, I have this job. And whereas I really hate my job, I really love tending this blog, and I often find myself working away into the night and faking Scrabble games for the sheer unadulterated joy of it.

So it makes perfect sense to try and swap one for the other. And basically I’m going to try and do that. Nothing will really change, but as some pin-headed lizard in a chalk-striped suit might say, I think I need to ramp it up a notch. Take it outside the box, put some blue sky behind it and just start saluting it till I get cramp. All that’s really changed is that I’m basically adding ‘get paid for writing something heartfelt’ to my list of New Life Resolutions. Other than that, I need to keep the momentum going, in order to capitalise on the luck I’ve had so far. I need to keep doing stuff and not get lazy. Ideally I need to commit more time… but I don’t want to start writing cheques that my ass will just chew up and spit out.

Also, much as I very much want to turn my back on the vulgarity of product forever, I know that fully, I cannot. And though I yearn to spurn everything that product means to me, I know that in actual fact, I must embrace product. I say more. I must, in essence, become product.

If I want to make a living writing stuff I like, I have to sell the stuff I like to write. Hence the rather inelegant Roster of Praise to the right. And yes, while I was kippering through the comments, cherry-picking praise blossoms, I did slip on a stray flake of Smug and accidentally disappear up my own arse. Yes, I did. But that’s what happens when you make the decision to become product.

I do feel somewhat tainted mentioning all this, like my penis has crept into my aunt’s lap at a christening and started weeping. I feel a little embarrassed. But I really wanted to share what I’m feeling and I’m very glad I did, because in doing, and in getting a tad emotional about the whole thing, it's become much clearer in my own mind. And clarity is always nice.

And so we come to:

Blogging Rule No. 1 :: Keep It Short.

And another thing…

…I think that if I have one talent besides the ability to make a woman feel seriously loved (but without being overbearing), it’s that I can put words together in an effective and well good way. I’ve been doing it for years in the service of manual and marketing mook, and this blog – or rather the response I’ve had from this blog – has given me the confidence to try to strive for more.

And for that I thank you.

And if I fall on my ever-slimmer arse and make a giant flange of myself, I will thank you again.

Then I’ll blog it.

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Saturday, 12 April 2008

Back On The Menu :: Food

I played tennis yesterday afternoon and afterwards I was feeling quite weak, so my tennis partner Pip (dog-killer) said: ‘Why don’t you come back to mine and I’ll cook you a huge fuck-off steak?’

‘Um… because I’m on a fast,’ I replied.

He shook his head. ‘Nah,’ he said. ‘Come on, don’t be a cunt. I’ve got a couple bottles of [some posh French red wine] an’ all.’

Well. When he put it so very swearily, I could hardly resist.

So I ate and drank like a man breaking a five-day fast.

And it was good. Really good.

My only fear now – now that I’m craving chocolate and bananas and salmon and Skittles and, well, just about anything with calories in it – is, will I put it all back on again within the next five days? Well, we shall see.

I hope not. I’m going to keep up the exercise. Now for example, rather than drive to the supermarket to buy 12 Terry’s Chocolote Oranges, I’m going to walk. I may even break into a run.

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Friday, 11 April 2008

Day Five :: Break Point, Break Fast

bulk :: 16st 3 (I have lost one pound short of an entire stone in five days)
alcohol units imbibed :: 0
cigarettes smoked :: 18 (I know. I’m… there are no excuses. Basically, because I’d been smoking a few joints throughout the week, almost certainly further impugning the integrity of the fast, I began to worry about succumbing to the dreaded skunk psychosis that I’m hearing so much about. [From the voices in my head.] But I found myself suddenly really taken by a desire to continue smoking. And I’m afraid that since yesterday afternoon, I rather fell off the Baccy Wagon. I got a lot of work done, but that’s… that’s actually completely irrelevant and probably a sly attempt at some kind of justification. Anyway, harm done. Back on the wagon. Plus I finished off the weed last night so now it’s back to total abstention.)
joints smoked :: 10-15
runs run :: 0
swims swum :: 0
calories :: 0 (Meh. Maybe two or three in the paprika.)
concerns :: 1 (Namely, that I’m going to run out of Tree Syrup by the end of this evening. That'll teach me not to mainline it.)

Aaaaaah, April. She really is cruel, you know. She’s a manipulative, cruel cow who delights in tormenting; she waltzes in with her wicked sense of humour and convinces you that winter is a thing of the past, then she rains all over you for four weeks like a fetish lady. And snows to boot. As I write this, black clouds loiter above me like Spartans ready to storm in and ruin this afternoon.

This morning I was offered the opportunity to be slaughtered at tennis again. I really fancy it, especially as I’ve done nothing all week but smoke and starve myself. But I thought, if I play tennis after five days without food, I may very well do myself an injury. So I went out and bought half a kilo of spinach, and have just prepared it with oil and salt and chilli. It’s here in front of me now. Hold on.


Mmm. That was divine. Food really has its moments. That was one of them.

It’s been an incredible week on the whole. I have been very happy with the fasting experience and overjoyed with everything that it’s thrown up. I’ll be back on the fast after the spinach, as I want to keep this going over the weekend. I’ve got a lot to do, including a bit of reading on this guy and the wonderful things he has to teach me.

Right, I’d better clean the sick of myself and get going.

Just kidding, no sick.

Happy Friday to you.

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Thursday, 10 April 2008

Day Four :: Whippet

It's in The Wasp Factory, and I think it’s Eric who describes sleep as a social construct. Society tells us we need sleep, preferably eight hours a night where the vast majority of us are tucked away in our beds, safe and sound, causing no trouble to no one. Something like that. Bloody Thatcher. Yes, it was Thatcher’s fault. She fed us sleep whilst never indulging herself. She made some passing contrivance concerning four hours a night but it was clear she was lying. Everyone knew her as the Iron Maiden, or the Sulphuric Harpy, or the Child Snatcher's Assistant, but to the wise, she was first and foremost a poignant and much misunderstood character. She was The Baroness of Dreams. Putting the Baroness to one side however, generally speaking, sleep is essential and everybody needs it. Eric was mad, and sleep, we can clearly see, is not a social construct.

Food however, most certainly is.

I haven’t eaten a solitary morsel since Sunday evening, and here I am, as fit as a giant kaleidoscope made entirely of fiddles. My brain has never been on more excitable form. I swear, it’s like a whippet in a breadbox.

I’ve been writing stuff all day. Little bit of work, but lots of other stuff too. In fact, between this sentence and the last, 45 minutes have passed whilst I sketched out some other quite, really quite sparklingly brilliant thing.

The mania continues apace, as you see. But I’m enjoying it. This fasting lark is like a whole case of adrenaline injected right into my ear. Or even into my third eye, man. And the strange thing is, I’ve hardly checked my weight today at all – not since first thing this morning. And that’s unusual. But today I’ve been alive with loads of other things. I even cracked open the flipchart I bought seven years ago. I seem to have reached such a point whereby this is really not anything to do with losing weight anymore, but what it is about now and – I mean, I’m guessing here – but this sounds like it’s about Total Brain Purification.

O yiieea...

I have lift off. I am floating up to Nirvana for my 2.30 transcendental appointment.

All Hail Gandhi.

And so on.

Next time I’m going to do it without grass though. I’ve enjoyed the grass to be sure, and I’m sure it’s brought me some fine thoughts, but I just feel it’s interfering with the clarity. The tobacco is tainting the spirituality.

Next time I need to feel just a little more like Jesus.

Christ. I can’t even begin to imagine what he must have felt like after 40 days. 40! And me tossing pearls like these after four! I really believe, after 40 days neither eating nor masturbating, anyone could perform miracles. But did Christ have Tree Syrup? That’s something I need to know.

Ah, this person here also wants to know how Jesus managed it. ‘I want to know if it is clear how Jesus fasted? I've been told that He couldn't have done it on Tree Syrup alone for 40 days because his digestion tract would be so severely damaged afterwards.’ It’s an interesting point, but one that rather overlooks the fact that Jesus was Magic and could have just pulled a brand new digestive tract out of his tattered sleeve.

Anyhow, I’ve been so full of typing beans that I’ve completely ignored my physical health - apart from the not eating of course - which is very bad. Neither have I had time to do any reading. Which reminds me… Some people, they love to interact with a good film. Don’t they though? Like those giddy souls who dress up for The Sound of Music orThe Rocky Horror Picture Show. Or then there’s those students who like to surround themselves with cider, whiskey, ale and lighter fuel and play the Withnail and I drinking game. Or those other students who exclaim that you simply must read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas whilst high on adrenochrome and ether! Or that you simple must read Three Men In A Boat whilst you’re actually in a boat! (Preferably with three men. Or of course, if you’re a man yourself, with just two other men.) Or that you simply must read Ulysses in a single day, Inspector Morse amongst dreamy spires, and American Psycho surrounded by silk ties, platinum business cards and lightly buttered prostitutes’ pelvises. But I say to you, no. You should in fact do none of the above. Because if Living the Book is what you’re into, then reading Knut Hamsen’s wonderful Hunger while you’re absolutely famished is where the real kicks are. I started today but got distracted. I’m going to continue tomorrow.

Is that it? Am I done? I think I am.


Oh, and don't eat food. It slows you down.

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Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Fast Fact #004 :: Brain Need Food

Day Three. The only remaining housemate is in the kitchen. He’s rather let himself go this week so the place is a bit of a mess. He’s even having to work by the light of the oven awning because apparently, four days isn’t enough time to nip over the road and buy a replacement for the main bulb. This is his first jug of Tree Syrup for some time now and as he fumbles with the lid to the canister, he realises that he’s a little jittery. The cap slips from his fist, pings from the brim of one of the many empty glasses on the lemon-strewn surface and skittles off under the front of the oven. In stooping to retrieve it, the housemate dislodges a grime-caked grill from the front of the oven and cops a hand full of grease and cat hair into the bargain. When he finally examines the Syrup cap, he sees that it’s peppered with mouse droppings, many years’ old. He shrugs listlessly, washes the cap under the tap and eyes an autumn-years banana with undisguised lust. ‘Mmmmm,’ he thinks, ‘mature.’

Then the housemate has a brainwave. Springing into action, he seizes the internet with his teeth and starts desperately skimming for something interesting, please God,
anything that can be done to liven up this godforsaken fucking Tree Syrup to which he is now apparently married - and HEY PRESTO! He is reminded that you can also drink it with warm water. He fills a kettle with alacrity, and boils it.

Giddy with excitement, he prepares the three-pint jug. In goes the Tree Syrup. One, two, thr… well, that was only half a one, so that’s three there really, that one, and four, five, five-and-a-bit, six, and one for luck! Look at him! Taking it off the spoon! Down the hatch! It’s like methadone to a baby. Now, paprika or ginger? That is the question. Sod it, no one’s looking - they’re both going in. Weh-hey! This. Is Madness. It’s more than madness. It’s Radness. Fasting hasn’t enjoyed scenes like these since… since records began. Oof! Just look at him go at that half-lemon. Bish, bash, bastard! In goes the hot water. In goes the cold. Out goes tradition. This has been a Big Brother fasting frenzy.

Fast Fact #004 :: Fasting is dangerous, but it can also be stupid.

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Day Three :: Fast Forward

And people say fasting’s for fools. They say, ‘What’s the point? Life’s too short. You might not eat for six days, then get hit by a bus and never be able to eat again – or walk - imagine how pissed off you’d be then.’ They say, ‘You’re depriving your body of essential nutrients. It’s not healthy. You’ll keel over!’ They say, ‘Fasting is gay.’

Well, let me tell you something: fasting is so not gay.

But apart from perkier pee-pee and less dense stools, the only thing I’m really noticing is that I feel fairly sharp, mentally. Like Mohammed Ali. Or Mr T. I have a sense of confidence, that I could achieve anything I put my mind to.

I actually think I’m a bit manic at the moment, and whether that’s due to no food or very little sleep I cannot say. I’m jumping from thing to thing a little more than usual. I have less concentration. I don’t feel particularly dynamic, but I’m definitely getting a lot done. My hands are freezing. But I’m sure that’s just the temperature. I worked late last night and finished the job, made the meeting this morning, turned down coffee and biscuits, impressed a guy in a suit and tie and even had a conversation about my availability for more work in the future. It went well, and I must admit, when I left the office in the sunlight, I felt good. I felt invincible. I felt like Bruce Wayne.

Not a gay.

My point is, I feel like I’m going forward. Whether I complete this fast or not, it’s already been good for me. It’s enabled me to focus myself. I feel like I’m gathering myself, readying myself for change. Both short and long-term. Things are going well and it’s up to me to consolidate. I need to take this bastard bull by the horns and throttle it into submission. Then eat it. But not yet. For now still the gathering, the gathering.

In the meantime, you should know, I hate Kafka. Or is it Herman Hesse I hate? To be honest, I’m going to go with my instinct and assume I pretty much despise the pair of them. And you know why? No sense of humour. And that’s no knee-jerk stereotype. That’s carefully wrought racism, arrived at by study. I read The Trial and I read Demian. Not so much as a titter.

But when I was searching stuff about fasting the other day I discovered that Kafka had written a short story called A Hunger Artist. It’s available online, here, and it’s only 4,133 words long.

I thought, well, it’s about fasting. It’s by Kafka. It’ll be hilarious. I could read it instead of cooking my now classic Cabbage and Pine Nut Pasta.

So I read it.

It was bollocks.

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Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Fast Facts #002 :: Paprika Stings

Day Two. The only remaining housemate is in the bedroom, positioned in the work area, finally getting on with his most recent challenge. He’s reading back over the bilge he’s been tweezing from his slender frame, when suddenly he becomes acutely aware of something in his eye: an eyelash. Without pause for thought, he digs in deep and fishes it out. Seconds later, he makes another important scientific discovery.

Fast Fact #002 :: Paprika – a pinch of which is used in the preparation of Madal Bal Natural Tree Syrup and Lemon Detox Drink - is no less painful, when smeared onto the open eyeball, than chilli.

Bonus Fact :: Paprika is also a very nice name for a little girl.

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Fast Facts #001 :: Shit Floats

Day Two. The only remaining housemate is on the bog in the netty. He’s reading the copy of the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook he bought last week, and thinking about trying to change his life, when really he should be getting on with the last challenge, with which he's now very much behind. Then, just as he’s about to flush, he notices that his excrement is floating on the surface of the toilet bowl, whereas usually it spreads itself out in the valley of the U-bend, slowly, and revoltingly, diffusing....

So there you have it: Bona. Fide. Science. After a mere two days of fasting, the fastee’s faeces are floating like feathers in a Force 4 kerfuffle.


Fast Fact.

There may yet be more of these. The night is young.

And if I may coin a rather jarring formulation that's doing the rounds at the moment: I’m all about the short posts these days, I am.

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Day Two :: Fast, Slow

The good news is that between yesterday morning and this morning, I lost four pounds, without doing anything. For the first time in probably about three years, I weigh less than 17 stone. Imagine how that feels. Let me tell you how it feels: it feels good. Good like a fractious garden party in the trim bedding of your own golden drum.

Still on gardening, albeit in the dark, I dreamt last night that I was on Brixton Hill, on a stretch of green next to the prison, but it was really actually The Garden of Eden, and the garden was full of naked fat people offering me sex. Unfortunately, I didn’t want to have sex with any of them. I wanted to eat them. Then my zombified mother came out of the ground with green jelly overflowing from the pockets of her decomposing smock. Or was it brains? No, it was jelly. Fat, translucent, glandular, wibbly-wobbly jelly, which in the cold light of day, I don’t even care for.


I do feel a little light-headed, I must say. But apart from that, I feel good. My stomach is only just starting to make some funny noises, but there has been no pain as yet. In fact, so far it’s been a piece of cake.

Mmmmm, cake.

What’s queer is that foods I haven’t thought about in ages will suddenly appear in my mind with incredible clarity; the taste will suddenly arrive somewhere over my gullet and I’ll picture it and smile. I’ve seen sweets I haven’t eaten since I was knee-high to a careless kitten. I’ve seen the nutty porridge I once ate in the house of an African princess. Aaaaah, Awa Awa. She was looking for someone to write her autobiography and she made porridge from peanuts. It was delightful. She was wonderfully mad, and she came to me last night, as she comes to me now again. Now. O frabjous fasting day!

Well, yes, there is that. But on the whole the day is starting to drag. Mostly because I have a website to populate with words, a very dull website about something to do with money. I’m not sure what exactly, but they pay me well to pretend. It’s very dull and sadly, ever-pressing. And - as if that wasn’t enough - tomorrow morning I must go to another place – leaving this place in the process you understand – to go over the work in person, with a real, live other person. I’m really not looking forward to it because I hate pretending to be an adult. If I may speak frankly.

Since I was given this wonderful opportunity about three weeks ago, my plan of action has thus far consisted of doing as much as possible of absolutely anything at all except the work that needs to be done. Today, now that time is squatting on my chest and threatening to do its business in the pocket of my hoodie, I have still yet to pull my finger out. Indeed, today I have stuck to my overall strategy with surprising conscientiousness and tenacity, wasting masses of precious time and what little physical and mental energy I have left on attending to other, not-at-all pressing matters. Like manipulating digital Jelly Babies.

But now is the time. Enough! My will is like a shield of steel and crack, I say, crack on I must and shall. I’ve got a lot to do. If you want to help me out at all, you could maybe keep me going by letting me know what you’ve eaten today. I think that would really spur me on. I could take sustenance from your second-hand tales of elegant consumption.

Or maybe you could let me know, briefly but in your most succulent, mouth-watering prose, what’s the best thing you’ve ever eaten. Really spell it out for me. The flavours, the textures, the smells, the spices, the flourishes, the breadcrumbs, the chips. Make me want it.

Or if you'd prefer, just mention some meals.

I'd like to start with six superfine slices of raw horse, lightly cooked with lemon juice, squeezed from my own hand. And then a plate of mussels. That's what I'd like. Very much. I wonder if this is what that pregnant man feels like?

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Monday, 7 April 2008

Day One :: Tox, Detox

So, in the firm belief that desperate situations call for desperate measures, I have decided to starve myself. Not to death, no. Nothing so drastic. But hopefully to something in the neighbourhood of 16 stone. I would be happy with that neighbourhood. If the rent was reasonable. So I’ve just had my first of today’s 6-9 glasses of Madal Bal Natural Tree Syrup and Lemon Detox Drink. Aside from the few grains of cayenne pepper that got stuck in my throat at the end, it was really rather tasty. Like molasses I think. (Have a ever had molasses? I don’t know.) I do know that I could murder a bloody great steak though. I’m actually very hungry. You know, there’s a plant beside me on my desk here. A rubber plant of some kind, its lush elastic leaves only inches away from my mouth. If I just lean forward… No.

I shall do no such thing. My will is like a shield of steel.

But I am not without caution. I am approaching this fast with the diligence of a scientist, and if life without solid food begins to feel remotely dangerous, I will eat. Plus, I have a few outdoor chores to attend to this week for which I’ll need my wits about me. So if I start to crack up, I’ll stop. But if I just go a little bit funny, I might persist for a while. In the name of Science, which I embrace.

But first, I must talk about drugs, baby, and I must tell you a fulsome and rambling tale. For it was Keith who suggested that if I was going to detox, I really ought to start by thoroughly toxing. I explained that I’d been eating a lot of mini-eggs, but evidently mini-eggs weren’t toxic enough for Keith. No. He can be quite full-on at times, if you know what I think I mean. Which is why I found myself schlepping over to Hummercosh Park at around 8 o’clock on Friday night.

Now, Hummercosh Park is a made-up name. I’m using made-up names because it’s probably best to be a little circumspect when you’re discussing drug use. I don’t want to get anyone into trouble. Neither do I want an axe through my front door or a skinned swan in my bed. So there’s going to be a lot of fictionalising going on, but the vein is true.

So, Keith was going to go and see Ineloquent Quinn. His man. That was the plan. But because his work was dragging on, the plan, and the designated drug mule, had to be changed. This was around 7.30 when I’d already had a couple of large glasses of wine, so I had to get public transport all the way out to Hummercosh Park.

I’d met Quinn before when he’d dropped stuff off at Keith’s but I’d never met him on my own, and following instructions to his flat in the middle of a dodgy, scaffold-dashed tower block in Hummercosh Park was making me feel very uneasy. But then I got there and Quinn welcomed me into his living room, which afforded excellent views of Bongleby Docks.

We were after weed and ecstasy, apparently, but Quinn didn’t have any ecstasy. He did have some MDMA powder however, which he presented to me in a rather sordid plastic bag. ‘I don’t really know anything about it,’ I said. ‘It’s £30 a gram,’ he explained. ‘OK,’ I said. ‘That sounds very reasonable.’

Quinn is second-generation SilverSlav. He looks terrifying in silhouette, stupidly tall, all horns and spikes, but he’s actually very laid-back and rather shy. ‘Can you stay for a cup of tea?’ he asked.

‘Of course,’ I said. ‘I’d love to.’ I made a joint.

We got chatting over our tea and I began to realise that not only is Quinn rather shy, but also, he’s not quite all there. Upstairs. He is a nice guy though, I'm convinced. Just a bit slow. And it doesn’t help that he has a slight lisp. I have a horrible habit of picking up lisps and stutters by the way. It’s happened a couple of times now. It’s like Tourette’s. Completely involuntary. But it didn’t happen with Quinn. Thank God. He might have murdered me. You know what SilverSlavs are like.

He asked me what I do for a living but then, when I told him, didn’t have much to say about it, so I commended him on his view and asked him if he’d always lived in London. He told me he had. He told me that he was born in a home.

I said, ‘Oh, that’s sad, man,’ and hoped that it was. He said he might leave London if he met a woman and had a family, he might want to move to a better area. Then he went all wistful and lonely-looking. ‘Are you looking for a woman?’ I said, trying to sound like a concerned friend rather than a pimp.

And then he launched into this anecdote.

‘Yeah, I had this woman once. She was nice, man, but she was into all this fetish stuff. She wanted me to put a lead on her and take her to a club, lead her around like a dog… she was always telling me about all these things that she did, getting tied up and like, bondage and leather gear and whips and stuff. She asked me if I could handle it, you know, I was like, “No, man, just give me ordinary sex”, you know what I mean? Just like, straight sex. No dressing up and no handcuffs, no chains round the neck and nothing shoved up the arse….’

To which I replied, ‘Oh now, steady on. I can understand that you might have some reservations about being led around clubs on a lead, but there’s nothing wrong with a bit of arse-play.’

Quinn was not in agreement. I put him straight. ‘I like my arse,’ I told him. ‘And my arse likes me.’ I smoked some more of the joint and felt a little odd. ‘Anal beads,’ I said, sounding ever so slightly like Michael Caine. ‘It’s not a fetish, calm yourself down.’ Quinn looked disturbed. ‘I don’t know if you’ve seen what I’m talking about. It’s basically like plastic… well, it’s like a dildo really….’

‘Ah, man, look, I don’t even wanna go there….’

‘You must go there.’ I was shouting. ‘Hear me out. Imagine a series of about seven plastic balls, each half a centimetre apart and a little bigger than the last one….’ His face was scrunched up, as if I were talking about castration. I could see I had hit a brick wall. Luckily drug dealers are all totally teched up these days, so I hijacked Quinn’s internet and after a little fumbling, found this...

‘There are a lot of anal beads out there and this is not exactly the same as mine, but it does give you an idea. You can order them online,’ I told him. ‘Maybe get a deal on some lube. Then just try it, Quinn. For God’s sake, man, where’s your balls? Ease it in slowly like. You really might like it. It might be right up your alley.’

Nah. He wasn’t keen. Then he started mumbling something which I couldn’t catch, except for the last few words which were, ‘I’m not trying to hurry you or anything, I just got to be somewhere.’

Oh. I was being kicked out by a drug dealer.

I gathered together my purchases and stuffed them into my coat. I had a terrible feeling I’d offended him. I think I was paranoid but I can’t be sure. ‘Sorry about the beads thing, man,’ I said. I always call him ‘man’. I’m trying to be cool. ‘I just think, you know, I AM a beadsman. You know? Embrace it.’

He shook his head. I left.

It was as I stood there waiting for the lift that I realised I was really very stoned. I remembered the documentary about dope I’d seen a couple of weeks ago – Should I Smoke Dope with the decidedly saucy Nicky Taylor – and what it had told me about drug dealers sprinkling glass beads on their skunk - not anal beads, which might not be such a bad thing, but glass beads. Apparently it gives the impression that the stuff is bristling with THC, and therefore more powerful. But of course, it fucks your lungs. I wondered if I’d been inhaling burning glass. I hoped not.

In the lift I became horribly self-conscious and couldn’t stop repositioning myself so that I wouldn’t look stoned or muggable if the doors opened. Once out into the night, however, and the unlit Gantry Estate just behind Cackingham Park, I began to march, brisk, confident and ever so slightly threatening - just fast enough to be a proper mental.

I was very jittery. I was sure I smelled of skunk and aware that I was carrying Class something or other drugs. And I was in a rough area, walking right up in the arsecrack of Blithe Alley. On the way in, I’d already had to ignore a small gang of Bastards and I was bracing myself for all kinds of nonsense. If push comes to shove though, worst case scenario, I’m mugged and beaten and I have my grass stolen, then I’m arrested, charged with MDMA crimes and have to make a break for it and go on the lam, at least I’ll have stuff to blog about. I comforted myself with that thought and changed direction, onto a street which led to a mass of bus stops.

Then I passed a woman who was either old and mad or young and creative. She was dancing around with a closed umbrella, then just as I was passing, she turned her back on me, took a small black book out of her shopping trolley, tossed it on the pavement and began doing a dainty Irish jig around it. I’m pretty sure it was a bible, but I still couldn’t tell if she was unhinged or a great talent.

I laughed out loud, with the joy of it all. A short walk later, just as I was thinking I wished I could have photographed the Bible Dancer without making her feel uncomfortable or patronised, I became aware of a giant penguin ahead. I laughed again. It felt like someone was laying things on for me. Like God was totally playing friendly games with me. I mean, come on! A penguin!

I did take a photo of this guy though, although it isn’t very good

As I took the photo, a friend declared that there was also a Pink Panther inside. But I thought that might be overkill. ‘I’m alright with a penguin,’ I said.

I changed direction again. After a short while, poorly-lit streets eventually pooped me into the bright open concrete mouth of the Dank Pong Piss Subway System. And there were three young girls sitting in the middle of this underground concrete tunnel, illuminated by a stark overhead light. They had a large sign with the words, ‘SMILE! Have a great weekend!’ written around a large smiley face. Then I realised that they had a guitar and a tambourine. They also had blankets and sleeping bags, ribbons in their hair and bottles of beer in their fists. They were lovely. A guy walking ahead of me tossed some money in their hat and they dedicated a rendition of Let It Be to him. It was really quite beautiful. I wish I’d left some money myself, but I felt a little insecure, so I just shuffled by, smiling and feeling terribly protective. I hoped they managed to get through the night without some damaged soul causing them pain.

I considered going to a cash point and returning with enough money for them to go home and leave the subway behind. But they were probably there because they wanted to be. They’ll probably have their own TV show in four years. I smiled, felt better.

Finally I got on a bus. I sat down and relaxed and wrote down a couple of things that had happened since I'd left the house. It had been a lot of fun on the whole. I had seen some splendid things. I had seen things you people wouldn’t believe. I began to feel a tropical blend of ultra-fascination and exalted libido. You know, sometimes I imagine myself as a giant cauldron of semen, bubbling away on an enormous purple fire.

Then a guy got on the bus wearing a tee-shirt under his coat but clearly visible, which read ‘BE VERY AFRAID’. Half a minute later, someone started ringing the bell repeatedly upstairs. The driver had missed their stop, apparently, so they were now registering their protest with non-stop bell-ringing. It was quite tense. The driver was indecisive. He pulled over at first, as if to confront the culprits, then he just thought, ‘No,’ and he kept driving. At the next stop three young Bulgations and a couple of Strawberry Sandflies filed down the stairs, the tallest Bulgation muttering ‘wanker’ under his breath. Then as he reached the doors of the bus, he got louder. He shouted, ‘Wanker. Wankers. You’re all wankers! The lot of you.’ As the bus pulled away, they all joined in. ‘Wankers!’ they shouted. ‘Fucking wankers!’ Outside I saw an ageing WoolHeifer turn round in disgust, crossing her face and willing her kids not to hear.

It put a bit of a dampener on my splendid mood, I don’t mind telling you. Little devils. No respect, kids today.

Boris will sort them out.

Just kidding.

Anyhow, the rest of the weekend more than made up for it. We basically spent the entire time smoking weed and taking MDMA. And I have to say, although I am generally no great advocate of the slacker lifestyle, I had a whale of a time. In fact, I would go as far as to say, I think I’ve found my drug. I’ve since been reading about it and it doesn’t surprise me at all that it was used in therapy. Nor that it used to be called Empathy. That’s a much nicer name. Empathy.

In short, I had a wonderful openly emotional time, laughing, a tiny bit of weeping, and talking about problems and mistakes, sorting things out and making plans. In fact, I don't think I've ever had a more positive weekend before - especially not one that was so much fun.

Now the last thing I want to do is become some kind of drugs evangelist here, but the fact is, you should all definitely go out immediately and find some MDMA and take it. It's really good for you. Indeed, if I may recall Alexander Shulgin, describing the effects of some of his own MDMA: ‘It gave me a pleasant lightness of spirit… a distinct lightness of mood. And an indication to get busy and do things that needed doing.’

Exactly, yes. And we even played in the snow for a bit.

And we met a very affectionate cat in the street.

And we decorated a plant.

And Keith gets his results this week and is definitely feeling much more optimistic about things in general.

It was a good weekend for both of us.

It’s midnightish now. I’ve had my fifth large glass of tree juice and I feel extremely tired. That’s probably just tired from the exertions of the weekend though. Not from the fasting. Either way, I can barely keep my eyes open.

So I shall stop.

Two more things though:

1) I think Katinka is sleeping with her brother. I can’t be sure – yet – but there’s definitely something fishy going on and I intend to find it what it is and then moralise over it.

2) I have also given up masturbation for a week.

Wish me luck!

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Friday, 4 April 2008

Feedback Friday :: Desperate Measures

bulk :: 17st 2
alcohol units imbibed :: 1000
cigarettes smoked :: 0
joints smoked :: 5
runs run :: 3
swims swum :: 0
sexy birds observed :: 2
halves of the country entirely written off :: 1
plots hatched :: 1

It seems my weight has levelled out. This is the first week since I started dieting that I haven’t lost any weight. Is it possible to level out at 17 stone 2? Or is this plateau more to do with the fact that I’ve been eating like a two-headed piglet all week? Hmm. It seems I have become complacent. At the beginning of the year, I made a conscious decision not to consume anything that wasn’t good for me. Alcohol excepted. This week (amongst other things) I have consumed:

- half a tonne of monosodium glutamate
- a vat of lager
- a third of a (small) tub of Nutella
- a Topic
- half a bag of mini-eggs
- two portions of Heaton Mess

Now you won't know what Heaton Mess is, because I only invented it yesterday, so allow me to explain. First of all, it has very little in common with Eton Mess. Just as Heaton - nasty little Newcastle backwater, populated entirely by underprivileged, cuss-spouting brutes with tattoos on their throats – has very little in common with Eton - charming little Berkshire town, populated entirely by overprivileged, Latin-spouting toff children with plums in their throats. No, Heaton Mess is a silly thing, but painfully tasty. It goes a little something like this:


1 chocolate brownie
1 banana
1 helping of natural yoghurt
1 liberal sprinkling of pine nuts


- peel the banana and cut it into pieces with a shiny teaspoon
- place banana pieces in bowl and liberally sprinkle with pine nuts
- position head over bowl and take large bite of muffin
- chew muffin loosely and with mouth wide open (slightly reminiscent of Seth Brundle) so that loosely chewed muffin bits land in bowl with banana bits and nut sprinkling
- continue open-mouthed chewing process until entire muffin is broken up and in bowl
- cover with yoghurt
- wolf down like Cookie Monster
- repeat

I guess I should be happy that I haven’t put more weight on. I am in fact happy for this.

But I’m also determined to get back on the tired old horse before I do start piling it back on. And so, it’s time for a detox. Or rather, a fast. My Natural Tree Oil arrived a couple of weeks ago but I didn’t feel the time was right. But then, when is the time ever right to starve yourself for a week? I reckon now is as good a time as any. Well, not now. Monday. For a week. In the meantime… BINGE!!!

Have a great weekend.

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Thursday, 3 April 2008

Two Gorgeous Black Birds Fucking in the Park, Totally Naked

Is it crows or blackbirds which have black beaks? I can never remember. I only know it isn’t tits. And cocks - like the Fonz - have combs, but that’s probably irrelevant. The beak issue may not be important to some of you, but I’m quite anal about my birds, so I must check. Excuse me…

Aha, they were crows. I saw them this morning when I was out for my run. At first I thought it was just one crow, maybe eating something that had died, so I ran over in its direction to observe the violence of nature in the raw. Then as I neared, one crow swiftly became two, rising silently into the sky, their crow coitus temporarily interruptus. I felt bad.

I didn’t know crows did sex on the ground. Isn’t it swifts or swallows that do it in the air? If I was a bird, I’d like to do it in the air. Imagine.


Anyway, that’s what I saw. And as I jogged off after it happened, I did a little spit, watched the male bird pursue the female and I thought, is there a blog post in this? Is this ‘an event’? Is this yet another incident in my apparently incident-filled life? ‘Black birds fucking,’ I thought. That’d bring in some new readers. I like it when new readers come. And if they happen to be perverts, well, perverts are people too.

We’ll see.

Oh, and also, before I forget…


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Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Pease Pudding and Porn Crackers :: The Ugly Side of Senescence

I had a slightly queer experience over the weekend, an experience which has me looking - for the first time in my life - into making a will. A living will, if you will. The first request will be that if I ever lose control of my physical dignity to such a point whereby I’m involuntarily leaving smells and noises and little pools of urine all over the house, then someone must take responsibility, take me to one side with a roll of superstrength cling film, and suffocate me. Or disembowel me, behead me, hang me from the nearest lamppost, anything. Just make me stop. Out of mercy.

So anyway.

Keith and I drove to The North at the weekend to spend a couple of days with his dad and his (relatively) new and (relatively) young wife. I’ve never really spent any time in The North before. I’d passed through on my way to Scotland, but I’d never stopped. Not because I thought it was an uncivilised backwater filled with foul-mouthed trolls, short-sleeved Neanderthals and phlegm-hawking, urine-soaked sex-pests. No. I’d never been and I honestly had no opinion either way.

Now all that has changed.

I’ve known Keith’s dad, Gordon, since I was a little kid. He was always something of a hero to me. If that’s not over-egging the pudding a tad. He was the dad I never had. He did things my own dad never did. He showed me affection and kicked balls with me and facilitated fun and happiness. When he split up with Keith’s mum a few years ago, I believe I was more upset than when my own mother died. Which says a lot.

Last year Gordon, 55, married Sylvia, 11 years his junior, after less than a year of knowing each other. Keith says his dad just wanted to get a ring on her finger before she tired of his saggy flesh and ran off with someone less close to death. But I don’t think he really believes that. Gordon may be close to death in some respects, but in others he’s more vital than many a man half his age.

Gordon and Sylvia live in a really funky flat in Newcastle city centre, for which they pay – if you compare similar in London - next to nothing. In fact they pay 25% less than I do, between them, for about 75% more. I couldn’t believe this on Friday, but after a couple of days in The North, it made more sense. There is a trade off. You get to live at least 25% less expensively, but life up there is at least 75% less enjoyable, and the people a good 85% less human. Or maybe I should spend more time there before I dismiss it so definitively?

Nah. Just this once, I think I'm going to go with knee-jerk discrimination. Follow my instincts.

On Saturday night, Sylvia took us to Jarrow – henceforth known as Jarra - to meet her mum and step-dad, Doreen and George, who live – after a fashion – in a dark flat which smells suspiciously of leeks. Now obviously, I’ve got nothing against old people - aside from the intense fear of slow decay and painful, undignified death they automatically arouse in me - and Doreen and George, 76 and 85 respectively, seemed on first inspection thoroughly pleasant examples of the genre.

Doreen was all self-knitted cardigans and dark-toothed smiles, desperate to prepare endless pots of tea and sandwiches containing some kind of pudding apparently made of peas, which I managed to resist.

George was much the same, but less smiling and mostly immobile. Wearing an immaculately knotted tie beneath his chunky wife-knitted cardy, he had a neck like a pelican’s pouch, thick super-magnifying glasses and a large crucifix which he wore with considerable pride.

As Doreen made the first of 70 pots of tea, George asked us about our first impressions of the North East. Keith responded, hugely diplomatically, concentrating his answer on Durham, which we’d visited the night before and which is genuinely pretty.

Pretty enough in fact to warrant a brief picture show. Here is the river:

Here is the cathedral looking all broody and foreboding:

And here is the famous ugly knocker of the cathedral:


George thought so too. He spoke for quite a while about sanctuary. Just long enough in fact, to make me start yearning for it.

George is very proud of the North East. He loves Jarra, and he loves God. Doreen meanwhile, loves knitting, pease pudding and Foster and Allen. Together they share a passion for Chinese food, Scrabble and – thankfully – alcohol.

Within half an hour of being at Doreen and George’s, something became abundantly clear. It was this: George knows best. So when it came to ordering the Chinese for the evening, there was no question of anyone choosing what they actually wanted, because George had his heart set on the set meals. George was a set meal kind of guy. As no one else really cared that much, George got his way, and just as Gordon was leaving to pick up the order, George shouted after him, ‘Don’t forget the porn crackers.’

‘Porn crackers?’ repeated Gordon, with a smirk.

George did actually say ‘porn crackers’, not because he couldn’t pronounce his R’s or anything, just because he seemed to forget there was an R in ‘prawn’. Of course at that age you do. Yet simultaneously he seemed unaware that he’d actually said it and instead seemed to think that Gordon was making a joke. It was a joke much to George’s liking. He repeated it three times, interspersing it with his strange, slightly creepy laugh which sounds exactly like the Count from Sesame Street but slowed down to about a quarter of the speed. ‘Porn crackers,’ he said. ‘The mind boggles.’

After the set meal, Doreen suggested we played Scrabble. By then I was drinking heavily so it didn’t seem such a bad idea. But first Keith, Gordon and I nipped outside to smoke. There was no smoking in George’s house ever since a tumour had eaten a chunk of his lung a couple of years ago. Which was fair enough. So we went out into the garden, huddled together and smoked a joint like naughty kids.

Back inside, we split into four teams: Doreen and George, Sylvia and Gordon, and me and Keith – the young ‘uns - on our own. The first sign that this was not going to be an ordinary game of Scrabble came when George, who had picked an A and thus was first to select his seven tiles, selected only three then passed the bag to Doreen. Keith and I exchanged looks, then Keith pointed out that Scrabble was played with seven tiles. ‘Well, we have our own rules here,’ George explained. ‘We pick three each at the beginning, so that nobody gets all the best letters. Then we pick the last four.’

‘So what’s the point of going first?’ asked Keith, genuinely bemused..

George shook his head quickly as if trying to dislodge the pained expression which had settled there.

‘And you could just as easily pick four I’s and three E’s,’ I added. ‘I mean, there’s no saying that you’re going to pick good letters just because you pick seven at once.’

‘These are our rules,’ said Doreen, smiling but slightly uncomfortable. ‘If you don’t like them….’

‘When in Jarra,’ George interrupted.

‘Ruin a perfectly good game,’ added Keith.

Now I happen to be a bit of a pain at Scrabble, inasmuch as I’m one of those people who has memorised a lot of silly words, many of which non-Scrabble freaks have never encountered. That’s generally how I win, by throwing in a dzo or an ictic when my opponent least expects it. So I began to realise the full horror of what was afoot when Keith’s first word liger was disallowed on the grounds that it was ‘stupid and made-up’.

‘We only allow proper words that everybody’s heard of,’ said George.

My mouth fell open. It was like they’d taken the only thing that was really valuable about Scrabble – the possibility of improving your vocabulary – and they’d stamped all over it like low-rent Nazis who couldn’t afford to burn books.

The only dictionary in the house was one of those pocket-sized things with about 60 words in it and although there was a computer with internet access, Sylvia said it probably wasn’t worth the effort, as the dial-up modem was slower than – she glanced at her step-father – was really slow, she said.

‘If we just use words everybody’s heard of, then there’s no problem,’ George said again.

A couple of goes later and the god of Scrabble gave Keith the following letters: A, D, E, F, K, U and Y, with a C in good space on the board.

By this point it was already clear that George had a puritanical streak, but when suddenly the word fucked was sitting in front of him, in his own home, under his own roof, on his own Scrabble board that he’d bought from the Salvation Army charity shop, he looked for a moment like he might shit.

He started shaking his head before the words came. ‘No, no, no,’ he said, breathless with exasperation. ‘You can’t have that. No, definitely not. You can’t have dirty words.’

‘But it’s in the dictionary!’ cried Keith, appalled. ‘And I presume we’ve all heard of it.’ He shook his head. ‘Fucked! From the verb to fuck. I fuck, you fuck, he fucks, we all fuck!’

By now George was glaring at him like he’d taken out his penis, detached it from his groin and pushed it forcibly into his wife’s puckered mouth.

‘No dirty words!’ declared Doreen.

Not acceptable,’ added George.

By now, everyone had begun to side with Doreen and George just for the fun of it.

‘George is right,’ I said. ‘There’s just no need for it. Nobody wants to hear that kind of language.’

‘Not at the dinner table,’ added Gordon.

A couple of turns later I turned the word log into the word blogs with the S on a triple word score. Thrillingly, the same S made spies of an adjacent pies. I was very pleased.

Again came the familiar slow moan that seemed to preface each of George’s sentences. ‘Ooooooooh, no, man, come on now. Play the game.’

‘What’s that supposed to be?’ said Doreen.

This time it was Keith’s turn to join them. ‘Yeah, come on, Stan. Don’t be ridiculous. What the hell is blogs? It’s just rubbish, isn’t it? You’re just wasting everyone’s time. If you can’t think of any proper words, why don’t you miss a turn and change some of your letters?’

I was particularly dischuffed with this latest outrage and for a moment I failed to see the funny side. It was a triple word score. I scowled. Incidentally, now that I am allowed to consult the internet, I see that blog - along with blogger, blogging, bassackwards, felch, slaphead and dischuffed - was included in the OED on March 13th, 2003. But no. George knows best.

There was one advantage to playing Jarra Scrabble however, inasmuch as whenever a word was played which was deemed an illegal move, you didn’t forfeit a turn. Instead – much more sporting and of course, ridiculous – you just picked up your tiles and tried again. So when blogs was refused, I tried with jabens. Then I plumped for bansh, followed by jashneb, shabjen and finally, shnja. Shnja was the straw that broke the camel’s back for George and he tossed down his tiles, refusing to play with people who simple weren’t going to try.

So Keith and I nipped out for another joint and by the time we got back, the Foster & Allen DVD was on.

It was called A Postcard From Ireland and it was quite possibly the funniest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.

I’d never seen Foster & Allen before, but I had seen Mulligan and O’Hare, Vic and Bob’s ludicrously coiffured man-breasted folk duo. Now I realise where they took their inspiration.

A Postcard From Ireland features 27 of Foster and Allen’s finest moments, most of which are lovingly illustrated with some of the cheapest, most poorly acted and badly constructed videos ever made. Embarrassing guff like this. And because we were a bit wrecked, and because what we watching was just so risible, and because we were in the presence of such arch puritanism, we just couldn’t help but take the piss a little. One of the first videos we saw was for a version of Lord of the Dance and featured Foster – or Allen, I can’t recall – walking like a sex offender amongst a group of local children, smiling and singing at them. ‘So let me get this straight,’ said Keith. ‘This dirty old man is being paid to hang around outside of schools, fondle his squeezebox and gurn at the kids? And he gets paid for this?’

‘He does look like a convicted paedophile,’ I said. ‘No disrespect intended, but I wouldn’t let him near my kids.’

‘Oh, God, now I remember! I read about these guys in the News of the World! They’re Satanists. They were exposed. They own a pub, and the cellar was full of all their Satanic regalia, loads of robes and horns and platinum dildos and children’s skulls.’

‘This video was banned in Ireland.’

‘That audience are all drugged and those children have been trepanned. Foster and Allen drilled holes in their heads to let the evil out, but then at the last minute, instead of letting evil out, they put more in.’

‘With their penises.’

‘They worship Baal. That man is only dancing with a brush because he knows that if he doesn’t, he’ll be sacrificed to Baal.’

And so on. In retrospect it wasn’t the most respectful behaviour, but Sylvia and Gordon were laughing, so we felt encouraged. Doreen was just ignoring us - I think she’d turned her hearing aid off – but George was fuming. Every comment we made was like a slap in Jesus’ face. Eventually he got up and went to bed without even saying goodnight. Then we stopped. And felt really bad.

It had been agreed that we would stay the night, although by the end of the evening I’m not sure we were really that welcome. But we stayed anyway, on a couple of foldaway beds in the study room, where there were lots of Readers’ Digest books and an old PC with a screeching modem. I decided to check my blog for comments which – I admit – is something I tend to do more than is probably healthy, so I switched on the PC and when it was finally ready, I started to type in the address. Which is when the strangest search history I’ve ever seen popped up in front of me.

Most of the pages which began with the letters be were for either or I’m not going to link to them, but please, feel free. I showed Keith. We were both very amused by this, but not particularly scandalised. They seemed like fairly innocuous pursuits for a pensioner with a penchant for porn. But then we typed in some other letters to see what else was hiding away in George’s internet history. seemed similarly innocent, almost sweet, as did and maybe even Well… maybe. But then there were others, which were clearly a little darker. for example. for another. And perhaps even more disturbing,, where punters pay top dollar to see women having sex with horses and dogs. We went to a couple of the addresses to see what exactly we were dealing with here. Thankfully, Private Beast was just a couple of preview pages, pre-payment, giving you a glimpse of what to expect if you gave your credit card details. So it could have been fairly innocent surfing on George’s part. It could have been research, Pete Townshend-style. Ordinary, strictly legit fascination. Not very Christian certainly, but nothing to call the police about.

Except perhaps the page that came up when you clicked on the link, which said ‘your account has expired’. Now I don’t know if is a site dealing in child porn or merely a site trading on old men’s rather disturbing desires for very young-seeming flesh. And frankly, by this stage, both Keith and I decided that we didn’t want to know. I asked Keith if he would mention it to his dad, but he said he wouldn’t, because his dad would tell Sylvia, and Sylvia might tell her mum, and that might cause a lot of unnecessary upset and pain and turmoil. ‘It’s just some old bloke looking at porn,’ he said. ‘Mostly harmless,’ he added.

‘Should I clear the search history?’ I asked.

Keith shook his head. ‘Just leave it I reckon,’ he replied. ‘Turn it off and walk away. Maybe wash your hands.’

The next morning at breakfast, George was in superior mode, with great dollops of self-righteousness all over his face. He was dressed to the nines in preparation for church. And he had his best headmaster face on. Very unforgiving. There was an unpleasant atmosphere and conversation over the breakfast table ground to a halt. Eventually Doreen said, ‘I think you boys owe George an apology for last night. You said some things which… well, I won’t repeat them.’

Keith glanced at Sylvia who rolled her eyes at the ceiling and looked faintly embarrassed.

‘Oh, I’m sure they didn’t mean anything by it,’ said Gordon. ‘it was just a bit of fun.’

‘No, Doreen’s right,’ said Keith. He looked across the table at George, and held his gaze. ‘I’m sorry,’ he said. ‘I’m sorry I accused Foster & Allen of being paedophiles. That’s a very serious and not at all amusing allegation and I am genuinely sorry.’

‘I’m sorry too,’ I said. ‘We said some terrible things.’

George was nodding his head, but still scowling, as if we had a lot more grovelling to do before we would qualify for forgiveness.

I shook my head penitently. ‘Some of the things we said were barely legal,’ I said. Gordon looked at me quizzically.

‘I feel bad for what we said,’ said Keith.

‘It showed an embarrassing lack of respect,’ I added.

‘Pardon my French,’ said Keith, ‘but I feel like a horse’s cock for some of the things we said last night, I don’t mind telling you.’

As he stared at George, a wave of fury turned to something darker and washed slowly over the old man’s face, seemingly calming him. Keith held out his hand and apologised. George held out his hand and shook it. It was eerie. It was like someone was making a pact with the devil but it wasn't clear who. I shook George’s hand too and said I was also sorry. George looked to Doreen and said, ‘We better get going, love. We don’t want to be late.’ And after saying their goodbyes to Sylvia and Gordon, off they went to church.

As soon as the door was closed, Sylvia turned to Keith and said, ‘He’s still not cleared his history out then?’

Keith smiled, shook his head and poured more tea.

On the way back to London, Keith and I talked about getting old. We talked about the body breaking down. We said we didn't want to imagine George sitting at his PC, staring at young nudists and squeezing his 85-year old manhood, but we imagined it anyway. We talked about Newcastle and how depressing it was. Then we put all that behind us and talked about the future. We talked about fresh starts and a whole universe full of possibilities.

We talked about Spring.

We didn’t talk about paedophilia.

And we didn’t talk about MS.

It was a pleasant drive.

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