Friday, 27 June 2008

Gonzalo Otálora :: The Munter Who Made Good

Gonzalo Otálora is a self-proclaimed ugly man and living proof that contrary to popular opinion, you can actually polish a turd. Gonzalo hails from Argentina, where his book Feo! - or, if you will, Ugly! - is regularly described as a bestseller.

Feo! is the story of Gonzalo’s life as an ugly man, from a childhood bubbling with persecution and tears, to a pustulating adolescence wherein he attempted to transform himself with corrective surgery, suicidal thoughts and girdles; finally through to adulthood and - happily – self-acceptance and an end to the self-loathing.

I thought I’d ask him a bunch of questions and see how his experience of being ugly compares with my own.

First up, he explains a little about what he’s learned over the years. ‘Nobody is ugly,’ he says. ‘Nobody is beautiful. Simply, we have different bodies. In my case I suffered from a typical form of aesthetic anorexia. I felt ugly, but I understood that the beauty industry imposes a model which 5% of society represents, and the other 95% want to attain. This is basically a con that makes you think that if you're not beautiful, you're nothing. In Argentina, this happens a lot.’

It isn’t just society at large of course, which conspires to make the ugly person feel unwanted. Individuals do it too. I mention the Ugly Tree, out of which many a hilarious, heartless person has smilingly informed me that I have clearly fallen, hitting – of course - every branch on the way down. I wonder if there are any similar expressions in Argentina which make ugly people's lives a misery but seem to amuse everyone else.

‘In Argentina there are many sayings,’ he replies. ‘In that sense we are very creative.’ I ask him to tell me one. He tells me one:

‘Uglier than stepping barefoot on a turd.’

I shake my head.

People can be so cruel.

Gonzalo was born into an ordinary family - non-ugly parents and two non-ugly siblings - in 1976. So when did he realise that he was not like other boys? ‘Since my school companions started making fun of my glasses,’ he says. ‘BIG glasses. From then on I noticed that my appearance was different to other people’s, and not in a good way.’

Then of course, after years of quotidian torture at the hands of pernicious children, comes the terrorism of puberty. ‘From the age of 14 to 18,’ says Gonzalo, ‘sex was an obsession. Four years of daily struggle, until I could accomplish it. My first time, like many other ugly people, was with a prostitute.’ But then – and this is where any common ground we share falls completely away - things changed. ‘For me, having sex after the age of 18 was not difficult… I went from being an ugly person with no success to a player, a Casanova looking for revenge.’ Oh. Um… ‘Now, luckily, I am calm....’


He wrote something similar a few months ago in the Financial Times. ‘I became an expert at picking up women in the street,’ he wrote, ‘but they were all one-night stands.’ Now, thankfully - otherwise he’d probably have no soul - Gonzalo is looking for love, which he describes as ‘the most difficult thing... It’s difficult when one has low self esteem and can't love themselves, to have others love them. Now, I'm going through that grand hurdle in my life... love.’

Lack of love aside, Gonzalo is doing pretty well these days. He’s a successful journalist and TV producer, as well as a self-taught womaniser and a best-selling author. So. How come he came to write a book about being ugly?

‘I wrote the book without thinking,’ he confesses. ‘I felt the need to talk about my past. It’s the story of an adolescent who was bullied in elementary school, who got rejected by women in clubs, and who then had difficulty finding jobs. It’s the story of a fighter who understood that it wasn't necessary to be beautiful to succeed… The secret is to love yourself no matter what the mirror tells you.’

Although this advice is obviously sound, it’s also kind of trite, and anyone who’s ever stood in front of a full-length mirror and sobbed their swollen heart out will tell you that loving yourself is much, much easier said than done.

Gonzalo however, has experienced both sides of the coin of self-loathing. In his teens and early 20s he did everything he could to change the way he looked. He had laser surgery and hair implants. He even wore a girdle. ‘Moreover,’ he says, ‘I lived my whole life trying to lose weight and fell into all the traps.’

He was obsessed with becoming attractive, but eventually realised that he was wasting his time. ‘If we always see ourselves as ugly, we will always need to change our appearance to feel good. When someone tries to solve all their problems by changing their appearance, they are buying a ticket to suffering. However, if the change is internal, if we learn how to live with our body, then we have much more chance of finding happiness.’

Feo! then, is the story of how one man made the shift from a lifetime of perceived discrimination to relative contentment.

It could be argued – by a more cynical chap than I - that Gonzalo Otálora is actually something of a charlatan, another ‘Ugly Betty’, i.e. someone trading off of a repulsiveness which in reality does not actually exist. For even as a teenager, at the height of his hormonal festering, Gonzalo wasn’t that bad. Quite tasty in fact.

Nowadays, from the pictures that are available on the web, it turns out he’s just an ordinary bloke. He’s no Johnny Depp for sure, but equally, he’s no Ronaldo.

In fact, he looks a bit like Jon Ronson, who I'm sure is frequently described as 'quite dashing'. Although probably only by his mum.

But what the hell. It’s not a competition. Much more important than how ugly he is - or isn’t - is the fact that he’s been an inspiration to other fuglies who’ve read his book. Indeed, he says feedback has been ‘stupendous…. Every day readers who identify with what happened to me write on my website and my blog.’ This includes a great many kids of course, for whom Gonzalo hopes to develop some anti-bullying materials for use in schools.

And it doesn’t stop there. As part of his compassionate work for the facially disadvantaged, Gonzalo is also attempting to introduce a tax on beauty. On the back of his belief that ’everything costs double’ for the ugly person, he put it to the Argentine government that there should be ‘a tax on beauty to benefit ugly people, to fix the injustice of aesthetics.’ Unsurprisingly – as the idea is every bit as ridiculous as taxing the intelligent for the shortcomings of the stupid - they didn’t take him particularly seriously. But he probably sold a few more books because of it.

Good for him.

Having got to know Gonzalo a little, I can see that we do indeed have quite a bit in common. Except of course the fact that I could never describe myself as ‘a Casanova’. And I haven’t written a best-selling book about being ugly. Oh, and I am actually ugly. But apart from that, we’re like two rather unappealing peas in a rotten old pod. And I am very much looking forward to reading Feo! when it’s translated into English (hopefully by the end of the year). In fact, if I don’t get a free copy for all of this lovely publicity, then I’ll be seriously miffed.


Finally, I ask Gonzalo about the bright side of being ugly. Does it actually have any benefits?

‘The honesty of aesthetics,’ he replies. ‘I am what you see and I didn't pay for it.’

Apart from all of the surgery of course. And the prostitution. And the years of fad-dieting.

And the girdle.


Feedback Friday is away.

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Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Mumbleweeds for the Journey :: Aaaaah, Baudelaire...

Be drunken, always. Nothing else matters; that is the only question. If you would not feel the horrible burden of Time weighing on your shoulders and crushing you to the earth, be drunken continually.

Drunken with what? With wine, with poetry or with virtue, as you please. But be drunken.

And if sometimes, on the steps of a palace, or on the green grass in a ditch, or in the dreary solitude of your own room, you should awaken and the drunkenness be half or wholly slipped away from you, ask of the wind, or of the wave, or of the star, or of the bird, or of the clock, of whatever flies, or sighs, or rocks, or sings, or speaks, ask what hour it is; and wind, wave, star, bird, clock will answer you: 'It is the hour to be drunken! Be drunken, if you would not be the martyred slaves of Time; be drunken continually! With wine, with poetry or with virtue, as you please.'

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Monday, 23 June 2008


Keith got back from a weekend of goodness knows what last night and he said to me, apropos of nothing, ‘So what’s your favourite animal?’ and I said, ‘Cat. The cat is my favourite animal.’ And he said, ‘What’s your second favourite animal?’ and I said, ‘Bat. The bat is my second favourite animal.’ And he said, ‘What’s your third favourite animal?’ And I said, ‘Rat. The rat is my third favourite animal.’ And Keith said, ‘Really?’ and I said, ‘No, not really. The squirrel. Actually I think the squirrel probably comes second. Bat third.’

Then Keith said, ‘Which characteristics do you associate with the cat? Give me three adjectives that sum it up’, and I said, ‘Affectionate. Lazy. And superior. Willfully, chillingly superior.’ He wrote them down.

Then Keith said, ‘Which characteristics do you associate with the squirrel?’, and I said, 'Ingenious. Spectacular. Aloof.’

Then Keith said, ‘Which characteristics do you associate with the bat?’, and I said, ‘Chaotic. Repulsive. Slightly dark.’

Then Keith nodded his head, then shook it, then said ‘hmmm’ a lot. Then he said, ‘Well, apparently, the first one is how you see yourself. You see yourself as affectionate, lazy and superior. Then second is how others see you. Others see you as ingenious, spectacular and aloof. But the third is how you actually are. You are chaotic, repulsive and ever so slightly dark.’

‘But that’s bollocks,’ I pointed out.

Keith nodded. ‘Hmmm,’ he said.

'Can I change the order?' I said.

Keith shook his head.

‘So what are your favourite animals?’ I asked him.

He shook his head again. ‘Nah,’ he said. ‘I hate animals. I’m going to bed.’ Then he went to his room and painted this. I think the brain looks like a cock.

I don’t know what Keith did with his weekend but the fact is, he came back distinctly weirder than when he went away.

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Friday, 20 June 2008

Feedback Friday :: Old Kent Road Blues

bulk :: 16st 1
cigarettes :: 0
joints :: 2
alcohol :: some
runs :: 3 (which is quite good. I'm back in the saddle but not quite fucking the horse as I'd hoped. Next week maybe.)
swims :: 0
chocolate biscuits :: 60 (damn supermarkets and their 2 for 1 offers. Damn my lack of self-control.)
unsavoury thoughts concerning Audrey Tautou :: 0 (OK, OK, 40)

This morning - for reasons not really worth going into - I found myself on the Old Kent Road. Whenever I'm on the Old Kent Road, I understand afresh why it's the cheapest property on the Monopoly board. It's like the part of London that evolution forgot. As such, it seems like the perfect location for an existential crisis.

I was over the road from the Tesco. A pub called The Lord Nelson had what appeared to be two fresh bullet holes in one of its windows, each giving way to separate spider webs of shattered glass. Across the street a group of desperate-looking people were waiting for a bus. One of them - a man in his 40s with lank grey hair and an old suit - suddenly stepped out into the road and threw what appeared to be a stone at a passing bus. It came out of nowhere this act of aggression, and it was all the more surprising for this guy's seeming semi-respectability. Witnesses shook their heads vaguely and looked away. He stepped back onto the pavement, like butter wouldn't melt.

An old man on a bench, looking not quite all there, struggled to light a cigarette he had just constructed. He was in his 50s, grey skin, short spiky silver hair and beard, a can of what looked like Kestrel in a brown paper bag between his knees. I hung about by a nearby bus stop watching him. When he finally managed to get his cigarette going, he folded his arms and stared straight ahead of him, fag hanging from his gob, smoke dancing into his face, and I thought that thing that I think a lot, that thing that everybody who thinks about other people thinks a lot. I thought, 'I wonder what's going on in his head'. Probably nothing of interest of course, or else he probably wouldn't be sitting on a bench on the Old Kent Road drinking warm Kestrel at 10am.

But you never know.

I looked away and saw someone staring at me. A well-dressed young Indian woman. She had exactly the same expression on her face that imagine I had. A mixture of polite enquiry, patronising pity and outright disgust. She looked away. I looked away. I looked back at the old man. He was looking at me. He looked away. I looked away.

What the fuck am I doing here? I thought. And I went home.

So. That was the highlight of my Friday. The Old Kent Road. Like the freak carriage in the opening dream sequence of Stardust Memories. Sometimes South East London really brings me down. I'm sure it's less grim up north.

Keith is away for the weekend.

I don't know if it's coming across at all, but I'm feeling dreadfully sorry for myself. Thank God for chocolate biscuits.

Have a good weekend.

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Wednesday, 18 June 2008

NAQ Farcissus

I realised yesterday that the main reason most FAQs are deathly dull is because people simply don’t ask the right questions. The shits. So it occurred to me that a bunch of Never Asked Questions might be a little more interesting, if incredibly sad. So, here we go.

I’d like to buy you a gift, please, if I may. What would you like?

Eh? Why on earth would you want to do that?

Because I think you’re wicked. Why haven’t you got a Wishlist?

Because the idea that a virtual stranger would buy me a gift is madness.

But it happens. People do lots of things for people they’ve never met. I think you underestimate the kindness of strangers. Why don’t you get yourself a Wishlist?

OK then. Consider it done.

Cool. Good luck with that. Now, how would you like to write a weekly column about whatever the hell you like for some national newspaper or glossy magazine?

Yes, please. That would be splendid. Thanks.

No problem. How much would you like to be paid?

Oh, I don’t know. How does £300 sound?

Hmm. Are you sure you wouldn’t like a little more than that?

Well, OK, yes. I just didn’t want to sound greedy.

Paff. Greedy schmeedy. Would you accept a thousand pounds a week?

Oh, go on then. Cheers.

Good Lord, look who it is! It’s Audrey Tautou! She wants to ask you a question too. Would you mind if Audrey Tautou sat in your lap and asked you a few questions?

Crikey. No, not at all.

'Allo, Stan. I’m the very lovely Audrey Tautou, French film starlet and all-round sex profiterole. 'Ow are you?

I’m fine, Audrey, thanks for asking. You look lovely by the way. Even better in real life if I may say so. Not at all anorexic and not even a tiny bit like Michael Jackson after he was burned.

Thanks! You look pretty sexy yourself. I really fancy ugly men. I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind coming round to my villa in the Seychelles tonight and showing me a good time?

Erm… I’m actually a little busy tonight but… OK, what the hell. You’re on!

Oh, you make me so 'appy! I thought we could fly there in my private jet which in reality is actually more like a time machine. We’ll be there in literally no time at all. Actually, I know this is a bit forward, but are you free right now?

Um… yeah, OK. For you, Audrey, anything.

Right then, wrap your meaty arms around my slender frame. Ready?


Ooh, that was fun. Time travel always makes me feel - ‘ow you say? – up for it. So – do you like my villa in the Seychelles overlooking the Indian Ocean and miles of private beach?

I do, Audrey. I love it.

Formidable! Now, would you like some champagne?

Ooh, yes please.

Would you prefer to lap it from the small of my back or 'ave it transferred from my own delicious little mouth into yours?


Or maybe both?

Yes! Let’s do both!

OK, but would you like to slowly undress me first?

Oh, alright then.

Oh, Stan. May I kiss you?

You may, Audrey Tautou. You may.

May I kiss you slowly at first, tentatively, my lips as light upon your face as my breath, until we’re both burning up with exquisite anticipation? Then, when you’re really aching for me, may I gradually introduce my tongue, teasing you, sucking on your swollen lips and groaning as I taste the sweet nectar of your 'ighly erotic man-spittle? Then, when I’m ready to give myself to you fully, may I go wild on your mouth and face and kiss you with all of the savage intensity and barbaric abandon of a woman who 'as been denied any physical affection for 12,000 years?

Audrey. You may.

Ooh-la-la! You are such a generous lover. And may I say that I ’ave never been kissed so perfectly, so passionately before?

Oh, Audrey. Don’t be silly.

But Stanley, it’s true! You are a very sensual man. Gentle yet assertive. Almost feminine in your emotional sincerity, yet at the same time ruggedly masculine. I wonder, would you like to do me in the bum?

Audrey! I’m shocked. And also a little embarrassed. I’ve never done that before.

Then would you do me the honour of allowing me to be your first?

OK, Audrey. OK. I’ll do you in the bum.

Mon dieu! Je t’aime, Stan Cattermole! Je t’aime! Do you love me too, Stan? Do you? Do you love me?

I do, Audrey Tautou, I do!


Oh, I seem to have got a little carried away there. I’ve gone all moist.

Je suis désolé.

Au revoir.

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I Am Living With A Madman

Should I be afraid?


Yes, I should.

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Tuesday, 17 June 2008

FAQ Narcissus

If I had fifty thousand pounds for every time someone has asked me, Where the hell are your Frequently Asked Questions?, I’d still be in the poor house frankly, because no one has ever asked me that. And why would they? Frequently Asked Questions are ghastly. They may make a little sense on sites which provide services, particularly techy services where things are apt to go wrong, but on personal blogs they’re really horribly self-important.

As if keeping a blog wasn’t self-important enough, to then go and claim that there are yet more details about you that people are simply aching to know is tantamount to galloping narcissism.

So here goes.

(Actually, the real reason I’m doing this is because someone asked me to put a photo of myself online. And that was the second time I’d been asked that. Does two times count as frequently? Of course it does.)

Why do you write about your life on the internet, you big freak?

Principally, in order that I may have one. This blog came out of a need to start living properly. It allowed me to make promises to myself in public. This brought with it a sense of responsibility, which in turn proved a huge incentive. So essentially, it’s a way of taking responsibility for my life.

Still seems a bit iffy to me. All those personal details. Have you no shame?

God, yes. I have bags of shame. Mostly however, I’m ashamed that I was living such a hideously half-baked life for so long. Thankfully that’s changed. And that’s mostly down to this blog.

So what did you do before you started blogging?

I sat around watching films and eating peanut butter sandwiches. And I enjoyed it too. But there comes a time in a man’s life when that man has to take some stock of himself, and say to himself, ‘So - what am I?’ And if the answer comes back, ‘I am what I am, and what I am is a Man’, maybe accompanied by a little chest-beating and muttering something about Sparta, then that man should probably be tied to a rock and tranquilised. Equally however, if the answer is ‘I’m nothing but a big old blob, and I’m sitting here wasting my whole fucking life’, then again, it’s probably time for drastic action of one form or another.

So are you really as ugly as you say you are?

Well, no one’s ever actually vomited on me yet. I am however, differently-featured enough for people to stop in the street, raise their eyebrows and blow out their cheeks. Once someone spat at me and once someone punched me in the face for no reason, although that may have been wholly random and not connected to my appearance at all.

Also, my whole life I’ve been told that I’m ugly. That’s how ugly I am.

As a result of writing about my life however, I’m definitely getting less and less hung up about the whole ugly thing. And this pleases me greatly.

Incidentally, I am not – in my opinion – as ugly as Pete Burns. But it's all subjective. I can see how some people might find him quite striking. Weirdoes.

Why don’t you publish a photo of yourself and have done with it?

Have done with what, for heaven’s sake? I don’t publish a photo because this blog is not about what I look like. Rather, it’s about what I do. Or at least what I say I do.

Like I’ve said before, I don’t want to be a freak show. I don’t want people commenting on how I look. I don’t want to hear, ‘Oh, you’re not that bad’. And I especially don’t want to hear, ‘Yeah, actually, I see what you mean’. I don’t want any of that. I’ve had people making comments about how I look my whole life. This blog is the one place where that won’t happen.

Who was the last person you’ve been told you look like?

The last person was just the other day actually, and it was Tracey Emin. Unfortunately this isn’t as ridiculous as it sounds. I do look a little like Tracey Emin. Like Tracey Emin crossed with a bag of elbows.

And Hellboy. I get that quite a bit too. Oh, my aching sides.

Oh, your aching face, more like.

Shut up.

Touché. So on the one hand you say it’s not about looks, yet on the other hand you quite clearly use your appearance to bring in readers.

No, I don’t. If I posted photographs of myself, you could say I used my appearance to bring in readers. On the contrary, I use my words to bring in readers. And nothing more.

Did you really do that thing with the kitten? And that thing about being filmed having sex… is that true?

Is the Pope a Nazi? Do Catholics glow in the dark? Yes, yes, yes, a thousand times yes. If I’ve written about it, then it’s true.

More or less.

Cor. I like the way you write. Will you go to bed with me?

Hold on a sec. Is that really a frequently asked question?

Never you mind. I’m the one asking the frequently asked questions round here.

No, sorry. Surely I can’t possibly follow up a question about telling the truth by pretending that I’m frequently asked if I will go to bed with my readers.

Why not?

I just can’t. It's not ethical. Anyhow, I’ve had enough. This fake conversation is over.

Hey, would you like a six-figure advance for the story of your life?

Oh, shush.

OK, OK. Finally, are you Irvine Welsh?

No, ahm noat. Cunt.

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Monday, 16 June 2008

Miscellany Monday :: Masturbation Actually

1. Masturbation

So. A couple of days ago I received an email asking me if I wanted to exchange links with a site called, rather bluntly, Masturbators. This is a blog in which one young man shares his opinions on various products designed to aid masturbation, such as the Black Orchid, the Sue Johanson Head Honcho or, of course, the Fleshlight.

Most intriguing and, it has to be said, repulsive of all is the ‘Kobe Tai Realistic Ass’.

At first I assumed that this must be one of those consumer blogs I’d heard about, where people are paid a pittance to review various products. As this is something I would very much enjoy doing, I wrote to the Masturbator man, whose name is Olesea, and quizzed him. Turns out it isn’t a consumer blog at all, and he is merely writing about his favourite hobby for pleasure, something to which he is clearly dedicated. Indeed, you have to marvel at Olesea’s dedication. Even during my most fervent self-pleasuring days – back when I came across the internet in my late teens – I was never so obsessed as to consider actually writing about it. Mind you, I was never particularly into toys. I was a wanking purist. Lesbian porn only.

Having bigged up his dedication, I should probably point out that Olesea has only managed one post a month since February. Presumably the rest of the time, he’s too busy sitting in his room, pounding away.

It’s easy to look down on Masturbators but at least Olesea is attempting to add a little romance to masturbation, buying himself gifts before going in for the kill. And some of his reviews are really quite sweet. For example, of the Kobe Tai realistic ass, he writes, ‘Reality has never felt so good!’

And I thought I needed to get out more.

None of this is written with any disrespect intended toward the Olesea by the way. I’m sure he’s a very nice young man. Just not one I particularly want to shake hands with.

2. Fitness

This morning I got out of bed at 6.45 and went for a run for the first time in quite a while. I wore headphones for the first time and listened to Rodrigo and Gabriela. That’s right. I am rather hip.

And Gabriela is lovely. Imagine what she could do with those hands. Eh, Olesea? Eh?

3. Chiropractic

I was pleased to discover that running this morning didn’t seem to aggravate my back any further, but it’s generally still a bit ruined and I really should see someone about it, so… does anyone have a chiropractor they could recommend?

4. Chiropody

Speaking of physical self-improvement, my feet are an absolute disgrace. I shall tell you about them in more detail soon, and you will retch. So I have another question. Have any of you ever had any chiropody? And if so, could you recommend a foot person to me?

5. Film

I was most amused by this review of The Incredible Hulk in the Guardian this week. Equally scathing is Bradshaw’s verdict on Priceless, but I might go and see that anyway because I am very much in love with Audrey Tautou. In fact, I dedicate this post to her. No doubt she will be thrilled.

6. Art

Artist-in-residence Keith has drawn a very strange thing. I really like it. But I’m not sure why.

See you tomorrow!

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Friday, 13 June 2008

Feedback Friday :: A Fresh Start

bulk :: 16st 2
cigarettes :: 0
joints :: quite a few
alcohol :: quite a bit
runs :: 0
swims :: 0
physical exercise of any description :: none
fresh starts :: 1

I guess I did see it happening, but… I suppose I just ignored it. That little pause in that last sentence there was where I spent five minutes thinking how I could jazz up what I was trying to say a bit. But there’s no jazzing it up. I just ignored it.

I had the best excuse though, which is that I was having a damnably good time. I’ve had some wonderful larks and frolics during the last couple of months.

But yes, those days are done, and things – other things – have been left to go rather awry.

Which is to say:

• I’ve stopped running.
• I’ve stopped swimming.
• I’ve stopped eating well.
• I’ve stopped eating less.
• My weight is ouncing back up the wrong way.
• I’ve broken promises to myself about marathon training and gym membership.
• There are pizza boxes on the kitchen floor and some of my possessions are still in boxes from moving house weeks ago.
• In the last five days alone I have literally grown trotters and a snout. And a cute little curly tale.


What to do about it. Well, I figure a fresh start is called for. Or even, A Fresh Start.

First thing, I can cut out the junk food again. That’s a piece of cake. (Mmmmmm, cake.)

As far as running and joining the gym however, my concern is my back, which I stretched to buggery a couple of weeks ago and which has been hanging over me like the truss of Damocles ever since. It’s a small of the back affair and it concerns me greatly. So…

Second thing, go see a chiropractor or an osteopath or whatever, just do something about it and don’t be sitting around on your sorry fat ass all day and using it as an excuse.

Third thing, swim. Swimming is good for you, good for event the most fragile backs. Do it.


So I’m pulling out my finger as of today. OK, bit late now. Tomorrow then. Tomorrow. The sun will come out. And next week’s feedback will reflect my newfound zeal for self-improvement. You see if it doesn’t.

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Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Post Mortem :: It’s What He Would Have Wanted

Now, some might consider this a little distasteful, but frankly speaking, they can go hang.

Tribute to Pablo is artist-in-residence Not Keith’s first paid commission. I commissioned it myself, with pizza. I said, ‘How would you like to paint me a picture of Pablo? In exchange for a large rectangular pizza?’

‘Only on the condition that I can fill it with passion and fury and spite,’ he said. ‘Only on the condition that I can have it scream with the indignity of death and shake a thousand fists in the face of God, crying “Too cruel, this world, too cruel!”’

‘OK,’ I said.

One thing about Pablo, he had a wonderful sense of humour.

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Of Cats and Men

What greater gift than the love of a cat?

Charles Dickens said that, and I for one think he was onto something.

Meanwhile, William Blake saw God for the first time in 1762, His big old face pressed against the living room window. And Little Billy Blake, only four years old, screamed. Awwww. Even at that age, an absolute looney. But what a talent. Then, somewhere between eight and ten, William Blake was on Peckham Rye. He gazed upon an ordinary tree and do you know what he saw? He saw angels. Or rather, ‘a tree filled with angels, bright angelic wings bespangling every bough like stars’.


Peckham Rye is just down the road of course. And round here Blake’s vision is rightly revered. Here is an artist’s interpretation on the side of a local house.


So, naturally, under the circumstances, on Thursday evening, Keith and I set out to find Blake’s angel tree. Within a matter of minutes, as if by divine providence, we found it. Or at least one very similar. Albeit sans readily visible angels.

Then we came home and, with Pablo still on his blanket on the living room floor, we became intoxicated. We looked up cat quotes online. There are a great many.

Here are a few of my favourites:

Dogs are dogs, but cats are people.’ – Iranian proverb

Way down deep, we're all motivated by the same urges. Cats have the courage to live by them.’ - Jim Davis

The little furry buggers are just deep, deep wells you throw all your emotions into.’ - Bruce Schimmel

Poets generally love cats because poets have no delusions about their own superiority.’ - Marion Garretty

I also told a few Pablo stories. Here are a few of my favourites:

There was the time he enraged an elderly neighbour by killing one of her rosette-winning doves. I tried to explain to this furious woman that Pablo would never do such a thing, but when I found him later, there were still giveaway white feathers all over his face. I tried to chastise him for that, but he seemed so proud, and really, it was hilarious.

Then there was the time he brought home a beautiful grey squirrel he’d caught and heartlessly murdered for his own pleasure. I love squirrels and was really quite angry with him. But again, you know, what can you do? He was a killer. He loved to kill. And deep down I couldn’t help admire him for it.

When he was a kitten he grew very attached to a straw shopping bag a friend brought round to the house. So attached did he become that the friend brought the bag back the very next day, empty, as a gift for Pablo. We then developed this game, Pablo and I, wherein Pablo would climb into the bag and I would swing him backwards and forwards, causing him to grizzle with pleasure. That low slightly-spooky cat-growl that he’d do when I gave him cat-nip. The higher I swung him, the more he would grizzle, until eventually I was swinging the bag around the room in full circles. Then when I’d stop he would stagger out of the bag, still deep-purring but unable to walk in a straight line. This hilarious pastime came to an end one day in the back garden when the bottom of the bag came loose. Pablo flew out and away, high into the air in the direction of the house. He landed just above the kitchen window, where he remained, clinging to the brick work like a terrified drunken bat.

Then there was the time he wouldn’t stop shitting everywhere, a couple of months into our relationship, and I picked him up and shouted at him and threw him onto the ground like a bow tie I couldn't fasten, hurting him quite badly in the process. He squeaked in pain and when he righted himself he was limping quite badly. Immediately disgusted by what I’d done I went to comfort him, to apologise, and he hissed at me.

I never forgave myself for that. It made me question everything I thought I knew about myself. It made me wonder who I was and what I capable of. It made me question whether I was fit to have children. It made me go into counselling.

I have still never forgiven myself for that. And I think it’s important that I never do. But Pablo forgave me. And that made me love him more than I think I have ever loved anyone.

‘Let’s buy a house,’ said Keith. ‘Then we can get another cat.’

‘That seems a bit extreme,’ I said. ‘But maybe, yeah.’

Then, when it was properly dark and properly late and only cats and drunks were out roaming the streets, two drunks armed with a dead cat, a garden fork and a spade sashayed suspiciously over to Peckham Rye, heading for Blake’s Tree of Angels.

Now, I haven’t dug a hole since I attempted – as I imagine all children do - to tunnel my way to The Bowels of Hell aged five or ten. Turns out it’s bloody hard work. Despite Keith’s manly arms, it took us over an hour to get the hole deep enough so that we had no fear of it being dug up by dogs. And that was with the bare minimum of cannabonoid breaks.

To begin with, Keith – who sings the outdoors electric, frankly, and makes Ray Mears look like Margot Leadbetter – sliced up and removed a few squares of turf a couple of inches thick and put them to one side. Then, with our grave template in place, he unfurled a large sheet of tarpaulin, or, as I rather wittily insisted on calling it, Tom Paulin, and we got to digging in earnest by the light of the moon, Pablo already stationed above us in the branches of Blake’s Tree, angel feathers stuck to his cheeky chops.

When the hole was good and deep and the Tom Paulin piled high, I took Pablo’s body, blanket and all, gave him one final hug and kiss and placed him deep down inside the soft wet earth. Then I recited my poem:

Pablo, Pablo, burning bright, Bespangling all with purrfect light. Sleeping now where angels played, Your life has left me less afraid. And though your days of play are gone, The love you made lives on and on. Bespangling still my heart with light, Forever Pablo, burning bright.

Believe me, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

Then we covered him over with earth and earth and more earth and stamped down hard on top of him, which felt a bit wrong but Keith insisted it was necessary to make him safe, to seal him in there, in the heart of the planet. Then we replaced the grassy bits and stamped them down too. For minutes we stamped and stomped and chanted like weird warriors. 'His name was Pablo Cattermole,' we chanted. 'His name was Pablo Cattermole.' The leftover earth we tossed around and kicked about. Then we went home to sleep.

I checked the grave on Friday afternoon and it was fine. A damn good job in fact. You could barely notice it. I had decided that I didn’t want to mark it because, well because it isn’t necessary – I know where Pablo is; Pablo is in my heart. Also, marked graves are easily damaged. By sick, sick human beings.

Then on Saturday, in another stroke of brain-boggling coincidence, Keith and I met Fred, a 12-week old ginger tom owned by Rex and Rita, two Keith's friends. They live in Hampshire. They had invited Keith along for a barbecue. Keith invited me. I went along and met Fred.

Here, readers, meet Fred, and remember the words of Leonardo da Vinci: ‘The smallest feline is a masterpiece.’

There were quite a few humans at the gathering too, but I paid them very little heed, spending most of my Saturday with Fred.

Lots of people have suggested to me in the last few days that I should get a new kitten, and it’s easy to see why so many bereaved pet owners do immediately get involved with new animals. In fact, the only reason I’m not going to is because I can’t, because my pseudo-Chinese landlord won’t allow it.

I don’t think the procuring of a new kitten is an attempt to replace that cat so much as finding another avenue for that love that you still have inside you but which suddenly has no place to go. I suppose in that sense it’s a little like relationship rebound. But hopefully not as temporary.

Here’s another quote:

Another cat? Perhaps. For love there is also a season; its seeds must be resown. But a family cat is not replaceable like a worn-out coat or a set of tires. Each new kitten becomes its own cat, and none is repeated. I am four cats old, measuring out my life in friends that have succeeded but not replaced one another.’ - Irving Townsend

It upsets me that I cannot get a new cat at the moment, without incurring the wrath of the man-ferret Dudley, but so be it. The next house will have space.

And that’s it. I think I’m done for now.

Oh, except to say that at the weekend, Rex and Rita mentioned an article which had appeared in the Guardian a few weeks ago, about the death of a cat called Wilson. I’ve just searched it out and read it. It made me cry.

Rest in peace, Pablo.

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Monday, 9 June 2008


On Thursday night, feeling awfully sorry for myself, I typed the words ‘PABLO – BELOVED BLACK CAT – CASH REWARD OFFERED FOR HIS SAFE RETURN’ into a blank Word document. I added my phone number and a photograph of Pablo. Then I pressed ctrl and P, keyed in 20 copies and pressed ‘print’. As I picked up the first sheet to examine it, my mobile phone began to squeal.


It was Ron, next door neighbour in Herne Hill, owner of three discoloured teeth and one fabulously untended garden which was until recently Pablo’s favourite stomping ground and miniature jungle kingdom. I’d already talked to him about Pablo going missing post-move. He had kindly checked his garden and promised to keep his eyes peeled. So when I heard his voice, I was optimistic.

Ron explained that he was with a young man called Tony. Tony had been going door to door in the area asking if anyone owned a black cat. He’d eventually been pointed towards Ron’s building. When Ron said yes, his ex-neighbour was missing a black cat, Tony burst into tears.

‘I’ve got some bad news,’ Ron said. My heart sank and my stomach turned. He passed me over to Tony.

‘He just ran straight out in front of my car,’ Tony explained. ‘There was nothing I could do.’

Tony was a cat person. He felt terrible. I felt bad for him. But I felt sick for Pablo.

I drove back to my old house. I shook Tony’s hand. There was nothing he could do.

‘It’s OK,’ I told him. ‘It wasn’t your fault.’

‘I’ve got four cats,’ he said. ‘I know how it is. I’m so, so sorry.’

Tony showed me to his car. He’d placed Pablo in the boot. His car was a Skoda.

A fucking Skoda.

Pablo deserved better than that.

I was surprised by how light he seemed. At first I thought maybe he was lighter because the life had leaked out of his body; because the weight of his soul had departed. Then I realised he’d probably lost a bit of weight in the few days he was missing, roaming around Herne Hill wondering where his life had gone. A shock ran through me. Pity and anger and shame. I tried not to blame myself. I’m still trying not to blame myself. But I do blame myself. At least partially.

I’d never held a dead body before. I touched my mother’s face before they put her in the ground but I didn’t feel much.

I loved Pablo much more than I loved my mother. Probably because Pablo showed me much more love than my mother ever did. It was easy to love Pablo. It was impossible to love my mother. She made it impossible.

His body was still warm.

It had been a clean hit, thank God. He ran into the front wheel with a thud. None of his insides were outside - I don’t think I would’ve been able to face that – but there was blood on his face, already dried. I couldn’t tell where it had come from exactly. I closed his eyes, the way they do in films, with soldiers.

I wrapped him in his favourite blanket and placed him on the passenger seat of my car.

Stalled at the traffic lights near Dulwich Park, I looked down at the blanket and let out a low groan.

I missed Sally.


A couple of weeks ago, Sally and I ended up having quite a heated argument about her taking photos of me. ‘I really thought you’d be into it,’ she said.

‘Well, I’m not,’ I replied. ‘I’m really not.’

‘Well, why not?’ she wanted to know, and it pissed me off that she seemed to feel some sense of entitlement. Like I was some art project she had paid for with her body.

‘Because you make me feel like a freak show,’ I said.

‘But I think you’re beautiful,’ she said. ‘In your own way,’ she added.

I made a face. My face said, ‘Thanks for that. You certainly know how to make a person feel like shit.’ Then my mouth said it.

‘But I mean it!’ she cried.

‘I know you mean it!’ I cried back. ‘That really doesn’t help matters.’

‘But you don’t understand,’ she said, still digging a dirty great hole for our relationship. ‘For me you have a kind of anti-beauty that’s very attractive.’

‘Jesus, Sally. There’s no difference between that and morbid fascination. I am not an art project! I am a human being!’ I smiled but I was pissed off. ‘Seriously. You really do make me feel like a freak show.’

‘Well, you are a bit of a freak show,’ she said. ‘And that’s part of the attraction.’

I didn’t know how to react to this. I felt like Susan Sarandon in Thelma and Louise when she says, ‘Damn, Jimmy. What did you do, take some kinda pill that makes you say all the right stuff?’ Only in reverse. I just shook my head.

After which, things became rather strained between us, and as if by mutual, albeit tacit agreement, we began to see a little less of each other. Then we met up for a late dinner on Wednesday night, then back to mine. Everything seemed great. We laughed a lot and touched a lot and everything seemed easy again.

It’s amazing how quickly you can start feeling really optimistic again, no matter how wrong things might be underneath. If indeed they are wrong underneath. You never really know.

Or do you? Maybe you do. I don't.

At 4am I opened my eyes and Sally was sitting cross-legged, wide awake in the middle of my bed, her body twisted away from me. She had a little white vest on. She looked like a dream. My bedside lamp was on, blinding me. I squinted, shaded my eyes. ‘Are you OK?’ I asked. She turned off the light, lay down and pulled the sheet over her body. She said she was fine. Told me to go back to sleep.

I didn’t believe her. ‘What’s up?’ I said.

‘I had a bad dream,’ she said.

‘Poor baby,’ I said, snuggling up to her and experiencing a wave of tenderness. There’s a song by Counting Crows with the line, ‘And every tine she sneezes, I believe it’s love’. It was that kind of moment. Like she’d sneezed all over me. She turned her body away from mine and I positioned myself behind her. ‘What was it about?’ I asked. And just as I did, something fell from the bed to the floor. I jumped. Sally didn’t move, but her not moving was so precise, so deliberate, that it had more impact than if she’d jumped to her feet. ‘What was that?’ I said. I reached across Sally, turned on the light, angled it away from my face and sat up.

Sally continued not to move. ‘Nothing,’ she said. ‘Just my camera.’

I looked at her. She continued to face away from me but I sensed her eyes were open, waiting.

‘Were you taking pictures of me?’ I asked.

She turned to face me, looking furtive, guilty. Or not. I don’t know.

‘Don’t be ridiculous,’ she said. ‘God, you’re paranoid.’

‘Sally. Why were you sitting up in the middle of the night with your camera and a light shining onto my face?’

‘I told you, I had a bad dream. I couldn’t sleep.’

I shook my head. I did a lot of head-shaking with Sally.

‘What?’ she snapped. ‘I was awake and I was looking through photos on my camera.’ I stared at her. She stared back. ‘You’re being weird,’ she said. My mouth fell open.

‘Me?!’ I was aghast. ‘Let me see the camera then.’

‘You’re joking, right?’

‘You’ve showed me photos on your camera before. Show me again.’

‘So you don’t trust me?’

‘Sally. You look guilty. You look like you’re lying to me. And you must admit, it looks pretty suspicious.’

‘I’m not lying and I don’t care how it looks.’

‘So show me. What have you got to hide?”

‘This is ridiculous.’

‘I agree entirely,’ I said. ‘This is utterly ridiculous. You’re behaving like a child.’

‘Oh, fuck off.’

And with that, she got out of bed, pulled on her clothes, picked up her camera and left.

To my shame, I did a little pleading. ‘Please don’t go, Sally’ I said, and I sounded pathetic. I followed her downstairs, wanting to stop her, physically. I tugged at her elbow. She reacted like I’d stabbed at her with a cattle prod and glowered at me. I felt guilty.

She said she wasn’t going to stay where she wasn’t trusted. I said I did trust her. Honest.

She left.

When the front door closed, I came back to my bedroom and picked up my watch from the bedside table. It was a quarter to four. How was she going to get home? I got back into bed.

I picked up my phone. I put it down.

Then I picked it up again and started texting.

Then I shook my head, cancelled the message and threw my phone across the room.

I turned off the light.

I thought how she often flicked through the images on her camera and realised that her explanation was entirely plausible. Why the fuck would she want to take photographs of me anyway? She was right. I was entirely paranoid.

I thought about how I’d never met even got the chance to have her mum cure me of my heliophobia.

I thought how her eyes had flashed hatred when I grabbed at her arm, like she expected me to hit her, and she was daring me.

I thought how we didn't really know each other at all. I should never have touched her.

And now she was gone. With or without stolen snapshots. It didn’t matter. I felt stupid, like I’d fucked everything up.

I looked around the room, staring through the darkness.

I missed Pablo.

I placed the palms of my hands over my ears and pushed my fingernails into the scalp at the back of head until it really, really hurt.

Maybe he’d come back tomorrow.

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Friday, 6 June 2008

Feedback Friday :: Fuck It

bulk :: 16st (fuck it)
losses :: 2

Bad week.

Here’s to the future.

Have a good weekend.

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Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Out Of The Frying Pan, Into The Wok (No Racism Intended)

Generally, when the question ‘what are the most dastardly and pernicious professions in all the world?’ arises, people tend to answer either estate agents, or politicians, or the police, or marketing executives, or anyone in PR, or terrorists, or the director of Michael Winner films. And quite right too. These people are - to a man - evil. ‘Landlord’ however, seldom tends to make the list. Obviously this is definitely not because landlords are not evil, but probably because ‘landlord’ is not strictly speaking a profession. It’s just a pastime for monied Satanists. Like volunteering in the local abattoir, which is also something that all landlords do.

Really, what is it with them? I’ve met quite a few of them over the years and although I’m sure they must exist out there somewhere, I swear I’ve yet to actually meet a nice one.

Last week I had a bit of a run-in with Elsie, my landlady in Herne Hill. She came round to give the flat a final once-over on Wednesday. As far as I could see, it was in fine fettle, apart from a couple of frayed bits and pieces and a cracked window. She insisted however, that getting it back to the condition it was in before I moved in would cost her the full £1,150 of my deposit. I laughed. ‘How is that possible?’ I asked. ‘Explain to me where the money will go, please.’

She ran through the obvious, which would amount to a couple of hundred quid maximum, then she cited nicotine-stained fixtures and fittings. ‘The whole house will have to be redecorated and all of the furniture replaced,’ she said. How she kept a straight face I will never know.

But I am not the wilting wreck of a quivering cockstand I was when I moved in to her flat. Far from it. I’m much more confident these days and I care a great deal less what people think of me. In short, I can assert myself.

So I said to her: ‘Look, I’ll be honest with you. I actually think you’re trying to rip me off and I intend to do everything in my power to not let you get away with it.’ At which point she gasped quite melodramatically but I held up my hand and said, ‘Please let me finish’ – just like they do on Question Time! Then I said: ‘I’ve already taken legal advice and I’d like you to provide receipts for every item of furniture which you buy and every piece of cleaning or refurbishment you pay for. If you refuse to do any of this, I will have no hesitation in taking you to the small claims court. I’m sick and tired of being walked all over by people like you.’

Her expression, which had moved from impotent rage to shocked bewilderment, suddenly switched to righteous indignation. ‘What is that supposed to mean?’ she cried. ‘What is this “people like you”?’

Uh-oh, I thought. She’s going to play the race card. I hadn’t mentioned her ethnicity before for the simple reason that it was a million miles from relevant. Elsie is a landlady. She isn’t a black woman to me. She isn’t even a woman to me. She’s a landlady. A human chisel.

I stood my ground and told her what I meant. ‘Grasping…’ I began. I so wanted to use the word ‘fucks’, but I stopped myself. I was determined to retain the moral highground. ‘Liars,’ I said. ‘If I’m wrong, I apologise. Prove me wrong. If not, you owe me money, and I want it back.’

At which point she started screaming at me. ‘Are you calling me a liar? Are you calling me a liar?’

‘No, I'm not,’ I said, although I quite clearly had. ‘But I’m definitely suggesting it. I think it’s a distinct possibility.’

But she wasn't really listening. As she turned and left the flat, she carried on screaming, and waving her fists and pointing her fingers. ‘You go to hell!’ she shouted. And as she slammed the front door, a little bit of plaster fell from the surrounding wall. I shook my head. That was another hundred quid right there.

Half an hour later, her brother was hammering on the front door with a rather large fist. Thankfully it was his own fist.

Five minutes later, he left. I closed the door, counted out the £900 in £50 notes he’d begrudgingly handed over to me and I did a gloriously self-satisfied little dance.

It just goes to show, I thought. And it really does. All the comments I received a couple of weeks ago were absolutely spot on. You have to stand up to these grasping fucks. You have to stand your ground.

It was only afterwards that it occurred to me that I could have been wrong about Elsie wanting to play the race card and that my assumption that she was about to could in itself have been interpreted as racist. But then I thought, fuck it. Life's too short. And I know the truth. Some of my best friends are landlords.

Just kidding.


Then, earlier today – for the simple reason that Keith is a blithering, slack-jawed fuckwit who happened to mention that he was going to have a friend staying for a few months – I had to meet Dudley, my new landlord.

Dudley isn’t Chinese, but somehow he looks like he is. I’m not sure how. Maybe the eyes. Maybe the teeth. Maybe the curiously thin skin. No offence. He’s like a cross between a slightly more Chinese-looking version of Bob Mortimer’s Matthew Kelly from The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer, and Uncle Albert from Only Fools and Horses. Which is odd as he doesn’t even have a beard.

He does however, have an extremely annoying way about him. In fact he annoyed me so much in the ten minutes that I was talking to him that I can’t possibly speak of him any more at this moment in time. Except perhaps to say that one of the things that particularly annoyed me – apart from completely unnecessary mentions of ‘Pakistanis’ and the ‘half-caste girl’ upstairs - was that he made a point of saying, ‘I don’t allow pets either.’

‘Fair enough,’ I said. ‘I don’t have any pets.’

Depressingly, at this point in time, that may well be true.

Still no sign of Pablo.

I’m beginning to think moving in here was a horrible, horrible mistake.

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Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Feedback Friday Tuesday :: Upheaval, Distraction, Renewal of Vows

bulk :: 15st 13 (slowly but surely)
alcohol units imbibed :: 10ish (surprisingly few, considering)
cigarettes smoked :: 0
joints smoked :: a thousand
runs run :: 1
bets won :: 1
promises broken :: 1 (I’m very unhappy about it but I can’t start training for the marathon until a) the weather gets better, and b) my back gets better. I feel like bad about it, but there it is.)

Well, here I am in sunny Peckham where - thanks to Keith’s disturbed, effervescent rage and my own idiotic sense of pride – I have been disconnected from the internet for an entire week. In fact, today is my first day back online, and while it’s obviously a relief, I suddenly feel like I have a terrifying amount of work to do. It’s like I’ve been constipated for months and then all at once – with a slow creak and a hefty crack - I’m flowing like Enya’s Orinoco, close to drowning in my own backed-up effluent.


So, catch-up. On the whole – although not exactly what one might consider a move up in the world - the transition from Herne Hill to Peckham went fairly smoothly, albeit in some of the heaviest downpours this side of Noah’s Ark. I hired a van for the weekend so managed to get it done in four shifts. Or was it fifteen? I can’t remember, but it was all staggered over the bank holiday weekend and included a couple of trips to IKEA to stock up on still more beautifully designed but absolutely one hundred per cent completely unnecessary stuff.

One thing I realised when I was packing up to move was that I already have far too much stuff. I hoard. I can’t throw anything out, but both Keith and Sally did their best to make me feel bad about this, so I ended up acquiescing and chucking lots and lots and lots of stuff away. In the end, this actually felt rather good. It was like a spring clean. A spring clean of the soul. But then I went and spoilt it all by buying lots of rubbish from IKEA. I couldn’t help myself.

The most exhilarating part of the spring clean incidentally, was giving away lots of clothes that don’t really fit me any more. As I dumped them in a supermarket recycling bin, I felt ever so slightly like a snake must feel after shedding its own skin, except of course that when a snake sheds its skin, it grows larger. I felt like a snake in reverse. Like the Incredible Shrinking Man in fact. And not like a snake at all.

So anyway, by Monday evening, it was all done. I closed the front door, opened my extremely cramped bombsite bedroom window for Pablo to slink onto the stairwell and start exploring the back garden, and I slumped down in the living room, like a great big lump of sweaty lard. At which point Keith revealed that he had three surprises for me.

He said, ‘While you’re here, staying in my humble home, we are going to have fun. I’m going to make sure of that’, and then he produced the first surprise, which actually wasn’t so much of a surprise as he’d already warned me it was coming. It was a large bag of grass. I pulled a face. I was trying to convince myself that I didn’t want any more of that. But in truth I did want it. And I was grateful. Sorry, Sally. Sorry, Curly.

The second surprise was a brand new box of Wii, which I have to say, was a wonderful and glorious surprise. I’d only ever played once before and I loved it. I was very excited. In fact, surprises one and two very nearly made up for surprise number three.

‘I’ve killed the internet,’ said Keith.

‘Excuse me?’ I said.

‘It’s gone,’ he said, shaking his head. ‘It’s gone.’

Keith had an account with Virgin Media, but apparently: ‘…they were really, really shit. The TV was always going down and I seemed to be paying loads and loads more than I originally signed up for. Then every time I phoned them up, they annoyed the shit out of me, keeping me on hold for hours, making me pay for calls when it wasn’t my fault, refusing to phone me back and refusing to let me speak to anyone who was in any position of authority or even in the same continent, so in the end I just told them to fuck off.’


‘I don’t know. Last week sometime. I know that the person I told to fuck off was just some poor call centre bogey and it wasn’t their fault at all so I explained that hopefully this would be one of the calls that they were recording for training purposes and somebody else, somewhere down the line, could take the brunt of my ire.’

‘Did you actually use those words?’ I asked. ‘The brunt of my ire?’

‘I dunno,’ said Keith. ‘Might have. Anyway, I tried to go online a couple of hours ago and it was down. So I think that’s probably it. No more internet.’ He nodded sagely, as if it were a good thing. ‘So,’ he added. ‘Let’s bowl!’

I pointed out that I had very important proofreading work I had to get on with all week, work that would eventually enable me to pay Keith rent money.

Keith pointed out that I didn’t really need the internet for that. Surely all I needed was my laptop and my brain? I scowled.

I then pointed out that I needed to blog urgently, that I hadn’t even managed a Feedback Friday post this week, which was basically the only thing that ensured that I blogged at least once a week.

Keith pointed out that I had become addicted to the internet and that I should make an effort to participate more fully in the real world.

I pointed out that smoking grass and playing video games was not necessarily what a lot of people might consider ‘participating more fully in the real world’.

Keith pointed out that a lot of people needed to get with the programme.

I pointed out that using terms like ‘get with the programme’ was probably going to cause the two of us to fall out.

Keith pointed out that I should probably wake up and smell the coffee.

At which point we fell out.

Then Keith suggested that while we waited for a new ISP, this would be a good opportunity for me to test his theory that I am now officially addicted to the internet. As an added incentive, he then bet me £50 that I couldn’t stay off the internet for an entire week. Rashly, I shook his hand.

This morning there was £50 waiting for me on the kitchen table.

I have to say, it really amuses me that Keith genuinely seems to believe me when I say, ‘Honestly, Keith. Cross my heart and hope to die, ram a chisel in my thigh, I have not been checking emails on my phone.’ Which is not to say that I lied, for I did not. Or did I? No, of course I didn't. Or did I? No, no, no. But if I had of course, he would never know. He can be so childlike sometimes. And he still leaves his oven chips just lying there in the freezer.

Anyhow, I’m going to put my winnings toward buying a Wii Fit just as soon as they become available again. I really want to be told I’m fat by a machine. I’m sure it will inspire me. Like it did this guy. (I’ve just got off the phone to a man in HMV who explained to me that there is ‘a national shortage’ and they have no idea when they’ll be back in stock. And meanwhile the rain continues to fall and us chubbies are just getting fatter and fatter and fatter.)

Anyhow, today we have a new internet service provider and I am prepared to bet Keith £50 that they will be every bit as shit as Virgin were. If not shitter.

In other news, Pablo didn’t come home this morning. And Pablo hates the rain. I can’t help feeling something is horribly wrong. Usually he comes home in the middle of the night, bringing me the intestines of some rodent as a gift. Always he wakes me up some time around dawn seeking food. But not this morning. I am worried. If he’s not back in a couple of hours, I may have to attach signs to local lampposts.


Until tomorrow.


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