Thursday, 20 November 2008

Dear John...

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

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

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

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

Ah, John. John. What are you on?

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

Dear John

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bête de Jour

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

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

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


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

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Anonymous said...

Wilbur, as it is the name of my current cat.

Anonymous said...

i have a dog named Mr. Pickles. Prior dog (lost in the divorce) was Turbo. Before that? A mutt named Slightly and a sawed-off German Shephard named Rupert. Not after Mr. Murdoch, mind you...

no clever ideas for your 'cat in waiting' - but don't you need to meet the critter prior to naming it? at least know the gender? very happy that there is a kitten in your future....

~~Silk said...

Cat names:
A neighbor had a big male yellow tabby named Catfish. I thought that was perfect!

just-thinking said...

I've been lurking for awhile, haven't had much to say. But favorite cat names, hmm...

I've always said if I get a cat, it's going to be named either Felisha or Felix (depending on gender).

But I've known some interesting cats in my life who have equally interesting names (none of which were ever called Felisha or Felix.)

You said to pick a favorite name, so I won't muddy the waters and all the unique ones. ;)

Anonymous said...

Not that you'd want to call your cat this... but...

Fluffy Bum

[yes, really]

I met a cat called Fluffy Bum. He was very fluffy and fat, and horribly expensive (in every way imaginable). He could give the most disdainful looks when his name was called, and he had the word's most contemptuous snooty manner.

Even for a cat.

When he'd decided that all the cooing and loving attempts to attract his attention were beyond tolerance, and clearly no food was involved, he'd dash off out the cat door and into the garden. All we'd see would be this enormous fluffy backside making a run for it.

He was a prince amongst cats.

Anonymous said...

The best name for a cat that I have ever come across is Fartface. I nearly died laughing the first time I heard it. I'm laughing now.

Anonymous said...

A friend of mine in the States visited a bar named after a soldier (I think). Anyway, the bar is called "Lottie Moon's" and I think that would make the best name for a cat!
(This from someone who has 2 sister cats called "Squidge" and "Squirt" so maybe I'm not the best person to ask) ;o)

Rob said...

The best way to view thelondonpaper online is via the Safari browser, on the Macintosh.

This way, you get to see all of the photos, and all of the advertisements, but (bizarrely) precisely none of the article content whatsoever.

Large blank white pages with a few adverts and pictures around the edges.


ps: for some reason, I can't use OpenID here from Livejournal anymore. Perhaps they broke something in the move?

Roszs Bif said...

That was a letter rather than a column though, mebbe that's what confused them...

Ryan Lawson said...

'I spent the money on a coat' - classic.

Best name for a cat? Spider-Man.

Misssy M said...

My favourites are my own cats' names: Harley-boy, Libby and Lulu. We did once have a magnificent ginger tom called MacPherson, and my dad called his cat Lech after the great Pole.

My husband has always lobbied for "Claude", but I think the joke would wear thin quickly.

No matter what a cat's name should never be silly- real names, that's what the cats want. No Tibbles or Fluffies or any of that nonsense.

So, have you got one yet then?

lena said...

Sigmund. After Freud.

Anonymous said...

Bonjour La Bête,
How about Vermin ?
OK, I admit I am not a cat lover.
Uncle Did

Bittersweet said...


(she was such a cute little cat)

does a blog maketh the man? i don't think so.

Clare Sudders said...

Great piece, might have had too much personality for The london Paper though. Commiserations (if indeed you did fail - see below), but really they don't deserve you.

Two pieces of advice about getting in print. One of which applies to newspapers and magazines etc, one of which implies to publishing in general:

1. It's an incredibly common error, which I have made myself, to read a publication and think to yourself, "Poor sods, they just can't get the talent. Their content is so poor I'll cheer them up by writing something utterly brilliant for them, much better than the dross they normally publish."
What that reaction doesn't allow for is that if you are reading their publication, they have had a modicum of success. They know how to get in print, they know who their audience are, they know what they want to publish. No matter how rubbish it may appear to you, they have chosen that content. They like it. If you want them to publish you, you need to suss out their house style and preferences, and imitate it. As soon as you try and improve on it, you just remove yourself from their interest. They like it like that. And if the thought of stooping to their level makes you sick, then you are clearly submitting to the wrong publication. You're better off finding something you enjoy reading, with content you can reproduce, and submit something to them.

2. Editors and agents are stupidly busy, ridiculously badly resourced, and as a consequence, really really really slow. "A few weeks and no response" can in no way be assumed to be a rejection. The editor of my first novel rang me up to say she wanted to publish me ten months after I sent her my first three chapters. With silence inbetween. I recently got an email from a Guardian editor one year after I submitted a piece (with silence between), saying she was still interested. My second book got a publishing deal (in Germany) seven months after my agent started sending it about, and it's still being touted around UK publishers. I may yet get a UK deal, which would be 13 months and counting after it was first shown to people.

Don't be impatient. Don't assume failure. As a general rule of thumb, give them six weeks, then send a gentle, prodding, polite and brief letter / email of enquiry. It was as the result of one of these that I got my one-year-later response from the Guardian editor.

But even more importantly, submit to people you respect, whose content you like, and never put all your chickens in one basket. Keep writing, keep submitting, have as many projects on the go as you can handle, and then you (a) increase your chances of success, and (b) don't spend all your time waiting for one response, which may never come and if it does may take months or years.

Clare Sudders said...

P.S. Cats. A friend's cat was called Eekamouse, I quite liked that. Rover is another goodish name. My ex-cat was called Bagpuss, current ones are called Abbey and Crunch, after an old-fashioned biscuit. Long story. Not particularly great names though, they just kind of happened.

Semele said...

Monty or Boris for a boy, Hecate or Clio for a girl.

Michael said...

Catticus Finch

Catofstripes said...

A friend had a cat called Prute which I thought was awfully clever.

I like to see the animal before naming though, which how my daughter avoided being called Lettice, a great name but entirely inappropriate for her.

Anonymous said...

I had a friend who named her cat after Freud. And a neigbour who named his black female dog Nigga Bitch.

Maria in Oregon

Stuart said...

Stevens from accounts.

Anonymous said...

I had a friend who called his kitten 'snatch'. (yes well pre-movie) - made for some good times when calling her in for dinner.

Lilith said...

Well, the name it depends on its gender.. I like Tolstoi for a he (Leon Tolstoi is one of my favourite Russian writers), and Frida for a she (I love Frida Khalo ever since I got to learn and read about her: I guess I can relate to her so much because all the suffering she went thru in her life is similar in some way to mine, at least the medical and emotional pain).

By the way, do you know blue russian cats?
They are sooo cute!
I used to have one which one day appeared on my garden and stayed at my house for three years.
He was so smart... sometimes he only have needed to be able to speak to be like a human.
Then, one day, he dissapeared and I never saw him again.
It broke my heart.

I wished I could have a cat but the house I live in isnt of my property so I cant have a cat :(

And about your post from today: I totally prefer a man who can articulate a conversation rather than a non-brained one... I guess thats why I have a kind of platonic crush on you LOL

Anyway, keep yourself well.

Un beso.

Selena said...

@ Claire Sudders- Eek-a-mouse, as in the Reggae Singer? Wa-Do-Dem... or as in the sound that people see when they see a mouse?

Either way, it'd be really fun to say. :-)


I like:
Heathcliff or Mr.Tibbs

Like I said before, I don't know why.

Clare Sudders said...

I am confused by the reggae reference... or rather... eh??

I always assumed it was the sound you say when you see a mouse, but it weren't my cat so I couldn't say for sure...

curlywurly said...

Ooh, you could go all post-modern ironic and call your pussy Fido or Fang or Rover.

OR, some very ordinary names like Daniel or Isobel suddenly become very amusing when they're a CAT'S name. Imagine calling your cat Sarah. That is funny.

My mum used to call our cat Trex, as in cooking fat, then a do a spoonerism. She is also very funny (my mum, not our cat).

OR maybe, maybe you should call your cat something really, really posh like Tarquin or Georgiana. That would also be cool. Felicia. Egbert!

Or you could call it Mouse or Jimmy or Stinker or Puddles or Marmalade or Bumface.

Did I win?

curlywurly said...

Oh NO. "Just-thinking" already suggested Felicia. They can't spell, though - do I still win?

Say I did, do.

Sharon said...


Sometime back last year I also tried submitting various 400 word pieces to the London Paper, at least two of which I though were scintillatingly witty and much more amusing than their normal dross but mine also ended up on the spike, so commiserations as I know the feeling!

Even worse when you continue to read the freebie rag on the tube for the next few days and the 400 words of dross that they *have* chosen to publish instead of your submission is incredibly boring!


I'm leaving this comment here on Bete's blog in the *hope* that you happen to read Bete's comments -- I have deleted my own blog due to "personal" reasons.

It was a tough decision, whilst I am quite happy about the lack of commitment time-wise now to my (ex) blog and not having to bother with approving / moderating comments all the time, I have had a few twinges of regret at having lost 1000s of online words.

Being a rash person I had not actually saved any of my blog entries anywhere else before pressing "delete blog" on Monday evening, but a kindly reader thinks they may have recovered most of it for me and may be assisting me to at least store some of it as documents.

AndrewM -- I thank you for being one of the non-blogging readers who read my blog for nearly 6 months and offered me lots of support and encouragement. Unfortunately personal blog wars with someone else led me to kill my blog before the other blogger effectively killed me (in cyberspace).

This does not alter my commitment to lose weight -- that continues apace even if the tosser who caused me to kill my blog probably thinks I have turned to the cookies and cream by now, I have not !!! (Pah! Living well is the best revenge!)

Best wishes -- both to Bete and AndrewM,

(formerly "goodbyetoallfat" / Sharon's Lighter Life)

LaLa said...

Rupert's a wrinkly old disgrace.

My favourite cat name is Bruce.

zoe said...

Quincy. That's my cat now. Although Pissy was quite a good one, and Mouldy (short for Mulbury) worked quite well. My mother had Pussy Willow and Pussy Galore. My friend had curtains, because she went out to buy curtains and came back with a kitten

La Bête said...

Yeah, no, the thing with the cat - obviously you have to wait to meet a cat before you can decide what to call it. I was just interested in what names people might come up with. I like names. You can never have too many spares.

Thanks for your advice, Sudders. I think I'd realised the first through all this londonpaper malarkey. As for the second, I think my natural impatience is going to pretty hard to shake. But I'll try. Hold on. Nope. Didn't work.

Nick Tann said...

I commented on thelondonpaper, just had to.
My cat is called Tom, un original I know but works for me.
Next cat will be called Brian....

True Lateral said...

Actual cat names - a friend had a cat called Schrodinger (shortened to Schrodes). I had a Mr Kitsworth (shortened to Kitty).

The best ever cat we had was a black-and-white one called Merkin. If I mentioned the name, I could tell instantly who had heard of them before and who had not.

harlowe said...

miss kitty fantastico if I wanted a ridiculously strange name or something old fashioned like Percy or Mildred,if I had a cat but my parents never let me have one, its dogsville all the way!

@ Sharon, I'm sorry to hear about your blog, I was frequent reader (although never commented) good luck with your weightless journey, sad that we can't see your progress but best wishes for the future.

Alright Tit said...


Hiraeth said...

Was going to say Schrödinger, but that's been done. Fuss (pronounced to rhyme with Puss) was a good one: belonged to a Dutch/Arabic couple. Meant foot in one language and fart in the other: both quite apt.

Anonymous said...

My ma had two (lady) cats called Wayne and Geoff.

I couldn't believe the gushing sympathetic response to 'John's' column. And seemingly mostly from women! Also, I'm not a very good feminist at the best of times, but it did annoy me that not a single person said, "Erm, did you check she wasn't a trafficked Uzbekistanian? Isn't prostitution not always morally fine?".

Clearly your offering was less important than Emma from Bromley talking about how she's worried she doesn't get pissed as much as she used to.

I'd have voted MORE though, in my head.


Amy said...

I've been planning to have a kitten when I grow up ever since I was a little child. I decided to call her Petranella at age ten or eleven and I still think it is the perfect name (although, I do worry that I'm nearly 24 and am not yet grown up enough to have a kitten. Sigh.)

Also a girl I know - wait, who am I kidding? A girl I read about on the internet - has a dog called Birthday. I think it'd be better for a cat though. Petranella and Birthday. When I grow up, I'd better get two.

I loved your Dear John (well, not in the traditional sense) letter. You are a more, not a bore.

La Bête said...

What irks me is that even if they get 100% 'more', you never, ever see them again.

Actually, no. That's a good thing.

Sherylificus said...

I imagine it is much too late now, but I'd say George is an excellent name for a cat. As in, George, the curious little monkey.

We were going to call a Yorkshire Terrier George, but he came pre-named, so now we have a dog named Ozzy. It was supposed to be Ozzy, prince of darkness, but we call him Ozymandias or Oswald or Ozbert or Fozzie or Fozzlebert. Among other things.