Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Seconds Out :: Year Two

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hmmm. That may take some time.

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

New Year’s Resolutions :: 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then I’d be happy.

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

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

See you next week.


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

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Sunday, 28 December 2008

Christmas Feedback :: Oiling The Festive Perineum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Wednesday, 24 December 2008

What Uncle Did Next

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

And that’s that.

It’s Christmas!

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

Have fun, everyone.

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Monday, 22 December 2008

Christmas Present :: Bye, Humbug!

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Whatever it is, I really hope you get it.

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Friday, 19 December 2008

Feedback Friday :: Life Is Other People

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you up to this weekend? Anything nice?


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Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Rage, Rage

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

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

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

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

It isn’t right.

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

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

It's like, how long can it last?

How many times can a coin turn up heads?

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

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

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

And it doesn’t stop there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like a shadow.

Creeping. Encroaching. Imminent.

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

Maybe that’s what it comes down to.

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

But of course it will. Just like Life.

Aaaah, Death.

It’s absolutely everywhere. Just like Life.

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

Just like Life.

They have a lot in common.

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

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

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

I like that.

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


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Monday, 15 December 2008

One Year On :: Happy Anniversary

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

Piece of cake.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway, enough from me.

aka suburbanhen

My reply began:

‘Hello Diana

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

And ended with:

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

Anyway, we shall see.’

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

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

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

In the same house.

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

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

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

But these are no ordinary times.

Second big news item coming up… Drum roll…

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

I’ve got a book deal.


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


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

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

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

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

Thank you, the internet.

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

Two more things worth noting:

1) Yesterday was my birthday. I am 31.

2) This is my 200th post.

Life - for the moment at least - is sweet.

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Friday, 12 December 2008

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

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

Dead blog! Dead blog!

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

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

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

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

Come back on Monday. It’ll be lovely.

And have a good weekend yourself.

I kiss your face.

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Friday, 5 December 2008

Friday Feedback :: Looking Forward

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

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

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

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

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

Me: [gesturing] Excuse me. Cheers.

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

Me: I was looking at the DVDs.

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

Me: Are you alright?

Him: I was until I saw you.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Wednesday, 3 December 2008

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

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

How I wish I was joking.

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

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

But then it all went wrong.

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

‘Careful, Stan,’ said Morag.

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

‘More!’ he cried.

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

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

Oh, God. I just shouted out again.

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

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

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

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

I still can’t believe it.

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

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

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

Let the paranoia commence.

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


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

On reflection, this seems quite personal.

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

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

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

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

Oh, also, I’m getting a cold.

Stupid life.

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


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