Thursday, 29 January 2009

Shut Up and Feel Good

When times are bad and money is tight and day-to-day life positively sweats anxiety and wrath, ‘feelgood articles’ contrive to appear in a host of crappy rags and mags. Up they pop like tired, moth-eaten meercats, all sloppy jollity and yesterday’s smiles. ‘Reasons To Be Cheerful!’ they might be called. Or ‘Things To Make You Go Aaaah, Life’s Not So Bad!’ This list – if it’s particularly slapdash - might include such jewels of positive thinking as ‘go to a museum’, ‘listen to music’ or ‘loiter in the park staring at children’ (thanks to The Daily Mail for those doozies.)

The problem - apart from the fact that it’s difficult to trot out a bunch of sickly clichés without sounding like a wet, witless Christian - is that happiness is often surprisingly subjective, and one man’s haggis may very well be another man’s heroin. And vice versa.

Suddenly however, my life is sweating. Just a bit, mind, like a meatball in a bathing cap. Most probably perfectly healthy. Even so, in an attempt to invoke the spirit of Pollyanna, I feel the need to fall in line, to accentuate the positive, to count my blessings and celebrate the joyous bounty of our godless existence. Having said that, I must confess, I don’t have a fucking clue what makes you happy, and so I present:

Reasons To Be Cheerful (For Me. Just Me. You Get Your Own Bastard Reasons.)

I’m glad I haven’t got a tumour growing in me, scaring me senseless and eating me away. I’m glad I had my balls checked out and everything seems to be OK. I’m glad a throat like a bomb in a pram is the worst of my physical concerns. I’m glad I’m looking out upon a garden and the sun is shining and every once in a while a nice pair of tits pop out and cheekily peck at me nuts. (They’re not actually tits, they’re finches, but I just couldn’t resist. I’m glad I couldn’t resist!) I’m glad the foxes who hang around here in the middle of the night are having such an unignorably exciting time of it. I’m glad I’ve got a piece of chicken and some cous-cous in the fridge. I’m glad I pronounce cous-cous cuss-cuss. Motherfucking cuss-cuss. I’m glad I’ve been up at 6am every day this week and worked hard on the book all day. I’m glad it’s giving me so much pleasure. I’m glad the slow, steady death of this basil plant is not my fault. I’m glad John Updike lived so long and so well. I’m glad Lily Allen exists, duff telly aside. I’m glad that when I trip over Morag’s shoes and bags and light upon her clothing around the house, my reaction is still one of giddy delight. I’m glad there’ll be more Burns Nights. I’m glad I didn’t think this was real. Nope. Not for a second. And I’m glad the grumbling pain in my stomach appears to be nothing atrociously serious (faecal feedback pending).

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah. That feels better.

Of course it’ll be better still if you follow me.

Everything’s all about the followers these days. Followers are the new friends. It’s like suddenly the whole of the internet’s got a Messiah Complex. I know I have, but I think mine’s more of a Porn Messiah Complex. Yes, I want everyone to get down on their knees and worship me, but I insist that they fellate me ostentatiously while they’re down there.

When I first saw the Blogger ‘Followers’ add-on thing, I pooh-poohed it. Now they’re all over the place and some people have thousands of them. I want some. I feel the dismal crush of petty envy. I seek validation.

Please validate me.

It’s up there on the right. At the time of writing, I only have 26 followers. Pitiful. Even John Beyer has more than that.


Now you. What are you glad about on this sunny winter’s day?

Share on Facebook! Digg this

Monday, 26 January 2009

Random Memorandum :: Unintelligible Sailing

I’m not complaining. Life is good and there is more now than there ever has been for which to feel thankful. And I am thankful. But people are complex, often inexplicable creatures. And it isn’t easy being one.

That’s all I’m saying.

Right. Feedback.

bulk :: 15st 7
booze :: some
films :: 2
jazz cigarettes :: some
days till next fresh start :: 7
days till book deadline :: 34
panic threat level :: low
unpleasant change threat level :: moderate

In other news…

…the kitten is on hold but there is a new basil plant in the kitchen. Sadly, he is already on the wane. Is it actually possible to keep a basil plant alive? Is it? Because I don’t know how.

…I was pestered on Twitter by a chap who’s just started a blog about his failed attempts at becoming a chef. ‘I shook the TV chef’s hand and began blurting out a load of nonsense. He took a step back, staring into the eyes of a madman. “I’ve always been into cooking, and well…I love cooking fish…in fact, it’s my favourite…and I just wanted to pick your brains about being…well, about being a chef.”….’ This is from the first post when he blags a week at Rick Stein’s kitchen as a lowly galley slave. It's called Chef Sandwich and it looks like it might be fun.

…Burns Night celebrations went slightly awry as changes of plans meant I ended up spending it alone at the cinema. But at least I got to feel increasingly depressed watching a film about terrorism.

And that’s probably enough feedback for now I think. Please excuse the slackness of this blog of late. I swear I’m not neglecting it. In fact, I’ve got something very exciting planned for Valentine’s Day. I hope you’ll be proud of me.

Hope all is good with all of you. Is it? Tell me everything.

Share on Facebook! Digg this

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Ugly Stuff No One Really Wants To Know

It was twelve days ago when I first pooped onto a piece of toilet paper, scooped a tiny piece of that poop onto a faecal sample stick and then popped and sealed it inside a small plastic tube. Then I put the tube in my bag and went to hospital. I headed for the testicle screening room first to make an appointment. But when I was told that I didn’t have to make an appointment, that I could just turn up any day before 9.30, I thought to hell with it, I'll come back on Monday morning, get my balls screened, my blood tested and hand in my poop at the same time.

But I didn’t do that because I was sidetracked and slightly lazy. Instead I didn’t return until yesterday, so basically, I walked around with a piece of my own poop in my bag for twelve days.

Morag found this to be the height of vileness. She was properly disgusted.

It was in a tube though. No biggy.

At the weekend Morag and I went to the wildlife photography exhibition at the National History Museum, where there is a bag search before entry. I opened my bag. The security guard performed a perfunctory check and was about to let me pass when the tube caught his eye. I don’t know what he thought it was but he lifted it slowly out of the bag.

‘It’s faecal matter,’ I said.

He placed it back in my bag.

We went in.

The wildlife photography exhibition is fantastic by the way. This one is my favourite.

So yesterday I went back to the hospital and a young lady moved what is apparently called a transducer over my testicles. Before she did this however, she covered the smooth head of the transducer in warm gel. Once the nurse gets going with the transducer, the effect upon the surface of the scrotum is a very pleasant one. In fact, you can quite easily convince yourself that that is not in fact a transducer floating wetly over your nether regions, but the warm wet tongue of a beautiful woman. This however, under the circumstances, is highly inadvisable, as genital engorgement at this point would just be embarrassing. Believe me.

Another good thing about the scrotal ultrasound is that you get your results immediately. This is particularly good if your results are negative, as mine were. Chatting to the nurse at the end, I asked her if she thought the pain could therefore be stress-related. She half-shrugged. She didn’t really know about stress. She knew about blood flow and epididymitis, the physical stuff. ‘Yeah, I guess,’ I said. ‘I suppose the psychological stuff is a whole different ball game.’

Unfortunately, I kind of mumbled this because we were both speaking at the same time, and the nurse didn’t hear. When I realised I’d inadvertently made a wonderful pun and that it had been wasted, I came really close to saying it again, but then I thought, no. That would be sad. I’d just blog it instead.

Ball game!

I also handed in my poop piece – although I had replaced the 12-day old sample with a fresh sample, you’ll be pleased to hear.

I didn’t get my blood test however, because there were too many people waiting and I had to rush across town to keep a dental appointment.

My dentist is very chipper. Almost annoyingly so. He happily explained that it would cost me around £350 to have the tooth that broke refilled and the rest cleaned. He was overjoyed.

Treatment starts next week.

That's it. No more grossness for a while.

But the upshots so far are good. No testicle tumours, no hideous unforeseen and hugely painful tooth furies.

So far, so good.

Fingers crossed.

We can get through this.

By the way, if you are male and you feel you might have a problem with your testicles (or let’s face it, even if you don’t), I recommend you pop along to your GP and hook yourself up with an ultrasound examination. It really does feel like a tongue.

Share on Facebook! Digg this

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Tune Tuesday :: Tim Minchin

Morag and I just had an argument about this song. Listen to it with a loved one. Maybe you can have an argument about it too!

Or maybe you’re bigger than that.

We didn’t argue about this one however. Sally and I would have. But Morag and I didn’t. Life is funny.

I’ve not seen much of Minchin before. He has a brilliant way with the old words.

Ah, the internet. You are marvellous sometimes.


In other news, I finally managed to get that faecal sample out of my bag and into the right hands, rotten banana stains and all. And I found out today that I do not have tumours in my testicles, no, nor varicose veins neither. Nor varicose veins neither.

Ooh, look! Speaking of words, I've just found Under Milk Wood, free for all to hear. If you like words, and you've never heard it, I recommend you find an hour, stick on a pair of headphones and close your eyes.

Pleasant day to you. Hope you're enjoying the Obamarama.

Share on Facebook! Digg this

Monday, 19 January 2009

Feedback Friday :: Oops! Where Did the Weekend Go?

bulk :: 15st 8 (oh God. Reserves of discipline being dredged as we speak, I swear. Or actually, I’m currently thinking of starting up again on January 31st. That’s my favourite date. Classic date for fresh starts. I won’t be going to Fitness First though. No, Sir. I popped into one round my way for a looksee, and it reminded me of stories I’ve heard about some offices in China, just rows and rows and rows of people all doing exactly the same thing, cramped and unsmiling. They had some excellent facilities, I’ll give them that, but there was just something creepy about it. I didn’t like the amount of information I had to give either. I am not a Number! I am a Free Man!)
booze units :: quite a few to be honest. I’ve discovered whisky. It’s nice.
leaves left on the poinsettia :: 67
word count :: 137,627 (next step is to get rid of half of those words, rearrange those remaining and then find some more new ones to add to the mix)
silly accents in my head as I read :: 7
films watched :: 3

Good morning to you. How are you feeling this morning? I know, I know, there’s another cold snap coming, you can feel it in your wrists. But what can you do? Into every Summer a little Winter must fall.

So, I do hope you’re well, I feel like I haven’t seen you in ages. Did you have a good weekend? Merely OK? Come, come, what did you get up to?

I usually see you on a Friday, of course, but I’ve been busy as a bee, writing away like a bonnie wee rascal, writing away like a wordy fuck. And after a shaky start I’ve really got into it. I’ve located the balls of the thing and I’m giving them a good old squeeze. Time though, eh? There really aren’t enough hours in the day.

So, let me tell you a thing or two of what I’ve been up to since last we chatted.

I went to the optician for a free eye test. Cost me a bloody fortune. And while I was in there - SpecSavers it was - an old lady came to the counter after me and said to the young woman behind it, she said: ‘Will you clean my glasses, please?’ Then she took her glasses off and handed them to the young woman.

The young woman was twenty-one, twenty-two maybe, blonde and pleasant and ordinary. The old lady was in her sixties, and seemed quite mad. She had no care, no sense of convention, she did not conform.

The young woman examined the glasses, and said, ‘These are not SpecSavers glasses.’

The old lady, moving slowly from side to side and blinking, said. ‘Yeh, will you clean them, please?’ She spoke quickly and with nasal clarity.

The young woman was in a corner. She didn’t want to be rude, but there were other people waiting, with requests she was paid to consider more important. ‘OK,’ she said. ‘Will you take a seat, please.’

The old lady shuffled to a nearby seat and sat waiting patiently.

The young woman dealt with a couple more customers and when the rush died down, she cleaned the old lady’s glasses and returned them to her.

The old lady took them from her, stood up and shuffled quickly and silently out of the shop.

Not so much as a by your leave. Milady.

The young woman shook her head in disbelief. If they have Candid Camera in her country, she was probably very briefly entertaining the idea that she was being set up for the hilarity of the feeble-minded and housebound.

I asked her if that had ever happened before. She said it had not. We agreed it was strange.

When I got home I loaded up the car with dirty dishes and high-tailed it to IKEA.

And ehhh… So what else?

Well, I went into London on the tube this week and I was using prepay. I made a bit of an arse of things and lost some money doing a stupid thing with my card. A tube station employee saw me standing there like a disappointed moron and asked if everything was OK. Then, when I explained, he proceeded to help me get a refund from the guy at the window with such an extraordinarily friendly manner that I was quite taken aback. He did his job perfectly. It really stood out in this city where good service is becoming a forgotten art. I know I’m sounding like a frightful reactionary, but dash it all, you know it’s true. But this guy was great. I would have tipped this guy if he’d worked in an industry that was deemed tippable. As it was, I merely thanked him repeatedly and made it quite clear that he’d made my day.

We’re meeting for dinner on Wednesday.

And ehhh… So, Morag bought me many wonderful things for Christmas. We had a great time by the way, both here and in Scotland. One day I think I’d like to talk about it all. There was fun and there were feelings. It was really quite something. Anyway, one of the things she got me was a voucher for a man-pampering centre. This is because I’ve always said, one day, when I can afford it, I’d love to have sit-down with a chiropodist. So just as soon as I can grab an afternoon, I’m going to get my feet scraped. And maybe a nice facial.

And ehhh... Ooh, also this week I’ve got another round of medical things coming up, including eyes, ears and balls check. Wish me luck, you old devil, you.


leaves left on the poinsettia :: 65

So tell me, how’s your Monday shaping up? Tell me everything.

I'm off to bed.

Share on Facebook! Digg this

Thursday, 15 January 2009

The Dead Blog Amnesty :: An Open Letter to Blogger

Dear People of Blogger

A few years ago, I decided to start a blog. I had a novel that I wanted to write and I figured that if I had a blog, I’d be able to pin myself down to a chapter every two or three days and within six months, I’d have my first novel in the bag.

My book was going to be about an ugly man who – somehow – woke up one morning to find that he was irresistible to women. The blog on which it was to be based would simply be called Irresistible. It was perfect.

So I switched on the internet and went to the Blogger sign-up page. Unfortunately, Irresistible had already been taken.

Of course, I could have then turned to Wordpress or LiveJournal or one of the many other free blogging platforms, but I didn’t. Rather, I cursed the owner of the title I wanted and I ditched the whole idea. Which in retrospect is a shame, because if I’d kept up with it, I might now be lounging, tan and strong, poolside in Malibu, sipping margaritas with Charlie Kaufman and Audrey Tautou.

And you know it wouldn’t have been so bad if the person who’d stolen my career had actually done something with Irresistible. But instead, they just let the weeds have it.

The tragedy of course, is that this kind of thing happens all the time. And it can be very frustrating.

As I’m sure you’re aware, finding the right name for your blog is very important, and very likely something every blogger agonises over. If you’ve ever named a child before, you’ll maybe understand just how important it is to get it right. I personally have never named a child – not officially at least – but I have named a couple of cats and let me tell you, it’s a tough old job.

Young bands also, at that tentative christening period, must feel something similar. Of course, with a band, as with a blog (not so much with a child), you can always ditch it if it doesn’t work out and start again… but to get it right for first time. That’s when you’re golden.

And when it happens, when you hit upon the name that’s right for you, and right for the thing you’re naming, you know. You feel it. It’s like falling in love. It chimes with your core. You roll it around your gums and imagine your enemies jealous, kicking themselves that their blog is such a self-regarding bag of bumbling and mumbleweeds; and you imagine your pals smiling and saying, ‘Oh, that’s good’, or ‘That’s so Sam'.

Let us imagine a typical example. Maybe you’re an annoyingly over-zealous Withnail fan and you’re also a budding poet. A chilling combination. The blog you ache to start, populated with your poems and occasional love letters to Bruce Robinson can only have one possible title.

It’s from the scene in which Monty and Marwood meet for the first time, and Monty asks Marwood if he writes poetry.

‘Oh, no,’ says Marwood, ‘I wish I could. It’s just thoughts really.’

There it is. Your blog name. There can be no other.

Unfortunately, Just Thoughts Really has gone. And it’s not a pretty site.

Sadly, examples of such blog atrocities are seemingly infinite. Think of almost any potential title for any kind of blog and check to see if the blogspot domain is free. The chances are it won’t be. Furthermore, the chances are, the domain will be an unweeded garden, grown to seed.

Let’s say for example, you want to start a Shakespeare fan blog. Where shall we start? Um, what about To Be Or Not To Be? Nope, that’s taken I’m afraid, and tarnished. OK, what about To Blog Or Not To Blog? Nope, nor that one neither. Nor that one neither. So, let’s try just Hamlet? Nope, sorry, taken by the aptly-named Procrastinator. I Am Not Prince Hamlet? Nope. Alas, Poor Yorick? Nope. OK, what about just Shakespeare? Taken and, frankly, violated. Shakespeare Blog? Nope. I Love Shakespeare? Nope.

OK, balls to Shakespeare. What if your tastes are in the cultural gutter? Well, sadly, both Sex and the City and Mamma Mia have been snapped up and abandoned.

But hold on a minute. These aren’t the kind of names that people generally hit upon for their blogs. Let’s try and think of some more likely blog names.

OK here’s a list, off the top of my head, and - surprise, surprise - they’ve all of them gone, and they're all of them dead.

My So-Called Life. Me and My Life. Days of My Life. My Big Fat Geek Life. The New Me. Man of Many Hats. Excess Baggage. The Sound of My Own Voice. Where the Wild Things Are. Time Please. All You Need Is Love. Love Is All You Need. Love and Death. Making A Killing. English Psycho. Lol. Port In A Storm. Sex. Drugs. Rock and Roll. Sex and Drugs. Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll.


I’m beginning to wonder, of all the blogs that have ever been activated, how many are actually or have ever been used?

If the internet was the real world, you wouldn't be able to move for dead blogs. All life on the planet would be snuffed out, suffocated by the tiny corpses of aborted Blogger foetuses.

It's a bit depressing, frankly.

Setting up a blog should come with some sense of responsibility, and if the blogger is not prepared to take that responsibility, then it must be left to the service provider.

Therefore, in my most humble opinion, you, the people of Blogger, should do something up about it. Firstly, you should send an email to all Blogger clients who have posted on no more than three occasions and who have not touched their blogs for over a year, and you should ask them if they wish to continue using their blog. If they don’t reply, you should write again, just to make sure. Then if they still have not replied, their blogs should be deleted and their domains once more made available for public use.

Then, maybe on a specially designated day, you could make a big deal about how from this moment on, another 500,000 Blogger domains are available, waiting to be snapped up.

Not only could you make a huge amount of positive PR out of it – ‘We’re Tidying Up The Internet!’ - but also, by freeing up your dormant domain names at once, it would greatly improve the experience of using your product, especially from the point of view of the beginner blogger.

Also, you could even say it was good for the environment. You’d be recycling all the dead domains. Hey, maybe it is!

So could you do that, please?

Oh, and please check on this chap. I’m worried about him.

Thank you.


Share on Facebook! Digg this

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Microsoft Does Cool - Watch With Bucket

Just the other day I was saying how much I hate Microsoft’s ‘I’m a PC’ advertising campaign. From the very beginning it was just bad and embarrassing. It stole an idea from the Mac campaign and then ran backwards with it. And what on earth was it supposed to mean anyway? ‘I’m a PC and I wear glasses… I’m a PC and I study the law.’ What? What did it have to do with anything? It could just as easily have been ‘I’m a PC and I juggle kittens… I’m a PC and I drink my own urine.’ And what does ‘I’m a PC’ mean anyway? I’m not a PC. I’m not a Mac. I’m a human being!

Calm, calm, calm.

Anyway, I’ve just found out via Twitter, that in terms of bad and embarrassing, that was nothing.

This is bad and embarrassing.

See if you can watch the whole thing without sicking up your entire nervous system.

And another thing... how come he's never heard his daughter sing before? She's about 10. What kind of fucked-up dysfunctional family are they?

Share on Facebook! Digg this

Friday, 9 January 2009

Feedback Friday :: Working From Home

bulk :: 15st 8 (damn you, Christmas chocolate!)
exercise :: 0 (joining new gym next week though, I swear)
glasses of wine :: 6
cases of wine :: 0
cohabitation disputes :: 3
kittens :: 0
senses working overtime :: one, two, three, four…. Four.
Twitter updates :: 111

So here we are, one week down, hopefully at least a couple of thousand to go. And I’m happy to report that it’s gone tremendously well, especially once I’d moved down from the icebox of the study-cum-second bedroom to the relative hospitality of the kitchen. As well as being at least 10 degrees warmer than the spare room, the kitchen has the concomitant allure of a fridge full of fish, a kettle full of water and the inexorable poignancy of a poor poinsettia, for whom it seems, it is forever Autumn. It does feel a little odd masturbating at the kitchen table of course, but that’s something I’ll get used to, I’m sure.

I mention masturbation not merely to shock you, gentle reader, but rather to neatly segue, like a fractured infinitive, into the subject of Distraction. In my previous incarnation as a website editorialist and junk-puking killer of trees, deadlines tended to impend. I’d generally have just a few days or a week or two at most to get something done. This meant I was usually up against it and if I wanted to get paid, I couldn’t afford to piddle around on Facebook or Twitter or – eek! – YouPorn. With this book thing however, I’ve got till some time in March to complete, and although there are countless mini-deadlines along the way, I don’t think I’m going to get dropped if I miss them, so you know… ooh, look, a penguin!

It has to be said however, my main distraction this week hasn’t been pornography, and it hasn’t been abused penguins. My main distraction this week has been Twitter.

I must admit, until the beginning of this week, rather like the ghastly Bryony Gordon, I didn’t really get Twitter. I just thought it was a place where a bunch of people – the vast majority of whom you didn’t know and would never want to – mouthed off about the wholly insignificant minutiae of their often very mundane lives. And I was absolutely spot on. That’s exactly what it is. What I didn’t realise however, was that although that sounds like the height of tedium, it can in fact be excellent fun and a source of constantly sporadic fascination.

Two things make it particularly enjoyable. One is the arrival in the Twitterverse (shudder) of Jonathan Ross.

Wossy, to give him his Twitter name, is a fantastic fellow to follow. And if you’re a fan, Twitter is a great place to get close to him. Obviously he gets a lot of people yammering on to him all day and night (a Twitter search for to:Wossy gives you some idea), but that doesn’t mean he won’t get back to you. Most of his Tweets now are responses to some of the hundreds of messages he receives daily. Indeed, for a man who occasionally abuses one-time national treasures, Jonathan Ross is extremely personable. He’s also perfectly wiling to speak his mind. For example, in one Tweet he describes Piers Morgan as ‘a grotesque talent-vacuum’, which made me feel all warm inside. And in another he writes: ‘Just broke wind with such force that my wife is on the verge of tears’, which I must admit made me laugh out loud.

Of course it’s not just would-be starfucking that’s endeared me to Twitter – it’s more that I just happen to have started following the likes of Jonathan Ross, Stephen Fry, John Cleese, Graham Linehan, Henry Rollins and Darth Vader in the same week that it finally clicked for me. The other thing which made it all make sense is TweetDeck, which, thanks to Patroclus, I downloaded yesterday.

TweetDeck is an application which sits behind your browser and aggregates all of your Twitter twaddle. What this means is that I can have the document I’m working on here in front of me, and then, just to the side I can have TweetDeck feeding me Tweets as and when they are twittered. So I don’t even have to stop typing! I can just glance to the right and see that Stephen Fry is cuddling a narwhal or whatever and the delightful Veronica Belmont is going on and on and on and on about tech stuff. Please stop, Veronica. Tell me more about your cats!

In short, Twitter, via TweetDeck, takes all the lonesomeness out of working from home, but without the annoyingness of actually having to share a room with real people.

Do you see now?

Come on. Let’s live together!


In other news, I got virtual chatting to one Alex B, who was diagnosed with Clinical Depression in 1996, has now given himself 45 days ‘to defeat a lifetime’s worth of negative thinking’ and is chronicling his efforts here. Good luck, Alex. Look! Sunshine!

And speaking of depression, I’m finally owning up to the fact that my eyes are not what they once were. I’m going blind. Or – exaggeration aside – I think I might need glasses. I’m going to seek out an optician this afternoon. Oh, and because of a piece of tooth that broke off while I was in Scotland, I’ve also made an appointment with a dentist.

Oh, God.


More wine!

See you next week. If I’m still here.

Oh, and have a nice weekend. Are you up to anything nice by the way? Let me know in the comments. (Twitter will never take the place of comments by the way. Comments are for real friends. Mwah.)

Share on Facebook! Digg this

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

The Wednesday Morning Play :: The Collector

The Collector.

A Play by Stanley H Cattermole

Act One, Scene One – INT. LONDON. A fairly small living room is made to seem smaller still as piles of half-emptied boxes and endless book cases vie for space. There are books and boxes of magazines and newspapers everywhere. Half-museum, half-warehouse, the lack of order is stifling and claustrophobic. A man and a woman stand in the middle of the mess.

MORGANA :: [raising her hands to her head, grabbing hold of her lavish hair] Aaaarrrggggghhhhh!

SLIM :: Is that absolutely necessary? Really. Is it?

MORGANA :: Yes! Evidently it is. I obviously can’t get through to you with common sense and logic. So what else am I supposed to do? I can’t…. I have no… Aaaarrrggggghhhhh!

SLIM :: Oh, please, come on. Stop that. Listen, just because I don’t agree with you doesn’t make me illogical.

MORGANA :: It’s nothing to do with you not agreeing with me. It’s to do with you being certifiably insane.

SLIM :: Right, yeah. I’m not the one standing in the middle of the room screaming like a retard.

MORGANA :: Slim, darling, please see sense. I’m not having a go at you, I’m just saying, you have too much stuff. You’ve got to get rid of some of it. It doesn’t make sense to live like this.

[MORGANA reaches into a nearby box and pulls out a smaller box, shoe box size.]

This for example. ‘Beermats, 1994-98.’

[SLIM shrugs.]

SLIM :: What?

MORGANA :: What do you mean, what? You have a collection of beermats. Why the fuck do you have a collection of beermats?

SLIM :: What kind of question is that? Why wouldn’t I have a collection of beermats? Probably a more pertinent question is, why don’t you have a collection of beermats?

MORGANA :: Slim, please, come on. You’re just being silly. Please. I beg you.

[SLIM rummages between boxes and picks up a laptop from the floor. He sits on an armchair and opens the lid.]

What are you doing?

SLIM :: I’m just going to have a look online. We’ll see who’s mad.

MORGANA :: We already know who’s mad. I don’t think the internet can help us at this stage.

SLIM :: Here we go. Beermats. 2,403 results on eBay.

MORGANA :: And what do you suppose that proves? All that proves is that there are thousands more lunatics out there just like you. But at least they’re doing the decent thing and trying to get rid of their idiotic collections.

SLIM :: No, what it proves is that to you that’s just a collection of beermats. To the collector, it’s gold dust. I could be sitting on a goldmine here. Look at this, pre-war South London Brewery beer mat, £25. That’s one single beermat, £25.

MORGANA :: So what? And pre-war, you said? Which war? How old is it exactly?

SLIM :: It’s from 1939.

MORGANA :: And your beermats, how old are they?

SLIM :: But this is exactly my point! This is why I refuse to throw them out. They’re an investment. In another 50 years, they’ll be worth an absolute fortune.

MORGANA :: You’ll be 80, Stan.

SLIM :: Slim.

MORGANA :: Sorry. Slim. You’ll be 80.

SLIM :: Yeah, I know. And I’ll either be struggling to get by on a state pension, and therefore, desperately in need of the cash, or I can give it to my grandchildren. It’s like a trust fund.

MORGANA :: Believe me, you won’t be having any grandchildren if you insist on hanging on to shit like this. It’s one or the other. A collection of beermats or a family. No one has both.

[MORGANA sits on the arm of the armchair and reads over SLIM’s shoulder. SLIM attempts to shield the screen.]

What? What are you trying to hide?

SLIM :: Nothing, I just don’t want you deriding my fellow….

MORGANA :: Your fellow freaks.

SLIM :: Collectors.

MORGANA :: Chinless freaks.

SLIM :: I’ve got chins.

MORGANA :: Chinless freaks with no girlfriends and fucked-up childhoods.

SLIM :: I’ve got a girlfriend.

MORGANA :: Yeah, well, don’t piss her off with a box of beermats, that’s my advice to you.

SLIM :: What, are you actually threatening to leave me just because I’ve got a hobby?

MORGANA :: Look at this, no bids, no bids, no bids, no bids. There might be two thousand chinless freaks trying to sell their beermat collections but no one wants to buy them, do they? Not even other chinless freaks.

SLIM :: What is this obsession with chins? I’ve got heaps of chins.

MORGANA :: Oh, hold on, there’s one. One bid. What’s that?

SLIM :: ‘One thousand plus beermat collection. 70s and 80s. Needs a good home.’ Only 1p!

[SLIM gasps and allows his mouth to fall open. He turns and stares at MORGANA.]

Only 1p. That is amazing value, Mo. This is quite possibly the bargain of the century and an opportunity far too good to miss.

MORGANA :: Don’t even think about it.

SLIM :: Oh, look, he’s got photos. There they are in a bin bag. There they are laid out on the living room floor.

MORGANA :: Look at the state of his fucking house. What a loser. Look at that. Shit everywhere.

SLIM :: Probably nearer 2000, he says.

MORGANA :: What kind of moron keeps 2000 beermats in a bin liner? Eh? Seriously though. What must have happened to him in his childhood? Write to him and ask him that. I bet you any money that he had a fucked-up childhood.

SLIM :: I will, I will, yeah, that’s a great idea. I’ll write: ‘Dear Sir, I was just perusing your impressive collection of beermats on eBay when my impertinent girlfriend encouraged me to write to you and enquire as to what manner of horrific abuse your parents visited upon you when you were a child that so twisted your mind and turned you into an adult who keeps beermats in a big bag.’ I’m sure he’ll appreciate that.

MORGANA :: Fucking freak.

SLIM :: Sweet-peach, please. Have a little compassion.

MORGANA :: I do. I mean, I’m sorry for him. I’m sorry for anyone who feels they need to cling to worthless items in order to compensate for the love they never received as children.

SLIM :: Oh, it’s as simple as that, is it?

MORGANA :: [standing, moving between the boxes] Why else do you suppose you’ve got an entire box of Big Issues here?

SLIM :: [shaking his head] Sorry, I’m a little confused. You see a box of magazines and you automatically think: abused childhood? Does that not strike you as a little odd?

MORGANA :: Nope. What strikes me as odd is that you have six boxes of Empire magazine that you never ever look at and will probably never look at again.

SLIM :: But we’re at complete odds here. I was eleven or twelve when that magazine came out and I just happened to see the first issue, so I bought it, and then I decided to collect them. So I collected them, and I went out and bought a copy of the magazine every month, and I read it from cover to cover because I enjoyed it, and I enjoyed seeing my collection grow. You know? It gave me pleasure.

MORGANA :: Yeah, I can understand that but Stan, that was 20 years ago….

SLIM :: Slim.

MORGANA :: I used to collect Just 17 magazines, but what happened then was this: I grew up and I threw them all away.

[SLIM flinches.]

You have to learn to throw things away. All this shit, this clutter, it’s suffocating you. You need to get rid of it. I really believe it’s holding you back, keeping you tethered to the past. I really think it’s time for a spring clean.

SLIM :: But I don’t agree.

MORGANA :: Well, I don’t know. I’m not giving you ultimatums here….

SLIM :: Ultimata.

MORGANA :: …but this is a small house and I’m not sure there’s room for all of your stuff and all of my stuff. But to be honest, it’s not really about that. I really think it would be good for you to break free from this crap. I mean, how many books have you got?

SLIM :: Oh, you want to burn my books now?

MORGANA :: Oh, please. I don’t want to burn anything. Except maybe your beermats.

SLIM :: Nazi.

MORGANA :: Oh, touché. Anyway, you’ve just lost the argument, haven’t you, according to what’s it called – Godfrey’s Dilemma, is it?

SLIM :: Godwin’s Law.

MORGANA :: Whatever. Loser.

SLIM :: Nazi.

MORGANA :: I just think, there are six book cases in this room, that’s hundreds of books, most of them you’ll never look at again, most of which I bet you’ve never even read.

SLIM :: Balls.

MORGANA :: I’m sorry?

SLIM :: Try me.

MORGANA :: OK, then. What about… Ulysses.

SLIM :: Oh, that’s not fair. You pick the one book that no one alive has ever actually finished. I had a good crack at it though. There’s a bookmark. What page…? 89, that’s not bad. So anyway, yeah, I’m still reading that book. That’s a work in progress. Next!

MORGANA :: How to Be Born Again by Billy Graham.

SLIM :: I’m saving that.

MORGANA :: What, for your death bed?

SLIM :: Yeah, it’s last minute bet-hedging material.

[MORGANA shakes her head and sighs.]

No, but in all seriousness, that’s a great book and it’ll come in really handy when one day I’m writing something about religion, about being born again or about Billy Graham.

MORGANA :: And when will that be?

SLIM :: I don’t know. One day. It’s bound to happen.

MORGANA :: But it might not.

SLIM :: Well, no. But by that same token, we might both be hit by a truck tonight so there’s no point going to Sainsbury’s.

MORGANA :: I think the likelihood of us surviving the week is slightly more than the likelihood of you writing something about Billy Graham.

SLIM :: Shows what you know.

MORGANA :: [mocking SLIM’s petty intonation] Shows what you know.

SLIM :: Look, this is going nowhere. What….

MORGANA :: The Little Book of Calm.


MORGANA :: OK, OK. Jesus.

[Hands SLIM The Little Book of Calm, which he proceeds to stroke whilst chanting.]

SLIM :: Calm, calm, calm….

MORGANA :: And this? How To Give Successful Dinner Parties. Have you found this particularly useful?

SLIM :: Indispensable, yes.

MORGANA :: Really?

SLIM :: Really.

MORGANA :: Fine. I won’t call you a liar.

SLIM :: Big of you.

MORGANA :: Thanks. What about this though? Stories For Girls. Isn’t that a little bit… gay?

SLIM :: Don’t be homophobic, Morag, please.

MORGANA :: Morgana.

SLIM :: Sorry.

MORGANA :: I mean, why have you even got this book?

SLIM :: Um… I found it, I think.

MORGANA :: Where did you find it?

SLIM :: Outside of a charity shop if I remember correctly.

MORGANA :: What do you mean?

SLIM :: There was a pile of books outside a charity shop one night. I was drunk.

MORGANA :: What, and you just took it?

SLIM :: Yeah.

MORGANA :: You stole from a charity shop?

SLIM :: I was drunk.

MORGANA :: Wow. That’s pretty low.

SLIM :: Oh, come on. We’ve all done it.

MORGANA :: Not me. That’s pretty fucked up if you ask me. Stealing from charity shops. That’s just wrong. That’s…

SLIM :: Don’t….

MORGANA :: …wrong on so many levels.

SLIM :: No! Please don’t say that

MORGANA :: Oh, now this is just totally random.

SLIM :: Oh, don’t say ‘random’, please. You’re just deliberately saying things that you know will annoy me now, aren’t you?

MORGANA :: Happy Days 4: Fonzie Goes To College? WTF, Slim?

SLIM :: Aaaarggh! I’m not listening.

[SLIM clamps his hands over his ears and makes loud nonsense noises. MORGANA glares at him. He stops.]


SLIM :: Oh, please. I beg you.

MORGANA :: Listen to me. Darling. Sweetheart. Do you think we have a future together?

SLIM :: I’m not… This is… You can’t…

MORGANA :: Yes or no, baby.

SLIM :: I hope so. I’d like that, yes. But you know, the future’s….

MORGANA :: OK, and you know we’ve talked about going to live in France maybe, in a year or two?

[SLIM folds his arms, stares. He knows where this is going.]

Darling? France. Me and you.

SLIM :: Yes, yes, yes.

MORGANA :: Well, you know, I’m just saying, all this stuff? You can’t take it with you. And storage costs a fortune. And really, I don’t think it’s good for you. It’s like an albatross around your neck. You know? The beermats, the badges, the coins and stamps. The magazines. You’re a grown man. You have to let go. Even the books.

SLIM :: Oh, not the books. I love the books. Each one is full of memories. Even the ones I haven’t read. I remember where I was when I bought them, what I was doing or feeling.

MORGANA :: The thing with books though, you can always get hold of them again. I mean, if ever you have the urge to read a certain book, then you can have the pleasure of going out and finding a copy again.

[SLIM takes a deep breath, rubs his eyes with the palms of his hands.]

It’s just not practical, Stan.

SLIM :: Slim.

MORGANA :: Stan. You’ve been here three weeks and you still haven’t unpacked everything. Maybe there’s a reason for that. Maybe deep down you know….

SLIM :: Alright, alright, alright. Jesus. I’ll think about it, alright?

MORGANA :: Thanks, baby.

SLIM :: Maybe there are some books I can get rid of. Maybe. But I’m going to count them all first, and catalogue them.

MORGANA :: OK, darling. That’s lovely. You do that.

[MORGANA turns to walk out of the room. As she goes, she sings the following word, stretching out the final syllable…]


[SLIM picks up his copy of Happy Days 4: Fonzie Goes To College, opens it up and starts to read. Lights fade. Scene One ends.]

Share on Facebook! Digg this

Monday, 5 January 2009


Before I get into this and inadvertently upset anyone, I should say that I was brought up in a very working class home. My mum was a cleaner, my dad was a drunk, we had no car and we lived in a council house. I don’t think I ate anything that hadn’t come out of a tin until I was 16. My mother never missed an episode of Coronation Street and my father had The Sun delivered to our house. He also took the Sunday Sport.

So if I come across as a little snobbish, then I’m sorry, but I like to think I have the right.

I’d also like to point out that of course I do know it’s possible to be working class and still enjoy – for example – reading newspapers without pictures of glamour models in them, or watching films without car chases and explosions and actresses who are little more than glorified glamour models taking off their clothes. I’m also aware that people with more money and more opportunities in life can be equally crass and classless and moronic. They just tend to do it in slightly more expensive clothes. Plus their grammar is generally better.

Anyway, having said all that, I’m probably not going to offend anyone. I just wanted to say a few words about my new neighbours.

When I went off to Scotland last week, the house to the left of me was empty. When I came back yesterday evening, it was occupied. So Morag and I popped by to say hello.

The door was answered by a burly man with unsightly Audreys on his right arm. When we explained that we lived next door and that we’d just come by to say hi, the burly man shouted up the stairs. ‘NORA!’ he shouted. ‘Neighbours wanna say ‘ello.’

Already I’ve probably given a slightly unfair representation of the burly man, because he was pleasant enough, all smiles and eye contact. But the fact is… he was just so coarse.

Anyway, before I get carried away, I should point out that Burly doesn’t actually live there. Burly is a mate of Nora’s, helping out with the redecoration. So that’s good.

Unfortunately, Nora – no, I shouldn’t. I mean, what’s wrong with me? I am an unconscionable snob. And I feel terrible about it. Hence all the pre-empting earlier. And the attempts to justify it. I know it’s wrong though. I know I’ve become a sickening snob. I just – is it do wrong to want to live next door to people who like the finer things in life? Or at least people who aspire to the finer things in life.

Nora seemed perfectly fine. She just seemed a little uneducated, that’s all. A little… simple. She barely said a word though, so I’m basing this on her appearance and her simpleton’s gummy grin. Oh, and on the fact that she could barely string a sentence together.

We’ll see though. Fingers crossed Nora and her two children will prove wonderful neighbours. They haven’t actually moved in yet. They’re having the entire house redecorated by Burly and his mates beforehand, which is why today – my first day working at home – was not only freezing cold, but also liberally peppered with the sounds of wallpaper scraping and burly working class men using the word ‘innit’ rather a lot.

The neighbours to the right are much more my cup of tea by the way, two university-educated young ladies, both named Heather. I’ve only met them very briefly thus far, but you can tell that they’re good eggs. I even saw Ocado delivering some shopping to them just before Christmas.

You know, what I hope is that I have my prejudices utterly smashed to pieces in the coming weeks and months because I’m not comfortable with them.

Tonight, I intend to watch the darts on telly as penance.

Also tonight, Morag is moving in!

Wish her luck.

Share on Facebook! Digg this