Monday, 27 April 2009

Scanmongering Monday :: Fearful & Aggressive

Towards the end of last year, I discovered I had relatives that I'd never known about. This was wonderful news. Now one of them has died. This is not so wonderful. Furthermore, it's going to have wide-reaching, life-changing repercussions, the most obvious of which is that it looks like I'll be leaving London. Soon. In fact, I've already left London - but only for this week. I'm up north for a funeral. I'll be back at the end of the week, and then - because my landlord is a heartless, grasping devil who is making me want to scream and smash things - I'll have a couple of days to clear everything out of my house and flee.

Strange - and it has to be said, pretty fucking horrible - times.

But it could be worse. It could be my funeral this afternoon. That would be worse. And I do, in general, have my health. So. Life goes on. And with that in mind, here's this week's Bookscan. Name the book and claim the prize. Actually there's no prize this week. Just name the book.

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Thursday, 23 April 2009


I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m in limbo. There are things I can’t talk about. Everything’s wrong at the moment and I don’t know what to do. I think I might have to get out of London. The next two weeks will hold the answer. But anyway, in the meantime, life goes on. Kinda.

So you’ll be wanting to know the answer to Monday’s Bookscan. Yes, you will. Don't be impertinent.

It was Big Ethel!

Hmmm. So recently, I found a box full of old notebooks, full of lots of things I can hardly remember writing, including a short story I was quite pleased with. Here it is here.

Nothing Personal

I waited for over an hour. Twice I saw her arrive and relaxed, a relieved smile breaking out across my face like sunlight. But it wasn’t her. It was merely someone who looked like her. My smile died. My face darkened.

The anger was the thing that really surprised me. While I was waiting, I imagined conversations we would have when she finally arrived. ‘Are you pissed at me?’ she would say. ‘No, I’m not angry at all,’ I would reply. ‘All that matters is that you’re here now.’ And I would stroke her face, and she would kiss my hand. But that conversation never took place. And as I made my way home, alone, I was dizzy with rage. I’d never been stood up before. It stings.

I refuse, however, to take it personally. Even if the warmth and laughter and tactility she’d shown me the week before was fake; even if she only gave me her number and insisted I call her to get rid of me; even if she only made the date with me because she thought that standing me up was the best way to get rid of a misguided, objectionable, persistent fool such as myself; even if all that were true – I would still refuse to take it personally because I know my worth. It’s her loss. Fuck her.

Of course, I should have forgotten all about it, but the anger stayed with me, and despite my fine words, my wounded pride got the better of me. So a couple of days later, I called her, partly to give her a piece of my mind, but still half-hoping to discover a simple explanation.

Thankfully, there was a simple explanation, and now all the anger has gone, and I feel at peace. I’m sad too, of course. Extremely so, because I think we could have been really good together. But then you always think that at the beginning.

Her mum answered the phone. She’d flown over from Ohio when she heard the news. She started crying on the phone, wanted to know who I was. ‘Just a friend,’ I said. ‘She’s dead,’ she said. ‘Laura’s dead.’

I made suitably shocked noises. I was shocked. ‘What happened?’ I eventually asked.

Through muffled sobs, Laura’s mother informed me that her daughter had been beaten to death. On Tuesday evening. As I was waiting and raging, Laura was having the life punched and kicked out of her by her husband, who’d found out about her date. He’d found out about me.

She told me when I met her, during the twenty minutes we spent chatting and plotting, she told me it wasn’t a very good relationship. ‘My husband is selfish,’ she said. ‘I didn’t see it for the longest time, but all he cares about is himself.’ And when I asked her out, she said yes. She said it would be good to spend some time with someone who thought about her for a change.

And now she’s dead and I feel relieved.

I feel relieved because - now I know - it was nothing personal.

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Monday, 20 April 2009

Scanmongering Monday :: Hitler and the Hippo

Aaah, what a day. To celebrate the birth of Adolf Hitler, The Sun today launched SunTalk, an online radio station and right wing campaign vehicle. Equally distressing, there is a man cutting down a tree in the garden that backs onto mine. I don't really know why he's doing it and I really want to stop him, but I guess it's his tree. Bah. Now the damn sun's gone in. What a day!

Right, this week's Bookscan comes from a children's book. Give me the name of it and you might win this week's prize, a copy of Men Who Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them: When Love Hurts and You Don't Know Why by Dr Susan Forward. So, if you don't recognise the hippo in the sky, why not have a guess?...

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Friday, 17 April 2009

Feedback Friday :: Bouncing Back

bulk :: 14st 12
gym sessions :: 3
therapy sessions :: 1
lows :: 1
highs :: 1
steaks :: 1 pending

On Wednesday afternoon I spent 70 minutes flogging myself tender in the gym. All cardio. The sweat was jumping off of me like cartoon fleas and by the time I got home, I was back to my old chipper self. I was feeling positive and light-hearted. I was talking to myself in silly voices. The violent misanthropy of the first half of the week was gone. So - therefore - I am forced to conclude that physical exercise is very good for mental health. I know, I know, I’m a visionary. I’m setting the world on fire with these outlandish new ways of thinking.

So. I’m going away towards the end of May for a couple of weeks. I got an invitation to go see someone I don’t know in a country I’ve not been to, so I thought I’d throw caution to the wind and do it. I've booked a ticket. Two-week round trip. I plan to do a little travelling around while I’m there and I want to get as fit as I possibly can before going. Hence the recent frenetic gym activity, and self-starving.

Connected to that, I saw Rocknrolla the other night. Although it’s a distinctly average and occasionally rather laughable film, it does feature a captivating performance by Toby Kebbel. If I’m perfectly honest, I think I’ve got a bit of a man-crush on Toby Kebbel. Not only do I find him extremely charismatic, but also, just look at what he was able to do with his body…

I should say, my man-crush doesn’t extend to me wanting to lick his body, merely wanting to replicate it. In some interview I can’t find at the moment, he spoke of his regime, which consisted of a seven-day fast followed by nine weeks of one meal a day. This presumably in tandem with a beastly punishing gym programme. I wouldn’t necessarily want to be that thin, but to have a musculature that well-defined, to feel that fine-tuned must be amazing. And I’ll regret it profoundly if I get to the end of my life and I never found the time or the discipline to properly honour the gift of having an able body. I owe it to myself. So I’m working hard. And eating well. And feeling better already.

So this morning I had my first session on the couch. And it was good. I like the guy, which I guess is important. And we agree that it’s his role to lead, and to provoke. I need to be provoked. I look forward to it.

In other news, cancer continues to ravage and ruin all things bright and beautiful, making life, on occasion, feel overwhelmingly hopeless and depressing and cruel. It’s like, what can you do? Well, first and foremost, if you’re lucky enough to be healthy, you can live to the best of your abilities. Amen. Secondly, if you’re within running distance of Glasgow, you can go to the Britannia Panopticon Music Hall tomorrow night. There will be music and comedy and cakes and prizes and popcorn and a woman playing a ukulele. All proceeds go to Breast Cancer Care. (Someone asked me to mention this, I think imagining my influence to be rather greater than it actually is. Happy to help. Or not, as the case may be.)

Now, I’m going to cook a six ounce steak and a kilo of spinach. This weekend I shall be mostly punishing myself physically and writing some things.

And you? What are you up to?

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Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Anger Management :: A Midnight Rant

I’ve just given up on getting to sleep early and getting up early and getting on with my life in a controlled and successful manner for yet another miserable motherfucking day. I can’t sleep. I can’t sleep because I’m too fucking angry. This is one of the reasons I’m going to see a therapist on Friday. I get angry an awful lot. More than I think is altogether reasonable.

I’ve seen therapists twice before. Once when I was in my late teens. Once a few years ago. I didn’t particularly care for either of them. The first one started crying when I was telling her some standard familial horror story. ‘You’ve touched me,’ she said, wiping away a tear. I don’t recall how this made me feel at the time, but in retrospect, I roll my eyes and shake my head and sigh. Also, as I'm on the internet, I say, 'Pfffft'.

The second one was of the ‘I’m going to sit here in more or less complete silence for an entire hour’ school. On the rare occasions that she did speak, it was always to suggest that whatever I’d just said was in some way connected to her and to our counselling sessions together. After the fourth or fifth time she did this, I felt compelled to point out that in my opinion she was a little fixated on my relationship with our sessions and that there was more to my life than the hour a week I spent with her.

I’m not entirely sure why I have such high hopes for this next stab at psychotherapy. Apart from the fact that I’m older now and I have a much clearer idea of what I think is wrong with me. And maybe also because this time I’ll be paying, therefore I DEMAND SATISFACTION!

Anyway, because I’ve had such a shit day, I’ve decided to have a good old whine about it. (Wellington, if you’re reading, I apologise, but I need it.)

So. It was just one of those days today, you know? I was trying really hard to get a bunch of things done – chores I’d been putting off – paying bills, sorting out an accountant, all the vile life admin crap I’d been putting off for the last couple of months. And everything kept going wrong. I discovered that I’ve lost my passport, a copy of which the accountant needs. I spilt a pan of stew over my keyboard. I slipped on a stair and burnt my forearm on the banister. Stupid shit like that. I got in a strop with an automated payment system and ended up swearing my face off and hanging up three times. Three times! And what the fuck is the point of swearing at a machine? What is the point of shouting, ‘I DON’T WANT ANY OF THOSE OPTIONS, YOU MECHANICAL FUCKING MORON! I WANT TO SPEAK TO A HUMAN BEING!’ This is why I need therapy. Part of the reason. I came so close to throwing my handset through a window today. I would have despised myself if I had. That’s the other part of why I need a therapist. The self-loathing.

I really felt like getting drunk tonight, although I realised that it wasn’t a great idea. It wasn’t a great idea because it would have been escape-drinking, and I really want to avoid that if I can. In this case I was able to avoid it easily because there was nobody around to get drunk with. All the friends I have in London are in couples and if there’s one thing worse than ringing up a coupled-up friend and suffering the mutual discomfort of being told that he really just wants to stay in with his girlfriend tonight, then I don’t even want to think about it. I even got in contact with Morag, just to see if she was free for a chat. You know? Friends. That’s all. We can still be friends, can’t we? But I just ended up feeling like Barry Champlain in Talk Radio when he hears his ex-wife telling her new husband that her seeing him (Barry) is just like she's visiting a sick relative. I don't want to feel like a sick relative, thank you very much. Which probably isn't fair on Morag. Is it, Doctor? Meanwhile, brand new friend Paddy is away on business, sending cryptic messages that make me think he might be under the impression that he’s Jason Bourne. Keith! Where are you when I need you?!

Reluctantly, I accepted the fact that I’d have to remain miserable and alone for the rest of the day. Then, just as I decided to escape into a film – which is almost as bad as escaping into booze, frankly – something very unusual happened. The electricity went off.

I’d been a bit weepy before, I must admit. Throughout the day, rage would mingle seductively with self-pity and my face would crinkle and my eyes would wet themselves. But I stopped myself with a sharp word and a healthy exhortation to pull myself together, like a tennis player battling a tie-break.

But when the electricity went, it finished me off. It was just getting dark. The electricity board said they’d have to send someone out. They said it might take 3-4 hours. I lit a couple of candles, heated some more stew on the gas stove and wept.

In the end it was back on within two hours, but my God, it’s been a miserable day.

I tell you though, I honestly feel better just to have talked it through. This is why I need therapy.

Now, housekeeping.

The solution to the phenomenally popular Bookscan quiz from yesterday was - you'll kick yourselves - this:

(Bad luck, Sudders. It’s really not been your week. 863!!!)

What else? Nah, fuck it, that’ll do. Rachel Getting Married has just arrived in a magical torrent of bits so I’m going to stay up and watch that. That’s about mad people, isn’t it? Cool.

Back soon with neurotic talk about weight loss and a possible cure for breast cancer.

Bonne nuit les petits!

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Monday, 13 April 2009

Scanmongering Monday :: I Am A Dithering Monkey

I've got nothing to add.

Novelty pencil to the first person to identify the book from the following illustrations...

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Friday, 10 April 2009

Please Watch The Film...

...on this site. Read the words by all means, but please watch the film.

Update :: Apparently the words 'vagina' and 'vulva' are not sufficient warning of the slightly adult nature of the film at the end of this link. So I've been asked to add, if you're anywhere near people for whom you suspect the sight of silicon implants and the smell of 'precious vaginal fragrance' might be a source of distress, then this link might very well embarrass you.

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Good Friday Feedback :: Blogging For Jesus

bulk :: 14st 13 (Yes! Eeee-ha! Etc. I’m very pleased about this. This feels good. This feels like a landmark.)
gym sessions :: 3
swim sessions :: 2 (exercise really works! Who knew?)
episodes of The Wire watched consecutively :: 4
fears concerning the litigiousness of would-be sex offenders Foster & Allen :: 1
fist fights with self :: 1
mouth-cuts resulting from fist fight :: 2
regrets :: a few, but then again... meh

Aaaaah, life. Whoever said it was a funny old game was a wise old cove. This time last year I was squirreling myself away with my best friend’s ex, stuffing my face with mini-eggs and muff. This year I’m just back from hospital where I’ve been visiting a friend in need and becoming near-hysterical making bad, bad jokes with said friend and other visitors, about catheters and tumours and Fritzel. (We all decided, when someone is suffering from cancer, humour-wise, anything goes. It’s true too. Special rules apply.)

Excellent. I was just about to write that I’m pretty miserable and not really looking forward to spending the long weekend all on my lonesome, with not even a hospitalised friend to visit (she’s leaving hospital tomorrow), when I received a message from Paddy, my brand new friend.

Of course, Paddy isn’t really called Paddy, but I’m calling him Paddy because Paddy is short for Paddington, and I’m calling him Paddington because his real name – amusingly – is actually the name of a station on the London Underground. What are the chances?

Anyway, Paddy came to me through the blog, as everybody seems to these days, and he is an excellent chap. An excellent chap who happens to want something to do this evening. So there we have it :: a match made in heaven. If only Paddy was the porn star, Maria Ozawa, then all of my problems would be over.

So, here it is, Happy Easter, and I leave you with a couple of Easter-themed goodies. One is a little something I knocked together in order to gain more downloading privileges at a site called The Box. They asked people to create an Easter scene in their house, photograph it and send it in. I did this:

Dominating the scene - as it should be - is ‘Fat Christ’, still decidedly bloated from all the Christmas Pudding and Baileys on which he gorged himself on his last birthday. At Fat Christ’s right hand, a selection of Easter reading (including the answer to last week’s Bookscan) and an Easter onion, its new shoots reaching up to heaven, symbolising the cycle of death and rebirth and reminding us that life is all about hidden layers and endless weeping.

Front centre, behind the holy welcome mat is a representation of man. It could be Adam and Eve. It could be Mary and Joseph. Or it could just be a couple ordinary Johnnies with a Himalayan finger penguin on their shoulders.

A bottle of Easter vodka and two more images of Christ – emaciated and electric gay – round off the scene. Plus a couple of eggs and a duck made of soap. Oh, and a candle, red with the blood of our Saviour.

On the whole, I’m quite pleased with it. All it’s really missing is a goldfish with a Lincoln log on its back making for a sock drawer. But you can’t have everything.

And finally, this guy:

So, what do you reckon :: is he real? Surely not. Please, God, no.

Religion, eh? Eh? It's got a lot to answer for.

Happy Easter!

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Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Bookscan :: The Devil Has All The Best Books

Some very good guesses to yesterday's Bookscan, the closest being AnnAnon's Here We Go: Health Action Series by Charlotte Wilcox and Edith McCall, 1955. Close, but no apricot, I'm afraid.

The answer was of course Basic First Aid by The St John Ambulance Association, 1966.

And this is how it looks today. That's progress for you.

Today's Bookscan is a little on the dark side. Four images to chill your very soul, but what's the name of the book?

This last image is also ripe for captioning. Perhaps something about that candlestick Uncle Wilbur brought back from Haiti proving a real ice breaker at Granny's wake. Perhaps not.

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Monday, 6 April 2009

Scanmongering Monday :: Pain Surprise

‘Why on earth do you want a scanner?’ sneered Juna, my imaginary friend.

‘I have a couple of bits and bobs that I want to scan for big laughs,’ I replied. ‘Also, I want a shiny new gizmo to keep me busy in the quiet hours.’

So I finally got it set up on Saturday morning. Then I had a thought, if not an epiphany: Bookscan! Rather than throw them out, I would scan images from my curious old books and ask passers-by to try and guess the name of the book. What fun that would be!

Juna popped by post-epiphany and indulged me with a smile. Then she made me a cup of tea and gave me a haircut.

So, this is how it will work: I will post an image and ask you to provide me with the name of the book from which the image has been purloined. For example, this:

And you will reply, ‘Hold on a moment, I recognise that clever old cat. Why, that’s Magical Mr Mistoffelees, as drawn by Nicolas Bentley, inestimable illustrator and the son of the man who invented the clerihew. Which means that this is a detail from Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by TS Eliot. And I claim my £500.’

And I will say, ‘Whoa there, turd blossom!’

And you will interrupt angrily and bellow, ‘They call me MISTER Turd Blossom!’

And I will indulge you with a smile before saying, ‘Right. Well, I’m sorry about this, but there is no prize money. However. You have done well. You have shown admirable knowledge, and for this you shall be rewarded.’

And I will give you a dried apricot.

And you will be elated.

So, without further ado, here is our first scantastic instalment of Bookscan. Simply peruse the images at your leisure, then, using your brain, arrive at the title of the book, and leave it in the comments. And if you haven't a clue, then the least you can do is have a guess. Winner gets a prize!

Not forgetting the poor old sod at the top. (Stroke.)

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Saturday, 4 April 2009

All Bets Are Off

Sarah J Peach sent me a message this morning, telling me that a horse called Stan was racing in today’s Grand National. As it happens, I’m not one of life’s gamblers. I’ve never bet on a horse in my life. But then there’s never been a horse called Stan in the Grand National before – as far as I've been aware. And surely, Sarah J Peach wouldn't suggest just any old donkey. To hell with it. This is what life is all about! I decided there and then to stake fifty English pounds on Stan to win!

Then I did some stuff, including some scanning – gurd your loins for Stan’s Scans, coming very soon – and I went to the gym just in time for the race, got on a cross trainer in front of a big telly and plugged in my headphones.

Stan fell at the twelfth.

Thankfully, I’d completely forgotten about the whole thing, from the moment I decided to bet £50 to the moment I got on the cross trainer. I was so pleased.

Thanks for the hot tip, Sarah! And thank heavens for my paltry attention span. Now I’m going out to spend £50 on booze.

Have a smashing weekend, each and every one of you. I love you. Adieu!

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Friday, 3 April 2009

Feedback Friday :: Zest

bulk :: 15st 0
walnuts :: 0.5kg
chocolate bars :: 0.5kg

On Wednesday afternoon I went to the gym. It was a beautiful day. On the way home from the gym – on a whim – I popped into a health food store and purchased one jar of Malt Extract, one jar of 240 Cod Liver Oil Capsules, a large tub of 90% Soya Protein Powder, a packet of Dried Apricots, a packet of Chopped Dates and a sack of Walnut Halves.

Then, moments later, on an entirely separate, slightly chubbier whim, I popped into a non-health food store. In Lidl I purchased one large jar of Rollmop Herrings, one packet of Tuscan Style Norwegian Salmon With Tarragon and Horseradish Sauce, one packet of Smoked and Peppered Mackerel Fillets, one Iceberg Lettuce, one bunch of Asparagus, one packet of Cherry Tomatoes, one packet of Gorgonzola (Piccante), one large wedge of Parmesan, six Medium Eggs (Free Range Organic) and a packet of Wholemeal Rye Crispbread. Oh, and a jar of Mayonnaise (Light).

I have one of the healthiest larders in London. Mayonnaise and cheese permitting. I’ve also been going to the gym fairly regularly. What I need to start doing now is a bit of swimming. And so I shall. The Spring is invigorating. I hear foxes squeaking as I type. I feel zesty.

As for everything else, I have nothing to report. I have been working, which is a fairly dull topic of conversation at the best of times. I’ve been doing rewrites, and they’re pretty much done.

So that’s good.

Oh, and the other day I bought a scanner, which for some reason I keep referring to as a fax. One day soon I will connect it up and scan something.

In the meantime, have a smashing weekend. I’m doing bugger all. What are you up to?

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