Thursday, 27 August 2009

Oh Oh Oh I Got the Dan Brown Blues

So this morning I had the following conversation with a young lady who works in WH Smith.

Me :: [Handing over a card with the meerkat on it which I was buying for my grandmother, who likes meerkats] Just that please.

Lady :: Are you interested in half price Dan Brown today?

Me :: I’m sorry?

Lady :: You can order Dan Brown’s latest book for half price.

Me :: Um, no, thanks. Do I look like a simpleton?

Lady :: Eh?

Me :: No, I was just wondering – do I look like a simpleton? You know, an imbecile.

Lady :: [Not sure] Erm… it’s half price. It’s a promotion.

Me :: The reason I ask, incidentally, is not because I’d necessarily have to be a simpleton to read a Dan Brown book, although…. [waiting in vain for some recognition of a shared sense of intellectual snobbery before giving up and continuing] No, it’s just that, if I did want to buy Dan Brown’s latest book, I’d probably already be aware of the fact. Without being prompted. Don’t you think?

Lady :: We ask everybody.

Me :: Well, I wish you wouldn’t.

Lady :: But we ask everybody.

Me :: Yeah, I’ve gathered that. You ask everybody. Great. It’s just that it doesn’t seem fair to me, you know? I mean, there’s my book, for example, a gorgeous, funny, moving little memoir that no one’s ever heard of, struggling for breath, slowly drowning in a sea of suffocating, interminable dross, and there’s Dan Brown’s latest congregation of moronisms, which has, if memory serves me well, an initial print run of 6.5 million copies – 6.5 million copies which will fly off the shelves like hot cakes in cold climate – and despite this already assured best seller status, WH Smith are making every effort to ram it down the throats of customers who don’t even want it. Two weeks before it comes out and it’s already the literary equivalent of McDonald’s fries. You know? ‘Do you want fries with that?’ Erm, no, thanks. If I’d wanted waxy strips of tasteless toxic spew with my order, I’m pretty sure I would’ve asked for them. Similarly, if I wanted to spend ten pounds on nearly 500 pages of poorly-constructed toilet paper, you would probably have known about it by now. Do you know what I’m trying to say?

Unfortunately, she was serving someone else by then.

Oh, Dan Brown.

How I hate you.

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Thursday, 20 August 2009

Fashion Bible Tells Bag-Headed Blogger 'Pull Yourself Together!'

There’s Victoria Beckham, looking like a stick insect in a concentration camp. There’s Keith Richards’ daughters, looking like… well, alarmingly like Keith Richards actually. There’s Brad and Angelina, apparently displaying ‘no sexual chemistry’. And then there’s me. I’ve finally made it to the glossy pages, where the beautiful people live. Only to be told: ‘Stop whining!’

Well, more or less. Fiona McIntosh, who, according to a friend in fashion, ‘is HUGELY important’, says: ‘It’s not Stan’s unfortunate looks that have women running for the fire exit, it’s his rock bottom self-esteem.’ She goes on to describe the book of my life as ‘Stan Cattermole’s moany old book’. Ouch.

Ouch, but also, wow. Ms McIntosh has clearly read the Daily Mail piece from a couple of weeks ago, but I'm guessing she hasn't read any of my own actual words, yet still she’s managed, with stiletto-like astuteness, to hit the ghastly nail of my griping, bellyaching soul squarely on its self-indulgent head. You’re right, Fiona! And just having a fashion torchbearer like yourself point that out has made me feel so, so, so very much worse. You thought my self-esteem was bad before. You should see what I think of myself now. I’m practically ready to give self-harm another crack. Oh, woe. I am a worm! A turd-blossom! A worthless bag-headed miserablist!

Oh, Fiona. Give me a chance to redeem myself. I beg you. Let me write a column for your illustrious magazine. ‘Beauty Tips for Vacuous Women’. Something like that. Go on. I dare you.

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Wednesday, 19 August 2009

What Happens Next?

So I started writing a children’s book a few years ago – not sure when exactly, but certainly before the start of the smoking ban, as you’ll see if you read on – and I didn’t get very far with it. But I read it again this week and I liked its vibe, man. So, as I’m not blogging at the moment, I thought I might put it here and ask you, my faithful readers, to read it for me, and tell me a) where you think it should go next, or b) that I should just forget about it. But be gentle. I beseech thee...

Chapter One :: Making Trouble

I’m sitting on one of the cold iron benches in Peckham Rye station, waiting for a train which is late, and composing a letter of complaint in my head. I light a cigarette, thinking as I do it’ll almost certainly make the train come faster.

This kid sits next to me. He’s much smaller than me and I know I look at least a couple of years older, but still I reckon we’re probably the same age. He’s singing to himself. ‘Get off your horse… get up, get on… get mmm-mm, get mmm-mm ….’ He fidgets for a moment, slaps his palms on the bare knees through the holes in his jeans, then stands up and walks to the edge of the platform, his big shiny coat making big shiny coat noise. He then proceeds to walk backwards and forwards, in front of the yellow line, singing this ridiculous song, over and over. Then he sits back down and resumes his fidgeting and knee-slapping. He seems too young to be proper mental, as in sectionable, so I imagine he’s just been smoking or sniffing something.

He carries on singing. ‘Get what you want and take what you can… get on your horse, get laid, get high… get mmm-mm, get mmm-mm….’ Then he stops abruptly, turns to me and says, ‘Yo, gimme that cigarette.’

I hold the cigarette between my thumb and forefinger and look at it as if to say, ‘What? This cigarette? My cigarette?’

‘Give it, man. Hand it over.’

I hand him the cigarette. It seems the most sensible thing to do. It’s half-smoked anyway. He takes it, frowning, takes a drag, holds it close to his eyes to examine the filter. ‘Marlboro Light?! Jesus.’

And with that, he flicks my cigarette off towards the tracks, bouncing up sparks on the platform.

I shake my head and make some involuntary spluttering noise. He hears me and turns to face me, indignant. ‘You got a problem with that?’ he snaps. The whites of his eyes are very red. I decide he must definitely be stoned. Just another little stoner boy, making trouble in Peckham. I swear I attract them.

I nod my head slowly, aware and miserable that a situation seems to be springing up from nowhere. ‘Yeah, I suppose I have,’ I say.

He smiles. ‘Good for you, man, but you keep it to yourself yeah, cause I don’t have the time.’

‘What are you….’ Words, as the expression goes, fail me. ‘Why do you have to be so rude to me when you don’t even know me?’ I demand.

‘Shit, man, don’t start blubbin on me now.’

He is still smiling, laughing at me. Despite myself I am angry. I should let it drop but I can’t. ‘Who do you think you are?’ I cry.

‘Don’t be a fool,’ he says, suddenly serious. He looks down the platform at the approaching train. ‘And stay in school,’ he adds, before he ships off up the platform singing, ‘Get on that bitch… get on, get up… get mmm-mm, get mmm-mm.’ Something on the cold iron bench catches my eye and without bothering to check if I’m being watched, I scoop up the stoner boy’s wallet and slip it into my inside coat pocket.

On the train I position myself a half carriage behind him, facing the back of his head. I’m trying to figure out what I make of him. He may be a little younger than me after all, maybe fifteen or sixteen, his hair cropped and his expression cocky and maybe just a little proper mental, even in profile. His feet are up on the seat opposite, his fingers slapping furiously on the narrow window sill and he’s still warbling away. I’m too far away to make anything out except for the occasional ‘mmm-mm’. The carriage is about a quarter full and he is drawing more than his share of disapproving glances.

I really don’t know what to do with his wallet. If he hadn’t been so rude, so strange and antagonistic, I would’ve shouted out, grabbed his attention and given it back immediately. Instinctively. But I was angry and my instincts were skewed.

Then a middle-aged inspector squeezes his fat belly through the narrow door at the end of the carriage and the only change in the stoner boy’s behaviour is that his fingers briefly stop slapping at the window sill, but only very briefly. When the slapping is resumed, it is, if anything, more belligerent than before.

After examining the tickets of three other passengers, the inspector reaches him. With no expression whatsoever, he says, ‘Would you mind taking your feet off the seat.’

‘What’s the magic word, Papa Legba?’ says the kid.

My face begins to burn.

The inspector sighs heavily. The last thing he wants is some pointless confrontation with some lippy delinquent who is probably out of his mind on crack and carrying a blade or a gun. ‘Ticket, please,’ he says, his anger and potential fear beginning to show through.

‘It’s because I’m black innit?’

The ticket inspector is also black. He ignores this. ‘Please can I see your ticket, sir?’

‘Yeah, man, yeah, get it on. But you have to chill out though, yeah? You got this power thing goin on, and… seriously….’ As he speaks he leans forward slightly and reaches into his back pocket for his wallet. Realising something is not right, he brings his feet to the floor and starts rifling through the pockets of his enormous yellow puffer jacket. I begin to feel guilty. But I know I can’t do anything now without appearing even guiltier than I really am.

‘Do you have a valid ticket for this journey or not?’ says the inspector. He is almost smiling now.

For the first time, the kid doesn’t answer back. I can’t see his face but I can imagine he must look seriously concerned. He then says something that neither myself nor the ticket inspector catch. ‘What?’ snaps the inspector.

‘Someone’s taken my wallet, man.’

This time the inspector does smile. ‘Do you think I was born yesterday?’ he says, almost singing it, he’s so amused.

The kid leans back in his seat, lifts his feet back onto the seat opposite and sighs loudly.

The inspector can’t believe it. ‘Did you hear what I said?’ he bellows.

The kid looks up at him and considers for a moment. ‘Yeah, man, yeah. I think you were born yesterday. OK? I think you’re one day old. You happy now, Babyman?’

A couple of passengers chuckle at this, and the inspector, who has clearly had enough of the dialogue, tells the kid that he if he cannot produce a valid ticket, he is liable for a £20 fine.

‘Right,’ says the kid. ‘I lose my wallet, you want to fine me. If my mum had just died, you’d want to kill my old man, is that how it works? And then if I don’t pay the fine, you take me to jail, yeah? And then if I still don’t pay the fine, and the extra fine you fine me for not paying the first fine, what then? You going to help the pigs kick me to death in the cells? Is that how it is, Babyman?’

‘I can call the police now,’ says the inspector. ‘It’s the same to me. If that’s what you want, I’ve got no problem with that.’ He unhooks his two way radio from his waistband behind the fat ticket machine and penalty fare pad, and whatever other train law enforcement paraphernalia he’s got hanging off his gut, and he waits for the kid to back down and hand over the cash.

‘Call them, Babyman. Call whoever you want. You ain’t gonna make me give a shit, you know that.’

Just as the inspector begins to speak into the radio, I hear a voice shouting, ‘Hold it, hold it right there. I think we can resolve this situation without resorting to drastic measures, don’t you?’ The embarrassment I feel when I hear the words is compounded as I find myself walking towards the confrontation and realise that the words are actually coming out of my mouth.

The kid turns around in his chair and laughs in my face. ‘Well looky hear,’ he says, in a not very good American accent. ‘It’s the Marlboro Light man, come to save the day.’

I ignore him and address the inspector. ‘How about if I pay the ticket price? How does that sound?’

Before the inspector can tell me that it’s gone beyond that now, the kid butts in. ‘Listen, Bono, I ain’t no charity case. You keep your bloodclot nose out of my business, alright?’

My reaction surprises myself as much as it does him. ‘Look, shut your mouth, alright,’ I snap. ‘And you call me that again, I’ll knock you out.’ Then I turn back to the inspector before I get bogged down bickering with the boy. I do notice however, that he looks suitably shamefaced, maybe even scared, or maybe I’m wrong and he’s feeling something altogether different.

The inspector tells me that if I want to help this boy – and Jesus only knows why I would want to do a fool thing like that – then I’ll have to pay his ticket price and the fine. The kid makes a disapproving noise through his teeth and says, ‘Bullshit, man.’

‘Come on,’ I say, trying to appeal to the inspector’s better nature. ‘You’ve got your ticket machine there. Why not just let me buy the ticket? Maybe he really did lose his wallet.’

The inspector smiles. ‘Oh, right, sure. And how likely is that?’

I shrug. ‘You never know,’ I say.

Finally, as the fast train to Victoria is pulling in to the station, the inspector relents and pushes a few buttons on his machine. I pay the couple of quid ticket price and thank him. Before he waddles past, I say, ‘By the way, if Jesus ever actually existed, yes – I’m sure He’d know exactly why I wanted to help this boy today.’

The kid laughs and makes that snapping noise with his fingers as he says, ‘Whoa, he’s talkin about Jesus now, man. Bare dumb.’

And my face is on fire with the humiliation of it all. Why I said those pious pompous self-righteous things I shall never know. And I’m such a hypocrite because I don’t even think I want to help at all. I just want to stop feeling guilty.

The inspector shakes his head and walks away.

I look down at the kid and hand him his ticket. He makes a gesture like he is waving away a bad smell from under his nose. ‘Keep it, man, you deserve it.’ Then he snatches it from my hand. ‘And don’t expect me to thank you neither, Bono. I never asked for your help.’

‘I don’t expect anything,’ I say, and I get off the train and make my way through threadbare gangs of flexi-commuters and slackers, like Gandhi. But I am lying. I do expect something. I’ve been expecting something since the day I was born.

Chapter Two :: A Proper Little Hero

I’m only on this train in the first place because my sister left a weepy message on my mobile, and then there’s this mini-rumpus with this idiot boy dodging his fare, and then this geeky boy stands up out of nowhere and starts talking about ‘drastic measures’ and like, what would Jesus do? And all the while he’s bright red and sweating like a chicken McNugget. I’ve never seen anything like it, but there’s no doubt, the thing he does is really really sweet. He basically bales this other boy out, pays his fare for him and stops the conductor calling the police. And the other boy is such an ungrateful bugger, I would’ve slapped his face if he’d talked to me like that. But this geeky boy just takes it in his stride. He sticks up for himself a bit and tells the mouthy boy to shut up, but you can see he’s scared even as he says it.

I end up behind him as we shuffle up the platform. The mouthy one is practically running, pushing his way past people to get out of the station. He didn’t even thank the boy who helped him, which I think is really well out of order.

Then the sweetly weird one walks into the main part of the station – the whatsit, the concourse. And then he stands still and looks around. When he looks in my direction I keep on walking. He looks straight at me and I feel myself blushing, like he’s caught me spying on him, which I suppose he has. I look down at the ground and walk past.

But for some reason I can’t just leave it at that. When I reach the next circle of telephone cubicles – well, they’re hardly cubicles – those poles with four telephones attached to them, and over each telephone is a plastic hood a bit like those old women’s hair dryers in those old women’s hairdressers – when I reach the next one of those I stop and pick up the telephone. I pretend to dial in a number and casually turn round to see what this boy is doing.

But he’s gone.

I’m shocked by how disappointed I am.

Then I see him again, smoking a cigarette and looking in the window of WH Smith. Again he glances in my direction. This time I look away and automatically start talking into the telephone. ‘No, well hopefully yes,’ I say and the woman who lives inside the phone asks me to hang up and dial again.

The boy bends down to look at something in the window. Then he slowly leans forward until his head is resting on the glass. Two boys come up behind him. One of them kicks him in the back of the knees, but it’s obvious he’s just messing about. The boy stands up straight quickly and turns round. The three of them start talking together, laughing.

Then I notice that there’s an old woman hanging around the phones, looking at her watch and sighing impatiently. I feel guilty for not really using the phone, so I pull a sorry face and wander away, still spying, pulling out my mobile. I phone my sister, not really knowing why.

‘Polly Perkins.’

That’s how she answers the phone. Even her mobile. I really wish she wouldn’t. ‘I really wish you wouldn’t say that,’ I tell her.

‘Oh, hello. I thought you were coming over.’

Then I say: ‘I can’t. Something’s come up.’ Which is a surprise, as until that moment, as far as I knew I was still on my way to see her.

‘What’s come up?’ she wants to know.

I think for a moment and decide to tell her the truth, whatever that may turn out to be. We’re very close. I know she’ll understand. ‘I saw this boy on the train,’ I tell her. ‘He did a sweet thing so I’m going to follow him home, find out where he lives and write him an anonymous letter.’


‘It’s the only way to find out more about him,’ I explain.

‘What’s wrong with saying hello?’

‘You know I’m shy,’ I tell her. ‘Look, I’ve got to go, he’s on the move.’

As I put the phone down, she is screaming, ‘You’re mad, Nell, you’re off your head! Be careful!’

I knew she’d understand.

It is only when I'm on a tube travelling north, sitting in the next carriage to the boy and his two friends, pretending to read my book, that I realise Polly is probably right: I am off my head.

Chapter Three….

I've no idea. Any thoughts?

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Monday, 17 August 2009

The Ugly Death of Serendipity (A First Date)

A couple of people have asked me how my date went on Friday. Well, I’m going to let Slinkachu help me answer. Click on the image for more clarity.

It didn’t go quite as badly as this…

Nor - thank God - did it go quite as badly as this…

In fact, it actually went quite well. In a way. We certainly got on very well - as well as we had on the phone during the couple of weeks we talked before we actually met. And I certainly found her very attractive - attractive enough to want to vigorously do her until my infinitives split and we both fell to the floor, spent and weeping. So I guess the only thing that went wrong was that just a few days before our date, she met someone else she thinks she might want more.

Funny, huh? It’s like the opposite of serendipity. Shit for luck, I think is the technical, literary name.

So I met up with some friends on Saturday and with the use of various natural and not so natural substances, achieved some really quite epic levels of intoxication. When I explained what had happened on my date, one friend seemed to take great pleasure in pointing out that in a sense, I had been dumped before we’d even met. He found this very amusing. As did all the other men present, who roared with laughter, their heartless, gloating, brutish faces twisted like gargoyles, gargling bile. Men are awful. Men are the reason women exist. I was wondering. Now I realise.

Perhaps the most annoying part of the whole situation is that the woman in question – we should probably give her a name, just in case she pops up again; let’s call her Chlamydia – no, no, that sounds like I’m being mean. Let’s call her Lisa. And let’s say that, like Gillian in Talking It Over, Lisa is a picture restorer. Yes, why not. She kind of is, in a sense. So – perhaps the most annoying part of it is that Lisa isn’t sure whether she wants to pursue this other – younger, better-looking – chap, or not. So I’m kind of left hanging on while she decides.

Which means, as far as I can see, there are now two options available to me.

1. I say, ‘Pshaw! Fuck this. I’m not hanging around like a second-rate dessert on the off-chance that this woman is still hungry enough to stuff me in her beautiful gob when she’s worked her way through the rest of the cake shop. I HAVE MY PRIDE, GODDAMNIT! To hell with her.’

2. I decide to try and sway this woman in my direction with a heady blend of flattering gestures and masculine wiles – not massively easy from 300 miles away, however; not without some sort of multi-platform, geographically-boundless, electronic communication network. Hmmm...

Actually, if she does stop by here and happen upon this gossamer-subtle wile, then she’ll probably be so pissed off that I’ve washed the still-spotless pants of our few hours together in a public forum that that'll be it: decision done. Oh, well. It’s not like I was in love or anything. Even I need more than four and a half hours for that. So.


Now. If any of you relationship experts out there would like to weigh in with your obvious and slightly condescending advice, I really would love to hear it. Especially you, Anjula Mutanda. I’m prepared to bet that any celebrity psychologist with a gallery on her website must also have a Google vanity alert set up – so when you come across this, drop me a line, let’s do dim sum. I promise I’ll take the bag off my head. In bed. Rrrrr.

In the meantime...

All images are by Slinkachu, whose brilliant book of little people art you should probably most definitely purchase.

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Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Unfinished Business...

I've had literally no emails asking me about the answer to the last Bookscan competition back in June, so here, due to a total and utter lack of popular demand is the answer that no one has been waiting for. You ready? Drum roll. Tadaaaaaa...

So there you go. And what a cover. Just look at that naughty man striking Ali in the midriff whilst he ogles his Johnson. Ali can't believe it. He's like, 'Whoa, dude. Eyes off little Mohammed!' Funny old boxers.

Right, that's it. I'm really off this time, and if anyone's interested, apparently I'm on GMTV twice tomorrow - once at 6.45, and once at 8-something. Also, there is going to be a psychologist on there with me, talking psycho-babble. I hope it's Raj Persaud. The big plagiarist.

So, for now, once more, adieu.


STOP! I got confused.

We've already done Ali. This is the answer to the last Bookscan. Wait for it. Drum roll...

Silly me.

Thanks, Boob Pencil. I thought you'd traded yourself in?

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Monday, 10 August 2009

The Daily Mail :: The Backlash

After just reading through the comments on the Daily Mail piece in which I featured today, I feel the need to defend myself.

Most of my defence rests on this: I didn’t actually say any of the unpleasant things I was accused of having said. Which is to say, I was heavily misquoted or, when things I was alleged to have said actually bore some relation to what I did say, they were taken entirely out of context.

For example, the account of the speed date is entirely fictitious. We didn’t talk about that at all. Rather it’s a fake conversation based on a much longer, much more detailed description of what actually happened which I blogged about here, here and here.

The vast majority of the nasty reaction in the comments, however, centres on this excerpt:

‘I know being critical and superficial must sound terrible when I'm so ugly myself,' he admits. 'But I fancy dark women with black hair, black eyes and olive skin. I went to Italy for the first time recently and it was like landing in Paradise. I would love to live there - or, in fact, in any country where women are less pasty than in Britain.'

Jesus. What an absolute arsehole I would be if I had said that, apropos of nothing. In reality, what happened was this: during the interview I was asked if I had ‘a type’. I said that I did, yes, but I could see that admitting that was tantamount to saying ‘I find some women attractive and some women unattractive’, and that this could make me sound rather superficial and hypocritical, because how dare an unattractive man find some women unattractive? I went on to say that some of the women I found unattractive were women who were commonly accepted as being beautiful – women like Paris Hilton and Pamela Anderson. I think I also mentioned Jordan. I certainly meant to. I made a point of pointing out that a person’s personality makes all the difference, and if a conventionally 'beautiful' person has an 'ugly' personality, then it's that personality shines through.

I guess I should really have known I was being set up.

Oh, and I never said that women in Britain were ‘pasty’. What I actually said – in response to a question about whether or not I was seeing anyone at the moment – was that women in the North East of England – where I’m living at the moment – are ‘pasty’ and ‘white’. To be more specific, I talked about how the vast majority of the people in the North East seem to have been born and bred in the North East and I talked about how that’s almost entirely the opposite in London, where almost everyone you meet is from somewhere else. I talked about the women in London being from all over the world and about how I enjoyed and was excited by that diversity.

But there you go. I knew the risks when I agreed to the interview. The Daily Mail is a tabloid newspaper and that’s what tabloid newspapers do. They distort the facts. They conflate, misquote and when things don’t quite fit with their remit, they invent. And I can’t really blame the commenters either, because despite the fact that everyone knows this, everyone seems to forget it. You read a quote and you assume it’s an accurate reflection of the subject’s personality. And if that personality comes across as rather unpleasant, you react, usually without pausing to wonder if what you're reading is true or not. I’ve done it myself.

Having said that, Sandy in London? Go fuck yourself.


Oh, and I'm on GMTV on Wednesday morning. PLEASE DO NOT WATCH ME.

Thank you.

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I Am the Woodlouse

I have a friend who once found himself urinating next to Martin Amis at the ICA. Thankfully, they were both in the toilet at the time, positioned at adjoining urinals. My friend was very interested in drugs in that period of his life – from an academic as well as a practical perspective – so, knowing that Martin Amis wasn’t opposed to a little dabble himself, my friend asked the urinating author which drugs he considered most efficacious for writing. ‘Cannabis,’ replied Amis, tapping the old man thoughtfully. ‘It has a shamanic quality.’

When my friend told me this story, I was thrilled. One of my favourite writers of all time had basically, via a pissing intermediary, said: ‘You carry on the way you are, Stan. You’re doing everything right. You’re going to be OK. Oh, and… get dental insurance.’

Speaking of cannabis, one thing that’s become extremely clear again recently is that although it can, if used carefully, buttress the process of writing, it in no way contributes to a healthy dream life. Currently, however, I haven’t smoked anything for more than a month and I find that I’m dreaming like a drugged wizard.

In fact, as I write this, it's just after 5 a.m. on Saturday morning and I’ve just woken up from an unpleasant dream about Morag.

Actually, I’ve been having lots of unpleasant dreams about Morag recently. In fact, even dreams that did not seem to be about Morag, may have actually been. For example, the dream about the woodlouse.

Sometime last week I dreamt that a woodlouse was living in my chest hair. I was happy about this, despite the fact that when I looked down, it seemed to be coming apart at the seams, its little legs and its almost transparent carapace separating as it struggled in my manly pelt. Then, when I woke up alone, sans woodlouse, I felt horribly alone. Not happily alone, as I have on occasion felt. No. Horribly alone.

Whereas this morning I dreamt that Morag and I were still together and she was distant, down and distinctly uncommunicative. Something had happened with a mutual friend. She said it was something to do with money, but she wouldn’t tell me what it was. I didn’t believe her. I woke up in distress. I found myself wanting to go back to the dream and ask her if she loved me at all; if she’d ever loved me.

Could it be that I’m not actually over her?

I don’t think so – I mean, I am over her. It’s not like I want to go back. We weren’t right. I want someone who’s right for me. I want someone who can love me wholeheartedly and Morag couldn’t do that. Not for long. What’s preying on my mind now is the fact that I loved her more than I’ve ever loved before and I’m afraid I’ll never be able to do that again, for fear of doing it wrong, for fear of loving the wrong person. But then just because it didn’t last forever doesn’t mean she was the wrong person to love.

Oh, fuck it. I’m going back to sleep. Perchance to dream sweeter.


Sunday night, Monday morning...

I didn’t dream at all last night. Or at least nothing stayed with me. Typical. I’ve cursed it. I will never dream again.

I’m floundering about a bit at the moment. In general I mean. I don’t really know what I’m doing with this blog. And I don’t really know what’s happening with the book. I guess it’s early days still. But on the whole I’m feeling a bit fed up. With everything. Mostly I’m fed up with being cut off from everything. I need change. It’s coming soon I know, but I kind of need it now. So – in the absence of change, I’ve decided to plump for something which is apparently just as good: a rest.

Oh! And well I never. I’ve just realised that a year ago this week, Keith’s old flat was flooded and I stopped blogging till the beginning of September last. That settles it then. This year – although I don’t have the excuse of an act of God – I’m going to do the same. I’m having some time off. Yes. It’s a decision I’ve made. I might draw the occasional Jackson and tweet the occasional nonsense, but unless something staggering happens, I’m away from here till September.

And just in case you’re wondering, this has nothing whatsoever to do with any shame I might feel over my misquotathon in the Daily Mail today. In fact I feel no shame at all. Not that I'm claiming that I’m suddenly a fan of the newspaper. Heaven forfend. I still regularly entertain unimaginably violent fantasies involving Amanda Platell, Peter Hitchens, Richard Littlejohn, Liz Jones, Christopher Hart, a roll of cling film and a meat tenderiser. However, I would like something a friend of mine said – when I mentioned my misgivings on the day of the Mail interview – to be taken into consideration. She said, and I quote:

‘I’m all about preaching to the unconverted, so I think MUCH better to speak to The Enemy, have some of their number find and fall in love with your writing, then be convinced by you that they should live better. It’s really an actively good thing you're doing.’

You See? An Actively Good Thing.

Plus, I’m hoping it’ll sell some more books. Not because I want the money, you understand, but because I want to Heal The World with my words.

Oh, and if you’ve come here from the Daily Mail, and you’re genuinely not aware of what a hideous paper it is, then look at this. And have a good long think about what you’ve done.

So. That’s all for now. Oh, except this, which is funny.

Right. I'm done.

See you in September. In London!

Oh, and I realise of course, that in many ways – deep breath – yes – I am the woodlouse.

Goo goo g’joob.

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Friday, 7 August 2009

Feedback Friday :: Paint Me A Lake and I’ll Drown In It

hours on bike :: 12
hours of Wii Fit :: 7
pictures of Jackson :: 2
photographs taken :: 106
decent photographs taken :: maybe 10
festivals attended :: 0
days remaining till return to London :: 23

A little over a week ago I found myself at the very excellent Draw Serge, where illustrator Jonathan Edwards invites artists the internet over to send in their visual interpretations of ‘louche, turtle-eyed genius’ Serge Gainsbourg. I thought this was a wonderful idea, but I didn’t really understand why Serge Gainsbourg was the inspiration. Apart from his song about ladybirds fucking, the only thing I really know him for is his hilarious harassment of a pre-crack-ravaged Whitney Houston on French TV. So, spurred on by my gargantuan ignorance, I thought I’d like to do something similar but with a subject I could more readily relate to. Ideally it would be someone renowned for their many different looks. Hmmm. I thought for a while. Then it hit me. Ow!

And so Draw Jackson was born.

Not being an artist myself, I turned to my friend NotKeith to help me get started, and over the last week, we both knocked up a couple of efforts. Obviously, Keith's are somewhat better than mine...

Now I’m going to try and get the internet involved.

Being realistic, I know that like so many others, this project will probably fall flat on its bleached face at the first hurdle, but you know what? I do not care. It’s a bit of fun, innit? And a fitting tribute to a fascinating man.

So whether you have bags of artistic talent or you can barely draw breath; whether you adored Michael Jackson and agreed with Uri Geller that he was basically Jesus, but whiter, or you despised him and considered him the concentrated OJ of child abuse, do the internet a favour and make a pictorial tribute to the troubled king of moonwalking and Jesus Juice. Your work will be briefly critiqued and your blog, if you have one, linked.

In other visual news, the sun was out yesterday in the North for pretty much the first time this year, so I went to the sea and took some photos. I’d like if I may, to share them with you. And I know I may.

This says it all really…

This is the reason I cycled for four hours yesterday and the reason I’m having another crack at fasting over the next few days. I refuse to end up like one of these pregnant old men…

And this is a windmill…

And this has nothing whatsoever to do with Michael Jackson – just one letter out though…

There are lots more here, should you be of a mind to peruse them.

Now I must return to the saddle, before the clouds crack.

Have a good weekend.

Doing anything nice?

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Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Suicide Is Shameless

Of course it could just be a lazy sub-editor that insists on prefacing many of Amanda Platell’s Daily Mail hate-piece headlines with the word ‘sorry’, but I’m pretty sure it’s Amanda herself. You can hear her voice in it, and she isn't sorry at all. Rather, her sorry is the equivalent of her furrowing her brow like a salted slug and snorting contemptuously, ‘Errr, hello?’ For example, there was ‘Sorry, why should the NHS treat people for being fat?’ Then there was, ‘Sorry, but all of us - including me - must share the blame for Susan Boyle's path to The Priory’. Then there was the (slightly ironic? No.) ‘Sorry, but we need more than apologies’, directed at Gordon Brown et al.

Then this week, she did it again. Another title, another contemptuous fake apology. ‘Sorry,’ it begins, ‘but Debbie Purdy’s brave victory diminishes us all.’

This of course is the story of primary progressive MS sufferer Debbie Purdy and her desire – when the pain of her disease becomes unbearable – to go to Dignitas in Switzerland to hasten her death, and to be accompanied by her husband in the knowledge that her husband will not then be sent to jail for 14 years, as the current legislation decrees. Purdy doesn’t want her husband imprisoned.

Platell’s not so sure.


Platell is worried that in mapping out the guidance for future cases, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, will set our country on course for the legalisation of voluntary euthanasia. ‘Surely it is part of being human,’ Amanda argues, ‘that life is not all about joy and happiness - it is about learning to cope with disappointments, sorrows and, yes, death. The shadows on life's journey are what make its sunny moments so precious. Yet increasingly we seem to shy away from these challenges.’

Amanda Platell, it seems, is a bona fide moron. She seems to be under the impression that deciding to end one’s own life - for whatever reason - is an easy option, a walk in the park on a sunny day; and she seems unaware that opting for death is actually a perfectly valid way of coping with the challenges of life.

‘Coming to terms with a natural death,’ she goes on, ‘is an essential part of the human experience - not just for the person coming to the end of their existence, but for all those around them. Assisted suicide, on the other hand, reduces dying to a process no more significant or challenging than checking out of a hotel.’

Oh, Amanda. Don’t make me wish a wasting disease on you. Again.

Presumably, when - after 54 years of marriage - Sir Edward and Lady Joan Downes chose to end their lives together last month, rather than accept the slow decay of blindness and deafness, and cancer respectively, Amanda would have stepped in and said, ‘Sorry, but a natural death is an essential part of the human experience.’ Rather than allowing this fantastically vibrant and creative and inspiring couple to end their lives peacefully, painlessly and most importantly, together, Amanda would have insisted they suffer the frustration and agony of slow decay and forced them to die on her terms, depressed, out of control and alone.

The strange thing is, being an arch-right winger, you’d expect Platell to be all in favour of self-determination. Perhaps she has religious qualms and thinks that only God should say when life is over. If so, she’s even more of an idiot than she initially appears. For if God actually existed, surely he’d be made up that some of his children sought to speed their return to his loving bosom? At the very least he’d forgive them. But anyway, this is no place for fiction.

The facts are that despite primitive thinkers like Platell, things do seem - finally - to be heading in the right direction. Keir Starmer this week suggested that whether a person seeks to die in Switzerland or even here in England, their friends and family would be equally protected by the new ruling. ‘This is not a policy that's going to apply only to those who go abroad,’ he said. ‘This policy is going to cover all assisted suicides.’ With this kind of thinking, voluntary euthanasia looks certain to become a reality in this country, sooner rather than later.

What makes this excellent news even more exciting is knowing how much it sticks in Platell’s toxic craw. For me it can't come soon enough. I'm hoping that within 20 years, the whole of Europe will be teeming with suicide cafés. They won’t be called ‘suicide cafés’ of course – that would be crass. They’ll be something quite prosaic and functional like Assisted Suicide Centres or Existence Curtailment Clinics. But colloquially they will be known as Euth Clubs and Toppermarkets and they will be very, very popular.

They will be popular because most people understand that, contrary to Platell’s poisonous, egocentric delusions, it in no way diminishes the preciousness of human life to suggest that human beings should be allowed to end it as and when they please. On the contrary, it could even be argued that it is a clear demonstration of that preciousness. In the Julian Barnes novel, Staring At the Sun, suicide has become commonplace and society views it not as something wholly negative, not as something of which we should be ashamed, but quite the contrary:

‘Suicide wasn't self-abnegation. It didn't say: I am so miserable and unimportant that it doesn't matter if I destroy myself. It said the opposite: look, it said, I am important enough to destroy.’

Surely this is an open and shut casket for anyone with even a hint of compassion. If people want to kill themselves, then for the sake of humanity, let them kill themselves. And the option should not be restricted to those who have a terminal disease. The fact of the matter is, some people are simply not cut out for life, and if we care at all for them, it’s our humanitarian duty to allow them, and even to assist them, to shuffle off with dignity.

Thankfully, it’s not and never will be up to some waxy, venomous cretin at The Daily Mail to decree who has to put up with it and who doesn’t.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, Granny and I are off to Zurich. I’ll be back tomorrow. She won’t.

Sorry, Granny.

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