Friday, 27 March 2009

Friday Feedback :: Handbags at Dawn


bulk :: 15st 1
gym visits :: 3
bananas :: 8
hate-fuelled violent fantasies :: numerous
promises to blog more regularly :: numerous


I have a very close friend who is not very well and currently undergoing treatment for the scariest, most serious of all diseases. You know the one. On Tuesday morning she came to London for a hospital visit in South Kensington, after which we met for lunch. Then we went to see Gran Torino, then we caught a tube to Holborn to meet some of her other friends for a drink.

On the tube, my friend started to feel unwell. We managed to find her a seat, but she was feeling really woozy and looked like she might be about to pass out. Also, she said: ‘I can’t hear anything’, which – although I tried my hardest not to show it – I found kind of terrifying.

We held on for a couple more stops and slowly made our way up and out into the late afternoon air, where my friend drank some water and tried to breathe her way to recovery. Unfortunately, it was rush hour in the middle of central London, so the streets were packed with commuters rushing at full speed and the air was putrid with petrol and general city stench.

We were busy trying to find a little space so my friend could gather herself, when she told me she thought she was going to be sick.

Outside of Holborn tube station is one of those large kiosks you often find outside of busy tube stations. This one sells handbags, scarves and other fripperies. We walked into the space between the back of the kiosk and the railing, and my friend leant over the railing so that she might be sick into the gutter if it turned out that she had to. She was fighting it, hoping it would pass, but bent over the railing just in case. I was standing next to her, my hand on her back, feeling scared for my friend and helpless, but trying to support her as best I could.

As we stood there, behind this kiosk, the guy who runs the kiosk popped his head round the back and shouted, angrily, ‘Don’t be sick there’. I shouted back that my friend wasn’t well and he disappeared up the front again.

As it happens, my friend started to feel a little better and we wandered further down the street so that she might further recover and make a call to find out exactly where her friends were. At which point I caught the eye of the kiosk guy and he shouted something else, something about people always being sick behind his kiosk. He was a thickset pugnacious individual and his manner was very aggressive. I was angry. I wanted to explain to him that his aggression was misplaced, that my friend was seriously ill. So I left her talking on the phone and I went back up to him.

I said, ‘My friend’s not well. She’s really ill, you know.' I'm not sure why I didn't say, 'She's got cancer', but I didn't. It may have been something to do with not wanting to cheapen her condition by even mentioning it to this pig-headed yahoo. Instead I said, 'It’s not like she’s drunk or anything.’

He said that he didn’t care. He said that people were always puking behind his kiosk and it stinks. My face changed to one of hateful rage.

‘Yeah?’ he spat, squaring up to me. ‘Come on then.’

I asked him what he was saying and he pointed out, quite rightly, that I’d made a fighting face, so he offered to fight me. I said I didn’t want to fight him. I told him I just thought he was being really inconsiderate. I repeated that my friend was really ill, trying to get him to understand that this was much more important than the possibility of a fleeting whiff in the street. Which was when he said, ‘Alright, she’s ill. So what?’

My face fell and I shook my head in despair.

‘Alright, mate,’ I said. ‘Thank you.’ And I returned to my friend, who had heard none of this, and I tried to put it behind me.

But I can’t. It keeps going round and round my head, this guy’s lack of concern for his fellow man. I think of his face, his anger, the void where his humanity should be, and I hate him.

But hate is wrong. I know hate is wrong. It goes around, comes around, increasing in intensity, solving nothing. All these fantasies I have where I rerun the conversation in my head and pull a gun on this heartless boor or projectile vomit into his open mouth; fantasies of organising a vomiting flash mob to turn up to his stall and fill each and every last one of his handbags with puke; fantasies of swallowing a hundred laxatives and turning up at his stall at 6am and smearing every inch of his workplace with stinking, repugnant liquid excrement – they’re really not helpful. And I don’t know what to do with them.

I understand also that there is every chance he’s actually a perfectly nice guy, who just happened to be weighed down by the pressures of working in the centre of a hectic city filled with drunks and thugs and idiots. And I found myself wanting to know if that was true. So I did a strange thing. I went back to Holborn this morning and spied on him for a while.

As I spied, I considered approaching him again and asking if he remembered shouting at a sick woman on Tuesday, and offering to fight her friend who was just trying to take care of her. I wondered if he'd feel bad.

But I didn’t take the risk. He still looked like an obnoxious little thug to be honest. The kind of person who wouldn’t think twice about knocking someone to the pavement and kicking them into the gutter.

So I came home.

It was a very sad incident. If not depressing. And it left me feeling pretty helpless.

I'm still not sure what to do with the feelings it's tossed up. Except write about them, and share the sadness.

In other news, today I befriended a fabulous squirrel. Here it is with one of my nuts in its mouth…



Awww. Nice one, squirrel.

Now, have an excellent weekend, whatever you may be up to, and if you see someone in distress, for God's sake, be nice to them.



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Friday, 20 March 2009

Feedback Friday :: Six Feet Under


bulk :: 15st 3
cigarettes :: 3 (I know, I know. It’s like I have a death wish or something)
tears shed :: no, no, no. Let’s not go there.


So. I just finished watching the 63rd and final episode of Six Feet Under. And you know what I want to do now? I want to start at the beginning and watch all sixty-three episodes all over again. Than again with the commentaries. But I won’t. Not yet. Not now. Now I’ve got to get on with living. But you - if you’ve never seen Six Feet Under, please, please make an effort to do so. It will improve the quality of your life.



Six Feet Under is – in my most humble opinion – the greatest television programme ever made. Not just because it has the most profoundly drawn and miraculously written characters I’ve ever seen. Not just because it is consistently imaginative and hilarious and exciting and harrowing and terrifying and provocative and subversive. But also because it is very, very important.

Before Six Feet Under, TV shows didn’t really talk about death, or if they did, they danced around it on tiptoes, like tourists in a notoriously dodgy part of town. Six Feet Under gets up close and personal with death. It gets right under its fingernails in a way that is courageous and unflinching and at times unbearably painful. And this is important because it helps us to come to terms with our own mortality, and this is important because it helps us to feel the miracle of life more acutely. At least this is how it affected me. And I'm by no means special.

My ex found it uncomfortable. Particularly the deaths which opened each episode. I hope she comes back to it one day, because I think it will help her too. It’s definitely helped me. It's no exaggeration to say that I feel more ready to die because of Six Feet Under. (And not in the same way I felt more ready to die after watching Mamma Mia - I don't want to die; I just don't fear it quite so much.)

Six Feet Under has made my life considerably richer. I feel honoured to have seen it, to have felt it, and I feel genuinely privileged to have known the Fisher family. I love them. I really love them.

Here's a scene - just one scene until I learn how to get DVD clips online - which contains many of the elements which make it so good...



God, I love it so much.

My one regret is that I watched the vast majority of it alone, but... well, that’s life.

And life goes on.

And speaking of which, apologies to Publisher Lady for having fallen behind with the rewrites of the book. I’ve had a tough week. I’ve been grieving. I know, I know. No one was more surprised than me. I thought I was out of the woods, but it came back to haunt me. Sorry for the delay. You’ll have what you need by Monday morning. I hope that's OK. And then, then I guess I’ll have to find another job.

So.

Let's raise a glass. All of us.

To the future.

Who’s with me?



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Thursday, 19 March 2009

Saint Sebastian

Sometime in the week following Valentine’s Day, when everything was upside down and my emotional life was in bits, I received an email from one Lennie Nash concerning all-round would-be bad egg, Sebastian Horsley. It’s rather interesting, and I reprint it here with permission:


Dear Stan,

I don't know how to say this, but you are so wrong about that Sebastian Horsley. After reading about him with interest (mine not yours) on your excellent blog, I went to see him do a reading at Foyles book store.

At first he was spectacularly bad, and I kept thinking 'how right you are Stan, how right you are!' He came on, called everybody 'cunts' because they were clapping, then called some women at the front 'sluts' because they were women. One looked so offended, her face crumpled up like a baboon pissing glass.

Then Horsley read from some of his bad reviews, which was petty funny, but I don't think I heard yours mentioned.

Then more name-calling and a couple of passages from his book. No more genius to declare than that really.

But it was what happened next that made me realise there's more to the man than some third-rate Wildesque cad, frothy with wit in 140 characters.

I hung around, earwigging, at the end, near the handful of people wanting photographs etc. And what amazed me was how incredibly nice he was to them. He was gracious and softly spoken and I could go on, but I'm not sure if you'll believe me anyway.

Also, I noticed he liked human contact - when people wanted their photos taken with him, he put one arm around them and rubbed their backs slowly. It was like he needed the warmth of proximity. This might put all the whoring in context (his not mine), then again might not.

Then something splendid happened, Stan. He was talking to this couple, and I heard him say, "Well, I tell you what, you can have this copy", and he handed over the book he'd been reading from to a couple who couldn't afford to buy their own copy. Just like that. And he inscribed the inside front cover at length too. They both sort of squealed with delight. And I think I did too. It was very generous. His inscription was about 100 words long and seemed to end with the words, "remember me".

I was so impressed, I had my photo taken with him. I said: "You're actually a really nice guy, aren't you? All of this calling everyone 'cunts' stuff is just a big act." Sheepishly he agreed.

"You've got to confuse the enemy," he replied, rubbing my back. The person who’d taken our picture returned my phone camera and said "Is that alright?" Horsley replied, "You look great, I look terrible", and then muttered something about his skin flaking off his face. I told him he looked great, wished him well and left.

When I told someone heading to the same Tube stop what he'd said about confusing the enemy, she replied, "He is the enemy" - and I think she was right. Horsley is his own worst enemy, spending all that time and effort being outrageous and getting people to hate him, when all he really wants is a little love. But I suppose, there’s only one thing in the world worse than being talked about...

Anyway, I thought I'd better tell you the truth about Horsley because I think if you met him, you'd probably quite like him.

All the best,

Lennie


What was particularly satisfying about reading this was that it’s more or less exactly what I’d predicted here. And I quote:


He’s carved out this niche for himself, created this character, this rather contrived cocktail of the Marquis de Sade and Oscar Wilde who struts through life, whoring, pontificating, smoking crack and playing the gigantic ‘I am’, when all he really wants is someone to hold him close, mop his furrowed brow and tell him that everything is going to be alright.


Interestingly, Stephen Fry’s production company Sprout Films recently bought the rights to Horsley’s memoirs, so everything probably is going to be alright.

Thanks for the story, Lennie, and particularly the baboon-based imagery.


Lennie Nash blogs about his failure to become a professional chef at Chef Sandwich.



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Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Spring Clean

On Saturday night I cleaned the house. Or at least I made a start. In the end it proved too large a job for one evening, and frankly speaking, too painful a job. I kept finding things which belonged to Morag, and before I knew what had hit me, I was crying like a baby. More specifically, a baby that’s been left for a whole month in an unchanged nappy, gathering soil. I spent a lot of Saturday crying. I’m a big girl’s blouse, I know.

I texted Morag too. I couldn’t help it. I just wanted her to know that I missed her. It’s not that I want to get back with her. I don’t. We’re not right for each other. And that’s that. But I miss her. And I feel terribly lonely without her.

When she didn’t reply to my text, I sent her an email. She wrote back on Sunday. It was a nice email. It felt like we might manage to be friends. One day. Somehow it felt like closure. Like it’s time to stop moping and move on.

So I’m posting this poem now, to get it out of the way. I wrote it some time over the last few weeks. It’s not very good, I’m afraid. This is because I am not a poet. It’s called Stockholm Syndrome. Here it is here:


Since you saw fit to declare our love dead,
I’m free to be wilfully, shamelessly me.
Away from the shame of the shake of your head,
I’m free to be all I suppose I must be.

I'm free to perform my ablutions with vigour,
Whilst loudly declaring with nose, throat and bowels.
I am free to flick floss flotsam onto the mirror,
And dry my clean penis on fluffy face towels.

Should I desire I am free to spit phlegm
Into the tall kitchen bin or the sink,
I’m free to mock Marquez but like Eminem,
And not have to hear yet again what you think.

I’m free to make tea with the milk poured in first,
Then go to bed late and with booze on my breath.
I’m free to drink juice from the carton when thirsty,
And free to make dubious jokes about death.

I’m free to embarrass and say what I’m feeling,
Free to feel furious, free to vent spleen.
I’m free to reveal what I feel needs revealing,
And not give a fuck about keeping it clean.

So here I am free to be me unberated,
Living my life how I like, free from dread.
But freedom for me is a tad overrated,
Since you saw fit to declare our love dead.


No, I know. It’s rather adolescent. I’m sorry.

It’s out now though. It’s done. Dusted and done. Time to move on.

Now I must get on with the rewrites for the book. Then I must get back to the grind and find some more work, because I am skint. And in the meantime I must stop sending drunken emails about moles and tortoises to virtual strangers, because I’m really not doing myself any favours.

And that’s that.

Oh, one more thing. This:



...is from Ange's salt cellar:



So now you know.

Onwards!



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Thursday, 12 March 2009

Money Actually

All you need is love. That's what John Lennon reckoned, but he was wrong. Sometimes you need a bulletproof vest too. And sometimes you need a cynical, jaded eye. Often, in fact. Having said that, although love is most certainly not all you need, it is the prime mover of the human spirit and life without it is stale, flat, tiring and - on the whole - depressingly pointless.

So when on Saturday 17th January I received an email from Nikki Leigh, contacting me on behalf of Dr Ava Cadell, founder of Loveology University, I automatically assumed that this was merely yet another unscrupulous, self-serving charlatan exploiting humanity's instinctive desire for love for personal financial gain.

But I thought I’d better do a bit of research, just to be sure. So I looked up Loveology University online and to my gargantuan surprise, it turns out that it’s actually a beautiful thing! Turns out that Dr Ava Cadell is a genuine, warm, caring human being who wants nothing more than to help people help themselves to become more ready to give and receive love.

Nah, just kidding. She’s a charlatan. And Nikki Leigh is her Satanic little PR twot.

This by the way, is only my opinion. I know how litigious these American charlatans can be, so let me reiterate that all of this is mere opinion - bitter, malicious, loveless conjecture based on what to my disenchanted eyes are glaringly obvious facts.

Anyhow, Ms Leigh wanted to know if I’d like to help promote Loveology University and their repugnant, soulless Valentine’s Day-themed competition to find the World's Best Lover. (Yawn.) You probably heard from her too. I’m sure she contacted every blog on the internet which somewhere features the word ‘love’ or ‘sex’. I wrote back to say I’d be very interested in interviewing Dr Ava and a week or two later, I sent her a bunch of genuine, heartfelt, inquisitive questions, including the following:


1. Give me a piece of free advice. Show me and my readers how good you are. What do you advise for a couple who love each other very much but just can’t seem to stop arguing?

2. What’s the difference between your short term $99 certified course entitled ‘Love’ and a simple self-help book from my local lending library? Apart of course from the price.

3. You say that ‘Loveology University is the only place where anyone from anywhere can actually learn about sex, love, relationships, intimacy and get certified in it.’ What does it mean to be certified in love? Can you help me get certified?

4. At the beginning of a promotional film on the Loveology website, you are described as ‘Hollywood’s leading sexologist’ over a snippet of footage of Nicole Kidman kissing John Travolta. Do you actually advise Nicole Kidman and John Travolta? If not, isn’t it a little misleading to use their images? [film since taken down from site]

5. Do you ever get personally, physically involved in couples therapy?

6. According to your thought-provoking essay on aphrodisiacs, you claim that eating carrots leads to a feeling of strong sexual desire and that ginger increases blood flow to the genitals. What about raw meat? I get terribly feisty after going to work on an uncooked steak. Is there anything to be said for that?

7. ‘Have an S & L sandwich!’ you say at some stage. At first I assumed this was a typo, but you go on to explain: ‘It’s a generous helping of sex between two slices of love.’ That’s all very well, but when does ‘a generous helping’ become gluttony?

8. In your film on your webpage I saw that you had a glove puppet in the shape of a giant vagina. Did you have this specially made? How can I get hold of one of these?

9. You are also described in your film as having a PhD on the subject of Women. This seems unlikely. You’re not one of those fake professionals, are you, with a PhD from the internet?

10. A prominent banner on your website declares: ‘Many people give up looking for love, just when they are about to find it.’ How can you possibly know that this statement is true?


Then I waited. And I waited. And so on. Then I wrote to Nikki to check she had received my questions. She replied:


‘I did receive the questions and I've been trying to figure out the best way to reply. The tone is confrontational and argumentative - not inquisitive. I totally understand wanting to verify value, but it appears possible that you wouldn't be satisfied even if she could find time to answer all those questions. All the answers are on her website along with much much more information. The way you worded this, basically puts her in a bad light to start. I'm really searching to put her and Loveology in a positive light - with this approach she would be starting in a hole and digging her way out. I can supply articles on any number of topics, links to all sorts of information etc - but I'm not sure you would be satisfied with any of that - not because of the quality or value, but starting from such a negative tone. She is world renowned for her work and travels the globe to help people and businesses….’


So that was that. I left it. I was disappointed, frankly, but she was right. I did intend to show Dr Ava Cadell in a bad light, because – in my opinion – she is a charlatan. An odious, money-grubbing, manipulative fiend, exploiting ignorance, fear and heart-breaking loneliness to make herself rich. If she’d been genuine and had a bit of spunk about her, she could have replied to my questions and I would gladly have published her answers and helped to promote her business. But she didn’t. Because - I guess - she couldn’t. Not without giving herself away. And Dr Ava gives nothing away.

Anyhow, for all the poor saps who are taken in by this kind of bilge, I thought I would post this anyway, and maybe one of them might find their way here first and think better of it.

And if anyone from Loveology University is reading this, you should know, I would pay top dollar for my very own vagina glove puppet. Message me.

Love you.



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Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Awry

This month is not really going according to plan.

What happened to the pilates ball? What happened to the photography? What happened to the daily blogging? Pffft. I am a disgrace to the blogging community and I apologise.

It’s just been a bit of a weird time. I’ve been up and down about Morag, about my life after Morag. I wrote some poetry. I watched a lot of TV. I had a friend come to London, a Turkish lady called Alev. I made it obvious that I wanted to sleep with her. She made it obvious she didn’t want to sleep with me, and that she was disappointed that I would willingly cuckold her husband, a man I also claim as a friend. I explained that I was in a tender place and that she smelled lovely. She forgave me.

I am in a tender place. I started crying when I read that Jade Goody wants to be reincarnated as an old lady. I cried because it made me sad that someone could be so close to the abyss and yet so far away from even the most basic grasp of how the world works. Her startlingly feeble understanding of life has clearly been loosened still further by her desperation to cling on to it. Now she actually seems to believe that old people are born that way. It’s tragic. I have heard it mooted that the whole illness is fabricated. I really hope it is. Because all life is precious.

In its viciousness, its lack of discrimination and its unpredictability, death is thoroughly amazing. In December 2007 when this blog was just a few days old. I spent an entire afternoon finding photos of ugly people and beautiful people for a post no one would ever read. Looking at those photos now, I don’t think you would ever guess that Jade Goody would be the one to die. You wouldn’t. In fact, I would have bet that she’d live the longest, simply because she was the least intelligent and most brashly annoying - and life’s like that. But it’s not. We just think it is when people we love die. In reality, it discriminates on grounds of neither intellectual nor financial wealth.

When I originally posted these pictures, the ‘game’ was to see if you could guess which celeb was ugly and which beautiful, thus proving that physical ugliness exists in an objectively quantifiable form. Now I find myself wondering which will die first.

Jessica Alba vs Jade Goody...



Bruce Willis vs Bruce Forsyth...



Tracey Emin vs Monica Bellucci...



Wayne Rooney vs Thierry Henri...



Scarlett Johansson vs Sister Wendy Beckett...



Johnny Depp vs Shane McGowan...



Jocelyn Wildenstein vs Beyonce...



I think I need to move on.

I have work to do for the next couple of days. Very boring copy writing. Pharmaceuticals. For Alev, who smells of ylang ylang and vanilla.

And then I’m going to clean the house.

And start again.



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Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Feedback Wednesday :: March


bulk :: 15st 2
booze :: not much at all, considering
painkillers :: just a handful
joints :: zero
healthy meals :: zero
films :: 5
visits to the dentist :: 1
days till deadline :: -5
panic level :: 2
whinge level :: 1
spring fever fervour :: 6


Before this month began, I vowed to myself that I would do a minimum of 15 minutes ball work every single day. Pilates Ball work, that is. ‘March,’ I declared, with all the wide-eyed earnestness of a man with a fresh start between his teeth, ‘is Abs Month!’

The first day was a doddle, because I didn’t really do it very well. The second day however, I did it very well indeed. An invigorating combination of punishing ball-work, some rather pelvis-heavy disco-dancing, and press-ups, all offered to Mr Motivator, the patron saint of Home-Exercise, to the accompaniment of the new Lemon Jelly DVD I got for two or three pounds in Fopp in Cambridge Circus. I love Fopp. I’m giving Fopp free advertising.

On the third day I woke up wearing a girdle of pain which simultaneously reassured me I had stumbled upon the right exercises, and also convinced me to take a day off. I’m back on it today however, and looking forward to throwing myself a beating a little later on.

Another little thing that popped into my addled hive this monthabouts was the idea of starting a daily photo website and calling it, let’s say, In the Details or some such. I’m just playing with the idea at the moment, not really sure where I’m going. I like details though, that’s what it comes down to. But is that enough on which to base a new blog? Why, of course it is. And the devil really is in the details, I’m convinced of that. So I decided whilst I ponder and thrash, that I’d post a picture here, every day in March.

I started yesterday, disguising it as a passing fancy, and your responses both heartened and amused. If there were a prize, it would go to daisyfae because, even though both of her answers – ‘…an egg in a porcelain egg rest. Or the granite nipple of David….’ - were wrong, both brought a low, lexicogenous hum to my lymph.

Oh, and nil points to Lennie Nash, who snatches the Russell Brand award for unnecessarily inappropriate remarks direct from Carol Thatcher’s grasping, toxicankerous mitts.

It was actually my gorgeous new mouse for my gorgeous new computer where I now spend every waking hour.

Today’s pic is down below.

How exciting.

So what with the stomach, and the photos, and all the other quotidian guff stuff, I shall be posting a lot over the coming few weeks.

In fact, I think it’s safe to say :: March is Quotidian Guff Month, where the byword is quantity, not quality.

In other news, I handed in the manuscript on Friday. Now, as I await verdicts and edits and last-minute panics, I am free. Free, I tell you, for the first time – to this extent - in my entire life!

Although the first instalment of the advance has already been swapped for a proper computer and used to eradicate the first third of an agonizing tax bill, I have paid the rent for the next month and I should be able to last till the second instalment.

So I have a bit of time. I’ve got a couple of weeks worth of things to watch and read, so I’m going to do that. And some pottering about online, offline and in my lady’s chamber.

(I have no lady, but if I did, rest assured, I would be pottering in her chamber right now.)

Now, where the hell is my jazz oregano?

Here is today’s image. First one to get is, gets it…



Any thoughts?



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Tuesday, 3 March 2009

March Came In Like A Frozen Hare....

I've got big plans for March. But not yet. I'm off to see my friend Ange today. She hasn't been well, so I'm going to go spread some joy. As is my wont. Then I'll be back. And just as soon as I'm back, we've got some catching up to do, you and I.

I leave you with this:



Can you see what it is?



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