Monday, 20 December 2010

So This is Christmas

“...And what have you done?” the song impetuously demands. Quite a lot actually. Mainly involving avoiding being swept along with hordes of shoppers heading for Lynx gift sets, bread or both. Which feels like a lot, I'll have you know.



Possibly caught driving his sleigh whilst under the influence of sherry. Whoever she is.




Like the gynaecologist who sees so much pussy day in day out that the last thing he wants to see when he gets home is the one belonging to his long-suffering wife, I’ve been doing so much copywriting lately that updating this lil blog o’ mine has fallen down the list of my priorities. Not that I’m complaining about the workload; it’s nice to feel like I’m actually using my degree for something and working from home definitely has its advantages, especially in the winter months.

And due to the weather, work, and the UK’s oft-blamed public transport system, it looks like my Brighton home is where I’ll be nestled this Christmas. Enjoying the sound of silence (which could’ve been a blog post all of its own, but one that would’ve indubitably fallen upon deaf ears, ho ho), interspersed with “Jingle Bells” as brought to you by animals of Youtube:



and this amazing mash-up of every Christmas tune ever from the prolific Casetteboy which more than capably fulfils my need for an injection of Christmassy schmaltz.

Prior to Annual Gift Day itself, I’ve got some clock burning to do and a sex shop party I may attend, so life’s far from dull. And why celebrate the birth of a person I’m unsure whether I actually believe in the existence of anyway. Spending the day in quiet reflection seems appropriate, even if that reflection happens to be my mug in the bath tub taps or television screen.

What I am sure of is seeing some of my friends and family, somehow, before 2010 is over, that I hope everyone gets the Christmas they deserve wherever they may be, whomever they may be with, and that I wish a prosperous 2011 to all.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

P's and Queues

Just got off the phone to a recruitment agency. I was surprised that they answered at all, it being a Sunday, so proceeded to express my surprise and delight at not having to leave a message and having someone to talk to in an accordingly friendly manner.






“What can we help you with?” came the gruff reply. Clearly somebody resents not being able to spend the whole day in their dressing gown. As I currently do. Over my clothes. Which are padded with cushions and pillows. Not forgetting the three pairs of socks. And the halogen heater strapped to my back.



Which sadly emits more light than heat.




“Err, yes, I’m having trouble using your website to submit my hours...”

“The Out of Hours team doesn’t deal with that. You’ll have to phone back on a Monday.”

“Oh gosh yes of course silly me dreadfully sorry to have troubled you...”

“Bye.”





This is just the sort of daily interaction Lynne Truss objects to in her self-proclaimed extended rant of a book, Talk to the Hand, subtitled The Utter Bloody Rudeness of Everyday Life, sub-subtitled ‘Or Six Good Reasons to Stay at Home and Bolt the Door. She (or Ms Truss as I’d better refer to her) describes occasions where we end up apologising when we feel we’re owed an apology. I increasingly feel this way when dealing with shop assistants and check out operators. I’m terribly sorry I need to interrupt you to give you some money to pay for some of your wares, you must be awfully inconvenienced, I’ll be on my way now and try not to trouble anyone else on my way back to my shell. Then when walking home, ill-gotten goods in tow, I mentally kick myself as they are the ones that are supposed to feel grateful I’ve spent money in their shop and be the ones thanking me.

Take a recent Christmas shopping trip to HMV for example, located in the murky depths of Brighton’s Churchill Square, home to every shop you can think of on every other high street in Britain, the bus depot and several thousand shoppers. Which is several thousand too many. Already fazed after spotting a Bieber biography (isn’t that guy like 12?) I hastily selected a suitable gift (which turns out to be Part Two of Two, so now I’m faced with a return trip to find Part One) and joined the queue. I was served by a scene princess who was engrossed in conversation with her colleague, a Zac Efron lookalike, behind a raised dias of a counter just so we little shoppers know our place.

“Hello! I’d like to see how much money I’ve got left on these vouchers to pay for this if I may.”

(SP swipes cards, continues yapping to Zac about her weekend).

“£4.11 to pay” (stuffs book into bag, even though I had one open ready to put it in. So much for Brighton being a green city).

I hand over money. “Thanks, bye!” I say to the back of her head as she gives her beloved Zac her full attention, FINALLY, now that pesky customer has gone.

Another occasion, this time in the Morrisons of St James’ Street. I’m trying to hold in seething anger as customer in front of me talks to check out girl about perms for what seems like hours. Check out girl starts scanning my stuff with barely a glance in my direction. “That’ll be £some money please”. I hand over a note. Meanwhile she is still talking to the previous customer, swopping numbers of hairdressers on bits of till receipt, opening the till to stuff my money in and slamming it shut again. I remind her that I’m owed some change. With a sigh she re-opens the till and fishes it out. I leave feeling like I’ve just been a bloody nuisance when all I’ve done is ask for what’s rightfully mine.

Thanks to Ms Truss, I now know I’m not alone in getting really peeved when I think back on my (increasingly rare, if you can’t tell) dealings with the outside world and its inhabitants. I won’t go as far as shouting at boys on skateboards like she does though, because I think they’re kinda hot.




He can't hear you from up there anyway.





I used to work behind a till so I know what a difference it can make when someone is pleasant. I even mastered the ability of breaking off conversations with colleagues to give full attention to customers. I might become one of those people that says “PLEASE” where I’m felt a please is owed. I’ve already become one of those people that shouts “helps if you press the bloody button!” to the person on the other side of the road when I’m waiting for the lights to change who is babbling away on their phone and looking up and down the road wondering why on earth the traffic isn’t slowing. Let this serve as a warning to anyone who intends to go out in public with me. If there’s anyone left after that tirade. Hello?

Monday, 8 November 2010

Come Dine With Me Drinking Game!

1. A questionable delicacy is presented in a ramekin.

Drink one ramekin’s worth of rum.


2. Somebody fingers their guests’ food while preparing/serving. Scuse fingers!

2 fingers.


3. Someone pretends to be okay with the dog/cat/rabbit/snake/horse supping at the table but reveals their disgust at this heinous crime behind the scenes.

Hair of the dog.



No. No you cannot.




4. Someone refuses to join in the fancy dress theme because it would ruin their image.

Down a pint of water.


5. The host gets their guest’s name wrong.

Bottle of ‘bud’.


6. Reviewer forgets their host’s name.

Bottle of ‘bud’.


7. Somebody claims to be psychic (yet somehow fails to predict their placement in the competition).

Shot of spirits.


8. Someone holds up a six and switches it to a nine. Or vice versa.

Six sips of wine. Or nine.


9. Horny male in the back of the taxi says “I’ll give her one!” whilst holding up this lowly scorecard.

One tequila.


10. Participant is oblivious to the fact they’re holding their scorecard upside down.

Stand on your head to finish your drink.


11. Narrator shouts “TAXI!” when unfortunate guest begins slurring.

2 fingers.


12. An 'amusing' pun dominates the menu.

1 finger.


13. Somebody drops out. Suspected cause: food poisoning.

Stop drinking :(


14. Proud host claims to be making their dish for the first time.

Make a drink you’ve never tried. Then secretly slip it to a houseplant.


15. Someone designs cute namecards. To mixed reactions.

A plastic cup of punch.


16. Mutton dressed as lamb – be it in person or in food form.

Lambrini.


17. Somebody serves something they caught/shot/wrung the neck of all by themselves.

3 fingers.


18. Finickity guest refuses to even try a mouthful.

Mouthful of mouthwash.


19. There’s a teetotaller! Gasp.

Pint of water.


20. Guests are adamant they will not participate in any hot tub action.

Glass of bubbly.


21. Guest cannot pronounce an item on their host’s menu.

1 finger.


22. Panicked guest claims to have lost the one kitchen utensil they need to cook with.

Drink your poison of choice from a colander.


23. Someone complains about having to wait.

Pour yourself another. Wait one hour before drinking.


24. Guests attempt to guess host’s gender from the menu. Bollockses it up.

2 fingers.


25. Winner tosses the money around.

Toss your drink away.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

10 Things Which Are Supposed To Surprise Me But Don't.

1. Hearing that Johnny Depp has been invited to star in a Tim Burton film. Gosh, really?!

Johnny Depp would star in an otherwise z-listed torture porn film if Tim Burton was directing it.

2. Reading indignant outcries over Daily Mail articles.

You’re reading the Daily Mail. It’s not going to end well.

3. New leaders claiming they’ll fix the fuck ups of the last government.

Our saviours!

4. He said she said you said they said. You don’t say?

5. Seeing shitty watermarks on shitty pictures. Well done, you just made your shit picture even shittier. As if anyone would want to use that piece of shit anyway. Erm



6. Not hearing back from Recruitment Consultants. They’re quite happy in their jobs and don’t feel the need to have to find any for other people. If you have the gall to point this out to them, you’re filed in a draw marked “hard work”. And then not given any.

7. Having to do typing tests when applying for administrative jobs. I’ve been typing since I was 10! Or something. Do they make brain surgeons operate in their interviews? Or plumbers fix the leaky tap in the interviewer’s kitchen? Do they make web designers design a website on the spot? “You have 15 minutes using this product information to build a website which uses our logo as a cursor and we want a charming ‘Meet the Team’ section using photos from our office parties including that one of Pauline’s posterior which she kindly photocopied for us but to get hold of it you’ll have to get her out of alcohol rehab first. GO!” I found the whole typing test thing surprising and an insult at first but now I understand it’s par for the course, no matter your level of experience.

Bonus anecdote: I once spent about 45 minutes putting Council documents in numerical order, then circling information on printed out spreadsheets which would’ve taken a fraction of the time HAD I ACTUALLY BEEN USING EXCEL LIKE I WOULD BE DOING IN THE ACTUAL JOB using Ctrl + F and practically stuffing letters into envelopes, which no doubt saved them paying some other poor lackey to do it. I wouldn’t be surprised if more companies start exploiting this and outsourcing work on the pretence of ‘holding an interview’.

8. Something happening to the scantily clad girl in the horror film when she runs upstairs instead of out the door in the haunted house. There’s no way out, you say? You’re trapped? Squeal away, little piggy. You could be dialling 999 in the phone booth across the road right now, woah, I’m sorry, 911. But no. That would be too easy, wouldn't it.

9. The little boy/girl that went missing/was murdered/fell off a donkey was a hero in the community, a sweet little thing that never did any wrong, people couldn’t help but melt into piles of gibbering gloop whenever they walked in the room, their laughter made the angels stop to listen, they were a straight A student destined for Oxford after the intended plan of taking a year out to visit orphanages in Africa. It’s practically an obituary they’re delivering, they’re not going to say what a little shit they were are they?! The paragraph where Uncle Alfie proudly describes how Alfie Junior’s first word was “c*nt” and his first act of giving to the community was embezzling the money he’d stolen from Auntie Sue’s purse into Woolworth’s Pic n Mix is suspiciously edited out.

10. Being informed I’ve won an Audi. If I had a pound for every time I’ve been told this, I’d be investing the total in a much better car than an Audi.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Paranoid - Adventures in Hair Dye

I have never been less in need of a mirror factory. I wanted to imbue my crowning glory with an autumnal tone. Schwarzkopf's Live Colour XXL in 'Dark Spice' (the lesser known Spice Girl who shacked up with Old Spice) promised HOT REDS but instead delivered the 'Prince of Darkness' look.






Separated at birth?






A smidge too late for Halloween. I could've gone as one of The Craft.

Here's the packet for reference:







I couldn't find a man whose hair and indeed face had been polished to within an inch of its life, but Tails was happy to step in.





I am feeling neither hot nor red. Instead of a glossy metallic sheen I look like I belong in the era of hair metal. What did we learn, asides from the old 'don't judge a book by its cover' chesnut? TO FEAR CHANGE. The scariest Halloween costume of all! I don't know how that would work but I may do that next year. If I don't go as a man in retaliation to men who think dressing up as a woman constitutes a terrifying sight and an original concept. Having seen what sexist remarks have done for Stephen Fry this week, I will leave that one there.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Made In England

I’ve just given away my television, one of the results of trying to cram the contents of a house into an attic room. What was formerly scattered throughout the rooms of a spacious maisonette converted from an art gallery has been drastically scaled down for a room which quadruples up as bedroom, bathroom, living room and dining room. I don’t miss the tellybox though, anything I badly want to watch is merely a few clicks away and it saves having to faff about with an aerial. But why do I find myself repeatedly watching clips of Cher Lloyd, X-Factor’s scrawny emotional darling ghetto girl? She’s so fresh and young and talented and hip, the voice of her generation!

If that’s the voice of a generation I think we’d all be better off communicating by sign language. Another of her talents seems to be bullying. Probably complemented with advanced fag/bus money scheming skills and Top Shop thievery.





I think on this occasion I was right to judge on appearances.


And not only does she have a skeletal appearance, but harbours some skeletons in her closet too. I’m sure X-Factor’s grooming process will sweep all of this under the dangled red carpet.

Another form of social commentary I’ve been tuning into is also quick to turn a blind eye to the darker side of the United Chavdom. In an effort to get to know my new home town, ‘diversecity’ Brighton, I recently checked Julie Burchill’s Made in Brighton out of the local library, recognising the author’s name as the creator of Sugar Rush. I thoroughly enjoyed not one, but two prefaces, only to be let down by the misty-eyed ‘Hope Lies in the Proles’ narrative of the first chapter. Perhaps Julie wouldn’t be so quick to defend chavs if she’d ever been beaten up by one. On other issues, she hits the proverbial on the euphemism (as in I agree with her):

“If this country looked like a person right now, it would probably look a lot like Michael Jackson; a perfectly decent specimen to start with which for some reason convinced itself that it would look a lot better with everything taken off and put back on inside out and upside down.”

“Oh, but I’m a woman trapped in a man’s body!” (on the availability of transsexual operations on the NHS). “So? What about all the white people who feel black, black people who feel white, poor people with rich people’s tastes and short people who are dying to be tall? They’re all welcome to go off and seek to make their dreams a reality, but I don’t see the NHS spending money that could be better spent on hip operations, cancer treatment and simply cleaning up our filthy hospitals. The NHS was never designed to be a sort of state-run Jim’ll Fix It, and I don’t understand why gender must be the one exception.”

The section penned by co-author Daniel Raven on new meedja is hilarious and still relevant, despite being quite dated (2006 – with Daniel having to describe what Wikipedia is).

The next beneficiary of written praise is Jordan, about whom she tries to deny painting as a ‘feminist icon’ while all the time making her sound...well, like a feminist icon. I wonder what me Julie would make of the snarling weak voice of Cheryl Cole’s latest protégé. It seems right up her street.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Memorease

I recently relocated to Brighton, my leaving gift from my housemate being a lovingly crafted scrapbook of photos from 8 years in Canterbury, which now lies buried at the bottom of a box as I’m fearful of its inherent power to make me blub like a two year old. But the knowledge of the hard work that went into its creation, and the fact I know it’s there if I need it is comfort enough; I don’t feel the need to display it.

The same cannot be said, however, of the obtrusive ‘Photo Memories’ and ‘Recommended Photos’ on Facebook. ‘Recommended’? As though displayed on the blood-stained menu of some sadistic chef wielding a knife specifically designed to cut into the most fragile pieces of your tender heart! *emo tear*

Jamie

Good morning! Here’s a picture of your formerly straight ex marrying their lesbian life partner at a lavishly decadent Magic Carpet Ride themed wedding, and isn’t that your mother gnawing a vol-au-vent shaped suspiciously like the toe of a camel in the background? She always did seem to prefer her to you, crying over the break-up for months longer than you did. Or how about that sexy cat girl who got too close to licking your boyfriend’s cream one Halloween. Check her out. Remember the New Year where your fiancée got carried away after one too many champagne cocktails and revealed more (both figuratively and literally) during a raucous game of ‘I Have Never' in ten unforgettable minutes than you elicited in five years of courtship? Blimey, and check out you with that haircut, so 2006, what were you thinking.

The Photo Memories feature has an uncanny knack of highlighting the images you’ve probably spent the most time glaring at in rage or confusion, and then surprise you with a reminder of that night where you and a mate found £20 in the Tesco self checkouts which you promptly embezzled in cheap rosé wine at the same establishment before being tipped off about a VIP underground club night where you knew all the DJs and most of the guests and they played all your requests and you finally pulled that hottie from the tatto parlour and made love to her all night and in the morning saw a double rainbow and a rabbit with poor time-keeping. You will never have that much fun again. Ever.

Thanks for that.

I can only imagine that this seemingly sweetly nostalgic gimmick was tested on people with only pleasant memories. Or goldfish. Or Alzheimers Anonymous. They can be the equivalent of being force-fed your auntie’s holiday pics, but whereas with your auntie you can hide behind the sofa, claim you’ve overdosed on doilies or escape to the kitchen breaking the record for longest time spent making a brew, there’s no handy ‘hide’ function for this latest torturous feature save logging off Facebook. And the curiosity will always get you in the end. Like it did with Alice and that rabbit.






From the late 40s/early 50s, Dad at Butlins with his parents. Some photo memories I can honestly 'like'.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Swots and Sinners

Whenever I’m writing or doodling alone I think of that super-confident, sassy, vaguely skanky girl from my memories of Year 7 with whom I had the misfortune of once sharing a classroom. I think it was one rainy lunchtime where she was escaping the rain and I was escaping people, not really being fussed about chasing boys or cigarettes at the age of 11 like my peers. I was doodling faces in my form’s diary planner thing that they handed out in an attempt to encourage the doing of homework and remember filling the outlines over and over to see what would happen faster, the pen running out of ink, or eroding the paper completely and leaving me with cut-out heads. Fun!

Upon spying this exciting filler activity of mine she gleefully cackled to her twinnish friend, “Oh look, she’s drawing people to keep her company!” I probably tried to laugh along and show my appreciation of the great joke and mask my embarrassment, failing to realise what a see you next Tuesday she was being. There’s still a part of me that always processes put-downs as mistakes of their makers; I have this naïve faith that people can’t possibly be that mean. Can they?

I still sometimes hear her unkind ‘observation’ echoing in my memory, or sometimes shrieking over my shoulder whenever I sit down to draw something (or rather more frequently these days, write). Am I really only creating things to keep me company? Too escape the fate Roberta Sparrow described: “Every living creature on earth dies alone”. Or rather didn’t describe, she too being fictional.

If you want to get all analytical about it, maybe it represented an unconscious desire to mutilate. 4REAL. But I think honestly I just liked doodling. Still do, all over post-its at work when trapped on the phone, in the margins of notebooks when I get bored of writing about myself (it can happen).

Attempts at demoralisation were frequent at that school, on a much larger scale of course than the incident I have described above. I was lucky enough to be whisked from this school to one where intelligence and hard work were rewarded. Friendly competition between students also encouraged the breeding of A* results. An obvious side effect was me being rapidly delegated from teacher’s pet/uber-swot and unfortunately there were no music, media, drama, or art classes in which I could doodle a tent to cut out and live in as a young friendless Tracey Emin. But I left with much better grades than I would’ve had if I stayed at that previous school.



Something needs to be done to make knowledge seem cool. Learning and creativity need to be celebrated, not made fun of. And I don’t mean the creativity of how short school girls can wear their skirts these days or how many different colours they can put in their hair or layers of make-up they can slap on. Have I done showing my age yet? I think so.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Shout, Shout, Let It All Out

Over the weekend I witnessed the inspiring sight of a miniskirted blonde shouting back at staff leering out of a nearby kebabery, who had taken a fancy to her hot rotating meat. Her accusatory “WANKERS!” drowned out their hisses of “sssslut”. They reminded me of snaky Spanish boys who would hiss at anything female, like nondiscriminatory malfunctioning kettles.

I also recently discovered HollabackUk, a site for woman who’ve (stupidly or otherwise) braved their verbal attackers and want to share their experiences. I too have fallen prey to the white van collective and scorn the opinion that I should take their abuse as compliments. Nor do I want to drown them out with headphones, as I’ve found wearing headphones only serves to make me more aware of the outside world. I’d dare say many of us have experienced the embarrassment of ignoring someone’s requests for attention when we’re encased in sonic solitude, and the heart-stopping fright of being narrowly missed by a vehicle because we didn’t hear it coming.

As this site and its predecessors have pointed out, these ‘compliments’ only serve as a form of intimidation. Why do people go out of their way to make strangers feel uncomfortable? What satisfaction can it possibly bring them? What kind of mindset must you possess to think that these sorts of personal remarks are by any means appreciated? If girls go out together and spy an appealing manly morsel, they’ll mostly merely giggle and whisper to themselves, the object of undulation/adoration being none the wiser. I’ve asked my friends how they fancy escalating this by driving around and honking at boys for kicks but the response to this proposal has been less than encouraging.

I read recently that most crimes are likely to happen between 6am and 6pm (I’d do further research into the accuracy of that statement, but meh, I’m not getting paid for this) so you’re actually safer at night. Creepy remarks have mainly been directed towards me in the daytime, with female friends reaffirming it seems to occur on the way to work (a time when you’re at your most vulnerable, because you can’t see straight yet).



Recently I was making my way from Victoria Train Station to the nearby coach station. Not much of a stretch, but still plenty of time to give at least one predictable weirdo chance to tag along, muttering “Ooohh, baby...” I can understand, to an extent, the safety in numbers thing where it is largely a demonstration of heterosexual affiliation, but what of these babbling predatory loners? My time working in mental health led me to believe that the entire population has ‘issues’ and these pavement pests don’t do anything to assuage me. I mean, do they just decide they’ve watched enough Ultimate Big Brother for one night and decide to see how many people they can scare on a stroll? Is it some kind of ongoing competition with a like-minded underworld who award binoculars and balaclavas to the highest-scoring participants?

I’d like to think Hollabacking girls will one day unite and the force of verbal reciprocation will make would-be admirers change their approaches. I’m hoping for chocolates and money and flowers in the place of offensive missiles.



Well, she was asking for it, going out dressed like that!

However, if she didn’t dress like that she’d only be called frumpy and frigid instead.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

This Poem Will Change Your Life

Poor little Tommy O’Toole
Victim of beatings, Social Service meetings.
Yeah, I pity da fool
But chainmail ain’t cool.

Pass this on to show you care
Copy and paste, it’s only fair.
Or Little Lottie will get cancer
Johnny Boyle get HIV
Maddy hit by an SUV.

Think for a moment on sexual diseases
Then share this text, if it pleases.
(Or you could do something that actually works
Like giving money to a recognised charity
Or petitioning out there in the real world for real changes).

Turns out Dora
Is not an explorer
Forward this on to all your friends
Or your life will surely end.

Wars, waves, meteors, strikes
Your life not be safe from strife
Just like the people whose plight
It’s my aim to highlight
With gory pictures and rhyming couplets
An interative multimedia buttress.
“If you ignore this
Harm will come to you."

Hallmark sentimentality in the place of rationality
Saving the human race from its mortality.

Please don’t email me
Nor fill my facebook wall
It’ll only end up hidden afterall.
I understand the concern
But not the way it’s expressed
How in the world could a lowly poem
Ever get these issues addressed.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Sigh.

A couple of days ago my boything took me to The Camden Underworld to see a triumvirate of black metal in the shape of Sigh, Wodensthrone and Winterfylleth. I’ll leave the description of esoteric guitar noodling and other assorted musical technicalities to him.

Headliner Sigh’s entertaining performance was scuppered for me by one idiot who’d borrowed Claudia Schiffer’s hair, and his chortling, beer-swigging troll of a brother, who used the breaks between songs to shout abuse at the only female member, a relatively new addition to the group, ‘Dr Mikannibal’. Her outfit seemed to take inspiration from Princess Ai and every evil Japanese schoolgirl film you’ve even seen, so it was easy to see why. However, it’s still a shame to endure requests such as “Spread your wings!” and “Sing, YOKO ONO!” coming from obviously drunk, horny gig-goers who think it’ll be hilarious to attack a woman whose voice alone should instantly emasculate them. The Doctor has learnt to take it all in her stride, but I hadn’t, so to stop myself from starting on Tweedledeath and Tweedlecum I strode too, to the other side of the room where they’d be out of earshot.

Some snapshots from the night:







Not John Lennon







Not breaking up a band




It was my first experience of that venue and while I enjoyed the intimacy, there could’ve been more of an effort to distinguish the backstage area (which I of course waltzed straight into, seeking respite from pinching platform boots) from the rest. Although I suppose it does allow for band members and their fans to ‘Come Together’ before a swift 'Hello Goodbye'. (Sorry).

“Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” – Plato

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Twitter Tamagotchis

Apologies for my absence. I have been making arrangements for moving to Brighton (the host of Pride this weekend) by job-hunting, house-hunting, extreme eBaying and being distracted by Sam & Max. Sam & Max: The Devil’s Playhouse is a 3D point and click adventure game featuring a Fox Mulder look-a-like and his rabbity sidekick, but please don’t let any of that put you off. I have now completed around half the ‘episodes’ and am charmed by the witty dialogue and novel plot twists, some of which, for example, require you to complete future scenes to understand the present. The puzzle-solving, however, is quite simplistic (although that could be put down to my being 10 years older than when I last indulged in the S&M (hur) franchise) and seems to serve merely as a springboard for cutscenes. I’m guessing this is representative of the changing needs of gamers – people switch on to switch off, not to feel as though they’re back at work again.

Telltale Games has not been my only provider of pixelated furry companionship this week. I have befriended a tweeting goose. The insurgence of similar Twitter profiles hasn’t escaped my attention either – I_am_a_hamster, I_am_a_fish, I_am_a_pigeon to name a few. There is even I_was_a_goose, the ghostly variation of my feathered friend. Less reliable than big_ben_clock they may be, these ‘Twitter Tamagotchis’ as I have dubbed them, provide a comforting interruption of chirrups, scratchings and honkings to the stream of self-publicising celebs and ladies who for some reason want to tell you their bra doesn’t fit and oops, they forgot to put knickers on this morning.

Honk

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Fordwich Extreme Sports

Recently walked to Fordwich to escape the inner city blare of vuvezelas and discovered in England's smallest town St Mary The Virgin's Church, which reputedly once housed St Augustine's remains, and pubs selling lemonade for £2.75 a pop. You expect a lot more 'pop' at that price. My path was beset with mosquitoes, horse flies, rabbits, nettles and foreboding signs, but I did find a lake in which to soothe my wounds.



IT DRAWS YOU IN WITH ITS HYPNOTIC CRAFTSMANSHIP SPANNING 900 YEARS







Blasphemy.








Stable table.






"Do not touch suspicious objects they may explode and kill you." That distant rabbit may be carrying a machine gun. Those mosquitoes are injecting you with truth serum.








All 351 inhabitants of Fordwich, I can successfully navigate your deadly objects whilst maintaining my grace and poise.




I'll be going back soon to test some detours and possibly some lilos for what will be my own version of Canterbury's river tours for those who've resignedly cast off their plastic England flags (some of which helpfully display the name 'England' in the centre, for those that might've been unsure) and those sufficiently whetted by Hanescu's sputum.

Monday, 14 June 2010

B(l)o(o)dy Language

I love that section found in the majority of women’s magazines, usually sandwiched between pictures of Katie Price’s latest autobiographical offering and NEW SHOOZ, which claims to offer expert insight into the body language of celebrities. One unfortunate snapshot reveals how in holding his hand with her pinkie sticking out, Demi Moore secretly wants to divorce Ashton Kutcher. Because Posh has sunglasses is on and is pouting at David, she is pissy about him shagging their children’s nanny whilst wearing her Jimmy Choos. NEW CHOOZ. Russell Brand is possibly having doubts about his engagement to Katy Perry because in this picture he is clearly sticking his cock into what appears to be last week’s tabloid’s Page 3 stunner. And so on.

I recently contacted one of these ‘experts’ and asked them to contribute their thoughts on the photographs below. So accustomed are they to comparing the gloss of Cheryl Cole’s digitally enhanced mane to comparing the beads of sweat on Ant and Dec’s foreheads that I think these characters have largely escaped their attention until now.





See how Eva has her head attentively turned towards the snoozing Adolf, whilst fumbling at the buttons of her dress. I don’t think this relationship will last as he clearly prefers to dream whilst his lady friend remains sadly unfulfilled.







Elizabeth is clearly pondering what Barack is reaching for as her jealous ex looks on. I sense Barack will have to curb his enthusiasm if he hopes to get to second base with this lady.







A sports star and a supermodel you say? Wow, look how relaxed and happy they both are. He unquestionably adores her, and she is blinded by his love.







See how closely these young punks are bound. He is clearly at his girlfriend’s mercy – look how she won’t even let him use the toilet. I love when guys are so obviously under the thumb like that.

Monday, 31 May 2010

Beauty Spot

Eye opening make-up transformation video.

I forget how it came up, but yesterday I was discussing the subject of make-up with my housemate, who appeared to be under the impression (in a harmless way) I wasn't wearing much. Little did he know, I have to wear foundation to cover my spots and blemishes and in wearing it my pores become clogged which creates more spots which necessitates the use of more foundation. It's a vicious circle, perfected and perpetuated by the beauty industry.

In total, I was actually wearing liquid foundation, concealer, matte mousse foundation, eyeliner (liquid and pencil), mascara, lip balm, lipstick and I think there were two types of eyeshadow blended but that disappeared fairly quickly. Excessive? If I hadn't been wearing all that though he would've been as shocked as if I hadn't been wearing any clothes.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

AyleSham 69

More recent work training took me to the quaint village of Aylesham. I searched for evidence of other people’s thoughts on the place before I started scribbling down my own.

One website helpfully directs the reader with links to other nearby ‘lovely’ towns and cities but neglects to highlight any of Aylesham’s actual attributes (other than nothing the “strong community spirit” – that would be all the unemployed inhabitants then who don’t work the collieries anymore but have the one landmark – a dark sculpture of a mining family – to remind them of happier times).



Happier times. And litter.




Wikipedia states “during the 60s a considerable number of families from the village emigrated to Australia.” A tree stump forms the centrepiece of one of the alluring pictures hosted by another supposedly promotional site.



Sexy.






Means of escape!




Casual internet research aside, my own experience of Aylesham was perhaps tarnished by being dropped off by the bus driver on an industrial estate about 15 minutes away from where I was supposed to be. There’d been an almighty crash from upstairs and upon stopping to see what had happened. The front upstairs window had completely smashed in, due to a passing bird, plane, or angry Australian emigrant. The driver shrugged and declared, "you'll have to walk the rest of the way, health & safety blah blah blah." Walking in heels when it's just started to snow to a place I don't know past blokey blokes in their vans is a more of a health & safety issue for me, personally. But at least he pointed me in the right direction.



A road. Also handy for escape.




After the training session my flimsy Google map and I tried to navigate our way around the bizarre ghost town that constitutes Aylesham, which seemed sadly lacking in Ale due to the apparent closure of many pubs. During my circumnavigation of this strange isle I honestly only spotted about a dozen people, mostly milling about the main town square (consisting of a pub, newsagents, chippy and health centre for when you’ve overdosed on chips and No-Ale). The labyrinthine council estates I got lost in were eerily quiet too. After finding a bus stop that was still in use I was pleased to return to Canterbury where people’s eyes remain unfazed by the sight of a woman in hair dye and pinstripes. Self decoration and businesslike attire? Not in this one-horse town! Actually I would have been grateful to see a horse, and I hate horses. Actually I don’t even remember seeing creatures there. Maybe a couple of four legged people.



Goodbye to the 5 of you.





Pictures copyright of Pictures of England dot com.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Ok, Go



Following on from my critique of social etiquette featured in Space Oddities, I turn my attention now to traffic lights, those neon harbingers of doom allowing us (we hope) to navigate our way safely across those stretches of tarmaced land usually operated by vehicles, which cyclists somehow think they have a right to use sometimes too. Roland Barthes would be proud of our collective ability to interpret the relationship between colour and meaning, although would probably head-desk himself if he saw how futile an attempt a minority make to control their ambulatory destinies.

Firstly, why do some people think pressing the button repeatedly will make the lights change any quicker? As more concentrating raging bullish types line up on either side, judging which path will best enable them to traverse in the most orderly fashion only to crash into each other like drunken dodgems when the beeps finally sound, there will always be one, either snorting with anger or muttering in timid confusion, poking away at the button thinking it is programmed to react to their fingerprint only. These are probably the same people who are banned from those nightclubs which use the same fingerprint scanning technology for excessive poking of a different nature.

Perhaps worse are those which don’t seem to have grasped how it works at all. You approach the crossing, and on seeing someone about to do so from the other side think “ah, they’ll get there first and do the pushing so my tired fingers escape such exercise”. But no, they continue jibbering away to their mate on the phone, a task which evident uses up all their capacities, standing there, looking up and down the street and wondering absentmindedly why the traffic isn’t slowing.

When I was a little ‘un I was convinced that a tiny man was installed somewhere in the traffic light stand. Nowadays, knowing better, I rebelliously begin to cross on amber, as the cars slow, much to the chagrin of mother’s opposite who are waiting for the ‘Little Green Man’ to escort their little darlings across the dangerous road. I’m no time-waster. Except when it comes to writing about traffic lights.

Monday, 3 May 2010

People In Today's Society Take Things For Granted

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rOtEQB-9tvk

"I never made a person look bad. They do that themselves. The portrait is your mirror. It’s you" August Sander

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Artblocker

Impulse purchase of the March issue of music magazine Artrocker made me feel every minute of my 25 years. Which equates to 13140000 minutes or thereabouts. 20 pages in and I’d found I’d only heard of about two of the bands mentioned. Note I say ‘heard of’. Yet to actually ‘hear’.



The font is miniscule but at least that helps balance the proportion of text to adverts (which are relevant, at least). By comparison, as a former Q Magazine subscriber I’m willing to bet that that publication is now twice the price and half the size, brimming over with adverts for cars and watches combined with endless discussion of Paul Weller’s back catalogue. But yes, tiny text, meaning during reading I likely resembled a myopic pensioner with my tongue stuck out wondering if X will really be the one band to rock my sandal-encased socks in the 10s.

Something I deduced from my short-lived return to the world of music journalism is that all the best band names have definitely been used up. You thought !!!, Elbow and British Sea Power were bad enough, try wrapping your tongue around ‘Two Door Cinema Club’ and ‘Everybody Was In The French Resistance...Now!’ (My indie band name would be ‘You Had Me At Hello’ and my punk band would be ‘Unresolved Sexual Tension’. Which are both probably already taken.)

On the topic of inspiring fandom, a member of The Kabeedies actually admits ‘...personally, I would never be THAT excited by us. I mean, I would never go ‘Oh my God, I love that band I’m going to go and do a painting of them.’ That’s a shame. I can distinctly remember putting a lot of effort into copying Richey Edward’s ‘Useless Generation' tattoo until I was satisfied with how it appeared on the notebook I used at school. How impressed would all my peers be! Time well spent! (in isolation during and after, as it eventually emerged). And you have to admire the music journos whose task it is to extract quotes and anecdotes from bands who’ve yet to shape a history they can reminisce over, who are all still bright-tailed and bushy-eyed. Although I suspect one of the attractions of interviewing these bands no-one’s heard of and who will 95% of the time fade to obscurity is that they’ve yet to be tarred by the Sell Out brush having had Ferngully Cotton-Britain present them with the Mitzubishi Hotdog award for Best Beard in a Music Video. Bless these desperados aching to make their name touting the (imagined) successes or failures of pop groups who have yet to ‘pop’ and might as well be imaginary themselves for all I know.

In the live reviews section Alice Wagstaffe, in writing up a Julian Casablancas performance, mentions “The Strokes released Is This It nine years ago (how old do you feel right now?)”

Do I have to answer that.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Eggheads

Did you enjoy your flatpack Easter Egg this bank holiday weekend just gone? That seems to encapsulate how most of my friends spent their time – either up to their eyeballs in discarded foil and Lindt bunny bells or screws and their drivers.

Although Easter may be behind us, Eggheads, the BBC quiz show, somehow remains on our screens. I always have the misfortune of timing my visits to my father’s house with the airing of this programme. Every time, I make the same mental note not to put myself through this torture and every time I hop off the bus I check my watch and make a mental scream, almost wishing I’d stayed on the bus in the company of the chavs, schoolkids and people that blatantly disregard (can you imagine?) the signs inviting you to keep your filthy feet off the seats for an extra hour and a half until its route passes my intended destination again. Rather the company of wolves than endure that of the Eggmasters.

Presented by Dermot Murnaghan, with whom I share a few unfortunately similar syllables, the show’s format is simples: five quiz show champs (the Eggheads, or Smegheads as you and Craig Charles will be calling them within moments of making their acquaintance) playing knowledge pong with a group of Challengers. If the Challengers win, they get a dollop of cash, if the Eggheads win, it rolls over. It can go to Sudden Death, which you’ll be begging for if you make it that far. Wikipedia describes the visual impact of the title sequence thus: “The seven Eggheads are displayed in revolving egg shaped frames with a blue background.” And that is about as exciting as it gets. You’d have more fun revolving your leftover Creme Eggs if you’ve got any left, you fat bastard, and you wouldn’t have some prick who won Fifteen to One once back in 1988 sneering at you while you do it.

A pro of the show is that its contestants are marginally easier on the eye that the breed you get on University Challenge, but that’s not a hard achievement. Also the questions are easier than that other well-known and simply formatted quiz show, Mastermind, so you’ll be able to feel a bit better about your intellectual capabilities. Well done you for knowing Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet. Your degree of smugness will never match that of the Eggheads, however, who all have firsts and distinctions in that personality trait. They’ll elaborate on most answers with unnecessary detail, talking you through the process of elimination and throwing in anecdotes about their days holidaying in their villa in Sicily, which is where mixing with the locals enlightened them to the fact they have 53 different words for ‘volcano’. The Challengers trapped in the Question Room whimper and squirm in their seats and SO WILL YOU. It makes Time Team feel like watching Jurassic Park. Get back on the bus.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Huawei U7510

Is the name of the phone I treated myself to for Christmas. Well, ok, it was actually a free contract phone but it was Christmas. And it seemed like a treat at first because my old Samsung had been developing a life of its own, deciding when it would like to go to sleep and when it would like to get up to go to work and thoroughly ignoring any attempt of mine to motivate it (i.e. throwing it against the wall and refusing to cook it breakfast). “Here in this curvaceous gleaming gadget lies salvation!” I wanted to scream, as I scurried home with the fancy bag in the way you do when you’ve just bought something expensive and want to show off but simultaneously are scared will be stolen so you end up juggling said purchase to and from various hidey-holes about your person like a flea-ridden body popper.

Pronounced ‘Hewey’, provoking images of Donald Duck’s ragamuffin nephews and what the cat might’ve done all over the sofa, I found this to be the first of the mobile’s downfalls. I prefer to call it the infinitely more exotic ‘Hawaii’ if anyone is bothered enough to ask what it is. After I’ve explained to them that it’s a phone. The second feature to have the novelty quickly vanish is the touch-screen. Of course I was already accustomed to touch-screen devices from early memories of shrinking back from the mind-bending of trips to the Science Museum and the like, those job centre daleks that spew out job suggestions on paper the quality of toilet roll and those tube-ticket machines. But this was on a much, much smaller scale. Having not gotten round to buying a stylus to prod at it, I’m still relying on my fingernails. Yes, fingernails. Fingertips won’t do. My hands stopped growing when I was about 5, you see, an abnormality people often exclaim about and something that makes guys feel better about themselves when in my capable hands. You’d think small fingertips would be good at touching small buttons (the smut train stops here) but evidently not. You go to create a message starting with something (amazingly original like) “Hello” and it’ll come out “lol” due to a mixture of the imaginary buttons being placed in too close proximity, not feeling the force of my feeble stabs, and predictive text, which is another ‘modern’ concept I have reluctantly embraced. I thought it would speed up the texting process. Access Denied. No wonder I get unlimited texts with this deal, the service providers know this phone would be a piece of shit to text with so cheerfully added it to the package knowing only those on suicide watch would actually want to use it. In tapping away like a frenzied woodpecker at the screen I fear the strength is being diminished and it’ll eventually spontaneously combust in my hands sending shards of plastic into the faces of nearby mobile phone salespeople. Hopefully.

What with it being a touch-screen model, and me liking to do things with my hands (CHOO-CHOO!) other than text constantly, it needs a good wipedown at least once daily. Another helpful feature of the U-571 or whatever is its icons linking you to the applications it presupposes you’ll need the most on its desktop. So when I’m carefully rubbing it with the cloth provided (thank you, Next, for this humble shirt) the time and date button whizzes around, I find my MSN Messenger and Youtube have swopped places and a connection with Myspace is being attempted. I don’t even have a Myspace. I doubt the creator of Myspace even has a Myspace anymore.

Contacts. Easy enough to find if it’s someone you’ve recently dialled or received a call from: one button will take you there. And once you’re gassing to them the button next to your ear/thumb will frequently be depressed by accident (much like the other participant in the conversation). But searching for someone specific? Good luck to you. It’ll be quicker to write. The buttons are roughly 3mm x 3mm and of course arranged differently to the text set-up, yet not a qwerty format either. It’s just plain old alphabetical. I had to learn my alphabet all over again. To the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star of course.

The button (this review is all about ‘buttons’ isn’t it? Cadbury should sponsor me) to turn the alarm off is even smaller. They just want to torture sleepy people. No ‘snooze’ for you! By the time you’ve gone through the menus figuring out how you’ll be wide awake and ready to send the Huawei to the same wall-e death as the Samsung.

CAPSLOCK. To be used in times of surprise and anger. You’ll be surprised at how angry you become seeing as there is no continuous capslock function; instead, you must press the case button each time you want to add a new letter. F,U,C,K, Y,O,U.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Stop Me If You Think That You’ve Heard This One Before

Do you ever find yourself nodding along to some anecdote some anodyne friend you’ve agreed to meet with coffee with after a brief separation is relating whilst secretly thinking “I know how this ends” or “I know the punchline but I’ll laugh anyway” or “stfu already”.

Yet we don’t interrupt because in doing so we would have to admit that although the friendship has been neglected of late, the e-friendship one of espionage has been anything but during the 9-5 you pretend to be working. And with the ability to monitor so many acquaintances at once, it becomes difficult to remember what stories are attributed to whom. You hear the beginning of a spiel and you just know you’ve seen something similar – thoughts spun out on screen before they’ve been audibly aired – but who? And why? And where? Twitter? Facebook? Livepresspot? Sometimes it can be so disconcerting you begin to question your mental stability. Did you daydream this happening? Is it déjà vu which is causing you to second guess the next words to splutter out of you chum’s caffeine-fuelled beak?

Sometimes – and I’m not saying I’m innocent of this – you may find yourself quoting your own catchy status updates word-for-word. Well, you put so much effort into the original syntax, knowing it’ll be viewed by a jury of at least 200+ friends, so why not test how it trips off the tongue? The satisfaction of knowing you’re delivering a good soundbite (it did accrue at least half a dozen ‘likes’ afterall) is only impaired by the knowledge that the recipient may have heard it all before (if the cyberstalking is mutual).

Microblogging has many benefits and feeding the trend for subconscious plagiarism (“I swear Wikipedia didn’t write the bulk of my essay”) is apparently one of them. And I probably nabbed that line too.


I recently got into the habit of checking my feeds as soon as my alarm went off in the morning, ever since having an internet-enabled phone whose novelty is yet to wear off three months of obsessively logging in down the line. I found the rage incited by reading ridiculous tweets and pick ‘n’ mix updates was enough to force me out of bed and stomp (have you tried stomping as soon as you get out of bed and are still suffering from jelly legs? Dudley Moore’s Arthur would be jealous of my performances) indignantly round the house and set me up for a day enduring idiocy better than force-feeding myself coffee and cereal bars ever would. But now I’ve experimented by taking full advantage of Facebook’s ‘Hide’ function. The polite way of de-friending because you’ve come to the conclusion that although you can’t say there’s enough justice in completely removing your playground pal Tim “Carlsberg Champ” Watson his desire to post picture of his daughter’s toilet training and writing ‘lik dis’ is encouraging your desire to set fire to the monitor and throw it out the window to blossom. Or post proud pictures of your own successful toilet training. Beat that, little K-Lee Vikki Gaga Watson!

So no longer do I rely on that old familiar surge of fury converted to energy to force myself out of slumber and I admittedly miss my old ‘friend’. He did end every sentence with ‘LOL’ afterall, and you can’t say that of Andrew Marr.

Monday, 15 February 2010

The Long & Winding Road

Yesterday, as I’m sure you are all aware (and those of you possessing male genitalia who failed to notice will doubtlessly and painfully have been made to realise by now) was Valentine’s Day. My TLA and I had already celebrated the fact by watching other people undress at The Farmhouse’s burlesque night, what with having had enough of the sight of each other naked.

On the actual VD itself we wondered what non-clichéd things we could do. We considered the newly opened bowling alley during the day but balked at the prices and intimacy of the lanes. I wasn’t keen on chavette’s lolling at my dress sense which had turned out somewhat adventurous in my half-awakened state that morning (imagine traffic lights humping at Woodstock) and my inability to roll anything that isn’t a fag. So we opted instead for quality alone time along with about a hundred others at the Gulbenkian Cinema.

The film we chose (over predictably placed rom-com ‘It’s Complicated’) was post-apocalyptic drama The Road, with attention turned for once not on re-building the planet but on a father’s (Viggo Mortensen) decline as he struggles to protect his son from dangers such as cannibals, falling trees, starvation and shopping trolleys with gammy wheels. During the journey we glimpse snatches of LBA (not Little Big Adventure, the cute but irritating game featuring an impossible to control peanut-headed ninja, but Life Before Apocalypse) with disinterested and improbably attractive wife & mother (Charlize Theron), who decides she’s had enough of waiting to be crushed by a tree and buggers off into the forest one day, perhaps to speed up the process.

The depictions of those still wandering the dreary, colour-drained earth are genuinely disturbing, divided into the hunters and the hunted. Or the Good Guys and the Bad Guys for the sake of slack-jawed Boy’s purposes. You feel for father and son as every day is a struggle for food and survival. Even sugar-conscious parents must inwardly cheer when Father manages to extract a can of coke from a rusting vending machine. The Bad Guys could easily have been portrayed as futuristic Mad Max-ers with bionic limbs and questionable mullets but by avoiding these clichés director John Hillcoat portrays a far more realistic, and therefore more chilling, vision of the not-too-distant future.

Emerging from the Gulb and the harrowing scenes we had witnessed therein, we embarked on a similar journey to Father & Boy, with London Road Estate being our goal and fraught with just as much danger, I’d guess. My whining about the cold replacing the Boy’s cries of “Papa! Papa! Come look at my reflection!”, Joe having to carry the bulk of the load (cinema kiosk leftovers) and fighting off hungry passers-by (i.e. drunk revellers in search of Kebab-ery). I am pleased to conclude that our bond remains intact my the process and we didn’t resort to eating people to get to our final destination.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

I've Got 21 Hours To Go

Think tank agrees with me on my last post.

So working fewer hours could be better for the planet and our personalities. I have certainly found the shift from full-time to part-time has made me happier when I'm in my workplace because I'm not resenting the stapler and photocopier for so much time spent in their presence. I'm not frantically cramming leisure time into two measly days a week.

The problem with this professed left-wing and idealistic suggestion for how to structure our lives is that some berks will always ruin it for the rest of us by heroically putting in as many hours as they can on meagre salaries because they're under the impression that it'll progress their careers and they'll get rewards such as a fourth wall and their own key to the stationery cupboard. Scabs.

Shame they're so often in the right.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Bliss Tryst

I strode past my former den of snakebite-fuelled sexual tension and realm of all that is Metal (aka The Beercart) today to enter an establishment both its polar and linear opposite – a recruitment agency. Bear with me, I can already tell you know that this description is not going to be about how useful, kind and helpful its employees were.

Actually, the lovely bouncy girl that took my ID off me to be photocopied was very sweet (with a name like ‘Bliss Pidduck’ how can you be anything but?) and remembered me from the phone call a few days ago when I first had the notion more work + more money make Karen go happy happy joy joy. I perched on the luxurious leather sofa that probably came from the DFS January sale (incidentally, does anyone buy sofas when they’re not in a sale?) and the delightful Bliss asked me what kind of work was it I was looking for exactly. I resisted the urge to tell her all my hopes, dreams and fears and succinctly responded, “Admin...part time...around 30 hours?” “Oh, of course, that was it!” beam, beam...so far I’m loving the personal touch and the pretence of remembering who I am. The country is still in a recession despite what people quoting their 0.000001 percentages may say and I’m sure they’re still fielding calls from hundreds of desperados daily.

Turning her back to me briefly to do whatever needed doing to the copier, she enquired “and why is it you’re only looking for part time?”

I shot a glance to the typist eavesdropping in the corner and stammered something about writing in my spare time. Bounding back with a flourish she cried, “oh yes, couldn’t remember!” That’s probably because we hadn’t actually discussed it before. Over the phone my words were taken at face value, whereas sitting on this sofa (or rather, sinking into) in front of her she probably correctly guesses that I’m not on the cusp of retirement and have things to do in my spare time like spending time with the grandkids and going on cruises, nor do I have the tell-tale baby vom down my top which would indicate motherhood, and unfortunately I’m not that fresh faced anymore to pass for a student.

So what’s my excuse?

I enjoy writing. I enjoy having four day weekends in which to complete housework and do food shopping and see my boyfriend and parents and friends without feeling the stress of cramming it all in. The balance in my life has switched from concentrating my energy into a full time job in which I had no stimulation yet the boredom of which was simultaneously so draining it negatively affected my relationships with loved ones, to a healthy mixture of interesting, demanding work and ample time to make amends for past crankiness. I have just escaped from working full time for over two or so years and although it may not sound much to some it was precisely enough to show me what I didn’t want the rest of my life to be like. At one point I was living at my Dad’s – in my early twenties, (which I understand is becoming the norm but to me it pricked of failure, I was meant to be self-sufficient by that age; I had been brought up hearing tales of how my Mum had to make her own way at the age of 16 and had her own flat and job fairly sharpish after receiving this news). I was commuting for an hour each way on a bus shying away from vicious, slutty schoolchildren and the guys eyeing them up, the drooling cat lady, the professional who brought his electric razor with him and would think nothing of having a quick trim whilst standing in the aisle. I had to spend parts of my early paycheques clobbering together smart work attire to sit there out of the public eye for 95% of the time (source: Recession Percentage Person) and when I moved out and rented privately I had to suck on the sad fact that my partner on benefits wielded more spending power than I, after taking into account my outgoings on necessities.

I think the reason I keep getting peeved at these incredulous “part time?!!!” enquiries is because I do feel a lot of guilt for not wanting to devote so much time and energy to a full time job. I think this was because I was brought up to believe a job wasn’t a job unless you hated it, but you did it anyway, no questions asked. I’m trying to convince myself these days to more firmly believe in the adage that insists once you’ve found the job you love, you won’t label it “work” or “job” because it won’t seem like either of those terms if you’re enjoying it.

At the moment I don’t have kiddiewinks, I don’t have a mortgage to pay off, I don’t have expensive taste in clothes, food and nights out, so I’m going to relax for a while and Bliss Pidduck can like it or lump it.

Friday, 22 January 2010

The Last Induction

Despite a hacking cough brought on from currently residing in a cesspit where my cohabitants think it’s ok to keep fifteen mice as pets and leave upwards of six bin bags in a corridor, I dutifully plodded along to my NHS induction today. It struck me as strange to have an induction when I’m already two months into a job but I guess they do it that way so you have a chance to get settled in to a normal work routine first, before bombarding you with jargon. Although as I only work three days a week, I don’t think I’m ever going to get ‘settled in’. Just as I get in the swing of things the time for my four day weekend (pity me) rolls around and I immediately forget all my passwords and extension numbers.

The chaperone for our little group was a lanky chap who looked a bit like a greasy, elongated Harry Potter whose wizardry strengths lie in handing out evaluation sheets and getting overhead projectors to work. When a guy who looked like Jack Bauer stuck his head cautiously round the door and asked whether he’d come to the right place my pre-caffeinated mind drifted to all sorts of half-baked blockbuster ideas, picturing Bauer casting spells to ensure captured terrorists cannot lie. Harry Potter & The Plot to Blow Up Washington.

Celluloid dreams aside, I found Part One of my two day induction course informative, if a little pointless. The unit in which I work has just been bought out by a privately owned company so its employees are uncertain of their futures to put it politely. I, however, was certain of mine as my contract only lasts for another couple of months, which is why I’m entertaining naughty skiving ideas regarding another training course I’m booked on approximately one month before I’m scheduled to leave. Presciently entitled ‘Resolving Conflict in the Workplace’.

A memorable highlight of the day was the section on fraud, which has supplied me with plentiful lucrative ideas for creating ghost employees (it doesn’t even have to involve murder) and overclaiming on my mileage. This part was delivered by two former coppers, one who would be played by Robbie Coltrane who did the scaremongering and another, Ray Winstone, whose massive sausage fingers lobbed cheap plastic ‘Report NHS Fraud’ biros at us.

The energetic Health and Safety man doubtlessly would have been portrayed by Jim Carey. In one cringe-inducing instance he quizzed my neighbour on her role within the NHS. Upon discovering she was a cleaner he cheerfully declared, with brows raised and eyes on stalks, “Right! Nothing wrong with that!” stressing the Right!ness by jabbing his finger at her. Of course if he actually believed this to be true he would have had no cause to say that. He redeemed himself by introducing me to a delightful new phrase, “this’ll make your bum tight!”. Cor. I was tempted to tighten my ears to prevent that dubious morphing of my rectum occurring. This was followed by an Equality and Diversity talk, the presenter of which’s gender is uncertain in my mind. When he/she/it began talking of recent NHS efforts to incorporate more rights for transsexuals as wells as gays and lesbians within its literature, I wondered how much of a hand (or whatever is the most appropriate limb) she’d had in that particular agenda item.

My head is now brimming with acronyms and legislation most of which is irrelevant outside the NHS, which I am soon to be cast out of. But as always I’m grateful for the experience if only so I know what not to bother going to in future, and for the chance to see Daniel Radcliffe & Kiefer Sutherland on the same stage. I also discovered I cannot concentrate on a slideshow presentation if it contains spelling errors, Unnecessarily Capitalised Words, or


uneven spacing.

Which is why I could not possibly divulge any more content about my day.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Space Oddities

(Originally written November 2009)

I finally tackled the tip of the merrily-decorated twinkling iceberg that is Christmas shopping this week. As with every year around this time my initial Christmassy cheer goes right out the painstakingly decorated window as I encounter other stressed shoppers whose only purpose in life seems to be to bump into me. As usual, I mutter to myself around clogged aisles of impulse buys about how I really ought to petition for a law to be introduced decreeing the exact range limitations an individual has to respect when in one’s presence, if they’re not a close friend, love interest or family member. Or all three.

And while they’re at it, how about a sub-law describing Rights of Way on Pavements? I.e. if you’re part of a couple please release your desperate clutches to allow a singleton to pass between you, or to enable yourselves to walk in single file so I can actually share the pavement and don’t have to walk in the road and risk being flattened, or be accosted by a bin/lamppost.

In extreme cases, in areas of concentrated known episodes of pedestrian rage, victims can be issued with Grease-style spurs which spring out of their shoes when attackers invade the designated allocated area of personal space.

* * *

I think it was during post-traumatic-shopping disorder I discovered evidence in my usual sanctuary of ‘home’ that feminism in practice is working a little too well. I entered the kitchen of the flat I currently share with 3 others to find a proud note from one of them drawing our attention to the fact she’d ‘scrubbed’ the kitchen and bathroom (largely full of her mess – teabags and hair dye seem to form her staple dietary needs). Upon closer inspection, however, it appears she had only swept the room with a glance. The washing up hadn’t been tackled at all, the overflowing bin hadn’t been taken out and there was a further note next to the still-stained hob with an arrow directing our gaze to aforementioned pasta sauce stains:

“Please could people clean up after themselves in future – I don’t want to play housewife again!”

After picking myself off a crumb-coated floor after I’d finished laughing at the incredulousness of this statement I felt shocked and, if I’m honest, a little angry. I am the main (unwilling) cleaner of the household: therefore am I viewed as ‘housewife’ too? Should I go the whole hog and make them packed lunches and attend to their sexual needs and complete all the other tasks we so readily dismiss housewives for carrying out yet which many of us would be lost without?

This day also marked the first, to my knowledge, that in a year of co-habitation she’d actually shown any knowledge of where the cleaning products live (the next step being learning how to use them effectively, ‘hun’). I guess to easily admit to such type of knowledge would label her too ‘housewifey’.

* * *

Next week I’ll be exploring the issue of Maths and Toilet Roll/Quantity versus quality: why it is unfair of you to buy a two pack of the luxury brand when I bought a 12 pack of the economy stuff when it was my turn. Be sure to tune in.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Just Do It

It’s so simple to pluck mass-produced trendy items from the rails in men’s clothes stores. And although one could argue the range is not as varied as women’s options; the prices in Peacocks, Primark, Asda and the like are comparable to those on the tags of ladies garments.

In this culture of growing social awareness, however, where we check our supermarket groceries increasingly for Fair Trade logos alongside the more traditional pie-chart emblem, more are asking for the opportunity to intersperse style and price with a clean conscience.

Popular fashion brands have associations at first invisible to the naked eye: Hugo Boss gloss over their history of Nazi sympathies and suppliers of uniforms to the SA and SS guards with well-known sleek and sexy advertising. Nike...where do I start. A tarnished history of employing slave labour who get what they’re given after working unthinkable hours in sweatshops so we have too many pairs of trainers to chose from.

The fact is that there are reasonably priced outfits available but the marketability for such is ambiguous. Sure, celebrities will pose in the buff for transient anti-fur campaigns, but what of longer-lasting promotion? Socially responsible companies don’t have the money to advertise their advantages whereas the companies that exploit their workers consequently do. Plus the most popular fashion advertising is generally aimed at women, so what efforts are being made to draw male attention to fashion ethics?

A brief internet search I conducted into the topic of ethical fashion threw up such names as www.hippyshopper.com and www.nomadsclothing.com – names which may discourage a large proportion of potential consumers who do not wish to be affiliated with bohemian culture and student-activist connotations. I have a feeling my conclusion that eco-friendly clothing, to become commercially attractive, needs to be re-packaged, is not entirely too dismissive and off the mark.

A study named Consumption Trends in the UK – 1975-1999 conducted by the IFS revealed “there is a significant gender effect on the clothing share”. Unsurprisingly the difference was less marked in 1999 than the extent of the contrast revealed in 1975. Women’s magazines still try to encourage expenditure on clothing with the excuse of it being a comforting exercise, a way to promote the self, a way to get what you want out of life – be it a lover or a job. Men need less pressure to spend because they do not fall prey to the same trappings to the same degree – there is little desire created to constantly rejuvenate their wardrobes to pander to the latest seasonal requirements, men tend to replace clothes when necessary, rather than for narcissism. News reports frequently emphasise the destructive nature of fashion advertising on women’s mental and physical health, rather than peer pressure that may arise in male groups. Less competitiveness is generated in the men’s clothing industry compared to women’s to get the best, newest version of whatever.

Venturing from my home in Canterbury to go down the coast to visit Hastings recently, I was struck again by the lack of diversity in the town’s main shopping precinct. It has been acknowledged by many a socioculturalist for years that British towns are becoming homogenised – for any acquisition of ‘uniqueness’ one must venture into the back alleys, or the internet. And sometimes the back alleys of the internet. An example of which is www.etsy.com. Launched in 2005 its ever increasing popularity is indicative of the consumer desire for handmade and recycled items. However, the result you’ll stumble across, time and time again, is that if you want to be ethically sound you’ll have to part with more cash. The choice is yours.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

It’s Only Words...

At 29,000 words, Shakespeare had a vocabulary only most of us with our measly 4,000 word limit could only envy. He even had the audacity to make up his own words – from ‘bedroom’ to ‘excitement’: something this writer would like to see appear in conjunction more often – as somehow 29,000 just wouldn’t cut it at times. We have since accepted a vast majority of these words into our everyday language, although the meanings have often changed. Shakespeare was indeed a true wordsmith, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he invented that word to describe himself and his elucidatory powers too.

A comparable trend has been rearing its head for some time now among the writers of today’s celebrity bibles but whether to similar everlasting effect only time, naturally, will tell. With appeal to mass society like Shakespeare in his time enjoyed, I’m talking about Heat, Glamour, What’s on Tv etc who along with credit crunch busting ideas such as only spending £100 on that oh-so-versatile dress which will see you through right into next week take it upon themselves as leaders of the new lexicon to coin such terms as ‘totty’ ‘kecs’, the almost-cute ‘preggers’, ‘hubby’ – who actually calls their spouse this and gets away with it?, phrases such as (cringe) ‘hot-to-trot’ and endearing celebrity nicknames (substitute ‘Madge’ for Madonna, ‘Chez’ for Cheryl Crow – I know they would) which are supposed to make us think of them as elder siblings in our humble directory listed worlds instead of the A-C listers they actually are.

And of course it doesn’t stop there. Showing admirable genius and in an eco-friendly paper-saving effort, somebody had the idea of combining the names of celebrity couples to create a superhuman transgender effect in our gossip hungry minds. I’m talking of course of BRANGELINA. I quiver whilst I type the very word. Imagine the red carpet-swathed devastation this monster leaves in its wake. And it doesn’t stop at people. Coronation Street becomes of course ‘Corrie’ and, alternatively, Tesco and Asda have the unnecessary ‘s’ suffix.

I would actually pay money to see these publications tackle issues of larger cultural weight than that of Katy Perry’s latest hairband or Charlotte Church’s. Weight, I mean. How would they describe the recession? ‘Reccers’? How about swine flu? Perhaps settle for a trendy acronym (see also: WAG). SF? But perhaps people would then confuse it with science fiction. Oh, wait...

That said, if I were tomorrow to receive the phone call inviting me to work with any of the above-mentioned tedious tomes, I would switch off the Corrie, pop down to Tescos with my hubby in tow to purchase my hot-to-trot trews as inspired by the likes of our Madge and Li-Lo and swot up on my knowledge of Kerry Katona’s exercise tips and check out whose pecs are perkiest on telly’s top totty. I’d be the headline-hungry Editorial Assistant littering a trail of poor puns throughout your coffee break magazine in no time.