Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Maustrapped



In my book group we have gone from the sublime (Therese Raquin and Never Let Me Go) to the ridiculous (The Finkler Question and The Wind Up Girl) but we've never before hit on something quite like Maus: A Survivor's Tale.

Written and drawn by Art Spiegelman, it's sort of half a biography of his father and Holocaust survivor Vladek Speigelman and half a meditation on what it means to live in a world capable of such atrocities and the deep wounds it left behind to resonate through the ensuing generations. It also covers his mother's experience during the Holocaust and her subsequent suicide 20 years later and the present day life and death of his father in New York.

It's a world where Jews are drawn as mice, Poles as pigs, French as frogs, Americans as dogs and Nazis as cats and yet every single one are supremely human.

I can safely say it's one of the most affective and impressive books I have ever read. And it's a fecking comic. I struggle with graphic novels in general, mostly because of their content I think. Superheros bore me, although it has been pointed out to me the Jewish origins of many of the great super hero comic book creators and artists. Can't be a conincidence, surely?

I don't know if it's the simplictity of hearing his father narrate what happened to him. The sudden and rapid demise of the living conditions he and his family had to endure is terrifying. Three years from wealthy private citizen to a bag of bones in a concentration camp, surviving either on his wits or by sheer luck. One of the overall impressions I was left with was the randomness of it. Why did Vledak survive and so many millions die? Although he was undoubtedly wiley and clever, there were seemingly endless moments when it could have been him shot in the back of the head, or forced to dig his own grave, or dying from typhus, or starving to death, or suffocating in the death trains, or gassed in the showers.

The images we all carry of the Holocaust: piles of emaciated bodies bearing little resemblance to human beings, rotting, one on top of the other; blue and white striped uniforms; hollow cheeks and sunken eyes; no beauty any more, everyone rendered indistinguishable from each other by their shaven heads and desperate gaze; numbers tattooed on arms; the ghetto; hiding in coal cellars and attics; sleeping five to a bed; that little yellow star.... all of these images are in Maus. He doesn't shirk from showing them. There is a cushion from reality through the drawings, but this allows him to show it how it really was.

Maus also tackles how exactly a writer is meant to depict such atrocities. It's so far removed from our time, but it's so recent in our history. I'm not sure anyone else had ever tried to do it in comic book form before (I could very well be wrong about that) but I do know that no other comic has ever won the Pulitzer prize.

Maus, to me, is a great work of art. To be able to convey the multi-faceted impact of the Holocaust on just one family, without being mawkish, maudlin or clumsy, would have seemed to me to have been an impossible task. But it isn't. Because Spiegelman has done it.

I don't know if they teach kids today about the Holocaust. I do know that this should be required reading for all.




Tuesday, 28 February 2012

A short visit to the greek island of Teskos

I dunno. It's probably just me. I mean, it probably is just me. But I find supermarkets not just annoying and boring, or some tedious chore you have to accomplish, but deeply, profoundly, almost terrifyingly, stultifyingly dull.  

Going to Tesco Metro fills me with the exact same feeling of despair and ennui that epitomised most of my Sunday afternoons growing up in the 80s. When all I had to look forward to was Last of the Summer Wine and Supergran, followed by the Sunday night bath and school the next day. That same, wearing, deep sense of hollow pointlessness and futlity of existence that I heaved around with me from just after lunch on a Sunday right through until at least Wednesday.

Once again I was reminded of this Morrissey-esque feeling as I trudged around Tesco Metro just now. It being the only supermarket open to me at this hour, and my cupboards literally bare, I felt I had no choice.

As is usual, my mind always goes immediately blank when I step through the creaky automatic doors. I suddenly don't know what I want to eat ever again, let alone for dinner tonight. All the meat looks anaemic and sad wrapped up in its plastic overcoat with people absentmindedly prodding it and attempting to sniff through the layers and layers of cling film, in some kind of nod to the natural order of selecting food, ie. with senses of touch and smell, before it was secured away from us in a land of best before dates and too much packaging.

As is also usual I see the same person-that-I-kind-of-know-but-not-enough-for-it-not-to-be-awkward and keep bumping into them aisle after aisle. Even if I mix it up and go round in a really spastic way, there's still just next to me and doing that thing where we only just realise when we've made eye contact so once again we're forced to acknowledge each other when all we really want to do is grab our packages and leg it.

I always see the same guy. He's just some guy from around town that I know to say hi to. It doesn't seem to matter whether I go shopping at 6.30pm on a Tuesday or 8.30am on a Thursday, there he is. It's like being on the same bladder evacuation timings as someone in your office that you don't really know and then you're always forced into awkward rictus grin smiles as you realise you've just heard them peeing. Again.

And then there's the couples shopping together. I'm always filled with a fascinated repulsion when I hear couples debating what they're going to eat. Can there be anything more dreary than going supermarket shopping with a partner? Passive aggressively working your way through a list of what's in the freezer and 'what we can have with that chicken'. Ugh. Something about it makes me want to eat Pop Tarts, Skips and Pepparami for the rest of my days and never have a sensible meal again. Anything to escape the screaming boredom of planning what I will be having for dinner for the rest of my natural born life. I mean, what if we plan steak and then I don't want steak? But the steak's been out of the freezer so it has to be eaten up. And then it's suddenly not just dinner, it's a 'thing'.

Oh wait, I know what it is. I used to have this exact argument with my most recent ex. On and on and on it went. What shall we have on Wednesday? Thursday? Friday? OH SHUT UP I DON'T CARE IF I NEVER EAT AGAIN AS LONG AS WE STOP HAVING THIS CONVERSATION.

Of course, if you're in a happy, balanced relationship where you like doing everything together, then it's probably totally marvellous. Maybe it's the highlight of your week to poke through the wilted vegetables in Tesco Metro with your loved one. I dunno.

Anyway. Then I bought overpriced cherries and some cream crackers and just bailed on the whole sorry experience. Hmph.

Monday, 27 February 2012

What? Are you on crack?

"Read dials from left to right starting with 10,000. If there is a dial marked 1/10 do not read it. If pointer is between two numbers, choose the lower number. If pointer is between 0 and 9, use 9. If pointer is on a number, write number down and underline number. If underlined number is followed by a 9, take 1 away from underlined number. You now have your meter reading."

Do I? Is that what I have? Are you mental? Was this conceived by some evil mastermind whose life purpose was to confound innocent householders and push them into a Kafakesque nightmare of seemingly clear instructions only to have the submitting incorrect readings over and over again? Was this what passed for fun in 1852 or whenever this archaic and ridiculous meter was installed in my house? As they had no TV, did the family have to gather around the electricity meter and spend the long winter evenings trying to discover what the living FUCK their meter reading is so they can claim back the extortionate amount the robbing bastards have decided they 'used' during the winter, based on an 'estimated reading'?

As any of my good friends know, I am Ebeneezer like in my approach to household heating. I would rather wear twelfty layers than crank up the heating unless it's several degrees below outside. And my house is an ice box. It seems to repel heat. Many a time have I had friends around for the evening and they put more layers on as they enter the house. It's actually not just because I'm tighter than a badger's chuff, it's because I would rather spend my money on things that bring me joy, like shoes, gin and cigarettes. Plus I genuinely don't feel the cold very much. Probably something to do with the excess padding I like to encourage, particularly around my ass.

So I'm not going to let the electricity board (does that exist anymore? It probably doesn't does it. That sounds like something that used to exist, like British Rail. Or Royal Mail. Or the NHS) get the better of me, even if I do have to find something to stand on because I'm too damn short to even see the fecking dials in the first place. Even if I do have to contort my body around the mostly cat-based detritus that seems to have filled up my hall way. Even if I do have to go and check and recheck because the website won't accept what I have come up with after the complicated equations I have been asked to work out.

It's all part of life's rich tapestry when you're moving I suppose. Along with trying to remember who the hell my contents insurance is with and forking over massive wads of cash to estate agents at the other end of the country who you're almost positive are ripping you off. They demanded an extra £200 on top of my deposit of £900 because I have a cat. I mean, what the fuck do they think he's going to do? Devise a criminal masterplan to remove their house brick by brick and transport it to a secret land full of cats and stolen houses? Eat through their venetian blinds? Bring all his cat friends round and have a really messy cat rave?

Fools.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Jarvis. We need you like we've never needed you before

I love awards shows. I just do. I like to watch them even though they're mostly shit. And sometimes, if you stick with it, you get rewarded with some gems. I'm currently watching The Brits, like I always do. I have fond, fond, fond memories of the Brits. Back in about 1805 it was hosted by Samantha Fox and Mick Fleetwood. It was hilarious. They couldn't read the autocue, they hadn't rehearsed, hell, it looked like they'd barely learned to speak in sentences. They looked like shit and the entire audience was utterly bollocksed on booze and coke.

And then in the mid 90s Michael Jackson decided to actually pretend he was the Messiah. He was singing one of his really schlocky, awful, heinous crimes of a song - possibly Earth Song? The one about the elephants? Dressed in white he stood in crucifix position while a stream of angelic looking children. I mean, really. Children flocking round Michael Jackson? All kinds of shades of WRONG. Of course this was before the trial when some people momentarily came to their senses and thought perhaps they should look a bit closer at the fact MJ just loved to sleep in the same bed as nine year old boys and feed them 'jesus juice'...

But then, like the True Messiah, a clearly pissed Jarvis Cocker was suddenly on stage and flashing his arse at the camera and Jackson. Michael was so out of it that he probably thought it was some kind of tribute to him being Emperor of the Universe or something. But to everyone else it was a moment of British common sense in the wake of utter fatuousness and reverence to the predominantly US-led circus of celebrity reverence. A backlash against letting sick, damaged people do whatever the hell they want simply because they have sold a lot of records or are in some films or wear clothes particularly well. In fact, that's one of the few moments that I can truly say I was proud to be British.

I tuned in this year and was dismayed to see that it was once again hosted by oikfest in a suit James Corden, with his sycophantic intros and misplaced comedy asides. A blink and you'll miss it tribute to Whitney came up in the first five minutes. Interestingly it missed out the missing teeth/crack/fucked up stage of her career (the last 15 years then) and focused on her beauty and undoubted talent in the early days, pre-Bobby. But it seemed really shoe horned in and a bit awkward really. Weird.

We were soon on safer ground with middle class stalwarts Coldplay. Chris Martin's finally starting to age as he does his weird foot dance thing while howling out his newest unpronouncable hit. I still have warm feelings for Coldplay. And yes, I know, they have been uncool since 2001. Luckily I don't give a shit about liking cool music. I am not ashamed to say I have seen them live twice and I fecking loved it.

Next it's Florence and the Machine. During her performance, she hits a note which I think is meant to be the peak of the performance but it could, I kid you not, shatter glass. Still, a solid 7/10. And, as one of my great friends says, she really does have the face of Noel Fielding. Which is weird because I'd like to shag his brains out, but really wouldn't like to shag hers.

And now it's, um, Olly Murs, doing some godawful song and he's doing it live. I watched him in X Factor, he really shouldn't ever ever ever sing live again. I'm all for autotune or prerecorded or whatever it needs to be so it doesn't hurt like this. It's really, really, REALLY bad. Oh hang on, he's on with something called Rizzle Kicks. What is a Rizzle Kick?  It's two youngsters rapping. Do they still rap? It seems they are anyway. I'm assuming they have no streed cred at all seeing as they're performing with Olly Murs. Tomato faced Olly is visibly shaking and looks utterly terrified. An assured performance it is not. 1/10. Out you pug faced youth. Get out.

Now it's someone called Ed Sheerhan who I think is like that Newton Faulkner. Ginger and really popular for about five minutesr. Oh, he looks like that student that no one wants to talk to during fresher's week. Just him and his little guitar in the middle of the O2 arena. How brave. He's fuck tonnes better than Olly Murs but really really really bland. Really bland. The overwhelming impression I'm left with is orange. He has a sort of Ready Brek glow. It's not pleasant.  He pronounces swap as swup. Go away Ed. I don't like you.

Best British single. Oooh, it's voted for by us. The public! That's us! This is the one that counts. It's being presented by Tinie Tempah. I think he's one of those rapper people as well. I don't really know. Why don't I know who everyone is? I don't understand how I can be so old. It's just not right. He's talking a lot. No one's laughing. Is that bad? Adele, fair enough. Against Olly MURS??? And Example. Oh dear, The Wanted. JLS with something. Jessie J. Ed Orange Face Sheerhan. Military Wives - what the bloody bollocks is that? Pixie Robot Lott. Wand Erection get the biggest cheer. That makes me sad. What a fucking choice. Oh my good god alive. Wand Erection won. What the flying fuck? Five interchangeable man children get on the stage and start talking about how everything they do is for the fans. What are you TALKING about? Someone dresses you, someone feeds you, someone tells you what to sing, someone tells you what to say, someone tells you where to go and someone tells you who to fuck. YOU don't do anything. Silly silly robot puppet children. With ridiculous hair. One of them has a combover that SHOCKS ME.

Some sports person next to give Rihanna something. She's actually there as well. Surely she's a bit too popular for this type of thing. She looks hawt. Awkward kiss with sportsman up there. Polished speech. Americans are just better at this sort of thing than us. English people seem to not be able to talk into microphones properly. It's always cringey and embarrassing.

Oooooh. Music. Greatest ever song writer. Who could it be? Noel Gallagher? REALLY? OK, let's see. He looks more and more like a Thunderbird puppet. I've always preferred Noel's voice to Liam's y'know. Course, live, it's not saying much. He's weak. Very weak. And still stuck in 1994 judging by clothes, hair and music. Ah well, worse eras to be stuck in I suppose. Ill advised falsetto. Bad. Bad. Bad. 3/10 Noel. I nodded off for a while. It just wouldn't end. Really bad, lack lustre, dead and sad performance.

Oh another dead rockstar tribute. This time it's our Amy and it's a lot longer and less awkward than Whitney's. I guess everyone's had time to get used to the idea. Pictures of her poor little emaciated frame come up on screen with her voiceover explaining about how she just really liked to sing. Bless her.

At this point my friend came round with pancake mix and I forgot about the rest of it. Which is probably for the best. I did, however, see Adele's ripost to the whole shallow ordeal when she was unceremoniously cut off while trying to deliver a speech of thanks for winning Best Album (and pretty much everything else that night):


If only she'd followed in Jarvis's footsteps and mooned the whole fucking lot of them.

Monday, 20 February 2012

A series of unconnected and possibly incoherent thoughts

It is a truth universally acknowledged that time speeds up and slows down at certain points in your life. It's also a truth universally acknowledged that a female blogger will start at least one post with an Austen reference. 

Of course, it isn't actually a truth. Time stays exactly the same, whatever is going on in your life. But it definitely feels that way. I distinctly remember feeling that the term time until Christmas was interminable. I remember wending my way to school just after half term and not being able to face the fact that I had six weeks of this dreary shit to get through before Christmas. Yes, I've always been a happy go lucky type.

As you get older, time, of course, starts to speed up. You don't notice it at first. You're 18, you've still got years and years left before you have to do anything as ridiculous as getting a job. You're a university fresher. Freaking ages to go before you have to any actual work. You're at your first job. It's pretty shit but you just know you have decades to work out what it is you want to do. You're living with your first boyfriend at 23 but you've got forEVER before you have to decide about marriage, kids or what the hell is going to happen in your future.

And then suddenly you're nearly 36 and looking around going: "What the fuck was that?" That, my dear, was 36 years of your life. If you're lucky you'll have the same time over again and maybe a bit more. If you're unlucky you could easily be way more than half way through your time on this planet.

It always seems vitally important to people to live without regret. I don't. I have loads of regrets. I regret all SORTS of things. Moments in time when I could have made one decision and didn't. I made the other. Of course, it's all made me what I am today etc, etc, but who's to say that I wouldn't have been a better person if I'd taken the other option? Kind of like that Sliding Doors movie with Gwynnie. Except not as shit. Of course it's a pointless endeavour, looking back. And it does always seem that a decent wodge of time between now and whatever horrendous event ripped your particular cosy world apart whenever it was (cos there will be something in everyone's life that caused their world to shift on its foundations and never look quite the same again) fades the pain into the background and one day you wake up and realise you've realised the nirvana of our lives - perspective.


I've been thinking a lot about what connects us. To each other and to our history and to our future. To our family and our friends and strangers. To the decisions we help shape and the events we see played out. Do we all make a difference? Is everyone inextricably linked in an endless dance where we repeat the same actions. After all, is anyone really that different to anyone else? We all eat, shit, sleep and fuck. Most procreate. Some don't. But we all have to go to sleep at night and wake up in the morning. We all have to face the fact that we will one day not exist and work out the best way we can spend the time we have.

I believe life is played out in the minutae of every day details. It is these events that bear the ramifications that shape who you are and how your future will be. I don't believe in fate. I don't believe that there is a guiding spiritual force at work. I don't believe in predetermination and I don't believe in god. In fact, all I can believe in and all I can know is myself. People carry their universe in their head. One situation, one event, one fact, and yet endless different interpretations from the perpretrator, the victim, the voyeur, the onlooker, the son, the daughter, the mother, the father, the child. How can we ever hope to penetrate the thick web of misreading and misunderstanding that must exist in our relationships with each other? When everyone secretly thinks they, and only they, are really correct?

It seems to me it's a fundamental need that we all think that we're a little bit smarter, a little bit brighter, a little bit more special than the person next  to us. Some of us seem to think that we're streets ahead of the person next to use, without actually considering that one person's understanding of the world can't be any more correct or important that another's. I know that I do this. All of the time. I'm judgemental, I'm sometimes elitist, I'm impatient and I have an unshakeable faith in my own intellectual prowess. Despite that fact that I've never won a game of Scrabble in my life and I couldn't solve a quadratic equation if you paid me. I also didn't really know where York was until I had to learn. I'm woefully unversed in politics and science. I think physics is some kind  of magic and chemistry some kind of soothsaying alchemy. I just don't understand how people can get their heads around that shit. And yet, when I have a conversation about politics in the pub. Or about current affairs. Or art. Or history, I often think I'm right in the face of the very real probability that I'm not.


I started this post thinking about how time seems to be speeding up as the date of my big move approaches. About five minutes ago I had eight weeks before I had to move. Now I'm down to four. I have no idea what happened to the time. What I do know is that it'll in about five minutes time it'll be 20 March and I'll be leaving Leamington Spa behind. And I'm not sure what to think about that at all.

But I guess all I can do is what everyone has to do. Wake up in the morning and get on with it.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Shameless p(l)ug

One of my most favourite things ever in the whole wide world is a pug called Alfie Puglesworth. This is what he looks like:

And this is what he looks like dressed as an Elf:


And being frightened by chickens:

And giving me a kiss:

I could go on. For hours. But I won't. Because although drawing your attention to the fine beast is important, of course, purely because he should be worshipped by everyone. He belongs, by the way, to my bestest of best friends - Mickey - who I love with all my soul. Which is just as well because otherwise I would have stolen him aeons ago. I still love Fatman the most of course but dogwise Alfster has my heart.

So recently Alfie became the star of his own daily show BarHumPug, which has a logo designed by the fantabulous Gemma Correll:

His page consists of Mickey filming him every day doing various puggy things (eating, waddling, sleeping, snoring) and humming snatches of a song. You then have to guess the song. Like the intros round on Buzzcocks, but it's not always the intro. It's sometimes the middle. It's addictive and tricky. There is a leaderboard (which I am currently top of and plan to REMAIN THAT WAY).

It's basically hilarious and you should definitely check it out should you be on the book of face.

End of shameless p(l)ug.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Why all the hate?

I woke up for absolutely no reason at about 4am. As is usual in these circumstances I get up and go to the loo, stroke the cat (not a euphimism, actually stroke the cat) and check Facebook. Yes, I know. Usually there are a few updates from friends who are inexplicably still out on the piss at that hour (youngsters usually) and Americans getting up and posting their own strange timeline. But today it was the fact that Whitney Houston is dead.

She was 48 years old and it's obviously a drug related death, in one way or another. I'd hazard the guess that her crack addled heart gave up the ghost. It looks like she was still trying to pull her shit together and perhaps managing. Perhaps not. Perhaps this was always the way she was going to end her life.

As is more and more common people announce the death via social media along with comments about how shocked they are and lots and lots of uses of RIP. And then probably about an hour later out come the jokes. I've seen "Houston, we have a problem" approximately 90 million times already today. And I'm not judging. Exactly. I'm not. I was the first one to be completely unimpressed when Princess Di shuffled off this mortal coil. But, as I've said before, that was because I was immensely freaked out by the actions of a populace who were clearly crying and screaming for their own private griefs and sorrows and hanging it on the death of some remote figure as an outlet.

I've watched along with everyone else. I've watched the likes of Whitney go from seemingly wholesome and healthy to an absolute mess. It's hard not to curl your lip in disgust when someone has everything, all the money, fame, adoration, talent, beauty and then you see them toothless and pathetic, at the mercy of some substance or another. Doesn't really matter whether it's alcohol, crystal meth (yes, I'm looking at you Lohan), crack, heroin, whatever. It's an addiction to fill a void in their life. I think it's the weakness that people despise. And the feeling that they themselves could slip into that abyss.

People who preach so hard and so vehemently about drugs, drink, whatever. People who are so sure of themselves and their ability to keep control of their lives. People who profess they are glad when a drug addict dies. How far away would they be from a similar fate but for a downturn in their luck?

People who never ever ever see in the face of a homeless person or a drug addict, the person they could be but for a twist of fate are kidding themselves. No one knows what the future holds for anyone. Not ever.

I guess at least Whitney's been put out of her very obvious misery. And maybe she lived how she wanted to live. Maybe it was better in her eyes to be off her face for a shorter duration than live a long life full of boredom or depression or whatever it was she was running so far and fast from.

Happy Valentine's Day

There should be a first for everything, at least. Apart from bestiality and paedophilia. You can leave those safely alone. If only Michael Jackson had known that. Could have saved an awful lot of bother. For Bubbles as well.

The 'first' thing I'm on about is Valentine's Day. Specifically me not caring about it. Like, genuinely not caring. This may not be a big deal to those secure individuals who genuinely couldn't give a fuck about a completely made up, commercial, soulless, empty, money making sadfest but to me it's a bit huge.

My whole life I have always been aware of V-Day looming on the horizon. At school it was always going to be the day when I would have to stoically profess myself totally fine with not having any cards, even though the kid who eats glue at the back of the class generally got one from someone. I always seemed to not get one. But it was totally fine. Completely and totally and utterly fine. I didn't want that kind of attention. It's FINE.

As I grew up and went all teenage and horrific I threw myself even harder into the I don't give a shit camp. But oh how I did. I would have loved to have had a boyfriend or someone who would have just sent me some some shit card from Woolworths. Just once.

The first Valentine gift I ever got was in my third year at University. My boyfriend at the time had a fiancee. It wasn't me. He gave me a copy of Baz Luhrman's Romeo & Juliet, apparently not appreciating the irony. It's possible he didn't know the story. He was a total douche after all.

After that there was nothing much doing. But I had an actual proper boyfriend by then. One of my own. Who I lived with and everything. I was a complete person at last. See, look here, everyone at school. I can totally attract a man. It's brilliant. I don't actually recall what kinds of things he gave me for Valentine's Day but I'm sure he probably did. I was probably so needy and desperate that he didn't dare not to.

And then the last guy, the real piece of work. Well, he has sent me roses every year for the last three years. The first year I was overwhelmed and felt so lucky and joyous and all of those things you should feel when you're with someone and you love them and they love you. He fucked someone else two weeks later. Kind of took the edge off the lovely Valentine's gift there. Funny that.

This year will be the first year I won't get anything from him and hell, does it feel good. And I do actually mean that. Keep your bullshit fake sentiment matey. I'll make do with an M&S Valentine's Day meal for two (nothing says romance more than some pre prepared chicken and a heart shaped pudding, right? I mean that's what it's all about. The fact that I saw people fighting each other with the equivalent of supermarket pitchforks to grab the last bottle of red today doesn't take the real meaning out of it at all, no siree) and split it with Fatman.

I'd rather be a cat lady than a sad lady with a dickhead for a boyfriend. Happy Valentine's Day to all the single people out there. In many ways, and on many days, we have it better.

Oh why can I not have EVERYTHING I want ALL AT ONCE?

It's a rhetorical question. Sort of. All I want, right, is that when I move to York my beloved flat here sort of ceases to exist so it isn't sullied by anyone else living in it who may not love it like I do. So if it could just vanish into the space time continuum, yet still exist on some kind of plane of reality so I can revisit it, but absolutely have no one living in it who isn't me at any time ever, then that would be great.

Today I had some people looking around my house. MY HOUSE. I mean, I know I've handed in my notice on the place and I'm moving out. And oooh, I actually have another house up in York. But this place is mine for a wee while longer.

And of course staying up till 4am listening to Radio 4 comedies because I couldn't sleep but thought it was OK because I could sleep in today was only slightly (massively) marred by suddenly remembering that people were coming to poke around my home at 11am.

I woke up at 7 in what appeared to be an actual giant ash tray. Smoking is bad kids. Very, very bad. Especially when you have to completely get rid of any traces of it in the next two hours. All windows were opened forthwith and everything (including my friend and Fatman) were liberally doused in Febreze. Which is horrible by the way. It smells bloody terrible. And, of course, all I achieved was making my house smell like fags and old ladies.

First person arrived and I have to say I didn't take to her. I thought, oh no, love, this house isn't for you. You're not going to appreciate its quirks and weirdnesses. You don't look the type, frankly, to make sure the shower curtain is wrapped fully around the taps so you don't soak the carpet and stop it dripping onto the stairs below. You won't look up the history of the house as soon as you move in because you're excited by its oldness and fireplaces (c.1810 if anyone's interested). You won't carry on the good fight against the accordian players. You'll probably think they sound sweet or something. You, dear, don't belong here.

She proceeded to take pictures with her phone. So that's pictures of MY stuff. I appreciate that she was taking pictures of the rooms but the fact is it's full of MY STUFF. And she didn't even ask. And then I heard her asking the (stereotypically awful bloke estate agent) if it was OK if 'Daddy' was on the lease as he's paying. She also referred to Fatman as 'the little dog'. I mean, what the fuck? Out, out, out, Fatman and I chanted.

She left.

Then a boy came in. As I followed the boy and the spivvy agent (he looked and sounded like he should be starring in The Only Way is Essex) up the stairs I heard said spiv say: "It's a very weird house cos it's old. Really weird layout, got a weird feel, yeah?"

I caught the boy's eye and screwed my face up in disgust at the agent's rude and ridiculous, well, what I can only assume he thought was sales patter. Not the classic pitch, it has to be said, trying to sell somewhere by basically saying you think it's shit. And the boy smiled at my silent message of disgust. I thought, yes, he may stay. I could tell that he liked the house a lot so I did some sales stuff. You know, told him there's a garden and shit. Spiv man evidently hadn't bothered to find out little things like that.

I smiled encouragingly at the boy and willed him to take it. Partly because he sounds nice and I think he and his girlfriend might appreciate the wondrousness of my house. And partly because I don't want anyone to look round my house ever again while I'm in it. Ever.

I'll leave it to Sarah to express exactly how it feels. No one does it better.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Pirating pussy procrastination

The shop next door, which is a carpet shop or a tile shop or at least almost definitely something to do with floors, keeps giving away squares of carpet. Sort of doormat size. I nabbed one a few months ago on the basis that anything that's free is exciting. I have a vast pile of free crap that I have taken from conferences, shows, meetings, events, shops, chuggers and small children and I really should know better as I now have to wade through all of the crap and try and sort it out before moving house. Being unable to throw things away from some kind of middle class western guilt complex makes this difficult and also means many of my friends are likely to be the lucky recipients of all manner of interesting oddments during the next few weeks.

The carpet square ended up on my kitchen floor. Fatty took a great liking to it and spends hours at a time squishing his gargantuan body and stumpy limbs onto the mat. He crouches there with all the concentration of an autistic sphinx and looking for all the world like a cat loaf.

Today I grabbed another free square of carpet (where do they come from? why are they free?) and put it on the kitchen floor. Now he flumps between the two. And I realised what he's doing. He's playing pirates. So I got on one of the squares and we fought for ownership of the litter tray. He won, naturally, on account of the fact that he has had loads more practise than me.

These are the sorts of things I do in between writing, drinking coffee and trying not to eat.

I need a boyfriend.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Sausage woes

I can, once again, hear and feel the bass from The Sozzled Sausage pub. Does anyone remember when this place was cool? Does anyone remember when the food they sold was actually really good? And they had loads of different kinds of sausages? And they had a mini vibrator machine in the girls' toilets? And the music was laid back and chilled? And everyone used to go there?

Granted I'm going back about nine years but it genuinely was a fucking ace place. In fact, I just finished working at another pub which is now managed by the guy who managed it when it was ace, conincidentally. Which probably explains why the pub I've just left is one of the most popular in Leam.

These days The Sozzled Sausage, unfathomably, caters to the chav class. I know that 'chav' is a lazy and, sometimes politically potentially dangerous banner to use. I don't really want to be part of labelling an entire sub sect of society as some kind of working class proles. However, I have just had my third migraine in a week and I'm close to going fucking postal, so I'm just going to stick with chavs.

It's not just catering to the chav underbelly of The Spa, it's actively encouraging them. Its DJs are woeful. I mean really, really embarrassing. They wear sort of faux gangsta/hipster outfits and fake tan and V neck t-shirts and are just, well, horrendous. I have never seen more than about 10 people in there, and five of those are usually the 'crew' of 'DJs'. I genuinely have been embarrassed for them in the past. And yet all I feel now is burning hatred.

And despite the lack of customers and the widespread villification of this once great pub, they are still advertising cheap drinks, WKD shots (whatever the fuck they are. One of the things I fucking adored about the pub I worked at is we didn't sell any fucking alcopops or sours.), shit 'promotions', shit 'music', shit 'food' and shit regard for their neighbours.

I lived next to this pub for ages with no problems whatsoever. Over the last year or so it's been like living next to a really shitty, really loud, really unpopular, really embarrassing slice of Ibiza. And it's one of the few reasons I will be glad to move from this street. You absolute fucking wankers.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Jesus loves you

So, I'm house hunting in York. To be honest, although the locals insist York is tiny, when you don't know the city at all and all you have are your two feet, it seems rather bigger than tiny. I've criss crossed the city more than I wanted to, while at the same time failing to see many sights as I'm always intent on finding where the hell I am supposed to be.

I've now seen six places and three of them are possibilities, which is actually pretty good odds. Better than I could have hoped for. A fourth one was beautiful and ideally placed, just inside the City Walls but I'd have to sell a kidney or something to afford it. Or one of Fatman's kidneys. Oooh, there's a thought. I wonder if he can be a source of cash...

York is the closest city I've been to in England that reminds me of being in Italy. It's relatively unspoilt (relatively, although I'm sitting in a Travelodge Wetherspoons hell hole right now just to nick their WiFi but you can't have everything) and around every corner is some kind of historical wet dream. Castle walls, turrets, city walls, ancient buildings and Dick Turpin's grave. Marvellous. I keep seeing signs as well saying Celebrate York 800. That's 800 years since York was founded in its present form.

Anyway, the point of this post is this. I came out of one of the houses, which I like quite a lot actually, and just round the corner is Walmgate Bar. This is one of the towers on the City Walls. And marvellously there's a coffee shop actually IN THE GATEHOUSE. So I went in. There was free WiFi. There were also five American students lolling around, but I decided that that was OK. It's an ace place and there's tea and WiFi. Did I mention the WiFi? It was free. I like this. I ask for the password. It is: JESUS LOVES YOU. I say: "Really?" and they say: "Yes. Jesus loves you." I smiled and said thank you. I couldn't work out whether it was some kind of ironic, amusing password or for real. Either way, no matter.

So I'm working away and they're all chatting. Very, very loudly, naturally, being American and all. It's all fine. They start talking about video games and it was all very genial and lovely. I joined in at one point. Ahhh, I thought, this is how I could make friends. It'll all be fine (I have been rather panicky, truth be told).

Then they started talking about Star Trek and Zachary Quinto (who I slightly adore) and about how good he was as Spock. Again, all lovely.

And then.

American 1: "He's gay, you know."

American 2: "Whut? Whut? No way. No waaaaay, man. Aw."

American 1: "Do you struggle with gay people." Head cocked, concerned look on face.

American 2: "Well, all sin is sin, in the eyes of the lord. It's unnatural and all sinners will go to hell, so, you know, I can deal."

He said this with a straight face. Actually not a straight face. An earnest face full of righteousness. This is the guy who I was just chatting to about Elder Scrolls and Zelda. The guy who was just talking about Tron and Star Trek. I couldn't compute, even slightly. I looked at him in abject disgust. He didn't even notice, so intent was he on his conversation about gay people going to hell with the other ASSHOLE. They then started on Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory. Apparently the actor is gay.

By this point I'm burning with total fucking rage and have to try and tune them out. Last night I started reading God is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens. And his words kept flicking through my head: "Religion poisons everything."

I had to get out of there immediately. I felt itchy with disgust. I wanted to say what I thought but, just as I opened my mouth, it seemed utterly pointless. People that far gone don't fucking deserve to be approached with the dignity of logic and rationalism.

So, apparently Jesus loves you. As long as you're not gay. Or living in sin. Or black. Or a jew. Ace. Jesus you sound just PEACHY.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Letting go

I've just started the monumental task of sorting through my stuff prior to movingmyentirelifesomewherewhereIdon'tknowanyone (TM). And one thing I've just realised is exactly how difficult I find it to let go. I'm not even talking about relationships and people and important stuff like that. I'm talking about makeup and, specifically, a small rubber dolphin.

Christmas 1999. My parents gave me a stocking full of little, silly things. I can't even remember what most of them were, but it was cute and lovely. In there was a rubber dolphin, just a small one, like a kid would play with in the bath. My dad picked it up somewhere and thought it would make a cute, random present. Which is why, through the last 13 years and five house moves, I still have this stupid, rubber dolphin.

If he was still alive he wouldn't remember that he gave it to me. He wouldn't care if I kept it. He'd probably think I was being a bit weird if I did. But I know that he chose it, he wrapped it, he put it in my Christmas stocking (even though I was 22 years old) and then two years later he had the audacity to die. And therefore I can't bring myself to bin it.

Same goes for loads of other things in my house. For different reasons in some cases. But the upshot is I have SO MUCH STUFF.

I just went through my make up and threw away an entire bin bag full. I mean, you're meant to keep your makeup for 15 years, right? That's normal, right?

Gahhhh. I'm going to be ruthless. I'm going to be brave. And I'm going to let go of things I just don't need anymore.

Except for the dolphin. The dolphin stays...