Friday, 31 August 2012

Maybe tomorrow, I'll want to settle down...

I AM the Littlest Hobo. Once again I'm packing up my, ahem, meagre, belongings and moving to pastures new. Ish. I mean, it's only really round a couple of corners but it is lovely. I have negotiated slings and arrows aplenty so far with this new place. To date I've spoken with three different estate agents about it, ascertained that although it technically could be sold from underneath me, it most likely won't, decided it's worth a punt and have now started the traditional process of haemorrhaging cash to whichever estate agent demands it at any given time.

So far, I've stumped up £100 to my new estate agents, let's call them Robbing Cocklords, to 'reference' me. This means sending two emails - one to my old landlord and one to my current landlord. Robbing Cocklords just phoned me and said that my old landlord 'hadn't filled the form out correctly' and my current landlord (let's call them Thieving Cuntbags) are demanding a fee to give a reference and could I call them both and sort it out.

You'd think they could make those calls, given that I've spent £100 on this service. But I duly make the calls. My old landlord is a sweetie and we had a nice chat while he did the form over the phone (as I suspected,
he, being an intelligent and erudite solicitor, assumed that his email vouching for me as a great tenant would have done in lieu of the form, but apparently not). Then I steeled myself to call Thieving Cuntbags. I hate calling them. They have an army of interchangeable women who answer the phone and all plead ignorance about whatever it is I'm calling about until I'm fantasising about poking their eyes out with a rusty spoon.

This time it was Julie. As taking money from me was involved, she managed to be ultra efficient and said that, yes, I do have to pay £15 + VAT for the privilege of them filling out a form that would take approx five minutes.

"But I've just spent £100 for someone else to sort all this out - now I have to give you £18 as well?" I said. "What for?"

"To release the reference," she said.

"But what does that mean? What do you have to actually do?"

"We have to email the form back."

"And that takes you £18s worth of working time does it? Amazing. A-maz-ing."

I paid the money. Of course I did. What else can you do?

And over the next month I can look forward to paying my rent on this place, paying rent on the new place and handing over a gargantuan deposit, while most likely having to beg for my deposit back on this place.

Still, when I'm installed in wooden floor, exposed beam central, it'll be totally worth it. Oh yes. Sash windows, very little space and plenty of street noise, come to me...

Bit of perspective

Nothing like a bit of parental illness to put everything into perspective, is there? Particularly when you've only got the one left.
My poor mama is suffering from something weird and painful. Last time this happened she ended up being diagnosed with sarcoidosis. That was about 20 years ago. She doesn't get sick that often. It just doesn't happen.
But it's a familiar feeling: helplessness in the face of something I can't control. And I'm too bloody far away. And even if I wasn't there's exactly bugger all I can do.
My ma is a total rock and the strongest woman I know and I love her very much. It's about time I started putting her first.
I've started to look for the bright side of every situation. Or if not the actual bright side, at least the yin to the yang. And in this situation it's most definitely crystallised what's important and what, well, just isn't.
Just wish there was something I could do.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Taxing stuff...

I got an email saying I was due loads of cash from them there horrible Government people because I had paid too much tax. As emails go, this sounded very plausible to me. Particularly when measured against a lot of the other shitey spam toss that fills my inbox. Mostly involving penii. This is a word I possibly invented as a plural for the word penis. If it's not a valid word then it definitely should be.

So this email. It said all I had to do was fill in a form and send back all my personal and bank details and then they would process it and send me lots of lovely money. But, not having the brains of a gullible amoeba - in fact I like to think I'm at least several stages up from that - I managed to restrain myself from randomly sending off such precious information in exchange for free cash. I've been caught out like that before. I'm still waiting for that Nigerian prince to get back to me.

But it did get me to thinking. I probably am due some kind of tax return by now. After all, I vaguely recall that loads of people have had them over the last few months, following some kind of monumental fuck up by the work experience kid at Her M's Tax Office. So why not me? I've probably paid way more tax than I should have done. I mean, I'm bound to have done. They take far more than is polite on a monthly basis as it is, and I'm almost positive that they probably owe me, like, LOADS.

So I decided to give them a call. Anyone who has done this knows that very soon you're lost in a Kafkaesque nightmare of bureaucracy and this endlessly confusing phone menu. I always end up having to ignore it all until I get to a bit where the lady says that she'll transfer me through to someone who might be able to help.

So I get someone who might be able to help.

Me [confidently]: Hi... I got this email and it says you owe me money.
Him [irritably]: It's spam. We don't send out emails.
Me [crestfallen yet hopefully]: Oh. Well. Would you mind checking whether I am due for a tax rebate?
Him [patiently]: Sure... [a few minutes pass]. No. But I notice you haven't filled in your tax return yet. You have to do that.
Me [sadly]: So, I won't get any free money?
Him [sternly]: No.
Me [quietly]: And I have to do my tax return, like, now?
Him [quiet clearly run out of patience now]: Yes. You do.
Me [meekly]: kthxbye

So in one phone call I went from thinking I was getting free cash to not getting free cash, realising that I haven't done something that I'm extremely legally obliged to do with yet another task to add to my ever growing Adult Things I Have To Do Very Soon list.


Estate agents. What a bunch of bastards.

Last week I found the perfect flat. It's all sash windows, wooden floors, exposed beams and perfectly positioned in the middle of the city, just opposite the Shambles. It's over a late night fried chicken place, but you can't have everything can you? So I slapped the money down quick smart, because the estate agent was doing that thing where they lie to you and say that someone else just looked around it and will take it if you don't. I knew she was lying but I really wanted it. So I didn't ask anything about the contract, I just put the holding deposit down and then went to have a little weep. Not about that. About something else. The point is I wasn't in my right mind. It's a rare day when I hand cash over without checking every bit of fine print I can find. This time I didn't even ask. I gave the cash over the phone and thought I'd sort out the details later.

Fast forward to Saturday. I met My Only Friend In York (TM) for a coffee and decided to show her the outside of my new gaff. So we went and sat opposite and I told her about the beams and the floor and the fireplace and how this is the thing that will help me settle into York.

She said:| "Er, there's someone in it."

It's an unoccupied flat. And she was quite right. There were some people in it. Clearly being shown around by an estate agent.

They spilled out onto the street, all looking very enthusiastic. I saw the estate agent dude, a different one to the one who had showed me round. I collared him. He told me that he's acting for the other estate agent.

"I'm sorry, what?" said I.

"Yes dear. We're selling them. Your estate agent is renting them. Did you know that it could be sold from underneath you at any time and that we have a key and the right to show people round?"

No. NO. NO I DIDN'T know this.

It being bank holiday meant I couldn't find out anymore until just now.

Estate agent 1 (who are renting the flats and, incidentally, have my cash) said: "It's all fine. It's a six month lease. [on being further questioned] oh, actually, I don't know the details, I don't deal with lettings. I'll have to get someone to call you back."

You don't deal with lettings Clare? But Clare, you sure did deal with lettings when you took £300 off me the other day. You dealt with lettings then Clare. Why don't you deal with them now Clare? Clare, I hate you with the fire of a thousand suns. Clare, will I be getting my money back?

"Under the circumstances, it's possible."

Oh that IS good of you. The circumstances of you being a massive liar and pretty much frauding me out of my money? Those circumstances? How very kind of you to consider giving me my money back. Very. Kind. Indeed.

Estate agent 2 (who are apparently selling the flats) said: "Oh, I'm pretty sure that one's sold. But I don't know, I'll get someone to call you back."

So I'm currently sat here seething and waiting for one of two lying bastards to call me back and say completely different things.

Estate agents are massive lying cuntbags and, come the revolution, I will line them up against a wall and find new and different ways to torture them.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Like sliding into a warm bath

In these troubled times we need the BBC. It's just a fact. I need a broadcasting corporation that still makes University Challenge and came up with The Great British Bake Off. Which, by the way, is one of the most enjoyably, comfortingly marvellous programmes that there has possibly ever been.

I am suffering from a rather lengthy bout of insomnia and, on occasion, night terrors. And do you know what I do at such times? Apart from knock back beta blockers and valerian tea? I put The Great British Bake Off on iplayer and let the sounds of Mary Berry and general lovely people murmuring gently about the best way to bake a cake. This programme is a work of absolute genius. It's somehow hit exactly the right chemistry with its hosts - anyone who doesn't like Mel and Sue are a) too young to remember their ace lunch time show or b) dead inside. Sue Perkins standing alone in a field wittering gently about history things is worth the entire year's licence fee for me.

The second best thing Sue has been in is The Supersizers series with Giles Coren. Not only did this have Giles Coren who fulfills most of my favourite male characteristics of being quite sexy in an undefinable way, very intelligent and more than slightly arrogant, it had Sue Perkins and history bits. It's basically made for me.

But back to the Bake Off. A beautiful setting, soothing music, plenty of breaks for the camera to pan across glorious and very British countryside to rest on the fattest, happiest sheep I've ever seen, a smattering of historical foodie stuff and a fiercely fought competition between 12 people who are alternately thriving and wilting under the pressure of having to make bread for the most critical baker person ever. 

It's like sliding into a warm bath and having a hug from a giant cloud. With cake.

Do it like a dude

I've been thinking a lot recently. I know. How totally unlike me, right? 

Fact is, I'm a bit over emotional these days. And can be way over sensitive. I'm often confused by peoples' actions and feel blindsided by stuff that happens. Probably just normal life stuff. Stuff that everyone can just, you know, take in their stride and be all: "Oh, well, that just happened." and then go and do something else. Problems and things are becoming ostensibly insurmountable. It's like a black cloud over me everywhere I go. And I hate it.

I think. And think. And think. AND THINK. Until I could scream. And then when I think myself into exhaustion and finally go to sleep, I dream about whatever I was thinking about and it gets replayed in new and ever more horrible ways until I wake up. Usually there is a couple of seconds respite and then the thinking starts. And it's Groundhog Day. Without the cute animal, Bill Murray or happy ending.

I often wonder whether it's partly the difference between women and men. It has to be said that the most together people I have known - and by together, I mean the people who angst the least and seem to have a pretty positive and practical view on life - are men. I'm aware I'm generalising hugely and that can be a bad thing, but I'm doing it anyway. Many men I know seem to be able to compartmentalise and lock the bad stuff away and then get on with enjoying themselves in whichever pleasurable way seems fit at that moment.

They don't normally spend time crying into their pillows (unless for a good reason, presumably) and ruminating over what they could have done differently, or what they should do next. They don't co-ruminate with their male friends, going over and over every minutae of whatever recent thing has just happened to them. They just start playing a video game. Or playing their ubiquitous guitar/drums/keyboard. Or have a wank. Or a sandwich. Or go and get drunk with whoever is around. They don't even plan to meet people sometimes. They just go. Amazing.

Men seem better at making themselves feel better in the moment. They seem better at sorting things into lists of: "well, that's shit but I can't do anything about it so I'll just put it away and not think about it ever again" and: "I can do something about that so I'll do it. At some point. Probably right after this sandwich."

I did read Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus once, but it seemed to be saying that most stuff is a woman's fault and they should leave the man alone to be in his cave and he'll rebound back like a rubber band as long as he has a nice supply of steak and beer. I'm not sure which century it was written in or who it was meant to appeal to, so I didn't really take any of it seriously. And I do think it's mostly bollocks. But the bit that did seem to ring true is men are generally calmer about stuff. They don't feel the need to talk about their problems, and thus perhaps lessen the importance of said problems. Of course, the nutters who go postal one day and end up killing lots of people with a machine gun also tend to be men. But I'm sure that's just a coincidence.

And I'm not really even talking about the rights and wrongs or how people should deal with stuff anyway. But thinking and beating yourself up till you puke can't be good, as a general rule.

So it's probably time I started channelling my thoughts into something I can actually do something about. If I added up all the hours spent thinking and wondering, regretting and crying about stuff, I could probably have written ten novels in that time. I could probably have created some kind of magnificent work of art. I could have raised a family of wild hedgehogs and set them free in the woods. I could have taught the local neighbourhood kids the rudiments of philosophy. At the very least, I would be a lot happier, more positive and have lots of things going on in my life to enjoy.

It might just be time to start thinking like a man.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

"Goodbye world, the time has come, I had some fun" Tony Nicklinson 1954-2012

RIP Mr Nicklinson. I'm sorry you lived in a society with a legal system so utterly without soul that you lost your fight for your right to choose how you die. I'm sorry that you suffered so much. I'm sorry that your wife and daughters suffered so much.

Tony Nicklinson suffered from locked-in syndrome since 2005 when he was paralysed from the neck down. He was fighting for the assurance that any doctor who helped him end his life would be free from prosecution. Six days ago he lost. He released a video statement after the verdict which showed his despair in the only way he still could. He sobbed.

He felt he was being abandoned to a life of total indignity and utter misery. And the only person who can know what it was like to be him was him. I can't even begin to imagine going from healthy and able-bodied to only being able to communicate slowly and laboriously with eye movements. I can't even begin to imagine the courage and fortitude he must have shown when fighting for what seems to be a logical and basic human right. And I certainly can't imagine the devastation he must have felt when he lost this fight.

In Switzerland, of course, he could have gone to Dignitas, where it's legal to use a lethal dose administered by a doctor to end your suffering. But he wanted to change the law for other people here in the UK. He wanted to make a difference. I don't think he was just fighting for himself but drawing attention to something that, with an ageing and longer-lived population than ever before, is likely to become an increasing focus for us all.

Death is terrifying. No one wants to think about it, no one wants to talk about it and no one wants to be reminded that, but for a roll of a die, anyone of us could be in Tony Nicklinson's position. But death is the only thing we know with total certainty that we will have to face one day, in some form or another. And wouldn't it be reassuring, wouldn't it be humane, wouldn't it be morally right if we knew we had the choice if something dreadful was to happen to us or someone close to us? I'm grateful to Mr Nicklinson for fighting for his rights. And for everyone else's too.

In the end he died at home from pneumonia. In his last act of asserting any control over his life he had refused food since the judgement. His lawyer called him an extraordinary man. His family stood with him shoulder to shoulder, fully supporting him throughout.

I'm glad his struggle is over. I hope his fight isn't forgotten and that it will be a catalyst for changes that so clearly need to be made to the law in this country.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

How hard can it be?

A little bit of pug, a little bit of awesome friendage, a sunburned nose and I'm feeling a whole hell of a lot chirpier than I was 48 hours ago.

I crowd-sourced a lift from A to B on Facebook. It worked. Amazing. I say crowd-sourced because now and then I like to sound like a bit of a wanker. I know, hard to believe isn't it? What I actually did was beg like a pikey tramp in the off chance that someone marvellous would help me out. I had approx 12 days until payday, approx £120 in my account and had spunked exactly £59 on a train fare. What with the need to keep Fatty in food and me in fags I didn't really see any option but to a) hitchhike, b) walk seven miles down a motorway or c) beg. I begged. I'm not proud.

But whatever, it not only worked but also gave me the chance to see a couple of excellent people who I don't see nearly enough, along with their genuinely delightful offspring. One of whom had a better iPad than me. And he won it designing a character for Peggle. He's 12. I really need to start trying to achieve something at some point. Maybe before I actually reach pensionable age. Or die. Whichever comes first.

Anyway, it was lovely to see them, and as I had come from an equally lovely oasis of Rainbows and was kindly dropped me at my another friend's house, it just continued to get better. Pug love, Zoolander and yet more friends has chilled me out, inspired me and left me feeling that not only are things not as bad as I thought, they might even be quite a lot better...

I even looked more favourably on my companions on the train journey back. I still hated it when they brushed against me, touched me by accident with their elbow, coughed, sneezed, cried, watched TV on their iPad very very loudly, ate crisps in that way that sometimes makes me want to ram them down their throat just to stop the audible mastication. (It's different when I eat crisps by the way. I have a way of sucking them first, so I don't subject anyone else to the sound of my teeth crunching through them. It's possible that the sound of me sucking my crisps makes my seat neighbour gag but I don't care. At least I'm quiet.)

Anyway. None of these things bothered me overly much. I even entertained the notion that some of the people around me might be quite nice. I tried a smile on one of them. It was well received by all accounts.

At least I know what to do now. Get some friends up here. That's clearly where I'm going wrong. Spending every evening sobbing into my sofa and conversing with the Fat One isn't really getting me anywhere. So that's it. Operation Friendship is underway. How hard can it be?

Friday, 17 August 2012

We're all in the gutter...

There's a tramp who skulks outside York station. He looks ancient but could be anything from mid 40s to mid 60s. He's filthy and wizened and looks broken and bowed. His face is like a wrinkled bird/man hybrid's face, with deep, deep crevixes engrained with years worth of accumulated dirt. He doesn't seem to speak to anyone and seems lost in his own head. Every time I get a train from York, I see him. Sometimes he's sitting cross legged, wrapped in his green army-style coat. He always leans over like he's praying to Allah. When you get closer you realise he's just rocking. His attention seems to be solely focused on tobacco, rolling his tobacco or grubbing around among the discarded fag ends so he can deconstruct them and use their dirty innards to create a new cigarette. He walks with a jerky limp and a sideways shuffle and never, ever meets anyone's eye.

I always want to speak to him. I want to know how he ended up here. What chain of events brought him here. To this spot outside York Station. And does he take in any of the reactions he conjures up in people? Does he see the disgust, contempt, pity or indifference? Does he notice? Does he care?

Was it his fault or did someone break his spirit. And how is it that some people have the strength to turn their slings and arrows into positivity and light, and others end up on their knees in the gutter looking for cigarette ends?

I want to help him but I don't know how. And who says he needs my help anyway? Maybe it's my smug middle-class guilt talking. Maybe I'm assuming an awful lot. Maybe he's completely happy with his life and it's none of my business.

I gave him the rest of my cigarettes anyway. He didn't seem very pleased but I like to think he will be able to enjoy them and it might give him a bit of time away from having to look in the gutter.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Violently happy

I have started a blog about six times tonight. I am actually too angry to write. This is new and different. When I'm angry I usually can't stop writing. It's a weird experience to be mentally stymied by my own rage.

I'd go for a run except that it's 11pm and really dark (it's totally darker in Yorkshire by the way) and I'll probably get stabbed by some nutjob. It's been that kind of day. On the last run I managed to drag my weary carcass out for I got The Fear. I don't know where I am and I don't know where I'm going when I run round here, and yes I have GPS but I like the idea of just running and seeing where I end up. Although sadly, thus far, that's meant the middle of Acomb (not the most salubrious part of York it has to be said), most of the way down the Fulford Road (so so so so so SO dull), and then into random countryside.

The countryside was lovely but then I started thinking. What if I got murdered by a nutter? It looked just like the kind of place a nutter might choose. And then no one will know. Literally NO ONE would know where I was. There's no one to tell I'm off running. No one knows where I go. No one's expecting me back. Who would feed Fatty? Who would tell my mum?

I mean they'd probably notice at work after a while but they wouldn't know where I could be.

It was a sobering thought. Specially for Fatman. If he doesn't get fed reg-u-lar-ly bad things happen. Mostly consisting of him screaming in my face.

Maybe I should go out and score some narcotics. I'm pretty sure there are some small time student dealers opposite my house. To be fair, all you have to do on my road is sniff the air like a stoned Bisto kid and you can generally follow the smell of skunk and patchouli. I've heard. I mean, I haven't. Obviously. I don't condone such things in any way, shape or form. And nor should you. You BAD person.

Anyway, running and narcotics are out so I'm thinking fag smoking, Fatty squeezing, Great British Bake Off on iplayer followed by a little cry before I go to sleep. Yeah, that'll do.

You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist. 


Monday, 13 August 2012

What dreams may come

It's commonly known that there is nothing more boring in life than someone a) telling you about their crazy travelling stories, b) telling you about their crazy drug taking stories, or c) telling you about their dreams.

But this is my blog and I don't give a shit. So I'm going to tell you about my dreams. I'll spare you the drug tales (because my ma reads this) and travelling tales (because I've never been travelling. I like to go on holiday, not backpack around scuzzholes fraternising with students and sleeping in, ew, hostels.)

I regularly have dreams that leave me with a lingering sense of unease, sometimes dread, often gloom. It's part of the reason why I have such a sunny disposition most of the time. Repetitive, endless dreams about your dead dad will do that to you sometimes. Takes the gloss off any early morning burst of spring like joy you might otherwise feel.

But I've sort of got used to it. And, let's face it, it's the only time I'll ever see him again so I'd probably choose to keep them, even if some are rather more traumatic than others.

I also dream of boys what I have known. Over and over again. They're generally being arses. Much like real life. In fact, often exactly like real life.

People I know have dreams about being superheroes, or flying, or doing something spectacularly amazing. My dreams are a repetition of things that actually happened. I mean, what's the fecking point of that? I know what's happened. I was there. Is there any need for my psyche to torture me by playing my own personal showreel of failures and humiliations I have known?

The other night though I has one that was spectacularly grotesque. I was in a family situation that distresses me for reasons I won't bore you with now, but it all went a bit wrong and then I found myself feeling like my tongue was sore. So I ran it around the inside of my mouth and realised it was forked. And then I pulled something out of my mouth. I looked down and I was holding my tongue in my hand. My actual tongue. I looked in the mirror and just had a little flapping stump oozing pus in my mouth.

I remember looking at my tongue in my hand, flapping like a dying fish, and looking in the mirror and then waking up. It was 4am. I didn't sleep again for about six hours.

Doesn't take Dr Freud to work that one out, eh?

I don't even... I can't... I mean...

What was that? I seem to have watched something. But what? And did they really rehearse that? Was that a thing that was meant to happen?

I distinctly remember being promised Kate Bush by various people on Twitter and Facebook. That's the actual Kate Bush I was expecting, not a fucking recording of Kate Bush while interpretive dance happened on the sidelines. I bloody hate interpretative dance. I'm sure it's very skilled and that but it looks shit. It just does.

So we were promised Kate Bush and The Who, and we got a recording of Kate Bush and the fat one from Kaiser Chiefs doing something by The Who. It's true that we were promised the Spice Girls and there were five raddled looking old women standing on top of some taxis for a bit, so I suppose that happened. You could almost feel Vicky Beckham's resentment. What will the Scientologists think of her now they've seen what she really is? A karaoke backing singer for a band that has Geri Halliwell in it. Bahahahahah.

The best bits by far were John Lennon (dead since 1981) and Freddie Mercury (dead since 1993). That apparently is the best we can do. Two dead guys and Eric Idle.

I'm trying to remember back to the beginning, I think Suggs was on, sounding pretty ropey. Love Suggs, but not sure he's up to it. And then one of those interchangeable boybands. The one with the lad that all the middle aged women are inexplicably shagging. He looks about 12. I'm assuming he's legal  but he looks like his balls are yet to drop. So that was weird.

Then, oh yeah. Annie Lennox. I do love her actually. And I like the song. But it's from Bram Stoker's Dracula, you know, the film that came out in about 1902. What was that? Why? Who chose this? Who directed this? Could they not have got Boyle doing both? Would that have been so hard?

In the spirit of the Olympics did they get a group of kids with special needs to choose the line up? I mean, you can go too far with the inclusivity you know? But then this is a city that has a fucking clown for a mayor so maybe this is what goes down in London. Maybe it's all a big ironic hipster thing that anyone outside of South London just doesn't get.

Maybe we ran out of money? We only had a fiver left over for the closing ceremony so we borrowed some black cabs and put an ad in Time Out for acts. Pretty sure poor old Geri hasn't had anything to do for a long while and Brian May will turn up at bloody anything. George Michael is doing some kind of community service probably and Jessie J wasn't born when Freddie died, so she just thought she was singing for the old granddads in the backing band.

I mean fucking Jessie fucking J. Singing in Freddie Mercury's place. And they thought that was a good idea? REALLY?

I dunno kids. Maybe it's a good thing. We've had this unnerving two weeks of national pride and a collective consciousness. I've, well, felt things. I've felt so proud of people I've never met. I've cried when they've won their medals. I've felt surges of total wonder at the tenacity of human endeavour. I probably can't handle it for too long, you know? It's just not in my psyche. For a couple of weeks we've persuaded ourselves we're American. But we can't keep it up. You know it. I know it. Macca knows it.

I was worried that tonight would leave me in a blubbing heap. Scared and unsure without the Olympics to watch. I thought that the montages would be too much for me to deal with. A moment in time that I'd never experience again. I get nostalgic very easily. I can get sad about a TV series finishing. You should have seen me when Battlestar Gallactica ended. InCONSOLABLE. But as soon as The Wanted or whoever they are started bouncing around like monkeys on amphetamines, I was alright actually. All emotion just sort of disappeared.

A numbness enshrouded me all the way through the Spice Girls - although I was briefly excited at the thought that one of them might fall off their London cabs (question... would Vicky B have shattered like a porcelain doll, it seems possible, so dead eyed is she) - right up till this moment. The flame is going out right now and, oh, there's Take That. Can they save it?

Actually yes, a little bit they can. But that might be because that song makes me a bit wibbly and also I'm aware that Lord Barlow has suffered a loss in the last few days which makes him doing this brave, frankly. And then, then, in the last few minutes the Royal Ballet came on and Darcey Bussell flew in from a phoenix and oh now The Who ARE there. And I think it's been saved at the last minute for me...

OK, so I won't return to total nihilism...phew. It was close there. I will allow myself to remember the Olympics with warm fuzzy feelings and, yes, a little bit of pride.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Not dead inside after all

Ach, you know what? I was going to try and describe how I have a love/hate feeling about the London Olympics. About how I still stand by the hypocrisy of how it was funded, about the sponsors, about the selling out... but, it's been awesome, just awesome, watching the individuals fight for their place. Whether they got gold or not, whether they just qualified and that was it, whether they came back and got the best bronze ever, whether they already have a gazillion medals, you would have to be dead inside to not feel stirring of some kind of emotion when people work so very hard and achieve what they've dreamed of. 

And where the hell have all these British athletes come from? The first Olympics I remember was Los Angeles 1984. It was Daley Thompson, Zola Budd and Mark Decker Slaney. A time when the East Europeans dominated all sorts of events and we wouldn't and couldn't get much of a look in anywhere really, apart from the odd event.

And somehow I can't remember much about any other Olympics up until this one. 

It's suddenly 2012 and we are inexplicably third in the medals table. How? When? Where did all these amazingly talented youngsters come from? Was it the fact that it was hosted here? Is that what it took to give them a boost? Or is it investment in training combined with a proper crackdown on the cheating that fucked up a lot of athletics and gymnastics for years? 

Who knows? Who cares? I love the fact that some random ginger lad won the long jump, that we seem to have triumphed across almost all disciplines, that Tom Daley got a medal, that Mo Farrah won twice and that Jessica Ennis was flawless. 

The Opening Ceremony literally ignited my interest for these Games. I thought I wasn't bothered. I felt I didn't care. And actually I do. I like watching people do well. I like watching what the human body is capable of if it's treated in a certain way. I like armchair athletics and listening to everyone becoming sudden experts on things they've never done and are never likely to do. I like seeing gorgeous looking men and women in skimpy clothes being happy. 

I like the arrogance of Bolt and the humble practicality of Farrah. I especially liked the South African swimmer's dad. He was awesome. 

I like the fact that Cameron is being forced to allow money to be pumped into sport in the run up to Rio 2016 - the money was going to stop in 2014 apparently but now we're apparently good at it he's making some kind of speech tomorrow to announce that actually, they can have some cash after all. 

And in a world where grandmothers apparently murder their granddaughters and hide the body in their own house, where soldiers are dying for pointless wars and where politicians continue to fuck with our lives, it's nice to see people being happy. 

I still won't sing the national anthem, and I still won't enjoy Paul McCartney's inevitable reappearance at the closing ceremony tomorrow - although if the rumours are true and he is playing, at least he's on a bill with the Spice Girls so perhaps he'll look good next to that inevitable embarrassment. I really really hope they're miming...

Friday, 10 August 2012

One year on...

I appear to have been writing this blog for approximately a year. I know this because it was roughly this time last year I returned from a lovely holiday in Tuscany, split up with an awful boyfriend, started an awful diet (Dukan - which prompted my first ever post) and worked out how the hell to use blogger.

Since then I've laughed. I've cried. Mostly cried. Moved job, area and city. Met some proper fucking frogs and absolutely zero princes. And still have no one to make me a cup of tea.

Four months in to my big old life change and it seems that nothing really changes, not on the inside anyway. Some more big, brave decisions are necessary it seems. I sort of want to get to a point where they're not necessary any more. At least for a bit. Am knackered.

But then I've been reading a lot of Nietzsche recently. He is hands down the acest philosopher, mostly because he makes me laugh. Almost everything I read of his makes me feel better. Makes me feel that I'm not a complete fecking nutter. Although I suppose technically he did go mad at 44. But the man speaks so much sense. Particularly on religion, faith, morals and the subjectivity of truth.

To mark the year's anniversary of my blog I am going to totally write shitloads more. I'm going to write a blog a day. Some of them are bound to be excellent. Just by the law of averages.

The individual always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself. 

The man was a genius. I kind of fancy him.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

And that's how I know he's a boy...

I just watched something that was so close to a Chris Morris spoof that I'm still not quite sure... and yet I read about it when it broke in the press and you can find the court documents to prove that it really did happen. So I'm left thinking, has media reporting and documentary making become so synonymous with 'scripted reality' that the people taking part don't even know what's really true and what isn't? Because it sounded scripted and seemed to be acted, but I'm not sure if that's because it's so ridiculous...

This, by the way, was the Channel 4 documentary Three Boys and a Retard, or The Girl Who Became Three Boys or The Girl Who Had The Stupidest Friends Known To Man. Its real title is something like one of those three. I can't be bothered to check right now. But it's about Gemma Barker, at the time an 18 year old girl who was friends with two younger girls (Alice and Jess) and then at some point decided to pretend to be a boy and have an internet relationship with Alice and then had to actually dress as a boy and meet up with Alice and then actually have a relationship with Alice, despite the fact that Alice already knew Gemma (now Aaron) and had spent lots of time with her and had seen her with her own eyes. Apparently Alice was unable to distinguish one of her best friends from one of her best friends talking in a slightly deeper voice and wearing a hat.

You know how when you watched Superman as a kid it was always a bit ruined by the fact that in real life everyone would be able to see that Clark Kent is Superman because THEY HAVE THE SAME FACE? Well, turns out not everyone would.

In fact, so thrown by the addition of a hat to Gemma's head were they, that Alice and Jess went to bed with her thinking that she was a boy named either Aaron, Connor (inexplicably spelled Cona by Jessica throughout this documentary) or Luke.

Let's join Jessica Sayer. Jessica Sayer (Jess as she prefers to be known. I think this might be because words of one syllable are easier for her to form with her flapping jaw) is the friend of Alice who was duped by Gemma when Gemma decided that pretending to be Alice's boyfriend wasn't enough. She created another Facebook profile for Connor McCormack and went about seducing Jess. Seducing Jess, by the way, takes approx 10 seconds on MSN. Jess may possibly be the thickest person I have ever seen on television. And I have watched all of Made in Chelsea.

Jess also met Connor in person. This time Gemma rolled out the big guns. She wore a hat AND a hoodie. And, wait for this, you won't believe that this worked on anyone, insisted that she could only communicate with Jess by text. In person. By text. So Gemma/Connor would text something and Jess would read it and then answer with her voice. This is how she communicated with her boyfriend. Jess uses the excuse of being 15 for a) not recognising that her new boyfriend is her friend in a hat, b) thinking it's normal for a boy to only communicate with her by text and c) basically any other totally retarded thing that she did.

It gets more convoluted and bizarre with Gemma creating another boy who seduces Jess by MSN after Connor dumps her. Eventually, about 50 million years after it should have done, a penny somewhere seems to drop for someone in this fucking ridiculous situation and Alice and Jess work out that Aaron and Connor appear to be very similar to each other.

They sic the cops on Gemma (I wasn't clear about this bit but it seemed something along the lines of now they realised they'd had some kind of sexual gropings with a girl and not a boy they in retrospect thought that it was some kind of assault. Hmmm). Anyway, Gemma gets arrested and strip searched and after another gazillion years a police person notices that Aaron has tits.

BUT. But. It wasn't the fascinating psyche of a person who would go to such lengths of subterfuge (well, sort of. She created a Facebook page, which isn't difficult. My friend's pug has one. And she wore a lot of hats) but the absolute ridiculousness of the girl who fell for it. Jess Sayer wears her stupidity with pride. She's sold her story to the tabloids, she clearly wholeheartedly participated in this documentary, (whereas Alice understandably never shows her face), she was far more interested in flicking her hair and saying things like: "Like I don't have a toilet that's capable of holding sick!" and "When you meet a boy, you don't expect it to be your friend dressed up, so I didn't think anything of it" and "He told me he was shy so never seeing his face or hearing his voice seemed perfectly normal, and certainly convinced me to go to bed with him" and, perhaps most bizarrely of all, "He took my shorts, knickers and leotard off [while in bed]". I couldn't get past that for a while. Who wears a leotard under knickers and shorts in bed? Who? How? Why? WHY? WHYYYYY DID ANY OF THIS HAPPEN?

The documentary ends with an interview with Jess's new boyfriend. She met him on MSN. But, as she says in the haunting last line of the film, "I know definitely he's a boy because I asked my friends who know him." She's sitting next to him at the time she says this. She could just turn and look at him and see he's a boy with her eyes. But now maybe she's stuck in some loop where she thinks all men are her friends in disguise.

I noticed the director ended on this note with some chirpy sideshow-esque music. Almost like the documentary wasn't really about Gemma at all...I think we'll see more of Jess Sayer. She'll probably become a cultural icon to replace the late, great Jade Goody.

I have to go and put my head in some bleach now and then read some Nietzsche.

I feel violated.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Hell really is other people

Every now and again I have a look and see how many views my posts have had. I find it interesting when people seem to find old posts and I wonder how they get to them. Sometimes the search terms give it away.

Back in 2011 I wrote a post entitled 'Fuck off dog' which is about the black dog of depression.

I noticed today that somene had read it. I thought perhaps that maybe, just maybe, it would have been stumbled upon by someone who also suffers and they might find a modicum of comfort knowing that they're not alone.

I looked at the search terms for that would have led this person to my blog. Out of all the posts in all of the world, they found mine. That's a special feeling right there.

The search term that led this particular person to my blog is: people fuck dog


That's actually something that someone typed into Google. They woke up this morning and thought to themselves, you know what I really fancy? Some bestiality. Yep, siree. That's what does it for me on a Sunday morning. I mean, I could watch the Olympics or have a nice bath but I'd rather just search for images of people boffing our canine friends. Oh, look. Here's a blog post about it.

Presumably at that point they were disappointed in finding a post about depression and went off to abuse a few animals. Maybe kick some cats or something. Find a horse and chat it up. Molest a sheep maybe.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

In praise of reading

With the exception of a couple of years during which I was indulging in the inadvisable yet inevitable act of drinking and imbibing substances that I would wholly recommend you keep away from, unless you enjoy having a really good time while being mentally free from all the usual worries and concerns of every day life, the only common thread I can identify throughout my life is a continued and relentless urge to read.

Circumstances may change, people may leave, others die, jobs are lost and found, boyfriends come and go, love sort of half experienced a couple of times - whatever love means anyway - and a river of pointless tears cried over petty trivialities, but the one thing I've always been able to rely on is reading.

With access to books, I can withstand anything. I read self help books, philosophy, history, fiction, funny books, sad books, books about grief, love, life, loss and stupid books with happy endings. Ridiculous steam punk books, kids books, some books I read over and over. Some have characters more familiar and comforting to me than many real life people in my world. I read books that inspire me, books that make me wonder how the fuck they ever got published, badly written books, books about diets I will never finish and marathons I will most likely never run. Books to help me through the worst times in my life and books that always help me forget.

Reading is something no one can ever take away from me, and one of the only things in life other than being asleep and attending to bodily necessities, is totally private. It's one of the few things that guarantee people will leave you alone. It's an escape from the shit in my head. It's mentally enriching, mind expanding, comforting, sometimes sleep inducing. It's a calming balm to my ever twisting soul and one of the enduring pleasures of being alive.

And the best thing about it is it will always be there. I know I can't read all the books in the world during my short time on earth. And even that is comforting. It's a pleasure that will never run out.

The first thing I do every time a boy inexplicably swerves from lovely to invisible/horrible/suddenly with someone.else is read.

When my dad died, on the same day, I read. I couldn't concentrate on most things but I found weird succour in reading recipes over and over. A couple of days later saw me frantically searching book shops for anything to help me work out how the hell I was going to deal with what was happening. A world that constantly shifts beneath your feet, with nothing to anchor you down, needs the words of other people, many long dead, to show you that you're not alone. That some other people think like you and feel like you and all is never lost.

The written word is everything. We can read books written hundreds of years before we were born. They were here before us and they will remain after us. The written word and freedom of expression is what makes us human and make us learn.

Through bereavement, breakdown, holidays, happy times, relaxed times, the best of times and the worst of times, I have been places and felt things that I could never dream of outside of the written word.

This year, and right now more than ever, I am grateful for my books, for the people who wrote them and for the respite they bring.