Monday, 31 December 2012

That was the year that was.

Wasn't it?

That was an entire year of our lives - gone. In a haze of repetitive nights out, crass fumblings with various members of the opposite (or indeed, same) sex, Groundhog Days at work, desperately convincing ourselves that being a PR consultant/media coordinator/internal communications knobber is in any way important. OK, there I'm speaking entirely for myself. I mean, if you're a doctor or a surgeon or a vet or a hairdresser or a barista in a coffee shop where I want a good coffee then, obviously, your work is vital.

365 days of the same old shit. Or was it 366 this year? It did feel long it has to be said. Long and very very short at the same time. Does it really matter if one gets up and goes to work in the morning? Or goes to the pub on a Friday? Or goes to see the latest crappy film at the cinema? Does ANY of it really matter? Of course not. The world keeps spinning no matter how skinny or fat you are, no matter what you create or don't create, no matter who you regret or don't regret. All in the end is harvest, people.

So, with that in mind, and with the fact that I seem to have hit the zenith of nihilistic despair during the last month of 2012, I am suggesting to myself that for 2013, since nothing matters anyway, I should put all my effort into having a jolly good time.

I will shrug off my almost puritanical nouveau moral code (not even sure where it sprang from if I'm honest. One minute it was all booze, class As and not giving a shit and then it was all sobriety and not sleeping with people just because they're there). I am going to drink, imbibe, do the dirty with whomsoever I choose, cease lamenting fools and their ways, go running again, stop being afraid of everything, take my new friend up on her offer of acupuncture, go back to the Buddhist monks, write a lot, draw a lot and generally live 2013 like it's my last year on earth.

True nihilism brings its own rewards, I'm discovering. Because if nothing really matters then there is nothing to worry about.

Bring it on 2013. Happy new year to all my friends, enemies and indifferent readers who only stumbled onto this blog via a tortuous route involving Jodie Marsh. You know who are. As Prince says, party like it's 1999. Only make it a good 1999, not like the actual one which was a real bloody let down.



I love a good diagnosis, me

After a month or so teetering on the edge of sanity I've finally been to the doctors, where I have been redeemed with a diagnosis. It's chronic sinusitis. Not a breakdown. Not all in my head. Not crazy times. Just an illness. This makes me inordinately happy. 

It probably says a lot about my state of mind when I say I'm glad I'm ill. But days spent alone, trying to sleep, feeling too weird and off kilter to do anything or see anyone, have left me going a bit mental. A bit Yellow Wallpaper. If you don't know what that is, then Google it and read it, it's very, very good. Only difference is there's no man oppressing me. I do that all by myself. 

The other day I was so woozy and tired that I just couldn't keep my coffee cup straight so I just sat and watched as boiling water slid down my hand and into the crevices between my fingers, where it set up shop and scalded me. I now have angry, red marks all over my hand. 

Last night I was sent home from work for being sick. It wasn't the fact that it was Craig Charles' Funk & Soul night that did it, honest. I swear that man follows me round the country. During the short time I was at work I found it increasingly difficult to do anything without heaving, to add up, give the correct change or pour a good pint. I was, in short, a liability. I also semi convinced myself that the rash on my arm is meningitis. 

It isn't. 

I have been weepy and thick headed, unable to concentrate, plagued by nose bleeds and headaches. I mean, you would think that's most likely a brain tumour wouldn't you? If your only company is a demanding fat cat and the internet, that is. 

Sleep has been massively elusive and fun in short supply. Apart from a lovely day with my friends on Christmas Day, this festive period has been decidedly un-ho-ho-ho. I could count the hos on the fingers of one hand. 

Bit like at work. 

When I do sleep I'm plagued by recurrent nightmares. Not of the kind where it's sort of like a horror film and actually quite cool, with anonymous enemies. But of the kind where people I love are horrific to me in various ways over and over again. I wake with a thick head, a slim grasp of reality and start to colour people with what they've done my dreams. 

See why I'm pleased it's just sinusitis? 

A short trip to the chemist, I'm £30 down (three lots of drugs you see. I briefly got very pissed off that I had to pay that and then I was just grateful I don't live in the US where I wouldn't be able to afford to see a doctor at all), and filled with hope that, after a short course of antibiotics and with the help of steroids, I'll be able to make January my party month. 

I'm also much clearer as to why the NHS is on its knees. An extremely obese pensioner was in front of me collecting a veritable sack full of drugs. I mean, I thought I was bad with my monthly happy pills, but this was something else. They went through the list of repeat prescriptions to see what she wanted next month. I counted 25 items. She didn't even know what any of them were for. From ear wigging I definitely heard high cholesterol and diabetes medication. I really don't want to come across all Thatcher here, but for fuck's sake. Losing a few stone would most likely take care of those for her and she'd be on fewer drugs. Which is good for everyone, surely? 

Assume half the population grasp drug after drug with a greedy hand (I remember my hellish grandma had a cupboard full of proper hardcore medications that she never used but wanted to stockpile. Thousands of pounds worth ended up being thrown away regularly) then no wonder the whole system is fucked to the core and a lot of people aren't given the help they need. 

For once I was glad to have paid for mine.  


Saturday, 29 December 2012

Breaking the blog fast

I was allowed to leave work early on account of it being a bit shit. Looks like most people are saving their liver-destroying drinking binge for New Years Eve, so we were light on clueless divs getting so hammered they vomit up their own spleen. Although we did serve a round of 25 vodkas. To five people. 

I haven't blogged for ten days. This is because of a crisis of confidence, friends. Enemies. Whoever actually reads this. Despite rising numbers of people reading, despite really enjoying writing general bollocks, I have lately wondered who the hell I think I am to write anything that anyone would want to read. Who am I at all?

This isn't like me. I may be a pain in the ass at times. A whiny bitch at others. A needy and annoying individual with many faults, but I love my writing. It's one of the few things I have confidence in. It temporarily releases the little pressure cooker in my head that's constantly just about to blow.

It's just lately I seem to be doing that disconcerting thing of seeming to be outside of myself. Disassociation the shrinks call it. It's sort of like watching yourself go through the motions of normality but as if you're an automaton. So I might be at a party, say, and involved in a conversation when suddenly it's like I'm hovering over myself and thinking "Jesus, is that what you look like? What you sound like? What are you talking about? Just shut up." Usually by this point I've lost the thread of the actual conversation and am probably standing there like a retarded guppy fish. 

I second guess everything. Every sentence I say. Every text I send. Every blog I compose in my head is immediately relegated to being a bit shit. Or that maybe it'll piss someone off. So I don't write it. I don't say it. I don't text it. I don't blog it. I've had a few people unfriend me because of this blog, a few people insult me, a few people question why I think I have the right to say this, that or the other. It usually doesn't faze me. It has recently.

I'm assuming this state of mind is because of the events of the last few months. They'd probably take their toll on anyone, even all the people I know who seem to be able to handle everything without breaking a sweat, and definitely without losing any sleep. 

This year has been a big one. An odd one. A hard one. Not hard like starving people in the Third World hard. Or dying of a horrible disease hard. But hard for me. During 2012 I moved from a place I felt comfortable, popular and secure to a place where I knew no one. 

I started two new jobs with all that entails. On 7 January I will start another one.  

I have been fired once. From the job that I moved here for. For 'not fitting in'. This threw a spanner in the works as it was, after all, the whole reason I moved here at ALL. Then again, it kind of suits me fine. There are some places you just don't want to fit in, believe me. Like any of the Fuhrerhauptquartiere before 1945. Or the AGM of the Ku Klux Klan. Or this place. 

The second job I fit in just fine and have met some lovely people, I'm relieved to say. And I do, it has to be said, have high hopes for the new new job in January. 

I have moved house twice and am likely to move again soon, due to the fact my landlord who, I've just found out, handily lives in Thailand, doesn't see the need to make sure appliances, you know, actually work. 

Friendships back home have changed, people have moved on without me, while I feel I've been madly floundering. I try too hard to hang on to things, this I know. I wanted it to remain the same so I could somehow keep a life there and start a new one here. But it doesn't happen like that. 

Finding out who my friends are has been eye opening, revealing and interesting. And kind of distressing. No one likes to feel the waters close above their head as soon as they leave somewhere but I think that is what happens. If you choose to leave, very very soon it's like you were never there. Obviously I'm talking about a very few individuals who I thought I was closer to than I was. Leading to all sorts of questions about the reality of friendship and relationships in general. How much does anyone really know anyone? What with everyone constructing facades for different situations, different groups, different places and times, is anyone ever really, truly themselves?

I have met some fantastic people who are making me feel more at home every day. But I still see doppelgangers of friends from home all over the place and wonder what's going on back there.

I want to focus on where I am, not where I was. 

That's going to have to be my goal for 2013.

And lots of blog posts that are much, much funnier than this. 



Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Paedophilia or the Olympics?

A discussion was had today about what 2012 will be remembered for. As the Year of the Unmasked Paedo. That was my thinking. A colleague did suggest that perhaps, actually, it'll be the Olympics, which I had already forgotten about.

I kind of hope he's right. I mean, what are people of the future going to think? What the hell are we supposed to think?

This was, of course, after today's tasteful revelation featuring Ian Watkins, singer of Lostprophets, ex of Fern Cotton and Alexa Chung, emo-rawk pin up for many a Welsh teenager.

And he didn't even work for the BBC.

Immediate confused speculations regarding potential groupies who may have seemed of age were dispelled following the news this afternoon that he's apparently been accused of plotting, along with a female fan, to rape a baby. Yes. That's PLOTTING TO RAPE A BABY.

All in all he was charged with six child sex offences, as well as three separate charges of possession, making and distributing indecent images of children and of possessing extreme porn, some involving animals.

I first saw the headline this morning, and thought they meant H from Steps. Which would have been shocking enough. But the Lostprophets Ian Watkins? What? He's my age, for Christ's sake. Actually, he's younger than me. For some reason, perhaps media exposure, part of my brain is convinced that those who abuse children are old and probably some kind of DJ.

Since Saville was unmasked for the absolute brutal monster he appears to have been, I heard many people say things along the lines of: "Ooooh, he had a look about him." and "I always thought he looked dodgy." which he kind of did. I grew up with him on TV on Jim'll Fix It and, at the very least, he looked like someone you didn't really want to meet in the flesh. After the fact it's easy to see.

I doubt that anyone will be making such claims about Ian Watkins. We like to think we can spot signs of depravity and threat to us or our children, but obviously we can't. At all. History shows this over and over again. You can't trust a priest, someone in the public eye, a doctor, a rock star, a stranger on the street. You can't actually trust anyone, it seems.

It's almost too difficult to comprehend in any real sense. Hence the inevitable jokes and flippant comments that circulated quickly after Saville and will do after this and have done after every kind of horror imaginable. It's human nature, and a defence mechanism.

This continues to confuse me. Does it mean that for some reason, paedophilia is on the rise? Or is it just that modern technology exposes it more easily? How do you get that twisted? What would have to happen to turn that switch in your brain? How do people actually go through with such things? How can people be so inhuman? How do they sleep at night? How to they maintain the skein of normality? How do they reconcile it? Are they insane? Or broken? Are they victims somehow (I really don't know how, but is it a chain of damage from generation to generation)? Or evil?

Let's hope, at least, that Ian Watkins is the last to be discovered, at least in 2012. There's still 11 days left though, so perhaps that's hoping too much.

And, as for what 2012 will be remembered for, I'll try to sieve out the horror, the killings, Syria, Connecticut, the floods, the uncovering of paedophiles and the many, many other horrific things that have happened and focus on the Olympics and that but it's kind of an uphill battle.

Hopefully the Mayans were right and we won't even have to deal with it after Friday or, failing that, may 2013 bring more hope to the world.

Monday, 17 December 2012

TV's not just for Christmas...

I watch a lot of TV. A LOT of TV. I'm not comfortable with people who say with pride: "I never watch TV actually," or even "I don't own a TV". They should be sitting in a corner rocking. They should be sprinting to Comet - are they still a thing? - and grasping the first TV they see. To be without a TV is to be without a soul. That's what some philosopher said.

And yes, that philosopher is me.

TV is my friend, my confidante, my distraction (once even when in flagranti I watched The Big Bang Theory over his shoulder. True story.), my teacher, my guide and my pleasure. Yes, I do live alone. And yes, I am single, since you ask.

Tonight f'instance. I have had a comforting background accompaniment of Strictly Come Dancing, Come Dine With Me and Click. Click, if you haven't seen it, is up there with Adam Sandler's best. His best are shite. How did this guy ever get so far? It's one of the enduring mysteries of our time.

I have also been reading, talking to people, cleaning and cooking. So, watching TV does not dull my senses. It does not stop me enjoying intellectual pursuits. For example, I just learned about how Zack and Mimi made a porno. But TV does have some drawbacks. Particularly at this time of year. Adverts, for one. Fucking Christmas adverts. They seem split between perfume, supermarket and department stores. I didn't know anyone actually went into department stores anymore.

Perfume adverts feature proper A list celebrities (almost all American, presumably to avoid humiliation in their home country, like Bill Murray in Lost in Translation) abjectly debasing themselves to sell something called Envy or Premiere or Lust. This year I think Brad Pitt wins. His portrayal of a mangy lion relaying a confused speech about inevitability is selling, hang on... I think it's Chanel. I could be wrong, but Chanel do have a history of terrible adverts. Remember the one where Nicole Kidman says something so cringingly awful that it must rate up there in her top 3 horrific moments - the first two almost definitely have something to do with Tom Cruise I should imagine.

Then there's that one with Scarlett Johansen. One of the sexiest women in films and they've given her Margaret Thatcher hair. And made her spout shit about how she's just looking for one thing. Love. It's a wonder she managed to prevent herself projectile vomiting all over the camera.

I can't help wonder whether all perfume adverts are some kind of hilarious in joke between actors and directors. They have eyes and ears, so they can see and hear how fucking awful the end product is. I like to think it's a sort of camp, knowing humour underlying all of these expensive and futile snippets of film. The alternative is too terrifying to contemplate.

Adverts that most definitely don't have a sense of humour are the arse-clenchingly awful, mostly misogynistic and yet somehow also misandric supermarket 'adverts'. In fact, they manage to insult pretty much everyone and make out that Christmas is some kind of depressing, fatalistic grind of a tradition that cannot be escaped and most definitely cannot be enjoyed. They mostly depict harrassed mums running around preparing for Christmas day, with men relegated to a sort of buffoon character. The mum looks tired, harrassed and upset, the kids look spoiled and ungrateful and the men bumble about in Christmas jumpers. But wait, right at the end, look, it was all worth it. And it's Christmas. And they wouldn't have it any other way. Somehow managing to sum up the worst of 1980s Sunday lunches and highlighting everything that's distasteful about Christmas - greed, laziness, waste - they make me want to blow up every branch of Morrisons, Asda and Sainsbury's. Tesco I'll let off just for this year because their adverts don't make me actually scream and hit small children.

Leaving us with the cloying, fake sentimentality of departments store Christmas adverts. They always have some classic song murdered by some wibbly voiced girl and some kind of harking back to a mythical time that never existed where everyone is rosy cheeked and has a huge, loving family to surround them at this special time of the year. This year they're the same old hackneyed shite. Except for John Lewis. With the snowman dragging his stumps across country to (presumably steal, as he's a snowman and thus has no money) a hat and scarf for his snowgirlfriend. I'm pretty sure he'd have been able to find an H&M or something much nearer. It has the Power of Love murdered by a wibbly voiced female and should have me punching holes in the wall. But I like it. It makes me feel nice. Don't tell anyone though.






Friday, 14 December 2012

Ban guns America. Ban fucking guns. How many times?

How many times? How many times will people be mowed down by a nutter with a gun? How many times will children be killed randomly and indiscriminately because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time and the local psycho found it easy to get his hands on a gun? Cinemas, schools, temples... this year people have been shot in pretty much all the places you'd think would be safest.

Why?

Because every single one of those killers - clearly very disturbed and ill people, who may have been in some form of hell of their own, I don't know. We can only speculate as to what would make someone kill strangers at a cinema, or children at a school or worshippers at a temple - could get their hands on a deadly weapon. Just like that.

At the time of writing, 27 people are known to be dead in today's atrocity at a primary school in Connecticut. Twenty of those are primary school age children. One of the adults is the mother of the killer. The 20 year old killer had a gun and he walked into two classrooms and he just killed. Everyone.

Twenty children between the ages of five and ten. Twenty children who came into school this morning. Twenty children who never left. Twenty children looking forward to Christmas. Twenty children with parents, families and friends who are now in unimaginable torment. Twenty children whose brutal deaths will traumatise the kids who survived for the rest of their lives.

Fox News is already blaming video games, movies, the violent culture we live in. Fox News can go fuck itself. How anyone can moralise about video games when they support a society that gives open access to actual, real guns blows my tiny mind. You can blame abusive childhoods, too many FPS, too many viewings of Die Hard if you like. But if these twisted, broken, ill, evil people couldn't get guns in the same way they could go out and buy a car, then these poor, dead children would most likely be alive this evening. And still looking forward to Christmas.

Obama says it best



"As a nation, we have been through this too many times.... We will have to come together to take meaningful action regardless of the politics..."

Trying to pass anti-gun legislation with a Republican Congress is going to be yet another uphill battle for Obama. His sanity is increasingly highlighted by the demented country he is trying to drag out of the dark ages. If I prayed, I'd pray for him. And the murdered children.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

I just want to look a pig in the eye, fair and square

Tomorrow is the dawn of a new era. It may well be a relatively short era, but it's definitely a new era.

Due to years of niggling guilt and a week of being shouted at by three good friends, all of whom have taken the vow of not masticating animals, I've decided to be a vegetarian. For at least the duration of a month's trial. You don't get much more committed than that now, do you people? It's more commitment than I generally give to any job or relationship.

So from tomorrow, which is what? Hang on. From Friday 14 December, for a month, not a single piece of meat will pass my lips. And should it prove to be the worst month of my life (highly doubtful, to be honest, I've had some right beauties this year) then I will concede defeat and apologise to the pigs.

I don't think I'll struggle that much. I haven't eaten pig for ages. Apart from the cheese and ham toastie the other day. I suppose my friend was technically correct in the view that just because "I didn't like anything else on the menu" doesn't mean it counts as not eating pork. Oh, and a couple of teeny weeny sausages last night. It will be chicken and fish I will miss the most I think, but I do genuinely like nut cutlets and Quorn is more than palatable these days. Even if it is grown in vats somewhere near Milton Keynes.

And, to be honest, I can no longer reconcile my almost obsessively weird love for animals with the eating of said animals. Because it's not just cats and dogs that turn me into mush. It's cows, pigs, sheep, snakes, spiders. Basically all animals. Anything with eyes that can look at me. Apart, perhaps, from the woodlouse. Something about hard exoskeletons makes me heave, I'm assuming it's some throwback to deep rooted fears in my animal brain.

But everything else. I can be reduced to tears of wonder by gazing into a cow's eyes. That's actually true. I fell in love with one when I was out running once. He was looking at me with these soft, trusting, beautiful eyes. And I could have wept for all the burgers I've chowed down over the years. I wish it was like The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe, where special cows have been bred who actively want you to eat them. They wiggle up to you in a restaurant and ask you which bit you'd like to carve. They practically beg you to fry up their most succulent bits. Then it would be OK. Probably.

Some of my fellow animal lovers who have been vegetarians for many years have sporadically asked me over the years why I am not one. And I never really have an answer. I think mostly because I like the taste of meat. There's no point denying that. I really really like it in fact. And I'm not precious about it, I'm almost certain I would equally enjoy the taste of human flesh, should it be presented to me at a particularly interesting barbecue.

But does that mean if I had been born and brought up somewhere in Asia where cat is regularly eaten (I am not being racialist. It's a fact), would I just happily cook up a Fatman lookalike and have it for Christmas dinner? I mean, maybe I would. I've often looked at him and thought that'd he'd make a tasty alternative to a turkey. Could also feed a large family for at least a week.

Basically next time I'm at a petting zoo/hanging over a fence making goo goo eyes at sheep (this happens more than you might think)/stroking a cow or marvelling at the cute wondrousness of a little pink porker, I want to be able to stand up tall, look them in the eye, and tell them that I, for one, will never put them in a sandwich.

I could have waited for New Year and added it to my usual list of resolutions (giving up smoking, drugs, going on the rob, arson - I like to have a few I can immediately tick off). But I also know that if I did that it would be the kiss of death to actually DOING it. So instead, I'm making a December 14th resolution. They always work out better.

So it begins. Let's see how I go.



Sunday, 9 December 2012

The horror... the horror...

"Five shots."

"Of what?"

"FIVE SHOTS."

"OF WHAT??"

"As many drinks as possible for a tenner."

"Er. No. You tell me what you want and I'll get it."

"TEN SHOTS."

"OF WHAT?!"

And so it goes on.

To the strains of Merry Christmas Everyone.

There's something sinister about being behind a busy bar, five deep in people, while three staff are off sick. Eyes stare at you constantly, getting increasingly pissed off as they have to wait more than 30 seconds for 19th vodka shot. The drunker they get, the more they stare. As if eyeballing you intently will somehow speed up the process in any way. As if it makes you want to serve them faster.

And the drunker they get, the ruder they get. Obviously not all. We have some delightful customers, many, in fact. But there's always the bad drunks. Obnoxious drunks. Drunks who delight in sending you backwards and forwards by ordering one drink at a time. Drunks that get angry when it turns out they don't have enough money after all and yet expect you to give them the drinks anyway. Drunks that can't handle it when the bar shuts. Drunks that spit on you as they speak. Drunks that are just too drunk to even frame the words of the drink they want.

2am is the optimum time for the drunk men to "Smile, darling" me, which coincidentally is the exact same time I'd like to lay them out with a fist to their sweaty, scrunched up face.

And then when they finally go, we scrape the sweat and the scum from the dancefloor. And clean sick out of the sink with our bare hands. Well, I haven't had that misfortune yet, but an adored colleague has. It made him sad.

Having said all that, I do kind of love it. And it's 1000% more enjoyable and more morally sound than my last job. And, when I'm back from a shift, and had my bath in bleach, it's quite satisfyingly exhausting. I'm sleeping better than I have in months...



The X Factor. Shit, isn't it?

The X Factor. It's a British institution isn't it? Sort of like rising unemployment and pretending to give a shit when there's a royal wedding. Like being all surprised every winter that it gets cold and having a transport system that breaks down when it snows in a different county.

It's been going on for years and years and years. Forever, possibly. It definitely feels like it might be almost forever. And it's given us such treats as Wand Erection, Cher Lloyd, Jedward and Wagner. It's given a platform to so much talent, like, um, well that Leona lass. She was good. And it gave Chezza Cole a job when she really needed one. Oh, and it gives the scum of Britain the chance to sit in the audience and scoff at mentally ill and deluded people. They get to boo and jeer and laugh at people who have very possibly been manipulated into thinking they're very much better than they actually are, purely so they can be ripped apart in front of a baying crowd. It's very British.

The mentors are astounding this year. Nicola Sherzinger seems intent on being the wacky one and has a curious predilection for double entendres. Usually about boy bands who are only just over the age of consent. She also likes to whoop and holler a lot. Louis is the same as he's been since 1902. He tells everyone they're amazing (apart from Christopher Maloney, obviously) and that he "wants them in the final." They can't all be in the final, Louis. Then it would never end would it?

Tulisa, who is a singer from N Dubz, is another mentor. She seems to most closely resemble a whinging chav. It really is the best way to describe her. She's changed a lot, looks wise, since she started last year. They've done a right Chezza Cole makeover on her. She's all hair extensions and big, square teeth, bad dresses and shoes she can't walk in. She looks like she's itching to be back in her velour tracksuit. She also has a face like a slapped arse and seems to hate everything about the show. Which is, actually, fair enough.

And then Gary. Oh Gary. We all used to like you, you know. We thought you were somehow the quiet but dignified one in Take That. When Robbie went all successful, how we felt sorry for you. And then when you came back, suddenly much hotter than you'd ever been, how we rejoiced. And then it turns out that you have absolutely no personality. If I could describe Gary Barlow as a colour, it would be beige. A sort of beigey taupe.

And so to the final. It was tonight. Or at least, half of it was.

It's a very confusing final. Because the three finalists are absolutely terrible. Properly dire. Really REALLY bad.

Jahmene, who looks like he belongs on an evangelist TV channel in the States exhorting people to repent, screeches like an unearthly barn owl. He genuinely can't hit a note. And then they tell him he's amazing. A "young Luther Vandross" if you will, according to Louis. Who I think might be high. He wants to "clean upi the music charts" and show the kids that you don't have to take drugs and be cool to have fun. You can go to church and sing gospel. Yeah, that's going to be a right winner with the single buying public isn't it? Who doesn't want a condescending, oddly voiced, manchild telling them what to do in the form of song? This is Britain. We don't do Christian music.

Christopher is the creepiest motherfucker I've seen on the small screen for a while. He looks like he'd kill you and wear your skin as a suit. He only says three things: "I wanna thank the people for keeping me in", "I'm doing it for me nan" and "I'm the people's choice". On rotation. Over and over and over. His skin is a peculiar shade of orange and his performances can't even be called cheesy. That would be too kind. It's like horrific karaoke by your drunk, embarrassing uncle at a wedding. That everyone just wishes would stop. He's getting booed regularly. And he's in the final. How can someone be in the final and be getting booed? Presumably the kinds of people who go to watch the final are the kinds of people who give a shit enough to vote, so they're booing their own choice? It makes my brain explode.

And then there's James. He has the eyes of a cow in a giant baby's face. And he's from the streets or something. Or he lived in a hostel. Or he didn't get to go to university. Something tragic like that anyway. He wears Deirdre Barlow's glasses and screws his face up as he sings in the oddest way. I think the facial expressions are there to show that he's emoting. Which is good, actually, Jahmene doesn't emote when he sings and Christopher is dead behind the eyes. James "keeps it real" a lot and "makes it his own" by 'freestyling' during very well known songs.

Tonight, the mentors travelled to the home towns of the contestants to greet their fans. Jahmene inexplicably arrived via helicopter at a school where his 'fans' consisted of children too young to even know what day it is, and his church's gospel choir. James roared up in front of a genuinely massive crowd on a motorbike.

And Christopher? Christopher was sent back to Liverpool on the train. Not even first class.
About ten toothless old crones sang his praises outside his nan's house. One of them sang a tuneless dirge in support of Christopher. Another cackled manically. At least three of them looked like they were on day release from the local old peoples' home. Gary turned up later, looking like he would  literally rather be anywhere else. And while Christopher's nan forced fondant fancies on the poor guy, Christopher himself decided to present multi-millionaire Gary Barlow with a shitty frame he'd clearly got from Boots, most likely on 3 for 2, "to put his OBE in". Stunned silence, until Gary graciously accepted. "Ah cheers mate. I hadn't, um, even thought of that." Christopher and his nan are like Roald Dahl characters. Off kilter, slightly sinister and very likely to keep your stuffed corpse on display in their living room.

I kind of hope he wins.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The most wonderful time of the year

Should I get a Christmas tree? Would that help any? Would that magically make me feel part of it all? Should I hang lights all over my house and tinsel and all of the things that I used to love? Not even when I was a child either, I used to love Christmas right into adulthood. Because it meant family, and safety, routine and comfort. I would go home always. Mum would cook dinner. We would eat it, cuddle the dog, open presents. All of that stuff. It was probably as close to the adverts as you can get. Obviously we ignored all the deep rooted issues going on. We ignored and ignored and ignored.

And for that one day, it always felt comforting for me. Even when was a horrific, drug-imbibing, selfish little twat at 16 and I was more concerned with getting shitfaced on Christmas Eve. To the extent that dad greeted me at 3am once with a clout round the ear. I think I would have been around 16. I was at the bottom of the drive at 3am snogging some guy and I heard his shout: "DEBORAH". I was all giddy with vodka and snogging and I figured, it's Christmas, how bad can it be? Well, he twatted me round the ear and, although it did shock me somewhat, I admit I milked it to make him feel guilty. And guilty he did feel. And I was glad. And Christmas Day was comforting and family-like, warm and cosy. I had my parents, even though I was horrendous, they were still there, I had my family home where I felt safe, I had an uneasy truce with my brother because he loves Christmas, I had my Poppy dog and endured my grandparents in honour of the occasion. It was all how it should be.

All through university, drug problems, men problems, endless endless life problems, Christmas was the same. And I loved it. The smell of it, the rituals of it, the gifts my dad chose for me, because he always, always got it right, which made me feel real, like someone really knew me. The feeling of belonging somewhere. I'd start to get excited in November, and I loved all the cheesy shit. The lights going up in town, the shop windows, the planning for Christmas parties, choosing presents. I loved it. Even in the middle of my worst teenage rebellion when I didn't like anything, I liked Christmas.

And so it went on for 23 years. Until it didn't anymore. In my 24th year, a grandfather died, shortly followed by my dad. Several months later Poppy followed. Christmas was with mum in the new family home on the Isle of Wight. They had moved a couple of months before dad died. Suddenly there was no dad. No family home. No ritual. No will to make new ones. We had a toast to my dad at Christmas dinner. Sitting around a table like mannequins. Eating food because it's there. Every now and again feeling shards of griefshock piercing our lungs. At least that's how it seemed to me. An almost horrified wonder at the fact that the world hadn't stopped. That people had the utter gall to celebrate Christmas like NORMAL. Didn't they know what had happened? Didn't they care?

Well. No. They neither knew nor cared. Because it's just normal isn't it? People die every day. Every single day. And the living just get on with it. But it's weird how it changes the world. Nothing is ever the same again, that's true. I've felt like I'm sleepwalking through someone else's life a lot of the time. And at Christmas I feel extra removed, even more on the outside. Like there's a bubble of the Christmas spirit and I can see it but I can't feel it. There's no joy in any of it. And I'm still likely to have to fight back tears while Christmas shopping, especially when I see a daughter with her father.

I'm a lot better than I used to be though. I can take part now in Christmas Day. I spend it with friends these days. My family is all dead, apart from my brother and my mum. And my brother and I no longer speak at all. So I spend it with friends, and it's nice. It's always lovely. It's especially lovely to be part of someone else's family, at least for a day.

And I still like buying presents for people. That's not lost its fun. I like to spend time and energy finding something perfect for them. I still mentally buy my dad gifts every year although I managed, at least, to stop actually buying them a few years ago. That's progress isn't it?

And I know, inside, that there are millions of people who feel like me at Christmas. People who don't have families or rituals or a place. I know I'm not alone, and it's only the media interpretation of Christmas, with the sickly adverts and the constant harping on about family, family, family, that make me feel alone sometimes. But it's not real. It's just tinsel.


Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Scroobius Pip: I stole his scarf

Let's be honest. I didn't really know what to expect. I only knew of Scroobius Pip through younger, hipper friends and I thought he did music with dan le sac. I mean, he does, so I was right. And also wrong. Because I didn't know he'd started as a spoken word artist and I didn't know that the gig I'd said I'd go to so I could review it was his spoken word tour. That's because I'm a bit lazy and I just read the pertinent words, ie. Scroobius Pip at The Duchess, aka my new place of work, aka my new home from home, aka just across the road.

And then I had a really bad day and decided that no, I wasn't going to go to a club and potentially be bored shitless just so I can review it. I'm going to stay in, drink tea and watch University Challenge.

Then my boss texted and asked me to cover a shift.

So I girded my metaphorical loins and thought I'd just dig in and endure it. It probably wouldn't be that bad, would it? It's just that... well... spoken word stuff is just so cringe inducing isn't it? If it's not stand up comedy and it's not music, then it's just someone reading out the words they wrote in just their voice. It's so naked and exposed. So much room for error. It's performance art. Words that I try never to utter and certainly try not to be in the same room as. I really don't like awkward performing on stage. When words hit dead air and disappear into a vacuum of blank indifference, it's terrifying.

A Brummie guy came on stage. He started talking. I think he opened with a joke and I felt comfortable. Stand up comedy I know. Stand up comedy is fine. And then he started talking in rhyme, sort of like rapping but not. And I was immediately uncomfortable. But as he went on, he got me interested. So much so that I felt irritated when people asked for a drink. Although that's not massively unusual for me I suppose.

Then a girl called Kate Tempest came on. And she started reciting (reading, speaking, rapping, I honestly don't know what to call it) more rhymes (poems, verses, flows??). And they started riffing off each other. And it was good. I can't even say why in retrospect. But the words, and their passion and their energy and their drive made it something good. The only time Polarbear lost me was when he was talking about his city and how much he loves it. And that's only because I also grew up near Birmingham and don't have that love. But maybe that's because I'm from a leafy suburb near Solihull and not the streets. I'm just not urban.

One interval later and Pip himself came on stage. He'd been loitering by the merchandising stall so I'd seen him earlier. A tall guy with a huge beard and dapper dress sense. And, as it turns out, a really really Essex accent. I hadn't expected that.

He started with a story about how he can't go to his local pubs on account of the massive racism that's rife in the area and the fact that locals assume he's a Muslim terrorist because of his beard. He, rather gorgeously, explained how he couldn't then dissuade them as it would add grist to the fantasy mill of 'us' and 'them' so generally just goes with it and then leaves quickly.

Then the poems started. Death, suicide, grief, regret and unrequited love featured heavily. The unrequited love one was the lighthearted effort, he explained. I started to love him a little bit. Mesmerising performance, a totally unpretentious delivery, and words that cut through to how life is. My tiny mind was actually blown.

I love words, music, lyrics, stories, books, novels, non-fiction, anything that makes me feel. That simplifies all the banal shit we deal with in a lifetime of human experience and cuts to the core. I listened to this guy talking on stage for an hour and bits of it were actually sublime. It woke my brain up. Made me feel alive.

It even transcended my irritation with that guy in the audience. You know that guy? The one who laughs in 'recognition' before the punchline? The one who so wants to be seen as the artist's biggest fan that they alternately heckle with embarrassing sycophancy or cackle with a laugh that can be heard in the next city? Well, that guy was there. He reminded me of that guy in the audience of every performance of a Shakespeare comedy who ostentatiously guffaws at the 'jokes' to show he understands them, despite the fact that they're a) really easy to understand but just not funny and b) no one has genuinely laughed at them since Elizabethan times.

After the show Pip showed himself to be absolutely lovely and indulged in a fair amount of banal chit chat while we cleaned up the inevitable detritus that follows any gig ever.

He won me over. To his words. And to spoken word. A whole genre I previously dismissed, all because I wouldn't have the guts to do it myself and risk the indifference of the audience.

Shitballs. I picked up a scarf from backstage with the honest intention of returning it to the artists. I missed them and then absent mindedly put it on. It's in my house. I just had a text from my boss pointing out it is actually Mr Pip's and he'd kind of like it back.

Oops.




Monday, 3 December 2012

I've never felt more British...

... than when, upon receiving the happy news via Facebook (where else?), I immediately (and totally against my wil), started thinking about Wills spaffing away into our Kate, even though she's but a commoner, and them making a baby machine. 

It's a hard thing to do and no doubt needs the country to posture in plastic patriotism once more. It's ages since the 'lympics after all, we've got to do something with all the leftover union flag branded shite haven't we? 

So there we have it. And just in time. News of Katie's 'makeover haircut' - a way more pathetic attempt at a fringe than my first, second AND third tries -  wasn't cutting the mustard enough to distract the masses from impending doom, gloom and Leveson. We needed a baby. As a nation, we needed a baby to carry on the line of Saxe-Coburgs. Um. Windsors. 

Poor ol' katenwills. Probably been banging away ever since the wedding in a desperate quest to make a new one. Probably had officials measuring her ovulation and chucking them together at the right moment. At least it's got half a chance of a decent hairline with some fresh genes into the mix. I mean, look what adding some ginger genes in did for Harry.

Mind you, they've been together forever by now, and married over a year. Maybe it isn't his. Maybe he couldn't do it. Maybe she didn't want him to do it. Maybe it is my dream, and it's like the Tudor court all over again, with intrigue and plots and babies being smuggled in in bed pans. Maybe it's HARRY'S. Maybe that was the only way we could ever get a king without a receding hairline and huge ears? When did Wills turn into Charles anyway? I seem to recall he was quite dapper in his youth. And he's only about 30 now. 

Of course it won't be a plot. It'll be a nice, boring, brown haired baby that they will call Diana and it will grow up in uber privilege and become accustomed to profligate spending and an unshakable superiority complex. If we're lucky it'll get a drug habit and an interesting boyfriend at some point, but more likely it'll play polo and wear bad dresses. 

I heard the happy news when my friend told me that someone she knew had liked Harry's status on Facebook. Harry has a page said I? And went to investigate. And he does. He actually has a page. Obviously he doesn't run it. We know this because it has respectful pictures posted of various royals doing tedious things. You know, the Queen standing. Kate standing. Wills, erm, standing. That kind of affair. And if it was Harry's, it would most definitely be written in textspeak banging on about who he and his chums were doing at various parties. And there would be far more pictures of him in inappropriate dictator-based fancy dress costumes. 

The comments are hilarious; mostly of the ultra patriotic but with that weird fake chumminess some Brits do. All 'well done Wills, we're so proud of you Kate', as if they're people who they've met and spoken to and who would spit on them if they were on fire. 

It's not that I think Wills, Harry et al are evil. Or that I wish any harm comes to them. Of course I don't. But they have no place in our times, not as the monarchy and not as people I have to care about simply because they successfully bonked without contraception. 





Saturday, 1 December 2012

Covered in sticky stuff

When I was 17 I used to go out in Birmingham on a Friday and Saturday night. And I'm pretty certain that back then, way back then, in 1993, drinks weren't as cheap as they are in my new place of work.

You can get a vodka mixer for £1. ONE POUND. And on Thursday and Saturday nights you get a free shot with that vodka mixer. So that's 50p a drink. Mental. Also the reason that at the end of a shift, as I discovered tonight, you can find the staff sluicing vomit out of the toilets. In fact, by the sounds of it, if it's only in the toilets then it's a good night.

It's been a long time since I was a hard drinker. But, man, I haven't seen people drink like this in years. It's borderline terrifying. And they just don't stop. On and on until they can't even get their drunken, saliva sodden lips around the words: "Vodka and lemonade."

And the anger and sheer disbelief when the bar shuts at 2.30am is tres amusing. Not so amusing is that, during after shift drinks, while discussing piercings, we realised that the last piercing I had (in 1993 - my nose, since you ask) was in the same year that one of my new colleagues was born. I could literally be her mother.

I'm not sure how I keep ending up behind a bar, but it does feel like my natural home in many ways. And so much more honest than many jobs I've had. People come in. People give me a pound. I give them booze. That's it. No power games. No politics. No trying to please people who just won't ever be pleased.

True, it's 5am and I don't see sleep happening any time soon. And I was slightly worried about walking home as a group of disgruntled, and very drunks, assholes spent a good 15 minutes trying to kick the door in after we closed. I'm covered in that unnamed sticky film that just happens when working in any kind of a bar or club. It's not just booze. It's like you soak in all the noxious gases emanating from people by osmosis. It feels like it'd be quite nice to soak in a bath of bleach right now.

There just seems to be a pattern emerging here, maybe dark and dingy clubs and pubs are my natural habitat. And now that I'm too old to get as wasted as perhaps I used to, maybe working in them is what's always going to happen. I'll most likely end up at 60 years old serving shots to embryos.

Still, it's at least 5,000 times more enjoyable than my last job.