Sunday, October 29, 2006

Work. Scary Man. Weird. But Sort of Not. Children.

I am at work, some time ago.

For reasons that escape me (i.e: ‘There’s a trade show on across the river! At least two hours off work so we can Network! Come on!’ You just said 'network'. No thanks.) there is only me and Slightly Scary Guy in the office.

‘Slightly’scary for a number of reasons.

He is about my height, but built like a brick shithouse. He is ex-Forces. He saw active service in the Falklands. He killed people. You know. Actually and that. And at the start of each working day, he sits with his head on his desk and growls like a dog, and then repeats the word ‘cunt’ for at least ten minutes.

SSG is on the phone. After trying not to overhear, it becomes apparent that it is not a business call.

SSG: I have to go. I’ll try and see you on Saturday. Be a good girl for your mother.

SSG: What?

SSG: Well, just try, O.K?

SSG: Make the effort will you.

SSG: [a bit exasperated] Because I’m going out on Friday. I’m entitled to a night out once a year aren’t I? I said I’d see you Saturday. Now will you be good for your Mam?

SSG: What?

SSG: Beacuase I am asking - no, I am telling you to.

SSG: Look. You are six. I am thirty four. That is why.

SSG: It IS a good reason.

SSG: [Starting to lose the upper hand] Look. Be GOOD, or I won’t take you to the Cbeebies Roadshow I’ve bought tickets for.

SSG: No, well, I hadn't told you. [Sighs. He knows what has just happened] It was meant to be a surprise but you’ve just tricked me. [He has thoroughly lost the upper hand]

SSG: Whatever. Just try and be good will you? Cos I get it in the neck when you don’t. I have to go.

He hangs up. And expels enough air to fill the office three times over. He looks at me.

SSG: You’ve got bairns haven’t you?

We have never spoken before.

(Aside from The Cigarette Incident. But I haven't mentioned that yet.)

Me: Um. Yeah.

SSG: Girl?

Me: One.

SSG: If you tell her to be good, and she says 'I don't really feel like it', what do you do?

Me: You've lost before you start. You're on the ropes and she knows it.

He nods, as if I have confirmed his worst fears.

I look at him for a bit.

He has instantly changed from being a man who can kill someone purely by driving the cartilage of their nose into their brain with the heel of his palm into a divorced man who is easily out-manouvered by a girl of six years old and does not feel he can push the issue because it’s bad enough that he no longer lives in the same house as everyone.

SSG: [Sighs again, stares out of the window with a wistful look for a second] If your girl told you she was a lezza, how would you feel?

This is a bit out of the blue.

But I’m feeling some sort of newfound affinity with this man, so I make the effort.

Me: Not one way or the other to be honest. So long as she’s O.K.

He nods again.

SSG: Aye. And at least you’ll know she won’t be getting fucked-up by twats like us.

I think for a bit. Then nod my head in the same manner he has displayed. (He has a point).

SSG: You’ve got a boy as well?

Me:[hesitant] Yeeeees.

SSG: If he told you he was a –

Me: No. NO.

SSG: [again seeming to feel that I have confirmed something for him] Aye.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

How To Play Poker Successfully In Four Steps

1. You are dealt a hand. Do look at it.

2. This being the modern world, you are probably playing Texas Hold’Em. Ah well. Nothing we can do about that. But do try and look at the three cards dealt face-up on the table.

3. Think for a bit. This is important.

4. Do not do Anything Stupid.

This will work seven times out of ten.

Don’t thank me.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Gender Studies

I am minding my own business. Unaware that at some point I am to become irrationally furious.

I shall shortly Watch Something On The Tele - Vision. It shall be the culmination of some mild grievances and general feelings of puzzlement (this is now a word). I do not enjoy the experience of puzzlement. It makes me cross. And I have not slept of late.

The build-up:

I do not pretend to be 'down' 'wit' the 'yoot', but do have a number of brothers younger than me. I do not pretend to be an expert on masculinity in our post - fin de siecle times either but do, you know, have a number of brothers.

From the younger contingent, I hear tales of moisturising. Of skin care products in general.

Of clippers. And shaving products. None reserved entirely for the face.

I know for a fact that a number of 'men' in my immediate vicinity shave, pluck, wax and highlight hair with unseemly regularity. There has been talk of fingernail care.

Don't get me wrong. About once every couple of months I will have a downstairs trim. I am a very hirsute man from the navel downward, and very often the case is that I cannot see the wood for the trees. I like to make sure that Little TD is still in attendance.

But every week? With 'special' clippers? Whilst waxing your chest? And 'doing' your eyebrows? And highlighting your hair? Whilst 'moisturising'?


A couple of nights ago, I am doing a Google search for something obscure. One of the hits looks promising. I click. Bollocks. It is one of those discussion forum things I do not really understand. Are they like MySpace? And how does that work anyway?

Upon further examination the forum reveals itself to be an on-the-line support group for stay-at-home-Dads.

A Support Group. For MEN who have to get up fairly early and then endeavour to keep their offspring alive for a full eight hours. And not do much else.

Why, yes of course. A Support Group is the very least they deserve. Fuck me what a nightmare for them. How do they do it? Those poor MEN?

Obviously silly women have been doing it since we lived in trees. But so they should. What with being women and that. Well. That's what they're for. They know this, and hence require no support at all. MEN on the other hand require on-the-line forums in which they can discuss how hard it all is to shoulder this huge responsibility ' without any ill-will of course' instead of inventing new spaceships.

Which is what they would otherwise be doing.

Because they are great. But need to share. You know, what with it being their choice. They have to share that.


Critical Mass:

I am watching television. This is not something I would normally consider worthy of comment for two reasons:

1: I am fairly sure that the on-the-line 'community' are perfectly capable of watching television/seeing films/reading the newspaper and forming their own opinions without the aid of 'blogs'.

2: I never EVER watch the Tele - Vision, for reasons that shall shortly be made clear.

I am at my Mam's for a coffee. Day. I have the 'luxury' of not being at work for a week or so. In classic Mam fashion, she is in the kitchen, something is simmering on the stove, a small portable Tele - Vision is broadcasting a daytime show called This Morning and she is making some new curtains.

A faintly surly-looking chap who appears to be faintly hungover and I think is called Ey-mon is interviewing a man and a woman. The woman is a counsellor/therapist of some sort, the man a sufferer/victim of some sort.

I am only half paying attention.

The man is the classic male victim/sufferer sort. Late thirties. Middle class. Obviously sees a 'stylist' and has those fussy 'clever' spectacles that probably cost significantly more than everything I own put together.

I can see immediately that he has an 'invented' problem to justify his otherwise adequate existence. You know the sort. Couldn't bear to feel bad about people in Colombia without imagining that he too has big problems. He didn't have a copy of the Guardian on his lap but he might as well have.

Whilst my Mam wonders if the remaining fabric would be sufficient for some cushion covers, I focus on this man's 'ailment'. It is revealed.


HE did.

I am aghast.

The woman I can understand. An invented problem that she can give 'advice' on and give out a freephone number on the show that probably diverts to her mobile. She can offer 'counselling' to made-up-problem sufferers for fifty quid an hour and this is national exposure for her. We all have to earn a living.

But this chap. He explains to Ey-mon that he really 'sort of' loves his son now.

Now. But at first it was so difficult. He explains to Ey-mon that his wife underwent a thirty-six hour labour.

And that he found that very traumatic.

One assumes his wife was thoroughly enjoying the experience, and not feeling the slightest guilt at all the 'trauma' she was putting her husband through.

He'd probably bought himself a Mac G4 and was feeling that this purchase was quite enough responsibility for now.

At this point Ey-mon is perched on the end of his sofa as if about to leap at this world-class wendle. The side of his face is doing that weird pulsing thing that the faces of people who are REALLY grinding their teeth do.

I suddenly feel some sort of kinship with this faintly surly Tele - Vision presenter. We seem to be thinking the same thing.








Really though. What happened to men?

Anyway, I'm off to have a belching contest with Jodie Kidd. She'll probably win, and then show me how to make a car.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Unpleasant Stain

‘You’re not wearing that?’ she says.

I consider the options. I could reply that, in actual fact, I am not and the whole thing is a figment of her imagination. Experience has taught me that although this may be personally satisfying, it is not a recipe for long-term conversational pleasure.

I remain silent.

Look at that.’

I admit there is An Unpleasant Stain of some sort near the lower portion of my shirt.

I scratch at it with a thumbnail in an absent-minded manner. After a while it is gone. I am now wearing a Clean Shirt.

It leads me to think. And here we have the significance of the Unpleasant Stain throughout the major stages of one’s life:

Stage 1: There Is An Unpleasant Stain. You are a child. You are ‘clarty’.

Stage 2: There Is An Unpleasant Stain: You are an adolescent. You have been masturbating.

Stage 3: There Is An Unpleasant Stain: You are in your early twenties. You are beginning a career, and realising your degree is not worth the paper it is written on (if you have a brain). You have been masturbating.

Stage 4: There Is An Unpleasant Stain: You are in your late twenties. In classic Gerry Rafferty ‘Baker Street’ style your life after work (you are now doing quite well) consists of bars, take-aways and taxis as you try and turn your brain off at the end of each day. Bars and take-aways lead to Unpleasant Stains. And you have probably been masturbating. (Nobody believes that ‘it is toothpaste.’)

Stage 5: There Is An Unpleasant Stain: You are in your early thirties. You have a number of children under the age of five. They are ‘clarty’. It rubs off on you. A pleasant evening’s masturbation is the stuff of your wildest dreams.

Stage 6: There Is An Unpleasant Stain: You are old. You are ‘clarty’.

Stage 7: There Is An Unpleasant Stain: It is You. You are dead.

Monday, October 16, 2006

I Am Hugely Successful. You Know, Sexually And That.


Colleague With Unusually Large Face brushes past me with unnecessary force.

A bit odd. I think nothing of it. I finish my cigarette and go inside. Curvy Girl comes with me.

I am troubled by recent show of force by Colleague With Unusually Large Face. It is out of nowhere.

I mock his frankly ridiculous Mekon head each day. He is generally good-natured about it.


Office conversation. Along the lines of what a big happy family we are. Attributes are given to each member of staff present. Grumpy But Fair Dad, Nurturing Mam, Scampish Brother are all accounted for.

From nowhere, Colleague With Unusually Large Face pipes up:

‘Yeah. And Tired is like that really awkward cousin who comes round now and then that no-one really likes but feel obliged to play with.’


We all get back to work.

CWULF: Are we O.K?

Me: Fuck off.

Anyway. I am outside again. Talking to Curvy Girl. I am unreasonably cross about something. Fuck knows what.

She finds this funny.

This makes me more cross. I am not here to amuse.

She finds this even funnier. I give up, and go back to my job.

Lunchtime. CWULF says:

‘You know me and Curvy Girl are, you know, at it and that’

Bit boastful I think. And I’m sure Curvy Girl would burst with pride upon hearing your relationship described in such a manner.

Whatever. He then tells me quite a funny story about a spastic, so everything is fine.

Some days later. Again, smoking fags in car park. Me, Curvy Girl, CWULF and Strange Little Man I Would Like To Kill.

Curvy Girl is eating a Mars bar.

Me: I don’t fucking believe it.

She starts laughing.

CWULF: What? What?

Me: [ignoring him] It’s a fucking Mars bar. You are not normal.

Curvy Girl is near hysterical.


Curvy Girl explains to CWULF that I had noticed her peculiar habit of eating her food 'at-a-time'. You know. Peas first. All of them. Then chips. All of them. Then…you get the picture. It absolutely horrified me for a number of reasons.

And that she is now eating her Mars bar by first nibbling-off the chocolate coating and then….again, you get the idea.

Me: Shitting Christ. How long does it take you to eat a bowl of muesli?

CWULF: [very quiet] I didn’t know that about you.

He gives me A Look and storms back into the building.

And it dawns on me. You know, his funny moods and that (I am this slow).

I have been fucking his girlfriend.

Of course. Well, there is no other explanation, is there? It’s not possible that we have the odd conversation, occasionally laugh, and notice peculiar things about each other and that is that. Oh no. Because Curvy Girl has breasts and – I suspect – a vagina.

There MUST be something darker taking place.

This has been a constant throughout my adult life and I would like it to stop now please. In the imaginations of the excitable, I have been fucking a grand total of about twenty women. Without any physical contact.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Total Bullshit

I am seven.

I am at Sunday School. (Really. Every week).

It was Catholic. My father would dump me and my younger brother there each week. I suspect Younger Brother does not remember.

Father would collect us afterwards very cheerful and stinking of booze.

But this school. Water. Wine. Fishes. Loaves.

Nonsense, surely? I mean, I was at that age. I was doubting the magical ability of Paul Daniels. This Jesus guy had a long way to go. I thought it was all rubbish. I was seven.

Consigned to hell before we start? Erm. Can I go C of E? They seem slightly more forgiving. (As it happened I did get to go to a C of E school and in many ways it was worse.)


Interior. Evening.

Lackey: How do Pope-Meister.

Pope: What!?

Lackey: Sorry. You know, like Brent-Meister off of the Offi-

Pope: SILENCE! Bit too close to the bone.

Lackey: Sorry.

Pope: How goes my latest WORD.

Lackey: What? You mean like the WORD of God?

Pope: You know. Don’t fuck about.

Lackey: The abolition of Purgatory thing?

Pope: That is my WORD.

Lackey: Em. Yeah. Like the WORD of God and that.

Pope: Indeed. I have said, and so it will be written and so it will be shall.

Lackey: Em. Look. I Get It and that, but the whole Purgatory thing……..I mean that is old stuff. It’s been going years. People will think it odd if we abandon it now.

Pope: Look. I need to reform. Look at that guy in England erm Great Britain erm what the fuck is it called?

Lackey: I believe it is the U.K. this week sir.

: Indeed. Look at that guy. He had to shake things up a bit. Say it’s time to ‘put up or shut up’. Just look at him now.

Lackey: Em. That was John Major.

Pope: Who am I talking about?

Lackey: I don’t know. Currently, I’m not sure they do either.

Pope: Whatever. There’s going to be some changes around here. Oh yes.

Lackey: It’s just. You know. Well. You remember the whole not eating meat on Friday thing?

Pope: Fuck me yeah. Loud of shit that was. I get home from work on a Friday I want a bloody steak.

Lackey: O.K. Em. Yeah. But folk thought us a bit silly for casting that aside instantaneously. We are now talking about casting aside an ENTIRE METAPHYSICAL REALM, CORNER-STONE OF FAITH AND SOMETHING WE HAVE PREACHED AS BEING PART OF OUR SILLY PLANES OF EXISTENCE. In effect, we are giving Hell a promotion!

Pauses for breath.

It’s just, if we keep doing this, they might realise that it’s all bullshit.

Pope: [Not listening] No. I’ve checked the paperwork. It’s Heaven who get the bairns. They get the promotion.

Lackey: Was it you who gave The Exorcist your approval?

Pope: No. The other guy.

Lackey: I quit.

Pope: You will burn.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

We Did Not Go To High School ‘Together’.

‘Well,’ I say, gazing blankly at the Strange Man, ‘you must have a very good memory, because I have no idea who you are.’

Honestly though. If you saw a man you DID NOT EVEN KNOW sixteen years previously, introduced yourself without provocation by bellowing said man’s surname and were given, in return, the above statement, you’d probably feel a bit silly and cut the conversation short.

Wouldn’t you?

He sits down, slams his pint glass on my table and starts talking. For forty minutes. I have genuinely no recollection of him. He talks about a number of people that I also DID NOT KNOW sixteen years ago. His eyes are wide with the wonder of our reunion. He can scarcely believe it.

Nor can I.

This has occurred with unpleasant regularity during the past two years since I returned to the area where I grew up after an absence of 14 years.

I have had quite enough of it.

I know how pregnant women feel when complete strangers find it perfectly acceptable to strike up a conversation based solely on the fact that they are, well, pregnant. O.K, it’s a bit of a stretch comparing that to attending the same high school. And admittedly no-one asks me ‘how far along’ I am (meaning ‘how long ago did your husband/boyfriend put his spunky cock in your vagina?’) but………no, forget this one. It’s just tiresome, is all I’m saying.

Please go away Imaginary High School Friends. We spent some time in the same building half our lives ago. That is all. There is no ‘connection’ between us that dictates that your attentions are welcome.

If I did not go to the trouble of getting to know you when I was sixteen – when I had some spare time on my hands – do you really feel I’m going to make the effort now?

The Mushroom Doubters

*Bleep* One tub of double cream. *Bleep* A wedge of stilton. *Bleep* A bag of spinach. *Bleep* A bag of tagliatelli

I am staring at nothing. My brain is on screen-saver, lulled by the bustle and the bleeps of the supermarket experience.

There is no reason why I should get A Bit Cross.

The cashier woman reaches for the next item. It is a brown bag that I have half-filled with mushrooms. It has the word ‘mushrooms’ on the front of it. On the back is a recipe for mushroom risotto. To even the casual observer, this is clearly a bag of mushrooms.

She pauses, opens the bag and peers inside. Technically, I cannot object. Up until the point of payment, this bag and its contents are the property of the supermarket and, as an employee of said establishment, she can do whatever she wants with ‘my’ goods.

Satisfied, she weighs and *bleeps* the bag.

It’s just the inference of the whole ritual. I have tolerated it for years, but I feel this is getting silly.

Does she really think I have stuffed the bag with supermarket gold, frankincence and myrrh and am trying to pass it off as not-as-expensive mushrooms?

I have never been charged, let alone convicted, of non-mushroom fraud in my life. If I had, I would probably accept this level of suspicion.

What do you expect to find in there, you bottle-blonde slattern? One of your shitty DVD players?

I shall write a letter.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Entirely Innocent People Part 2

'Eeeeee, I'm not being a bother am I?'

Oh no my good woman. No bother at all. I mean, I've seen you WALKING around town before now, but I can think of no good reason why today you should not choose to use your little sit-down-scooter-thing to get around. Perhaps you are a bit tired. And let's face it, you are OLD. So you can do pretty much whatever you like. If I had a sit-down-scooter-thing I would ride upon it EVERYWHERE. And hold people up on the bus when the driver has to get out of his cab to let the little ramp-thing down, hence making EVERYONE late as you quibble about the various fares on offer and ask intensive questions about your return journey of which the driver has no knowledge.

No. Honestly. No Bother At All as you park yourself diagonally on the pavement to conduct a conversation of great and time-sensitive import to an equally Old Person who has made the effort to actually Walk Around today. No bother that you have booked the entire pavement as your own personal conversation point. Would you like me to fetch you both a cup of tea? Because I'm at a bit of a loose end now. What with the pushchair and that. Were I alone, I could probably nip round you. I can be quite nimble. Not with a pushchair however. Do you see the child in it who cannot walk safely for any distance who will be five years old when you are dead?

No, of course you and your conversation are far more important. Do not spare a thought for people who will not be dead in one year's time. The pedastrian crossing that we need to get to is two foot beyond your Oldsmobile. It is now beeping. I have missed it. It will take another 15 minutes before it will let me cross again. Unless I play chicken with half a tonne of moving steel and a child. Which I am not anxious to do.

I am out of breath, hot, and eager to get home. Things being well, I expect to live at least another 50 years.

So no. No bother at all.

Fucking crippled cunt.

I am Stupidly Proud of My Daughter, And Rather Surprised By My Son.

I've been trying to keep this stuff to a minimum.

But she is strong, brave and proud. For reasons I shall not bore anyone with. Suffice to say, both me, Tired Mam and Favourite Daughter have made a frankly rather marvellous young lady.

Favourite Son did That Thing today.

I can't explain it. I remember when Favourite Daughter did it.

It probably happened weeks ago and I missed it.

I was just looking at him. He wasn't far from bed. Chatting with his mother. Chatting mind. Not real words, but you could tell he was having what to him was a perfectley sensible conversation.

And before my eyes he became A Little Boy.

Just like that.

This is getting deleted in the morning.
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