Fielding comebacks from Noel


“That’s a very Georgian beard,” a drunken artist said to me recently, and then when I looked like I might be about to thank him, he clarified; “That means weak.”

It’s a ruff not a beard, dumbass

I went away and thought about what I should have said. A few suggestions came to mind in the first 10 minutes:

“You, sir, are drunk and fat, and I shall be-” this is where I would falter and look at the floor – “weak bearded in the morning.”

No, Churchill couldn’t help me. What about:

“It’s not a beard, it’s pubes,” and as this sunk in, I’d add; “So, what you think is my body is actually my penis.”

That was too scary an image even for me. A month later, it came to me as I was having a shower:

“You, sir, have a Tudor physique.” And as he worked through his monarchical history, I’d save him the trouble: “That means morbidly obese.”

It’s so-so, I know. The best comeback I ever came back with was effectively handed to me on a plate. I’d bought some Prince-style high heel ankle boots from an ebay shop that catered to women with really big feet (men) and had just managed to make it to the bank machine in Spar before my night out.

“I like your shoes, mate,” came a voice from behind me and I turned to see a ten-headed man-pack. “My mum would like them,” Head No. 1 added, “I’ll give you her number.”

His face fell as he said the last bit, the words drifting over the cold tiled floor towards me like balloons towards a birthday boy.

“Thanks,” I said genuinely. “But I’ve already got it.”

Game Over. He didn’t even pretend he was going to beat me up, he/they just nodded and left.

All Hail the Winner!

Mostly though, while everybody else is on twitter-time, bouncing ideas around as fast as they can think them, I’m still posting my ideas by pigeon mail. Only the other day I was trying to sing a love song to Esther but I couldn’t remember the words:

Me: ♬ You’re the something something something of the something something, oh baby, oh baby… ♬

Esther: I like that, is it Steve Martin?

Me: No, it’s Stevie Wonder, I just can’t sing.

I’m well jel of the way stand up comedians can riff endlessly on the spot like action figures with longer than normal pull strings on their backs. Noel Fielding is a prime example. The other week I asked if I could interview Noel as he was passing through Sheffield on his solo tour. His PR asked me for my number and told me he’d be ringing me at midday on a Thursday for a 15 minute interview. Ringing me! Unfortunately, I had lots of students booked in that day, so I swiftly told them all to jog on so I could have a 2 hour gap just in case, you know, we became BFFs. Finally, at 5 minutes to 12, after having emptied my bowels and bought a cappuccino to sip as I was talking to him – no biggie my casual slurps would say – I received a text: ‘Really sorry but Noel has cancelled all interviews today’. Arsecockles! Three hours later, I got another text saying he could ring me at 6 if still convenient. Well, I’m still not going to say no, am I? The next half an hour was a frantic scrabble to keep up with someone who’s mind is a rhinestone-studded random idea generator, where every other line is a comeback to himself: Noel: Hello, is that Sheffield? Me: Hi Noel…I mean, is that London calling? Noel: (giggling) Yes, this is London calling.

Me: Do you mind if I record this? Noel: What, for training purposes?

Me: Ha, no I’m not a very fast writer…

Noel: Is it so you can touch yourself listening to me later?

Me: Haha, (silence as I actually consider it) erm, can I then?

Noel: Ooh I just dropped my contact lens and it killed a passing flying ant… Me: Oh (taking it half seriously) – you’d better pick it up. Noel: No, it was actually a bottle lid, it landed on a small boy’s face… Me: (Giggling) erm… I guess with celebs the smooth stone of their personas is created by the social encounters that flow over and round them every moment of their waking lives. I guess once you give up the idea that you’re ever going to be left alone, you can start having some fun… Or as Johnny Rotten put it when I asked if it was him:

It’s Farrrrrquharrrrr Farrrrrtybottom. I’m here, I’m ready, I’m free!

One day I’ll think of the perfect comebacks and I’ll ring the buggers up to tell them…

Me: You know that time you said that thing…

Them: No. Who are you?

Me: Well what you said was…Hello? Are you there? Come back, I know what to say now!

It seems I’m the Prince Regent of Comebacks.

So on second thoughts, I’ll take Tay’s advice and shake it off! 

BAD GIRLS


Esther’s been going to counselling near a swimming baths, so this week I packed my trunks and towel for a swim; at least then our eyes will be equally red when I go and collect her afterwards. It’s about a decade since I last went swimming, but I’m feeling positive.

There’s an old man on crutches near the changing rooms, and he directs me to the reception to pay. I thank him as I pass on my way to the lockers, and see him watching as I put all my stuff in and close the door before getting it out again so I can get changed first. Then he watches as I put all my stuff back in and wander around looking for the pool. “Over there, mate” he says with a grin.

The pool is tiny, filled with the only people with white haired people. All but one lane is taken so I ease myself in and start off with an improv butterfly (AKA Dyspraxic Flail). My muscles are already aching by the time I finish one lap, and on my return journey I notice that the OAPs are easily overtaking me on all sides. Then the man who was on crutches flops into the water and proceeds to swim past me on lap 3. On lap 5, my muscles give in and I start to drown in 2 feet of water; as I sink melodramatically, my knees hit the bottom so I simply stand up and walk out.

Getting changed again is torture because everything aches, and I’m completely red when I look in the mirror. The pool is in the same building as the library and as I walk out I see a copy of Animals on the reserved shelf. I really want to read it so I start where I’m stood but it’s 5 minutes till Esther comes out so put it back and walk over to the Continental Supermarket for a drink where they sell Rubicon in glass bottles. “Can you open it?” I say pathetically, barely able to lift the bottle onto the counter. The shop assistant looks at my red face and watery eyes and nods.

I nearly have to crawl up the hill to meet Esther.

“What’s happened to you?” she says when she sees me, trying not to laugh.

“Oh, the usual,” I say, “getting humiliated by retirees and men on crutches.”

That was a month ago; those aches lasted a full week, and now I have the flu aches but at least in the meantime I’ve finally got my own copy of Animals and I’m reading it quick smart because I’m interviewing the author next week. On Friday, I went to Canongate’s Manchester Literature Festival night to see her & Zoe Pilger read out bits of their books; these are the authors condescendingly called ‘bad girls’ by the media, clickbait for voyeuristic moral panickers.

I’d been feeling ill with a sore throat all week; now the virus had noticed it was nearly the weekend and decided to go postal. So I dosed myself up on paracetamol and ibuprofen, the dynamic duo, and managed to got to the the train station 10 minutes early. I got myself a ticket and decided I needed a coffee to keep me focused. I really wanted a gingerbread latte but it isn’t on the list so I get a caramel one and wait round the side of the counter for it.

It’s at this point that I notice it is 5 minutes to my train and instead of saying anything about that I notice that a man in the queue is buying a gingerbread latte and so I lean across and say “Is it too late to change to gingerbread?” and the woman looks at the caramel syrup she’s just poured into my cup and instead of saying “Do you think I want to serve people coffee and act all accommodating about their piggy little whims?” she says “no” and gets another cup. Now it’s 3 minutes to my train and the grounds have to be taken out and new coffee beans put in and the milk frothed up and if I’d stuck with caramel I’d already be there by now. I reach desperately for the cup as she slowly squirts cream on top; now I’m running up the stairs to the furthest platform.

"My whole family was liquidised for your drink"

“My whole family was liquidised for your delectation”

The train’s not even arrived yet; I even get time to slurp my un-asked for squirty cream before it appears. Two carriages for what must be 50+ people – this is the kind of injustice that makes me want to do something and then realise that I don’t know what to do. The waiting people form bottlenecks and paw the ground waiting for the last person to alight and I manage to slip on in their slipstream and because I have no conscience or qualms, I nab a seat next to a suitcase man-mountain and the tiny student he has brought on as hand luggage. I fit myself around the cargo and zone out, reading more of Animals by Emma Jane Unsworth, who’s talking tonight, but it’s hard to concentrate because the crush has sent some people insane. I can hear a low level argument between a man and woman and then a different woman starts up.

“Excuse me?” she says.

Silence.

“Excuse me?”

Silence.

Excuse me? Excuse me? Excuse me? Excuse me? Excuse me? Excuse me? Excuse me? Excuse me? Excuse me? Excuse me? Excuse me? Excuse me? Excuse me? Excuse me? Excuse me? Excuse me? Excuse me? Excuse me? Excuse me? Excuse me? Excuse me? Excuse me?”

I never find out who or what it’s addressed to and it only stops because I get off at Oxford Road. The Anthony Burgess Foundation is easy to find with my iPhone map held in front of me tourist-style (I’m running too late for shame). I’m wearing a nice shirt and my grandad’s fur-collared car coat and reckon I could pass as hipster-smart but not soiree-smart.

I’m probably too ill to drink but under the influence of Animals I think What Would Tyler Do (WWTD?) and get a bottle of beer and sit next to three women with sequins and lacquered manes. As I’m looking around the room I feel an odd sensation and look down to see that the beer has frothed over and covered my crotch in a pool of white foam. Acting like it’s no biggie, I pull a wad of snot filled tissues from my back pocket and daub at it.

Zoe Pilger reads first, selecting the terrifying bit from Eat My Heart Out where Ann Marie is locked in a recording studio by deranged second-wave feminist Stephanie and forced to sing the top 3 songs on her iTunes playlist until it hurts. It’s bloody funny and bloody petrifying too. It’s been my favourite book for some time and I’m a bit starstruck. Read out loud, the prose is perfectly pitched between clever, arty, and funny. It seems what feminism has always failed at was a sense of humour; now in all it’s post-ironic OTT glory it’s a weapon to be reckoned with. Pilger’s confident enough to even do a passable American accent. If I ever get into this position I think I’ll even struggle with an English one.

Next up is Anneliese Mackintosh who reads a poem from Any Other Mouth. (When I’m queueing for my next drink I run my mind over those words ANY-OTHER-MOUTH and realise I haven’t got a clue what it means, before settling on ‘probably vagina’). I’m not a fan of poetry slams and get ready to disapprove as her words come out pre-cut into verse but the effect is cumulative and I end up being carried along by how her soft speaking and simple language falls away suddenly into the blackest pits of humour.

After the intermission, Emma Jane Unsworth is up and the audience has loosened up, guffawing more for this local talent. I forget which bit she reads out, but they’re all equally good; unexpected veins of insight visible through the laddered tights of too many good nights.

"Finishing School for Bad Girls: Final Exam - Kill Your Teachers"

“Finishing School for Bad Girls: Final Exam – Kill Your Teachers”

Finally, singer-songwriter Karima Francis. There’s only one thing I hate more than live poetry – acoustic singer-songwriters. My ironic core squirms in discomfit as the tiny female Marc Bolan takes the stage. I thought it was the artifice of being laid bare that I resented the most- the more earnest you are, the more you fetishise what appears to be real. But as she sings and I see an upper- middle-class woman a few rows ahead wipe away unselfconscious tears, I realise that I’m scared of the absence of artifice because it is the furthest from being funny you can get, and if you know me at all, you’ll know I always like things to be funny.

I didn’t sign up for this, I think, as my eyes glisten too; I want my honesty in the sugar pill of farce and fart jokes please. It’s like ‘the feelings’ in Animals that Laura and Tyler try to avoid – those unwanted emotions that come flooding in after a night out. You can see them coming and what they’re going to do to you but you can’t stop them. If I was someone else with a less well-developed metaphor palate, I’d say that feelings are the children from our relationships with others and seeing as how I can stage-manage my encounters with the exes that I conceived them with, I want to restrict seeing these kids to every other weekend. Or something.

It’s the end of the night. I interviewed Zoe Pilger last week and now I really want to introduce myself, but my mind has gone blank, so I go to the toilet to give myself time to think of something to say. Oh yes, I forget to tell her I actually liked her book last time, I’ll do that now. I join the lane system that leads to the signing table and as Zoe looks up all I can do is mutter, a mutter she must recognise as she says “Alex, from last week?”

“Yes, ” I say. “I thought of a question I wanted to ask you after we spoke. Your PhD was about the possibility of Romantic Love…?”

“Sort of,” she says.

“What was your conclusion? Is it possible?”

I realise this sounds like a terrible pick-up line.

“I don’t think a PhD can tell you,” she says.

Phew, she didn’t slap me.

“So, onto a Post-Doc then?” I joke tipsily.

“No,” she says “I think only real life can tell you. But I’m onto the second novel now…”

As I talked to her, I had absentmindedly been pushing my copy of Eat My Heart Out towards her, confusingly playing the role of both critic and fan, and now she takes it and signs it.

As I thank her and retreat, I realise she still doesn’t know that I bloody love her book.

I speed walk back across a city brimming with girls and boys falling in and out of meaning, embarrassed of myself as aways but also a little confused. This bad girl stuff is great, but does it offer more than simply doing it like dudes? I mean I’ve learned to diss blokes on TV for being ugly just like we’re taught to judge the women up there, to condemn everyone by equally harsh standards, but what then? Surely everyone loses in that game? Should feminism ask more of its members than mere mimicry?

I’m distracted from this by seeing a mammoth queue snaking its way from under Piccadilly Station. Teenagers in 90s clothes, four deep, hundreds long. “What’s going on?” I ask a tout. “It’s a rave, mate” he says and I grin, for this is the scene I always imagined as a Mixmag reader growing up in Macclesfield, my imagination shucking off its environs to envisage a fluorescent smear of fun across the City that points the way to possibility. It’s so utopian, even the police seem to be having fun:

Friendly local bobby looking benevolently on as the warehouse project gobbles up an entire generation. Bless.

Friendly local bobby looking benevolently on as the warehouse project gobbles up an entire generation. Bless.

And now of course I really am ill and I sit here in my sweaty, snot-smeared bed and think when am I going to stop reading other people’s novel and write my own?

Sometimes I wonder if I ran away for a while whether someone could piece together several novels from all the nonsense I’ve written. I could come back just as they’ve finished and pat them on the back because it’s something I sure as hell can’t do by myself.

Oh yes, I remember now, those people do exist don’t they?

It looks like I need a live-in ghost writer who’ll work for free.

Any takers?

Infinite Joust


Me & Esther & I sat down and thrashed out a plot for my novel this morning across over-buttered scotch pancakes nearly black on one side.

Basically, there’s a main character who’s an insecure, narcissistic weirdo type, who falls in love with a doomed social phobic who thinks about death way too much. I don’t know where I get my ideas from sometimes.

It seemed obvious to me why the protagonist would fancy such an ascerbic, anti-everything person because like well, you always want what you aren’t just as long as it’s pitch black and taboo-trashing. But then I really couldn’t think what was in it for her.

Me: What does ‘Esther’ see in the main character?

Esther: [Thinks] You’re not going to like this…it’s a Goldilocks situation. [Sees my worried face]. Oh, I don’t mean penis size…though yours is just right.

Me: Shh! [I point to our open back door, and a little to the left to the neighbour’s permanently open back door. No entendres intended.]. Go on then, tell me more.

Esther: Well, I calculated exactly what type of boyfriend I should have based on all my previous ones, so I could get the one in the middle who was just right.

Me: I feel like a lab rabbit in love with the scientist. I don’t want to know any more. Tell me the criteria.

Esther: Well…

  1. Parents still together
  2. Have a long-hair face even if he didn’t have long hair
  3. Not a short arse
  4. Always surrounded by girls so you knew he was fanciable
  5. A wounded animal
  6. Elusive.

Me: 1-3 I get, but who the heck is 4-6?

Esther: Well I used to go out with boys who were messed up and then I saw you with your arm in a sling…And you used to hang out with that busty blonde. Oh and you would always appear out of nowhere and then disappear just as quickly.

Me: Well, that’s the one time ever I broke anything. She was my ex’s best friend so I was being a creep. And I usually got scared when I went out so ran away if I could.

Esther: Yeah, I realised all that when it was too late.

yourlifeisalie

So, after we’d sorted that out, I went for a walk round the charity shops to ‘clear my head’.

I found myself poised over a copy of Ulysses in Oxfam, flicking through and thinking ‘Come on Jimmy, throw me a frickin’ bone here!’. And the words floated up and over my eyes like I was watching the weather, and even though I read whole pages they were gone as soon as I closed the book and so I put it back where I found it like you do with all scary, dangerous, or boring objects. Ulysses? TL;DR

"Oi Marilyn, you may be able to finish it, but at least I'm not dead"

“Oi Marilyn, you may be able to finish it, but at least I’m not dead”

This is a vast improvement on last weekend, when I obsessively read every scary story I could find on reddit. I trawled the crawlspace between the creepy and Nosleep threads until I gave myself a week long crick in the neck and a pathological fear of going to the toilet. I did, however, learn several important life lessons:

  1. Never, ever take a solo selfie on a phone with face recognition software
  2. Don’t scream in a graveyard
  3. Don’t read texts or tweets after midnight

In other news, the random objects in my bag formed a convincing replica of a medieval jousting lance, made from the applicator nozzle of my haemorrhoid cream (unused) and a coffee stirrer (also unused). Here it is, with the book I keep in there in case anyone asks what I’m reading right now.

"...and the agony of constipation"

“…and the agony of constipation”

Love is…a pair of opposable thumbs


How to hide six photocopies of my fists from a work colleague who thought I nipped out of our meeting to use the loo?

That was this week’s dilemma.

I have an idea for an art project you see, and when the impulse comes I can’t help myself, so I went and pressed my fists to the glass of the copier and tried out different positions. It was at this point that I realised how long it’s been since I was in a fight, and couldn’t remember what to do with my thumbs. Then I went to reception and asked for an A4 envelope and put the copies in there.

“Sorry,” I said back in the meeting, “I had to pick up an important letter from reception.”
“No worries”, she said, “Hope it’s nothing bad?”
“Oh no,” I replied, “just some info that should come in pretty handy.”

 

Knuckle Club Sandwich

Knuckle Club Sandwich

Lisa admitted this week that’s she’s considering cutting her thumbs off. “I can’t let them touch my hand,” she says, “I have to sleep very carefully with the duvet keeping them apart. Then I wake up and they’re touching again.”

I for one am glad of my thumbs; I need them to be special at sport. I’ll explain. There’s a river at the end of the garden and on the opposite side it looks like someone has dug a pond out of the riverbed, with an edge made of big flat rocks. At around 5pm every day, the sun filters into it and leaves the rest of the river in shadow. For about a day, we had a baby trout in there, and held our breath waiting for it to dart our from under the rim.

Anyway, for the past decade, every time I have visited my grandad he’s given me a Nescafe jar full of coppers he’s collected in between visits. I’ve lugged this growing treasure trove between 3 or 4 house in that time. I’ve never been quite poor enough to bother cashing them in (the thought of how my fingers would smell after counting them out makes me feel sick). About a week after we moved in, Esther decided to use the pond as a wishing well. Before long Esther, me, Dom & Lisa were all tossing tuppences into the water, most of them missing. Was this ASBO-worthy littering or the birth of a new hipster hobby?

Being an only child, I had to throw differently to everyone else, by flicking them up and across with my poorly trimmed thumbnail. Anyway, now coins line the riverbed with twinkles of worthless gold. The failure rate for my technique was satisfyingly high, and I realised that my endeavours have to be impossible to be worth doing – if I can do it, surely it can’t be worth doing? This is a variation on the ‘I would never belong to a club that would admit me as a member.” And my latest run-in with a comedy compere:

I was forced to sit right under the microphone and so hid in the shadow of my porkpie hat, knowing full well there was no escape.

“Are you a hipster,” the Irish warm-up man asked, pointing rudely at my hat.

“I wouldn’t be a hipster if I was,” I said, feeling sick with my own logic.

He left me alone after that.

 

I thought it was the people on stage who were meant to get heckled by the audience, not the other way around. Just as they build up a battery of retorts, I will to. Here’s my latest put down, handily written on a table of my local pub when I found some chalk lying around:

IMG_4063

Last night, I was trapped on the sofa by a sleeping Esther, next to a snoring cat. I couldn’t reach the remote and so was forced to watch Metallica at Glastonbury. Being made to endure a band I don’t like while twisted into a painful pose so as not to wake the critters I love is a very strange kind of happiness.

Love is…filling the negative space of your lover(s)

Love is…a beautiful still life made out of ugly objects

Love is…a story about characters who should never have met in real life

"Getti' smelly with Peter Petrelli"

“Gettin’ smelly with Peter Petrelli?”

Peace Out, Grayson Perry


So after my successful pursuit of Mr Cocker, I turned my attention on Greyson Perry, articulate arch-lord of the freaks and frock-wearers of the world. But it never happened. “Grayson isn’t taking any press until Autumn” came the definitive response from his PR. I couldn’t find the emoji for ‘Ooh, Get You’ and so didn’t bother replying.

Which is why when I bumped into him on Saturday morning at Sheffield Doc/Fest, I can’t be held responsible for my actions. If you don’t enlist me as a journo, you’re lumbered with me as a fan, which is never a pretty sight.

“Greyson!” I call as he glides by in his pyjama-like civvies.

“Yes?” He squints at my face, and shakes my hand when I offer it.

Why does he look so confused? Oh, yeah.

“Oh, you don’t know me. I just love your work.”

He pulls his hand away.

“Oh. Haha.”

Then he breezes off into the distance.

I realise afterwards that he only offered 2 words during our exchange while I emptied my mouth like a handbag and 11 fell out. He saw my dirty tissues & screwed up receipts and everything.

I imagine only a select few get to see inside Grayson’s handbag:

"Pull the other one, it's got bells on it."

“Pull the other one, it’s got bells on it.”

Talking of scraps of paper, Grayson’s talk made me feel much better. There were far worse freaks than me abroad tonight, especially the first person who stood up to the mic for the Q&A, who waffled on about making a piece of origami for Grayson and held aloft the smallest piece of paper I’ve ever seen.

“Yes, but have you got a question?” Grayson asked impatiently.

“Err, no, I just want to give you my origami.”

After an uncomfortable silence, he shuffled back to his seat, probably discovering that screwing up origami in shame just makes it into even smaller origami.

"Hello Grayson, I made this so you can talk to me whenever you want."

“Hello Grayson, I made this so you can talk to me whenever you want.”

Last week, they cleared the dead man’s house next door. We knew this because we were woken up to the sound of objects being lobbed lovelessly into a big open top van by two men. Thud, thump, and crunch they went, all bleeding morning.

“It’s like each thud is a lump of his flesh” said Esther.

My hoarding instincts told me to run round and grab armfuls of the stuff. My OCD warned me that each item would be smeared with the anti-vandal paint of death, visible only under moonlight. My OCD won.

It was the degree show this week. If I see something I like, I tell myself, I’ll buy it. In my head I’m a slimmer Saatchi, a Serota capable of smiling. Luckily for me, being penniless, there was nothing worth buying this year. Degree Shows can be summed up as:

  1. installations about childhood
  2. pornographic self portraits
  3. knitted vaginas

It’s always the same every year because self-absorption clings to the same reference points like cat hair to tights. In fact, the only good thing I can remember seeing was last year’s show, where someone paid a bouncer-cum-invigilator to stand in the way of their painting and block any attempts to see it, thus rendering it the only thing worth seeing and the only thing no-one saw  #wishidthoughtofthat

It reminds me of the greatest example of people going to see nothing I’ve ever heard. No, not Olly Murs, but the Mona Lisa after it was stolen:

When the Mona Lisa was stolen, people queued to see the empty space. Idiots.

More people queued to see the empty space than had for the painting. Idiots.

In other news, I found a lifesize dog teddybear in St Luke’s charity shop yesterday. It did something funny to me, lobotomised my adult bits for a minute. I’ve made up a new collective noun for this sort of feeling: An intervention of soft toys.

"Giant rabbit as border control"

“Giant rabbit as border control”

If I’d had a spare cuddly toy, I’d have probably offered it to the busdriver on Friday. Getting off last means that everyone before you has gone through the full vocabulary of gratitude:

thank you/thanks

cheers

ta

nice one fella (for students who haven’t had their Southernness beaten out of them yet)

I can offer nothing more and so walk past him mutely. Of course, I realise now that mute people aren’t universally known for being rude, they can say thanks in their own way. Unfortunately though, the sign language for thanks looks like you’re blowing a kiss.

Next time, I think I’ll just do a peace sign.

"Ta, duckie"

“Ta, duckie”

 

Coming a cropper with Jarvis Cocker


Apologies, it’s been a while. Let’s recap.

So, last month I found myself in the posh part of London with a banana in my hand and a nearly nude Syd Barret lookalike crouched in front of me, calling himself an anal virgin (how does one tell these things?). And yes dear reader, I penetrated him. In the mouth.

I felt dirty after this banana face-fuck, and so I should. After all, I only went along to see sex undressed as art.

Dazed & Confused has some good pics- everyone else had their cameras confiscated. You can read my full account at FLUX.

Phallic Fun

Phallic Fun

More recently, Goldie died. She was my first and my only dog, my doggy, the best in the world. I’ve never been so sad and inconsolable in my adult life. Esther was even worse, having got Goldie so she would have to leave the house at least once a day.

“I’ve lost my best friend, my job, and my child all at the same time,” she told me heartbreakingly.

And yes, I’m afraid God briefly lowered his ugly mug over the Velux of my mind.

“Promise you’ll never take her for granted again, and I’ll bring her back,” he cajoled, his beard scraping the glass like screaming trees.

And yes, I did consider it. Him.

But then I realised:

Taking life for granted is its chiefest pleasure.

What special hell life would be if every moment was spent appreciating what you’d got, doing the 719th Times Table in order to count your multifarious blessings, wracked with guilt for not enjoying that last crisp or for not thanking your poo before flushing for its splendid job of removing toxins.

I reached up and finger-wrote ‘No’ into my breath condensation, and God jogged on, assuaged at least for now (he never strays too far). That was a close call.

But the maths of man’s best friend is shocking. Dogs age 7 years for every human one, which means that she was 49 when we got her from the pound, much older & wiser than the new fools charged with looking after her.

But it also means that for every day we were with her, she was cantering off a week into the future, and we could never ever catch up.

That’s just plain unfair.

Shortly after, we moved house. In the space of a month, two of the great wire structures that suspend my papier-mache personality were plucked away: loved pets and lived places. I realised then just how much identity is tied to memory and memory is tied to place.

“But the next people who move in after us will get Goldie,” I sobbed to Esther, imagining that because she died in our old house, she was trapped there forever. The house where she remains is of course our minds, a home you’re only evicted from when you die (even insanity is just moving to a hotel while the flood damage is fixed). And she isn’t trapped there, unless I am trapped there too.

Night night my lovely doggy

Night night my lovely doggy

In less mordant moments, I also interviewed two of my heroes: Arthur Brown (see next month’s Artrocker) and Jarvis Cocker (see next month’s Now Then).

I was having a funny day when I met Arthur, and forgot how steep & long the hill was on the way to the pub where he was playing. By the time I got to speak to him, I had a puffy, strangulated voice that I just had to work with. I was led into a back room where he was there in a robe, touching his toes.

“Just two more,” Arthur says without stopping.

This was like one of those diva moments I’d heard of, when a star proves they’re a star by doing something socially inappropriate in front of you.

“Living in a van is hard!” Arthur says when he’s finished. “Want a cup of tea?”

I really wanted to be served tea by the God of Hellfire, but I already had a lemonade from the bar downstairs.

Arthur was a fascinating man, each answer to my questions coming after a period of silence where his great memory machine rumbled through the findings of 7 decades of life. His show afterwards was even better, silly and OTT and life affirming. My top 3 moments were:

  1. Shoving his mic down his pants and thrusting his fake erection at the crowd like a 7 year old boy.
  2. Stealing the keyboard and the keyboard player having to chase him across the stage, still managing to flawlessly play his arpeggios.
  3. Wearing the baggiest grandad trousers I’ve ever seen, like sagging psychedelic longjohns, and not caring.

I think Jarvis might be to blame for me coming to Sheffield. I can’t remember why I chose Sheffield Hallam University, but at the time I was obsessed with This is Hardcore, and Different Class before it. Blur and Oasis were ok, but Pulp and Suede’s lyrics were the ones I recited as I crept along the walls of the haunted house of teenagehood.

I spent all weekend re-listening to their songs and watching a sneak preview of the documentary that the interview is there to promote. By the day of the interview, I had 50 questions.

So imagine my confusion when I rang the number his PR had sent and heard this.

Jarvis: “Pablo? Pablo? Pablo?”

Me: “Hello Jarvis? Is that Jarvis?”

Jarvis: “Pablo? Pablo? Pablo?”

Me: “Jarvis? Jarvis?” etc

After a minute of this nonsense, I realised it wasn’t an initiation test for inexperienced interviewers and put the phone down.

“Erm, I think you may have sent me the wrong number for Jarvis,” I emailed the PR frantically.

5 minutes later, and 10 minutes into the interview time, she replied with a different number and I was through.

“Hello, I’ve just made some toast,” Jarvis told me.

“Oh, ok.” What am I sposed to do with that info? Oh, wait. “Shall I ring back in 5 minutes?”

“Make it 10.”

So I made myself a cuppa with slightly shaky hands, and rang back in precisely 14 minutes so that I didn’t seem too eager.

“You timed that just right,” he congratulated me in his impeccable and unflappable Northern voice.

…An hour later, we’d covered everything.

“I had a lot of questions.” I thought out loud, “but we seem to have covered them all.”

“Well, that’s good int it,” he said in a voice that always seemed to be skinny dipping in the adjacent pools of mockery and cameraderie.

“Maybe I’ll get to meet you at the film premiere,” I say coolly.

“Yeah, we’re trying to organise an afterparty somewhere…” Jarvis responds, sounding suspiciously like an invitation.

“Sounds amazing!” I say, and then, implausibly, “If they let me out!”

So that’s how I ended my interview: with something so forehead-scrunchingly weird, that having gone over it several hundred times, I still don’t know what I meant.

I think my logic went:

Quick, say something funny.

Say something funny that blokes laugh at.

Blokes laugh at things about wives.

What’s that thing about how wives are sposed to stop you having fun? Oh yeah, ‘my wife won’t let me out.’ Or something.

No time. Go with it.

Please don’t. But I did.

I don’t think I want to go to the afterparty anymore.

"Good one."

“Good one.”

A face off with Matthew McConaughey


Monday

Woke up this morning with a haiku in my head:

This dismembr’d face
Kept in my deepest pocket
Was not yours to keep

Checked all my pockets but everything seems normal. Must have given it back.

"I made a bag out of my ex's."

“I made a bag out of my ex’s.”

Tuesday

Since Goldie has gone completely deaf, the only way to communicate with her now is through pokes, prods and wild gesticulations.

In fact, the only tried & tested way we can get her to jump on the bed is through a rapid sequence of Sieg Heils.

It’s very unfortunate that our landlord lives opposite and can see through our windows. But at least they have stopped popping round uninvited.

Wednesday

I’ve never realised how surreal James Bond is. The casual sexism is clearly there to distract us all from the main event. Why, only yesterday Blofeld said to Jill St John’s bottom: “such nice cheeks…if only they were brains.” I mean, wow.

It’s a glimpse of Ian Fleming’s dark heart, his BDSM lust loitering like a cackling skull behind all that baby-oiled flesh. Which brings me neatly onto something else that’s been troubling me: Matthew McConaughey’s face.

Here he is in Dazed and Confused (1994):

dazed

And 21 years later in True Detective:

true-detective

 It would seem that:

The future is just the present’s ugly selfie.

His transition from sex symbol to serious actor happened exactly when his collagen committed suicide and leapt from his face. But that face was always there, biding its time beneath, glimpsed under harsh lights or from the wrong angle.

Which reminds me of the unfortunate metaphor I used when explaining why I shaved my hair off to a severely depressed friend:

“I decided to push my hair before it jumped”

Interestingly, I just found out that Sean Connery wore a toupee for all his early James Bond roles because he started thinning from a young age. The man’s man’s man wearing a wig? This is as confusing as Esther’s summary of the Oscar Pistorius trial:

“As a manly athlete, it’s ironic that Pistorius’ defence is based on the fact that he screams like a girl

Thursday

Today I asked the internet ‘how to stop your bald head shining’, as it has been bothering me how much I glow under artificial light.

This is the worldy wisdom Google threw back at me:

“Real men shine their heads up like lamps.”

Friday

The more comfortable I get with people, the more I allow my humour to pop out like a ventriloquist dummy from my inside pocket. I don’t think this is helping me make any friends. Today, in teacher training, we were separated into 4 groups and given a number from 1-4. Then we had to mingle.

“What number are you?” a woman said.

“2” I replied.

“I’m a 2 too,” another woman said comradely.

“Desmond Tutu!” I blurted out, ready to bellow with laughter if anyone tittered.

I looked round the table and everyone had become catatonic, just staring at the bit of desk in front of them. I thought better of shouting it again even though I really did want to. Finally, someone else said something about the weather and everyone leapt over themselves to comment.

I shan’t be doing that again. You know, being me.

"No, Vienna. Not funny."

“No, Vienna. Not funny.”