HONG KONG IV: Hang(zhou) Time!


Wednesday 7th (Contd)

I am in an episode of The Hills directed by David Lynch. In a world of short Chinese people in drab designer clothes and Communist workwear, DeeDee (Euro-vixen and corkscrew-curled fashionista) and Bruce (American-obsessed Scandinavian style-icon) tower above like retro aliens. In their arms is the cutest ball of fluff I have ever seen- Popo the living teddybear. They are a power couple in the style of Brad and Angelina, so I am going to fuse their names and call them BreeDee from now on.
After I fumble my way through hugs and greetings (I am feeling shy as I haven’t seen them for over a year, and I am sleep deprived and spaced out), Popo is scooped up from the floor and we hail a cab. A wide, flat landscape of utilitarian concrete blocks slips past the Toyota windows, and I am feeling very far from home. Amidst the overexcited chit-chat, Bruce tells me that a Western guy was made an example of and executed two weeks ago for having an itsy bit of weed on him. I want to turn the taxi round and go home. But the driver doesn’t speak English and Popo has reached across from DeeDee’s embrace to lay his manicured paw on me, so I’m trapped.

“What’s the gossip from Sheffield?” asks DeeDee excitedly. I can’t think of anything. Sheffield is boring, that’s why I’m here.

BreeDee live in a 13th floor elevatored apartment heated by electric blankets and a looming aircon tower in the corner. Central heating does not exist here, and I get wafts from the toilet of that ginger-spiced ditchwater I overdosed on at Harvey’s hovel. It’s time to crack open the beer and toast my extremest Easternness yet. BreeDee’s friend AJ, a cool club promoter/all round nice guy comes round to stare at their new pet (me).

“What kind of music do you like?” he asks.
All I can think about is the last 3 songs I listened too, 30,00 feet over the Indian subcontinent.
“Tatu” I say
His face falls.
“Really?”
“And J-pop” I add
“Oh” he says, changing the subject.

My credibility is dead. I suppose what I just did was the equivalent of a Chinese guy coming over to Sheffield and saying he liked Irish Eurovision songs. I must remember that irony only works when the thing is taken out of context.

I have been provided with a lush airbed and am knackered, but Popo, who seems to have grown wings in the night, has other ideas. Every time I move or make a pre-snore sigh, he leaps elegantly out of the darkness onto my face before lapping feverishly at my ears with his ice-cold tongue. Eventually I hide myself under the duvet and the attacks cease.

Thursday 8th March

"Gently drizzle with smelly water until sodden. Leave for three months then serve."

It has been raining solidly for 3 months here, and the panoramic view of Hangzhou from BreeDee’s apartment is obscured by drizzle.

“Do you wanna try e-biking?” says Bruce
“I’m not very good with computer games”
“No, it’s like a moped but electric”

Hmm. My riding history is peppered with dysfunction and injury. I used to have a secondhand racer that I couldn’t get up on kerbs with; otherwise I used to borrow my friend’s sister’s bike which took the skin off my thumbs and bent my knees/masculinity out of shape.

“Go on then, but don’t tell Esther” I say. With my confessional impulses, it’s a more of a Note to Self.

An e-bike is basically a slow scooter that you can charge from the mains. They are all the rage in China where a generous third of the road is taken up with cycle lanes. Time to see if I can remember how to ride…

"Close my eyes and think of Chingland."

Battle armour at the ready: ironic hats (AKB48 for me; Russian furry with soviet badge for Bruce), camouflage ponchos, skinny jeans and fuck off boots.

“Oh and the brakes don’t work too great” he adds.

Oh well, what can go wrong in a cycle lane?

But this is China- and everyone is on a bike, moped or ebike. The lane is rammed with merciless speeding locals. I slow to let one past and suddenly Bruce is 100 metres ahead and disappearing in the melee. Shit shit shit!
I am going to have to grow some here. I speed up, overtaking, my bike wobbling with exertion.

Suddenly I’m flying!

Time to concentrate on the task. Everyone has stopped at the junction up ahead. I pump the breaks. Nothing happens. Oh my fucking God! Boots down; H&M plastic soles skidding, the friction nearly setting my feet on fire. Just in time, I slow to a stop.

Bruce points to the left. We are going across the road, through all the kamikaze minubuses and honking drivers. Oh god, I’m going to die. As I gather my wits, Bruce kicks off and glides across unscathed.

I am facing the wrong way and manhandle my bike to face his path. As I twist the accelerator, a minibus hurtles in front of me. The trouble is, and this is not something I learn easily today, as soon as you yank on the handlebar, the bike jumps forward like it’s alive. I find myself edging into the cars and trucks and buses which seems to be daring me to throw myself in front of them. There are tuk-tuks and ebikes and cyclists jostling behind me, honking. Their mini horns sound like melvined nerds compared to the horny bulls of the minibuses.

Bruce has disappeared from view. Unless I want to get lost in a megacity where no-one will understand my cries for help, I have to go NOW. The light has gone green, but that doesn’t mean much because people just go when they feel like it. I edge out, at first hesistant, then realising that the key to this is courage. I yank the handlebar decisively and weave across the road, aiming for the cycle lane opposite, making it and catching up with Bruce, who sits aside his vintage bicycle nonchalantly. His patience is going to be tested today, folks.

Finally we get to Westlake, which sounds like an American mall but is in fact a big wet lake.

There’s big group photo taking place, and I decide to do a Where’s Wally and stand at the back while Bruce captures my photo-bomb.

"Spot the lao wei"

I’m not very good at this game- clearly- half the front row spotted me straight away. Time to make like a local and zhou (groan)

We get a beer (this is an alkie’s holiday) and walk along the rustic wooden bridge, under the amused gaze of Chinese tourists, who have come for the rainy lake but find the perfect camera fodder in us, the freaky lao wai (Johnny Foreigners). Bruce’s communist badge was a particular hit, making girls giggle and old men grimace.

Mao’s regime is a serious matter, but only for those who remember it. For everyone else his ubiquitous Little Red Book and permagrin face are faintly embarrassing, like our Royal Family. Westlake looks like every picture of China I’ve ever seen; still water reflecting the jaunty angles of pagodas; a heron perusing its own shadow; flowerbeds seeded with ornamental cabbages (function over form at all times); a uniformed team of council workers raising and dripping a piledriver in spooky synchronicity. And a Starbucks slap bang in the middle.

The gap between rich and poor is huge in China. Every 1st world skyscraper is flanked by ramshackle 3rd world shacks. Gucci billboards look down on street sellers and labourers who snotgobble and spit as they go about their business. As in Hong Kong, the biggest industry is construction and the skyline is full of bamboo scaffolding and the ambient sound of knocking down and building up forever and ever until China is without end and penthouse suites have recompression chambers and a space view.

As we pose in front of a giant golden Buddha, hordes of tourists are drawn by the sight and snap away. Bruce stands with the confidence of a photogenic rock star, but I am awkward in the spotlight. We are exotic here; our height and old clothes and sallow complexions are anomalies.

"One of is a peace-sign pro. Clue: it ain't me."

I look even paler after BreeDee force me to watch Paranormal Activity just before bed, and I have to lie with my back to the kitchenette in case I see something move there. When exhaustion finally sends me to sleep, I hear a sound like cutlery being moved and sit bolt upright with the immortal words

WHAT THE FUCK!?

Which wakes BreeDee and Popo so they can have a jolly good laugh at me. It turns out that it had been Popo ringing the bell signalling to be let out onto the balcony for a wee. My nerves are shot.

Friday 9th March

Today was spent trying to find a Lolita Café that AJ mentioned. Apparently waitresses dress as Manga characters and debase themselves for your delectation. This is cultural curiosity, you understand, not perversion. This is a Japanese import, a land where men’s souls are broken on the brushed chrome of industry, and their sexual desire is regressed into child-worship.

I am becoming almost cocky behind the e-wheel, my AKB48 cap twisted to the side like a 90s street urchin, tipsy on the curiosity of locals.
We find the right street but the numbers are cut-off halfway along, and Bruce set off on his bike to find where and if the street starts again. I wait with the e-bike, plugged in and charging next to two old ladies pruning their miniature plants. After about ten minutes I have the jellifying realisation that should Bruce fail to return, I would be stranded in a vast metropolis where no-one speaks English, with no memory of where BreeDee live and no passport (back at the flat). The trusty e-bike would be my only friend in the world, and I sit on her soft seat forlornly.

I quickly hid the terror in my eyes when Bruce rounds the corner with the news that the street never carried on, and the Lolitas will have to remain a fantasy.

DeeDee finishes work at her fashion empire early and we go to Central Perk, an exact replica of the café from Friends. Upstairs, there’s Joey and Chandler’s room, complete with lounge chairs, and the girls’ flat with picture frame behind the door. The weird thing is that each room is full of Chinese twentysomethings who go silent when we walk in. I start to wonder if these are actually their private rooms, and we have just trespassed.

"My attempt to do hiphop hands leaves me looking like a spazz. Is that unPC? Well, so is China!"

Downstairs, the coffees are ridiculously expensive (£5!), and a pixellated screen plays endless episodes of Friends next to classic Chinglish graffiti in coloured chalk. This is kitsch from the other side of the screen.

"To be loved..."

May as well get our money’s worth- photosesh!

"America, re-imagined by China and enjoyed by passing Europeans"

Tonight’s dinner is at a Korean restaurant- I’ve eaten out every night on this holiday, and that’s the way Harvey and BreeDee live because it’s so cheap. Now I find out why- the food’s brought to you raw, and you’re expected to cook it yourself over a big hob in the centre of the table. There’s no point complimenting the chef, because it’s me (and I can’t cook)!

"We bring the food; You cook it!"

Westerners are still a rarity in Hangzhou, and they all go to one bar: Ellen’s. The walls and ceiling are covered in graffiti from Americans, Brits and continental Europeans. There is one toilet for the lot of us, and the place is rammed with drunken ex pats and TEFOL teachers by the time we get there.

BreeDee’s friends are a motley crew; the French Canadian happy-sad duo of Eddie and Jacques; Dutch-Chinese Harriet, Home Counties girl Claudia and her beautiful eyes, and Chinese-American Fran.

“Chinese people get so angry with me because I look like one of them but can’t speak a word of Mandarin” says Fran.
“My Korean girlfriend is giving me grief,” moans Jacques like a sad puppy, his eyes permanently latching onto drunk voluptuous girls.
“I play blind-guitar” says Jacques, “I get a call saying they need a white guitarist for a gig and I meet up with whoever else they have called up and on the way there we try to figure out if there’s any songs we all know how to play. One time we played at a fashion show next to a swimming pool, and all we knew was Amazing Grace so we stretched it out all night. They loved it.”
“They call me the white goddess” says Claudia, “because I’m 6 feet tall and blonde and they’ve never seen anyone like me. They stop in the street and stare.”

After my travels with Bruce, I can imagine how this must feel.

Our destination tonight is KTV, another Japanese import: private karaoke booths, hundreds of them in a gold and marble palace with all the taste and restraint of Liberace’s bathtub. It has its own supermarket, where you fill your trolley with cheap booze; our party (BreeDee, Eddie, Harriet and Claudia) um and ah about how much of what to get, before deciding on 2 bottles of vodka, cans of Fanta and umpteen beers.

“Whatever you do, don’t forget which room you’re in” warns DeeDee, “I did one time and I wandered around for hours before Bruce came to find me.”

The corridor stretches forever; each room looks the same, each one filled with drunken singing and childlike, uninhibited laughter.

Now, as I have said before, I do not do public singing. I don’t even sing in the shower in case someone hears.

I start to down vodka oranges like there’s no tomorrow.
Before long, the microphone is shoved in my face to the sound of Bowie’s Heroes. I love this song, why ruin it with my voice? The mic is passed to Harriet who looks confused.
“I don’t know the words,” she admits.
From nowhere comes the urge to croon, and I grab the mic and am thrust into the sweaty, undying love of being a hero for ever and ever. Bruce’s perfect key keeps me afloat while I ham it up, fist in air and voice going up and down like an impassioned yoyo. I look round and instead of horror, I see amusement and even pleasure.
Yes! I think, this is GREAT!

"The importance of being earnest"

Sadly, everything I sing after this point is only an echo of this triumph. My attempt to sing All the Things She Said by Tatu is especially diabolical, since I can no longer remember the words or how the song goes even though I have listened to it 5000 times.
We are joined by Bubu, radical art student and babyfaced sweetheart who currently sports a monk’s haircut and robes. She sings Chinese pop with single-minded passion and I want to adopt her as my daughter/sister/teddybear.

"KTV siblings"

I fall asleep instantly when we get back to the flat, Popo probably having his way with my ears as I lay like a corpse, smiling inanely at the joy of my first public singing in, like, ever.

I had a stroke, but you couldn’t reach


Here is a faithful record of the unfaithful dream that I had last night:

Our house was haunted. The sound of stiletto heels echoed down the hallway floorboards and I ran after them into the kitchen. But there was nothing.

"Oh Oh you're in trouble with Esther"

I became very scared, but then got distracted by finding a picture disc 12 inch by Shampoo from 2011. “Wow, they’ve reformed” I thought.

"How dare you surpass your 15 year love for me!"

Back to the goosepimples. I realised as I became more and more terrified that I was completely and utterly and clinically madly in love with a girl who wasn’t Esther. I felt a yearning like a koala for its favourite tree, or a chip’s desire to lie with mushy peas, or a sloth’s desperation for an extension on their essay. Intense.

Every atom of my being was involved in this sweaty lust and longing. Each pore became a mouth singing  ‘I love her I love her I love her’ like a million-strong microscopic boyband. Oh God, this feeling was worse than running out of pudding or some hellish comedown or even a year of Monday mornings lining up like happy slappers forever.

"Quick- she's falling in love"

I had the intellectual runs. Hot thoughts were spurting out of me like: She is the only person I’ve ever loved, the only person who makes me suffer a rapid succession of micro-strokes when I see her, starting in my eye and radiating down past my penis and into the ground.

But I can’t have her. I was mad with sadness, I started to melt like a microwaved snowman and I woke up with my face screwed into the pillow, tears mixing with the usual slobber in a pool that stuck my features into the expression of misery they felt.

Then I had to go to work and like with all dreams, the feeling faded and I found a packet of wine gums in my pocket and felt a bit better. Also my student told me about his visit to the Sistine chapel to see Leonardo Di Caprio’s paintings, which I greatly enjoyed. If only that was true.

But like my dream, it’s an impossible thing and I can’t waste my life wishing it into existence. And it’s a fatal mistake to take dreams as reality, as Marion Cotillard found in Inception

Public Transport is a Breeding Ground for Undesirables


Jan 6th: Bussing it in Bedlam

Went to Manchester today and met up with my trash-culture partner in crime, Josephine. She is climbing up the Starbucks corporate ladder, knife in mouth, to take the world of hot beverages by its vajazzled balls.

She is a coffee connoisseur, a filter flaneur (perhaps even a frotteur), a mocha rocker.

She risks the glare of a jobsworth to ask for The Most Difficult Drink Ever, with the cocksure unblinkingness of a pro barista: a “One Shot-Soya-Mocha-with Amaretto Syrup” from NEROS. Interesting choice of name that, seeing as he let Rome burn to a crisp- a bit like calling your shop ‘Berlusconi’s’ and expecting people to stomach your ‘fish finger surprise’…

But the main rant of today is reserved for BUS DRIVERS. The lamb-chopped ferrymen of Hades.

"DOYOUHAVEANYHOTWATERORDOIHAVETOKILLYOU?"

Today’s driver looks like Catweazel (which in case I am the only person who gets this reference, is a TV character Medieval monk transported to 70s rural Britain. You got a mental image now?).

I think, ‘oh it’s ok, he’ll be nice to another member of the long hair club‘. Then, ‘oh shit, I’ve been thrown out haven’t I, I’m in the camp tintin club now’.

But ‘Oh he’s got a beard, he’ll give me the secret signal coz of that’.

But no. He is the grumpiest hippie I have ever met. I get on with my student card.

“50p”

I give him a pound.

A grunting, constipated moan comes out “doyouavthefefeepee?”

“Pardon?”

Again, the noise comes, and I can just about pick out these words:”doyouHAVEthefiftypee?”

“No.” As he slams the change down, I think ‘He’s no hair compadre, he’s a pre-postal serial killer’.

As I walk to my seat, I hear his gritted-teeth mantra echoing down the bus every few seconds as the queue jumps aboard. It’s like the guttural groan of Newspaper Vendors , for whom ‘The Manchester Evening News’ becomes a chinese poo-strain ‘Maaannneeeeezzzze”

As I sit and reflect on the emotional rollercoaster of having hair, I think back at the motley crew I’ve met on buses.

One time I got on and the busdriver said “You shouldn’t be allowed on here”. “Me personally or something I represent?” (bloody students, queers, men over 5 feet 9?) I ask, genuinely intrigued. Someone pulls the string in his back and he parrots “You shouldn’t be allowed”. I take my apparently undeserved seat.

Another classic was when I was really late for work, and I asked the big skinhead in front of me for the time.

“Time is irrelevant” he intoned, and turned back round. I should have said that to my boss.

One time, Aldo was waiting at the busstop, and a woman stopped and asked for the way to Mecca.

“Hmm, let me see, the sun is pointing that direction so East is over there…” he mused

Impatient, she butted in “No, Mecca Bingo I meant!”

“Dunno” he replied, suddenly deeply depressed.

“What would sir recommend?” “A little of everything?”

My new favourite phrase is “What would you recommend?” said with a disarming smile. You can cover up your complete ignorance of anything with this.

“What gear ya looking for?”

“What would sir recommend?”

“What stop do you want?”

“Hmm, where would you recommend?”

“To be or not to be?”

“Whatevs, I’m not fussy”

I think most of the recommendations would be a good kicking followed by A&E.

Boring, Ugly and Ill as Sin


DEC 26th


Ugh. So ill today, like I’ve been drinking STRYCHNINE. My stomach is bruised. One nostril whistles like an icy cave on a mountaintop.
Esther goes to do family things, and I stay in bed. “Have you got money on your phone so I can text you and say ‘Baby, what are you doing now?’” I ask.
“Hmm” she replies. As well as being rubbish at Public Displays of Affection (PDAs), she is incapable of Text Affection (TAs).
I think ‘right, now I am going to find some real porn. This will cheer me up’. Halfway through a shower scene I feel really sick and have to go to sleep. The sound of sticky balls slapping against bumcheeks haunts my dreams, like some feverish jungle drumbeat that goes faster and faster as I am burned alive.

"Please can we at least hold hands?"

Esther goes to her parents for a family meal. After a couple of hours, she texts saying, “This is horrible. I want to come home”. This is as near to a TA as I’m likely to get, but I must not get excited. I text her back some alibi “I feel poorly and I need you to come back”.
An hour later, she’s back. “Jesus” she says, letting out air, “That was like being with the Royle family, only it’s not as fun if you’re actually there.”
“What happened?” I ask.
“Mum went crazy because she couldn’t find the special spoon she’d got to serve the trifle. She screamed ‘I can’t have any lovely trifle if I don’t have that knife’ and couldn’t be consoled”. Time to leave.

"I don't know what you're smiling at, you've just ruined pudding!"

I’ve just finished All Families Are Psychotic by Douglas Coupland. I don’t think I want to read anything by him ever again because he depresses the shit out of me. If you can’t be American, rich and happy, there’s no hope for any of us.

A sample:
Wade thought about his father. What would the world have to offer Ted Drummond, and the men like him, a man whose usefulness to the culture had vanished somewhere around the time of Windows 95?

Slit my wrists now please.

And:
I believed the script I was handed. And then one day in the early 1980s I hit a red light in North Vancouver and ding! I understood that I was now forever in life’s minus columns and the plus column was over.

The only thing that makes me carry on reading is because it sounds exotic to a lower middle class British suburbanite like me.

Hmm let’s see what would happen if we transported it to, let’s say, Rotherham or Stoke on Trent. Here’s how the novel starts:

Janet opened her eyes. – Florida’s prehistoric glare dazzled outside the motel window. A dog barked; a car honked; a man was singing a snatch of Spanish song. She absentmindedly touched the scar from the bullet wound beneath her left rib cage.

Here’s the grime remix:

Tracey opened her eyes- South Yorkshire’s grey smog hung thickly outside the dirty double-glazed window of the Sally Army hostel. A dog yelped as its Big Issue vendor owner kicked it; a car revved and ‘music’ that made her bowels move penetrated the room; a crazy man was shouting the names of God’s favourite meals. She absentmindedly touched the half-eaten scab from the Tenants Super can slash beneath her third belly fold.

I have been floored by this LIVE AID ’85 documentary
I am actually crying now because I miss the optimism of Bob Geldof, who really believed that he could change something about the world with some bands.
Why can it never be recreated? Because we no longer have the optimism. We have gone from a ‘WE’ decade to a ‘WHO AM I’ epoch, a ‘WHY?’ era.

The Darkness, Jamelia, Dido, Travis and Ms Dynamite. They sure knew how to pick ’em for posterity!

Note to self: It’s one of the Mysteries of the World, Rowan Atkinson’s transformation from sexy bastard as Black Adder to sexless geek Mr Bean. Perhaps I too can go from the latter to the former?

We take poverty, disease and misery for granted. We have become ‘compassion fatigued’, brought up by the generation that had the last sense of purpose: a viable future. Our inheritance is apathy. There’s bad shit out there, but we can’t do owt about it. May as well get fucked.

I feel cheated. Did I ever believe in anything?
I used to love animals- but only to collect books about them like a colonial hoarder.
I used to believe in vegetarianism, and I was brought up to feel deep empathy for animals, our house was full of them. But I don’t feel that anymore. I can stuff my face with meat with only a tinge of guilt, not enough to put me off.

I feel love for every single band that sang at live aid. Such decadent faith and belief would be instantly cut down by the bitter chavs of cynicism now.
Fundraising has been hijacked- the ‘Live Aid effect’ is one of many styles available to ad companies to flog iPads or car insurance or Nokia phones.
People cared about the Falklands War, about the first Iraq War, about the future, about other people. Now we don’t give a flying fuck. We’ve still got some people who act all earnest- socialists and feminists and Tories. But underneath, everyone is status-driven but blank, vacant, inert like some suavely-jacketed potato. Bollocks.

The only answer is to refuse to answer, to say ‘no comment’.

80s pop is life affirming. Noughties pop is bitter, angry and botoxed.
Compare:

With:

One’s fun to look at and fun to hear, the other is kind of traumatic to watch, (though) fun on the ear. The cartoon shizzle injects some black humour into a prison-rape-murder movie. Don’t girls just wanna have good clean fun no more?

Right.

I’ve just taken 2 ibuprofen and 2 paracetamol now, so the wet cheeked inelegant gushing part of my illness should soon subside, and I will be able to feel no sadness or joy. I will become how I am at my natural state. Merely existing.

As I try to sleep, I can hear the pets snoring (Linda a high pitched nasal snort, Goldie an almost human ‘pufff’). I can hear Esther letting out long breaths of pent up worry.
I am left with the memory of 2 things from today in this darkened room. The sight of a skinny teenage boy with an unusually large and girthy cock, fucking a teenage girl in a shower where the water isn’t running. She looks like she’s sat on an uncomfortable fence waiting for the bus. I think I lost a bit of my soul watching it. The balls go ‘slap, slap, slap-slap, slap-slap, slap, slap’ against her arse and the camera zooms round from a balls-eye-view to a front view of this girl who is kind of unsure where to look. ‘Right’ she seems to think, ‘I’d better make out that I’m really enjoying this’ and she does the whole eyes closed, gasp routine. I get bored and fast forward the video-suddenly they are out of the shower, sat on the toilet and his huge cock seems no nearer to coming. Jesus. Why choose this location? It’s like fucking in a bus shelter or a bank queue- and all I can think is ‘why isn’t the shower on?’ and ‘Does straddling the toilet make either of them need a poo?’ These are non-places (Auge)- they look the same everywhere you go, they are purely functional, where we spend most of our time, but where we spend the least time personalising.
The sound of slapping testicles mixes in my head with the slow-mo footage of starving Ethiopian babies, their stomachs swollen in the ridiculous illusion of obesity, and their tear stained faces covered in dirt and flies. “Give me your money,” shouts a dishevelled Bob Geldof, slamming his hand down on the table.
Slap slap slap. Should I groan now? Ok, ‘aaah’ ‘oooh’. “Fuck this, pick up the phone now and give me your money” Bob growls.
I want to cry for the loss of innocence in both films- the faces in front of the cameras look strangely confused, as if asked to perform something embarrassing in front of a stranger.
What would Bob Geldof be like in bed? An angry young man, pummelling away until he’s satisfied, cursing you as a capitalist whore? Paula Yates could have told us.

"Wouldn't you like to know"

Not a Cure for insomnia: turned the TV on to watch Medium- about a woman who every time her heads hits the pillow is transported to some psycho’s head and has to save someone from certain death. A walking advert for staying up all night. We may all want to be good Samaritans, but if we were forced into the role permanently, we’d go apeshit in a short while.
The 80s had Miami Vice- the Noughties had Misfits. Is one more honest or truthful than the other? Was Miami Vice escapist fluff, and Misfits (and Inbetweeners) is the gritty, shitty truth of our times? Are they merely signs that we’ve plummeted from a time of sexy optimism to one of bitchy pessimism and sarcasm? Or that feminism and identity politics have deflated the masculine ego in culture, and it’s no longer believable to be so happy and full of yourself? Life is shit and you’re a chauvinist pig if you don’t think so?

The pain is lifting like steam from piss…

 

Answers on a stolen postcard please, I’m currently indisposed.

 

Delete as appropriate: Boring and/or Ugly 11


Dec 22nd

Another nookie-less night. In the morning, Esther says, “I was horny last night from watching The Walking Dead. But then you showed me your bum boil.”
I ignored the necrophiliac overtones, and just thought ‘Goddammit’. It’s really sore you see, and I wanted a second opinion ‘Does it look normal? Is it cancer?’ The window for sex was slammed shut in my face. Can we play doctors and nurses?

We trudge down to Lisa’s. She is flustered. Just before we arrived, Dom was in the bath and Lisa had just picked her spots in the formation of

(1) a unibrow,

(2) a beard, and

(3) a moustache.

Quite fetching, don't you think?

Then Dom’s manager, Barry, knocked on the door. Lisa had to answer with her bright pink facial hair, let him in and make a cuppa. Then she scurried back upstairs.

Xmas shopping for the insane: Lisa and Esther’s grandma wants them to buy her some ‘Round-to-its’. Apparently they are plates that you buy when someone says ‘I just haven’t got around to it’. So far, the search has come up blank. Whoever gets this prezzie is going to be thrilled.

Esther cut my hair last night. Now I look like a gay US marine. Every time I take my hat off, it’s to the internal soundtrack of ‘he’s in the army now’, serenaded by Muscle Marys descending from helicopters into the arms of winking Naval officers with pert salutes.

Devo has started to demand Lisa to vacate his favourite chair next to the radiator. He goes up to her, and walks in a circle and sits down. First of all, she got up to let him out. No, he was still there. He had climbed on her chair and made himself comfy. She pushed him off and he did his dance again. She stood up to get him some food and he hopped up again, curling into a tight ball. “He wants my bloody chair!” she realized. It’s the best, warmest seat in the house, and if you get up from it, it’s gone.

We popped into NatWest today to ask why I’m not a millionaire yet. Esther had a rare glimpse of belongingness in the bank while she waited for me with Goldie. A downs syndrome woman came over and grinned ‘it’s a doggy’ ‘She’s a bit shy’ replied Esther. ‘She’s a bit shy’ echoed the woman, and giggled. If only all conversations were this easy, then I’d be able to socialize properly.

Dec 24th


It just said on the news that to combat snow, trains will be fitted with skirts, which they can blow warm air underneath. This sounds like some middle-aged CEO’s dirty dream to me. How kitsch. It’s the last remnant of a faded masculinity that was happy with a flash of knickers. Today’s bloke demands hi-def tits n ass as the *bare* minimum.

Risque circa 1962

The girls go to collect the turkey for Roney’s butchers. It’s massive. It won’t fit in the freezer, so they try to put it out in the garden in a big plastic box. You don’t need a freezer in this weather. “But what if someone nicks it?” says Esther. “Let’s put it in the shed!” Weasel and Kung Fu (their names in babyspeak) are Esther and Lisa’s parents. They stride purposefully into the garden, parent mode turned up to 11.
“No!” shouts Lisa, “There’s dogshit everywhere out there, watch your step!”
The main problem with dogs you see is that every morning without fail, they need to be let out into the garden to empty their bowels. 365 days a year. That’s a lot of shit, and the longer you leave it to pick up, the more daunting it becomes. Surely something will eat it all? Nope. It sits there forever. Nature is wank.
“Well I can tell Devo is getting all the right minerals,” says Weasel, studying the rancid piles.
Esther’s family are natural physical comedians. I would pay to watch them. The simplest things take on Kafkaesque complexity.

“The door’s frozen shut” says Esther, “Let’s prize it open.” She puts her boot on the wall and pulls. Only after a second pair of hands join in does it finally jar open.

“Right, now we need some bricks to put on the box” shouts Esther.
“Ok”, then the frustrated sound of straining muscles happens. “Gnnnnng!” Weasel groans, her teeth clenched in effort.

The best example of anyone ever making this noise is Arnie in Total Recall when he get’s sucked out onto the surface of Mars and his eyes pop out…

The teeth-clenched straining echoes down the terrace. “The bricks are frozen to the ground” she shouts and laughs in an out-of-control way. They are starting to get hysterical.

“Is there anything I can do for you?” says Weasel, once the turkey has been defeated. “Yes. Commit me” answers Lisa.
Her mum heads upstairs to go to the toilet “Don’t let Devo up your bottom” yells Lisa after her.

Unsent letter #2:


Dear Marina Diamandis,
Should my girlf ever leave me, I would like to forewarn you that I will be calling at your house, and begging you to leave that suave singer from Hurts for an unintentionally funny life of mediocrity with me.
Yours in anticipation,
Vienna x

Note to self: Hmm, perhaps too many kisses? She’s bound to turn me down if I act over-eager.

Boring and Ugly 10


Dec 17th

Esther spies the letter to Marina over my shoulder. “That’s shit” she scowls. She’s just jealous. At least my letter isn’t to Bob Mortimer like hers would be. She used to think she’d bump into him on the street when she lived in London, and they would fall instantly in love.

"Ooh look, there's a big issue in there"

We get to Lisa’a and find a Big Issue on the table. “You two can’t afford to buy the Big Issue can you?” I say incredulously. However, the latest issue of Look or ID often finds its way here. Priorities you see.
“It’s not ours, we don’t know where it came from”. Says Lisa with confusion. “It’s like god thinks we need it or something”.

Esther and Lisa were shopping in Rotherham Tesco for their grandma.

Esther has to go to the loo, and as she sits down in the cubicle, she hears two women talking rapidly in Urdu (or something).
Suddenly an angry Rotherham woman’s voice came from the other cubicle “Speak English for God’s sake!”

The women outside fall silent.
“I’m just talking to my sister, I can speak in any language I want, thank you!” The braver sister replies.
“Come on, let’s go…” says her sister diplomatically.
“No. I want to see who said that” she snaps, settling down for a wait.
Esther started to panic. They’re gonna think it was me! Shit, I’m going to get it when I step out, shit shit!. Her cheeks got redder and redder as she braces herself to face their wrath. She opens the door, and peeked out.
“It wasn’t me…” she quivers at the two equally red (with anger) faces.
“I know love, just go” says the angry sister.
Outside, Lisa was waiting. “Let’s just get the hell out of here” Esther said and they scurry away.

"Can I come out yet?"

Dec 20th

“Isn’t it nice to be sat in from the cold, with a cup of tea and a biscuit” says Lisa wistfully.

“So, life’s alright then?” queries Esther.

“No, I wouldn’t got that far”.

“Life’s shitty shit” shouts Dom.

“At least no-one’s watching” says Lisa. “We can relax. For now at least.”

Apparently, last night Dom returned home from a gig at 5am. “I’ve got a present for you” he slurs at Lisa. “What?” she says excited. Lisa loves gifts.
“A prostitute’s lipstick” he says, brandishing a tarty pink tube. “I picked it up just before I got in the cab”.
“Isn’t that what every girl wants?” he adds “to look like a prozzy?”
Lisa acts disgusted, but the next day she comes downstairs: “Do you like my lips” she asks coyly “I’ve put that lipstick on”. I swallow some bile.
“Can you catch AIDS from lipstick?” she asks, realizing what might have come free with the present. Let’s see; Herpes, gonorrhea, syphilis, crabs…a whole menagerie of alien bodies.

Coming Soon: Boring and Ugly- The Xmas Special