James, Sharon and Taylor Too


Tuesday

Pal George, he of our regular man-dates, has got us all guest tickets to see his uncle, singer of 90s indie gods James. They are playing the Academy, supported by Echo & the Bunnymen, self-proclaimed Best Band in the World Ever.

When we get there at 8pm, they’ve already started.

“This is the best fucking song in the world,” slurs Ian McCulloch as the glissando first notes of The Killing Moon drizzle down our spines. The class of 1984 are here in force, filled out and worked over by time’s cruel bullying. But before we know it, the Echo has faded, leaving just some weird Kabbalah cursing in the toilets and a lake of tepid piss traversing the cubicles, looking for something 30 years too late.

James’ appearance on stage summons up unheard-of acts from men I would cross the street to avoid. In comparison, McCulloch’s lairy bravado was just a childish front, and now the soft underbelly of a thousand blokes can wobble in lovely sentimentality.

The only way I can see the stage is from the far corner of the balcony. Here, the floor shakes with drunken stomping, and tipsy men gyrate with 12 pint grins.

I eavesdrop a text convo between a fan and his absent wife (perks of being tall).

“Has he told you to sit down yet?”

“Nah. He’s played our album though, and some new ones what are good.”

Our album. Bless.

These hard men are united by soft anthems, as Tim Booth wiggles his metrosexual hips, a luminary in loon pants.

With Just Like Fred Astaire, (which he sang at George and Demi’s wedding), Tim walks among his people like Ben Kinglsey as Ghandi, a forest of arms sprout cameraphones along his path. He is their skinhead poet, their Singing Counsellor who listens while they softly weep of neglected boyhoods and the hard shell the world made them wear. This is Rimbaud, not Rambo, and the mad jesters of Madchester recite his poems with chest pounding love.

This is an armistice on machismo, a peace corp of men wearing flower t-shirts. Sit Down vs. The Killing Moon: I never thought such an anthem of domesticity and inaction would win devotion over such thrusting, masculine yearning, but tonight I glimpse my part in the phalanx of the phallus and it is just like everyone else’s.

“It’s weird”, Tim tells me afterwards, “but our fans are different everywhere we go. In Mexico, it’s teenagers; in Greece it’s 30 something women. And here it’s big blokes.”

As we leave, I make the mistake I always do, and try to pat Tim on the back and get some sort of friendly validation even we’ve only met once. He doesn’t turn round.

"When I open my eyes, I want you to be gone"

“When I open my eyes, I want you to be gone”

Wednesday

I’ve been referred to a Mindfulness course by my doctor. Mindfulness is like Buddhism, without the silly Buddha bit.

I manage to be 10 minutes late to the first one today.

There’s about eight of us here, and we all say our names, to ease the tension. It so happens that the two women either side of me are called Sharon. I can’t help myself.

“I’m in a Sharon sandwich!” I blurt out, leaning forward conspiratorially. Both Sharons stiffen in their seats.

Oh no.
After a few seconds of awkward silence, one of the women running the group forces out a chuckle and says,

“Ho Ho, well done!”

The Sharons start to relax again.

"Don't get fruity, Sharon."

“Don’t get fruity, Sharon.”

Thursday

I can’t stop thinking about a practical joke involving a rubber glove, with one finger smeared with Nutella. It would fall out of your victim’s bag at a crucial point, like an interview or first date.

They might lick it to prove it wasn’t poo, but that would be even worse.

"I always carry the essentials"

“I always carry the essentials”

Friday

Why do really camp men always look like their faces are in a wind tunnel?

Saturday

Summer is here. We’ve had 1.5 hours of sun and already the air is choked with BBQs, and a boy has cycled past me in a zebra onesie with a zebra face mask. He looked right at me, the face of something symbolic. No idea what.

"Look into my eyes. No around the eyes, into the eyes."

“Look into my eyes. No around the eyes, into the eyes.”

There’s a man in the pub. He’s so average. I wish I was average. He’s small, and cutely proportioned and he has a normal length neck. He is so healthy & taut that even the skin of his inner ear shines.

Monday

I’m off to interview funny Welsh artist Bedwyr Williams for Flux Magazine. His gallery are paying for me to go by train to his studio in Caernarvon. I’ve spent all week trying to come up with questions. I’m bricking it. I’ve tried to think of some really serious questions. And I’ve got my usual childish, inane ones that right now I am embarrassed of.

I have 20 minutes to get from one station to another in Warrington and I can’t resist going in a charity shop. Madonna is playing on the radio. I find a pair of big 70s sunglasses and try them on. About time for an Acid jazz revival, I tell myself. I get myself a red silk shirt too. When I get home later, I’ll realise that I was slightly delirious.

"Why ever not?"

“Why ever not?”

Bedwyr picks me up from Bangor station. Within seconds, I know the silly questions will work. He really reminds me of someone I used to know, but I can’t think who. Maybe this boy that we called Sexual Sam who played Thirteenth Floor Elevators on vinyl and I was sick in his garden after a bong.

Every so often as he’s driving, he turns to me with an impish Malcolm McDowell grin. We seem to get on pretty well. But then he tells me he’s already had people from The Times, Observer and Guardian to see him, with their witty anecdotes about famous people. All I have is a silly hat which I bought from Oxfam and now think was a bad idea. All the best material happens when we’re chatting on the way there and back- as soon as I turn on my Dictaphone, things go a bit stiff and formal.

But time flies and he drives me back to the station with only seconds to spare. “I’ll wait in case you miss the train,” he says, which means he gets to see my silly run where I have to pull my skinny jeans up every 3 steps of the way because my belt won’t work. Mine is the generation who can’t run anywhere.

Finally, on the train, I devour the pasta salad that I didn’t eat on the way in the hope that Bedwyr would feed me something interesting. I start reading the book of performance scripts that he gave me, and it makes me manically grin and choke on laughter, so I have to put it away. Still flush with the overfamiliarity of interview, I text him about laughing at his book, like he’s a drinking buddy.

He doesn’t reply.

Wednesday
The thought police have declared an armistice.

“Give up your most dangerous ideas,” they say, “and you’ll come to no harm.”

I can’t think of anything worth handing in.

Thursday
There’s a pair of gay ducks in the stream on my way to work. Sometimes a moorhen hangs out with them like a fag-hag.

I submitted a short story about Taylor Swift for discussion in my writing class tonight. It leads to the immortal line;

“You know the bit in your story that starts ‘She pushed me against the big tit…’?”

I may never beat this moment.

Friday
I’m so sick of walking Goldie in the park and hearing hundreds of birds who somehow manage to totter round the other side of branches when I look up. But I have a plan. If I can weaponize some rohypnol, I can fire a canister into the trees and take my time catching them in a net and ruffling their tummy feathers, before setting them back in their roosts.

I sit down on the grass for the first time this year, enjoying the sun
while Goldie eats grass like a sheep. I feel nostalgic, and remember when Russia used to be called CCCP. That was weird.

"Nyet! Not TCP, CCCP!"

“Nyet! Not TCP, CCCP!”

Twitching and planking


It’s been an ornithological kind of week.  On Wednesday morning, I stumbled across a flash mob of retirement folk on the sidestreet near the cemetery, pointing their massive telephoto lenses accusatorially at a tree which unleashed a flock of birds as I approached. As they high tailed it over the rooftops, I asked what the devil was going on.

Waxwings,” he said.

“Care to elaborate?” I said, slapping his arse.

“From Scandinavia. We got an alert on the pager network and headed down here.”

Then they all got back in their Volvos and vanished like posh pixies.

“I may be from Sweden, but casual sexism is simply unacceptable”

On Thursday, I spotted another suspicious bunch, this time of beauticians, standing and pointing at hundreds of geese honking overhead in classic V formations. It really was very exciting, so much so in fact that I let my mask of enigmatic urbanity slip and babbled “Geese!” to one of the women. Social hari kiri indeed, I shall have to hunt everyone down who heard/saw me and kill them.

I’ll have to get the cat and dog to teach me since they seem have been schooled in military tactics, probably part of that distance learning course in world domination I keep finding when I open the laptop. They’ve tried everything to get me up in the morning, experimenting for maximum efficiency. Their favourite so far starts with the cat planking on my face and the dog hissing “J’accuse!” and pointing at me from the side of the bed.

“Planking cat”

As soon as I’m out of the duvet, I get a heavy pet escort down the stairs, the waddling fat cat in front leading the way and the thuggish fat dog behind making sure there’s no messing around.

If I knew how to play chess, I’d play the Sicilian Defence and enlist the help of the scary monkey puppet from the middle floor. He was laughing and dancing behind Dom in my dream, but he only liked the other me, the one that was in the nice warm room and in on the joke, not the real me that was watching through the window. I hate it when me and I fall out. If I could convince the monkey that I was the other me, then maybe I’d have a chance, but I look nothing like him.

Oh, why wasn’t I born an aristocrat? I SO WANT TO BE POSH. I’d give away ALL my money and possessions just to be rich. You listening, evil genie monkey?

Sadly, most of my friends are some kind of Marxist, unaware of my right leaning posh sympathiser ways…it would be fun to have a posh synthesizer though…Here’s my first attempt at a Posho Pop melody:

“wot wot, totes, wot wot, totes, Oomska!, Oomska!, wot wot, totes!”

Most poshos are clean shaven. That’s a deal breaker for me. I’ve got to have some wispy stuff to hide behind. And you don’t see many with shaved heads.

Now I am officially BALDING, I like to think about hats and the stirling service they provide. I have yet to find The One, though. I have many hat mistresses who fall in and out of favour, but none are fit to be permanently betrothed to my scalp.

A crazy guy in the park nicely summed up the circular nature of hat fashion:

“Are flat caps coming back? In the 1950s, not that I remember them, no-one left home without a hat. Then in the 1960s and 1970s no-one ever wore a hat. Then in 1985 I saw a man with a baseball hat. Cilla Black, you know, the singer, used to wear one.”

I’m glad I wasn’t around in the Hatless Years. I especially like that his pop culture knowledge predates Blind Date, and he knows Cilla instead for her angry cat impression. “What’s it all about, Alfie?” she yowled to Michael Caine’s unreconstructed neanderthal. I hate bad boys coz I wish I was one…

Nail Hannon from The Divine Comedy looks like my schoolfriend, Mike. His moment of greatness came early, when he  stood up on the second day of school and announced himself to our newly formed friend group; with his arms outstretched, he proclaimed

Charisma!”

The next day after I’d gone home and looked it up (this was 1992 PG, the Pre Google age), I congratulated him on the delivery and timing, and he smiled his sage smile and gave me his glasses to wipe. Ah, those were the days. Those were the days.

“Du bist a fungi”


A young professional couple have just moved in next to Lisa. The noises that emanate through the rustic walls sound very functional, she says, even when she holds a glass to it. The same can’t be said for us. Today we were having a pot of tea, all civilised like, and we got to throwing pidgin-German insults at each other.

“Ich liebe dich!” I crow, and snigger like a red-faced urchin.

“Du hat eine kleine, kleine penis!” shouts Esther, “Du hast kleine boobies!”

(Putting on her best thesp bawl) “Du hast eine grosse VAG!”

“SHHHH!!!” hisses Lisa, her face pinkening like an ominous October sunset.

“Du bist…Macauley Culkin!” I join in, immune to Lisa’s cringing, “Wo bist meine Bjork elpee?”

“Das ist nicht…(then in RP English) going to happen!”

Esther titters.

“Ich…tick tick tick, the bomb ticking down,” I have my hand aloft like I’m Hamlet, enunciating every syllable, drunk on my own genius.

“SHUT THE FUCK UP!” screams Lisa, slapping my cheek so it matches hers.

“You silly bally fool boy,” adds Esther, using the abuse my Grandad used to have hurled at him from a Scottish secondary school teacher.

We go back to sipping tea.

Presently, it’s time to walk the hounds. When we get to the park, I realise we’ve missed the annual Mushroom and Toadstool Guided Walk and I’m overcome with regret. I used to have a mushroom city, down a valley at the end of my primary school playing ground. I had it, that is, until I told a ‘friend’ about it and returned one tragic day to find each one stomped into smithereens by zealous feet.

Anyway, now I keep my shroom love to myself. I can see signs of the Walk; there’s a tree with white stickers on it saying things like “honey shoelace fungus,” and “unidentified”. My favourite kinds are everywhere: white headed Ink Caps. They look like Terry Nutkins (RIP) rising from the peat.

I bend down and poke one with a stalk of grass. It wiggles its head appreciatively like an Indian dancer.

Everything is alright with the world.

“Front view”

“Back view”

A little while later, we walk past a freshly dug mound of peaty Earth.

“God, I’d love to roll on that,” I say dreamily, “wouldn’t you?”

“No!” says Esther.

I look at Lisa.

“Erm…maybe…” she says uncertainly.

 

“My Great Great Great Grandad, Lindow Man”

Love is…


In the three weeks since I last posted, I have mainly been whoring myself out on Twitter and writing gig reviews. I did a Grimes one which I hoped she would see and cry herself to sleep about not agreeing to give me an interview, and I’ve just written one for the amazing L’Amour Des Reves, which will be published somewhere sometime soon.

What I’m trying to say is “I’m not workshy,” as my BFF Jaime used to bleat when he worked on a building site and the rugged menfolk tittered at his art school physique.

“I’m no weed, my work can lift the spirit of mankind”

I’ve just been on the daily dog walk. I seem to have lost about a stone in the past 3 months with our Thirds Diet, a lack of belly which made itself known suddenly and traumatically when my trousers started to plummet to the ground. Just as I made it to the main road, my belt gave way and whereas usually my baggy 90s jeans would be lodged on the muffin top they embrace, they now went into freefall. Picture me, each hand being tugged akimbo by a straining dog, hands desperately fumbling to get my buckle safely in its hole as families walk towards me, their faces turning from concern to fear to disgust.

Finally, I managed to get off the street and down to the park where I could manhandle myself unseen. As Gary Numan knew, down in the park you’re just another weirdo.

 

The dog walk is always a fraught affair. Yesterday, it was taking its usual mundane course until:

Lisa: Oh God, what’s wrong with everyone? Why are they all pretending?

Me: Who?

Lisa: Everyone. They’re all in on it!

Me: On what?

Lisa: They’re all dressed up as humans, but everyone knows they’re not. I want to scream.

Luckily we get to the end of the park and manage to bundle Lisa home where she could rock in the corner of her room while the light faded.

Behind closed doors, we can all be each other’s weirdos. It’s a sign of affection I think to sit next to each other muttering in our own private funnyfarms. Love is…a low security asylum. 

The longer a couple is together, the less veiled the insults and threats become. It’s quite sweet really. Love is…a killer diss.

“Mummy, are we in the matrix?”

Esther: Aww, look at those cows. The baby’s saying “get up mummy, I want to go for a walk.”

Me: Or that’s its fat lazy girlfriend…?

Esther blinks: Or the girlfriend is the little one and she’s broken the fat boyfriend’s legs.

Me (scared, so changing the subject): Which boy in American Pie would you rather be?

Her: The homophobic surfer dude

Me: Me too

So, to sum up, love is…agreeing where it matters.

Demi & George get hitched!


Wedding (noun): A sobering initiation to the serious business of adulthood.

Part I: The Vows

I’ve never been in the Town Hall before, this edifice of unlimited egos with limited power. The petty wranglings of provincial warlords somehow pales in comparison to the decision-making involved in a wedding. This is a show on a grand scale, with two of my favourite people slow-dancing through its molten core.

As we all gather in the great hall upstairs, the nervousness of such an occasion affects everyone in a different way:

(1) Next to me, Esther and Lisa are preening away their anxious energy.

Esther comes at me with her mattifying brush: “Shall I put powder on you?”

Me: “No, because that would be socially unacceptable.”

Of course, usually I would be all for a bit of girly fun, but today I want to appear normal and functional and leave all the attention for the bride & groom.

(2) But I am nervous though, and that means I chatter away like a fool.

“They’re going to do a separate ceremony for Bad George” I whisper, referring to the Mr Hyde transformation he undergoes on a wild night out.

And then,

“That mirror at the back is so you can check your betrothed isn’t a vampire. Imagine looking across, and she isn’t there in the reflection! “Oh shit!””

The painted lady giving the service seems to be on Valium, so I do my own internal voiceover:

“Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today to celebrate the unbelievable loveliness of Demi & George and to marvel at their gorgeous cherub faces.”

Next, charismatic BFF Stockton gives a speech; in front of the assembled generations he reads some racy Kerouac and likens the couple to the utopian humanity the Beat Father dreamed of.

This is going to be a day to remember.

George is a lovely chap. Even though he has beaten me 99 times in the 100 games of tennis we’ve played, I won’t hear a bad word said against him.  No surprise then, that he has the uncanny ability of maintaining the affections of a whole handful of friends all the way from primary school. The most I can manage is periodic abuse from Harvey, who as you may remember, only chose me as BFF because he was desperate.

Like all impetuous gobshites, I have an urge/fear about shouting something out in the ‘lawful impediment’ bit. Like maybe “But I love them both!” or some such nonsense.

In the end, it’s Joel, one of the high school posse who gets there first, muttering the reverse psychology classic “Don’t look at me,” as the room does exactly that.

During the vows and exchange of rings, I suffer the meat sweats (as Lucas would have it), and have to dab my eyes. I look around and Esther is quietly sobbing and even eternal-anthropologist Lisa is damp round the gills. George’s mafiosa dad Tony is here too, and I bet his catchphrase ‘Wonderful, Wonderful’ is echoing endlessly round his brylcreamed head as he squeezes out extra virgin olive oil from his oiligarch’s eyeballs.

Part II: Reception

During the long coach drive that doubles as a sauna, I get a bit overexcited.

From the rotating tie-rack of my multiple personalities, I pluck the clashing ‘Fey Fop’.

“Oh my days! Is this like a real farm, with like real working class people?”

With her finger sternly on her lips, Esther gives me the universal sign for ‘carry on’.

“OMG!” I say dramatically, “Are we going to be molested by rough farm hands?” (Shouldn’t that be farm-hands’ farm hands?)

“SHUT UP!” she hisses.

Finally, we disembark in a rural idyll. The wafts of manure go to my head like poppers and I stumble inelegantly towards the gigantic marquee.

“It’s like we’re in The Shire,” I hear someone say about the undulating hills soundtracked by Ceilidh band. Somehow out of this beige weather, George & Demi have plucked sunshine. The grass is the greenest I have ever seen, and everything is abstracted from reality by the warming fuzz of true love. As the caterers come at us with delicious shots of pea & mint soup and other morsels, news filters through of Tea GB winning a dozen gold medals. Is this all a dream? Even the flies are surreal here, so Slo Mo you can pick them up.

Demi’s dad Paul gives a speech:

“Demi arranged for us to meet George at Café Rouge on Ecclesall Road,” he starts. “When George comes in, I see a duffel coat and a pair of plimsolls with his toe nearly sticking out. I think ‘this is a Big Issue seller, George must be behind him’!”

I start to worry that Tony is going to brand him with his sovereign ring, but Paul carries on;

“But then within 30 minutes of chatting with the lad, I’m touching the missus under the table…”

“TOO MUCH INFORMATION,” someone yells crassly.

Esther is giggling and glaring at me at the same time.

Wait a minute, it was me!

Oh no, what else am I going to do?

I find myself making involuntary noises throughout the rest of Paul’s speech, and then on into George’s and Best Man Henry’s too. All kinds of hoots and whoops and cackles and blubs, often preceded by a strangulated sound as if my body is desperately forewarning me of the social hara-kiri I am about to commit.

The art of oratory is to entertain and enlighten at the same time. Your one chance to say the unsayable and get away with it:

George: “I love Gill because we have lots and lots of fun and laughter. And sex.”

Henry: “George has finally finally someone who makes him look tall!”

Thank god then for the food, so I can smother my silly voicebox with chargrilled meat and enjoy George’s Famous Uncle singing ‘Just Like Fred Astaire’ a capella, putting George into the role of the rakish dancer.

“What does that make Demi then, Ginger Rogers?” someone yells, not me this time.

“Why did we invite this clown to our wedding?”

I have a moment of existential terror at the bar when I look next to me and see three generations of a family lined up like Mount Rushmore carvings. Their faces are different yet the same and I realise that age is a series of minor landfalls on that otherwise copied carving we call a face.

Before long, Esther’s parent Weasel and Kung Fu arrive.

“How was walkies?” we ask of their earlier dog sitting.

“We took Devo for a walk and he slithered along the floor like a-“ (words fail) “…like a maggot!” says Kung Fu with PTSD eyes.

“No other dogs were doing that!” chips in Weasel

“It was disgusting!” Kung Fu concludes with a shudder. “I never want to walk that thing again.”

“PTSD eyes”

The Ceilidh band start playing The River by The Levellers and in my glee, I accidentally baptise Demi’s niece in beer. I flee to Esther and Lisa’s parents on the other side of the dancefloor. Weasel is drunk.

“I’m into ambient rave,” she shouts at me over the music.

“What the hell is that?” I ask.

“It’s cooooool” she replies laconically, making her ignorance seem irrelevant.

“Right I’m taking her home,” says Kung Fu, but Weasel fires her huge grin at everyone and is unable to stop dancing as he drags her across the dancefloor.

By now, I’m very drunk and the elastic has gone on my underpants. They are halfway down my legs but I can’t be bothered to go to the toilet and sort them out because it’s time to accost Famous Uncle.

Once caught in the tractor beams of his cult leader’s eyes, I am mesmerised by his magician’s goatee, so thin and precise. As I gabble at him, he has me sussed within seconds.

“You’ve said ‘because I’m an only child’ several times now, what are you trying to excuse?”

I blink. What am I trying to excuse?

“Well, I guess I mean that it’s hard to learn social rules if you don’t have siblings.”

He peers mutely at me like a psychoanalyst. Goddamn it, I’m asking and answering my own questions now.

“Yes, I spose it is an excuse. No, I shouldn’t be thinking like that. I should accept my lot and get on with it.”

“Yes you should,” he says.

George is walking past, so I get him to tell my favourite story about Famous Uncle, from his wedding day. It goes like this:

‘This is my mate Brian’, Famous Uncle said to George

George was hungover and barely registered the guy, ‘Alright, Brian,’ before stomping off to the bar.

Famous Uncle follows him and says ‘you do know that was Brian Eno don’t you?’

‘Holy shit!’ said George, cringing with a kind of l’esprit d’escalier.

Famous Uncle embellishes: “Do you know Brian was the only person there who got food poisoning from the prawns? He was really ill.”

Now my true geek comes out.

“Is that why he called his dairy ‘A Year with Swollen Appendices’?”

Reflected back in his ebony eyes, I am grinning with triumph.

Famous Uncle humours me with a titter before walking away.

“I be totes not bovvered by ur snub”

Part III: Hometime

“Did you get to speak to Famous Uncle?” I ask Esther on the coach.

“Yeah I was tying Demi’s train up so her wedding dress didn’t trip her up and Famous Uncle said, “Yeah it’s tough wearing a wedding dress, I should know.”

“Oh really?” she said.

“Yeah for my stag do, I went to lots of festivals. On my own. In a wedding dress.” He isn’t a Famous Uncle for nothing, you know.

The coach back is awash with that traditional public transport pastime: bawling out hideous shanties. I’m not at all happy with the quality of music on offer, so I try to start up my own alt.singalong at the back. Only I can’t remember how any songs start.

“How does Bohemian Rhapsody start?” I ask someone over the aisle.

“I see a little silhouette of a man?”

“Oh yeah. THUNDER AND LIGHTNING VERY VERY FRIGHTNING!” I roar.

The song at the front continues unabated, so I decide to act out the lyrics and give a blood-curdling scream.

And then another.

The girl in front, the only one who sang along with me, turns round and says

“I don’t like that, I’m scared now. You’re scary.”

I pause for a moment. I should really shut up. But no, I find myself hollering an even more terrifying sentiment:

“I AM THE GOD OF HELLFIRE, AND I BRING YOU-

FIRE!” and with that my eyes pirouette in their sockets as I scan for followers.

Nope. Damn it, how does this game work?

Perhaps time for something a bit softer

“Gimme gimme gimme”

and the girl fires up;

“A man after midnight…”

I hear a groaning, and see Dom next to me with his head in his hands, moaning ‘NO NO NO,’ so I sing louder.

On the headrest behind me, Lisa’s knuckles have gone white.

“I have to go for a wee, I have to go NOW!”

It’s going to be a long journey home.

As we finally get off the coach, my voice hoarse from bellowing, one of the high school posse whispers;

“By the way mate, your songs were much better than theirs.”

Yes! Finally, a true believer in the mess that is me! Today has been ace!

Love is…being forgiven for being a pillock.

Love is…a marquee full of happiness.

Love is…Demi & George dancing to 90s r’n’b

Wedding (noun): A drunken ship of loved-up fools.

“So, tell me about waxed assholes”


Dear Sheffield Dairy,

Life is about learning new things.

I first learned about Waxed Assholes about 2 months ago. I was reading Brett Easton Ellis’ Imperial Bedrooms. The protagonist, Clay, was a man-whore who would fuck anyone he wanted regardless of age or gender. On one occasion, he found himself remarking at a man’s waxed asshole.

I looked up from the page and thought ‘waxed as in ‘lemon’?’, imagining a glossy sphincter, perhaps for lubrication purposes.

“Don’t get fruity, sunshine!”

Turns out to normal people ‘waxed’ simply means ‘back, sack and crack’ smooth. Yes that’s right, I’m a fool.
Anyway, I have decided to use this knowledge to test others. I’m going to call it The W. A. Test.

Dear Londinium Diary,

This week I am staying with BFF and semi-Turkish totes-heartthrob Jaime who is leaving London for a curator job in Munich, having tapped the UK artworld’s ass (waxed and unwaxed).

At a Soho lock-in, we squeeze into a bathroom sized beergarden. There was barely room to get in/out and certainly no elbow-room for the shaggy Trustafarian next to me to hoist his wrist-thick cigar up to his dumb moneyed grin, but he did it anyway. I turned away from the stench of entitlement and noticed a nerdy guy with glasses and receding hair- someone more on my socio-economic level perhaps.

Me “What do you do?”
Him “I’m a writer.”
Me “So am I”
Him “Bollocks. I can’t believe there’s another one here. That’s it, I’m becoming a scientist.”
Me (Ignoring his attempt to wind me up) “So, what do you write?”
Him “Gay porn”
Me “Are you gay?”

Him “Oh God, no”
Me “If me and Jaime were in a story, what would you have us doing?”
Him “Choose somewhere to set it.”
Jaime “What about a kebab house?”
Him “Borderline”
Me “What do you mean?”
Him “Too easy”
Me “The London Eye?”
Him “Borderline”

Me (Growing tired of this game) “So, tell me about waxed assholes”
Him “Pardon me?”
Me “Waxed assholes. I want to know about them”

Him “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Me (crowing) “You’re a fucking charlatan! How can you write gay porn and not know about waxed assholes?”
He backed away and disappeared into the bar.

“Haha! WAXED ASSHOLES!!!” I sang triumphantly to the drunk sardines hemmed in around me.

W. A. Test: FAIL (good and proper).

While visiting the behemoth that is Oxford St Topman, I noticed people failing a different kind of test.

Let’s call it The Rampant Materialist Test (The R. A. TEST).

In some ways I’m not the most observant of people; or rather, I’m very observant but about the wrong things.

This is why, when I was let into the changing rooms, I chose a booth with clothes already hung up inside, presuming they were discarded from trying on by the previous tenant. After 5 minutes, as I was squeezing into some eggshell chinos (damn you Size 34, I will fit), there came a frantic knocking on my door.

“Yes?” I said as I opened the door.
“That’s my changing room!” an immaculate miniscule man ranted.
“Oh really?” I looked round and noticed, as if for the first time, the trousers slung over the rail, the patent leather satchel hanging there, and the patent black shoes neatly placed beneath them.

“M-my wallet! M-my shoes! M-my trousers!” he yammered, listing them helpfully for me.

While he gibbered quietly to himself, a Topman employee appeared and asked me to pass said garments out to her, before repotting him in another dank niche, like an ornamental plant gone wayward.

“Reunited! Thankyou, thankyou!”

Minutes later, I was ensconced in the shoe sale area. Another immaculate chap appeared, returning from some far-flung mirror, wearing one new shoe and one of his own (you have to ask for the other of the pair).

“Oh. My. God!” he brayed. And then his emotions got the better of him,

“OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD!”

Half the room looked round at his tanned and exfoliated face, now all aquiver.

“M-my shoe!” he cried.

This was rapidly becoming the refrain of the day.

His smooth carefree face was imploding beneath the twin forces of aloof entitlement and embittered class hatred (of the shoe-stealing lumpenproles).

“Someone’s taken my other shoe! Ohmygod! My shoe!”

He was sweating now, and threatening to rupture his skinny denimed outer shell.

In the nick of time, a miniature sales rep appeared with the same denim quotient and told him he had stashed said shoe behind the counter when its owner seemed to have vanished. The ungrateful shoe mourner clutched his lost loafer to his chest and stalked off unevenly into the distance.

The R. A. Test: FAIL!

Dearest Deepest Dairy,

Why do I get things so wrong?
Just yesterday, Esther & I were dunking cold hot dogs into a reduced three-bean salad. Rather than go for the usual innuendo, I decided to reverse it.

Me “I want to eat your sausage”
Her “Don’t be silly”

Unfortunately my brain has been set in motion.

Q- What kind of sausages do girls have?

A- Small ones…?

Me (thinking aloud) “Stunted! Your stunted…”
Esther continues to pick at the salad.
Me (triumphantly) “Your stunted…clitoral sausage!”
“For fuck’s sake!” Esther rages, pointing at her full cheeks, “Do you have to?”
She puts her fork down and looks bilious.

“Sorry” I mumble, glee turning to chastisement.
Twas ever thus.

“I’m not stunted, I’m differently sized.”

Wonderful, Wonderful!


George’s Stag Do, Saturday 23rd

10:00

Kung Fu is driving me, Esther and Lisa to B&Q to fetch some pebbles for Lisa’s newly denuded back garden (aka Devo’s shit’n’go). We have spent the week crippling ourselves by digging up the turf and dumping it behind her outhouse so Devo can no longer use the back garden as his personal cesspit (correction: so he can use it as his personal cesspit, but so the cess doesn’t cling obstinately to unruly grass stalks and freakishly giant weeds).

As I daydream away, Lisa and Esther heave sacks of rock onto the trolley, like a post-feminist poster. The composition is ruined by Esther spitting;

“Why don’t you help instead of standing there, you lily livered girl!”

I’ve always wished that I had a trigger word to turn me into a man, like Marty McFly and his ‘chicken’-related freakouts. After today, it seems that ‘lily livered’ works pretty well.
Before I know what I’m doing, I’m slinging sacks of rocks around like a past-it Desperate Dan.

“Don’t break them, you idiot,” says Esther as I hurl them into the trolley.
“Put them in properly,” says Kung Fu, who never, ever, tells anyone what to do.

I don’t mind admitting I was scared, and I began rearrange the sacks, my red cheeks lighting my progress like mood-indicating LEDs set to ‘schadenfreude.’

“Whoopsy, I did a boo-boo!”

12:00

Met Harvey and his Japanese wife Eiko at Sheffield train station.

They have had to fly the 9,650 miles (fact!) from Singapore to Bradford to get a Pakistani visa, in his ‘country of origin’. On first glance, I thought Harvey was even more full of himself than usual; second glance told me it was merely his white afro, grown to four times the usual size.

This is the man who customarily told me to “sort yourself out,” when my first pubic attempts at a wayward teenage hairstyle got beyond the regulated ‘no. 3 all over’.

Ha, how the mighty have fallen. And how silky their curls are.

“You don’t have to have big hair to be a scientist, but it helps!”

We take brunch at Millennium Gallery, as a squadron of cadets and their officers march past.

“Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you,” I deadpan, “we turned into a police state while you were away. Sorry.”

I like the way that sounds. I bet it’s really cool and sexy having all your civil liberties disavowed.

“I went on a school trip to the DMZ,” said Eiko, unfazed, “my friend fell over and when she looked up, a whole North Korean regiment had their assault rifles trained on her.”
I have nothing to compete with this. I consider saying that I threw half a snowball onto the roof of an unoccupied police car when I was 13. No, that won’t cut it.

I remember the burning question that I wanted to ask Harvey at 3am on some insomniac night months ago.
“You know how you came to the UK when you were 11, but we weren’t friends until we were 15, who was your BFF before me?”
“Mark Dour” he says, naming an odd semi-midget who had the unfortunate quality of being instantly forgettable.

“Aha!” I say, with the glee of someone who’s just found out that their lover’s exes are all dweebs.

“Anyone else?”

“Well after him, I didn’t have any friends for a year.”

My glee turns to concern. Not for Harvey, mind: nobody wants to hear that their partner/BFF was undateable now do they?

Harvey and Eiko are travelling from the sublime to the ridiculous, aka Tokyo to Swansea (via Asia, Europe and South America). Harvey has been applying to do a PhD in something theoretical and poncey, and Swansea is the only place that’ll have him (“we’re not travelling to the US,” Harvey says, “coz they rejected me…”).

“The interview went really well,” he tells me, “and after a tour of the university, one of the professors took me aside.

‘You know what,’ he whispered, taking in the theoretical physics department in one gesture, ‘I don’t believe any of this nonsense!’

17:00 to Buddha-knows-when

Zeugma: ‘a figure of speech in which two or more parts of a sentence are joined with a single common verb or noun.’

In Zeugma’s restaurant, London Road, I am a figure of fun corralled between two or more manly dads.

It’s time for my regular social experiment: passing as a man. I pull my shirtsleeves down over my girly bracelets and lower my voice.

To the right of me is Demi’s dad, Paul, a skinhead scouser with a soft underbelly. Sitting across the table is George’s dad, looking like a jolly, gelled mafiosa. His catchphrase of “wonderful, wonderful,” (with the emphasis on the ‘wonder’) regularly punctuates the alcoholic fug throughout the night.

We are swapping stories of money and what it does to people.

George’s dad, Tony, has the rich baritone of a self-made man.

He tells us he was holidaying near San Marino in a hotel ‘full of stunningly beautiful Russian girls who refused to smile.’

They were the children of oiligarchs, bred with no manners, ‘pushing past me on the ladder up to the diving board,’ and generally being well-dressed arseholes.

“It’s sham capitalism,” I say, warming up. Tony’s eyes say ‘I’m listening’, but I haven’t thought what to say next.
“Erm, Communism failed and now there’s money floating about. No-one knows what to do with it coz they’ve never had it, so the mafia came and took over.” I think that makes sense.

“Wonderful, wonderful,” Tony says.

A minute later, listeners are whisked away to a Peugeot car dealer in Liverpool, who Tony says inherited a dealership from a man with connections with local warlords.

The previous owner used to leave a car parked on the forecourt with keys in the ignition. In the morning, it would always be back there, traces of blood and black market stains removed. The new dealer refused to carry on this habit, and had 4 cars smashed up; the police told him to put the car back on the forecourt…

That’s nothing, Demi’s dad Paul says, I was asked for protection money from a child in a multistory carpark.

‘Gimme a tenner and I’ll look after your car,’ the boy says.
‘S’alright, I’ve got a Rottweiler in the back,’ I tell him.
‘But can it put out a fire?’ the scrote says, eyes twinkling. I gave him a tenner for the cheek.”
“Wonderful, wonderful,” Tony says.

“How are you doing, stuck in the corner?” George asks when we meet in the toilets.
“Fine,” I say, quite pleased with my manly performance.
“I told Paul that one of my cousins here was gay,” he tells me, “and he leans forward and says ‘Is it ‘im?’ pointing in your direction.”
Bollocks.

Oh well, at least I can get drunk. In the Riverside, I bump into Tony in the toilets and ask if he’s merry yet.
Inexorably,” he replies and I give my jackal’s laugh, echoing off the porcelain. I bet if I ask him in another hour or so, he’ll say “Indubitably,” or some such Wodehousian alliteration. Tony’s sidekick is Alan, an old friend. He has the elastic face of a joker and together they giggle and ogle like a pair of twentysomethings.

We move on to Harlequins, a pub mislaid somewhere round the corner from the Riverside.

Mancunian Del and me are charged with dragging George, the paralytic stag, there. We take our eyes off him for a second, and he is suddenly riding a bike. Chained 3 feet off the floor on a fence. He does a wheelie and nearly cracks his head open.

“Come on,” we say, and drag him across the dual carriageway.
“I think it’s down here,” I say and we wander down a dark street. After a minute, George snorts in disgust,
“You don’t know where you’re fucking going,” he shouts, “I’m going back to the pub” and he legs it into the darkness.

My confusion is confounded by the sudden voice of God.
GO AWAY! YOU’RE DRUNK!” God says, with the disappointed nasal authority of a train announcement.
“What the fuck is that?” Del whimpers.
GET OUT OF THE ROAD!” the voice demands, and I try to locate the source.
Halfway up a dark block of flats, the blue death-glow of a huge flatscreen TV flickers in the gloom of an unlit room, casting shadows into the street. It stands to reason that the anally retentive voice of God could boom from the low rent recesses of a Sheffield hovel.
GO AWAY, YOU’RE DRUNK! GO AWAY…NOW!!!”

This is too much.
We get the hell out of the road and the neighbourhood (and that’s a Zeugma…).

“PUT THE LIGHT DOWN AND GO AWAY!”

Harlequins is where the night starts to blur for me. At one point, Alan starts flicking the thick head of a pint of stout onto the even thicker head of a local, and I flee outside. Alan is just cheeky enough to point to me if the bruiser asked who did it…

In the cooling air of a Kelham Island backstreet, Tony tells me he used to live near here with the baby George, and the whump of the forges used to make it impossible to open the windows in summer.
“That’s the sound that industrial bands like Cabaret Voltaire tried to emulate,” I tell him.
“Oh, very good” he says, memory fusing with retrospective knowledge, “Wonderful, wonderful.”

If only everyone I spoke to thought the same.

As the booze bodycount rises, the group is stripped down to a hard core of 5 or so. Back at George’s American Psycho apartment, we chatter into the night like 33rpm girls .

Ah, this is it, true friendship; the sort that can outlast a million drunken megalomaniac impulses. In the words of Michael Jackson, with friends like these

“It don’t matter if you’re black or white,

Or a lily livered boy of questionable sexuality.”