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.

Zombies v Real Anger


Tues 17th April

 Lisa: “I couldn’t sleep coz I had a migraine, hurty boobs and real anger”

“Real anger?”

“Yes.”

No further explanation was offered. But a can of worms was offered round.

“I told Dom I had to be bathed in warm milk, fed chocolate and put to bed. He fetched me a fat free yogurt and left me to go upstairs to bed.”

The real anger became evident as the day wore on. Lisa’s world had drained of all fun, and she was in danger of being sent home to bed with no tea, if only we could find a lion tamer. Even the inanimate internet was to blame, as she shouted at the laptop screen;

“I’ll kill you unless you show me some dancing dogs.”

This has the same impotent power as my granddad shouting “I’ll set the dogs on you” down the microscopic phoneline to nuisance callers.

 Wed 18th

I may have scared the newsagent. There are many times when a dry sense of humour can get you in trouble.

“I thnk I have won a bit on this lottery ticket”

He takes it off me, scans it in. His eyebrows raise

“A little?! You’ve won nine hundred and sixty…”

The seconds stretch on interminably. My legs start to wobble.

“…pence” he finishes off, looking up and flashing me a cheeky smile.

“You bastard!” I say.

Next day, I see him on the street on my way to work. I had not planned for this, so my words are unprepared;

“I’ll get you back for that, by the way!” I stutter as he passes.

“For what?” he says with apprehension

“The lottery ticket”

“Oh” he replies, walking past hastily and trying to laugh.

Oh no, what have I started? My dry delivery and social awk. have made it sound like a cold blooded threat. I better avoid him for a while.

Ah well, as long as I act naturally next time, it’ll all be forgotten.

The next time I see him, he is safe behind his counter. As I make my exit, he calls me back.

“I’m pretty hard to get back, you know” he warns. Finally, the ball is in his court. I can stop now and he won’t be scared of me.

“That sounds like a challenge..” I reply.

Me and my big mouth!

Wed 18th

Went to a nutrition fair in the university union today, ostensibly to support one of my students who was involved, but really to get a free lunch.

There really is no such thing though, because as I approached each morsel-laden stall, I realized that I would have to feign interest as I talk to the student stall-holders for a minimum of 5 minutes before asking to sample their goods.

Damn social etiquette, I want my lunch!

One stall was manned (literally) by two Greek gods, whose treacle skin burst steroidally out of their skinnyfit tshirts. Of course, when they talked it became clear that they were plebs, but for a while, these twin pillars of genetic perfection stood, arms crossed, surveyjng a world that was theirs for the taking.

My first impulse was to run to the  flawed prettiness of next stall’s two girls. Herein lies the essential difference between viewing beautiful boys and beautiful girls: pain.  In the case of boys, my narcissism is reflected back painfully into my face, but with girls the experience of objectifying is a warm and fuzzy (like wielding a mauve lightsabre, or a soft focus semi-erection). The key here is power: better looking boys confiscate it; pretty girls seem to offer it on a plate.

Anyway, my retreat to the next stall meant that for 5 minutes I listened attentively about the miracle that is pomegranate smoothies, during which I waited for an inch of purple sludge to make its way along the complementary cup to my mouth.

The next stall along had made high fibre cakes into the shape of poo and heaped them in a potty. While this would have put most people off, my love of cake had me shovelling the dense turd in and complimenting the chefs as dark matter cascaded from my mouth.

This appetiser was followed by a taster of kangaroo meat and a catch up with the student, whose autism means that life is essentially a re-enactment of slapstick films.

As we shook hands, he went

“BZZZZZ”

and cackled to himself.

His other favourite is

“MNMNMNMNMNMNMN”

in the vicinity of computers like Buck Rogers’ robot:

Oh to have such simple, retro pleasures.

Sat 21st

Esther’s grumpiness has reached an all time high. My silent prayers are no longer enough: It’s time to defer to a power higher than god- the maxillofacial doctor at the Royal Hallamshire.

We take the lift to floor I, where the doctor promised we would be at the front of the queue, only to find a bench full of casualties each twisted in their own form of agony. One guy is doubled over, cradling his head on a bloody tracksuit top; another is wheelchair-bound with lips so fat they droop under their own weight, and an accusatory leg he can’t bend at the knee. Next to us is a girl with pink hair whose unreadable expression leads me to the conclusion that she’s had a stroke. She should take up poker.

Esther’s painkillers are about to run out.

“Better not take anymore” I reason, “He needs to know how much pain your in. Plus I’m sure he’ll give you some kickass new ones that you can have straight away.”

Her lip wobbles as she agrees. At the dim distant end of the corridor, a figure with long dark hair and blue dressing gown is zigzagging aimlessly this way. Esther peeks past me at her, then flattens herself against the wall in terror. The Ring has a lot to answer for.

From the other side ambles an old man with deep gouges across one side of his face.

“He must have stroked his cat the wrong way” I say.

This is not entirely far-fetched: Linda’s dopey countenance will transform into a wildcat’s snarl if you stroke her in the wrong place. “Back and not the sides” is Esther’s smug motto whenever  I stroke her and Linda’s tail starts ominously to lash from side to side.

In the ward opposite our bench there’s a twenty-something guy whose scalp has been stitched back on with huge Frankenstein zigzags. His friends keep rushing out to tell the nurse that “his head is leaking.”

As the pain takes hold, Esther’s legs shudder and her sharp intakes of breath get more frequent. I bury my head in World War Z.

Finally, after 4 hours, the 12 year old doctor calls Esther and I in. Esther’s social phobia tends to make her get a bit tongue tied and understate how bad she’s feeling, so I keep adding the things she’s been moaning in my ear about.

“Stop it!” she says when he leaves the room.

“What?”

“You’re embarrassing me! Stop talking for me!”

“Fine!”

You can bet that we’ll get home and once we’re alone she will let rip about how much it hurts. I haven’t seen Grizzly Man but I can guess how that guy felt. After all this time, he just gives her some antibiotics and puts a dressing on her tooth-hole.

“This is going to hurt a bit, and it looks like horse-hair” the doctor says cheerily.

“That’s good, you like horses” I say, equally cheerily.

Esther just glares.

As we wait for her prescription, I dare to ask for a pain update.

“Imagine if this room was full of mints and they were left to rot for a hundred years into a nugget the size of a pea. That’s what this dressing tastes like” she says.

Yummy.

Jarvis Cocker meets The Lord of Rage


Last week I went to a Romantic Fiction Writing Workshop. I hopped on the bus to nowhereville (Chapeltown) and made my way to the library, where I found our coven of schmaltz-peddlers. The class was lead by a Jacqueline Aurora, a woman who specialised in Historical Romance for Mills and Boon. Her first 2 novels concerned ‘the Great Viking raid of 855AD’.

“When I sent my first draft off, Mills and Boon asked me to make the Vikings more…diplomatic” she said.

I could see I was dealing with a master comedian here, because she kept a straight face throughout the session. Either that or she was clueless.

The group is made up of retired schoolteachers, a blushing 17 year old boy, and me. Most of them are chummy because they belong to a local writing group. There’s a woman who was rejected by Mills and Boon, her plaintive voice carrying years of hurt;

“But I don’t understand, I read all the Mills and Boon books and I copied down lots of phrases exactly in my book”

Methinks that’s the reason?

“But I just don’t understand” she keeps repeating.

Here was Jacqeline’s tip on storyline:

“I’ll tell you what your plot is right now: Girl meets boy, girl loses boy, girl gets boy back. Don’t bother trying to make it more complicated, all that matters is the details”

A little later, we have to come up with our hero. The ruddy-faced eco-warrior next to me pipes up:

“He is 5’8 with ruddy cheeks. He lost his wife in a logging accident and wants to take the company down”

“Stop right there” says Jacqueline, “he has to be over 5’8 or no-one will give a shit”

“B-but 5’8 is tall in my family”

“I don’t care- no one wants a short-arse hero”

 “Let me tell you mine,” says the wronged woman in the corner, “I see a rugged Italian man called Antonio. He has thick curly black hair which just touches the collar of his shirt. He teaches Italian and writes poetry”.

West St. on a Friday night is full of Antonio’s who will promise you poems and give you piles, I reflect wistfully.

I decide to base my hero on Prince William;

“He is a Prince and feels like his life has been mapped out for him by the media and the public. He falls in love with a girl below his station at university, but she finds it hard to take the publicity and so leaves him. He has become cruel in the wake of his mother’s suspicious death, and rejects her at first. Both of his parents ended up with someone else, and he hates the idea of betrayal. She realises that he is her only love and they marry in great ceremony”

“Yes” says Jacqueline. “Next.”

So now I have decided to take Friday off work every week to start my romance novel. Apparently there are 12 lines at Mills and Boon including porn (Blaze: “a promise of intimate journeys and complete satisfaction”), “medical romance” (!!), supernatural (latest title “Lord of Rage”) and light petting (“Cherish”).

"Never had domestic abuse seemed so appealing"

I’m sitting here now, in Nile’s cramped livingroom, shifting my weight every few seconds to reduce the ring-sting I’ve had since my mega-poo earlier today. I reflect on how different life could have been. Yesterday I committed a low level act of fan worship by spending 2 hours in the cold awaiting the appearance of Jarvis Cocker at Waterstones. When I got there around 3.30, the queue was large and consisted only of emos. Mistaking the middle of the queue for the end, I suffered the puny evil eyes of purple dyed children of the corn until I realised I was stood next to Holly, a friend from back in the day (2001-2, the Floral Shirt Years). We had wrung those halcyon days of every last buttery drop of debauchery, tomfoolery and inanity. Her companion was a droll commentator on remembrances of things passed.

“Where is all the 70s polyester and tight leather?” I asked, looking round at all the faux-faded denim and baggy hoodies. Age is cruel mistress, feeding you exquisite joy before holding you static while the world is sped up around you, finally releasing it’s grip to let you stumble to a mirror and scream in despair at what stares back.

Anyway, Jarvis finally arrived with his girlf and jack russell (senior) looking like a drowned rat. As he looked up at the queue that snaked round every available space in the shop I caught a micro-expression of horror. A woman came round the queue saying;

“He’s not going to write an essay so write our first name on a post-it note that I’m bringing round. And you can only take a photo of him but not with him”

Why bother being there at all I thought, if he’s just going to copy the name on the note and you can probably get a better picture off Google? Because I love him, came the quick and clammy answer. When I finally got to the table, all the droll comments I had planned went out of my head and I ended up blushing at my choice of ‘Vienna’ for a signee. As I mumbled about being a “failed celebrity from Psalter Lane”, I was transported into Jarv’s head looking up at a delusional loon who would strangle my idol for a taste of fame. He just didn’t get me.

“Don’t talk about Psalter Lane, you’ll make me cry” he said.

And then I was elbowed away by a tweenie. When I got a safe distance away, I looked down at what he’d written:

To Vienna

…Aaaaah!

Jarvis

What did he mean?

“That’s like the song” Esther said when I got home.

“Vienna, like the song” I thought dreamily.

Jarv had got me!

Theresa Warpaint, Patron Saint of Invisible Men


"Get the hint- make like a tree"

Lovely dimple-chinned, wrist-slittingly angsty Theresa from Warpaint was in my dream last night. Well actually, she spent most of the time trying to find the exit.
At first, I thought, if she can only see me in this outfit, she would be instantly seduced. But how I looked in my head obviously bore no relation to reality because she ran for her life.
I spent the rest of what would have been an exciting day in epic-land stalking her, and attempting to come up with a witty remark next time I ‘accidentally’ bumped into her that would set her heart racing, and make her bitterly regret snubbing me.

By the time I had engineered her into looking at me, all I had come up with was:

“meet you in the next life”, with a knowing smile,

which she fake-smiled back at and brushed past (that’s how much I had cornered her- she had to get past me to leave). Thinking back, it sounded like a death threat, which could be followed by my personal favourite; “I’ll fuck you harder when you’re dead” (Vienna Famous, 2001).

Dammit why am I not cool?? Dear father, who art in Macclesfield, please give me the power of stylish insolence and let me pass forth from this day as a natural at life”.

Today, for example, 3 very uncool things happened to me.

(1) I dropped all the cards out of my wallet onto the pavement.

(2) Having dropped them, I couldn’t pick them up properly because they seemed to have glued themselves to the hot tarmac. As I crouched there, all I could think was “If I can pick them up in the next 10 seconds, I will have restored my effortless nonchalance”. 30 seconds later, all I could hope for was suppressed laughter.

(3) Esther asked me to buy some bamboo screening to make our garden neighbour-proof. She wanted some 2 metre x 3 metre stuff, and I felt all manly and grown up carrying it along like it was no trouble and my baggy linen shirt hid not orange-peel moobs but compact, hot, beefcake. But then I had to get on the bus, and I couldn’t find my student card (50p with/£1.30 without. You do the tight-fisted neurotic math), or my change in my tiny 2-sizes-too-small skinny jean shorts , so I had to use my free hand to puke out the contents of my wallet onto the busdriver’s little money tray.

 

I realised today, in the tropical Sheffield heat, that I don’t appear to have style. Nor do I have the knack of walking, talking or sitting down properly. A half hearted attempt to look like a 30s aristocrat, coupled with impulse buys from Primark and H&M’s Spring/Summer 2011 “wank indie rip-off” collection, has made me into the invisible man.

As I walk down the street, I am confronted by emos, townies, goths, chavs and hipsters and all of them look past me blankly. It’s like in Terminator 2 when we see how Arnie sees the world: in little outlined sections that pull up files from his hardware “encyclopedia of puny meat sacks”- (AKA human beings). Only there isn’t a file for “mediocre stylish asexual blob” in the brains of everyone who sees me. Their eyes glance over my surface, and instantly forget what they saw.

"Look, I'm here! Stop pretending you can't see me. I'M HERE!!!"

Oh boohoo.

In other news, my lovely mother has been staying over, and cooking me and Esther the first vegetables we’ve had in weeks. Esther’s rule of “only cook things that take less than 20 mins in the microwave” has really given our jaws a break from chewing. Finally though, we had some proper roughage. I shall expect my belly to pay back the complement soon and father me a solid and self-contained stool.

Oh I want to be dark and sullen and uncouth like all the bad boys are. Instead, I am the yin to their yang, all sweetness and light and stuttering self-deprecation. Men often divide the female species into “wives” and “mistresses”. Women do the same- “a bit of rough” satisfies their need for toilet-sink breaking shags, while the sweet new man at home babysits the kids. I’ve never got much sex because I don’t look the type- I’m too stable (ha!) and naive (true) and tame looking to turn anyone on, including me. I can’t even masturbate properly because my willy finds me looking at it a turn off.

Dear John, what am I to do?