Identity Crisis #3,044


Sunday 27th

It’s the Great British Bird Count this weekend. Look out your window for an hour and write down all the species that you see.
I ring my grandad and tell him about it because he’s got so much wildlife it makes me weep.

“There’s only about 4 goldfinches that come now”, he tells me, “not the usual 10. And the long tailed tits are away at the moment.”

That only leaves the great tits, bluetits, greenfinches, jays, blackbirds and dunnocks then.

I sit at my study window for an hour. A crow flies over the house. Two pigeons flop into next door’s tree.

That’s it.

I’ve had it with birds.

Monday 28th

Lisa accidentally put her foot through the floorboard in her living room. She lowered a steel ruler into the gap, gasping as the inches mounted up. All in all, there’s a three foot cavity under there.

“Just the right size for a monster,” she shudders.
‘Especially a gnashing, slithering legless torso,’ I want to add, but she’d be back living in our dog bed if I did.

When I get there, her and Esther are using it as a wishing well, clamping their eyes shut as they toss pennies into the void.

Tuesday 29th

I’ve booked a Man-date with George in the Manhattan Coffee House on Ecclesall Road. Last week, I got a bit confused and poured milk in my peach tea and it curdled but I drank it anyway out of sheer embarrassment. I’m playing it safe this time and having a hot chocolate.

“Let’s go and watch a film soon,” George says, “The Showroom do a deal where you have a meal and a glass of wine for 2 and see a film for £20.” “Yes, lets,” I say, as we sit on out little table sharing a slice of cake and looking for all the world like we’re on a date.

"I'm man enough to say it. I love you, man"

“I’m man enough to say it. I love you, man”

About once a year, I have a funny turn and shave all my facial hair off. Without fail, every time I do, I go into mild shock.
Today, after my man-date, it’s time to do it again. Loads of men are clean shaven, I tell myself, why not me?
For 2 seconds after I’ve done it, I seem to look ok. But then the realization dawns, that it is very far from ok and I have to go on a mirror tour of the house to confirm it. Dear God, I am a freak.

Wednesday 30th

I’m going through the stages of grief about my beard. Unfortunately, there’s no denying it, so I crack on with anger and resentment and self pity.

I start a manifesto about The Tyranny of Beards.

“For too long it has been them wearing us,” I write, “Once established, like parasites they erase all memory of the naked face. They demand absolute obedience and are only banished on pain of losing your very self.”

Thursday 31st

I’ve realized that the only way to make my mouth look normal is to keep it moving. I’m chain-chewing gum and licking my lips a lot.

I bump into an exam invigilator at work. He tells me the latest craze among students is to write answers on the food they’re allowed to take into the exam and then eat the evidence before they get caught. As we chat, I over-exaggerate my mouth movements a bit to much when I speak, so he makes his excuses and leaves.

Alrighty then.

Friday 1st Feb

It’s my day off. I’m having a lovely lie in, but there’s a knock at the door, so I leap out of bed and pull my trousers on. For some reason I have taken to wearing a dingy white vest that my mum bought me when I was a teenager. It’s not a good look.
It’s the gas inspector man, who no-one told us was coming. The house is a tip. There’s half eaten food on the table, and as he walks in, I notice my glittery 80s bellboy outfit (seemed like a good buy at the time), lying next to the washing machine waiting to be washed.
I figure the best thing to do is leave him to do his thing, so I go upstairs in houseshame (the opp of housepride). As I get back in bed, I tell Esther about the mess.

‘At least the living room is clean and normal,’ I say.
We both sit bolt upright;
“Oh Christ, the Christmas tree!”

It’s Feb the 1st and there’s a ginormous tree in there still.
I start to laugh hysterically while Esther hisses at me to be quiet.
The gas man shouts up to me so I go downstairs.

“I’m working from home today,” I tell him, trying to explain why I’m here and that I’m not a lazy student.

Then I notice the photos of me on the wall from my feminist performance artist phase. There’s a naked one of me as Marilyn Monroe’s centrefold, and lots of me in wigs and makeup. Working from home takes on a different hue.

I decide to change tack. Suddenly, an idea comes to me, how to make the weirdness into a positive experience.
“I don’t spose you get rid of Christmas tress do you?”

He looks blankly at me. It’s a bad idea.
“Funny you should say that,” he adds, “my mate does. Leave it outside and I’ll get him to take it.”
Result! I manhandle it through the door, but it gets hooked on the kitchen doorframe and he has to help me, “to me,” “to you,” we go until finally it’s out.

I’m normal goddammit!

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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.

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!

My social IQ is 50; what’s your excuse?


"All my multiple personalities are idiots"

As luck would have it, my greatest skill in life is in making life less skillful.

Yesterday I had a phonecall, which reverted to NATO’s phonetic alphabet (beloved of bobbies and geeks) with foolish consequences. Why she couldn’t make sense of my usual phone slurring I’ll never know, but we started to speak in letters and then words-for-letters. I don’t know the phonetic alphabet, so I made up my own. “Bezelbub, Electric” I said with trepidation. “Bravo, Echo?” she corrected hesitantly. “Figaro?” I added. “No, not Figaro” she said with confusion, “send me an email”.

I also had to call Amazon that day, because I have ordered 15 books to go to my old house. By mistake of course, I’m not that perverse.

It seems I will have to wait for them to be sent back before being refunded and re-ordering them to be re-delivered the correct address. All except one book, which is out of print. She won’t tell me which one.

“Which one is out of print?” I ask

“Err, the Chris Kraus book” she says after some hesitation.

I scan down the list of orders, and see “I LOVE DICK” by Miss Kraus. Why did it have to be that one? I think about possibly coming up with a story about why I am not like that. Truth be told, I can’t remember why I ordered it. I think it looked ‘interesting’.

Thinking back, I wish I’d probed a little more;

“What’s the book called? I can’t quite recall it…”

“Erm, I Love…Richard”

“Oh, I don’t remember that title…” followed by a Sid James guffaw…

"Wycliffe can't speak Spanish"- Hips

In other news, I’m just like Shakira. My hips don’t lie; I just can’t pretend to be skinny anymore.

But, neither do my hips say sorry. I just went to the shop to get some stodge. On the way out, I was bottlenecked with 2 young women coming into the shop.

“Sorry” I said automatically, and backed up. Really, I was being chivalrous and should have barged through in the name of equality.

As the front one walked past me I found myself pushing past, and somehow managed to flip her into the magazine shelf with my hip.

“Oh!” she yelped in shock. I had crossed the boundary into her personal space and not only that but touched her. I mean, ugh!

I seem to have that reaction. On the first day of high school I sat down for the first time in my form class, to be met by “Ewww!” as the girl nearest me pushed herself away in revulsion. Ah, school days. Truly the best time of my life-if best has reversed its meaning and now means abject shitiness.

“Sorry” I said again, only this time it was my moral duty. I daren’t look behind me because no doubt both the girl and the viewing shopkeeper were giving me the evils.

As I left the shop, I think I even added another “sorry” under my breathe; this final one was for generally being alive. I affected the rolling gait of a generic cripple just in case, to make it seem that it was my body that was impolite, not my mind. Regular readers will know this is not true.

I have just returned again from a shop- this time however, things went relatively smoothly. I am catching my breathe and looking down on the 2 comatose, puffy faced girls in MY bed- the sisters and their snoozing takes priority. There must be something in this genetics lark, because they are both facing the same way with the same arm draped across their fronts. I imagine the same daft puppies are lolloping around in their dreams too. So bitter and jaded on the outside; so pathetically girly within.

Earlier, we were talking about holidays this summer. Correction: I am remaining mute and listening, having used all my chitchat ability up for the day keeping up with the nattering of the two sisters in the first half hour of their getting together.

“I want to go to Berlin” says Lisa, with a voice and expression that would make Guardian readers reach for their credit cards with one hand while continuing to whip themselves over Third World poverty with the other.
“It’s rubbish” says Esther. “It’s just like Sheffield except everywhere smells of cowpats and everyone speaks German”.
“Oh” says Lisa. “Isn’t it beautiful?”
“No”
“Isn’t it full of amazing cool people?” asks Lisa
“No, they’re all old and ugly”
“Oh”

I have left Esther in  charge of sorting out our holiday this year. So far, she has found a weekend on a barge on Sheffield canal for £1000.

Kill me now.

"WISH YOU WERE HERE...AND I WASN'T"

The Arse-End of the Week


Saturday  10th July

It’s time for breakfast. I go down and let the dog out and pour cat biscuits into her and the cat’s bowl. Then I make a cup of tea and bring breakfast up to the bedroom.

This is Esther’s queue to get up and sit on the toilet. There’s a low, queer rasping sound.
“Oops. My bumhole’s still asleep” she titters to herself.
This is another example of the strange world of Esther, where the laws of science and common sense are warped into their own donkey logic, which she digs her heels into and will not budge from.

Here are a few of her stock phrases:

“My legs are full of bood” (her standard moan when it’s her time of the month)

“Carole Caplan says…” (when she wishes to express some universal truth, as proclaimed by Cherie Blair’s former life guru)

“It’s liver downtime” (so no-one can challenge her when it’s time for a snooze)

“I’ve gone sugar-blind” (after eating too many sweets. Usually used to express why she can’t do something important)

“I’m paralysed” (this is why she can never make us a cup of tea straight after a snooze)

“Are their parents still together?” (this question is the first in a series that allow her to completely analyze and deconstruct someone’s identity)

Last night, Esther fixed her glasses, which had broken in two because she is incapable of looking after her things. But what she didn’t tell me till this morning was that having superglued the two halves together, she put them on and realised they were now glued to her face. While I was downstairs letting the dog out, she was having a tug of war to rip the plastic frames from her nose. Knowing I would be angry at her carelessness, she heard me returning and yanked them off and sat there as if nothing had happened.

Having told me this, she’s now doing her facial exercises. This is the first time I’ve seen them. She looks like an old woman with no teeth, or a gurn champion.

Sunday 11th July

Today our anti-social dog walk in the park is interrupted by a bunch of dirty hippies laying around listening to ambient house, a zombie genre that can never die, and merely mills around aimlessly, never really going anywhere. If we let Devo off now, he would return within seconds with a mixture of blood, dribble and food on his face having licked, nipped and nibbled each and every lolling hippy. That would have put some life into them! The lethargy is contagious. Back at home, we snooze 3 to a bed, before sitting around the kitchen in a stupor. Dane sends me a link to Santana performing Soul Sacrifice on Youtube. He is a dirty hippy too. They are everywhere.

Dom arrives and says “turn it up”. Esther bites back, “turn it down”. After a while, Lisa’s littlest-sister voice pipes up.

“How small would the band have to be to sound this loud?” asks Lisa seriously.

Dom takes a second to answer “That makes no sense at all”

“You know, if the band could only be as loud as this computer, how miniature would the people and their instruments have to be?”

“Shut the fuck up” says Dom.

It’s time to let the dog out, and I often like to sing my own version of the Baha Men classic:

“Who let the dogs out?

I-I-I did!”

 

I’m doing the beetroot workout


"surely not?"

After work, I head down to the gym. I avoid the treadmill like the plague because I have had to lather my thighs with vaseline to stop the agony of constant chafing. I am also being very careful about how hot I get- last time I went, I overdid it, and went to meet Esther and Lisa in Tescos afterwards. Along the way, I seemed to be the centre of attention. I felt like a guy from a Lynx advert, who has stumbled across the secret of universal seduction. I get the pansexual eye (girls, boys, dogs), and my ego inflates like a pull string dinghy, floating me along the street an erect penis’s height from the ground.

The problem is that although I think that I crave attention, if I ever get it, my brain melts and I have an ugly panic attack. I am starting to forget how to walk and to breathe when I manage to run into Tescos and find the girls.

I creep up behind Esther. I like creeping up on people. As Esther catches sight of the looming freak behind her, her face spasms in horror.

“Oh my god, you look like a beetroot” she says.

"Having exercised, I must go into hiding"

It turns out I had been waking along looking like a boiled lobster/sore thumb/busta blood-vessel comedy character, and that was the source of my allure. How disappointing.

I get to Lisa’s having escaped the gym in a milder hue of cerise.They must be in a good mood- there’s a cup of tea waiting for me. We all fall silent as we guzzle and read the trashy magazines lying around (Heat, Grazia, Look).

“What’s the point of donkeys?” says Lisa out of the blue.

“Some people just have fields full of them. What do you do with them?”

Nothing comes to mind.

“I spose you can stroke them” she reasons. Yes, that’s right. That makes sense to all of us, and we go back to reading.

“I just had a really strong urge to superglue my lips together” says Esther, again breaking the intellectual silence. I think it was my brain telling me what I wanted to hear, but no, she actually said it.

“I thought the tube of glue was Zovirex. When I realised it wasn’t, I thought ‘what’s the worst thing I could do?’ and I have to stop myself from putting it on my lips”. It’s a traditional bloke joke, to want the woman to shut up. I briefly feel a sense of belonging by wishing it too.

I reach for my special Blog notebook. The girls notice, and figure out what I’m doing.

“Quick, say something funny” thinks Lisa aloud.

After a few moments of tense, brain whirring silence, she blurts out;

“I wish I could transform my body…into a frog’s body! Ha, then everyone would love me.”

She pulled it out of the bag didn’t she? However it all goes downhill from there, so I put my notebook away in disgust. I need an invisible pen and pad really, or to do some serious ethnographic shit to live in this crazy uncivilised world with the natives till they forget I’m there. Oh, wait…

"I was invisible till I got 3rd degree sunburn"

Front bottoms, mostly


"No, not that wonderful urge, this one..."

I have the sudden urge to press my willy against the mouse pad on the macbook. I hold it there till Esther sees, and screams. As I let off a low, satisfied belly laugh that wobbles the laptop and the sausage squashed atop, a banshee wail rips out of her horrified mouth.
“Oh dooooonnnnnn’ttttt! That’s like me putting my fanny juices all over the computer!!!” squeals Esther.
“No it’s not, it’s dry” I reason.
“It’s not! It’s always sticky and horrible” says Esther as if she can remember the last time she touched it.

I’m looking for a picture of a sausage on a computer to go with this story. “What do you call that bit where I put my willy?” I ask “When I Google ‘mousepad’, it just comes up with the thing you put your mouse on…” (Duh!).

“I don’t know” she grunts grumpily, “the dickpad?”

I take Safesearch off (the culinder which catches all the genitalia gushing through the internet) but strangely I can’t find a picture of anyone else with their willy on a mousepad thingy. Surely I can’t be the only one?

I am getting fat. I can tell because of 2 recent developments:

1. I have ripped the ass area of 3 pairs of trousers in the last month

2. All of a sudden, my balls are constantly being crushed between my monster thighs when I walk.

Now I am getting massive chafing there. I have started going to the gym, and I have to go commando to stop it getting worse. I went yesterday and now I can hardly walk. I think I need to buy a posing pouch to winch my balls out of trouble.

"dog guarded codpiece"

Esther has decided to go on a diet now.

But of course, she can’t just be normal. She has developed her own telepathic diet. She only eats “what my brain tells me to”.

This means that while me and Lisa munch on chocolate brownies, she emerges from the kitchen with lettuce and some garlic sausage.

“Your brain is suspiciously healthy” challenges Lisa.

Esther tastes the sausage quizzically. “Hmm, I just want the lettuce actually” she decides. My brain wants cake, and a pudding with every meal. What’s up with that?