Infinite Joust

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Esther: Well…

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"...and the agony of constipation"

“…and the agony of constipation”

Love is…a pair of opposable thumbs

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

That was this week’s dilemma.

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

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


Knuckle Club Sandwich

Knuckle Club Sandwich

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He left me alone after that.


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


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

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

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

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

"Getti' smelly with Peter Petrelli"

“Gettin’ smelly with Peter Petrelli?”

Peace Out, Grayson Perry

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

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

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

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

Why does he look so confused? Oh, yeah.

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

He pulls his hand away.

“Oh. Haha.”

Then he breezes off into the distance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Giant rabbit as border control"

“Giant rabbit as border control”

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

thank you/thanks



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

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

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

"Ta, duckie"

“Ta, duckie”


Coming a cropper with Jarvis Cocker

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

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

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

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

Phallic Fun

Phallic Fun

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

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

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

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

And yes, I did consider it. Him.

But then I realised:

Taking life for granted is its chiefest pleasure.

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

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

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

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

That’s just plain unfair.

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

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

Night night my lovely doggy

Night night my lovely doggy

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

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

“Just two more,” Arthur says without stopping.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jarvis: “Pablo? Pablo? Pablo?”

Me: “Hello Jarvis? Is that Jarvis?”

Jarvis: “Pablo? Pablo? Pablo?”

Me: “Jarvis? Jarvis?” etc

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

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

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

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

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

“Make it 10.”

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

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

…An hour later, we’d covered everything.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think my logic went:

Quick, say something funny.

Say something funny that blokes laugh at.

Blokes laugh at things about wives.

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

No time. Go with it.

Please don’t. But I did.

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

"Good one."

“Good one.”

A face off with Matthew McConaughey


Woke up this morning with a haiku in my head:

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

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

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

“I made a bag out of my ex’s.”


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

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

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


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

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

Here he is in Dazed and Confused (1994):


And 21 years later in True Detective:


 It would seem that:

The future is just the present’s ugly selfie.

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

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

“I decided to push my hair before it jumped”

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

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


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

This is the worldy wisdom Google threw back at me:

“Real men shine their heads up like lamps.”


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

“What number are you?” a woman said.

“2” I replied.

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

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

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

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

"No, Vienna. Not funny."

“No, Vienna. Not funny.”

It’s My Birthday, I’ll Kill as Many as I Want To


Dream: Ninja from Die Antwoord was staying with us. He had to sleep in the same bed as me & Esther and it was really awk. He went home the next day when he realised we weren’t cool.

My buddy told me today I am a “big smily hippy” because I am like my fingerless gloves, which have big yellow smileys on.

I was outraged.

I’m dark and cynical and ultra-modern, I thought bitterly. She has taken my ironic references at smiley-face value. These smileys in fact reference the rave revival we had about 5 years ago, and the 90s revival we are still labouring beneath, I wanted to shout in her face.

But I just smiled at her. Like a hippy would.


Dear Connan Mockasin,

I wish my favourite weirdo pop stars would stop having an r&b makeover. First Ariel, now you. Surely you can show your love of Prince in other ways, like by pretending you are your own girlfriend or something? Works for me.




Sometimes I think that our genes change so much between generations that we are technically different species from our grandparents. I’ve heard of airing sheets (my Grandad even insists that his are ironed before he sleeps on them), but today Grandad told me that he likes to go shopping in the afternoon, “once the streets have aired a bit.”

I simply have no idea what this means.

I came back from work to find our brand new Smart TV switched off. This never happens.

Me (in a worried voice): “What’s going on?”
Esther: “The HD makes everyone look like they’re in the room, so I panicked and had to turn it off.”


Esther watches Murder She Wrote nearly every day. The best thing about it is the fact that it’s sponsored by Viking River Cruises. Their adverts are historical revisionism at its most glorious. Over-pensioned ex-CEOs sip Californian wine while cruising the banks of European cities in ships which are somehow meant to commensurate the spirit of raping, pillaging and  genocide with a peaceful, sozzled retirement.

The curse of the unfillable underpants: I read about a guy who proposed to his girlfriend on live TV, but she turned him down because his penis was too small. He’s now making a documentary about it.

I wonder if like how some women are said to be wives and others lover, some penises just aren’t husband material.

My Birthday (and, I suppose, Valentines Day)

I can’t decide what to wear to work. So I have a full blown tantrum about it as I’m about to leave. I march up and down the kitchen doing Jimmy Savile ululations and Heil Hitler salutes. I think I’ve got physical Tourettes.

I’m never sure if you’re meant to tell people when it’s your birthday. Yesterday, I didn’t tell my writing group, and today when Facebook had made them aware of it they acted shocked that I hadn’t told them.

I’m determined not to make that mistake again.

So every conversation I have today, I blurt it out right at the beginning, so there’s no confusion or accusations of subterfuge later.

I go to the reception at work to book a room out.

“It’s my birthday,” I say.

There’s a silence and the two receptionists look at each other. “Many happy returns. What do you want?”

“Erm, nothing expensive, some chocolate would do it.”

“No, I’m not going to get you a present. I meant what do you want help with.”

Esther agreed 2 weeks ago to come to see Her at the cinema today. When I get back from work, she has a face on her.

“I don’t want to go.”

“You said you would.”

“Why can’t we wait for it come out on video?”

“Because I want to see it now.”

After some hefty glowering, she negotiates.

“If you’re going to make me go, we’re not getting the bus, we’re getting a taxi.”

Once we’re there, she starts up again.

“Cinemas are dying. We could be sat in our cosy, warm bed watching a film instead of traipsing through the rain to sit with a load of strangers.”

“Oh shut up,” I say. Well, no I don’t actually, that would be scary.

We file in and go to get some food.

“It’s my birthday,” I say to my friend on the stand and he gives me free popcorn and choice of icecream. Indiscretion finally had a perk.

I’d forgotten how annoying cinema adverts are. “I wish I could mute them,” says Esther. We always do that at home. I’d almost forgotten they had sound. They’re like people- so much less effective when  gagged.

There are hardly any people in the cinema, but we still manage to be just in front of a couple who fill the quieter scenes with the mucus sounds of snogging. I’m sure I can feel the seats rocking too. I keep wondering how much is too much and is it morally right to stop a couple kissing on Valentines Day just because you aren’t?

In my old age I have become allergic to tweeness. There are moments in the film where I nearly go into anaphylactic shock but then I see one of the hideous/brilliant futuristic high-waisted trousers they’ve made Joaquin wear and I start to deflate. We’ll never wear those, I think, though I’d like to try.

Well, it looks like I won’t have to wait 50 years:

So here’s my A/W 2014 prediction, folks: hipsters tucking their beards into high waisted chinos.


I’ve got whiplash from my birthday tantrums. Tantrum Whiplash.

Did you know it was my birthday?

Harry Styles will never be a Viscount


When I feel like being an adult, I buy The Guardian. I like to imagine myself sat at a large, sunlit dining table, with a cup of ridiculously niche coffee and some identity crisis of a cake by my side. Between bites, I’ll look at the upper reaches of the supplement’s style barometer, look down at my outfit, and nod.

“Sorry mate, you won’t be able to get any Guardians round here today,” the boy in the newsagent tells me in an end-of-days voice. “The distributers messed up and only delivered a quarter of the usual amount for this area.”

I feel suddenly desperate, and imagine UN aid trucks loaded with broadsheets screeching up outside the posh coffee shop, exasperated fathers in paisley dressing gowns scuffling as string-bound Guardians are flung into the street.

“Can you tell I’ve been taking elocutions?” the newsagent asks endearingly as I leave.

“Yes,” I lie.

Dammit, I thought it was just me who wanted to be a minor aristocrat.

"A miner aristocrat (you can tell by the velvet)"

“A miner aristocrat (you can tell by the velvet)”


Esther is writing our shopping list on an leaflet about starving children. I feel such love at these moments.


Song no. 1:

I did a poo

In your shoe

Coz I knew

You were gonna [shout this bit] WALK OUT ON ME!


Grandad: “I’m going in for my autopsy next week, Vienna.”

Me: “No grandad, it’s a biopsy. You’ll get a bit of a shock if you ask for that.”

Thursday: Induction for teacher training 

The only empty chair is next to a loud albino Accountancy lecturer. But that’s ok, because I am a brown-bearded arty introvert so our energies 69 in yin/yang perfection.

Our sinister smiley leader speaks up.

“Right, everyone, choose an adjective with the same initial as your name. Then we go round the circle, and you have to say everyone’s name and word who comes before you.”

Christ, I hate this kind of crap. And what the hell kind of word will sum up everything I am and everything I want to be, a neat precis of my life so far?

An overexcited man brings me back to reality with a burst of boyish logic.

“I’m Mike. Everyone says I’m a maniac. So I’m Mike the Maniac.”

He grins, satisfied.

“I’m sorry,” interjects the leader, “I’m not going to allow you that. It has to be positive. Besides, it isn’t an adjective.”

Fucking pedant.

“But I’m a maniac in a good way…”

“Nope, sorry, it has too many negative connotations. You can be Marvellous though.”

His face drops.

“I spose so. I’m…” He looks down at the ground. “I’m Marvellous Mike.”

"You could have been in our gang."

“You could have been in our gang.”

The next person jumps in.

“Hi! I’m ebullient Emily!”

Half the room looks at each other in mutual incomprehension, that sideways school glance that makes it a sin to be studious.

I’m trying not to blink while I frantically remember what ebullient means in case there’s an impromptu test.

“Sorry,” she adds, intimidated, “I’m an English teacher…” She makes it sound like a hygiene problem.

All I can think is I HAVE TO BEAT THAT. I’m racking my brain for happy Vs, while trying to record everyone’s name.

Dammit, that means I can’t be Vicious or Vindictive. Vociferous? I can’t remember what that means, it might be bad. Vague? Vacillating? What if I want to be negative because I am? Why do I have to have a shitty smiley word that doesn’t suit my nature? I’m beginning to hate everyone in the room. One of us is leaving through the window.

I panic when it gets to me.

Great, for the rest of this stupid course everyone will know me as valuable. Like something you shove in a box under your bed or a workmate you hate but have to pretend to like to get ahead. What a shitty world we live in.


I’m starting to fancy Harry Styles. Peer pressure is a terrible thing.


Esther: “Darling, there’s a Groupon here to become a Lord.”

Me: “No thanks. I want to be a Viscount.”

"I think I'm in the wrong book."

“I think I’m in the wrong book.”