Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Third Draft is Done. Long Live Draft Four.

I've almost finished my book, which is great timing now that I've stopped blogging and alienated all seven of my readers.

This morning I typed my final paragraph, and will now return to the beginning and do it all over again - hopefully once and for all. And to avoid the awful, ponderous temptation to keep editing forever, I'll be reading it in real time and highlighting passages to work on later.

The point is, I'm aiming to publish it in a month or so. The working title was 'Autobiography of an Idiot', but that has since changed to 'It's Egg & Cress, do you want it?' - which obviously requires no explanation and will probably change again anyway.

So there's the update. After years of trying to write a great novel, I gave up in favour of expanding this blog instead. I thought it would just take a few months to reorder everything and add a bit of filler, but it wound up being more like two years - mainly because I wanted to write something "worthy", plus I've added entire travelogues from my backpacking trips that needed to be trimmed.

So yeah. Sorry for the delay. 105,000 words of awkward navel-gazing introspection coming very, very soon...

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Great Escape

It's been seven weeks since Dad died and I'm fine. In fact I'm a little worried at how quickly I've defaulted back to 'normal', although there are a hellish amount of unresolved issues both with Dad, and my sodding head. As a result I still haven't started my annual New Year's Final Diet Ever as I fling back metric fucktons of shitty beige food and sedate my issues with alcohol.

I went through the usual stages of grief that began with good old denial, repeating over and over to my stepmother on the night he died, that 'I can't believe he's gone,' as if a poorly eighty-year-old man had it in him to keep going for another thirty years.

Then things took a surreal turn. Due to my sister's habit of logging every fucking sneeze and haircut on Facebook, she'd been detailing Dad's descent, and discussed his healthcare. A journalist picked it up, and it spiralled out of control. A week after Dad died I was in my sister's kitchen peeling potatoes when my nieces screamed at me to come into the living room. There was Dad's grinning face on TV looking back at us and millions of others as a BBC London News anchor mentioned him by name. Then it cut to a report filmed in that same room as my actual sister next to me squirmed at television sister complaining about Dad's care.

Life went on. My sister and I were named in Dad's will as executors, and I had an estate to sort out which sounds rather grand; an Estate, as if he left behind a large mansion house with fine tapestries and objets d'art.

Except he didn't. It turns out that Dad was terrible with money. Actually, let me clarify that: He was fucking appalling, and if it tarnishes his memory to implore the six people who read this who may be in pecuniary straits, then so be it: If you're in debt, PLEASE GET OUT OF IT. Accept that any money you earn simply isn't yours until you're back in black. You're not going to win that cash back at the bookies, or make canny investments that'll solve all your problems. Instead, make huge sacrifices and crawl your way back up to £0.00. At least from then on in, it's all yours.

Dad didn't have a gambling problem, or a drink problem, and certainly not an issue with drugs, so it was a complete mystery as to how he managed to rack up over twenty-seven thousand pounds worth of credit card and overdraft debts. It took a while for the penny to drop, but it was a combination of several decades of a poorly-paying job alongside a stubborn refusal to stop spending money. Dad had a near pathological need to keep buying things; records, CDs, DVDs, cheap Chinese gadgets that pretended to be iPads but weren't, Dad loved a bargain even though he couldn't afford it.

Three years ago the debt appears to have caught up with him, and he pulled out his trump card. The flat he shared with his wife was paid off, so he found a lender who'd give him a huge chunk of cash in return for a slice of the flat - They'll get their money back one day when the flat gets sold.
The trouble is those vampires are charging a hideous interest on that loan and the £60k he took out is now £75k as it increases by (currently) £5,000 every year. So Dad's gone, having left behind a legacy of debt that continues to eat away at my stepmother's home and her children's inheritance.

Last week, she told me she now hates him.

I'm trying to sort out all this mess. My sister and I had a huge argument - all via text as she refuses to speak to me - that was pretty spiteful and mean, mainly from me, because I've dealt with everything alone. I've trashed all Dad's audio cassettes and VHS's at the town dump, and sold a couple of new DVDs on eBay. I've scoured all Dad's paperwork to uncover the debts, then written to all his creditors to start sorting this out. Admittedly she helped find a solicitor and attended our first meeting, but only because she used to work there. I still have to clear out a lifetime of his belongings, sort out his car, deal with solicitors, make offers to banks, and try and tackle that fucking equity loan.

I'm not ashamed to say that despite my strident atheism, I've been buying lottery tickets and scratchcards under the assumption that my dead father is still somehow 'there', and has assumed supernatural powers to make his bereaved family millionaires.

Except nah.

If I've got anything from all this besides a small pyramid of scrunched-up lotto tickets, it's a wrought-iron conviction that products don't make us happy. Consumerism is a giant con, and the most sensible thing in life is to spend less than you earn and save for your retirement.

I'm also no longer scared of death. I used to obsess about it to an unhealthy degree, fretting about achieving nothing and wasting my life. Instead I've realised that Dad used it to escape his debts. He won, in a weird kind of way. Death's great for the deceased, provided it comes at a dignified old age with next to no pain. It's actually shitty for the rest of us.

I've also realised I'm doing okay. I've been doing the right thing all along, though my damn book has come to an annoying standstill three-quarters into draft three, but once I've got closure from all Dad's stuff I can get back to writing it again. And once that's done, I'll have the free time and headspace to get back to my glorious Final Diet Ever so I can date attractive female hominids even though I'm turning fucking forty in as many days,  but that doesn't matter as my Autobiography of a Complete Nobody storms the planet and I become a huge Internet sensation who hadn't wasted his life after all.....

Friday, January 24, 2014

My Dad Has Five Days Left To Live

My sister and I thought Dad was on the mend when he was sent home from hospital a couple of weeks ago, but somebody fucked up. In their desperation to free a bed, they discharged a seriously ill man as barely two days later, he was readmitted via ambulance. The breathlessness he'd been admitted for in the first place returned as he sat in his living room watching TV. Dad began to panic as he choked, and waved frantically at my stepmother as he struggled to take in air.

Dad will never go home again. He has a lung disease that'll finish him. For the last couple of weeks I've found myself sobbing uncontrollably in the middle of the night, then going to work and pretending nothing's wrong. I've also seen more of my sister and nieces than I ever have, and I've seen Dad virtually every night too so that's been lovely, apart from his daily decline.

When my stepmother first called me, tearfully, to say he'd been readmitted, I was petrified. I asked to leave work a little earlier and raced to the hospital where I found him sat up in bed wearing an oxygen mask. He was in good spirits despite the circumstances, through he struggled to speak as he told me about how breathless he'd been. I told him not to talk.
Dad slowly, clumsily pulled the mask up onto his forehead and asked me to hand him the cup of hot chocolate cooling on the table. In slow motion he leaned in with puckered lips and slurped on the drink he then began to choke on. Then he sat the cup back down and dropped back into the pillows, gasping.

'Don't get old,' he said. It's been the closest thing to an acknowledgement of how frail he's got.

I spent the rest of that night with my hand on his bare shoulder, rubbing his skin with my thumb as antibiotics were pumped into his arms. He was panting like a tired dog in the sun. I tried not to cry but I couldn't stop myself, and broke down, sobbing. Dad squeezed my hand and from behind the clear plastic mask, he looked over at me and gave me a cheeky grin.

The next day my sister and I visited him after work. Dad had me calling AmEx's automated service so he could pay off his bill but his other card kept being declined. He insisted on me connecting him to an operator to get it sorted but his speech was slurred and lazy, so I got my card out and paid the £300 myself.

Within a couple of days, he was no longer talking in whole sentences and wound up in a horrible ward with uncaring night nurses. Apparently he asked one of them to hold the pee-bottle for him. She told him to do it himself, but Dad has carpal tunnel syndrome in his right hand and has no grip.
'I can't,' he told her, and she simply walked off.
Dad wet himself.

He deteriorated in that ward, and was asleep most times we visited. Occasionally he'd wake up and slur hellos, and even give us toothless grins. But they were trying small doses of oral morphine and it was making him sleepy. Then last week his specialist asked to see us. My stepmum couldn't deal with it so my sister and I went. He told us that Dad has perhaps a few months left.

We continued to see my father every night after that, but the nurses were pissing us off. We'd tried to give them the benefit of the doubt but some gave us an attitude and withering looks if we dared ask for a blanket, or a new bottle for Dad to pee in as they weren't emptying the old ones. Then Dad was moved to an adjacent ward without anyone being notified - including the new ward - and he was found by my sister in a wheelchair shivering with cold next to a chart with another man's name and medical requirements on it. That was when we went medieval  and launched an all-out campaign of complaint that went right to the Chief Executive of the hospital, who is doing all he can to keep us sweet.

I took Tuesday and yesterday off work to see my Dad. I also spent last night with my stepmum going through Dad's papers which I couldn't do as it all felt "too soon." I did discover though that Dad has several bank accounts which are maxed out and hellishly overdrawn, explaining why he couldn't pay his AmEx card a few days earlier. This means I get the pleasure of telling a bunch of banks that they will never get back the money they're owed, although I also discovered that the reason my father worked well into his eightieth year was because he hadn't saved a bean; no life insurance, no will, just a metric fuckton of debt.

Having said that, he did have a pot to piss in. I know because I had to hold the fucking thing three times last week between his legs, scarred and slightly terrified at having seen the paternal penis in all its greying, octogenarian glory. Dad simply looked into my terrified eyes, and smiled.

Yesterday, I found an amazing hospice for him to move in to, although they called me this morning to say Dad didn't make today's admission as they had an emergency case. Hopefully he'll get in tomorrow, particularly as he's now an emergency himself. When I saw Dad tonight, he was almost perpetually asleep. He's been switched to intravenous morphine and when my sister spoke to a nurse a few hours ago to say we've found a hospice for him to see out his last few months, she took her aside to explain that Dad's got more like five days left. She knows what it looks like, she said, to see someone fall into death, and my father was exhibiting everything.

We tried talking to Dad tonight. Occasionally we roused him enough to get him to squeeze our hands. We also managed to get him to open his sleepy eyes to tell him how much we both loved him. My sister did this with surprising calm, but I couldn't suppress the utter devastation in my voice. Dad looked at us both in turn and slowly closed his eyes. The effort was immense.
'Love you,' he sighed.



Edit - Five days turned out to be optimistic. My Daddy died at 7:20am this morning, about ten minutes before I got there. If your parents are around, go say hello to them.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Happy New Year. I Have a Book

Bloody hell, it's been two months since I last wrote something? Sorry.

And Happy New Year. I spent it with my Large Northern (former) flatmate as we wandered aimlessly from pub to pub until we found a great one round the back of Holborn that was perfect; dark, busy but not crowded, and full of women and dance. This however meant Pete hated it and we didn't last longer than a drink, even though it was now 11:32pm and a good place to see out 2013.

We ended up walking down a deserted High Holborn in panic until we found a soulless, vast Wetherspoons that was practically empty, and saw in the New Year with a handful of middle-aged tourists, an attractive teenage girl with large breasts (the kind I now have to start acknowledging could be old enough to be my daughter), and Gary fucking Barlow on a large-screen TV. Then I realised I could force my way through the crowd of zombie revellers filling up Kingsway and get the 1:20am train home.

So yeah, happy 2014. If it wasn't for Pete, this could've been my first year staying in to celebrate it alone, as it no longer bothers me. I'm going to be forty, bloody 40 this year, and I'm struggling to make sense of how. After all, I remain single unless you include my cat, and I'm beginning to think that nothing happens in life unless we make it so. I've wasted nearly all my years waiting for something good to come along without realising that, law of averages aside, that's not how this thing works.

The only ray of sunshine has been my book, though not been without cost. I can now say with some confidence that this back-breaking bastard is almost at an end, though I've regained all the weight I lost during my 2011-2012 Greatest Diet Ever, due to spending the last year sat typing at my desk and crying.

I'm nearly three quarters into draft 3 and had hoped to complete it in two weeks, except my day job restarted again and brought my writing to a complete halt. Then my Dad was taken seriously ill and was admitted to hospital. I saw him on Monday night. He looked terrible with his thinning grey hair standing erect on the top of his head as if shocked into fear, while he slurred back at me with no teeth in. I keep forgetting Dad doesn't have any real ones anymore. As I wiped the tears from my eyes I started to consider this may be his final year.

I visited him in hospital again just now, finding out the hard way that he'd been sent home.
I've been back at work for two days this year, and am ready to quit. I'll have been there nine years this summer. I can no longer deal with the general public which is problematic, as I'm basically interrupted into being in Customer Service at a moment's notice. I'm just waiting to finish my book, then it's Operation New Job alongside Mission: Diet, and that has to start soon. So I asked for a day off for today. I still had holiday left over from last year (didn't go on vacation, 'cos Book), and got home last night shattered. I was hoping for an early night, and even wrote a timetable for the next day which was a first:
  • 8am, wake up, feed cat, do sit-ups, feed me.
  • 8:30-9:30am walk for an hour to get some fresh air and exercise.
  • Then til 12pm I intended to write for a couple of hours before seeing Dad in hospital and getting back to write all day.

Except when I got to bed at 10:40pm last night, I had about 10 minutes peace when my neighbours returned home and had a party.
On a Tuesday.
Til 1:30am.

I can't tell you what torture that is unless you've lived it, trying to sleep when repetitive muffled beats are riding up the wall to your ears to the accompaniment of braying, selfish laughter. It was approaching 1am when, having not slept a wink, I phoned the council (closed), followed by the police. The police see this as a civil matter and don't get involved, even though I last called them about the neighbours when they had a party two weeks earlier. Granted, it was the Christmas weekend and they told me to suck it up, but last night was absurd. After two hours of no sleep, I left my flat and went for a walk. I found the offending apartment - the din coming from behind the door was so loud I wondered why their neighbours put up with it - and sat on an upper floor to look out of the window waiting for the police.

No-one turned up so I went to bed and fell asleep at 1:30am - until 3am when they once again whacked the music up. I called the police a second time, and left once more to wait for them by the window. I gave up after half an hour as no-one appeared, and managed to sleep until 11am though it totally fucked up my day off. And by the time I fed the cat, fed me, did my sit-ups and wrote a strongly-worded letter to post to my neighbours barring the subhuman scum making all the noise, I drove to the hospital where a nurse told me Dad been sent home that morning. He's fortunately on antibiotics, and the mend.

And now I'm losing sunlight, and haven't written an iota of the book yet which is a shame, as it's okay. As I've mentioned a lot, I'm just writing up this blog in chronological order, and fleshed out with greater narrative and a character arc n' shit because I can't do fiction. This, therefore, is the best I've got but in the year that's passed I've realised with each draft that it isn't that bad, and if I'm going to publish this with my (pen) name all over it, I should at least make it worthwhile. There are some genuinely interesting moments too - all true, - plus two vast travelogues from when I lost my mind and fled the country. I like to think it could be interesting enough to be a page-turner.

But as I say, I'm still working on it. I'm hoping to finish draft three by the end of this month. Then I'll give myself a couple of weeks, or perhaps 'February' for a last read-through/ final draft, so expect to see Autobiography of an Idiot (working title, likely to change) in March and World Book Day.

So Happy New Year. May all our dreams come true, such as our neighbours dying violently and slowly in a stereo-malfunctioning fireball as we quit our jobs to become columnists who force our vapid opinions onto everyone when they're not wanted.

Here's to 2014

Thursday, November 07, 2013

The 2nd Draft Is Done & My Mum Thinks I'm Gay

It's taken a year of angst, pain and pizza, but I've finally shat out the 2nd draft of my book. I finished the first draft two months ago thinking I'd be done in a couple of weeks. I'm not sure I'd have begun it so eagerly had I appreciated the mountain ahead of me.

But I've climbed it, sort of, in drunken stumbles, my second finished "book" since I last completed an earlier abomination four years back. That'll never see the light of day in case you're wondering, while this new one will only get released provided my three wonderful reviewers think it's worth it.

I wondered as I neared that final paragraph if I'd cheer or feel relieved but I didn't, and I didn't. This was due to not really writing a final paragraph as such, as I couldn't make that work so I threw it out and left it ending on the penultimate chapter before buggering off to buy a good bottle of scotch.

That's been my life this year; writing, or trying to, and regaining some of the weight I lost back in 2011-12. And nothing else has really happened. My cat has taken to pissing on my lovely sofa just in time for my repayments to be over and for it to officially be mine (the sofa, not the cat), and my ex-girlfriend who I thought I'd never hear from again contacting me out of the blue. She even re-friended me on fucking Facebook years after I'd had enough of her cheerful indifference and unfriended her in a pique of common sense. And of course once those transatlantic lines of communication were reopened I couldn't help myself, going so far as to call her one evening to see how she was (she was fine), while she had nothing to say in return. She probably saw the pre-2011 photos my sister stuck on my wall, the ones of me looking like a bearded elephant crowbarred into a cheap grey suit and grimacing at my pitiable descent while I went back to pining all over her. I now regret sending her a text tonight to ask "How's my little disinterested hedgehog?" which she queried before remarking 'FABULOUS!' in capitals because she likes her new job.
So I stopped texting before she started to go on about all the lovely men she's surrounded with, like she did on her last text to me in June.

It turns out now that I've stopped writing, it had made me forget that my life is atrophying quicker than a beached whale on a Japanese beach under a hot sun. I had a list of things I intended to do as soon as I stopped ~ watching the last 'Breaking Bad's and 'Mad Men's were top of that list, but laziness has prevented even that, as well as the fact that I can no longer get access to my illegal filesharing site friend's copies.

The last thing I expected having finished the damn thing was feeling lost and a little sad. This made things even worse when my Mum called me at work two days ago. I hadn't expected her call for one thing.That morning, thanks to my ex-girlfriend's reappearance, I've been visiting fucking Facebook way more than I used to and left a status update, an uninteresting coded reference to Daft Punk as I mentioned wanting to stay up all night to get a pity shag, "exactly like the legend of the Phoenix."

My mate Ian, ever the wag, queried the gender I was hoping to nail. Elif said that was better than nothing. And my Mum told me to call her friends' daughters who were equally single and desperate, adding publicly that I needed to overcome my shyness. Which was nice. Then there were some insults and my Mum spamming the comments (including a complaint that I'd blocked her for some reason), followed by my gay cousin saying he could get me laid at a Soho gathering. My mistake had been to enquire about it. I wanted to know if it was fluffy, happy gay with hordes of faghags sniffing around, and not bald, bearded leather fistmonsters chained against the wall in Club Rectum. Because, you see, I like faghags. They avoid charmless male cliches like me and gravitate around gay men I can pretend to be, dazzling everyone with my wit while the girls interest in me grows as they assume I'm gay and unobtainable. (This technique has yet to work, but I live in hope.)

Not long after I tell cousin 'Derek' that the gayest I'm willing to get is chatting about fashion, music, romcoms and being surrounded by faghags, Mum calls.
'Hullo Mum,' I said as I stood up from my desk and walk out of the office for privacy.
'Right,' Mum says without so much as a hello back. 'Tell me straight. ARE YOU GAY?'
I squint in confusion. She doesn't sound like my Mum. She sounds angry, with a pinch of threatening.

'I'm sorry?'
'You heard,' she snapped with none of the usual love in her voice. 'Answer me.'
'Are you serious?'
'Of course I'm serious,' she barked and I was stunned.
'Jesus christ, Mum!'
'Well?'
I wanted to reply 'Fuck you!' and I would've if it was anyone else. All I could think of was the time Louis Theroux was asked by neo-Nazis if he was a Jew, and the fact that pedestrians were walking past and it would've been demeaning to bleat, 'Mum, I'm not gay!'
It's one of those questions you can't say no to. The person positing it already thinks you are and "No" just sounds like denial, so you can't win either way unless you actually are gay. Even worse, being judged so negatively, so harshly and with such vitriol by my own mother stung to hell. I can't imagine there'd be a difference in her tone if she yelled to say someone saw me kicking puppies to death in the street, or she'd found child porn on my phone.

'There's no way I'm having this conversation,' I said, adding, 'and stop reading the Daily fucking Mail!'

I went back to my desk utterly divorced from reality as my paranoid little brain, for the first time since college, started questioning how masculine my voice sounded on the phone, or if my wrists seemed a little limp as I pointed at something work-related and spirit-crushing to my colleague. I lasted twenty minutes before composing an email to Mum. I admitted, after telling her I found her call horrible, offensive and judgmental, that I have no sexual attraction to men, and I've never had either a brief or a long-term relationship with men, and neither did I intend to. I ended it thanking her for making me feel even more uncomfortable in my own skin than I already am. She wrote back to apologise. She said she loved me and always would no matter what, which annoyed me as that would've been her (eventual) reply anyway had I said, 'Yeah, you got me Mum, I'm a big fat gay.'

Mum feels bad now. She invited me over for dinner tonight but I told her I didn't want her "guilt-pasta". Instead I had a kebab before composing this, downed a couple of scotches along the way, and when I stagger off to bed later tonight I fully intend to fantasise about oiled breasts (womens') as I have sex with my hand.

I turn forty soon. This is fucking bullshit.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Job Applications

So it comes to this.

I've not posted for several months, because I'm actually writing this bloody book, my Autowhyography. I'm doing it now except, okay, I've stopped as I'm trawling through past scribblings, and came across some fake job applications I wrote 8 years ago. It was for a now defunct satirical website I wrote with McTODD! and republish here.

I did write a new post, but as I wasn't the butt of the joke for once and a very nice lady would've wound up drunkenly recounted on the internet, I decided to shut up.

So here's some fake jobs in the meantime ~

CALLING ALL GRADUATES!
You done getting drunk and stoned and trying to shag everything that moves? Then welcome to the rat-race. No, we don’t care about your degree. It counts for fuck-all. Here’s £2 an hour, now shut up and make me a sandwich.

CALLING ALL SCHOOL LEAVERS!
Want to make the nice boss a sandwich? Erm, sorry, you’ll need a degree for that.

Runners needed, TELEZEST
Have you got boundless, contagious energy? Are you as creative as Picasso and more entrepreneurial than Branson? Are you prepared to have the very fibre of your being ripped to shreds as you get your hands dirty working long, sleep-deprived hours in the vibrant, exciting, coked up, shallow world of the Media, consoling yourself day after day that “I’m here, I’m in, I’m on the first rung of the ladder” when in fact we think less of you than a GI does of a petrified Iraqi whose head is being pinned down by a filthy sand-covered boot? Then TeleZest needs to hear from you. We want to exploit the limitless enthusiasm of literally thousands of gullible graduates from across the UK and beyond. Our toilets are filthy. We’re running out of ideas and we need free ones. Where’s my fucking tea, you unfashionable runt?
Send your CVs and bribes to Cecelia Bounds-Green, Telezest, 19 Golden Square, Soho, London W1 9BJ or email exploitativebastards@telezest.co.uk. Remember that although we are offering bone crushing humiliation for six grand a year less tax, the job will be given to those prepared to work for nothing, and plenty will. Priority given to senior management’s relatives who will of course start at the top, regardless of age and inexperience. No disableds.

THOMPSON ELECTRONIC SYSTEMS
Are you conversant with MDIX 1550+? Do you write Feltch? Can you reprogram a Buoyant Unbugger into 16 codes of Twerp? We need a Kancoder (12 and 22 chipset danke) to shaft and seal our Kurtis Mantronix with Sprogbatter (with additional ability to rim favourably). We are currently upgrading to a Sexual Innuendo 1500, so please bear in mind that the successful applicant will have to downquim every other weekend.
£38,000 OTE
Deal, Kent.

BIBBETY BOBBETY BOO, SOLICITORS Dull, overpaid position available at a legal institution for fat, grey-haired suited dullards, the kind you see fuffing over paperwork on the train at eight in the morning. You must have at least ten years experience in legal management, be divorced, and act slightly awkward in front of our nubile female secretaries. Ability to enjoy a scotch or three every night before commuting home is useful but not vital to the post. A slightly nervous laugh is important, as is the ability to unconsciously create rumours among our staff that you collect child pornography.
c.£65,000 + profit share

Human Resources Assistant, NIKELSON BAXTER BEDOUIN NURSE A vacancy has arisen in our HR department for a HUMOURLESS SPINSTER FUSSPOT to wear unattractive flowery blouses and snap at other members of staff. The ideal candidate must be simpering and coy around the HR Director, and universally hated by all except the boss, who can’t see what all the fuss is about. You will play a key role in making everyone feel uncomfortable as soon as you walk into a room. Preference will be given to those women who hang their glasses around their necks with a bit of string, and who have a vomit inducing dark moustache. £17,000

Facilities Co-ordinator, MOHEL TRAINING CENTRE We are looking for a loud and bubbly co-ordinator for our facilities department. The candidate must be an outrageous flirt, and ideally will laugh filthily at everything so our managers can imagine they’re still young, funny and virile. Please note that due to the high number of responses, we can only consider girls who are too fat to be wearing thongs that stretch eye-wateringly high up their chuffs while wearing inappropriate midriff t-shirts in all seasons, yet still leave male staff with the overall impression that “you would though, wouldn’t you?” Willingness to drunkenly admit to lesbian dalliances also a bonus.

DANISH BEDDING CENTRE Man with facial tick wanted to make people uncomfortable. Must smell of onions.
£23,373 pro rata including inner London weighting

THE TERENCE HIGGINS TRUST A pleasant opening has arisen for a camp teenage boy to squeal with delight at the merest provocation. The female staff must love you to bits, and you must have an interest in footballers’ legs, Kylie, and Geoff from Accounts.
No bitchy queens, please.
£15,470 plus benefits.

Your Ideal Job is Right Here.
We want YOU to work with us for a staggeringly good wage. This position is something you can do, and it’ll interest you a hell of a lot. In fact it’s so much fun, it’ll barely feel like work!!! We’re a happy relaxed gang here, and I just know you’ll fit in great. Hey, we’re only twenty minutes from your house as well! All you really want, plus a generous pension scheme, healthcare, unusually long paid holiday, and a Lexus. We will need you to visit our New York offices a couple of times a year but don’t worry, it’s only for a week or two, all expenses paid at the Five-star Carlton Hotel, only really to catch up with our American subsidiary and send a couple of emails home. We’ll turn a blind eye to your partner joining you, and you’ll have so much time on your hands, you’re probably better off going shopping on Fifth Avenue all day anyway.
Oh, by the way, you will need at least fifteen years experience in something you don’t have. Sorry about that. You can still apply if you want, but we’ll only bin it. Ah, stop blubbing. I hear that McDonalds need cow-tippers, so it’s not all bad.

ARE YOU… a deviant, selfish, arrogant, unscrupulous, sexually depraved, egotistical, power crazed, greedy, war-mongering, wife-cheating, hooker-sleeping, useless corpulent hypocritical festering mucus cyst on the blubbering lip of the child of Life? Great, we need a new candidate to stand as MP for Uttoxeter West. The Conservative Party, 25 Victoria Street, London, SW1H 0DL
 
VILLAGE IDIOT REQUIRED Must wear seven layers of clothing and a hat during the long summer months while babbling at passers by about noisy cars and Tixylix.
Apply to Margaret Dawson at Kirklees Metropolitan Council, Civic Centre, 3 Market Street, Huddersfield, HD1 1WG

ARCHER COMMUNICATIONS Unbearable sex pest needed at our progressive company to drool at the girls in marketing. We have a position for a sleazy young man who thinks he’s god’s gift to women to pester and harass anyone with breasts. Older senior members of staff must feel flattered by your attentions so they will largely ignore the protestations of the younger women of the office when they come to complain. An ability not to take no for an answer will be an advantage, as will an aptitude for following women into the toilet, sending sexually explicit emails to them on an hourly basis, and arranging at least three dates per day with office staff too new or na├»ve to know better. The successful applicant must be arrogant and boastful to the other men in the company at all times. £18,000 PA

WANTED
We are looking for a dynamic, enthusiastic and charismatic self-starter, with masses of ideas and buckets of passion. You must be of exceptional calibre, dedicating every single hour of the day and night to your unswerving loyalty, never questioning, never criticising. You must dedicate your life’s blood to your work and your career. You will only feel comfortable in the confines of your office your only friends will be us. You will be incapable of talking, thinking or even dreaming about anything other than your job. You will slit your wrists for the good of the company if it has been so ordained. You are vacuous, boring, greedy, and completely oblivious to the concept of enjoying life. You cannot be bargained with, you cannot be reasoned with. You don't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And you absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.
Want to earn £50,000 from home? Wouldn’t we all. Now don’t be so fucking stupid to think we know how and get on with your day job.

Building contractors. Dynamic individual needed to be casually racist and drink tea all day. Building skills not particularly important.

Interim Deputy Participation Co-ordinator, JOHNSON MASON GROUP
Following our restructure, you will be assigned to two different business units consolidating major gift programmes for trust implementation against an annual target income. You may have to work peripatetically selecting pilot areas for our face-to-face service providers, co-ordinating facilitation between holistic relapse focus centres and referral pathway administrators for blue-sky discussions. You will be accountable for the high performance of the… hey, c’mon now. It’s ok. No-one here knows what any of this means either.

Radio DJ’s Sycophant wanted, BBC RADIO ONE
A position has arisen for an inspirational flatterer to laugh along with and boost the ego of Radio One’s top fat ugly breakfast DJ, Chris Moyles. This exciting and rewarding job will have you FETCHING Chris’s tea, RUNNING for Chris’s morning kebabs, LAUGHING uproariously when Chris is insulting a minor celebrity, and BEING SHOUTED OVER when you overrun your allotted sixteen words per show. You will be given the opportunity to be publicly HUMILIATED when Chris is in a bad mood, and you will be the fall guy should anything go WRONG. Successful applicants will be bestowed with the prefix ‘Comedy’ before their first name as an ironic gesture due to the fact that you must not under any circumstances be funny, and certainly not funnier than Chris. A corpse wheeled in to the show once achieved this, and its contract was revoked. This position is ideally suited to inferior nonentities with serious issues of low self-esteem who are desperate to hang on to the greasy coattails of demi-fame for ten minutes, or until Moyles runs out of buns and has to eat you.
£12,855-£14,028 PA.
Justin de Villeneuve, Head of Insignificants,Radio 1, London, W1N 4DJ

CHEAP EASTERN EUROPEAN JANITOR NEEDED to mop up after us when we’ve gone home. Will need own mobile phone to stand on the stairwell as you babble and yell incoherently in your own gruff language at one of your many relatives. An ability to make us assume you’ve nicked our stuff when things go missing will also be an advantage, as will having thick eyebrows that meet in the middle, almost shrouding your disturbing black eyes that screen the dark, unnerving thoughts that lay behind them.
The Commission for Racial Equality

ARE YOU:
Vacuous? Shallow? Fickle? Nauseating? Self-obsessed? Unable to spell any word in this list? Channel Four are holding auditions to look for more talentless retards so they can SHOUT! DANCE! SHIT YOURSELF ON COMMAND IN THE FRAGILE QUEST FOR POSSIBLE FAME AND GLORY! for the next series of Big Brother.
We are looking for: Three homosexual men (ideally one tearful queen, one bitch, and one predatory male), Two attractive bisexual girls, a brain-dead yob, a tart with large tits, a nerd from the Shires, and a token black male who must talk in incoherent rhymes. With large tits. We are also looking for people with as many of the following characteristics as possible: violent, homophobic, homosexual, homophobic homosexual, alcoholic (recovering or relapsed), drug abuser, a witch, druid, nun, monk, rabbi or all five, sexually repressed, extreme left or right-winger or both, and an insecure delusional fantasist who is treacherously overweight yet convinced they’re phenomenally attractive. We want next year’s Big Brother to have the first televised murder. Have you got what it takes to die like a rat on live TV?

THE EXCITING WORLD OF TELESALES
YOU can be CALLING people who will instantly regret picking the phone up! YOU will be WATCHED like a hawk by some scumbag in a suit who thinks they’re a guard at Auschwitz!! YOU will want to end your miserable life in a matter of seconds!!! Sandra, our Dorking branch manager, says: “I don’t hear no calls, mate!” “Nah yer can’t have anuvver fackin’ toilet break. You ain’t paid to shit!!” “Shattap and get diallin’, yer useless fackin’ cahnt!!!”

(I'm sorry)

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

My (ha!) "Book"

So I've not posted for a while. That's not to say nothing's happened (although some sex would've been nice).

Instead I've hit a writing slipstream and am making actual progress on this 'book' I've been working on for several years. It's come and gone in several guises, starting with a variety of sketches and truly terrible chapters I shat out in my twenties, to a completed travelogue of my India trip back in 2001 that was pretty bad.

Okay, both were awful, bordering on evil. I still didn't learn and a few years ago I finished my first fictional novel - based on the principle of writing what you know. Clearly, what I knew was leaden characters, a vague plot, no real ending, a beginning of sorts, and a kind of wishy-washy middle. That had been enough to kill any dreams of my becoming a writer, leaving me to deal with the stale corpse of an aimless man that remained.

And then, waaaaay later and at the beginning of the year, I started to reorder this blog chronologically. I've since been merging all my real-life work together such as my India book and a travel blog to Asia, and everything else in between. Not only did I discover how truly eye-bleeding some of it was, I've improved and revamped it all into what I'm working on now:

My autobiography absolutely no-one's asked for.

I'm not quite half way through but seeing as I started to gain real momentum about a month ago, I've been charging ahead almost non-stop and it seems pretty solid and readable. I've also managed to ignore those voices in my head calling me a shitty piece of shitty-write-shit, so I'm on target to have a first draft done in the next couple of months.

And considering I'm such a pedant and I'm editing a hell of a lot - almost too much - as I go, my first draft is likely to need just one mighty sweep from beginning to end, so Draft Two will become Final and good to go around this summertime, middle to end-ish.

The plan is to self publish via Lulu or somesuch, with Kindle versions a la me old mate Martin.

I've taken writing what you know to an absurd level as I couldn't even invent a fictional white male Englishman with more personal issues than an... ugh, too early in the day to think... so this is all I've got....   This blog.... but new and improved and in order with a whole lotta narrative and progression 'n shit...

Coming soon.

I hope.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Women Are Like Buses - But Sometimes You Have To Call a Cab

It's no secret that I've been single for years. The reasons are threefold:

  1. I no longer work for medium to large sized companies staffed exclusively by transient young things, many of whom are ladypersons who in the past have looked favourably/ taken pity on me. Instead for 7 years I've worked in a tiny London office with the same four blokes.
  2. My ageing social life has slowed to a crawl, syncing with one or perhaps two other single mates where together we've accepted our lot in life and boxed any 'fun' into a few drinks at the weekend with a movie or perhaps meal thrown in.
  3. I have the social skills and confidence of a corpse.
I've always known I'd have to do something drastic to change all this and I'd begun with a long and successful diet and a wardrobe revamp, not that I'd manged to quite follow through. I lost the weight and began buying better clothes, but my inner slob has for the last few months been blaming the cold and wearing jeans everyday, which means boots instead of smart shoes, and - oh - eating utter shit since the summer, meaning I've gained all that weight and no longer fit into my new gear.

So now I'm at a crossroads: I had dieted and revamped my image slowly Seizing the Day, and now I've Reversed the Day and Gone Back to Square One, so what does this mean for my 'I'll date when I'm fitter' bullshit? Basically it means I'll have to lose that weight once more before I look into that again.

Except it'll be a 'Tomorrow never comes' scenario. Instead, I've come to acknowledge this is less about my weight, and more about my balls (as in confidence, not my actual balls.) I'm not so fat that I'm consigned to a bed needing to be rolled over by three people so they can wash my back crevices. I'm not even mildly obese and even if I was, no-one should be excluded from being mutually in love. (Yes, I've been watching Undateables a lot)

I could sense for the last few weeks my brain coming to terms with this. It's been clear I can't just walk up to women on the street and talk, no matter what this fascinating if essentially fucking miserable lifestyle claims, so it's back to the equally miserable if infinitely easier internet dating I swore off years ago - as many years as the last time I had a girlfriend, if memory serves.
All I needed was a kick up the arse - and 3 days ago, it arrived.

My chum Ed, of summer holiday to Crete and the last half-dozen New Years' Eves fame, was nearby one night as I finished work. We went for a rare midweek beer where he described a story he was thinking of writing, which reminded me of a tale from my youth. You may recall it - it was one of the stories from the 1983 Twilight Zone movie, a Steven Spielberg segment called 'Kick the Can.'
Ed, to my surprise, had never seen it, yet it remained as vivid in my mind as if I'd seen it in all its schmaltzy entirety yesterday.

'So it's this old peoples' home,' I began, 'with all these old people. A couple of them are feisty types if a bit delirious, and there's this old English guy, or posh at any rate, remembering how he used to run around pretending to be Peter Pan, the "boy who never grew up", right? There's this lovely old woman there too, reminiscing about how much she loved to dance when she was younger, and this one crotchety old guy who complains that his kids never come to visit, and it's no fun being old. Anyway, this stereotypical Hollywood wise, kindly old black guy arrives, and he's listening to their stories. He produces a can - to a Jerry Goldsmith harpsichord, so it's clearly magic  - and says they should all go outside and kick the fucker once the nurses send them to bed. The crotchety guy gets all crotchety and tells him he shouldn't get the others all excited, and tells everyone to act their age, yet they're all up for it. So this Nurse Ratched type calls it a night and gets everyone into their dorm and turns the lights out, and after a pause they all sneak outside in their dressing gowns and into the garden where they're slowly stumbling about kicking this can. Meanwhile the crotchety guy's still complaining, but they're having a great time. They're all laughing as the camera closes in on their feet as they kick the can to one another, then you realise their pyjamas are getting baggy and their slippers enormous, and their laughter and chatting have become chil-'

My throat seized. 'They've all turned back into chi-' I croaked, and had to stop as tears welled up in my eyes.
Ed looked mildly disturbed. 'Jesus christ!' he said.
I looked at him, and shook my head. I couldn't continue, and was now fairly shocked myself as I couldn't recall the last time I'd got emotionally overwhelmed in private. Getting tearful in public, that would've been maybe twenty years ago, at a fucking death.
'I've only had two pints!' I squawked, but it was too late. If I hadn't captured the fluid held behind the dam of my eyelids, tears would've plummeted down my fat hairy face like an overturned lorry down a cliff.

The last time I'd thought about 'Kick the Can', I'd been a child. Now I was half way through my life and nothing in any grand way had changed, and it scared the shit out of me. It was such a daft tale about growing old, the simplicity of youth, and the wonder of life, and there I was single-handedly doing nothing with mine.

I was so shocked that when I got home, I took out my credit card and paid for an online dating agency I've had an inactive presence on for years. I met my last girlfriend of 5+ years ago there, the American lady I'd not been able to commit to due to LDR and cowardice, and despite our flurry of emails at the beginning of the year, we'd reached a kind of saturation point. I woke up one day and finally 'got it', realising I was always going to miss her but enough was enough; it wasn't going to work and we both knew to leave one another well alone. And in the 3 days since I've been back on this website, I've looked at the dozens of emails stored up over the last few years I'd not been able to see before, and sent some new ones off. Tonight, I had two replies back I'd been hoping to receive.

And then, as I'd opened up my email, a new one arrived. It was a picture from my ex, of my ex, apropos of nothing, just to say hello, and I felt a little gooey and stunned. I really didn't expect I'd hear from her ever again. And now I'm full of guilt. I have new angles for the first time in years!
But oh yeah - new guilt.

I know what your advice will be. It's the same as mine and I know what choices I should make.

I just feel bad, and sad, and shit.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

An Unnecessary List of Documentaries No-one Asked For

Okay, so it's a new year and I haven't even mentioned it. I didn't even comment on Christmas, so just take it as read that I attempted to eat my own bodyweight in crisps and pork chipolatas every day in December. Oh, and January too.
New Year's was in a pub in King's Cross. I went out with my New Year's Eve attendee* Edward, got drunk, and went home.
(*Now in new Summertime hols Edward too)

So for the rest of this year, I've decided now I've regained most of the weight I lost (no idea how that happened) that I'll throw myself into this damn, neverending 'book' of mine and complete a draft. It will not be fiction, as I have to concede I can't do fiction. So instead I'm expanding on my blog, writing, if you like, my autobiography - 'cos that's what the world really wants, right?
I have to do this. It's driving me mad. And once I've done it and eaten myself up to 16 stone and beyond, I'll go back on a diet.
I think I just like having something to battle against.

But I'm posting today to bring you what's been stopping me creatively all these years; documentaries. This is what's curtailed my doing a good night's write; scouring YouTube to watch things instead.
In no particular order:

North Korea

'Propaganda' - Fascinating documentary from North Korea about Western propaganda, that is in itself propaganda. Made for viewing outside the DPRK as I can't imagine their squalid little junta showing conspicuous consumption and modern foreign cities to their impoverished, imprisoned citizens




'Welcome to North Korea' - excellent primer on this secretive Stalinist state


Politics

'Rob Newman's History of Oil' - Okay, so this is stand-up, but it's the best Rob Newman's ever done, with some interesting facts (or "points of view" if you'd rather call it that)



'Inside Job' - Frustrating Matt Damon narrated documentary about the 2008 crash, and those who profited before and since


'The Power of Nightmares: the rise of the politics of fear' - Amazing documentary from Adam Curtis about the "War on terror" and radical Islam:

'Century of the Self' - Also from Adam Curtis, this four-part documentary series examines how Sigmund Freud's work, via the world of 'Public Relations' his nephew invented, have taken Freud's concept of the 'self' to manipulate us into giant, easily led consumerwhores

History

'Britain's Real Monarch' looks into the possibility that Edward IV was an illegitimate child, thus barring a claim for himself and his descendants (i.e. Queen Liz and her entire clan of crooks). The programme then traces the theoretical legitimate line to where the 'real' King of England resides, Jerilderie, in New South Wales, Australia



'Robespierre and the French Revolution' - with lots of acting if you prefer your documentaries dramatised 


Religion

Jesus Camp (Apologies for the Portuguese subs) - notorious documentary about a kiddie camp for Christ. In America. Obviously

'The Bible's Buried Secrets: Did God have a wife?'- Just brilliant. Utterly brilliant. And presented by my wife a woman I like and will never get to meet



'The Bible's Buried Secrets: The Real Garden of Eden'


'The Story of God pt 2 of 3: No God but God' - focussing on the three monotheistic Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. And lots of fun that is.



Geeky Linguistics

'The Story of English' - A beautiful and informative 9-part documentary from the mid-80s that looks at the history and evolution of the English language. Only for the committed but well worth it, you'll have to click on episode 1 part 1 below and follow the YouTube links (on the actual YouTube page) to continue to parts 2 to 7, repeating 8 more times for the other episodes. So that's over 60 clips in all but it's bloody worth it:
Part 1 (of 7) of episode 1. Then you're chasing clips...



One-off feature length must-see documentary

STOP PRESS: Absolute tearjerker I saw a few years ago and have literally just found. Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father is a must see. I won't say anything else, other than it's a very tender and personal tale, and a perfect example of how you tell a story. And of course it's all true...

 

So there we go. Enjoy! I said enj...

Hello?



Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Cats, Twats and Cults


My life hasn’t changed since I bought a cat on a whim (aka: Making tentative enquiries about a cat that accidentally snowballed into actually buying one, because by that point I was too embarrassed to say ‘Nah, I was only asking. I don’t need a cat, thanks). Things have merely shifted into some kind of bizarre neighbouring dimension where nothing's changed, except now my misery has company in the shape of a furry being trotting around my apartment as if she owns it.

Occasionally, I'll be approached so that I might for a brief moment stroke her thrice, upon which she’ll walk away and collapse onto the rug always an aggravating stretch out of reach of my desperately needy hand. She's also for some reason like a small diode giving us electric shocks, which I'm pretty sure is hindering the whole bonding with me thing.

It’s a crying shame too that she’s not the picky-uppy kinda feline I had in my youth. Whenever I lift Rebecca to my chest (she came with that name, so don’t blame me), she struggles to get away almost instantly. The best I’ve managed is about 6 seconds one morning when, being hungry, she needed me. She knew it, as did I, so I was granted some hold time as she judged me through angry blue eyes before thinking ‘Fuck this!’, and struggled for the floor while I screamed: ‘LOVE ME!!!!’

The flat meanwhile hasn't got as filthy as I'd thought. The litterbox is more like a litterhut and doesn’t stink (but then I’m on my knees daily, scooping out Becky's crap and solidified chunks of urine). The worst smell is her food, and the biggest inconvenience clearing that (dried cat food – the hardest substance on earth), and for my troubles I’m afforded some mildly sub-thusiastic leg rubbing during dinner preparation that misses me altogether 70% of the time.

In fact, true to female form if I want her attention I just have to ignore her. It’s a pity I hadn't learned that when it comes to my former girlfriend (American). Once again, leading a life as ladybereft as a sweaty gentleman's leather club in Vauxhall, I have no other option but to pine over the last woman to accept me sex-wise. Perhaps it was a mistake during my Crete holiday for me to email if she wanted some freshly pressed olive oil (being a big fan of just being given stuff, she readily said yes). Perchance it was a bigger mistake to add several packs of Lindt chocolate to the package once I'd returned home. Maybe it was a mistake on her part several weeks later to email that she was considering ‘popping over’ to London, a missive that had me more excited than a child arsonist with ADHD watching his school get firebombed by robots.

In the flurry of digital conversation that followed, I offered her a place to stay on my couch, intending to honour and respect her privacy with every fibre of my being (but if she wanted to sexually assault me, I didn't intend to put up a fight.) Yet a pattern emerged in that flurry, the same pattern of the last SIX BLOODY YEARS where I, the twat, pretty much instigated all contact, and found myself having the last word. So I thought, ‘Screw her,’ and don’t contact her for a week - a whole week! - then I’m in the pub with a friend who tells me ‘She was definitely The One, you know. Marriage material.’ So I think, ‘Yeah, sure, whatevs,’ and go downstairs to get my round but find myself walking outside to casually call New York on my mobile to say, ‘Hi!'

It's needy and pathetic. I think about her daily, because I miss her, and because I don't have the balls and/or confidence and/or will to go out there and begin that painful, awkward hell of meeting other desperately lonely people via the fucking internet date. And as I get older, I realise my natural inability around women is only getting worse, and more awkward and cringey. At our office party in a small restaurant, I made smalltalk with our waitress that wasn't supposed to make her ill-at-ease and creeped out but it did. I tried guessing where according to her strong Slavic accent she was from, and she grunted "Europe" before leaving to get our drinks. She smiled easily at my colleagues whilst frowning at me to such an extent that I thought this was deliberate juxtaposition aimed at getting me to back off, which was horrible to see as I'd barely even leaned on. And when we got up to leave as she stood with waiting customers nearby, she said an abrupt 'Bye' whilst staring at the wall as if she was trying to burn through it with her eyes rather than look at me.

So that's basically what I'm capable of when I try and engage in a little feel-good flirtation with a young lady in the service trade, meaning I'm stuck with Internet fucking dating. It'll never happen at work, because I'm still embedded in a tiny all-male office, which is also confusing the hell outta me as my boss is making restructuring plans involving him at the core and me, his Number Two (poetic), with opportunities for huge theoretical wage increases. 

The trouble is, I don't really know if I want an utterly magnificent wage doing a job for the rest of my working life I never wanted in the first place. And that's a biggie. My boss's plans will take us both (he said) into £-stupid, company director’s wages basically, money I never considered I’d earn. And it’s getting me down. I feel like I'll be selling my soul to the highest bidder, still sat in the same place I told myself several years ago I would be leaving soon (around the same time I'd started an LDR with an American I was ambivalent about).

I think I’d rather be poor, yet happy. I’m almost 63% certain of that. But on the other hand, I'll be earning more than my most successful friends, which obviously is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN THE WORLD. They’ve long done way better than me with their beautiful wives and pretty children and houses with stairs, so earning more money than them will mean I’m winning for once, even though it's by accident, and in a game I'd lost interest in. And not very good at. And bored with.

Basically I'm still in a rut, and realising I'm not just horribly timid among the opposite sex but generally just crap in careers too.

And then last night, I went to PostSecret Live in London. My mate Russell was helping his brother arrange it, and it lifted my mired fucking spirit. Essentially it's that website on tour - the one with the postcards with people's secrets on them - featuring the originator Frank Warren talking about it, and showing some of his favourites on a giant projector. Even better was the fact that it must have been 80-85% young women there. It was like they'd all been stored up over the several years I'd managed to not be in a room with any of them, and it cheered me greatly to get occasional glances that didn't end in their vomiting. (It helped being one of about twenty blokes in an auditorium of several hundred women though).

There was something so feelgood, so life-affirming yet simple in Frank's message. It helped that he's a slight, bespectacled kindly American chap gentle of voice (not to be confused with the gruff cockney fist-flinging promoter of the same name), and his message that we're all valid and worthy. It was no wonder the whole place was filled with impressionable young women - and me. In fact I was so moved and blissed out that I came very close to stepping up to the microphone to calmly reveal my secret was that I'm petrified of public speaking. But it's probably good I didn't, as I almost definitely would've felt empowered enough to go on to reveal that I once slept with a prostitute. Instead, I sat there as (mainly) young girls revealed they were more upset that their hamster died than their uncle, or they're compulsive Icelandic liars.


There was one point during the whole event, during the clapping after each confession, or the cheers of support as someone stepped up to the mic only to be seized with emotion, that it dawned on me that this is what cults must feel like, and I started to feel really quite cynical. But then I remembered there was no promise of paradise at the end of it, or group commitments to be made - unless you count the website, I suppose - and I started to defrost again. Instead I sensed that we're all human and beautifully imperfect, and that I really should give up on that woman who long ago gave up on me - and if I really want happiness, instead of chasing wages I should chase my dreams.

If you happen to know what my dreams are, answers on a postcard please.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Social Anxiety


I've just had another weekend that could be filed under ‘Dull’. I didn't really go anywhere or do anything, barring Friday when I left work to meet Ed, and Large Northern (former) Flatmate, and chatted to his work colleague which was fine until she pointed out her boyfriend. He was sat in the corner observing us and the pair of them began miming across the pub while I could do nothing else but grin and blush, and go silent as I casually broke out in a sweat.

Otherwise my weekend was largely spent ‘in’, drinking alone and eating comfort shit. I ran a couple of errands in the day, such as buying a cat scratching post and a cat litter tray because a woman came round and proclaimed my apartment suitable to house a small furry mammal that meows... and now the truth is starting to dawn in my insecure, doubtful mind that this is a big commitment and I don't really know what I'm doing. I just liked the idea of having a pet again. I was surrounded by them as a child and my life seems kinda empty now, ergo: cat.

I asked my family, and Twitter, what they thought about me getting one (both said yes), and I solicited the opinion of a few friends (who said “'why?”) and now this just seems to be happening anyway, my life about to be turned upside down along with my flat, when I return home to a shredded sofa and the contents of my bin scattered all over the floor. A cat is going to curtail my exciting life - not that I have one - although spontaneous weekends away are likely never going to happen again - not that they ever did.

And then last night, as my health regime died a death while I sat in front of the internet feeding crisps into my face, I made a discovery - and it wasn't porn. I was reading about Daniel Tosh. He's an American stand-up who recently became persona non grata when he made some unpleasant comments about rape. I'd not heard of him even though I'm pretty knowledgeable about stand-ups, and have even entertained the notion of dabbling in stand-up myself were it not for my crippling shyness. And fear of public speaking. And crowded rooms full of people with their silent gaze and endless negative thoughts you can actually see being compiled behind their cold, narrowing eyes as they judge me all to fuckery. 

Anyway, I wiki'd Tosh. I was bored and playing for time as I didn't want to go to bed yet. and noticed he suffers from Social Anxiety. Marginally curious, I clicked on the link only to be floored.

That page had me described in eerie detail; all my foibles and issues under one broad canopy I would've first crept behind as a fat adolescent. Now I really don’t like self-diagnosis, particularly lazy internet browsing on a nascent Monday morning. It all seems like clutching at straws, just half-assed guesswork in place of considered professional opinion, yet the associated link on Social Rejection, bloody hell, it was like whoever’d written it had been thumbing through my childhood diary. 

There were common forms of anxieties; falling to pieces over people they fancy, peer rejection, fear of public speaking, blushing, near constant self-consciousness, overly critical of past behaviour, even being unable to 'go' in a public toilet because dammit!, someone's hovering nearby, I recognised practically every anxiety I read: Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, if it's socially awkward, I've done it, or I'm doing it right now. Or to put it another way; everything I read on those pages I've already blogged.

I still don't like to diagnose myself over the damn internet, but the whole thing fitted me too well. I've got loads of anxieties, and they've got a historical basis. I’ve mentioned before my crappy teenage years although I'd long stopped caring. I just see it as a shitty past that has no bearing on my present, although I'm starting to realise that perhaps it's more important than I thought.

From a social point of view, school was miserable. My home life was fine, but socially it wasn't much better. I grew up with a bad-tempered sister who refused to talk to me. She never wanted me around and even now, at 44, she never gets in touch and I can’t remember when she last phoned me about anything. My stepdad was nice enough but kept out of my way, and mum seemed more interested in the casino where the pair of them would go most nights. In fairness to my mother, she is disabled and when I'd complain about her constant excursions, she would counter that gambling was her only fun in life.

I would’ve been hanging out with friends at that crucial age, but I didn’t have any. I was ostracised at school, and punched or spat at. I admit this wasn’t a daily occurrence, but from what I can remember, it was rare to go a week without at least a passing insult from someone, such as being called a ‘son of a cripple’. Looking back, I liked to think I had friends (perhaps because I couldn't bear to think that I didn't), and I was hardly the fat, silent kid plotting in the corner. I was more jovial than that, and eager to please. The friends I did have were - what's the word? - Not really friendly - and didn't give me the time of day because I was fat and uncool, and hanging around me was bad for your status.

By my mid-teens when I left school, I had no-one. I was probably more desperate for friendship than ever before, and was now convinced that at my very core I was at least deeply flawed. My only sibling continued to yell at me when I approached her, and my parents still took off in the evenings which wasn't so bad actually, as I got to watch TV and eat crisps and hug the living shit out of our pet...OH MY GOD, IT ALL MAKES SENSE…

Anyway, good news was right around the corner when a couple of years later, I'd gone to University and formed genuine and sincere friendships with kind, decent people – and Jamie – who accepted me for who I am etc. Finally, I decided I was going to show those spineless, shallow, spiteful little fuckers from school that I'd be a great success doing 'something'. It would be financially fabulously successful - obviously - and live happily ever after.

Cut to no success whatsoever, just a weeded over non-karmic landscape of whatever.

Point is, my crappy past is clearly a bigger part of me than I've ever cared to admit. It's made me hypersensitive and aware of both how I interact with people, and how they react to me, which isn't great as I overthink everything. I live in constant fear of embarrassing or humiliating myself, which I realise now is one gigantic self-imposed limitation. For example, I won't go online and arrange dates (even though I work in a tiny, all-male office where all I'm guaranteed is a lifetime of lonely cynicism), just because I can't bear the blind date job interviews, the pre-meet fear, the awkward introductions, the judgemental free-for-alls from her and everyone around us, and the silences, all topped off with a general desperation because those formative years fucked me up so much.

Basically, I have Social Anxiety, that's what I'm saying. I think I do a bloody good job of deal with it though. Honestly. Don't look at me like that....