Sunday, 30 March 2014

Nose Problems

My nose is rubbish.

It bleeds like a plague of Egypt, chokes off my breathing if I ever dare lie on my back, and once brought a premature end to guaranteed sex.

My nose is rubbish.

This is why Voldemort got rid of his.

It used to bleed so profusely that it would fill a cereal bowl to the brim (with the cereal still in it), an unsavoury alternative to milk. The blood clots that would squeeze themselves out were like engorged ticks. In hot weather my face was like a game of Buckaroo; the slightest touch or sudden movement would set it off. My sister quickly picked up on this and took gleeful advantage: on a coach to France, in church, in the two-hour line for a rollercoaster, prompting tourists to wrench my head in whatever direction they believed would stem the tide.

When it became too much I was taken to a doctor. He donned inch-thick safety goggles and murmured ruminatively as he gingerly inserted an apothecary’s-worth of creams and ointments into my nostrils.

Actual picture.

It worked, a little. These days my nose has a weekly menstruation cycle, with daily spotting to remind me of its potential for devastation. More of a problem now is the tides of snot it produces if I dare step outside, and how it bungs up like a Russian road blockade whenever I lie down. The nasal spray I use to alleviate the issue insists it not be used for more than 4 weeks straight. I’ve been squirting it up there for 14 years.

What's the worst that can happen?

My nose’s most nefarious crime was its jealous destruction of a promising relationship. I had stayed the night with a girl I was seeing, too tired after a late cinema trip to attempt anything too vigorous that evening. There would be plenty of time in the morning.

When I woke up I felt instantly that tendrils of illness had claimed me overnight. My head was pounding, my chest felt heavy, and my nose had battened down the hatches. But because I am an irresistible specimen of the male species she was not to be deterred.

Who could resist someone who looks this good in the morning?

The problem was that, with my nose having closed its borders, kissing made it terribly hard to breathe. I had to pause every few seconds to take a lungful of air, giving the impression that I possessed the stamina of an asthmatic discus thrower.

‘Give me a second,’ I said, rolling away and plucking a tissue from the bedside table.

I blew my nose as hard as I could. It spewed gouts of thick orange slime like viscous Fanta. It was to be the only ejaculation I achieved that morning.

I arranged the tissue into a hobo’s bindle of luminous sputum and flung it at the bin. It missed, and fell open on the carpet.

I ignored the look of disgust on her face and tried to resume where we had left off. As I leaned in towards her I took a breath, and my nose made a noise like a micro-pig caught in a lawnmower. She caught me by the shoulders and pushed me forcibly away.

‘I’ve just remembered I need to meet someone,’ she said, swinging her legs over the edge of the bed.

It was almost certainly a lie. But soon afterwards she met another guy.

My nose is rubbish.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Saudade

I was recently introduced to the Portuguese word saudade (I am reliably informed that the ‘de’ at the end is pronounced more like ‘je’). It doesn’t have a direct translation in English. To butcher the elegant translation given to me (and to pilfer from Wikipedia), saudade describes a deep emotional state of nostalgic or melancholic longing for things or people that have been loved and lost.

Although the word is new to me, it’s a feeling with which I am intimately familiar. I am a slave to melancholic nostalgia.

I miss going to my Grandma’s house. I would spend an entire summer kicking an air floater football against the garage, smashing Hot Wheels cars against each other on Grandma’s footrest (which she unfortunately called her ‘poof’), accidentally mashing orange silly putty into the carpet, eating Special K for breakfast every morning. I miss creeping out of bed to sit on the landing in the dark and listen to the TV downstairs, sneaking into Grandma’s room with its lurid pink carpet. Those summers were so solitary, but I was so content.

I miss falling hopelessly in love with women who didn’t reciprocate, the intensity of that pain and longing. I miss gripping my phone and begging it to ring, reading more in every text message than was ever present, thinking of her as soon as I woke up every morning. I miss being the kind of person who would get up at 5am just to walk with her to catch her bus, pretending that I had been awake anyway. I miss writing poorly conceived love poetry.

I miss the sense of possibility.

I miss my friends. I long for the time before they moved off around the country, around the world, got married, had kids. I hate that I am becoming less important in their lives. I miss playing Guitar Hero before it was cool, meeting for impromptu evening walks, competing at ping pong in a cramped garage, writing 15-minute songs about Arnold Schwarzenegger, putting our pictures on Hot or Not (my highest ever average was a 5.5/10). It feels like they have left me behind.

Saudade is beautiful, but it is also painful and irrational. I know that I can’t have that time again. It has slipped through my fingers like grains of sand.

For all my best attempts to foster new memories in the present, it feels like my life has fatally stalled. Nostalgia rules me because now feels so much worse than then. In those memories there is joy, and hurt, and curiosity. These days I am empty; an ambulatory chalice for things past.

I miss hope. I miss excitement. I miss love. Saudade is a lifeline to all of those feelings of which I used to have in abundance, and have since lost.


Saudade is a bitch.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

My First Story

I've just stumbled upon one of the first stories I ever wrote. It had escaped being thrown away by sliding down the side of a bookshelf. I must have been 9-10 years old when I wrote it and, given that I now call myself a professional writer, I think it's interesting to share it. I shall reproduce it in its entirety below - all spelling, grammatical, and formatting oddities are very much [sic].

WHEN MY BUM WAS BITTEN
By David Owen

Hello, I am a BOFF JOB called Robert and I am a nerd. One day I was walking down the road when a dog with the black plague jumped out of a dustbin and bit me on the bottom. " You binraider " I screamed but the dog had jumped in a pile of horse manure so I couldn't put it in a paper shredder. I walked back home but I went mental and killed my parents with my sock that has not been washed for 2 years. My bum throbbed so I licked it. I ran to the Hospital and jumped on a dead body and threw it out of the bed. It landed in a paper shredder. The next second shredds of skin were flying everywhere. A few went down my throat and I swallowed them. My bum was so swollen that my pants and trousers ripped so everyone could see my private parts. I screamed several swear words then ran into the toilets and wrapped myself in toilet paper. I had a heart attack 6 times but each time it only lasted 2 seconds. I killed a nurse every day and put them in a paper shredder. I played bouncing the Nurses head with the ceiling until I died. When I died everybody screamed " YES ". They screamed so loud that the hospital collasped. 

THE END.



This is not the first story that I ever wrote - I distinctly remember writing about a band of vigilante hamsters that battled a sunglasses-wearing carrot. But this story, if I remember correctly, marked the beginning of my writing with serious intent. From here I continued to write nonsense and continue to do so today.

I must have shown this to my mum, and it's testament to her as a parent that she likely didn't bat an eyelid. It's a clear attempt by a 9 year old to be as risque as his pre-pubescent mind can manage. Perhaps most worrying is that my sense of humour has hardly matured.

I wonder what my 9 year old self would say if I told him that I was soon to be a published author with a book about SERIOUS ISSUES. He would probably call me a boff job and a nerd.

He would be right.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Hot Teachers

When you spend the duration of puberty at an all boy’s school, an attractive teacher feels like a lifebuoy descending from a helicopter to pluck you from a tumultuous sea of dicks. It would also turn every single pupil within a twenty foot radius into a blundering idiot. A school comprised entirely of sexually frustrated teenage males was hardly the ideal environment to hone romantic ability and, these alluring teachers being our only chance to practice, attempts to work our magic tended to go altogether poorly.

Sting knows what I'm talking about.

The teacher that engorged our imaginations the most was unwisely assigned to orchestrate Biology just as the textbook arrived at sexual education. She was young and in possession of generous mammalian protuberances that resulted in the frequent hiding of swollen laps. The entire class would engage in daring flirtatious games such as pushing our pens off the table when she was nearby and jockeying for view, or calling her over to assist us in our work and sliding our hands across the desk as she leaned over it, in the hope of making tantalising contact. It was a true game of chicken, complete with breasts.

The Biology lessons were sometimes mind-bogglingly graphic, including a video of a grotesquely hairy TV scientist depositing his man batter in extreme close up. It was almost enough to put us off the idea entirely. Almost.

‘Miss,’ said a boy who sat behind us, enthusiastically waving his hand in the air. ‘What does semen taste like?’

He was removed from the class. It seemed to be a tipping point. A few weeks later, due to what I can only assume was pent up thwarted desire, we made her cry by throwing balls of paper at her head and then locking her out of the classroom when she went in search of help. My few break-ups since have barely been more mature.


Then there was the geography teacher who, rumour had it, once had her skirt blown up in the playground by an errant gust of wind to reveal she was without underwear. Whenever she was on lunch duty a small cluster of boys perpetually lingered nearby, just in case.

An attractive French teacher, no doubt proudly exercising her English, admonished a boy for chewing gum by loudly insisting that he ‘stop masticating at the back of the room.’ For a long uproarious moment we all feared she’d somehow climbed inside our collective mind.

A special shout-out must go to the seemingly plain teacher who upset our reality by arriving on owns-clothes day in school uniform so mouth-watering to our teenage selves that we spent the entire day clustered outside her office, engaged in a game of verbal brinkmanship describing the things we’d do to her given the chance (the reality of course being shaking with terror and making a mess of our underpants).

I'd like to say it gets easier when you're older, but...

Attractive teachers were such things as dreams we made on. Whereas the idea of a male teacher acting on fawning schoolgirls was repugnant, the reverse seemed the most exquisite fantasy. We imagined how events would conspire in our favour, where we’d go to commit the deed, how we’d live in pubescent infamy. It was unflinchingly pathetic and shamefully misogynistic, and yet, in the dark ages before easily accessed internet pornography, a vital part of our stymied sexual development.


People are frequently shocked when I reveal I attended an all boys school, though with some thought I’m sure it makes sense to those who have ever seen me try to talk to a woman. It is a worthy scapegoat for my many years since of romantic indecency. Here’s to you, hot teachers.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Rut

Well, 2014 hasn’t got off to a flying start.

The current state of my depression reminds me of that period in the WWE when the Hardcore Title was in constant contention, anywhere, anytime. The holder would walk around with a constant lingering awareness of their impending downfall until the Holly family would jump out of a skip and beat them half to death with a plank of wood.

You monsters.

In real terms, this has recently manifested itself as sudden bouts of crying on train journeys. A trapdoor opens and my mood drops so rapidly I can hardly breathe. There is no discernible reason for it. There is no depression championship to take from me. If there were, I would willingly surrender it.

I am entrenched in the deepest rut of my life. I start this year jobless, single, living at home, and carrying about a stone of Christmas weight which is inexplicably not being shifted by sitting around and eating cake.

You could say the only way is up. If S Club 7 taught me anything it’s that I should reach for the stars. But it feels impossible to improve my life without getting a job. In the last year and a bit I’ve applied for over 300 jobs. That has netted me 3 interviews, all of which have resulted in failure.

Last week I interviewed for an exciting job. It was something I would love to do, and for once I was very qualified to do it. I bought a new set of interview clothes (based entirely on Jim Halpert from The US Office), spent a couple of days researching and preparing, and put every drop of energy I had during the interview into pretending that I don’t hate myself. I didn’t get the job.

Fuck you, S Club 7!

It feels like if I could get a job I would be able to move out again, afford to go and do the occasional fun thing, meet new people and make friends to do this with, maybe meet a girl. Unbelievably, girls aren’t terribly keen on unemployed 26 year olds who live with their mother. Most importantly, I wouldn’t feel so utterly worthless. I know that this is mostly wishful thinking. A job is not going to cure my depression. Nothing will. But it might be the gateway to improving my life. It has to be better than spending every day in my bedroom singing Van Der Graaf Generator songs to the cat.

The cat really hates Van Der Graaf Generator

It’s difficult to live in the total absence of hope. I feel like I’m falling apart, and I don’t know how to stop it.

I’d like to try and end this depressive ramble on a more positive note. I often feel very lonely. When I write things like this the majority of people choose to ignore it. I understand it’s not nice to read, and many will think I’m a moaner who should simply cheer up. But despite the silence that greets things like this, I have noticed a few people making indirect efforts to be supportive. I appreciate it greatly.


And to the handful of people who have been willing to talk to me directly about these things, particularly to those who just take the time to check that I’m okay, I thank you from the bottom of my shrivelled heart. It means the world.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

A Media Ban on the Word 'Fat' is not the Answer

In the news today is consideration of a ban on television and other media using the word ‘fat’ to describe celebrities and other figures. Much of this stems from the actress Jennifer Lawrence, who has spoken out about some (apparently blind) sections of the media referring to her as fat.

I mean, seriously?

It’s not nice to be called fat. I can tell you that from a decade of experience. And seeing healthy celebrities who, thanks to advantages of their lifestyle, look better than most mortals being called fat isn’t nice either. It is, as this campaign rightly contends, damaging to self-esteem and a contributor to health issues such as anorexia, bulimia, and depression, particularly in young people.

But a blanket ban on the word ‘fat’ would only serve to ignore a number of other problems, and potentially make them worse.

I’m not a parent, but I often consider what I would do if my child began to become overweight. On one hand the last thing I would want to do is berate my child and give them a complex about their looks. That’s equally as harmful as exposure to this kind of media. But simply brushing weight issues under the carpet isn’t the answer either.

I gained several stone in weight between the ages of 10-11 and at no point did anyone sit me down to make me aware that it was happening, and that it might have severe ramifications in my later life.

Me in bigger times.

I lost a great deal of that weight aged 17, and a little more aged 20. I’m now 26, and my self-esteem, body image, and social skills are still catastrophically poor. I still struggle with my weight on a daily basis. Being severely overweight during those crucial formative years casts a long shadow. It would not be different if these kinds of media stigma did not exist. I would still have been unaware that it was a problem and therefore unable to address it. But it might have been different if someone had helped me to understand.

My fear is that simply pretending that being overweight does not hold the potential for harm, or that simply pretending the word ‘fat’ doesn’t exist, will only allow weight issues, and the psychological toll, to run rampant.

It’s admirable to promote positive body image. If someone, whatever their size, is happy with their body, that’s fantastic. I agree wholeheartedly that being overweight should not make you a target for derision or judgement. Undoubtedly what celebrity media considers fat is outright hurtful and unrealistic. There are very few people who wouldn’t agree that Jennifer Lawrence is a beautiful woman. But a blanket ban on the word ‘fat’ is not the answer. What it threatens to do is promote a different kind of ignorance that will only perpetuate or even exacerbate issues pertaining to weight and negative body image.

There are also other issues to consider, such as personal health, financial strain on the NHS, and, as obesity figures spiral in countries around the world, particularly in children, the possible impact on infrastructure. It can even have a negative impact on others. To use an anecdotal example, I have a family member who is a paramedic, and is frequently expected to carry people weighing 20 stone or more down flights of stairs, to the detriment of her own physical health.

It seems to me, in my limited knowledge, that the answer should lie somewhere in better education about nutrition, addressing the rampant poverty that is forcing families to rely on cheap, unhealthy food to survive, and providing better support to help overweight people improve their health if they wish to do so. If there was better education, understanding, and support, these media stigmas would carry far less influence and potential for harm.


The intentions behind this idea are good. But it feels a little like scapegoating, and it is not only simplistic in its approach, but even has the potential to cause further damage.

Monday, 2 December 2013

My Book is Getting Published

For the last decade I have been working towards getting a book published. It has pretty much been my only goal in life. And now it’s happening! My first novel will be published in 2015 by Constable & Robinson, who are lovely and bought world English rights.

This is probably the first time in my life that hard work has paid off. Apart from that time I took a 2 hour round walk to purchase discounted ice cream. That paid off handsomely.

Real handsomely

The book is entitled The Marxist Fingernails of King Richard III, and tells the story of a lonely royal fingernail swayed by the coquettish allures of the capitalist model, and his rebellion against his Marxist nail-mates to achieve the American Dream. Along the way he must battle a nasty case of fungus, avoid his head being clipped off, and endure the embarrassment of having faeces embedded underneath himself.

Okay, so I just made that up as I was typing. It actually sounds better than the real book. You can read about that in the press release via The Bookseller.

Official cover artwork

When I started university I set myself the target of being published by the time I was 30. Although in recent years I’ve known that I was good enough to achieve that, I always thought that another obstacle would scupper my chances, as it does for so many: a book idea that isn’t easily marketable; that doesn’t happen to resonate on a personal level with an editor; my lack of sheer dumb luck; my questionable personal hygiene. So I really couldn’t be happier that I will achieve that goal.

In 50 years, when I am living in a hover house full of snakes, I will be able to shout to the hover children outside the hover window that I will be leaving my mark on the world in the form of some book about fingernails I had published once. And the children will say: “What the fuck is a book? Does it hover?”


And I will be so proud.