Tuesday, 13 December 2011

An Apology to My Future Children

A quick note before we start: this is written on the warm and fuzzy childhood assumption that all of us will, sooner or later, get married and have kids. In fact, it’s only recently that I have begun to prepare for a future of loneliness, obesity, and mass cat ownership. Perhaps this was the plan all along. I remember being the only one in general studies class to keep my hand down when asked if ever we’d marry. A muffin-arsed kid called Jeremy told me to stop being an idiot. He’d presumed I had purposely abstained, rather than merely accepted my fate.

As you can probably tell, I’ll forego the happy ending.

This blog operates on the notion that one day the parts of my DNA equipped with ejector seats will cut loose the sticky strands of their landing gear and claw their way to the ridge of some fleshy mountain where, to their dismay or elation, they will find uncharted territory; the insides of a woman.

Now, you may raise an eyebrow at such a contrivance. Here are three potential scenarios upon which to suspend your disbelief:

1. I paid a one-legged blind lady of the night to act as my ambulatory chalice.
2. The ice caps have melted, the sky has fallen, and inexplicably David Attenborough isn’t around to save us. After the second wave of disease, I am, in fact, the last male alive.
3. I leave a very messy toilet seat.

So, to my disease-ridden bastard children of the apocalypse, I leave this apology.

I’m sorry I never knew how to fix your bike. I’m sorry that when I painted your bedroom we all contracted botulism. I’m sorry that my personal food paranoia gave you anorexia. I’m sorry I couldn’t help with your maths homework. I’m sorry I stole from your piggybank to support my burgeoning muffin habit. I’m sorry I couldn’t be happier. I’m sorry I never made it to your super-important baseball game because I was sucked into Neverland. I’m sorry your mother left me.

I’ve had 3 best friends in my life. I’ve also known 3 girls that, on each occasion, I felt I was madly in love with. Each of those girls opted for one my best friends over me. This is the basis for my genuine and deep-seated belief that I will be cheated on and left behind. Not due to any bad nature of the people around me (I supported each of my friends when I found out). It will be due to my own shortcomings.

So, future children, I ask for your forgiveness. Don’t think too ill of me when you try to rouse my cake-addled bulk from the sunken half-pipe mattress that used to be my marital bed. Don’t curse my existence as you scrub cat piss out of your clothes, and find the last surviving member of my feline clan pancaked beneath me when I roll to grant you access to my festering bed sores. I promise I did my best, and that my intentions were good.

My life-savings are hidden in the floorboards. Spend it on something wise. A dinghy for the coming thaw, or a hit on your mother. You’ll find it packed into a box and wrapped in a family portrait, a reminder that, just for a while, I was very lucky.  

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Smoking

My first cigarette was a second-hand stub retrieved from a flower bed in the park just outside my school. I was eleven. It was the last day of year 7, and what better way to celebrate than by sucking toxic smoke from damp tobacco through a filter saturated in a stranger’s saliva?

Despite this inauspicious start, smoking stuck. That summer I stole cigarettes (unused ones) from my Grandma’s stash and smoked them with a friend in the same park while riding our bikes in circles around the tennis courts and arguing which was best, Pokemon Red or Blue.

At eleven (or twelve, by the time the habit was in full swing) smoking was cool. It was the combustible equivalent of greased back hair, an inexorable erection, and a leather jacket with T-Birds etched in studs on the back. I was too fat to be cool for real. Smoking was the ideal facade. And it wasn’t long until my small circle of friends got in on the act.

The academic limbo of year eight arrived. On any given morning, if you’d disembarked from the 358 bus and strolled into the park, you would have found a group of twelve year old boys huddled together in the bushes, a cartoon raincloud of smoke suspended over our heads. We saw ourselves as outlaws; underage, targets for older boys hungry for cigarettes, and bound by the myth that some teachers patrolled the park before school.

The only part of this story I’m proud of is that, for once, I’m not the yellow-belly of the piece. I was the one who’d brave the scorn of corner shop owners to purchase lighters. It was me who, a few months after the smoking craze struck, took the next step and lit up my inaugural spliff. (Hindsight reduces the drama of this; they came at the cost of £2.50 each and were rolled in a bus ticket. For all I know I was smoking a refreshing cup of PG Tips).

It was my best friend at the time who couldn’t handle the pressure of our morning underbrush smoking club. Like me, he was in dire need of the cool points that came packaged with smoking. Only, deep down, he was too sensible for it. Every morning, despite what it had cost him, he would find any excuse to take the minimum possible puffs of his cigarette or spliff. Often he would just ‘enjoy the smell,’ before choking to the brink of regurgitation. Other times he’d very accidentally drop and step on it all at once, or simply express his satisfaction in ‘watching it burn down.’

One morning paranoia got the better of him. As we huddled in the bushes, a little Westie dog barrelled through the branches. My friend lost his shit.

            ‘I know that dog.’

We all peered down at it through the smoke.

            ‘I know that fucking dog. It lives across the road from me.’

            ‘So?’

His eyes were white and wide from fright. ‘What if it gets its owner?’

The Westie just stood there, looking around at us with its tongue lolling out between its teeth.

            ‘It’s not fucking Lassie.’

            ‘If the dog tells its owner they’ll tell my parents and they'll tell the school. Then we're fucked!'

He threw his lit cigarette as hard as he could at the Westie. It shook its head and dashed out from the cover of the bushes.

            ‘Shit!’

My friend ran too, in the opposite direction, before the Westie could wire up its enigma machine and blow our cover to its elderly owner.

I would have been smart to kick the habit then too. Due to the spreading epidemic of older boys threatening us with undesirable violence for our cigarettes, I took the genius precaution of hiding my supply in a small car-shaped biscuit tin. To protect the precious deathsticks, I clumsily lined the inside with padding and sticky-tape. It took exactly two days for my mum to discover the case and (quite rightly) kick the metaphorical shit out of me with perfectly executed verbal, mental, and, to my freshly purchased packet of twenty cigarettes, physical abuse.

This left me more time to work on my other crippling addiction. Binge eating was about to hit in a big way. No bushes required. 

Sunday, 6 November 2011

The Ski Slope Mutiny

Each of us, now and again, should be allowed to indulge in moments of ostentatious heroism. In a lifetime spent being crammed to the brim with an aspirant cocktail of airbrushed romantic leads and real-world tales of unbelievable hardship and altruism, I would feel disenfranchised without the odd occasion of fabricated hyperbole. I’m too yellow-bellied for war, and I’m unlikely ever to find myself in a situation that demands my self-sacrifice in the name of destroying zombies/Nazis/the entire cast of The X Factor. Instead, such moments must be sought in the mundane, where inevitably they will go quite wrong.

My moment came on a school ski jaunt to Austria. With no previous slope experience, I opted for the snowboard. Snowboards are cool, and therefore I would be too. At the time I was too young to have worked out why businessmen bloated on their own wealth only ever split their weight between a pair of skis. It turns out that, with a circumference roughly equal to that of the Ghostbusters Stay Puft Man, carving the powder to the max (dude) on a board with any degree of competence is about as easy as resisting a third helping at the lodge buffet. To this day, informing people that I’ve been snowboarding feels a fallacy, as I spent far more time rolling uncontrollably head over man-breast than I did stood upright.

The first day on piste was dedicated to mastering the basics. I did not master them. The second day saw us unleashed on the beginners slope. I say unleashed; I never actually made it to the top.

The ski lift was an automated pulley with plastic harnesses to secure around your waist for a quick tug to the nearby peak. At first I wasn’t the only one to struggle. The beginners slope became a sort of slapstick montage, 14 year old boys bowling over furious Austrians, snapping harnesses and generally demonstrating to the world why our school had been officially classed as ‘failing’ for over a decade. Those that conquered the lift were soon painfully reacquainted with gravity.

After a morning of this, the mutinous murmurings began. We were being forced to learn too quickly. We were being pushed too hard. We had ice down our trousers. Snow was falling hard now, and we were getting fed up. I most of all. I hadn’t eaten for at least an hour, and was suspicious that all this might count as exercise. If only someone would raise an objection. If only someone were brave enough to stand up for the rights of these downtrodden...

A final conflict with the ski lift tipped me over the edge. In the process of falling over I managed to catch my ankle in the harness and was dragged ignominiously up the slope on my face. When I disentangled myself, I marched over to the instructor who was stood with the rest of the class.

With righteous anger I sternly informed him that we were not happy with how things were going. In fact, we were more than unhappy. We were sick of it! We demanded change, and we demanded it immediately!

For a display of ostentatious heroism to be successful, a certain level of solidarity is required. Like a wave of men raising up their voices to insist that they are Spartacus. Or a legion of sheep, raving and drooling, falling united on the necks of their canine oppressors. I believed that such support from my fellow disillusioned would be implicit. When my fevered rhetoric was complete, I turned, expectant of a cheer, a ‘hear hear!’, perhaps a smattering of applause.

The final rule is that, if your display has clearly not worked, take it gracefully. If your fellow boys are staring at their boots or taking a sudden interest in some non-descript vista of the white-out, don’t scream that they are all wankers and stomp away across the powder. Further, try not to cry and fog up your goggles to the point where, combined with the swirling snow, you become lost on your return to the lodge and spend two hours alone in -19c before you make it back.

By the next morning, each and every one of my betrayers had mastered the ski lift and the ability to reach the bottom of the slope in an erect and dignified fashion. I spent the rest of the trip secure in the lodge, rescuing those around me from early graves by heroically reaching the bottom of innumerable plates of chips, an alternative form of heroism far more suited to my natural abilities.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Hot or Not

In our mid-teenage years, when sex was still a lofty aspiration and movies like American Pie a romanticised self-help blueprint, my very small circle of friends (three of us, so more of a friendangle) explored any avenue that aligned us even remotely to the near-mystical realms of carnal pleasure. Predating these halcyon days of free streaming, we downloaded 20-second samples from porn sites and secreted them in hidden files on the family computer. We lit digital candles and flopped out our gigantic e-penis’s for frantic cyber-fornication in chat rooms. We stretched the boundaries of decency in answering the social measurement: a/s/l?

Typical answer: 18/Hot Guy/Up the bum?
Real answer: 13/Oh God Please/Not here, my mum’s watching.

We were three guys with newfound hormones trapped in the pubescent pressure cooker of an all boys’ school. We feared that if we didn’t satiate our desires we’d inevitably cross the point-of-no-return and bugger each other blind behind the sports hall. Fortunately, the perversions of the Internet always serve up a fresh humiliation to aid distraction.

Before MySpace and Facebook made it possible to lower your trousers in front of any girl in the world with only the persistent sting of shame as repercussion, Hot or Not encouraged us to pass judgement on people’s worth by rating their appearance from 1-10. No friends, likes, or interests. Just a parade of narcissism designed solely to inflate or shatter fragile egos.

It’s still going. Check it out: hotornot

It had its problems. The beautiful would undercut their rivals and the ugly amongst us would rally against the aesthetically gifted like a massacre at an Abercrombie & Fitch store. Still, nothing online at the time quite matched the heady thrill of rating these girls’ faces from the safety of a desk that hid the real reviews in our laps.

Quite what we hoped to achieve by throwing our own mugshots into the breach I’m not sure. Perhaps we felt that, robbed of the opportunity for real girls to laugh in our faces, we’d let the anonymous do it instead. More likely, we aimed to establish a hierarchy in our friendangle, like rutting stags comparing the size of their antlers.

So for one afternoon my front room transformed into a photoshoot. The other stags carefully shaped their hair with gel until, respectively, they resembled an underfed bird of prey and Chandler from Friends when Matthew Perry was in rehab. At the time, these were considered good photos.

Worthy of note, this was around the week or so that Peter Andre’s ‘Mysterious Girl’ was back in the charts. Possibly the most sexually ambiguous moment of my life is preening myself in front of two camera-wielding boys while this video played repeatedly on the music channels: Contains Gratuitous Homoeroticism

I was very much at my fattest, and unaware of the tricks the overweight utilise when being photographed (wear dark colours, take photo from high angle, pull a face that apologises to the viewer for scarring their eyes). I wore a shiny blue shirt, and decided to run my head under the shower to really capture that fetching ‘drowned wildebeest’ style that drives girls wild. I looked like an over-the-hill pornographer hoping to forge a career in heart disease prevention posters. At the time, it was considered a good photo.  

Our profiles went online. Each morning on the walk to school we discussed/gloated/commiserated over the results. I don’t quite have the heart to log in to my old account and check my score. The hierarchy had been established, and I was firmly at the bottom.


Sunday, 9 October 2011

Let's Get Ready to Rumble!

There’s a general consensus that I’d kick your arse. Just last night a man easily twice my weight assured me with some enthusiasm that I would ‘fuck him right up proper.’ This declaration came in a busy Penge pub where half the patrons would open my jugular with a splinter of pool cue if I accidentally slagged off the wrong football team.

In this particular showdown, I might have fancied my chances. It would be a simple war of attrition; I, the plucky dogfighter, circling King Kong, peppering tracers into the furry titan’s plentiful folds until he topples, lengthening heartbeats thumping around the beer garden to spell the end.

Ever since I defied my diet of crisps and Turkey Dinosaurs to surpass the 6’ mark, this misconception of an inner ferocity has dogged me amongst male company. When some rapscallions from a lower year disturbed a school drama rehearsal, it was my presence which deterred further irritation. Despite my aged necrophiliac in pink long-johns costume, they retreated from the room murmuring warnings that ‘the big one might switch.’ I hadn’t moved a muscle.

Those who know me well are keenly aware that I am, to use appropriate regional dialect, a fassy. If threatened with violence, I’m more likely to flee at the head of a urine trail as the darkening stain on my trouser-front greets the pavement than I am to stand and fight. A broad pusillanimous streak as served me well in avoiding being stabbed/mauled/buggered with garden shears.

My official fighting record thus far in life is 1-1. My first pugilistic foray was against Charlie, a weasel-like boy smaller than myself who lived in the same tower block as my dad. Some time before we had fallen out after he gashed open a younger boy’s head with a rock. I was indoors and received a phone call from my sister inviting me outside to play with her and Charlie’s sister. I did not sense the trap.

The lift doors slid open, and Charlie was waiting, a Bond villain smile on his chops. This was the 10-year old equivalent of having dropped through the floor hatch into the inconsiderately placed crocodile tank. With our respective sisters his baying crowd, he came at me. And I switched.

Without throwing a punch, I got hold of his neck and forced him to the ground. Those in possession of a killer instinct would have rained punches on his not-so-smug-now face until it more closely resembled a half-eaten placenta. Instead I became confused as to what should happen next and just sort of squeezed his throat a bit until his sister started to scream ‘He’s got chewing gum in his mouth!’ Bruce Lee would not have shown mercy. But I, the humble victor, released my quarry, whipped my imaginary cape across my shoulders and disappeared into the night.

Well, went inside and ate a celebratory Kit Kat.

Years later I was cut down to size by Michael O’Neill, a physically imposing bully who chose the wrong day to practice his pro-wrestling moves on my face. By this time our lives were defined by emulating steroid-addled tanned phalluses in rubber shorts who, much to our belated chagrin, pretended to beat each other up in increasingly extravagant fashions.

Michael’s disregard for the structural integrity of my head however, was very real. After one involuntary faceplant too many, I stood up and kicked him.

To my horror, he kicked me back. Far harder than I had kicked him.

I would not be discouraged! I kicked him again!

Then he kicked me really hard. Twice.

It’s somewhere around then that I fell down and proceeded to cry for as long as it took for him to wander away in disgust. A tactic not often seen in the WWF, but a far more convincing performance.

‘Whoa, I’d never mess with you, big fella!’ chatters King Kong as he wraps his opposable thumbs around his pint and lurches off to scale the kebab house. As always I laugh, brandish my fist and clench my teeth in a mock snarl. Inside me, the humiliated teenager lifts his head from the tear-soaked grass and wipes his forehead in relief.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Revisionist Dialogue

I’m not one to be nostalgic.

...wait, that’s not right.

I suffer from chronic nostalgia. Why else would I indulge myself with this blog? As the observant amongst you may have gleaned, I harbour quite the collection of regrets. A classier individual would preserve them in their original packaging and keep them in mint condition deep inside while trying to ignore the gradual onset of debilitating personality defects. For better or worse, I prefer to replay incessantly the regretful incidents inside my skull like never-ending repeats of Top Gear. And to soothe my deflated ego, I’ll often take the opportunity to revise my words and actions for a more favourable imaginary outcome.

So here’s a collection of past exchanges where the stammering that tumbled from my mouth could have taken a more desirable shape. 


Girl: ‘I’m impressed you managed to find me among all these people.’

What I should have said: ‘Thank my childhood tracking razorbacks in the bewintered belts of forest on the Rhine.’

What I actually said: ‘I remember what you look like from behind.’ 



Friend (angry after I’d thrown my 20-stone frame down onto his prone body): ‘Your tits are bigger than my mum’s!’

What I should have said: ‘I’ve got something bigger to give your mum!’ or ‘You still suck your mum’s tits!’ or something equally witty at the age of 13.

What I actually said: *waddles away crying*



Girl in chat-room (Honeybunch69): ‘Tell me you love me.’

What I should have said: ‘Honeybunch69, you seem like a really nice girl. I completely believe that you’re 16, large-breasted, and dripping wet at the thought of cyber-sex with a fat, perspiring 12-year old on his mum’s computer. But I don’t think a chat-room is the proper medium for declaring our love. Perhaps we should give it some time, get to know each other a bit, and see where our emotions lead us.’

What I actually said: ‘I love you. Wanna cyber?’



Girlfriend: ‘Do you mind if we watch the X-Factor?’

What I should have said: ‘OH GOD NO, PLEASE, NOT THAT. ANYTHING BUT THAT. I FEAR FOR MY INTELLECT, MY FAITH IN HUMANITY, AND MY RESTRAINT IN NOT BATTERING YOU TO DEATH WITH THE TOASTER.’

What I actually said: ‘Of course I don’t mind!’



Karl Kennedy from Neighbours: ‘Did you guys enjoy the show?’

What I should have said: ‘Karl, my love, it was the single most arousing moment of my life. Now put those talented hands on my body.’

What I actually said: ‘Yeah! I thought you’d be shit!’



Attractive girl (noticing a pattern?): ‘It’s late, you can just stay here if you want.’

What I should have said: *porn bass* It’s natural
                                        It’s chemical (let’s do it)
                                        It’s logical
                                        Habitual (can we do it?)
                                        It’s sensual
                                        But most of all...
                                        Sex is something we should do
                                        Sex is something for me and you

                                        I’m not your father
                                        I’m not your brother
                                        Talk to your sister
                                        I am a lover

                                        C-c-c-c-come on!’

What I actually said: ‘No, I think I’m coming down with something. I’ll just get snot all over your pillows.’


Perhaps taking sex advice from George Michael is where I’ve gone astray all along
?

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Jury Duty

All of us, at one time or another, when parked in front of cartoons on a Saturday morning or left alone in a corner of the playground, dreamed of being a superhero or vigilante with the power to singlehandedly bring bad guys to justice. Sadly, as we mature and realise the likelihood of being knifed, these ambitions go unfulfilled. It should have delighted me then, when I played an instrumental part in sending someone to prison for murder.

Now, anyone that’s done jury duty will have already dismissed this as *ahem* ‘bigging myself up.’ I concede that, by and large, jury duty is a tedious ordeal that would be unbearable without a generous supply of Polos. Television has lied to us. Lawyers don’t shout at each other. Judges don’t bang a hammer. The closest thing to a surprise witness was a man who thought he heard a shout, ‘but it might have been his cat.’ Nonetheless, I was the last juror called for an above-average trial. A murder case.

It would be inappropriate to go into detail. After a fight between two gangs of teenagers, one boy had his skull caved in. The case was made more complicated by the main suspect committing suicide in custody, so the trial stretched on for 3 largely uneventful weeks. The main revelation that emerged during this period? Apparently using your lunch allowance to eat 4 Twix bars every day will result in it becoming difficult to fit on the end of the jury bench.

Fortunately I had my own chair when it came time to retire to a private room and reach a verdict. The judge provided a number of steps for us to consider that would render different sentences. Clearing the first step meant an assault charge. If we cleared the second and third steps, manslaughter. The final step; murder.

Gathered around a large table, the 12 of us agreed without objection to the assault charge. Soon, the majority had also cleared step two. And that’s where we hit a wall. The rest was a slippery slope; if we went any further there was no stopping until we reached the murder charge. We took a preliminary vote to proceed. Only I raised my hand.

The choice left to me was either to relent and let the boy get a relatively short sentence, or to try and talk the others round. So I rolled up my sleeves.

I didn’t do this for the sake of it. I wasn’t on a power trip, nor did I feel personal animosity toward the defendant. Even if he did seem like a cunt. I truly believed he was guilty of murder. And the problem was that everyone else around the table knew it, but were too scared to have the delivery of a life sentence on their conscience. It was questionable if one or two of the older jurors actually knew where they were.

One-by-one, I convinced them all to push for a murder charge. Like the games I used to play in the corner of the playground, I cited evidence, phrased an argument, and stabbed the air with a pen in a vaguely threatening manner. I was a superhero, a vigilante; I was Popeye, fuelled by Twix’s instead of spinach. And an hour later when we voted again, every single person raised their hand.

            ‘How does the jury find the defendant on the charge of murder?’

            ‘Guilty, your honour.’

The boy collapsed in the dock. A strange blend of euphoria and guilt whirled in my gut. This wasn’t how it had felt all those times I defeated the imaginary villain. The family of the victim cried and screamed as bailiffs led the guilty away. This was the only part of the trial that was just like it is on television. 

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Dave's Big Blog of Dating 2: The Disappointing Franchise Sequel Reboot

It has been brought to my attention (by me) that my previous blog, ‘Dave’s Big Blog of Dating’ (‘A woefully inept and frequently risible exploration of self-pity – 1 star’ ~ The Daily Express) was perhaps a smidgeon biased in my favour. Insofar as it focused almost exclusively on incidents which portrayed me as the tragic put-upon victim of evil female soul-sucking harpies who sunk their claws into my unexpecting back while I fed starving vagrant kittens from my bare hands.

So in the interest of fairness, this blog is about the times I have been a dick. It’s less a sequel, more like one of those films that happens at the same time as the previous one and fills in holes that were never there in the first place. Like The Lion King 1.5. But less shit.

Let’s strain a metaphor for a moment. My relationship with women is much like my relationship with biscuits. I love biscuits. I admire biscuits. I covet biscuits. Yet when I get my hands on biscuits, I become riddled with doubts. Do I really want these biscuits? Is it the right thing to eat these biscuits? Despite my love for the biscuits, I will always find a reason not to eat them because it isn’t the right thing to do.

Biscuits are awesome. But I can’t make them last.

I’ve had 2 girlfriends in my life, and I broke up with them both. One of them via a shameful combination of text and Facebook message. As far as I’m aware, both of them were quite fond of me, and I was fond of them. Yet I found reasons to end those relationships. When I lie awake and think of these reasons, sometimes I still think they were valid. Other times I don’t understand them, and wonder why I shot myself in the foot. I don’t know if I was justified. But neither girl saw it coming.

I wish I’d treated both of them better.

I lack self-confidence and I’m also a coward. Think of the character in a rom-com that’s supposed to be ugly because they wear oversized spectacles. Then take away the inner fire and determination that redeems them and eventually wins the popular person’s heart. This is another strained metaphor, this time for myself.

A few times during university I had girls interested in me, but I wasn’t sure if I was interested back. So I’d entertain their attention for a while, until I decided against it. Then I’d act aloof or cut off contact.

I’m sure none of these women went away distraught and threw themselves under the nearest racehorse. Yet I know I could have handled it less like periphery beefcake in an episode of Sex and the City.

Fate offers easy absolution. We just weren’t meant to be together! Those biscuits just fell into my basket! You weren’t supposed to see me trying on your underwear! The theory I operate under when I need to lighten the guilt, is that the majority of the girls I was a dick to found earth-rending love soon after. It wasn’t meant to be! I would have unwittingly kept them from their soul-mate! I was just the My First Walkman of boys, the nappy before they became a big kid.

My lasting hope is that an interminable awareness of my indiscretions means that this blog need never have a threequel. They’re always shit anyway.

...except for Die Hard With a Vengeance. That movie’s awesome
.  

Monday, 5 September 2011

Dave's Big Blog of Dating


As you will all have gathered by now, I am quite the exuberant ladies man. A swarthy lothario, if you will. So successful am I that I have compiled a short list of things not to do whilst engaged in a date. These are absolutely NOT based on personal experience, and I have absolutely NOT done every single bloody one of them at some point in my limp dating history.

- Karaoke is not a good first date destination. Girls will not be impressed by your air guitar acrobatics nor your ability to hold the long falsetto at the finale of Sweet Child O’ Mine like a castrated Gregorian monk with crayfish clamped on his nipples. Addendum: Do not proceed to propose a duet.

- If a restaurant offers free dessert to apologise for poor service, play it cool. Perhaps suggest sharing one between the two of you. Do not order the two biggest desserts on the menu, and spend the interim before its arrival finding variations on the sentiment, ‘Free dessert! Free! Free dessert! Dessert for FREE!’ Further, do not insist on finishing hers once your own has long since been consumed.

- Do not perform your Samuel L. Jackson impression. It’s not funny and it’s vaguely racist.

- When the girl you’re on a date with asks you to help pick the outfit she should wear to another date with a different guy, don’t actually help her choose a nice ensemble. Choose something incredibly ugly to put off your rival. Alternatively, punch the girl in the face.

- Do not tell your date about your personal tradition of Bread Tuesday. Learn from this example. Years later, do not tell your date that you made a bet with yourself to never use a knife to cut food for the entire three years of university. Especially when that isn’t even remotely true. It is not a quirky conversational gambit to break an awkward silence. It is a fucking stupid thing to say.

And now to break the wafer-thin pretence of this blog with some advice on how not to behave when rejected after a date.

- The least convincing excuse I ever received for the cancellation of a second date was that a printer she really wanted was on sale for one day only in her home town and she just had to make the journey lest this incredible offer pass her by. Do not believe this excuse and offer to meet her at the train station to carry said printer home for her. You can not possibly look more pathetic.

- Do not chain-eat seven packets of biscuits and spend the night vomiting a variety pack smoothie.

- It isn’t romantic to scour the internet for the girl’s address and send her a big packet of the sweets she vaguely mentioned she liked. It’s creepy. You will look as if you’re trying to groom her future children for a franchise reboot of failed dates.

- On the rare occasion that a partnership goes several dates deep, my common experience is that inevitably, the girl loses interest after a short time. This is frequently my own fault (see everything written above), particularly coupled with a crippling terror and incompetence in putting on the sexy moves. However, the girl often doesn’t quite have the heart to tell me this, because hey, maybe they, like, see me as more of a friend? *insert smiley emoticon to cap off rejection e-mail* Recognise the signs: tailing off of previously frequent communication, particularly textual messages. Poorly realised excuses (see point 1 of this section). Being informed via go-between that she got off with this totally hot guy last night and it was totally the sexiest moment of her life. Get the message. Do not harangue her with needling text messages, online messages, pathetic status updates, and lovelorn notes through doors. Like, totally try and maintain a shred of dignity.

- Do not get drunk, black out, and wake up many hours later on the floor of a strange house with a black eye and a phone outbox full of increasingly incomprehensible text messages informing the girl that you ‘rfalmy luve hdr’ and that ‘thdyve kjkef me oot nd i bjn sibk maycd wd cam takk?’ Such mellifluous verbiage will not win her heart nor explain to the person who’s house you’re in who the hell you are.

(Prizes for whoever can decipher those text messages – all week at Crazy Dave’s!)

- Lastly, if you ever want to break this streak of disaster, do not write an overlong, self-pitying blog post
about how pathetic... bugger.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Status Quo

Of any confession bared on this blog, the following is the most shameful. A revelation to embarrass my speculative future children. Any other person would keep it to themselves at risk of being tarred, feathered, and disowned by society, of having faeces propelled forcibly at their heads and, quite simply, never getting laid again. To tell you this, dear friends, is truly to throw myself into the breach.

I went to a Status Quo gig on my own once.

...

Oh, you’re still reading. Your loyalty is touching.

At this gig, I discovered what many of you would probably assume without needing to test the theory: a Status Quo concert attracts a rather remarkable selection of freaks.

Due to my eagerness to witness one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll bands of all time, I arrived at the venue (Portsmouth Guildhall) incredibly early. Such alacrity meant I was soon queuing with the keenest members of the Status Quo fan club. The woman at the head of the queue informed me, when her lungs were able to draw enough breath beneath the gargantuan weight of a quintuple chin and breasts the size of Henry hoovers, that she had attended every show of every tour for the last 25 years. The others gravitated to her (partially by choice, partially due to the laws of physics) like a guru, a 12-bar blues messiah, or an intergalactic slaver who they owe a debt.

For the gig itself, I was stood immediately behind this bunch of Quo fanatics in the first row. Now, I should take the opportunity here to explain that Status Quo is the greatest band of all time. Their back catalogue speaks for itself, with such hits as Rockin’ All Over the World, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Old Time Rock ‘n’ Roll, Rock ‘n’ Roll ‘n’ You, Let’s Rock, and many more. It’s difficult to describe the heady thrill when the curtain came up to reveal stage-wide stacks of gleaming white Marshall amps, and the band ran (well, walked at a quickened pace) out to the deafening thunder of the first of three chords they’d treat us to that night. The fan club guru lady went so crazy she almost managed to lift her arms without getting out of breath.

The first few songs tore by. I whipped out the air guitar, tossed my hair, sang along – all the things that mean I will never have sex again. Just as Guru Lady roared her approval at the guitarist above her, and he looked round for a chain to strangle her with, something collided with my heels. A guy in a wheelchair.

As I turned he again bashed into my legs.

‘What?’ I shouted.

Somewhere inside his thick beard I saw his mouth move, and he waved at me to move out of his way. I’m not a bad person. I give up my seat on buses for old ladies. I help women carry prams up stairs. But I was fucked if this guy was taking my place at the altar of Quo. Health & Safety regulations were on my side.

After several valiant attempts to sever my feet from my body, wheelchair guy gave up and eventually manoeuvred beside me. Shortly afterward, 2 very drunk middle-aged women in their daughters’ clothes decided to infiltrate the front row. They targeted fat Guru Lady and her place on the rail. Big mistake.

What followed is the least impressive fight I’ve ever witnessed. The first woman grabbed Guru Lady’s shoulder and tried to pull her back. To give you an exaggerated simile, this was like if I tried to take Clifford the Big Red Dog for a walk against his will. Guru Lady threw a ham-hock arm back in defence and knocked the woman to the ground. The second woman pounced and received a swollen fist to the face.

The first woman attacked again, but backed off after Guru Lady bellowed something at them which may or may not have been ‘I’ll freeze you in carbonite for later!’

Defeated, the women shifted along until they blocked wheelchair guy. Like expelled concubines, they had identified a lesser lord to serve. When the guy punched them in the arses to move them, they took this as encouragement. The final song began to play. For the intro, the women limited themselves to a teasing sexy-dance to placate him. As the first verse kicked in, the first woman dropped it like it was hot straight into his lap. She ground on him, and as the chorus began the other woman put her leg across his face and dry-humped his ear. By the end of the song, and the end of the gig, each of them had a seat on either side of the wheelchair while the guy fondled a breast in either hand and smiled like it was Christmas.

So, it is possible to see Status Quo and still get laid.





Sunday, 21 August 2011

Companion Cube


‘If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.’

Today I have watched 1 episode of Lost. Once you a cut a swathe through the heaps of plot contrivances, every character is motivated by, or at least present as a result of, love. I also watched 2 episodes of Frasier, where the pursuit and maintenance of love is paramount. I read 50 pages of The Scorch Trials, by James Dashner, where the protagonist quests to regain his soul mate (as well as find the cure to a futuristic debilitating disease that will turn the world’s population into zombies... but that isn’t relevant to my point). I played a while on Portal 2, where you’re encouraged to love an inanimate metal cube.

Please, don’t envy my hedonist jet set lifestyle.

As a fat teenager at an all-boys school, love only seemed possible within these fictional realms. My parents were long-divorced. My peers far more interested in amassing Pokemon cards than finding their life partner. I knew that somewhere in the future I would lose interest in catching ‘em all and just focus on catching one.

I’m 24, and I’ve had 2 girlfriends. I cared for both of them, but neither relationship lasted long enough for me to even think about love.

‘If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.’

I believe I have loved. An epic poem for the ages could be composed about my teenage passion for biscuits. There is no famous literature written about visiting a person’s Facebook profile twenty times a day because it’s the closest thing to being near them. About staring at your phone in sheer desperation for a text to arrive. About laying siege to a person’s home by camping outside the walls until they have no choice but to come out and face you.

Actually, that last one’s sort of The Iliad, so there has been an epic poem written about it. And it’s kind of creepy.

I have never had love reciprocated. I assume it’s much the same as what I have felt, but without the feeling that your heart might explode at any moment/the police will knock on the door to arrest you for harassment. Does this make it less significant? I have felt love, but not had love. So am I just a clanging cymbal? Am I nothing?

‘If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.’


What used to feel as irrelevant as all those pop-culture references in my opening paragraph will soon be has now taken on a startling immediacy. Those friends that refused to trade their shiny Raichu for my shiny Mewtwo are now married, living together, having kids. I’m happy for them. I’m not even necessarily jealous of them. I’m fearful of becoming irrelevant to them. I already don’t have many friends. Sooner or later, as the debilitating love disease claims each of them, I will be forgotten to them.

Of course, this is all built upon the sand foundations of my pessimism. Maybe soon it’ll be me boarding a plane to chase love and crashing on a tropical island full of contrivances. Maybe it’ll be me falling for an inanimate objects (I hear blow up dolls are very realistic these days). Maybe it’ll be me that grows out of the naive teenage idea that love will make everything alright.

As Strapping Young Lad puts it:

‘FUCK IT
LOVE: the paradox of needing
OH LOVE,
MAKE WAY FOR BREEDING.’

Now there’s a distinct counterpoint to the Bible.

Quotes taken from Corinthians 13:1-3 and Strapping Young Lad – Love?

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

24th Birthday


Yesterday I turned 24. What have I achieved in the space of days since my last birthday?

I lived alone for 6 months in a flat next to Southampton airport that featured holes in the windows and a mocking impression of what you and I know as central heating. At the height of winter my record for layers worn at one time reached 8 (I’ve never been happier that I kept my old fat clothes). The noise of flights landing at the airport every ten minutes has allowed me to sympathise with survivors of the Blitz, and every Friday morning when the bin lorry passed under my window I leapt from my bed convinced I was under attack from the USS Enterprise.

I was unemployed for the last 5 weeks spent in my flat. On one occasion I went 9 days without speaking to another human being. However, I kept the increasingly unlikely notion of my own existence alive by befriending an out-of-date copy of the Yellow Pages. His name was Chris. He froze to death when I left him on the porch and the snow hit. I comfort myself in the knowledge that he now spends his days in a sepia photograph mounted in the lobby of the Overlook Hotel.

I had sex once.

I survived a 300ft drop mostly unscathed. Rather than a miracle, this is because I was attached to a rope. Two months later, I still have lower back pain from the force of being quite a spectacular twat and jumping feet first.

I started doing stand-up comedy. In seven gigs, this has earned me exactly 1 applause break and approximately 1,753 gazes of stupefied boredom/naked bare-faced hatred. It’s been worth it to bellow ‘CUNT’ to a room of over a hundred people. The idea of doing stand-up was to meet some new friends. Since January, I have made exactly 0 new friends.

I saw 0 superhero movies.

I reached the end of my novel. By my next birthday, I am determined that the world will see it in one of 2 ways: either it will be published and be a tremendous success and I will be gifted a ticker-tape parade through Times Square in the Pope-mobile, or it will be chief evidence in the investigation of my death when the manuscript is found bound in rejection letters next to the canal from which they dredged my bloated fish-nibbled corpse.

I had 2 dates. Both went badly.

I have taught 4 separate university classes, using my natural optimism and lust for life to nurture their dreams, ambitions, and bizarre sexual fantasies.

I joined the gym and have somehow persevered in attending pretty much every morning for 8 months. My body is now marginally less gelatinous and my muscles marginally less comparable to sun-bleached skeletons picked clean by vultures. Better known as Madonna.

I met Crazy Gym Guy who deserves to be some kind of Twitter sensation. On three separate occasions he’s told the story of how he was caught in an earthquake in west London. He didn’t feel the earth quake, nothing fell down, and the news didn’t report it. But it was definitely an earthquake, because he woke up and the birds were making noises ‘what didn’t sound right.’

Biggest achievement of the year: filling a Shakeaway loyalty card and cashing in my free milkshake.

Flavour: Aero Mint Bourbon.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Heartbreak #1


When a guy likes a girl, there are two methods of pursuit. The first is the socially acceptable summon some cajones and ask her out/get her drunk on a night out and take advantage. The second, and increasingly more popular way, is the lurk around her Facebook/MySpace/bedroom window and hope that she somehow comes to see you as a god. There is a third way, but it carries a twenty-year sentence.

The first girl I ever truly liked received a combination of these methods. I lurked, I prayed, I gifted, before eventually asking her out. But only after she’d fallen for my best friend.

I’d met her in a lecture, and we’d talked a bit, and she was quite lovely. A few days later in town I found myself drawn to the shop where she worked, just to bathe in her presence. Before I knew it I’d bumped her into my top eight MySpace friends. This was getting serious.

Naturally I didn’t think I stood a chance and vowed never to act on these feelings. And naturally, the mice crawling inside my skull elevated any contact with her into signs, signals, and maybe, just maybe...

Soon enough an (altogether innocent) obsession developed. Turning up at nightspots I knew she frequented, buying her painstakingly innocuous presents, hiding what I believed to be cryptic messages of love in my MSN Messenger display name. Who says romance is dead? In hindsight it’s all terribly pathetic. But at the time I believed I was in love, and had no better idea how to go about it.

The signs kept coming that perhaps she was interested too. Where most men would just ask for a date, I invited her over to play videogames. It’s remarkable what the line ‘Can I come round and play your Wii?’ can do to a boy. She came. She played my Wii. She briefly met my best friend and housemate and then I chivalrously walked her home. It was Christmas-time. The air felt full of magic. Apparently I hadn’t yet learned that Christmas miracles are bullshit.

Indeed, in the following months I relentlessly saw hope where I should have seen warnings. A handmade storybook Valentine’s card garnered me, after a few days of silence, a message of thanks. I didn’t realise at the time that in those few days I was undoubtedly blocked on MSN Messenger out of embarrassment. When the message arrived, I ran a joyful lap of the house worthy of movie montage.

It was always the same way. Messages returned days later. Yet never did the gaps alarm me.

It was a misunderstanding that made me see the truth. Someone had given her the impression that my best friend didn’t like her. They’d met a few times by now. He’d admitted to me that he quite liked her. He didn’t want her to think badly of him, so he sent her a quick message. She replied instantly. And then instantly again. And again. Where I had waited days, my friend waited minutes. Suspicion bloomed in my mind but I stamped it down.

Their conversation blossomed. Other small signs appeared online to stoke my suspicions. This would end badly if I couldn’t halt it.

Finally, I decided to ask her out. I hoped it would somehow make her forget my friend. Only, I didn’t have the courage to do it in person. I wrote an e-mail. A confessional statement agonising in its effort to remain casual. My friend sat behind me as I wrote it, helped best he could, and wished me luck when I pressed send.

The rejection was the fastest reply I’d ever had from her. It was kind and clich├ęd, insisted we remain friends. To my own surprise I suffered no suicidal alcoholic rampage. It had simply confirmed what I knew all along. It was fine. I was fine.

Three days later she pulled my best friend. We were on a night out, and as soon as she arrived she had him cornered. I sat outside their conversation and made the occasional desperate attempt to distract her. As an appropriate amount of inebriation approached, conversation became dancing. I stood at the edge of the dance floor and convinced myself that I was fine. They danced closer and closer, until inevitably they kissed.

It turns out that panic attacks aren’t much fun. I fled the club and braved the long walk home. For the first time in years I cried, and my chest constricted like I was being bear-hugged by Andre the Giant. In essence, I acted like the female protagonist in a rom-com at the end of the second act, but without the knowledge that it’d all be alright in the end.

In the morning I received his guilty confession. A character in a rom-com would have fumed and declared it the end of friendship. I did quite the opposite. I told him to go for it. She was too good a catch to throw back and I wanted my friend to be happy. I acted like it was fine. And behind closed doors I bashed my head against hard objects and didn’t eat for two days.

I’m unsure how to end this story. I’m not lobbying for sympathy nor do I wish to apportion blame. In the months that followed I grinned and bore them being together. Then very swiftly she left my friend for someone else and he felt just as bad as me. It’s an event that affected us both quite profoundly.

Perhaps the moral here is carpe diem. Alternatively, to paraphrase Homer Simpson, perhaps the moral is Never Try.

Or maybe morals are stupid.
 

Monday, 1 August 2011

DisneyWorld Swimming Pool Nature Diary

1 x Girl determined to catch the sun only on her legs and posterior. Most commonly seen in diminutive bikini bottoms. Upper half unobserved due to precisely positioned shade cover.

Name: Unknown. Commonly referred to as: ‘Arse.’

1x Fat woman with legs like doner kebab shanks upholstered in tan leather and breasts with the buoyancy and size of pro-quality medicine balls. Defining features include skin like the hide of a neglected leather couch. Most commonly seen rupturing an inflatable sun-bathing float that had only one day left until retirement.

Name: Unknown. Commonly referred to as: ‘Holy shit that’s disgusting.’

1x Clearly under-age girl in swimsuit that bellows sex via megaphone rather than suggests it. Most commonly seen luring men into an extended prison sentence with evocative poolside struts and underwater acrobatics. Sometimes observed with overweight disapproving mother in tow.

Name: ‘Jayda.’ Commonly referred to as: ‘Oh, Jayda. I love her, dude.’

2x Jailbait hiding in the pool to conceal their miniscule bikinis from their grandparent chaperones. Warning: mating ritual involves lengthy targeting of chosen individual via flirtatious/terrifying glances before victim is singled out from friends and invited to late-night pool rendezvous. This is likely to result in feelings of shame, guilt, and remorse, with any dash of elation quickly suppressed by angry American grandparents with shotguns.

Names: Unknown. Commonly referred to as: ‘Ohio,’ ‘Jailbait,’ and ‘Man, it’s a good thing I had a wank yesterday.’

1x Large American family ignorant to the terms ‘contraception,’ ‘diet,’ and ‘general hygiene.’ Family headed by mother. Defining features hidden behind rolls of glistening blubber. Most commonly seen raising the pool’s water-level while tearing into the corpse of a giant Mickey Mouse-shaped rice krispy cake. Once cloyed, the family bask in asteroid belts of sodden sea-going cereal kernels that fan out to attach themselves like tics to the skin of anyone else trying to enjoy the pool.

Names: Unknown. Commonly referred to as: ‘That fat-fuck family.’

2x girls in golden Princess Leah bikinis attempting to lend their skin a similarly lambent hue. Defining features include pasty English tourists assigning number ratings on a scale of attractiveness. Warning: often accompanied by inconspicuous family friend positioned to overhear such chauvinist meanderings. Recommended course of action is to loudly amend original ratings to fall within the 9-10 region and/or generally beg forgiveness. Further warning: also often accompanied by impossibly large black NFL superstar husbands with a propensity for aggression toward pasty English tourists and their lascivious eyes.

Names: Unknown. Commonly referred to as: ‘Let’s get the hell out of here.’ 

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Molested

On the very first day of my final year in primary school, I hit the proto-pubescent jackpot of being felt up. Rather than mark the genesis of my soon to burgeon sexuality, the incident was the first indicator that, despite popular opinion, I wasn’t gay. To my distress, I was felt up by a boy.

The class seating arrangement had been chosen at random. Year six harboured more serious pretensions than previous classes, so there were to be no more groups. Now it was strictly two per table, the pairings chosen, I can only assume, by how much the teacher hated each individual.

The boy I was seated with was not a friend of mine. Nor were we enemies, I knew him mostly for his fondness of riding around the neighbourhood on his bike no-handed and quite garishly topless. His assignment to me was neither a boon nor disappointment.

I soon discovered that he would laugh at any joke I cared to utter. No matter how stupid or inane, as I’m sure they all were at that age, the boy would laugh as if nothing were funnier. For a shameless class clown such as myself, it was all I could have asked for. The only problem was that every fit of laughter was accompanied by a hand on my leg.

At first it was only the knee. As the day progressed, the knee became the thigh. And alas, by day’s end the situation had progressed dangerously close to the crotch.

Initially I let it go. It was the start of the year. Perhaps it was a misguided mode of establishing a friendship. The assault persisted throughout the second day. And the third. What had been strokes turned into squeezes. I knew it had to stop.

At that tender age, I didn’t know why it made me feel so uncomfortable, only that it did. I was like a comely young maiden who had moved to the big city just at the time of her flowering, attracting new attention that I couldn’t understand.

There was only one escape: a painfully embarrassing admission to my mother.

‘Mum, the boy I sit next to keeps touching me.’

She answered more like an enthusiastic voyeur than my mother. ‘How does he touch you?’

It was enough at least to be taken seriously. The next day I marched into the classroom, straight to the teacher’s desk, and handed her a letter. I don’t know what it said. Possibly My son has become the class bitch. Whatever the content, I was swiftly assigned a new seat across the classroom, and some other poor soul took my place at the school’s equivalent of the prison shower.

Unsurprisingly, I did not remain friends with my abuser. But we did end up at the same secondary school. Here the significance of the incident paled during a bizarre spell where a group of the tougher kids (large black guys all) took to roughly grabbing the unsuspecting arses and crotches of the rest of us as we went about our daily business. If it had occurred to me at the time, perhaps I would have missed the softer caresses of my year six amour.

I still saw him from time to time, riding the streets with chest bared for all to see. Another boy had befriended him. They bonded over a love of cars, karate, and other such masculine pursuits. 

I spoke to this new beau once and mentioned his newfound companion.

‘Yeah, he’s really cool,’ the boy told me. ‘But he does touch me a lot.’

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Water Torture

Only once did being fat ever cause an injury. Conveniently, the injury was to someone else.

My secondary school only ever managed one ski trip before the concept was abandoned. I like to think that this incident, along with other stories to come, went some way toward the defeat of my teachers’ international ambitions.

In between the doomed attempts to snowboard in spite of my girth, the school laid on a number of other activities. These varied from bowling and saunas, to the contraction of crippling food poisoning that caused many of us to evacuate our bowels whenever the coach hit a bump in the road (On Austrian mountain passes, this was more often than desired).

The best of these was swimming. The pool was large and clean, the locals hairy but mostly clothed where it mattered. Best of all, there was a water slide.

With all the usual egalitarian grace of thirty teenage boys, we had soon frightened off any and all children and claimed the slide as our own. Of course, there are only so many times you can barrel down the chute and land arse-first on a disgruntled local man with more hair outside the borders of his Speedo than in before you start searching for more elaborate enjoyment.

The game was suitably violent. Ten or so boys would launch themselves down the slide at once. Half way down, the frontrunner would wedge himself to a halt and see how long he could hold the throng behind him at bay. The water slide was constructed from two halves of a pipe bolted together in the middle, leaving a ridge easy to grasp even with wet hands.

My particular role in this game was unique. Once I had overcome the terror of publicly removing my top (the boy accustomed to trilling ‘Boobies!’ at every such occurrence was not on the trip), I was invited to be an Unblocker. As the fattest, and therefore heaviest, who better to send down as the last man to dislodge the tangle of beached bodies?

I positioned myself at the back of the queue and waited for the first boy to leap into the tube. The rush of water carried him away, and one-by-one the others followed, disappearing around the first bend until only I remained. I allowed a gap so that the brunt of my impact would be felt all the more. Then I waddled to the water slide’s mouth and let the current take me.

The rapids threw my weight around the first bend, down a decline and into another corner. I spied the convoy as I exited. Nine of my peers jammed fast in the cylinder. A whoop escaped me as my momentum slammed into the back of them. The noises they returned were less appreciative. A chorus of oofs and ows and You fat fucks! Only one noise rose above them. The genuine scream of horror from somewhere near the front.

The blockage disbanded suddenly. I surged forward on the heels of the boy ahead. As the tide sucked us down, I noticed with dismay that the water was full of blood.

Screams greeted me as I tumbled out of the tube. Clouds of blood here too. I struggled out of the pool and saw the source. The boy who had been at the front was in tears, blood streaming from his hands. The Austrian life guard, an 80-year old man who looked about to faint, was trying to staunch it with a towel while the teachers crowded round to contemplate premature retirement.

It soon became apparent that in his efforts to block the slide, the boy had wedged his hands tightly into the ridge where the tube halves met. The plastic sliced his fingers half to the bone.

He was taken to hospital, while the rest of us were ushered into the changing rooms and instructed to not be so bloody stupid ever again. That very same night, when the teachers had retired to bed, we spent until dawn climbing and jumping between the chateau balconies four storeys off the ground.
 

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

WWAD? (What Would Arnie Do?)

The first thing I did at university was drop a television on my face.

I had said goodbye to my mum and was left with the few pieces of home I had brought with me, piled into boxes and stacked around the room. Most accessible of these was the new TV/DVD combi, purchased so I needn’t be without my Schwarzenegger collection for more than a heartbeat.

The room was so full that I had wedged the door open to allow for overspill. I manoeuvred the television to where it might maximise my viewing pleasure: the top of the wardrobe. It was high, and the television heavy. WWAD? (What Would Arnie Do?) I hefted it up with mighty strength.

There were a number of shortcomings. It was too high to watch unless I stood on the bed. Worse, there was no socket even remotely in reach. It would have to be moved.

I reached up to place a hand either side, and slid the television slowly toward me. Very suddenly its weight pitched forward, and I lost my grip.

What followed is perhaps the least exciting slow-motion moment of my life. The television was falling. My hands were already engaged in failing to hold it. I had two options. I could step back and let my brand new television drop to the floor where not only would it shatter but along with it my dreams of snuggling beneath a warm duvet gazing moon-eyed at the glistening muscles of the Austrian Oak. Or I could catch it with my face.

WWAD?

The television struck my forehead with a thick glassy thud. The impact shuddered through my body. I was quite unable to move. The television on my face, hands still clasping it either side as if I were trying to balance it there.

It was this moment which my room neighbour chose to introduce herself.

‘Are you alright?’ she asked from the doorway.

This particular housemate was a slightly older, quite unfathomably attractive girl with the sort of northern accent which makes chubby socially-maladjusted boys with televisions on their faces weep with lust. I lowered the television and mumbled some sort of greeting

It transpired that four of my housemates were worryingly attractive girls. Unbeknownst to me, the unpleasantness with the television would set the blueprint for our encounters.

I don’t make friends easily. Especially when those friends are women. Most people would try basic conversation as a means of establishing relations. I chose a more stunt-based approach.

There was the time I heard them conversing in the kitchen, and attempted to join in by claiming a bad back required me to lie on the hard floor. After half an hour of being ignored I gave it up. On another occasion I feigned a noisy fall in my room. This garnered a knock of concern, followed by an expression as if I had defecated in her favourite shoes. Often, after a particularly ambitious binge eat, I’d leave the leftovers in the kitchen to be shared. Hours later, my stomach emptied, I’d steal upstairs and return them to my room.

Shortly before the end of the first semester, I visited the kitchen to cook dinner. All my housemates were gathered there, every area of the oven engaged. They were having Christmas dinner together. I had not been invited.

Arnie would have demanded a seat at the table, snagged the finest cuts of meat, pulled all the crackers by himself and not left the room until every girl present was sufficiently pregnant. I am not Arnie. I returned to my room and went hungry.



Sunday, 3 July 2011

Speech Therapy


In the early years of primary school, there was a rarely a lunchtime where I didn’t suffer some kind of ridicule. This was commonly by my own hand – my inability to kick a football without falling down; running to the dinner lady in tears because my toy Jaguar car had been stolen; asking oh so naively to participant in games for which I was not remotely popular or athletic enough.

Without fail, a singular form of ill-deserved piss-taking would be visited upon me as I sat at the edge of the playground. I would be packing up my Goofy lunchbox (with the lid that, incredible to me at the time, was also a flask) and lift my head to find myself faced with my sister and a group of her friends. She was three years older than me and in the upper echelons of the school.

‘David – say ‘Tissue.’’

For some reason, it never really dawned on me that this was mockery. Dutifully I would scrunch up my face and give it my best effort.

‘Tissoo.’

My sister and her friends would ripple with laughter as only nine year old girls can.

‘No, David – ‘Tish-shoe.’’

Always, I would keep trying. They were laughing. They were paying attention to me. Unlike anyone else, they had included me in their game.

Tiss-oo.’

Once again they would laugh, and once again I would smile as if I had earned it.

‘Now say ‘Sausages.’’

This was a trickier prospect which I was far less keen to attempt. ‘Sausages’ was a word I could not manage. ‘Sausages’ and ‘Hospital.’ I can’t remember quite how I mangled them, only that their correct pronunciation was an impossibility.

A mild speech impediment was but one of a number of issues. For quite a while I struggled to hold a pen, requiring a special rubber grip to assist me. I was far behind the class in reading ability, and, despite countless hours in front of Sesame Street, I could not recite the alphabet until I was eight.

To address these oratory inabilities, I would once a week be plucked from school at lunch time to attend Speech Therapy. Strangely, all I recall of these sessions is arriving at the office. Every week the therapist would ask me what I had learned at school that day. Every week I would only reply ‘Can’t remember.’

Something must have worked. I do remember conquering the fearsome ‘Sausages.’ I was sat in the Abbey National waiting for my mum, a grand time for the flicker of a usually dim light bulb.

‘I can say ‘Sausage’’, I said, looking at the weekend queue. ‘And I can say ‘Jizz.’’

Like a particularly slow-witted ape grasping a club for the first time, the concept was clicking together in my head.

‘So if I just say them together... ‘Sausage’... ‘Jizz.’’

‘‘Sausage’... ‘Jizz.’’

‘‘Sausage’ ‘Jizz.’’

By this time I had caught the attention of quite a number in the Abbey National queue.

‘Sausages!’ I shouted in true triumphalist fashion.

Many years later, I knew a boy in secondary school who suffered similar, less pork product specific issues. As he put it, ‘I don’t speak good.’ Years of my own spent overcoming such problems did nothing to stop me laughing at him with all the others. I would clamour to pounce on his mistakes and wring them for all the mirth I could.

After we’d left school, the same boy lost a leg in a moped accident. When I heard, I laughed about him then too.
 

Sunday, 26 June 2011

First Date

University was a trial by fire for my introduction to the dating world. If Teen Movies have taught me anything, it’s that the ages of thirteen-seventeen are best spent testing the boundary between pubescent discovery and sex offense. By the time we ship out to university we should have enough experience under our belts to lure, bed, and quickly abandon any vaguely in-season female, only seeing them again when conscience dictates we must inform them of the malicious bacterial memento we left behind.

I was starting from the pit lane.

Naturally I chose to pursue the first girl to show even a flicker of interest. She was in one of my classes, and we walked home together once. That was enough. But to even consider asking for a date in person was unthinkable. The coward’s way is the indirect way. So, I asked a friend for the phone number of the girl’s friend, so I could ask her for the girl’s number. Numerical fruit was yielded. I spent two hours drafting a text that, to my mind at least, was winningly off-the-cuff and only indistinctly creepy. She responded, and I had a date. My first date.

The girl was nothing remarkable. A year later, following her particularly clumsy attempt to pull my friend in a bar, she became known to us only as Shrek. A cruel, yet largely accurate, likeness.

I decided not to be ambitious. We went to the pub. I behaved as television has taught me a gentleman should and bought her drink. The only problem was what the hell to talk about.

Beforehand, I had prepared topics. A lifetime of indoorsmanship had (and has) robbed me of even the most basic conversation skills. My list of romantic and racy topics included, among others, ‘What books do you like?’ and ‘Have you ever played The Sims?’

Without the list to hand, however, I was lost. Before I knew it I’d revealed my dislike for both dogs and cheese, opinions that to this day mark me for mistrust. I continued to dig my grave by explaining about Bread Tuesday. In my first year of university, I decided that every Tuesday morning I would purchase a loaf of bread and eat nothing else for the day’s duration. Shrek fidgeted with her hastily emptied glass and giggled nervously.

Around forty-five minutes into the date, as I babbled about Sim social services seizing custody of my Sim first-born, Shrek’s phone rang. Hindsight assures me that this was an escape call. Her friend needed her desperately for some computer project, or perhaps due to trouble at the swamp. Shrek and I parted ways. She didn’t even let me walk her home.

At the time, I thought it had gone quite well.

A second date was eventually arranged, but she backed out fifteen minutes before we were due to meet. Another agonised-over list of topics was wasted.

Sometime later, through a mutual friend, I stumbled across her Live Journal. There was an entry dedicated to our date. Apparently I was ‘very tall, a bit weird, not funny’. Most damning of all: ‘All he eats is bread.’ I resisted the urge to remind her firmly that this was only on Tuesdays!

Two years later, when I had slimmed down and could pass for dimly attractive, I encountered Shrek at a club. She eyed me like I were a delicious Christmas ham and stroked my chest. I let her buy me a drink, and then left her behind in the crowd.


Monday, 20 June 2011

Fatal Collision

I was known for many years as a crier. This did not involve a bell or the expression ‘Hear Ye!’, unless it was my classmates shouting ‘Hear Ye! Hear Ye! That fat kid is crying again!’ If someone hit me, I’d cry. If (in fact, particularly when) I forgot my lunch, I’d cry. When the girls asked kindly, yet firmly, that I not participate in a round of Kiss Chase, I’d cry.

Midway through secondary school I gained the masculine attribute of bottling it up and keeping it suppressed at all costs. This does little to pardon a crying legacy of fourteen years.

My first vivid memory of crying at school was during a lunch break in year three. For some reason I was running (perhaps rumours of free cake were circulating again) across the playground to reach the main building. I had made it up onto the concrete disabled ramp when someone rounded the corner in front of me. Too late to stop, our heads collided, and naturally my weight barrelled the other boy hard into the railings.

Pain throbbed in my chubby features. I put my hand to my nose and it came away bloody. It was decision time: to cry or not to cry. I looked to the other boy, Stuart, from my class. His mouth was bleeding profusely, surely enough to justify some tears. I took the plunge and let my eyes leak. Much to my chagrin, Stuart didn’t.

A dinner lady arrived to drag us to the nurse. My nose pitter-pattered a trail of blood on the corridor floor that remained visible for the following two weeks. While we walked I probed my mouth; a tooth near the front had been knocked loose. This was leave to cry harder.

The nurse attended to Stuart first, leaving me to squall by the door. Stuart smiled as she mopped his face and checked his mouth. One tooth was missing, another as good as gone. She gripped it between thumb and forefinger, and whipped it loose in one swift tug. More blood, the most I’d seen at that point in my life. Stuart didn’t cry. He kept smiling.

I didn’t tell the nurse about my own loose tooth. When she came near me, I cried.

Nearly a decade later, I stood in a crowd on my secondary school playground to watch Stuart beat the hell out of another boy. They were on the ground, and Stuart had him in a headlock from behind. In between taunts he slammed his elbow down onto the boy’s head. Understandably, the boy began to cry. There was no sympathy. The crowd jeered his tears. By then I had shucked my weeping tendencies. The boy cried harder as the elbows crashed down on his cranium. I laughed as loud as all the rest.

Stuart left the school soon after. The next I heard of him was a few years later, when his obituary appeared in the local newspaper. He had crashed his moped into a lamp post at speed and caved in his skull. When I read the news I put my fingers around the tooth, long since restored from the day of our collision. I closed the newspaper. I did not cry.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Binge Eating

There are numerous advantages to not being fat; reduced probability of heart disease; reduced probability of appearing on Jeremy Kyle; reduced probability of attracting the fancy of cannibals.

My resolve to shed my girth was found in far shallower waters. I was seventeen and tipped the scale at 20 stone. I wasn’t exactly bullied; the worst I received were delighted cries of ‘BOOBIES!’ whenever I removed my shirt before PE. The last year of school had started, and on an October weekend I attended a university open day. The sun shone and birds sang amid the leaves of abundant trees; and there were girls everywhere. For six years I’d attended an all boy’s school. The University tour guide (another girl, who actually spoke to me) informed us that the ratio there of girls to boys was 6:1. It was too much. I could not attend university as a fat blob. I would not.

The process itself was a rather lifeless Rocky montage of eating better, jogging under the cover of darkness to avoid embarrassment, and verbally abusing myself until I wept. I lost 6 stone in ten months.

More than anything, this blog entry is a precursor to forthcoming stories. Being slimmer did little to boost my self-confidence. Defensively I grew my hair long and adopted a poser hippy image. Girls remained repulsed and I remained terrified of their very presence. Key themes all of the tales I plan to tell.

The curious point on this occasion is that, despite my success in losing weight, it was at this time I took up the delightful hobby of binge eating. It began as accompaniment to the World Championship Snooker final. Soon the excuses grew ever more frequent: good film on telly? Binge eat! About to complete Final Fantasy X? Binge eat! Made it up the stairs without getting out of breath? Binge eat!

Midway through Uni this took a darker turn. An incident of heartbreak (yet another story) saw me refuse food for seventy-two hours and hit the gym hard. To this day, any rejection is blamed on being fat. In seven days, I dropped over a stone.

In response, the binge eating upped its game. Let’s quantify this for effect. A typical binge saw me put away two large bags of crisps, two packs of biscuits, a loaf of bread, three large bags of sweets, two bottles of Coke, and a variety of small confectionary. At its peak, this happened twice a week. On the odd occasion I was caught purchasing this much munch, I’d claim it was to take in for everyone at work. A more appropriate lie would have involved stockpiling for the apocalypse.

Naturally, the guilt hit hard. So any other day, I starved. I threw down the gauntlet to the Special K diet and survived on a bowl or two a day, while still attacking the gym. On one occasion I blacked out on a treadmill and came round pressed face first into the wall as if the Blair Witch had caught me.

Like any good story of hardship, this one has a silver lining. Although I still occasionally binge, it tends to be within the realms of decency. The terror of removing my top in front of anyone still leaves me awaiting the cries of ‘BOOBIES!’, but copious work on sculpting my guns in the gym is starting to alleviate this fear. My future plans are either to model underwear for some rapper’s fashion line, or appear on Jeremy Kyle under the topic: ‘I fell on my family and killed them all.’