Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Bus Hijack

‘Hang on, mate. Can you tell me where this bus is supposed to go?’

It’s not a request you expect to receive from your bus driver. I was late for my 7am shift, and had made the all-too-familiar half-dressed dash to catch the bus just as it pulled up. Being the last aboard, the driver had singled me out for his confession. I looked at him with some confusion.

‘The thing is, yeah,’ he said, shifting uncomfortably in his seat, ‘I don’t know where this bus goes.’

A number of possibilities raced through my head; the bus had been hijacked by a mad man who any second would order me to pull down my trousers and dance; there was a bomb on the bus which would explode if the urine content of the back seats dropped below 50%. I considered running for the doors just as they hissed closed behind me.

All I could say is, ‘But you’re the bus driver.’

‘They’ve called me in from Southampton. I’ve never been here before. Can you help me out?’

I looked to the other passengers, none of whom would meet my eye. ‘Um, alright.’

The driver waved away my fare and pulled off the curb. I stood beside the cockpit, navigator of the good bus Confusion, and pointed out the next turning. A frisson of pleasure ran its fingers along my spine. I was in control, at the helm of my very own city bus. I could go wherever I wanted; Europe, Route 66, Scunthorpe; the possibilities were endless.

I hear Scunthorpe is nice this time of year

Only, I was still late for work. And after a few more stops the bus was due to turn into a winding housing estate that always took twenty minutes to clear. I glanced back at the other passengers. I usually sat as far back as possible, following the time one of my testicles dropped through a hole in my work trousers and I didn’t notice until I had disembarked. Now I was at the front of the bus. My testicles were safely contained. I could do as I wished.

The bus approached the turning into the housing estate.

‘Where now?’

I checked my watch, puffed out my chest, and pointed straight down the main road. It took every ounce of my self-control to restrain a maniacal laugh as we glided past the crowded bus stop on the corner.

'Truly, this is our greatest victory.'

Now, with a defiant glare, I turned on the passengers, ready to put down an uprising, to seize any mutineers and hurl them bodily through the doors with the bus still moving. They saw the hardness in my eyes and stayed seated, undoubtedly cowed by my fierce authority.

I guided us the remaining distance into town, until the driver recognised the streets from having earlier collected the bus. We arrived at my stop twenty minutes sooner than usual.

 ‘Thanks for that, mate. You’re a real help.’

‘Please.’ I waved away his praise.’ I’m no hero.’

Relieved of duty, I ran from the stop before anyone could exact revenge on my person for having made them miss their stop.

I arrived at work almost exactly on time. The doors were locked. After twenty minutes wait my manager trudged into sight.

‘Sorry I’m late,’ she said. ‘My car wouldn’t start and the bloody bus didn’t show up.’

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Body Odour in Beijing

The Great Wall of China is pretty big. This understatement is brought to you by the pervading, and entirely erroneous assertion that it is visible from space (I’ve been to space and checked). Despite this cosmic invisibility, some sections of the wall remain large enough that they require the ascent of a great many stairs to reach the top. Here, in a needless illustration of the point, is a badly taken photograph of said stairs.

We chose to forego the option of a cable car under the rapidly dispelled delusion that climbing the stairs would be fun. This was despite the 3 hours it had taken us to reach the Great Wall, during which time we had suffered the most amiable kidnap ever seen in China, and the small matter that it was pouring rain. This necessitated the purchase of overpriced rain macs that made it look as if we had smuggled ourselves to the wall inside distended condoms.

There were a lot of stairs. So many in fact that I had no choice but to stop mid-way and have the most venerable bladder expulsion of my young life.

There's a long history of urine on this wall

The problem with wearing a sheet of cling film, beside the sartorial faux pas, is that it becomes very hot within after climbing several hundred steps. Condensation from the sweat quickly built up inside. By the time I had reached the top of the wall, my clothes were wetter than they would have been from the rain.

Empirical evidence has made a strong case that I am a man. Much of this evidence is based on the aroma of badly cooked meat soaked in stale vinegar that trails from my armpits after a mere few minutes of perspiration. I considered this, by and large, normal. Until I learned that around 90% of Chinese people, thanks to a biological quirk, do not smell when they sweat. The unlucky 10% risk becoming social outcasts if the abnormality is not corrected with surgery. Consequently, we stinky foreigners are seen as just that; unconscionably pungent.

Needless to say, by the time we had descended the wall and returned to Beijing both of my armpits were firing on all cylinders. Even my friends found it troubling to stand too close. So imagine the disgust on the face of the young Chinese lady who found herself cornered in her seat, my arms lifted to grip the handrail.

When smell-o-vision is invented this picture will make you vomit

We watched the various stages of disgust play across her features. Firstly came a mere furrowing of the brow, indignation at being blocked in by these bedraggled foreign types. It was obvious when she caught her first whiff; her nose wrinkled and her mouth turned down. Accusing eyes came up to meet mine. I offered a friendly smile met only with steely derision.

After a stop or two she began shifting in her seat, casting about for some means of escape. Finally, she shoved past me and made a hurried exit, probably several stops from her intended destination.

I like to think that one day there will be a knock upon my door, and there she will stand in belated thrall to my masculine musk. To increase the likelihood, I’ve decided to never wash again.

Friday, 16 November 2012

The End of Modern Dating

I have deleted my online dating profile. That noise you just heard, like a chorus of deflating airbeds, was the collective sigh of relief from thousands of single women across the city.

I’m in two minds about this decision. It’s a relief to be free of the posturing, the calculating, the humiliation of online dating. Yet I’m also aware that it made my life more interesting, and that now this blog will be comprised only of uninspired masturbation jokes and all the other unremarkable travails of my existence. If you want to stop reading from now on, I commend your sagacity.

To mark the end of the Modern Dating saga (a saga about as dramatic and meaningful as the Twilight movies), I feel it deserves some kind of summative conclusion. More importantly, I deserve one last opportunity to moan about it. Here’s a round-up of my experiences.

This is how excited people are about my stories

-       The first girl I went out with after a week or so of talking online offered me MDMA while we queued outside a busy bar. When I refused, she simply shrugged and took my dose on top of her own.

-       One date ended early after I accidentally took her to a gay night and she later caught me hugging a pair of friendly lesbians, which, I believe, is something of a faux pas on a first date. You can read about it here.

-       I discovered that it’s fairly standard on a free dating site for women to receive unsolicited pictures of penis’ and for men, at least in my own case, to receive unsolicited pictures of penis’. The only difference is that mine came from cross-dressers.

-       I went out on several dates with the last girl I met on the site. In fact, I rather liked her. Until a small misunderstanding led to her accusing me of faking mental illness to avoid seeing her. Such an accusation was reason enough to avoid seeing her.

I could go on like this for a long time (and I have, in earlier blog entries which I will shamelessly link to at the bottom of this post). The thing is, I have a tendency to play the victim, which isn’t fair to the majority of the people I met. Most of them were perfectly lovely, I was simply not up to scratch when it came to dating them. And, indeed, not up to scratch for dating at all.

Nor do I mean to denigrate the use of dating sites. Since deleting my profile I’ve spoken to three separate people who have found a relationship through online dating. All of them had very positive experiences, and I’m very happy for them. What their success makes quite clear to me is that I’m simply not cut out for dating. I don’t have the confidence, the ease of manner, the ability to develop chemistry. What I have is a taciturn manner, over-active self-awareness, and an unrivalled ability to sit in a darkened room and consume biscuits. These qualities are more likely to result in your corpse being removed by crane via the window than they are in marriage.

We all need something to aspire to

I don’t mean for this post to come across as defeatist or lugubrious. Rather it’s a declaration of pragmatism. And I have been assured from all corners that romance happens when you least expect it. If that is so, it hardly matters just how little I believe that this is true.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Imaginary Girlfriends

*All girls featured in this blog may be pubescent fantasies. 

There’s been the odd occasion on this blog where, employing tremendous subtlety, I’ve hinted that I’m a tad unsuccessful with women. While this remains a source of great shame to me, I’ve learned to deal with it in a variety of constructive ways; whine incessantly on this blog; lurk outside late-night Pilates classes with a zoom-lens camera; hang myself by the neck from a light fitting while I masturbate. All-in-all, I’ve developed into a secure and balanced adult.

My approach while growing up was a little different. Friends would tell of the girls they’d kissed, show off saucy text messages, laugh at the voluptuousness of my man breasts while predicting how long I’d remain a virgin (none of them were correct – I outlasted even their most outlandish guess). My solution to this was mature and rational: I invented girlfriends.

Phoebe (invented at age 10)
Phoebe and I took long walks in the park and ate romantic picnics, which was one way to justify the armloads of junk food I bought myself at weekends. We had a secret bush within which we would kiss and press together our pre-pubescent flesh. When asked where she lived, I’d suffer sudden and acute amnesia or become distracted by a bird. The relationship lasted until my friends went to a different secondary school. It was an amicable break-up.

Jenny (invented age 13)
Ah, Jenny. My first kiss, hastily invented upon the realisation that each of my friends had kissed a girl and I had not. The details of the kiss were vivid: a duration of over a minute, tongues convulsing like electrified slugs, ending only (I insisted) when I ran out of breath. My presumption was that snogging required commendable breath control, like walking through the perfume section of a department store while being force-fed a plate of veal. Jenny dumped me after the kiss. I must have been no good, I joked. Even in my imagination I doubted myself.

You can read about my real and equally unsuccessful first kiss here.

Rebecca (also invented age 13)
The existence of Rebecca (or her very inexistence) is indicative of an inferiority complex dating back many years. Rather than invent myself a new beau, I conjured a girl I couldn’t have. Even before the tortures of real-life unrequited lust, I felt the need to make myself suffer. There was invented drama, and a cast of supporting characters too. The mother, often away on business. Rebecca’s boyfriend, my own good mate, who had won over the girl I so desired. Such a love triangle would become all too familiar in later life.

*     *     *

I should make clear that I wasn’t quite insane enough to believe in the actual existence of these girls. I didn’t whisper sweet nothings alone in my darkened bedroom while making awkward, arrhythmic love to my favourite Beanie Baby. They existed only in the presence of my friends. The veracity of these spectres was rarely questioned; I spent my weekends alone at home. Perhaps it was entirely plausible that I in fact spent this time cavorting with a harem of adolescent concubines.

My romantic mythology lasted into university, until Valentine’s Day arrived and I was compelled to confess to my best friend who had been with me throughout every imaginary relationship. I took to MSN chat, the pre-Facebook refuge of emotionally stunted narcissists, and poured out my virginal truth. I cried. I expected him to hate me, berate me, perhaps laugh afresh at my breasts.

All he did was laugh and insist that it didn’t matter. And he was right. Once it’s past, everything we think we know is an invention.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

The Introverted Extrovert

In primary school, I considered myself the class clown. I often tried to convince my teacher that I was gay, and go-go danced on a chair at the front of the room to cheer everyone up at the end of our final year. Before any of us knew what it was, I’d beckon my friends over to marvel at my erections underneath the table (perhaps giving a little too much credence to my assertions of homosexuality). I always thought that is how I would grow up; outgoing, extroverted, the sort of idiotic loudmouth that most people hate but it doesn’t matter because you’re too loud to notice. 

This confidence lasted for much of secondary school, even after my weight ballooned and I learned that erections in school should really be kept to one’s self. My best friend’s earliest memory of me is with my tie fashioned into a bandanna, headbanging topless on a bench in the gym changing room. Before I moved to university my sister said to me: “You’re the kind of person everyone wants to be friends with.”

I was basically the Fonze.

So it’s something of a shock when I look in the mirror today and see my confidence eroded to nothing. I have a dog-eared back catalogue of excuses for this. In fact, this blog exists as narcissistic testament to exactly that. But the reasons don’t really matter. What matters now is that the only strong emotion I can summon is a fierce self-loathing.

Whereas in childhood I tackled life with enthusiasm, today I feel merely indifferent. If I have something fun coming up, I don’t feel excitement. If I have something important coming up, I don’t feel nervous. The best I can manage is an antagonistic shrug.

There's no way I can write this without sounding like an angsty teenager.

At university I would fall head over heels in love after a few hours in a girl’s company; now I haven’t had even the slightest crush in years. When I have been with a girl, there’s the vague awareness that I should be swollen with testosterone, ignoring everything she says in favour of calculating when best to remove her bra. I don’t feel passion or desire. When this means they get bored of me, I don’t feel upset like I used to. Little by little, my edges have been smoothed down, and now I’m entirely flat.

There are a number of things I could try to rectify this. I could go out on what I believe, in the industry, is called ‘the lash’ in an attempt to fornicate drunkenly and hastily with women in an environment where it’s too loud for them to realise how dull I am until it’s too late. I could take up some kind of painfully affected hipster hobby, like wearing a scarf in August, listening to 1940s gospel music on London Fields, or making collages of Polaroids depicting used condoms discarded in the high street gutter on Saturday morning. I could develop a crack habit.  

By all accounts these should make me a more interesting person, an extrovert rippling with defiant confidence, the kind of person you worry about making a scene at your wedding.

Remember that time I made you look at my erection?

It’s an age-old question: what would the childhood you say to the adult you? Mine wouldn’t say a word. There’d be a short awkward silence before he moved off to talk to someone more interesting. And all I would do about it is shrug.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012


I’m going to open with a positive and a negative. 

Negative: This is totally a lazy stopgap blog entry because I’m going to Asia for 3 weeks and therefore will not be posting any blogs. In fact, I hope to stay away from the internet entirely. 

Positive: Asia should give me plenty of material to write about embarrassing misunderstandings, disastrous accidents involving dead animals (which may not have been dead to begin with), and sexually transmitted diseases. In other words, the usual.

The purpose of this post is simply to show you a stop motion video I made. Normal guys my age spend their time coiffing their chest hair, hitting the dance floor, and having vigorous sex in alleyways with women who never wear underwear ‘just in case.’

In other words, normal guys my age are Mick Hucknall

Other guys my age pull their curtains and sit in the dark while masturbating to episodes of Hollyoaks. Then there’s guys like me (or perhaps, just me) who pull their curtains and sit in the dark for 3 days making stop motion videos about Vikings launching into space. 

3 DAYS! That is pretty much the main reason I’m posting it here. It took a long time, it’s the first time I’ve tried something ambitious and (mostly) pulled it off, and dammit, I’m proud of it! So here it is in all its glory.

*Contrary to the above preamble, the video is completely safe for work, and, in fact, quite suitable for children.*

(The video was originally produced for My Destination, a wonderful up-and-coming travel site. Check them out!)

Thursday, 6 September 2012

This Blog is Filth

Recently I’ve been following the traffic on my blog a little more closely, because I’m insecure and demand attention like a toddler raiding its mother’s make-up. As much as I’m grateful to the internet for allowing me this written exercise in vanity, seeing the range of search terms that have led people to my blog inspires me to rue its existence. Here are some things I’ve learned.

People worry about double chins

A while back I wrote about the expansion of my double chin as a child and the damage choosing to ignore it cost me, much like Hitler’s expansion into the Rhineland. I would hope to act as a cautionary tale to those who searched ‘I didn’t know I had a double-chin’ or ‘Misery of having a double-chin.’ My empathy over their quivering chinsicles is unrivalled. However, it’s hard to be a role model when my salvation was found in starvation, self-loathing, and chronic narcissism. Oh, and speaking of chronic narcissism, another search was ‘George Lucas Double Chin.’ 

Paedophiles read my blog

A disclaimer: I am not a paedophile. Let’s establish that. However, on a singular occasion, I may have made reference to the flagrant deployment of jailbait around DisneyWorld swimming pools. These encounters were pure happenstance, and made with an entirely flaccid penis. So, to those of you seeking out this phenomenon by searching ‘Jailbait at Disney World,’ I offer you a second serving of shame. 

I’m never going into a public toilet again

My fondness for the macabre ordeal of public toilets is already about equal to my fondness for passing olives through my urethra. After my bitter diatribe against them (which is by far my most viewed post, because... it’s about poo and stuff?) some evidence emerged to make me avoid them entirely. It’s my hope that ‘My button popped off in a public restroom’ is not a euphemism. There’s begrudging admiration for whoever searched ‘I pull in public toilets.’ The only thing I’ve ever pulled is a semen-stained tissue from the sole of my shoe. Together with those who searched ‘skidmarks on inside of toilet bowl,’ these people are solely responsible for the lack of public toilet etiquette in this country.

Masturbation is complicated

Masturbation is normal. The more the better, I say, as long as you regularly top up on fluids. When it comes to sex I’m not into anything weird (unless fantasising about being taken from behind by Arnold Schwarzenegger is weird). I’m a saint compared to some people who have landed on this blog. There’s a particular fascination with primate masturbation, with a handful of searches for ‘Baboon jerk’ and ‘monkey circle jerk.’ Whoever searched for ‘we had a circle jerk’ clearly had a party that got a little out of control and isn’t sure how to feel about it. Lastly, perhaps inspired by the Olympics, is ‘I have masterbating [sic] competitions with myself.’ Apparently there’s plenty of men out there who’ll join in, if you want.

What does it say about me if all these terms lead directly to my blog? Maybe I should write about nice stuff like hamsters and rabbits and... wait, that didn’t work out either. Perhaps I should up my game? Imagine the disappointment when these searchers, so expectant of finding partners in crime or justification for their desires, just ended up here instead.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

The Great Pet Shop Flood

To begin, a personalised message to my former manager, who doubtless will see this on Facebook: Kev, I only recently realised this was my fault. If I’d known at the time that I was responsible for thousands of pounds worth of damage, a day’s lost takings, and countless drowned rodents, I would have owned up immediately!


11 straight days of work had just passed, many of which were 14 hour shifts. Furthermore, the previous night had been sleepless as I battled to save a rabbit’s life by tenderly fingering it. Not only did my tiredness match that of an obese family after a third visit to the Harvester salad cart, but my fingers still smelled funny. I was not in the mood to stand ankle-deep in pet shop floor water.

After having been awakened early on my day off by a panicked phone call, I had anticipated raging floodwaters. With heroic abandon I would wade into the torrent, hoisting half-drowned guinea pigs like punctured floatation devices from the deluge, until Sean Penn rescued me with a rowboat.

Sean Penn cares about the guinea pigs

Now, the water might not have been deep. But in any flood, there is risk of disease. Let me walk you through my typical morning routine in the pet shop.

At 6am I’m cleaning out a cage full of dwarf hamsters, each one painstakingly hand-crafted by Satan. One latches onto my finger. My body immediately forfeits its last drop of testosterone. I shriek and flail my hands. The hamster is launched across the shop, before shaking itself to its senses and disappearing beneath the shelves. Meanwhile, its accomplices have jumped for it. I cram as many back as I can, but the lucky ones escape. Somewhere, the theme from The Great Escape plays.

The successfully liberated hamsters make nests which are approximately 80% faeces. Ergo, the water that has soaked into my socks was approximately 80% faeces. Ergo, I now had syphilis.

Let’s continue to abuse tenses and flash back to the previous night. No sleep for 36 hours and the sexual violation of a dying rabbit. My frame of mind is questionable. As we lock up, I run to the back room to grab an extra syringe. My attempt to rinse it beneath the tap is thwarted when it proffers no water. So, as I hurry out, the tap is on, but not yet running. And the plughole is clogged with sawdust.

You can probably piece the rest together

We spent 9 hours ushering water to the exits with brooms. Several doors throughout the shop warped beyond repair. Display stands collapsed and stock was wrecked. The community of escaped hamsters, presumably hitherto living out some kind of Borrowers-style utopia, floated from their hiding places, corpses like spent tea bags.

I assumed they'd find a way to adapt

Sorry, Kev.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

25th Birthday

Last year I wrote a blog on my 24th birthday which was a bitterly indulgent summary of that year just passed. It was a banal shopping list of self-pity, narcissism, and derivative writing. Otherwise known as a Rihanna song.


However, the only way in which I celebrate my birthday is by writing something on the occasion. The idea is to build a portfolio to gaze back upon when I’m living as a hermit beneath the floorboards of my ex-wife’s shed against her knowledge.

Me on my 26th birthday

So, to my 25th year.

In my final class before I gave up/was sort of fired from lecturing, I discovered that the lone gay gentleman I taught had publicly described me as ‘buff and relatively attractive.’ My initial pride was soon tarnished by the realisation of how severely the ‘relatively’ diminishes the comment. Anyone is relatively attractive, relative to a steaming heap of quivering dog viscera.

After having made it the principle target of my derision in this very blog, I embraced hypocrisy and tried online dating. I secured a number of dates, almost all of which went badly. I was violently sick in the middle of one, managed to convince the girl during another that I was homosexual, and finally convinced another girl that I was a different person entirely. Worryingly, it’s this date that went best. Though I should report that my latest date went rather well.

I had sex 0 times.

I published 2 novels on Amazon Kindle. To date sales figures are about equal to any Girls Aloud solo album not released by Cheryl Cole. Here are some shamelessly placed links. BUY MY BOOKS. IT’S MY BIRTHDAY.

Available now. BUY BUY BUY.

My deeply cerebral goal of being able to make my pecs dance has nearly been reached. Though at present it’s more of an exhausted arthritic shuffle than a dance.

I’m still going to the gym 3-4 times a week. Secretly I hope random people on the street will go out of their way to comment on my guns. No one has.

After a string of part-time positions, I’ve spent the last 5 months working full time. This means an hour morning and evening of being dry-humped by overweight businessmen on the London Underground. I’m glad of the physical contact.

I had forgotten how much working full-time encroaches upon free time for masturbation. Fortunately the job is only temporary. I intend to test the limits of self-inflicted dehydration.

I started making stop motion videos for this job. Despite having no knowledge or experience, they come out pretty well. Oh look, here’s one now!

Biggest achievement of the year: filling a Gourmet Burger Kitchen loyalty card and claiming a free burger.
Variety: Chicken with barbeque relish.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Modern Dating III

Well, it’s a clear sign times are getting desperate when I’m writing a second sequel to an already self-indulgent and conceptually desultory series of blog posts. Yes, it’s time for recent tales of wearisome dating disasters and romantic remonstrations.

Despite the assertion in my last dating post (the critically panned Modern Dating II) that I had retired from the Internet dating scene, I have in fact done the complete opposite. There is only so much crying and masturbating (sometimes simultaneously) a guy can do before the siren-song of the dating profile lures him back.

Dehydration is no laughing matter

The return has given me the opportunity to realise how, even when competing in the arena of the sick and the lame, I cannot pick off even the sickliest antelope (a warning: there are many poorly thought-out metaphors ahead). There is too much competition. I have now spoken online to enough women to know that they are inundated with messages from guys. Approximately 60% of these are dick pictures; another 20% unwitting derogatory slurs; this still leaves the remaining 20% as actual guys trying to meet people. Guys like me. 

It is empirical fact that if there is competition for a girl I like, I will not win. Life has vividly affirmed this fact, ever since my very first crush. I engaged in my usual technique of hanging around her, playing it cool, the sort of thing that in movies results in final reel kissing but in reality bottoms out with accidental asphyxiation while suspended naked from the light fitting by underwear you stole from her bedroom. She promptly shagged my best friend at the time. At university I was wildly in love with a girl who, two days after I confessed this, pulled my best friend (a different one). About a year after that, another girl I was madly transfixed with, and who showed unequivocal signs of reciprocity, subsequently got with my other best friend.

It’s a cheery odyssey of success.

Online dating is a horrible intensification of this competition. For every girl, there are ten guys vying for her attention, like foxes trying to knock over a dustbin (I thought of at least five other similes but they all included the phrase ‘circle-jerk’). We all flaunt our exaggerated and often outright mendacious dating profiles like those monkeys with the hyperbolic technicolour butts.

This is why I'm single

And, if somehow my woefully unimpressive profile makes it through this bestial process unscathed, there’s the date itself. It has come to my attention that I have the personality of a perforated windsock. Even if prior communication goes terribly well, it will all judder to a halt the moment a girl meets me. Even if we seem to get on really well. Each and every time the messages stop dead or peter out, because the girl has lost interest and wandered into the embrace of a finer male with a more impressively engorged rump.

That's man code for 'someone with a bigger penis.'

It can prove altogether disheartening. Some instances, in hindsight, don’t bother me. But sometimes I develop a fondness for someone. It’s not that I expect instant love. I’m not the creepy sort of guy you find on your doorstep at midnight carving your initials into his arm with a ballpoint pen. I’d just like, for once, for that early promise to be fulfilled. And I really don’t know what I’m doing wrong. 

See me whine more about dating! Read Modern Dating I and Modern Dating II!

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Public Toilet Disasters

The vet stares down at my penis and pushes his glasses further up his nose. I’m still leaning over, both hands gripping the trousers bunched around my ankles. For a moment social convention fails us both. It’s impolite to stare. It’s unacceptable to bare your junk to men you hardly know. Our senses return at the same instant. I pull my trousers up around my waist. The vet makes a hasty retreat.

There are few places in everyday life less agreeable than a public toilet. They rank just above sexual humiliation dungeons, the showers in Wormwood Scrubs prison, or Essex; but these are places you can usually avoid.

Definitely avoid Essex

I won’t get into the issue of an increasing number of public toilets in London charging for the ordeal of using them, as this would quickly depreciate into a quivering abortion of apoplectic rage. Instead I’ll mention the inevitable macabre innards of such places: the stench of ammonia as if you’ve just penetrated Satan’s urethra; skid-marks so ingrained in the bowls as to predate Aboriginal cave paintings; men in long raincoats who don’t even pretend they’re in attendance for any other reason but to glimpse your testicles (this is particularly disturbing for women, for a number of reasons). 

The worst public toilets are on British trains, with doors purchased wholesale from a clear-out of the old Star Trek set.

Not pictured: space torpedoes launch button

A button-press slides the door open. Inside, another button-press slides it closed. In theory, this is functional for disabled users. In practice, it’s a source of never-ending embarrassment for most of us and illicit fetishistic pleasure for everyone else. While people search for the button that fires phasers at the Klingons, they forget to press the button that locks the door. 

This is why I found myself standing directly outside the toilet on a crowded train as the door slid open to reveal a middle-eastern man in mid-bowel movement. He lunged forward, swearing profusely, one hand vaguely covering his equipment, and slapped the Close button.

He still forgot to lock it.

When the door opened on him again two minutes later he stayed seated to launch a volley of abuse. The guy who had opened the door grabbed hold of it and tried to wrench it shut while screaming ‘sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry!’ I decided to find somewhere else to sit.

This'll do

My downfall came at work. I had returned to the toilet to complete the necessary paperwork after having previously been prematurely called away. The lock on the door was broken. I was facing the bowl, trousers and pants around my ankles, one arm behind me in mid-wipe, when the door opened.

I avoided the vet, an unremarkably stoic Swede, for the rest of the day, fretting wildly over what he might be telling his harem of attractive nurses. When I later encountered him, I was again just coming out of the toilet.

‘Don’t worry!’ he laughed. ‘I spend all day neutering dogs. It’s nothing I haven’t seen before.’

To this day, I wonder if this was a veiled comment about the nature of my penis.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Gay Date

‘Is this a gay bar?’ asked my date.

I glanced around at the startling magnitude of homosexual stereotypes in the room. There was a nagging sense that we had stumbled into Elton John’s baby shower.  

‘No,’ I answered defensively. ‘Don’t be a homophobe.’

My usual technique before messing things up is to get a drink into the girl’s hand, therefore at least trapping her with me for its duration. So this immediate setback of sexual confusion was something of a new record. This was the first time I’d ever chosen a date venue; with a social life akin to that of an agoraphobic table leg, it’s unsurprising I chose poorly.

Every other night I had been there it had not been a gay bar. The way I saw it, as long as our drinks weren’t served clenched between the buttocks of oiled beefcake, the mistake could be forgiven. 

It was now abundantly clear that my date suspected me of being a closeted homosexual. My order of rose wine only exacerbated such conjecture. As we pushed through the crowded bar she paled when I squeezed past anyone crotch-facing-butt. That I did not order whisky decanted in a human skull and navigate the room by garrotting anyone in my path is proof irrefutable that I must be a flagrant gay. Undoubtedly the following song looped in her head.

I launched into a number of masculine topics. Red-blooded action movies; my predilection for the breasts of the human female; the structural integrity of Stalin’s moustache. Rather quickly, her eyes began to wander. This is hardly unusual for a girl who has somehow found herself in conversation with me. However, I noticed her paying particular attention to the low neckline of my t-shirt.

Suddenly she grabbed my collar and fastened the buttons at record pace. Before I might mistake this for intimacy she took flight to the toilet.

It’s then I noticed that the others at our table, aside from a pair of attractive girls beside me, were gay men. All sporting low-necked t-shirts. Wine and outrage gave me the confidence to broadcast my dismay. I turned to the girls beside me.

‘Excuse me?’ I gave the nearest girl an ignominious poke. ‘Is it me,’ I whispered, leaning in conspiratorially, ‘or are there a lot of lesbians here?’

‘Yes,’ they replied in unison. ‘We’re lesbians.’

A sensible man would have evacuated this conversation, bundled up his scant remaining dignity and simply fled the bar before his date returned to find him being assaulted by a pair of affronted lesbians. I am not a sensible man.

‘No way! I bellowed. ‘You look so normal!’

She didn’t punch me so I continued to dig my grave.

‘No offence or anything, but lesbians are always a bit of a disappointment, you know? They’re never like the porn.’

This was the juncture whereupon I should have been knocked unconscious and my anal virginity removed with shards of glass. Instead, they decided to humour me.

‘We agree with you. That’s why we watch porn together.’

Giddy excitement forced me to my feet. I pulled the nearest girl into a hug and then showered them both with badly-aimed but supremely enthusiastic high-fives. If only my date could have overheard my profound sexual ignorance! This whole misunderstanding would be cleared up!

Unfortunately, she returned to find me jumping vigorously up and down, flapping my wrists, and hugging a pair of lesbians.

The date lasted ten more minutes.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

A Farewell to Armchairs

There are events in life significant enough to give pause. The day you leave home for university. Your very first kiss with another human. That moment you look into the eyes of your newborn son and...

The optimism alert has just started flashing on my desktop. That opening really is more suitable for BT internet adverts or group therapy. I’ll try again, and try to stick to my hackneyed blend of self-deprecation and unnecessary profanity.

Ahem. There are events in life significant enough to give pause. The day you discover masturbation. Your very first kiss with a picture of Baby Spice torn from Smash Hits magazine. That moment when the itching becomes so unbearable you simply have to let a doctor see that rash.

As the very existence of this blog testifies, I am something of a sucker for nostalgia. Although I in particular am bad for it, everyone suffers from nostalgia of one sort or another. This most commonly manifests itself as perceived sentimental value; a particular pricelessness assigned to objects in our life that were present at a particular event, perhaps, or gifted by a particular person. More often than not it’s an item that has long outlived its purpose, or that never really had one in the first place. This is why our homes are full of bedraggled toys belonging to long-ago run over cats, tins bearing pictures of monarchs before they became national laughing stocks, or pictures of friends we no longer see or speak to because they slept with your wife or ran over your cat.

My most heinous crime of sentimentality was doggedly dragging around a security blanket until the age of six or so like a wannabe Linus from Peanuts. It used to be a re-useable nappy. In other words, I felt misplaced yet fervent kinship for something I used to regularly and profusely defecate into. And, on special occasions, vomit on.

As I’ve grown older (and installed my desktop optimism alarm) I’ve made an effort to do away with sentimentality. Not only do you accumulate a lot of junk; for someone such as myself it’s downright unhealthy.

This weekend in the old familial home we got new furniture to replace the pair of armchairs we’ve had since I was nine. Now, my first thought was that I was desperately sad about this. They’ve been there for so many significant moments of my life.

Then it occurred to me that the chairs, although still remarkably comfortable, have been altogether incidental in my life. Mostly I sat on my own every night after school and ate any food I could get my hands on until my ballooning weight collapsed the centre of the chair. A broken spring tore a hole in the carpet underneath. The chairs have become nothing but arbitrary recipients of nostalgia that, in my head, needs such personification to remain keen and close. And, much as it doesn’t stop me, trying to keep an iron grip on the past is futile.

So now the chairs are out on the drive to be taken by a passer-by or eventually removed and disposed of. In years to come this house will empty itself, from the objects within it, to the pets, and, sooner or later, the people. And there is nothing more sure in this life than that these walls will harbour no memories of us.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Grown Up

It’s 3am, and my assigned partner and I are on our way up the stairs to the main sleeping floor of the homeless shelter to relieve a pair of supervisors. The smell hits first, long before we reach the top, a thick haze of old sweat and cigarette smoke like the front row of Glastonbury’s main stage on the final day, then the staggered snores and mutterings of men in various stages of sleep. We walk between the camp-beds, my partner ahead of me, her shoes shushing gently on the worn carpet.

The supervisors we’re replacing rise when they see us, stretching the stiffness from their limbs. In the dim light from the windows one of them shrugs off a luminous safety vest and holds it out to me.

‘You know how to use a fire extinguisher?’ He whispers so as not to disturb the men sleeping close around us.


He shoves the vest into my hand. ‘Well, you’re the fire marshal now.’

And they leave. I try and foist the vest onto my partner, but she insists it remain with me on the grounds that ‘I’m the man.’

I study the squat fire extinguisher stashed beneath my chair and realise I have no idea how to use it. The advice printed on what’s left of the label says ‘Aim at fire.’ This is the instruction that will allow me to save the lives of hundreds of people if something catches alight in the next two hours. There is a temptation to ignite one or two of the homeless people, just a little, and let them flail around aflame as melodramatic proof that I am not up to this job.

It first became apparent that people considered me a grown up when I worked in a pet shop. If some child were banging on the glass of the guinea pig cages their mother would throw me a knowing sidelong glance before announcing, ‘You’d better stop that or the man will shout at you!’ At which point the child would recoil from me in abject terror.

I wanted to fling my hands up and plead my innocence. When did I become some kind of fun-spoiling crypto-fascist? I felt the need to throw my lot in with the child; I’m with you, guinea pigs are boring, bang the glass! Set them on fire and applaud as they screech like boiling kettles for all I care! Just don’t sever me so flippantly from my childhood.

By some definition I could not grasp, I was suddenly seen by many as a grown up. This is why, perhaps, if ever I occupy a spot in London for more than a few minutes I will inevitably be approached by a waylaid foreigner and asked directions. I had always assumed that my face’s default position was that of vacuous bafflement, as if my brain were perpetually tuned to BBC Parliament. Instead it must be vaguely trustworthy, possessive of some chance verisimilitude when I send the asker in a random direction. A Spanish lady and her family approached me once as I waited outside Camden Town tube station and enquired whether I was a taxi. The only response I could manage was an exasperated spreading of my hands, a slow turn to the empty curb behind, then back to her as she gazed at me expectantly.

Western culture is devoid of any definitive transition into adulthood. Teenage dystopian fiction is filled with clear-cut gruesome rituals that are the death knell of childhood, and the world of Pokemon is built on a delightful transparency, youngsters expelled at thirteen to enact any cruelty they wish on the animals of the land. The UK is too politically-correct to let me venture into the allotments behind my house and cold-bloodedly enslave or murder the resident foxes. No survivalist trek into the wild can last for more than a few hours before stumbling across a Little Chef. How could I have earned my stripes rather than become an adult without even noticing? I needed more experience, to see more of the world. I had experienced nothing to thrust me headlong into manhood.

As 4am approaches on the sleeping floor of the homeless shelter, the lights of the city eerily still in the distance and the winter creeping into my bones, a young guy, perhaps my age, perhaps less, rolls in his tattered sleeping bag to face me.

‘Have you ever seen a dead alcoholic?’ he asks.

And it’s true, I think, as his eyes stare into mine. I haven’t lived through anything at all.

‘No,’ I say. ‘I haven’t.’

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Modern Dating II

This post is sponsored by the words Pot, Kettle, and Black.

A few months ago I wrote a blog entitled Modern Dating. It portrayed any guy who partakes in ‘alternative dating’ (online, personals, chloroform, etc.) as a maladjusted misanthrope stuck behind his computer with a seething erection and crispy tissues plastered irrevocably to his hands, and any girl as the female equivalent; this perhaps involves a cucumber. A number of people more experienced in the online dating world did not take kindly to this astringent assumption. They suggested I should try it myself before mouthing off on the Internet. This, combined with a growing phobia of dying alone beneath a railway bridge and my bloated corpse only coming to light after several weeks of being eaten by cats, encouraged me to give it a go.

I chose a free dating site, which, days later, was in the news after one of its members beat another member half to death with a hammer following a bad date. Now, the very crux of my previous dating post was that no one shows their true self in alternative dating. Gaping flaws, such as a penchant for hammer-orientated violence, become endearing quirks, crippling anxieties charming idiosyncrasies. Even with this insight I soon found myself glossing over my personality defects and listing only my most esoteric of tastes. Yes, my favourite film is Three Colours Blue by Krzysztof Kieslowski! The only photos I uploaded were either pretentious Instagram or pretentious black & white, and all conveniently devoid of bad skin, fat belly, and hairy back. By the time I was finished, my profile was home to a version of myself I’d never met.

Initial interest was exclusively pugnacious transsexuals in bondage gear inviting me to their house for a blow job. Their numbers have been safely stowed for a few years down the line. Online dating is particularly belittling due to the arrival of a notification each and every time someone visits your profile, balks at the abhorrence of your photographs, and hurriedly absconds. It took a few weeks before I made contact with any real females.

This blog is built upon a foundation of disastrous dates and romance run aground. Who else can say the first girl they ever kissed promptly threw a pint glass at their head? However, this entry will be slightly different. Although not one of my four dates was a success per se, all of them, to varying degrees, went smoothly.

The difficulty lies in a superficial notion of imaginary science upon which people judge the future viability of a hypothetical relationship: chemistry. Although I understand the importance of getting along with someone, this apocryphal natural harmony has eluded me at every turn. It might be the fact that I am naturally awkward and take a while longer than most to feel comfortable around somebody new. This, as well as an archaic adherence to chivalry, often sees my relatively unhurried pace to sleep with someone diagnosed as a chemistry deficiency. Whatever happened to taking the time to get to know someone?

This is a disadvantage in the world of online dating. When finally I do meet someone I am plagued with a heightened awareness that I must make a great first impression. I arrive with a gargantuan flashing sign around my neck that screams LOVE ME. So scared am I of failure the date becomes a job interview, a frantic dissimulation, the desperate concealment of all blemishes to try and appear as the perfect man, as someone who isn’t inwardly terrified of being revealed as not worth knowing. Amid the exertion of maintaining the charade there’s no space to formulate chemistry.

The result was three non-awkward but ultimately lacklustre dates. Three separate girls sent near-identical postdate messages: You’re a really nice guy, but there was just no chemistry.

I persisted with a fourth date. Within ten minutes of sitting down in a pub on the Southbank, I knew it was doomed. Every time I spoke her eyes glassed over in a way I’ve only seen before in students I’ve taught. My chemistry vacuum yawned widely between us. So I decided to experiment. If being myself doesn’t work, and presenting a version of myself modified for social acceptance doesn’t work, I would be somebody else.

So the next time I opened my mouth I told her about the years I spent as a primary school teacher for troubled kids in Manchester. I regaled her with the tale of my near-goring in the running of the bulls at Pamplona. I made a devilishly inappropriate joke about Chlamydia.

And she laughed. And she believed. And when I text her the next day to ask how it went, she replied that there was great chemistry.

Although I’m not proud of lying to someone, it was necessary in order to stop deluding myself. Dating, online or otherwise, will not work for me. I will never make an earth-rending first impression. I will never glide inside the doorway in full Navy uniform and sweep someone off their feet back to my villa in the hills to engage them in headboard-abusive acrobatic sex.

So my online dating profile currently stands idle. All that’s left is to wait in the hope that one day there will be someone patient enough to get to know me, that time will outweigh lacklustre first impression. And if not, you will find me by following that smell to the noise of feasting cats underneath the railway bridge.