Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Lost in a Hong Kong Shopping Mall

I escaped the neon-soaked Kowloon bustle after my companions dismissed me with a shrug and cloistered themselves in our cubicle of a shared room. A constellation of roadworks led me to the base of the ICC, a fairly innocuous glass monolith at night that is nevertheless the fifth tallest building in the world.

This building, right here.

In this part of the story I ascend 100 floors in 60 seconds, fear I have suffered the bends, and nothing terribly interesting happens.

The lift that returned me to earth deposited me into a shopping mall. As the doors slid open, fear ran its fingers up my spine. Most of the last two weeks had been spent trapped inside sprawling retail arcades that I’d entered whilst trying to cross the road/find the zoo/escape a different retail arcade.

I had to search for an exit, always deliberately hidden so that you might instead scurry inside a shop. I wouldn’t be fooled. My path divided into four. The signage had chosen a non-committal approach to language, opting for pictograms of leaves and what were perhaps intended as animals: an oak leaf, a lotus, a hobbled raccoon, an elephant with shingles. I picked one and hustled past the gaudily glamorous shops until I reached glass doors.

A washcloth of humidity pressed against my face. The Outside. But my relief was curtailed as I realised it was a decoy; a car park that opened onto an overpass with no pedestrian access.

Back inside. Now shutters were descending like emotionally clumsy cinematic fade-outs. Closing time. I pursued Oak Leaf until it dead ended at a desolate food court. Elephant doubled back on itself and left me at an escalator that fell eerily still as I approached. The situation was dire. I accepted my awkward fate and went in search of a staff member. I found her by the lifts that had got me into this mess.

This is her.

“How do I escape?”

She stared blankly back at me. Perhaps she only understood pictograms?

“Do I follow raccoon, elephant, oak leaf, or lotus?”


I threw her a thin-lipped grimace, the English symbol of I’m too polite to panic but I don’t want to die here.

She primly walked away as if my existence had elapsed.

I hammered the lift button but it was one way only. I cast around desperately for an exit and saw, tucked away in the corner, a metal fire door. A pictogram of an exploding sun indicated that it was alarmed.

I hurled my weight at the release bar and all but tumbled down the concrete stairs as the alarm spiralled behind me. I didn’t pause for breath until I reached the roadworks that would guide me home.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

The Anti-Dating Blog

‘Do you ever worry,’ asked my best friend, ‘that your blog might stop girls from wanting to date you?’

There is indeed a convincing argument to be made that young women aren’t interested in a guy so openly entrenched in depression, so terrified of the sticky exchanges of intercourse, and whose face currently looks like this:

Similarly, I should stress that I’m hardly strapping women down and subjecting them to an endless Powerpoint slideshow of blog entries while I moisten their eyeballs with a syringe. But women have found this blog with alarming regularity.

The very first entry was about my disastrous first kiss. I was seeing an older girl at the time, which cliché dictates made her a font of experience and expectation. I stayed at her flat the weekend after I had posted that entry.

‘Was that all true?’ she asked. ‘About your first kiss?’

When I answered in the affirmative, she blew out her cheeks and quietly went back to watching our inexplicable evening choice of Embarrassing Bodies. I never saw her again.

Because nothing says romance like fungal feet

The next time a girl found this blog she read every single entry in a single day, and told me she thought I was lovely. It was only once she’d met me in person that she lost interest entirely.

So, early evidence is inconclusive.

I’ve brought it on myself since then. The biggest fallacy propounded by this blog is the impression it gives of me as a nice chap blighted by misfortune. I can singlehandedly disprove that with the entry that unfairly insulted a girl I had just stopped seeing. She saw it, of course, and no amount of apologies since have convinced her to talk to me again.

Recently, a girl I was chatting with via a dating site asked me to add her on Skype. I did so with a new account I’d set up for freelance work and anonymous video sex calls. Without my knowledge it had linked with Google and listed this blog immediately next to my name. Five minutes into our first conversation:

HannahK: Aren’t you embarrassed writing such personal things?

Dave: What do you mean?

HannahK: I’m on your blog.

This was particularly bad as the most recent entry was my 26th birthday post, an entry which Thom Yorke of Radiohead famously described as ‘testicle-stonkingly depressing.’ I immediately went on the defensive to convince her that it was just an off-day, usually I’m an iridescent bundle of raindrops on kittens tied up with string.

Then I smelled my own bullshit. There was no point in lying. She was already looking for a way out of the conversation. So I decided to give her one.

Dave: Don’t worry, you can run to the hills if you want.

HannahK: I’m thinking about it, haha.

Dave: I’d understand. I’m actually thinking about drawing a nice hot bath...

HannahK: I don’t mean to be rude.

Dave: ...break open one of my mum’s leg razors.

Dave: I’m sick of it all, tbh.

HannahK: I hope your [sic] joking.

Dave: I’m riddled with syphilis, too.

HannahK is now offline.

Because why not live up to expectation?

Here's a cat licking my eyeball

I stand by anything I write on this blog, no matter how shameful, raw, or ridiculous. I have a mental illness, yo. My friend was absolutely right; any female with her head on straight should run a mile if she encounters this blog. It is the Anti-Date. Woman repellent. But it’s me. And it’s best they find that out from the start.

Maybe someday one of them will stick around.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

5 Observations About South Korea

I went to South Korea last month. It was great! And, in a welcome break from the usual, nothing particularly embarrassing or untoward happened to me. This leaves me little recourse but to write an unabashedly trite list of observations. Don’t worry, you can skip to the (also quite shit) photos.

South Korean food is mostly gross.

I’m not one of those ‘live like a local’ type travellers who believes that sampling the native diet is imperative to any given journey. This is very often because local food is a horrific abomination. South Koreans like fish. Any fish. If a creature has so much as taken a breath of sea air they will eat it. Banks of restaurants are fronted by tanks writhing with octopi and sea urchins and things that worryingly resemble human hearts. I visited South Korea’s largest fish market. At any given moment it officially* represents 97% of the ocean’s maximum occupancy (*not a made up statistic). Koreans eat the fish raw and, very often, while it’s still alive.

Dave’s travel tip: Eat only ice cream. If the milk comes from Korean cows, it’s technically local food.

The North/South border is a pantomime put on by children.

The border between North and South Korea is amongst the most militarised places on Earth, second only to a Millwall FC home game. They like to highlight this fact as often as possible. The empirical evidence (checkpoints, minefields, the world’s most respected barbed wire collection) doesn’t prevent the tour guides hammering it home every few minutes that you might be randomly exploded by a North Korean shell. The border visit itself is a series of fleetingly staged procedural line-ups overseen by soldiers who, due to mandatory service, are barely out of school. Half of them stand for hours in poses of aggression that make it seem as if the biggest hazard at the border is chronic constipation.

Dave’s travel tip: Seriously though, those kids could kill you with their left thumb.

Everyone in South Korea is a model.

I am not an attractive man. My eyes are beady and I walk like a half-witted oaf. By English standards, I am merely forgettable. By Korean standards, I am pepper spray to the eyes. Everyone in South Korea is beautiful. I have never seen such a high concentration of attractive individuals outside of that recurring dream where I’m naked and everyone laughs. This is partly because they have an attitude to caring for themselves that puts much of the world to shame. It also has something to do with cosmetic surgery being commonplace. They even advertise it on the subway.

Dave’s travel tip: Don’t expect to have any sex in South Korea.

You might die of old age at South Korean traffic lights.

South Korean roads are so wide that most English people would expect sponsorship just to cross them. A wait at South Korean traffic lights is like a queue for the world’s worst theme park ride. Chance it, and you’ll certainly be killed on one of approximately twenty-seven lanes of traffic. Bus drivers spend so much time at junctions that they actually get out for a cigarette break before the lights turn green.

Dave’s travel tip: Just stay in your hostel. Sod it.

South Korea is absolutely beautiful.

Capital city Seoul has no globally famous landmarks; there’s no Big Ben or Eiffel Tower or Penge Market. The majority of buildings are identikit apartment blocks. But what it lacks in a focal point it more than makes up for in green spaces, clean and efficient transport, and preserved heritage. Stray out of the city and it’s nothing but stunning mountain scenery in all directions. It’s one of the more beautiful countries I’ve ever visited.

Dave’s travel tip: Or just look it up on Google Earth. It’s basically the same.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

A Non-Depressive Blog Post about Depression

The discerning amongst you will have noticed that this blog has taken a turn for the depressive of late. It’s not something I’ll apologise for, but I have every half-hearted intention of going back to what this blog was originally about: pointless bollocks.

But before I fail at that resolution, I’d like to write a non-depressive post about depression. It’s been in the news this week that young people, some under ten years old, who fear they have depression, are being dismissed by doctors. This is total bullshit.

Depression can be an overwhelmingly lonely illness. This is not only because you often don’t feel up to socialising, and so shut yourself away and, in my case, litter the internet with bollocks instead. More acute is the sense of isolation. It is difficult to talk to anybody about what you’re feeling. Not only is it intensely personal. The fear that they won’t understand is tremendous. And when you finally, desperately summon the courage to talk about it, to have them dismiss you is confusing, painful, and hugely damaging.

I’ve only been open about my depression for a year or so. But several years ago, during a particularly difficult spell, I decided to tell my two best friends that I might have depression. Using the full scope of my maturity I did this via Facebook message.

He didn't care either.

Shortly afterward they responded to ask if I wasn’t just overreacting a little bit. Perhaps I was just feeling sad because my life was in a rut. It would soon pass, and I would realise I was just being melodramatic.

So I tried to forget about it. To show such vulnerability and be knocked back was completely humiliating. So I continued to ignore the problem and only found the courage to seek help years later, by which time my depression was far worse.

My intention in relating this story is not to blame my friends. I am just as guilty of showing the same ignorance to a member of my family. While she struggled for many years with severe depression, I sat back and wondered, often aloud, why she couldn’t just get over it? After all, what did she have to be depressed about? Instead of trying to understand or offer any kind of awkward teenage familial support, I made them feel weak for having a mental illness.

Something for which I am very, very sorry.

The point I’m labouring over is that we have to hear people out when they voice a concern about their mental health. If a friend told you that they think they’ve found a lump on their body, you’d take it seriously and tell them to see a doctor. It should be no different for depression.

It will always be especially difficult to diagnose depression and other mental illnesses in young people, especially while they’re being subjected to the hormonal rigours of puberty. But to dismiss them out of hand is simply wrong. It’s an obvious point, but one that clearly needs to be made.

To end, I’d like to share a link. I’m well aware, from personal experience, that comprehending depression and how it affects people is incredibly difficult. This is a selection of comics that capture depression as accurately as perhaps is possible. I really urge you to take a look.