Monday, December 23, 2013

Of Mites And Mums

I'm a baby denier, and I have been for 33 and a half years.

Well, that's probably a lie, seeing as for the first year of that I was a baby, and I'm presuming due to my thriving eyesight, strong, powerful bones and ability to conduct conversations with people without clawing at their face in a mixture of terror and wonder, that I wasn't kept on my own in a shoebox for my formative years. So let's assume, unless my parents were radically unsuccessful psychopaths, that the last baby I encountered was when I would have been similarly wholly obsessed with my next rusk without the wherewithal, motor skills or intellectual clout to go about obtaining it, so around 27 or 28 years old.

I'm setting a humourous tone now so you're cushioned for further down the page. Sorry. The humour is deliberately terrible so you don't empathise with me too much, and for no other reason, and I'll thank you to stop loudly proving otherwise.

So being, as I am, an only child with a tiny family and a tendency to only socialise with people I meet reflected in a pub mirror, and having, as I do, seemingly very sensible and neat little ovaries that keep themselves to themselves and don't kick about the place spewing mucky pools of hormones everywhere, I have managed to go the vast majority of my life without encountering, touching or thinking about babies. Of course, they exist in the world and that is fine for all concerned who want to deal with them, but I am just not one of those people. Which puts babies on about the level of carpet steam cleaners, pensions and conversations that start "For Christ's sake, Jules, can you just stop doing that stupid voice and listen to me? This is serious." I can even go to a Caffe Nero at 3pm on a Tuesday, aka baby Thunderdome (incidentally, I have my suspicions that collusion is beginning to appear in these enforced baby box socials, and we're just a few accidentally spilled lattes on soft baby skulls away from post-naptime rebellion and weaponised Baby Bjorns. I leave this as a note of caution for history to judge. Those literal suckers are sneaky) and emerge none the broodier.

But then I have of late got a lot of practice at not thinking about things that utterly surround you. Pretty shifty of them to join forces.

See, this feckless parade of Great Gatsby hedonism that can sum up my life thus far - assuming, of course, that Gatsby gave the whole carousing with flappers and champers vibe a rest in his later years in favour of piling up equal stacks of Xbox achievements and loneliness - had to come to an end some time, as the inevitable happened and the babies started their gummy incursion into my inner social circle. The time had come to lose my baby virginity. Which is, by the way, a turn of phrase it's very difficult to shake out of one's brain when one thinks of it on the way to meet a baby, and even more difficult to not fire like an offensive shotgun into the proud parents' faces on greeting their new arrival.

And here's what I was expecting: that I would find said proud new parents happily befuddled, claiming exhaustion-related social malfunction, apologising for being terrible addled hosts; and that that would all be utter nonsense, as they were glowing, radiant, amazing, together, inhumanly impressive, ethereally serene, as natural and perfect as if they'd just tumbled sexily out of a Kooples babywear advert. And so it went. And I was expecting to have this surprisingly hefty bundle of hot skin and freshly formed puddingy flesh and tiny fingernails and flailing unpredictable limbs dumped into my stupid, unknowledgeable arms, and that that would cause a catastrophic chain reaction from newborn's gaze to primitive brain stem to nuclear explosion in the womb area; and by the time I'd flung him back into his father's professional care, I'd be bug-eyed and broody and simply batshit for babies.

But nope. Nothing. The usual amounts of happiness for the obvious joy he had brought to his little family, the vicarious sense of wonder that he existed and was here and real and how insane and fantastic that all was, but that was it, that was that, and there was nothing more to be done than have a cheesy picture taken with the squiggling little chap and move on with life, and this is where the story gets mucky, because I looked at the picture expecting to see me, and underneath the shaggy mop of mousy hair, the garish cocktail ring, the scruffy jeans, all the accoutrements she would never be seen anywhere near, all I could see was my mum.

And it was like 33 articulated lorries that had been quietly lurking at the edge of sight all slammed on their accelerators and careered into me at once. It was like a comically big plug being plunged into place and the whole sky filling with a huge neon sign, blaring through my retinas, screaming "Do you get it now?" See you? That's her. See that baby? That's you. Feel that? That's a lifetime of maternal instinct all arriving in a big confused heap, and that's you finally working out the difference between being a daughter and having a mother, and that's you snapping out of the narcissistic millennial teenager sulky groove you've been treading for the past 20 years, and that's the realisation that she was not just an abstract collection of admirable characteristics for you to pick through and shove together in a random jigsaw to explain your place in the world. She was a person who suddenly found herself with a squirming, fresh little creature in her arms and for the rest of her life, no matter how big that creature was, or how far away it was, or how much it moped and whined and thought it was such a sad little girl that no-one could ever ever love, it would still be in her arms. Always there. No matter what superhuman things she did with her life. No matter how annoyed that creature got with having to answer another phone call or think up another birthday present. It would always be an invisible hot weight on her chest that she would forever guard, that creature, you, until one day you blinked and she was gone and the safety net ripped apart and that's probably something you can think about now.

All of which is quite an obvious and stupid thing to realise by looking at a picture. The brain can be a prick sometimes.

(By the by, if by some really peculiar circuitous route you have arrived here and read this far - my sympathies - and don't know me personally or don't recall the details or just, due to a weird perversion, want to read the two-year-old ramblings of a grief-stricken 31-year-old white woman from Essex, then you'll find background to all this here and here)

Loss is a strange sensation. Especially in this case, losing someone in a manner so engineered for tragic effect; almost comical, in fact. Not dying on Christmas Day or Christmas Eve - too on the nose, too Hallmark Movies. December 23rd, on the way to the Christmas holiday she'd always dreamed of. Out of the blue, bang, gone in a second. So close. "Oh, chief, it was such a shame. She was just two days from retirement." That kind of loss is a beam of light suddenly focused on you, out of nowhere, where it feels like the world holds its breath and waits for you to make the first move and you're paralysed because you're having to recalibrate your life to an amended set of natural laws and there's too much of it to think about at once. But eventually, the world starts shuffling its feet and coughing and whispering about the possibility of missing the last train home, and the beam of light fades away and everyone moves on. But what if the recalibration doesn't work? What if you just carry on like before, wilfully ignoring the massive gap in the system, forcing yourself to keep running while the error messages pile up? What if every time someone sympathises with you or mentions that it's a hard time of year, you're angry because you're having your head forced into that gap again and again until you realise that what's missing was your back-up, that feeling that you can always lean slightly and there will be someone to rest against, and there's nothing that will ever fill it? 

I don't know. I don't know. I honestly don't know.

But I do know this: that big pile of error messages feels a lot like extraordinary amounts of guilt. And I think that's made me act in some troubling ways towards lovely people over the last two years, and for that I am truly sorry. I also know this: tonally, this piece has really veered about all over the fucking place. It started off about babies, didn't it? Jesus, what a mess of words. If anything, for that, I'm even more sorry. Priorities. 

This was my mum, and I never said thank you. If there's a message anyone can take from that, take it. If not, hell, that's all right. I wasn't trying to put one forward anyway. Hey, though - this is too late, way too late, but thanks, Mum. Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Taking A Lot Of Words To Say Not Very Much At All

Raymond Chandler was, to put it in terms as horribly unpoetic as his would be magnificent, one hell of a goddamn writer. We may or may not have him to thank for the invention of noir, the hard-bitten PI sodden with scotch and regrets, the femme fatale with a predilection for dangerous men and uncanny ability to smoke without blotting their perfectly painted red lips, all that jazz - frankly, I can't be arsed to research it, but let's assume he was one of if not the actual progenitors of that genre. Whatever, fuck it. Take all the poetry he has woven, all the faultless evocations of sultry Californian '40s nights, every furrowed brow of every gruff detective, every curve of every dame his pen ever traced, and cannon it into the Pacific. His letter above, his one simple description of the bewildering devastation of a bereavement, tops the lot.

One hell of a goddamn writer.

One hell of a passage to inspire someone.

It's been six months and 12 days since my mum, halfway to a long-planned and anticipated Christmas holiday in a Cornish seaside hotel, in a Travelodge near Stonehenge, died suddenly of a massive heart attack. I'd seen her a few days earlier in a Caffe Nero near Fenchurch Street, where she'd mentioned in passing that recently her chest had been feeling heavy, and I'd frowned and told her she really should go to the doctor, knowing full well she wouldn't, before going on to enthuse about how amazing Tesco's online grocery shopping was because you clicked a few buttons and stuff just turned up at your door. She'd half-smiled and promised to try it out, but said it was difficult because she was so busy, I knew how it was. And I did. She'd given me a bunch of Christmas presents. She'd stopped mid-conversation and suddenly talked about how she'd recently remembered a song she used to sing to me when I was a baby to get me to sleep. She'd idly sung a few lines of it to the cafe, to the middle-aged women charging up with caffeine before tackling the last of the Christmas shopping, to the businessmen huddled round laptops struggling to feign interest in their final pre-holiday meetings, and they'd all ignored her. We'd hugged goodbye and she'd disappered round a building, and that was it. She went home, I went to work. She never saw Stonehenge, and I never saw her again.

On Christmas Day I sat and stared at the untouched presents under the tree and tried and tried to remember the song she'd sang. I couldn't.

And I still can't.

Bummer, huh?

Six months has passed; it feels like a week, and it feels like a decade. I used to feel paralysed with guilt that I wasn't using every spare moment of my day being terribly creative and amazing in some way. Now days just slide over each other like a pack of cards falling off a poker table, all piling up in an insignificant puddle of numbers and symbols. It's July and I've not really done anything at all since December. I had, in my more self-obsessed moments - and yes, I do have those, if you can possibly believe that notion! - hoped that the pain of grief would inspire some searing work of genius, that I'd suddenly be able to knock out a symphony or a novel or a really, really awkwardly unfunny sitcom, but it was not to be. Not enough concentration on the beauty of the loss, too much on the comparitively useless life that continues on?


But no. Not that. I can see how this has affected those close to my mum. They're stuck headfirst into a hurricane of loss. They can barely move through the days. They've been sandblasted raw. Nature abhors a vacuum, and her presence was so huge that for it to suddenly vanish...well, their own little personal universe has collapsed in on itself. And I'm hovering above it, somehow, orbiting this howling pit of despair, making the right noises, and sympathising, and empathising, and all the while kicking ten kinds of shit out of my heart which went to sleep somewhere at the end of December and won't wake up. It just sits there, rubberised, numb and useless.

It would wake up, but what's the point, really? Why wake up into the comparitively useless life that continues on?

But no. Not that again. I am numb, I know I am. It will hit me, I know it will. I am not in a constant state of despair because I don't think about it. And when I do think about it, I immediately stop thinking about it. And when I dream... Christ, when I dream that she is there, in my house, pink with excitement and trying to hold my hand, and I very matter-of-factly refuse, and wander off distractedly, explaining over my shoulder that "you're dead so I can't, really"...when I dream that, I wake up and I do not think about it. I do not think about the Tigger that I gave her that she is buried with. I do not think about it because to start to think about it would lead to finality; where can that procession of thought go apart from tumbling ever downwards, gathering snatches of memories and snapshots of the past into a terse summation of a life until bam, it hits the ground, and it's all over, forever?

But no. It's not that.

Out of the blue, in the middle of November last year, on one of the rare occasions me and my partner would go to her house and stay for the very shortest amount of time permissible within the realms of politeness, my mum sidled up to me in the spare room. "I've found your blog," she said. "And I read all your other articles. It's very good. It can be our little secret."

I'd never shown her anything I'd written. Too whimsical, too moody, too full of swears, too much salaciousness, too many coded references to a hidden life of banality I thought would disappoint her. Too self-absorbed. Oh, the irony. Far, far too self-absorbed. And now I can't write.

I can't write. Because what the hell would I write about if it wasn't going to be about her, always about her, forever and ever and ever, about every single facet of her, about how she was so strong and so unique and so irreplaceable and how she runs through every sinew and bone of my mind and body and how I felt terrible every day because she was so supportive and she told me I was talented and I didn't believe her and worse, thought she was stupid for thinking well of me, even though she had unbeknownst to me kept everything I'd written in my youth before I started shamefully hiding things away on the internet with no names, even the e-mails that had been published on Digitiser and Planet Sound when I was a kid which had made me so happy, so happy, but I'd hit my 20s and wallowed in self-pity and laziness, and I always assumed that one day I'd get off my arse and wake the hell up and apply myself and be able to stop floundering around and do something with my life, because she had said I should be a writer and she had read this stupid little blog and she'd liked it, and I wanted to say that I couldn't put it into words how sorry I was that I made her wait and wait for me to use even a tenth, a hundredth of the part of me that had the ability to sparkle and shine because, basically, that part of me was her, and now it was too late.

It's that.

To which she would say: "Hmm. I'm not sure I like your blog any more. It's got a bit miserable lately. You should go back to writing about that band that you like." (And I would suddenly remember one evening, 15 years ago, when we sat in a cobwebby loft and she showed me her diaries from the mid-'60s, filled with carefully-annotated lists of the top 40 every week, complete with typically teenage adoration over HIS dreamy hair or HER beautiful dress, pages and pages of the stuff, and I would think, oh yeah, that's where it all came from).

And she would say: "I found this thing on the internet that said 'If you don't start living your life soon, you will run out of life to live,' and I printed it out and put it above my computer. I think you should have it." (And I would know that that is exactly what she would have done if she had been here to do it).

And she would say: "I think it's time to concentrate on the beauty of the loss, Julia."

And she would have read this, and known that in the future I would look back on it and hate every word and delete it in a fit of shame, and she would have printed it out and put it in the folder next to my Digitiser emails and my Varsity newspaper film reviews and the sugar-paper-mounted stories from when I was five years old, and everything I'd ever done, and kept it in her desk drawer. Because she would know I would find that folder. And she would know eventually I'd have to carry on, otherwise there would have been no point in her collecting it all in the first place.

And I can't really argue with logic like that.

After all, when love is gone, there's always justice. And when justice is gone, there's always force. And when force is gone, there's always Mum.

Hi, Mum.

So, anyway.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

The 4am Phone Call

Apologies in advance. This is wholly solipsistic and self-pitying and melodramatic, and will probably get deleted in the fullness of time, but it has to come out. The time for tributes will come, but it's not yet. I do not in any way mean to come across as callous or insensitive and hope anyone who knows me personally will understand what I'm trying to get across and my reasons for putting it down on the internet as opposed to screaming it down Wandsworth High Street of a chilly evening. A trouble shared and all that...

You think you live under the constant shadow of fear of the 4am Phone Call until it happens, and you realise despite having your phone on, by your side, every night, in proper Scoutly readiness for the 4am Phone Call to rudely burst into your life, you haven't actually thought about it for years.

And so you're totally unprepared on how to react.

The most amazing thing is how quickly and clearly the brain works in that scenario. You go from fully asleep to your stomach being 90% of the way out of the front door in the half a second it takes you to read the caller ID, and by 2.3 seconds later when you've answered and heard the first half-choked attempt at a word from the other end, you know in perfect, chiming clarity exactly what's happened; that your life has taken a mathematically precise 90 degree turn into an unknown which quietly and without drama reveals itself to be an infinite plane of blankness. No wailing, no weeping. Just a sudden absence of anything, like your brain is a line drawing in MS Paint and you've just clicked in it with a black paint can.

Two thoughts were my constant companions on 23rd December. Number one: "Oh. Oh, well, that's happened then."

And number two, a small snippit from the film BASEketball, which I had watched a few weeks previously, where Squeak, a small rodent of a man, is trying to psyche out his enormous and threatening opponent with something hastily passed to him from his team-mates:

Squeak: (reading awkwardly from a card) Your mum's deaf.
Opponent: My mum's dead, you little squirt.
Squeak: Well, I guess that's why she didn't move around much.

The first was understandable. The second was thematically relevant and would not leave me alone. Grappling for any kind of reaction, my poor godforsaken subconscious had desperately typed "mum dead" into the google search of my memory dump and hit "I'm feeling lucky", and played it over and over and over again. And I wanted to tell someone, I wanted to share that ridiculous thought-spasm, but how could I? And when I found myself in a Little Chef after a hurried drive to a hospital in Salisbury through dawn's crepuscular light, and there was no toilet paper in any of the cubicles, I wanted to tell someone how fortunate and timely and hilarious it was that I was so freshly bereaved because I had pockets full of tissues. But how could I?

I wanted to tell everyone in the world that I had used the word crepuscular in its correct sense like I was Will bloody Self, but how could I? How could I even be thinking those things at such a time? Shouldn't I be inconsolable?

I wanted to ask someone why I wasn't inconsolable. Why, beyond a few chemically-induced, post-adrenaline run-off, meaningless days, I hadn't really cried, and still haven't. But how could I? I was with my family, and they were devastated. They didn't need my questions and inappropriate quotes from spoof films. Tricky.

So many questions. But in absence of any answers - apart from the large, obvious one, which is that I am careering Road Runner-style down a path that leads into a dark and foreboding tunnel with a tantalising glimpse of light at the end, but that tunnel is actually painted onto a rock which soon I shall smack face-first straight into without any warning whatsoever - there was instead something else: quite spectacular loneliness. Unsurprising, maybe. But I just wanted to reach out to everyone, every single person in my life, those people that I loved, and people I was fond of, and people who probably had no idea how much they meant to me, and...

(An aside. My partner and friends have been absolutely the most amazing partner and friends anyone could ever hope to have. If you're reading this, you're probably one of them - the friends, that is, I don't have thousands of other, well, thousandths - and basically, I have no words to describe how much every single nugget of support and comfort has meant to me. Each one has helped chip away a tiny bit more of this expanse of solid cement that seems to have appeared instead of my normal brain workings, and I literally, literally, would be nowhere very pleasant if it were not for all of you. Cannot thank you all enough. I might try. Be prepared for epically damp shoulders)

..and just talk to them. Tell them things. Tell them anything. Everything. That I had just had my favourite umbrella from Japan destroyed by the wind and I was sad I'd probably never get to replace it. That they were the best thing in my life. That I couldn't believe Darren Boyd had been ensnared by the terrible net of Direct Line advertising and was ruined forever. But how could I?

And I went back to work and I wanted to tell everyone that there was a reason I was monosyllabic and morose, and that when they cheerily said "Happy new year!" to me there was a reason I could only half-mumble in reply, and that the oppressive silence pounding the insides of my skull was exhausting, but how could I?

And I want to go back on Twitter and say stupid things about TV and the Bloody Wind™ and that even though I knew how ridiculous it was, I was frightened that while I was the girl trapped inside this perspex bubble that I'd created but had no idea how to crack, I'd be forgotten, replaced, I'd fade away. And how silly and guilty I felt for even thinking that, given I'd been overwhelmed by the genuine shock and warmth of reaction of the people who had managed to peek through the fogged-up doom-sphere. But how could I?

Because what could I say?
What could I possibly say?

Ach. I guess I've said it now. And I know that in time the plane of blankness will turn a quite frightening blood-red and then eventually fade away. Again, thank you to everyone who knows who they are, and sorry to anyone I may have offended. This was all done in a splurge. And seeing as I still haven't worked out the noble art of ending pieces of writing, I'll just say: It's highly likely probability-wise that I love you. Take care. Jules x

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Post Gig Comedown

Probably something that should only affect people who actually did the performing. But look at that blurry horror of a picture of Jonathan Higgs, lead singer of Everything Everything. I took that. I took that while standing next to the stage - so close, in fact, that it barked my shins. That's how low down the stage was. I could have stepped onto it without even bothering my lazy and recalcitrant hamstrings. My headmaster at primary school kept more distance when he was pretending to sing the ditties out of Come And Praise. Here, I could have reached out with no straining or visible effort whatsoever and improvised an extended solo on the bassist's damn instrument. And on his bass. Fnarrr.

I was very, very close. So maybe the post gig comedown leaked forth from the enthusiastic and seemingly happy-as-larry band and lapped upon the feet of us chosen few who muscled our way to the front of this tres intime gig. All I know is this: after I had waved goodbye to my wonderful new companion, who had, with the professional hawk's eye of an inveterate gig-goer and merchandise-lover, claimed the last remaining pristine advertising poster off the walls of the club and thus secures all my slow, knowing nods of admiration I have in my nodding locker, I had a number of thoughts which all rear-ended each other like they were a procession of cliched, never-arriving buses controlled by leering men in the '90s who'd never seen a Wonderbra poster or, presumably, boobs before.

These thoughts:
  1. That was actually the best gig I've ever seen. A beautiful conflagration of time, opportunity, happenstance, whatever, but that is currently my favourite band, they are about to become megastars, and I have seen them perform all their amazing songs standing three feet away from me.
  2. It is now over.
  3. I have just seen a proper Mercury-nominated band blow the roof off a classic venue at incredibly close range!
  4. It is now over.
  5. Thing is: I'm not very good at being in the moment. While I'm in the moment, I am often worrying that I'm not enjoying the moment to the fullest of its potential. I am also quite focussed on the encroaching end of the moment, thus missing quite a large proportion of the moment. This is excellent in some realms of life, like getting inoculations or eating a sandwich in a Caffe Nero, but pretty damn inconvenient in other areas, like having sex with things and watching astoundingly good gigs.
  6. Which are now over.
  7. Why am I on my third lap of Trafalgar Square?
  8. ...
  9. OH NO! Did I actually use the advantage of standing right at the front, right at the side where the band would enter and exit the stage, to do a light tippy-tappy motion on Jonathan Higg's arm as he walked past, as if a) he was a desk and I was a bored secretary from the '50s, or b) he was an unexploded World War 2 bomb I was pretty sure was filled with water, but just drunk enough to try and make go boom-boom? Yes. Yes, I did. At least I didn't stroke his arm (inappropriate) or hug his arm (groupie-lite) or wrench his arm off and beat someone to death with it (too purty for gaol).
  10. I don't want to listen to them any more.

That was the most worrying one: that I'd somehow broken the unbreakable covalent bond between my hypothalamus and those damn songs. That I'd not actually be able to hear to them again, because the painful yearning for a memory that wasn't fully committed, the emptiness somewhere above the gut which should be exploding with frothing pleasure like an extra strong mint in a Coke bottle when the cymbals crash and the synth swells, would be oh oh oh too much to bear, with the swooning, and the crying, and the FLAVEN...blaven...

Anyway, I was, as always, guilty of overthinking the fuck out of it, and although that evening did not feature any more Everything Everything, I did rediscover my EE mojo a few days later, skipping through the rain like some kind of unbearable bell-end. You could have filmed me and stuck me on a advert, if they ever wanted for some reason to run their own company into fiery ruination.

But still. Bit blue after something which should have cheered me up for weeks. Meh. Still waiting for something to happen...anything. Anything?


Maybe that.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

You Are My Everything Everything

An interesting theory expounded to me by the rather wonderful N-La while we were avoiding being hugged and/or ostracised by leather-shorted men at Pride the other week - it is very possible indeed to have a crush on an actual song, rather than its creator. Yes, yes, I nodded. I very much agree with that, I insisted. That's because I have gone a bit further recently. Not just a crush, but a full-blown love affair with a whole album.

And here will follow an extended metaphor so tortured that the USA has denied it even existed and immediately flown it to sit inside a shipping crate on an airbase in Siberia for the next 30 years. If you do not wish to witness this extraordinary word rendition, please click away immediately. Look: here's some sausage dogs pissing about.

It began, as all good love affairs do, with 6 Music. Because I'm so hip and now and with it, I totally listen to 6 Music when I'm doing the washing up, and sometimes I don't even pointlessly squeeze closed my eyes and loudly hum old Ben Folds Five during four out of five songs they play. So I'd seen this song around. It was called Final Form, and it had an endearing little hook to it. A flirty way with the bassline. Bit of a melancholic angel sheen. Whatever, I thought. There's a lot of those types about, all nice harmonies and interesting nuances, I thought. No, I'm not hoping that it'll be played again, I thought. I don't have time in my life to learn about a new band, especially one as syllable-heavy as Everything Everything. God, by the time I've said their name, I could have boshed three Elbow tracks and had a nice cup of tea.

Ah, but then...but then there was Glastonbury. And let's face it, some crazy shit happens at Glastonbury. Especially when I'm there, which I wasn't. I was sat in a booth in West London for three days, watching the peerless if I may say so thank you very much BBC coverage of all things musical and glittery-spiritual-wank, and putting incorrect words in Beyonce's mouth, as is my want. And there they were in the BBC2 Saturday running order. Everything Everything, two unknown songs. Better give them a bit of a cursory research then...

45 minutes later, I emerged from a YouTube fest, breathless with lust. MY KZ UR BF, Photoshop Handsome, Suffragette Suffragette, Final Form, and repeat, and repeat... I was all over it. I could barely wait to get it home and go all the way with every one of the 12 tracks. I sat impatiently jiggling for hours while Coldplay farted and tooted their way through several million dirges. You were all yellow, they belmed, but all that was playing through my mind was "Brother, you look like the Taj Mahal..." And then finally, finally, the time had come; myself and the album Man Alive were, as the coy coyly say, as one. I'll admit, money changed hands. Ian Apple (© Herring) was as brutal and frustrating a pimp as that bastard always is.

So then came the first week - it couldn't keep its grubby little paws off my ears, as I listened on repeat to the whole album, two or three times a day. It made me laugh ("Are you guys together, honey? But now I can't find his torso...I guess you're separated") and it made me think deep, staring interestingly into middle distance on tube trains thoughts ("I awoke in the future, I had turned to stone with fear") and we shared our little jokes at the expense of others (Yeah, sweetness. I know when you're saying face, and when you're saying fence. They don't know. I do) It was, as all love affairs are at first, disgraceful, disgusting and downright doolally. Who the fuck even listens to an album more than once a day? What was I, some kind of teenage ball of scrunched-up angst and woe, carving band logos into my forearms with blunt compasses, thinking these songs were actually talking to me?

Well, sort of. And this had really never happened to me before. Albums ALWAYS have a skip-it-skip-it track. Albums NEVER revolve and twist and reveal facets on the 15th listen which means your favourite track is a moveable feast. It was blind infatuation, as sudden and overpowering as a concrete block dropped off a motorway bridge. Ridiculous as a space-hopper in a cathedral. Inexplicable as the phrase "ratings-winner Peter Andre". Not with a person or persons who wrote a song, but with the bloody songs themselves. Ridiculous: but true.

We're into the comfortable phase of companionship now, me and Man Alive, where we can just co-exist quite happily with it being the background music to my daily life without me having to passionately stare into its lyrical eyes all the time, and I can start to flirt with my iPod shuffle again. And I know it will come to pass, Man Alive will outgrow me - finally get the success it deserves, get a Mercury nomination, get some proper broadsheet attention - and the little idiosyncrasies that are currently adorable will start to grate. Why are you so impossible to sing along to? Why won't you tell me what would happen if the summer was over us in bursts? Who's that girl you're emailing with your Qwerty Finger, you terrible bastard?!

And as Man Alive keeps telling me, it knows how this all ends, it knows how it ends, it knows how it all...

But meanwhile - I continue to be besotted. Great songs. Yup. Beautiful songs. No idea who those blokes at the top of the page are. That one on the right's quite fit, inn'he?

Oh. Ah. OK. Never mind.

Update: this was all written on planes coming to and from the beautiful Italian paradise of Lake Como, where I stood in a deluge for three days, but more on that later. Between arriving home and publishing, I have discovered that a) EE have been deservedly nominated for the Mercury and b) I have actually won tickets to go and see them, live, in a tiny venue, tonight. Quite how I'm going to deal with this given my above emotion-puke remains to be seen. Well, no, this is exactly what's going to happen - I'm going to go into the 100 Club and I'm going to stand near, but not at, the front and stare lovingly at the lead Mr Everything (on the right up top) and he will not notice. Then I will go home. And of such moments a whole life is constructed. I'll attempt to report back later...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Secret Of Happiness Is An Ironic Thing To Call A Blog Post Which Will Severely Disappoint Those Who Google It

I did quite the foolish thing the other week. While wafting peacefully on a haze of cider fumes, I got to that bizarre faux-zen stage of drunkeness where you seem to transcend the frenzied solo arguments of normal brain activity and start to process the world with perfect clarity, every synapse singing like a wet finger being swept round the rim of a wine glass, every thought appearing as an unblemished sphere of translucent crystal. Of course, you only feel like that because in an attempt to prevent any more of it from being destroyed by the evil fermentations of apples, your brain has shut down all but the most basic of functions - lungs will still contract, heart will still pump, life will hang on in there - and it's easy to mistake the stillness of the calmed mind with the catatonia of lying on your kitchen floor with the fridge door open and ignored bacon slowly charring itself to atoms under the grill.

Anyway, while in that state, I still managed to get onto Twitter (which has ascended to a credible third in the hierarchy of the non-booze-disabled brain functions, after the aforementioned heart beating and breathing, which often means me waking in various pools of unmentionables but with phone firmly gripped in hand and a pristine timeline with not a spelling mistake in sight) and I asked the following question, like a numbskull:

Are you happy?

Cos I was floating above it all, see?! And I thought I could CURE people of their unhappiness with the direct simplicity of my follow-up question - this, I drooled (drolly, natch), would jackboot through the wet tissue paper walls of their misery and release their tortured souls into a world full of bucolic pleasure or stygian excess, depending on preference! Follow-up question? Thusly:


Obviously, I was horrifically ill-equipped to deal with the response I got. No, we're not happy, said the Twitter massive. And the reasons are heartbreaking, insoluble, occasionally pathetic, massive, and please would you wipe that self-satisfied saintly half-smile off your face, JRME, we can tell you're doing it even though we cannot and will not ever see you. So all I could do was parp back a few sympathetic platitudes and flappy-handed apologies, and hold my head and sigh remind myself to mind my own damn biznis. If you were affected by the actions of that night, again, I'm sorry. And the BBC has an ActionLine number where you can call and request that I'm fired for being a twatting bugger. They don't employ me but hey, they have ways.

I'm not happy either, but my reasons are dancing at the end of the pathetic rainbow, being as they are mostly to do with how bored I am and my incipient mid-life crisis. It seems my only options may be to have an affair or a baby, and both of those things seem like too much of an administrative nightmare for someone with such a pronounced fear response to organisation as me (curl up, zip hoodie over head, check email every ten seconds but never, ever reply to anyone, occasionally empty contents of in-tray into nearby canal), so unless someone designs a really shit-hot iPhone app to help me - "here is an excuse for coming home late smelling of Lynx Africa again!" "here is the GPS location of the exact shelf in Waitrose you left your infant propped up on!" - I shall have to continue with my bloody comfortable get a grip woman life as is.

Anyway, I was musing on this - on Twitter (will I ever learn?) so apologies if this is all old news though it was 4am so mazel tov if you did read it at the time, I'm grateful, and you should probably follow more people - and I believe most people's unhappiness can be broken down into three basic building blocks (this excludes all the mucky "my body doesn't work as it should"/"I have been the victim of a grave injustice" stuff. It's the more woolly oh I me myself ennui that infects most of us. Keep it light, for God's sake, as the Prophet Limmy once said)...

  1. I have yet to be convinced by myself or anyone else that I am utterly without worth.
  2. What no-one really understands is that everything I project into the world is a mask, and underneath I'm scared, isolated and misunderstood.
  3. My fucking bastard neighbours are too fucking bastard loud.
Oh, and there's a fourth...

4. No-one will shag me. (And 4b - OK, that person will shag me, but that's not the right person)

And that's when I came up with it. The Secret Of Happiness in ten words or less. Ready for this? You won't be. Here it comes:


Just leave my Nobel Prize with the tattoo shop next door, Ban-Ki Moon. I'm off to Elveden Forest.

Man, I can't believe I haven't got a lifestyle column yet...

Friday, March 18, 2011

Comic Relief Possibly Killing Me Live!

Red Nose Day. As a youth, between weeping in butcher's shops, it was something I'd look forward to. It was a whole night of live telly which was anarchic and punky, where I honestly believed anything could happen, especially in the post 10 o'clock news section, when my parents would send me to bed to settle down and watch Ben Elton do his tried and tested tampax! I said tampax! And smear test! And I'm a bloody man and everything! material, and I would lurk at the top of the stairs, ears straining, not even daring to imagine the comedic wonders that would be unfolding.

Also, you could usually legitimately wear some kind of fancy dress at primary school, and the teachers would warily note the seas of hyped-up nine-year-olds high off the plastic fumes from poorly-made red noses washing around their shins, and declare the whole day a write-off; sponsored running around out of Miss's hearing range became the only lesson plan.

And then Dawn French snogged Hugh Grant, and the whooping went on for hours and hours and hours, and that was just me. If Dawn French could snog him, well...then, I could snog Dawn French! YEAH? Right on.

Anyway, now - now, it's just an unbearable procession of terror.

Well, it might be, anyway. Who can tell? I'm going to be typing gubbins throughout, starting...well, not now, because I'm not home yet. Let's say 8:30ish, yes? Lovely.

20:10 Hello, friends.
So, I've missed McIntyre and Claudia, but still, it was cheering to see that he'd got pregnant in sympathy with her. That's my level tonight; better get used to it now.

And good lord! Lucky first VT to stumble onto, as Harry Hill does some of his usual stuff and nonsense and manages to bring back Bernie Clifton and kill him with a boyband within the space of a minute, and tickle Ronnie Corbett under the chin. Harry Hill retains his 100% untarnished record; he could probably shill for Gadaffi and we'd all think it was a bit of wacky fun. "Well, I like the Israelis, but then I like the Palestinians..."

All in the best possible taste tonight!

20:24 Dear God! Thandie Newton is talking about doing a stinky fart? Or is he just describing the plot of Run Fatboy Run?

20:30 Here's a fun game during these MasterChef bits. Try to pinpoint the exact moment David Cameron realises he's in an unprecedented time of international chaos and war, so should probably not be eating chilli con carne served by a perma-blinking slinky spring, and preening in front of a fatheaded greengrocer. Clue: IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN.

20:34 Anyway, I haven't even opened my wine yet. I will attempt to open it with the same enthusiasm of a load of office workers walking into a photoshoot with Blue: shouting "WHO?!" at it until it cries, although it will never cry, because it, as an inanimate bottle, is 12 times more intelligent than the whole of Blue combined.

20:41 That EastEnders sex trafficking stuff is much more fun when it's silent and you can play a bit of jaunty Laurel and Hardy piano over it!

20:44 Well, I've never seen Downtown Abbey so let's assume it's just a standard Jennifer Saunders parody from the late 80s, produced by an automated programme written in BASIC on the very first BBC Micro by Stephen Fry. Meanwhile, look at my supplies for the evening:

You'll see I've covered the main food groups of carbs, some kind of bloody paste, fake fruit, Sticks Of Deliciousness, faintest waft of health, and GAH!

20:52 Well, there you go. Thanks to @rEddie_brek on that there Twitter for alerting me to concentrate on the Downtown catastrophe. Someone must have set the FryWriter to Sir Punalot mode. Here's some maids they didn't use. PomMAID (woman with slicked back hair). MAIDstone (woman carrying tiny pebble). Iron MAIDen (woman bleeding to death from multiple gory puncture wounds in the face and body).

21:05 OK, all everything else aside, Whitney is a bloody good little actress. She breaks my heart with those big Bambi eyes.

21:08 Graham Norton can't do the sincere gear changes. While Davina passionately emotes about the horror of child exploration, he looks like someone who's listening to the restaurant manager explaining why his carpaccio was undersalted.

21:15 Everyone! Bring the children! Gather round! Take That have turned into Kraftwork's younger brother's schoolfriend's cousins who once listened to Fischerspooner!

21:20 First genuine LOL of the night at "A terrifying glimpse into the future, Fake That still to come". God love him, I'm not going to stop loving Dermot any time soon. It's a whole forgotten Channel 4 reality programme about sleep deprivation thing, I don't want to talk about it.

21:26 You see? These barbershop lovelies are the best thing that's ever happened to music, and are they on telly apart from now and that advert? More importantly, are they serenading me to sleep, serenading me awake, and serenading me to a shuddering climax 10 times a day? No, they are not. Where's my appeal VT, you bastards?

21:33 Finding this whole Ant and Dec thing quite charming. Drunk half a bottle of red wine in the last half hour. Scientists around the world are currently working on the logarithms to see if there is any correlation between these two events.

21:40 If there's anything that we can bring from tonight's events, it's that Peter Kay can't even be bothered to come up with any sort of new material or new ideas even if it'll save a million infant's lives. Let's face it: he's going to have to say "garlic bread" about three or four times to win back the inexplicable love of the British public after this. There's not even any jokes. It's just him, in a wig, duetting with Susan Boyle, in a wig, with a picture of Trevor Macdonald at the end as if that's some kind of punchline. That is a homoeopathic punchline.

21:48 Oh, gawd, this little downer bit has been going on for far too long now. I was just about to make comment, but @helencairns has just summed it up wonderfully on That There Twitter, better than I could: "Yes Adele, this is totally the time to tell us all about your ex-boyfriend and how you're all SADFASS about it."

Might have a little ten minute break now. Jack Dee doing his serious face is making me, through sensitive shot changes, accidentally laugh openly at starving infants, which is not the best look for a modern, forward-thinking girl about town like me.

21:56 LITERALLY? DAVINA AND DERMOT LITERALLY SMASHED IT OUT OF THE PARK, FEARNE? Goodness! Well, what did they smash? What park? I mean, this is probably a health and safety issue, now. If things are being smashed out of parks, the police should be involved. Things being smashed out of parks, that could damage passers-by. I'd hate for all your charity to be wiped out by a lawsuit from me, frankly, because I was hit over the head and badly injured from whatever was smashed out of the whatever park it was.

On a related point, Fearne, if you could attempt to smash yourself out of a park, just to empathise with the plight of the grammatically brutalised in the world, we'd be ever so, ever so, EVER SO GRATEFUL.

22:06 I don't have much to say about the Fake That thing. I said everything I wanted to say when Spice Girls and all those bloody people did exactly the same thing in 1997. But I have stumbled upon a horrifying truth. Please listen to this:

And then this:

Take That, you stole from Japanese geeks. I hope you Burn In Hell.

22:16 Well, of course Miranda's going to be unfunny if you take it out of context! It has to be in the context of, um... Well, it's funny because, you know, it's when she... It's traditional sitcom or, er...

OK, come on. Let's just admit it, all the ladies who watch Miranda and love it. It's because she looks like that and can pull that Giles Coren-refracted-through-handsome-glass geezer.

22:25 I wrote a little song.

# Fearne Cotton
# You came and presented quite badly
# But we still had to watch
# Fearne Cotton
# One tip that we'd give you quite gladly
# Don't do that "special" voice... #

22:36 I feel I'm being slightly unfair to Lenny Henry here. At this juncture, for the record, it should be noted that he is being equally as awful as Fearne and her anti-disability bias.

22:44 The Smithy sketch will be remembered as the exact moment when the country was affected by the hallucinatory dirty bomb sent by Mars. This cannot possibly be happening.

22:48 Second LOL at sudden appearance of half-naked boy-champion. Also, Bieber. Also, as it seemed to be mandatory, I just appeared in this sketch. Where were you in it?

23:02 During the second Downtown, I'm having a wee lie down. I've been buried under a massive collapsing fourth wall. As soon as I build it up, they demolish it all over me again.

23:08 What the fuck? Seriously, that phone in the bottle thing was actually impossible. If you were a demon sorcerer, I'd like to think you'd actually pretend to be a rather shifty-looking ratty boy who popped up in an airport to do inexplicable things to you between your last Costa and the secretly pleasurable bit when you leave a couple of coins in your pocket in order to get felt up by someone surly of the same sex.


23:18 Inbetweeners in real life. Lovely, lovely, lovely boys. They will fit perfectly into my lovely boy dungeon that I've just coincidentally constructed.

23:25 Pray silence for the new renaissance of Partridge.

23:28 George Michael's cover of True Faith. It's weird. You hear about these things, conceptually, but they have no real effect on you. It's like when you hear about the massive scale of space, the numbers just don't fit into your brain. Something is 20 billion light years away. It means nothing. George Michael has covered True Faith in the style of David Lynch having a slow-motion coughing fit into an accordion . It means nothing.

But it happened...

And the David Lynch, for reference. And because this is an accurate reflection of my mental status right now.

23:44 The updates, yes, they are coming a little slower. The quality is rising; there's been a bit of Elbow, there's been a bit of Partridge. Tim Key's lying on the floor. Partridge is sneezing blood on a nun. It's all got a little bit good.

23:55 24 hour Panel People! A world record to see how long one man can stretch out the joke of being straight, but talking as if he's gay. Do you see? He's straight, and married. But he says things as if he wants to have sex with men. No, but, I'm not sure you understand. He's got a model girlfriend. But...


Thank you if you have commented after my pathetic plea on Twitter. My lovely boy dungeon is feeling very snug.

My lovely boy dungeon, incidentally, is guarded by a very special creature, so beware.

00:10 I'm still going, incidentally.

OK, it's this bit. If it wasn't bad enough that we have had the dubious wonders of Karl Pilkington, who I've ranted about before, let's be all bloody post-modern about it. Ha ha ha ha! You can say things that even Jon Gaunt would blanch at because Ricky Gervais is shrieking like a blown seal in the background! Ha ha ha ha! HA HA HA WE'RE SO CLEVER!

00:23 I can smoke, right? Right? I mean, I've written... I'm actually going to measure this now...

1934 words tonight.

And Annie Lennox is about to play a song.

It's almost a sign from God! Even God hates Annie Lennox and wishes she would wash that bloody tshirt!

00:28 It's a tribute to the awesome power of Annie Lennox that her song Universal Child makes me think of Elton John rubbing up against international plug adaptors.

00:35 ONE DAY LIKE THIS! Thank God! I was beginning to lose all hope.

00:40 Yep, I'll take that Armstrong and Miller sketch as a minor win. And further proof that all off-duty celebrities will grow credibility beards as soon as they are able.

00:50 And as hell's own Loose Women settle their six scarlet-clad buttocks onto Alan Carr's sofa, and Russell Brand narrates as kids falls over themselves in happiness to be reunited with their parents, I felt a small pang of guilt. Thankfully, this was immediately dissipated by Fearne Cotton accusing everyone who had logged on to see her bony, bescribbled body in a swimsuit - a swimsuit which she had donned to raise money for Comic Relief - as "pervs". Oh, darling. I had forgotten briefly that it's all about you.

01:03 Newport State Of Mind. Done by enthusiastic amateurs on YouTube, who were immediately slapped down by the might of Jay-Z's lawyers. But who cares, when you can get the Go Compare guy and famously Welsh Paul Whitehouse to mime stuff in black and white and say it's for charity. Next year: Charlie bit my finger, starring Brooker biting Chris Morris on the end of his fake satirical penis.

01:20 It's the sweepings from the bottom of the Benson factory floor now, as it seems to be a procession of Fearne bitching about people seeing her half-naked, David Walliams saying "penis" in all the various amazing connotations the Latin-based languages can offer, and then these bellends who have worked out that if you pitchshift everything correctly, it sounds similar. Because most music is written on the major scale, apart from the stuff that's written on the minor scale.

01:35 I'm a bit tired now.

01:38 Harry Hill seems so very, very long ago. Gosh, remember back then? When the night was young, and things seemed so fresh, and we hadn't seen James Corden and George Michael drive round and round and round and round White City?

Actually: remember 16 years ago, when Vic and Bob did this? I did. I didn't think anyone else did, until another Miracle Of Twitter, when @profanityswan came up trumps. I've just laughed until I cried. If you don't, something's gone wrong.

01:56 Throughout that whole 24 hour Panel People thing, there was not one mention of the amazing filler people who were constructed only from modern hair and Jedward comprehension skills. Poor, benighted, not even on Freshly Squeezed morons.

02:10 It should have ended. I feel like I have to stick it out. And lucky I did, to get that amazing end of office karaoke night vibe; when everyone tries to sing Never Forget, but can't quite do it because a) they're arseholed on cheap cocktails b) they've got their tongue exploring the inner caverns of that one a few desks down that wears tank tops even when it's raining outside c) they are slumped in the corner, the general ennui of their life weighing upon them so much that even the words "Never Forget" are mocking echoes smashing into their self-esteem like cannonballs into a brick wall. Never Forget that she doesn't want you. Never Forget your life is going nowhere. Never Forget that you're going home to YouPorn and a cry-wank.

03:00 Jack Whitehall and Kevin Bridges are still going, but that's it. I'm out. It's been seven hours of stuff I can't remember, which will make moulding this into a publishable article an interesting experiment for my weekend. If you've read even a few words of this, I am full of gratitude. If you're reading after the event and you've got this far, you deserve some kind of award which I am happy to provide - email me at justrestingmyeyes at hotmail dot co dot uk for details of how to claim it. And if you take away one thing from this, it's that I specifically love one of you, and you'll never know who. Night-night, everybody. Night-night.