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Category: Tiny Human Moments

True Crimes: The Prague Foot Fiddler

“We will take that little kit, but we will have to do it very gently,
because we are in the Me Too Generation.”

Donald Trump: Leader of The Free Fuckin World, July 6th 2018


Genetic heritage and sexual assault are too closely linked in that man’s mind.

Anyway, I’m not popping up to write my first blog here in nearly three years about Donald Trump, I write about me, because I mainly only care about me.
I have that in common with Trump at least.

I have a dilemma.

I was half asleep at Prague Airport this week. I was watching some nonsense on my laptop, occasionally looking at my phone, and probably snoring.
There were five of us in total. A hetero couple, two lone male travellers and me; everyone was snoozing on and off. It was about 4am and it was pretty quiet.

A cleaning lady came round and was massively annoyed by every single one of us and all our luggage. If you looked in a Northern English dictionary, there would be a picture of her in there under the phrase “face like a slapped arse”.
She was muttering what were clearly swears, and generally presented as one not to be fucked with. I kept my head down.

Around 04:30 I was dozing, with my headphones in when I felt a weird sensation on my feet, cat owners will probably recognise it.
I opened my eyes and saw a large, smiling man touching my feet and ankles.

I sat up, pushed his hands away with my left hand, and swung at his head with my right.

He stood up, and I caught him on his arm. I very much doubt it hurt him. He was at least 6’4” and large with it; I would say mid-forties, and not in terrible shape.

He looked shocked, and said something I didn’t understand. I asked him what the fuck he thought he was doing, and he scarpered pretty quickly.
There was an old t-shirt on my feet- not mine I might add, could have been from anywhere.

I think he had been trying to cover up my bare feet to keep them warm.
What a nice gesture! Women getting upset about things like this is what’s wrong with the world. It’s political correctness gone mad.

I was grossed out though.
What is this minky t-shirt on me? And the skin on my feet felt like it wanted to peel off. Burn off, scrape off, just somehow come off my body.

I looked around. Hetero-boyfriend was awake and looking at me, he shrugged like “that was weird”, and we watched through glass walls as the FootMan went down the escalator, looking back at us guiltily.

What does this incident matter? It’s absolutely nothing.

But why me?

I mean, there were two other adult humans lying alone on sofas there. Both had headphones in, both had bare feet.
If it was really just a nice gesture, then how come I was the recipient? Did he really have a 33% likelihood of doing that to any of the three of us lying alone?

I suspect if there had not been a woman lying alone, no-one would have been treated to an impromptu little foot rub.
I can’t prove that, but I’m happy with the assertion regardless.

It just pisses me off that I have a disproportionately high chance of getting my space interrupted by a weird twat because I look feminine.

And I’m not trying to say this guy represents “the norm”, but he wasn’t worried about his behaviour, he’s confident in his environment, it was not his first rodeo.
He did look shocked when I tried to crack him.

I wish I hadn’t been so sleepy.
I wish I’d landed my fist right on his massive head.
I wish I’d hurt him.

It seems a bit unfair, I mean, I’m sure he was just being nice, keeping my little tootsies warm for me. He was just being a nice guy and I wanted to see blood come out of his nose. I wanted to grab his surprisingly hirsute head, given his age, and slam it into the metal corner of that lift shaft.
I wanted to kick him so hard in his saggy little scrotum that he tasted his own sperm.

Seems a bit excessive.

Maybe I’m a psycho and maybe you shouldn’t intrude my space uninvited.

Maybe I’m just a bit fat and middle aged, and couldn’t even land a punch on a head two foot from me. I’m honestly not sure what humiliated me more. Him touching me, or him walking away from touching me.

Not that I could have taken him, as previously stated, he was massive. The second he fights back, I’m down.
And why would I even try, over nothing more than a caring, tender footrub? I’m not some two-brain-celled giant male.

I was left feeling humiliated and somehow cheated out of a fight. He was too much bigger than me and so I automatically lose or surrender to deep stupidity and then lose anyway.
That’s not exclusive to women, the guy was big; lots of men lose straight away there too.

Just less often men are put in the situation of feeling cheated out of a pointless fight by a massive bloke touching them intimately without invitation.

Is there anyone out there, of any gender, sex, age or race that would enjoy a footrub, out of nowhere, from a complete stranger, when you’re lying quietly with your headphones in?

We are in the generation that’s finally talked about it being Me Too.
We can safely assume it’s always been Me Too, since a single cell organism smoothed up to a smaller single celled organism in the primordial swamp, but now we’re talking about it, and what good is it doing if people still think it’s cool just to touch strangers when they are asleep?

I just look like an easy target, I suppose.
I’ve got a cute face, giving the false impression that I’m nice, and I’m clearly too chubby to run anywhere; easy game.

What am I supposed to do there?

Smile? Laugh at it?
Take the gamble that he won’t beat a woman in front of other people, at his place of work, and just leap on him, smashing at his face like a rabid monkey?

Both ends of the spectrum sound too extreme to me. What’s the middle ground?

And so back to the dilemma.
I’m sitting in front of the complaints form for Prague Airport, where this guy worked. He was in uniform, with tags, and I think I remember his first name, and plus I assume there are cameras in the lounge anyway.

Do I send it?

Will they do anything? Maybe at the very least watch him a bit more closely to make sure he doesn’t continue or escalate?
What if they take a really hard line and sack him? It’s obviously weird behaviour, and in this Me Too generation you can’t be too gentle on potential offenders. Nip it in the bud!

Do I really feel like a man should be sacked for fiddling my feet?
I just want him to feel as humiliated and frustrated as me. I want his boss to bollock him and he automatically loses because you can’t argue too hard with your boss, not when your only possible argument is “I should be allowed to touch all the customers”.

I want his life to be delicately invaded when he didn’t ask for it from a complete stranger.

I don’t want to send the email, because I am scared I will be the trigger for what may well be justified given previous and potential future behaviour, but cannot be said to be a fair response to the specific incident with me in isolation.

I do want to send the email because I feel lucky enough to not have much to contribute to #MeToo, but I’m worried that silence on the tiny problems, from women as loud and confident as I am, is an open and endless contribution to #YouNext.

Consideration’s What You Need

When I was sixteen I went to Athens on a school trip; it was total carnage. Sixty rampant teenagers, eight frazzled teachers, two rickety buses and countless pissed off, Greek hoteliers. That’s not the story I’m going to launch into, (although it’s a good story, even the head-girl gets wasted) but when I was a sweet, young thing in Athens, all those years ago, we stayed in a grotty hotel that was right in the city centre, and I fell in love with the lifestyle.

We were in a back room, and I woke up early one morning, about 04:30. It was already hot, and I decided to sit by the open window and watch Athens awaken. The view from our window was not what one might traditionally refer to as ‘scenic’, it looked directly into about 300 other flats and hotel rooms due to an odd, architectural glitch that left a space of about 10 metres between me and my many neighbours’ intimate details.

Over the next hour, while my roomates, The Two Lauras, turned their snoring into grumpy demands for “not cheese and ham for breakfast” I was enthralled by the most extensive people-watching I had ever been involved in. I loved every moment of it, and right then, I vowed that one day I would make somewhere like this my home, and would wake every morning in the buzzing hive of humanity that is dense city living.

Fast forward twenty years and here I am, on the 7th floor of a block of flats in a large complex of buildings, surrounded (at a comfortable distance) by the humanity I love so dearly. It’s early in the morning, but I did not choose to rise to listen to the sounds of Salford making its breakfast, I was woken up by the massive gob of a deranged and drunken woman who felt the need to shout for one whole hour from 04:00 onward.

There is something about the sound of a drunken Mancunian woman, bouncing relentlessly off 1000 perspex balcony doors that rips a piece from the deepest core of one’s soul. This bitch sounded like an electric saw and a kazoo were talking over eachother into a massive PA system.
The reason for her ear-splitting shouts was that she appeared to have lost her friend, “Owen”.

Now, not being able to find a friend is a terrible thing, but at 04:00 on a Thursday morning, in the middle of a city-centre, in the 21stC, it might be reasonable to assume there are better ways to search for one’s friend. I’m not going to list them, anyone with more than five brain cells will be able to contribute something to that list.

I’m sure this girl wasn’t in peril, her shouts were not panicked, they were lazy. We’ve all done the same shout, you know it, when you want something and someone is upstairs and you could walk upstairs like a considerate human being, but you don’t, you shout it, and then repeat it four times with increasing volume until they come downstairs because now they think they’re missing something, and it turns out what you want is upstairs anyway.

So, we have that tone of shout, in a well projected, nasal, squawking voice, repeating the word “OOOOOOOWWWWWEEEEEEEENNNNN” over and over, for one hour, from 04:00. As I watched the sun rise this morning, I wished for a ramshackle house on an abandoned piece of countryside.

Then I realised that I’d given up on my close, city-living dream too easily. City-centre living is fantastic, with every joy and advantage a single person my age could want on my doorstep. My morning was not ruined by city-centre living, it was ruined by one person being an inconsiderate twat. City-centre living, like anything where humans are required to play closely together, requires everyone to behave as such that they are considerate of others to the level they expect others to be considerate of them.

Not the way The Owen-Hunter thinks, clearly. At any point during that hour, she could have wondered whether she might be adversely affecting one of the 1000 bedroom windows she could see from where she stood. I appreciate that she was drunk, but that shouldn’t be an excuse, if she is that loud and mobile when she’s uncomprehendingly drunk, then it’s not a surprise to me that Owen disappeared.

When I’m pissed off with someone else’s behaviour, I try to size it up against myself. I ask myself “if I was in their exact situation, would I have behaved better?”. Most often, the answer is “no”, so I try to find forgiveness.

In this case, my answer was “yes, I would have behaved better”, I can say with all certainty I wouldn’t wake 1000 people up because I was pissed, not in peril and couldn’t find my friend. I’m not a total cunt.

My flatmate and I met over a coffee in the sitting room at about 06:45 as he prepared to leave for work. He was red-eyed, grumpy and not impressed with Owen-Hunter. His assessment of the situation was similar to mine, there was no way he’d have behaved like that either. We just wouldn’t have considered that us making noise for no reason was more important than 1000 working people getting their last two hours sleep.

We wondered what the difference was. Why do some people fail to consider anyone else, where as others will make decisions that acknowledge other people’s existence?

Is considering others a weakness? Shouldn’t I just try to get my own way all the time, or try to do what I want all the time; surely I’m the biggest winner if I get away with that?

Owen-Hunter wanted to shout, I wanted to sleep. She got what she wanted, and I didn’t. She wins.

So who is to blame for me starting the journey of being a considerate fool? I can’t speak for all considerate saps, but in my case, I blame my mother. She ruined me by making me share things, and not letting me suffocate my little brother and stuff. That evil witch made me care about people.

I am now 34 years old, and if my mother heard me carrying on in the way Owen-Hunter did this morning, I’d be skelped (Scottish term for a sharp whack to the back of one’s head) and roughly told what a state I was.

Why would my mother, who loves me, train me to be considerate about others (it’s not a gender thing, she did it to my brother too) when it seems I lose out as a result? I have to give way, and I don’t always get it back, because sometimes other people are wholly inconsiderate for no apparent reason. My own mother has cheated me; she’s helped create a world where the majority consider others, but the odd individual seems to get away without ever having to do that. This is not fair.

Then I think of the alternative; a world where nobody has any consideration for anybody else, no matter how close, and that place sucks.

The truth about having consideration for others, especially in a dense environment, is that it benefits us all in the long-term. There is nothing “nice” or “friendly” about making choices that benefit as many individuals as possible, because it strengthens the group as a whole which provides direct benefit to the individual making the choice. In addition, sacrificing benefit immediately when the need is not so great can ensure resources are available when the need is desperate, which is a good strategy.

Sometimes, we are all forced to act in a way that means we cannot be considerate of others; times become hard, situations become impossible and emotions run high. However, if we go our whole lives assuming that our situation always outranks someone else’s, and that we always require to be considered first, then eventually, we’ll use up the valuable resource of other people’s consideration for us.

It’s not about being “a good person”, it’s about ensuring the group tolerate us as long as we need them and consider our situation in a time we are desperate.

If I had a crossbow, I’d have been pointing it at Owen-Hunter’s head this morning. Would I have pulled the trigger? No.

I think she deserved it, I was grumpy, but the fall-out of that action is such that I would not be being at all considerate if I did it.

What about Owen-Hunter’s mum and dad? Admittedly, they’re a bit sloppy and they’ve raised a disgrace, but is my getting woken up one morning comparable to their grief if I shoot their daughter? Probably not.

I hope to find a happy medium between being entirely submissive to everyone else’s will and consistently being a domineering bully. I can’t pretend I’ve found this balance, and I’m woman enough to admit I lean on the side of inconsiderate too much of the time.
I am trying to live my life by a single, easy-to-remember motto, and that is: Don’t Be A Total Cunt All Of The Time.

If Owen-Hunter had lived by that rule then 999 people wouldn’t have gone to work in a bad mood this morning and 1 person wouldn’t have spent an hour imagining what her face would look like with an arrow sticking out of the eye socket.

I had a clean shot as well, consideration in fucking action right there.

Forget To Remember

I turned 34 last month. It pissed me off a bit, I don’t like getting older, so I don’t like my birthdays. I wish Facebook would forget, and not tell all my friends that it’s my birthday.

I have lots of lovely friends, who all wished me ‘Happy Birthday’. They meant well, but I think I’d have liked to forget it was my birthday, I’d have found it easier to keep up my internal lie that I’m somehow magic and not aging like everyone else.

I wish people would say “Happy Tuesday” instead of “hello”. Let’s have some happy on a day that doesn’t force me to come face to face with the truth that I exited my sweet old mam’s vagina on this exact day three and a half decades ago.

Nearly three and a half decades ago.
See? This is what I mean; I’m far too worried about counting the years. I’d love to be unaware of exactly how old I was. I’m actually aging well, mainly due to a diet high in preservatives and a pathological fear of sunlight. I shouldn’t be worried about exactly how many years have gone past.

I remember talking to my Grandmother when I was a child and being amazed at how much she could remember from her life. My Grandmother ( I called her Nanny) had a good memory and was a natural storyteller. I’m not saying she told lies, but where her memory was sketchy, her brain would quickly fill in the gaps. Who cares about tiny details in the story of old memories anyway?

It made her interesting to talk to, and sometimes she would become excited by a memory, something stirring that hadn’t been considered for years. Nanny remembered big events, like birthdays and holidays and weddings, but she also had little memories, of tiny human moments.

There was one time when Nanny remembered something, I can’t even recall what we were talking about, but it was from a long time ago and it made her cry. I had nothing to say on the topic, I remember that much, so I held her hand, and I don’t know why, but I started crying too. It was an incredibly intimate moment, one of my favourites in my life. Sometimes, when I really miss my Nanny, that’s the memory I go to, and, sometimes, I cry again.

I can’t say this brought Nanny and I closer, we were already very close. We never mentioned it again, but I’m sure she thought of it too. I like to think that our moment together made the initial sad memory happier somehow; it’s a happy memory for me, tears or not.

Time is a wonderful healer, mainly because things happen in time, and things change how we feel about things. Keeping up with this erudite academia? Good.

Our brains are pretty clever, and they store memories in a way that means those memories will change with time. A computer is often used as an analogy for a human brain, and that makes a lot of sense, but computers don’t change what they remember. A computer stores information in one place, and yanks it out in one chunk on request.
Our brains don’t work like that, information is stored in different places, and when we recall a memory, we pull bits of info from all those places, essentially ‘reforming’ the memory as we experience it.

Remembering something changes it, that’s why time is such a great healer. Painful memories can be softened, moulded and ever so slightly altered, so they hurt less. New information is tangled up with old memories, making them less powerful. Just imagine if you could never forget heartbreak, or grief, and that every moment was as painful as the first time you felt it. We’d all be a complete mess!

My Nanny never joined the technological revolution. There’s not even many of photos of her, let alone any Youtube videos, Facebook pages or Twitter accounts. On one hand I’d love to see a video of my Nanny now, but one that ties in with my memories, not one of her pissed up and swearing at a Reverend Father (my Nanny never did this, or, if she did, I don’t want to know about it).

I was having a chat with a young lad who turned eighteen in March. He was telling me that his Dad was trying to make him watch a video of himself being born, which the lad didn’t want to do. I’m usually direct to the point, so I asked him:

“Is it that you don’t want to see your mum’s minge?” and he replied:

“Yes. But not just that. What if I end up actually remembering it? If I was supposed to remember it, I’d remember it. Like I remember where I live, or my name and stuff. What if I remember what it’s like to be born? That is not right.”

And he’s not wrong.
Digital memory is an actual thing; it’s starkly accurate and it’s a weird way to access memories.

When you talk to someone, and something about the conversation reactivates a memory for you, you start thinking about that memory from that exact angle. There won’t be any focus on any particular part of a memory, whichever parts are most relevant will just sneak back into your thoughts. Some of it won’t be accurate because that’s the way human memory works.

When you look at a photograph, or a video, you’re seeing absolute reality, where as a memory always includes a pinch of imagination. We seem to be doing very well at creating a digital bank of really inarguable memories that are not real memories at all. They are snapshots of fact, and I’m not convinced they are helpful.

A photo of me popped up on FaceBalls the other day, and I had no memory of it. It wasn’t an embarrassing photo; not that I’m easily embarrassed, just statistically it must only be a matter of time until I appear on an “eating on a train” website. I long for the celebrity.
In this unrecalled moment, I was in the background talking to someone I have no actual memory of talking to. I remember her being there, now I’ve seen the photo I think I remember her face, but I’m not sure.  I looked emphatic in the photo, but I cannot recall talking to that girl at all. That photo is a memory that I don’t have, and obviously don’t need, but forgetting it has worried me; a digital memory reminded me to worry about forgetting.

Sometimes, we need to forget things. We need to move on, we need to stop being reminded. Our natural memory is largely outside our control. We can work to improve certain types of memory, but there is not much we can do to force our natural memory to forget. There’s only so far drink and drugs can take us before they do more damage than good, and it’s not that far.
Our digital memory is more within our control, and we should take control of it, especially where it puts our natural memory at risk.

I am getting over someone, someone I thought that I loved . That’s hardly unique, everyone has had to do that, right? It seems to have taken me a disproportionate amount of time, and I’m convinced that photographs and internet access to new details about a person I need to forget has seriously hindered my progress.

I decided to press the delete button on my digital memory about a month ago, it has taken some serious will-power, but it has definitely helped. I have deleted all photos of this person, all their messages and voice recordings, every trace of them on my technology has finally gone. It’s been a mission, because things keep popping up, but I just keep on pressing ‘delete’.
Some days, I’ve missed having these digital recollections, but now, instead of looking at a picture of us smiling and happy when I think I miss this person, I remember why I want to forget instead. It is helpful not to revert to an old version of me contained within a photograph, the computer can only remember it one way, and I’ve had new information since then; those memories need changing.

The person I want to forget feels much more distant than they did a month ago, and that is how it should be. Eventually, they will be no more than a footnote in my story, part of the history of a growing character rather than a fact in an unchanging digital documentary. My memories are becoming what they should be, vague apparitions of the truth, filtered through my imagination. My memories have been improved by helping myself to forget.

Technology appears to make everything easier, but in the case of memory, I don’t believe it does. We’re designed to forget things, to leave things behind, digital memory is designed to remember everything, forever, which in some examples of human emotion, is far too inhumane.
One of the most important components of human memory is the ability to forget, and we should all regularly remind ourselves to remember that.

The Offence Cycle

“What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.” – Salman Rushdie

What offends you? Think carefully now, I’m really asking you to find something that affects you deep inside your sense of self. I don’t mean when you publically fake offence to be polite  (as when someone makes a loud comment about pie-eating in front of a fat person and you look shocked because you want to show you don’t think they deserve to have their feelings hurt, not because you really feel offended by fattist comments).

When talking about something as apparently universal as ‘offence’, I like to make sure everyone’s working from the same definition for the purposes of the discussion. Since this is a one-sided discussion, let me tell you what offends me and what that feels like.

I am not offended by much, it’s a short list:

1) Homophobia

2) Racism

3) The creative integrity of Hollyoaks

Racism and homophobia are my two major switch points. Racist/homophobic actions, thoughts and words are offensive to me and I believe they should be actively addressed and forcibly altered. I haven’t just been told that racism is offensive, I’ve been lucky enough to have been nurtured in a direction that means expressions of racism that I recognise induce a physiological response.

It starts very like anger, I get a punched-in-the-belly feeling and my face gets really hot. However anger is immediately useful, and eventually burns out, whereas offence is accumulative and constantly reignited. Anger releases stress, offence feels very impotent.

I will say I do not have an objection to being offended. I don’t assume that people cause me offence as a deliberate attack, I assume it’s because they’re stupid, and haven’t yet had the good fortune of me educating them. I can’t complain about racists and homophobes offending me, because I’m probably about to offend them right back by telling them how stupid they are, and I promise you I don’t care a tiny jot about them feeling offended.

Somehow, it’s become important not to offend anyone. I work for a large company, and if I persist in a conversation on a topic that a colleague within earshot tells me they find offensive, I can eventually lose my job. The right not to be offended is one that is protected by law, if I keep offending you, I’m guilty of harassment. This sounds reasonable at first, but my problem with this is that it allows the racists and homophobes to have their sensibilities protected, and I don’t think they deserve it. I’d rather give up my legal right not to be offended than let the stupid, ignorant and nasty keep theirs.

The last time I can remember being truly offended was on a train from Manchester to London when a pissed up Scottish guy started verbally attacking an Indian family. Obviously, his main insult was ‘Paki’ because he was JUST THAT MUCH of a genius. Nobody said anything to him. The father of the family was clearly wary, and there were a few tuts and the occasional hiss of breath from other passengers, but otherwise, his loud, sweary racism went pretty much unchecked, by everybody, including me; although I was genuinely offended.

Once, he got up to use the toilet at the end of the carriage, walking past the family, but was surprisingly quiet when in immediate physical proximity of the father. Otherwise, his verbal onslaught lasted almost consistently for about half an hour. Many people put headphones in; I’m not sure why I didn’t.

A girl came with a drinks trolley and someone further down the carriage had a quiet word with her about him, but she just sold the Drunk Racist two beers on her way past and actually appeared to be amused by him talking in a ‘language’ consisting entirely of the words ‘bingy’ and ‘bong’.

Drunk Racist belched the word ‘Paki’, laughed at his own great wit, and then crushed his can, before lazily launching it towards the family. It hit the mother on the leg and slightly wet her clothes. She said something to her husband, openly disturbed, and Drunk Racist shouted (in barely comprehensible English):

“Speak English. We’re in England, you Paki bitch.”

I was so offended, I snapped like a dancing-fat-girl’s g-string. I went for the racist cunt.

When I say ‘I went for him’, I mean with my mouth. Don’t be disgusting.

I presented him with a mouthful of words. I’m good at verbal man-baiting, which is the time honoured sport of using only words to wind a man up to the point where he wants to hit you, but he can’t, cos you’re a girl*. When engulfed with the red-mist of offence, I tend to forget that the more drunk and stupid a man is, the more likely he is to hit a girl, with no regard for how hard it would be to get blood out of a peach-coloured, vintage Vivien Westwood cardigan.

This guy was very drunk, and very stupid, and I told him that. I told him he was a drunken embarrassment to humanity, I insulted Scotland (to get at his Scottish pride, I didn’t mean it, I love Scotland), I told him people like him should be melted down and used for tallow. I swore at him, in front of children. The Drunk Racist (to use a charming local Manchester phrase) “got told about his dirty underneath”. I wrapped up my tirade of abuse at this creature with a favourite finisher of mine:

“The only reason to let a disgusting cretin like you live is to let you half-wittedly breed so your ugly, stupid offspring can be cannon fodder in pointless wars.”

He came back at me, and not with his mouth.

He unfolded his surprisingly long body out of his seat and drunkenly swung his fist towards me. His arm was grabbed by a large man who was sitting in between us. Large Man stood up and pushed Drunk Racist back into his chair. I’m lucky he did, because in the throes of offence, I’m always convinced that I can fight anyone, when actually, I couldn’t fight anyone. Well, maybe a small child, although not one trained in the martial arts.

Thanks to Large Man, I avoided a beating, and Drunk Racist looked pretty scared as a few other people piped up with “yeah shut up” and “idiot”. Shortly after, Drunk Racist got up for another wee and never came back.

I don’t feel much of a victory was had here for any anti-racist cause; what exactly did I achieve by raging against the offence machine?

When I told my friend about the topic for this blog, she said I should feel proud that I “stuck-up for the Indian family”. I want to be clear here, I did not ‘stick-up for the Indian family’. I didn’t give a shit about them, not really. I stuck-up for my own offence. This was not me articulately defending the multi-cultural rights of modern Britain, this was me losing my rag because that guy made my rage from the very pit of my stomach.

Drunk Racist will always be a drunk racist. Maybe he’ll think twice about being so openly racist on a busy train in the future. Or maybe he’ll just decide to stay sober enough in public to only be so openly racist around people he can beat up. Realistically, and sadly, the best I can hope for is that he’ll stay just the same and eventually offend a massive, muscle-wrapped meathead of a man and get beaten till he shits through his nose. I still don’t think he’d learn anything, but at least there would be some revenge for him offending me.

How petty I am when captured by my own offence! Ten years ago, my offence might have encouraged me to engage this man, to have a conversation with him, to see if I could change his mind. Ten years ago, I might have imagined that our train would arrive in London with us all holding hands and singing secular world music.

Now? I’m harder. I’ve wasted hours being nice to racists and homophobes, and watched reason and moderation slide off their thick skulls. Now? I explode like the powder-keg of resentment I am after years of just having to be constantly offended by these people. The best I can do is attempt to offend them back.

Since the incident, I’ve asked myself why I let it go on so long before I jumped up. If I was prepared to potentially take a beating in the name of offence, then why not shout at him straight away, or at least five minutes in? It’s a question I haven’t been able to answer. I’ve also wondered why the other people in the carriage who cried offence after a fist flew towards me waited that long too.

It would seem that offence works in mysterious ways.

*This may sound like the most sexist thing ever, but I blame the male homo-social cultural situation where fighting dominance STILL wins you points but girls aren’t allowed to play. Come-on boys.  And mothers, sisters and daughters of boys.

Tram Random 4

I unashamedly used sexuality for gain today and I’m not proud of it.

Alright, I’m a bit proud of it. It’s not something I use often, I’m very aware of a woman’s ability to use her sexuality to manipulate heterosexual men, but I deeply respect the weaker gender, and so do not abuse the power.

Also, let’s be frank here, I’m not a fucking supermodel; I am not a statuesque, gaspworthy silhouette of a woman that lights up a room on entry. I will inevitably trip over something when I enter, leave, or stand still in the middle of a room, and then swear as loudly and explicitly as an angry sailor. If I want to use my sexuality for gain, I have to work a bit harder for it, so a little ripple of pride is allowable, if not admirable.

I was on a tram, I’m often on trams, and this is the first time I have ever whipped out the sex card on the tram. (If you’ve ever read a sentence with more instances of the word ‘tram’, let me know, I wanna shake the author’s hand.) One of the principle tram rules is that all passengers should have a ticket in some form. It could be paper, electronic, a weird card that they’re trialling that confuses everybody (did we learn NOTHING from London?), either way, you need a ticket.

Today, I did not have a ticket. Society crumbles before our very eyes.

I have one excuse, and one piece of mitigation.

Excuse– the tram was at the platform when I got there and I’d have missed it if I’d bought a ticket. I’d have had another 15 min wait and I’d been travelling since quarter past July. Fuck off, it’s a good excuse. If you think it isn’t, you don’t suffer enough public transport.

Mitigation– I have lived in Manchester 12 years and this would be the 6th time I haven’t paid for a ticket, on average using the tram 3 times a week. I am a model citizen, so kindly bite me.

You can probably tell from my tone that I know I was in the wrong, but I didn’t have a ticket, there was nothing I could do and now the inspector was headed towards me.

He was about 50 and 5’8”. He had a wedding ring, was bald, slim with an impressive tummy, had soft jowls, and big, smiley eyes; he seemed like a decent chap from the off.

“Tickets or passes, please.” He said to me over my copy of the Metro.

“Ah.” I folded the Metro. It left ink on my hands. “I don’t have one.” Inspector Tummy blinked at me.

“You don’t have one?”

“I don’t have one.” I pushed my long blonde hair coyly behind my ear and blinked back at him.

“Erm. I’m going to have to ask you to get off at the next stop.”

“Not a problem, officer, it’s my stop anyway.” I giggled sweetly and ran my tongue across my teeth, more of a periodontal necessity than a seductive gesture at the moment, as I have a gum abscess, but he wasn’t to know that. I’d called him ‘officer’, for crying out loud, that’s hot.

Awkwardly, the next stop was about three minutes away, and between him and his colleague they’d checked all the tickets and he had nothing to do but stand next to me and wait. He surveyed me smiling at him, taking in my large suitcase and two other bags.

“Why haven’t you got a ticket?”

“The tram was there, it was right there when I got to the stop. I didn’t want to be left on the platform alone, late at night.” I did the Bambi eyes so hard that I almost certainly looked like Schwarzenegger at the end of Total Recall. He looked a bit scared; he simply wasn’t ready for this jelly.

“Where have you come from?”

“A good question,” I did not see the light of philosophy in his eyes, so I answered, “Bath Spa.”

“Let me see your train ticket.” I seductively withdrew my rail ticket from my breast pocket and blinked adorably, mainly because my eyeballs were getting dry. As he studied my train ticket we pulled into Deansgate and got off the tram.

I steeled myself for giving a fake name and address, the excuse for that more serious, and blatantly fraudulent, crime being that the no-ticket fine is £100, which is excessive and I will go to prison before I pay that, on principle alone.

“Now, let me explain the procedure to you,” Inspector Tummy stood firmly between me and the platform exit ramp. I reckon I could have outrun him if I’d made a break for it, but I’d have had to leave my luggage, and as any self-respecting drag queen knows, you never leave a shoe behind. I was going to have to flirt my way out of this, on one of the 10 days a year that I wasn’t wearing a low cut top.

“I’m really sorry.” Little pout.

“It’s alright. If you tell an Inspector that you don’t have a ticket, they’re going to charge you a £100 fine.” I thought about legging it, bags and all, but his colleague had also got off the tram and he looked nimble, so I said:

“Oh no. Wow.” And pouted until I tasted blood.

“However… your train ticket covers you to Manchester Central Stations, which includes Deansgate. You’re a lucky girl.”

“I am a very luck… wait, you mean I actually had a valid ticket?”

“Yep. Have a good evening.” Inspector Tummy wandered away across the platform to his colleague, checking his watch as he did so.

As I left the tram stop, all notions of sexuality forgotten through sweating my luggage down four flights of stairs to the tune of some pretty ripe language, I realised that Inspector Tummy had not noticed or responded to my ‘sexuality’ at all. He’d done his job in a polite, efficient and helpful manner and then checked his watch to see how long it was before he could go home to his wife.

I felt like a fool. I’d instantly gone to a place that I criticise other women for. I hadn’t even considered any other possibility. Why hadn’t I been a belligerent git and gone with the fake name plan from the start? Why did I think I could use my tits as a tool to get something for nothing?

Inspector Tummy is a good tram inspector. I firmly believe that he would have done the same for a spotty teenage lad who had sworn at him; Inspector Tummy is a good man.

I’d love to say I’ll never attempt to flirt my way out of trouble again, but it would be a lie. I am clearly pre-disposed to it, and unfortunately I have collected too much previous evidence that it often works. Look out for it, gents, be like Inspector Tummy and check your watch. And girls, careful where you use it, or risk being like me, an unwitting and eventually embarrassed, fool.

The other thing that occurred to me shortly after was that I have been getting train tickets to Manchester Central Stations and then buying a separate tram ticket for 12 years at an approximate total cost of £250 not including VAT and interest. Cough up, Manchester Metrolink, you can’t flirt your way out of this one.

Fight, Flight, or Sh*t Your Pants?


I went to the toilet, at the end of a brightly lit corridor, in the middle of the night. (The brightly lit part is important at this time of year because my adorable flatmate literally decks the hall with all the decorations that are too shit to go in the extravaganza sitting room display.)

When I got to the bathroom, I kept the bathroom light off. The combination of tinsley-baubleness and glaring lights was something my sleepy eyeballs hadn’t enjoyed and now wanted dark peace from. As I wondered about the impact on an atheist of having the nativity scene permanently burned on her retina, I realised I was being watched.

A slitty orange eye focused on me in the dark, it sought me out and made everything else around it darker.

 It blinked.  I felt fear slide down through my whole body and my knees were jelly that was too scared to wobble even a tiny bit. I was solid, icy terror.

It blinked again. I realised that I wanted to breathe, but I couldn’t, my lungs were stones, no single muscle in my body could even twitch.

It blinked a third time and also made a noise: TTTPPSSSSSSHHhhsssbeep.

After the noise, I stood still for a few seconds, just watching the orange eye as it watched me, we both waited. In that time I did wonder if my electric toothbrush had gone rogue; this thought comforted me, because I reckoned I could take a toothbrush.

Bolstered by my obviously superior combat stats, I crept bravely to the wall and flicked the light switch. I stared at the eye, and I saw something, but even then, I didn’t know what it was.

I stepped gently towards it, with my arms outstretched in a self-protecting/rogue-dental-hygiene-equipment-calming fashion.

The offender wasn’t my toothbrush; that maligned appliance was innocently perched on the side of the bath. The orange eye was in fact an LED on the front of a lump of cheap, extrusion moulded plastic. I picked it up and shook it; it started blinking, made the noise, and squirted perfume directly into my fucking eye.

I was aggressively assaulted by an electronic lavatory air freshener.

What hurt me most about this experience was not the low grade alcohol soaking my cornea, it was the post eye-bath realisation that I had been reduced to a terrified animal by a harmless, mechanical, domestic device. In addition to that, I’d performed badly as an animal; I’d had the options of fight, flight, or stand there with your terrified mouth hanging open, and I’d chosen the latter.

I do understand that I was facing an air freshener, not an enemy, but in those seconds when I had no idea what was happening, the response to my fear was very real. Had it been a real enemy then I would have wasted the crucial seconds in which to save my life by performing a bantam display of staring and drooling, transfixed by my own horror.

It is these mental stimuli, and the ways that we have responded to them that has decided the path of animal existence on this planet for millennia; I chose the best response to ensure the end of my genes. Thank Evolution that some of my ancestors had quicker moves than me.

When the fear kicks in, I dribble uselessly like a lobotomised Neanderthal. There’s a lesson I didn’t want to have to learn about myself from an electronic lavatory air freshener.




Tram Random 2

Today’s encounter started when I decided to wear dirty black leggings with a hot pink dress and hotter pink bovver boots, a hottest pink trim military jacket with tiny, incinerating pink studs. In addition to none of my pinks being exactly the same shade, my make-up was what you would expect from a girl who learned to ‘put her face on’ from drag queens, right down to the inch and a half diamante eyelashes. I like to style on theme, and I was going for the overall look of a prancing but butch warden in a very camp prison; trust me, I got there.

I then made the decision to have a fag before leaving for the tram, which in turn forced me to run along the platform to get to the tram just before the doors stopped beeping. My door didn’t open, I moved towards the other door, and it closed. I caught the eye of the driver in the mirror, I made the begging gesture and smiled like an adorable child. Neither door opened. I bellowed “YOU’VE GOT TO BE FUCKING JOKING!”, and this is when she first noticed me.

Now, you may be one of these admirable, zen loving stoics who can smile at the hilarity of the fact that your tram seat is eight inches away and you aren’t sitting on it, but I’m not. I had a good old, blue as Smurf balls rant.

I know there are others who have done the same in a similar situation, I’ve seen one of you in action and you were brilliant.  {If you’re a 50something  Scottish man with an excellent suit and two laptops who missed a train by four seconds from Edinburgh in Jan12 and booted off into a high volume, articulate rant that made Bills Hicks sets sound like meditative chants, please Tweet me obscenities; you’re fucking funny.}

People who understand the need to angry rant in these situations will also recognise that you’re usually left on the platform/at the bus stop alone, or with other people who sympathise with your point of view. Normally the successful passengers, who saw your rage from the right side of the door glass, disappear into the distance mumbling “what a wanker” to each other.

On this occasion, the driver cut me off mid rant by opening the nearest door. I then made the choice to compound my on board image as “wanker” by half stepping into the tram and then leaning back out the door to shout “You could have just done that in the first place”.

I knew people were looking at me as I took my seat. I addressed everyone with an apologetic shrug and said “kicking off apparently works”. Nobody looked directly at me.

The woman I sat next to had been looking at me since I’d first shouted. I turned to see her staring at me, with wide open eyed fear. Her arms covered every part of her body and she had her back as far into the corner as she could without risking her knee touching mine.

She watched as I readjusted my glittery beehive and kept her eye on me as I sat back in my seat. I gave her a big smile that I hoped would reassure her. The tram was pulling out of the next stop when she leaned a little bit closer, and just slightly louder than whispered: “I like your eyelashes”.

We had an enjoyable, girly, shoe related chat, and she got off a stop before me. As the doors closed behind her, she gave me a little wave and a tiny smile, whilst slightly shaking her head.

Tram Random 1

I got talking to a girl yesterday, and somehow the conversation turned to Science Fiction. Here’s a little bit of the chat transcribed.  I’ll circumvent the early introductions, because I start talking to random people a lot, and the beginning bit is the boring bit.

Me: “… yeah, it’s a great book. You’ll probably like it.” [Marge Piercy’s ‘He, She and It’.]

Her: “Not if it’s about Science Fiction. I don’t like Science Fiction.”

Me: “Well… it’s not about Science Fiction… It’s a love story, it’s just that there’s also a robot. But it’s not just the science… or the fiction… no, hang on. Erm… it’s just a really good story.”

Her: “Why does there have to be a robot? That’s what I mean. Why?”

Me: “It’s set in the future, but… Why does there have to NOT be a robot?” [I display the smug face that I wear when I’ve convinced myself that I’ve made a great point.]

Her: [She looks at me blankly. Then her face shifts as the realisation dawns that she is at the tram stop, late at night, talking to a strange woman about robots. She has a little look around and then shrugs while searching my eyes for any further, undetected madness.] “Each to their own, I suppose.” [She picks up her glossy mag, I stare at the tramlines; our meeting ends].

When I chat to randoms, I respect the clear social indications that the other person has had enough of the conversation. I believe it’s what separates me from the drunks and mad people who also enjoy striking up dialogue with strangers in public places. On this occasion, and some others, I have wanted to push the conversation, having become genuinely interested in a stranger’s opinion.

How could someone dismiss something on the grounds that it’s ‘Science Fiction’? What do they think this ‘Science Fiction’ is? The girl was a 2nd year biology student and was reading a celebrity magazine; clearly a fan of both science and fiction, but not of Science Fiction.

We both got on the Eccles bound tram and just after she sat down, she looked up and I smiled at her. She gave me the mouth flatline and raised her magazine slightly. She got off before my stop, and as she walked past the window, from the safety of the other side of the glass, she gave me a smile and a nod.

Two complete strangers meet at a mass transport intersection, and travel across the surface of a solar orbital in a metal pod. They have a tiny human moment. One of them recounts the moment into her palm top communication device and projects the message into cyberspace.

It’s the story that counts, not the genre.