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Have A Golden Mean New Year

What to do on New Year’s Eve?

This isn’t going to be a blog about a terribly lonely person with nothing to do. Nor will it be a blog about some diamond studded baller with more caviar soaked, sex-party invitations than she can count*.

I am an average woman, of average income, of average intelligence and bears. With golden locks. Wait… I’m getting off track. I have two very nice party invitations, and I don’t know which to choose.

Maybe you can help.

Invitation 1:

Over 30 friends with all the kids


  1. Nice wine
  2. Good conversation once the kids are packed off
  3. M+S finest nibbles
  4. Some of the kids will be old enough to have really good toys


  1. Someone will drag out a super fucking lame active group party game (probably ‘adult themed’) and I’ll want to die in flame
  2. Sometimes people who are parents have forgotten how to be children
  3. Reasonable chance of getting covered in baby sick.

Invitation 2:

Under 30 friends without children


  1. No-one gives a shit when I inevitably spill everything
  2. I can dress like a maniac and no-one looks scared
  3. Twenty-two year olds always want to argue ad infinitum about pointless nonsense
  4. I’ll feel young


  1. Someone’ll suggest ‘Truth or Dare’ because they’re too young to say ‘I wanna fuck you’
  2. I’ll be starkly reminded that I’m not twenty-two
  3. High chance of getting covered in drunken sick.



(Fantasy) Invitation 3:

Single/Childless people my age eating some food


  1. No-one’s getting wasted, man
  2. No-one’s running upstairs to de-shit Little Laura’s pyjamas
  3. We sit round a table and talk about big subjects. Chat some nonsense, uninterrupted
  4. The topics of conversation don’t constantly revert on the rearing of small, bald apes
  5. Maybe someone’ll get laid
  6. Maybe someone will get heartburn, get your number and catch you later
  7. We might play a game of dominoes, or Rummy or Trivial Pursuit
  8. The night’s a cornucopia of mystery when you’re not that old and childlessly single


  1. The food might be terrible. Not being able to cook is common among my people.

I want to spend New Year’s Eve with a low forecast for getting covered in sick. I want to spend New Year’s Eve with vibrant, young thinking people who have chosen, or been forced, to have a different life path than the 2.4 family set up. But not people so young of mind that they have no idea what path they’re on. I want to spend New Year’s Eve with people who are confident enough to make fools of themselves without having to blame it on drink or drugs and yet are still unfettered enough to see themselves as the number one focus of their own lives.

Where are these people?

I am an average woman, of average income looking for some middle-of-the-road friends. Not too parent-y, not too child-y, but just right. I want to spend New Year’s Eve, and in fact, more time generally, with some proper adults who still have the right to be as selfish as children.

Maybe the middle of the road is where I should always aspire to be, in every area of my life.

Wow. Let me just extract myself from up my own arse there.

It is so delightfully easy to be philosophical on NYE, isn’t it? Even the cynical faces who say ‘it’s just another day of the year’ are being deep. What the cynics say is true and beautiful; every day is ‘just another day of the year’, every day starts a new year between that day and the same day a year later. Whatever the date, you are always at the start, the end and the middle of a year.

I’ve sat quietly on previous NYEs and considered how I could make my life better going forward. Asked myself massive questions like: “What do I want?” “What do I need?” “What do I have to get rid of?” and then changed nothing that night, the next day or any of the days after.

I’m getting wise to myself and I’m ready to challenge me.

I’m going to search for the middle ground. I’m going to get a little bit less excited about some things and reduce my misery in respect of others. Before I wail in grief, I’m going to force in a happy thought. Before I get caught up in something, I’m going to be surer it’s not a net. I’m going to hunt for balance.

Where I’m stuck for choice between two excellent options, neither of which I actually want, I’m going to walk right between the polar opposites and find the thing I do want. And when I inevitably fail on a day and go to bed overexcited or crying, I can wake up the next day at the beginning, end or middle of the year and start again.

At the very least, I’ll zig-zag stagger across the middle path.

So… Should I go out tonight? Or should I stay in and stroke my soft toy collection that I pretend are live cats? If I go out I’ve got a better chance of having an amazing night and meeting some new people. If I stay in, there will definitely be no tedious drama or abject boredom, but I’ll be spending 23:59 on NYE totally alone.

This is preferable to me over the tradition of hugging/kissing someone (anyone) at exactly midnight. Physical contact on the clock, from a random stranger/work colleague/mate’s cousin/Joyce who looked after our Sally when she were a nipper, is my idea of a personally crafted hell. And then they queue up to kiss you! FUCK OFF! Let’s all hug and kiss total strangers and then worriedly discuss the spread of Ebola! Why don’t you keep the hug for now, when I’m holding a glass of wine I’ll probably spill on you, and save it for a day when I look sad. Hug me randomly at an unpredictable time because I look like I need it. Spread it around a bit… get some in the middle there.

As a woman of average income, I also have to consider the financial ramifications of going out tonight. If I spend my limited leisure resources in the longest, coldest financial month of the year on a night out I don’t want to be involved in, I might be forced to miss one later in the month that I do.

If something’s going to throw me off balance either way, then it should be something I really wanted in the first place, otherwise I’ll make my way back to the middle path anyway and realise I’ve just been wasting time. Heart-break and joy are so close, that to experience either is a gamble that should not be taken lightly.

The guaranteed, glorious and safe pleasure of a hot bubble bath, a cold glass of wine and a book against the potentially higher stakes win/loss scenario of going to a party which, in truth, I’ve been to before. Do I take the gamble or do I get my slippers on?

I think the fact that it’s 19:00 and I’m still in my pyjamas demonstrates that a decision has already been made about going out tonight. I don’t care that it’s New Year’s Eve. Tomorrow can be New Year’s Eve and the day after that, and the day after that, et cetera. On a night that I feel like going out, I will, and party like everything starts again tomorrow. But not tonight, not just because of the date.

I hope I’m not just a blob of seasonal party poop. I don’t mean to be. I should have done a positive message round up of the year, or even just my year, but I bet your year was much the same. Periods of high and low and the somewhere in between. Let’s not share too much, I hardly know you.

As I freeload off the fireworks that Manchester’s residents let off at 00:00 tonight I will be peaceful. I won’t be having loads of fun, but I definitely won’t be suffering the extremes of holding back a young person’s hair whilst they vomit or being sleazed on by the only other single person at the parent party.

In the absence of something definitely worth sticking on my eyelashes for, I think I’ll stop here in the middle instead, at calmly proportionate peace. I’ll drink some vintage, eat some cheese and enjoy the golden mean pleasures.

Happy New/End/Middle Year To You!!

Every. Single. Day.

*If anyone’s actually having a caviar soaked sex party, I would like to come. At least once.

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.

Celebrity Trash: N-Word Included

A Transcript of Jeremy Clarkson’s Racism Allegations Apology:


Words by: BBC Media Relations Salvage Team, as spoken by Jeremy Clarkson.

Other Words by: Jeremy Clarkson’s brain as written by thebaffer


“Ordinarily I don’t respond to newspaper’s allegations…”

I don’t read newspapers, they are for plebs to sleep in, eat out of and be wrapped in when they die…

“… but on this occasion I feel I must make an exception.”

…I’m busted on video and even I can’t public-schoolboy my way out of this one.

“A couple of years ago I recorded an item for Top Gear in which I quoted the rhyme…”

It was a segment where they asked me to ‘rhyme’ and I’m not in any way gifted …

“… eeney meeny miney moe.”

…I desperately scrabbled at anything to make me more interesting.

“Now, of course, I was well aware that in the best known version of this rhyme…”

I’m actually aware of nothing outside my own bottom…

“…there is a racist expression that I was EXTREMELY keen to avoid.”

…I wasn’t going to avoid it at all. Other people do controversial humour. I wanna play…

“The full rushes show that…”

I’ve watched them 1000 times to try to find an escape from this.

“…I did 3 takes…”

…16 less than for this video, contrition is hard to perfect…

“…in two, I mumbled where the offensive word would normally occur”

… it really took me that long to think of a replacement…

“… and in the third I replaced it all together with the word teacher.”

…I’m not a racist, but I do inexplicably hate public sector workers.

“Now when I viewed this footage several weeks later…”

I was in Italy, busy driving a car made from the overworked skin of Nurses, when HR called me…

“…I realised in one of the mumbled versions, if you listen very carefully…”

…I was talking over the video at the time, telling them all that I’m infallible…

“… with the sound turned up…”

…my voice was still louder…

“…it did appear that I’d actually used the word I was trying to obscure.”

… I said ‘nigger’.

“I was mortified by this, horrified, it is a word I loathe…”

But I can, and will, still say it. I. Am. Jeremy. Fucking. Clarkson.

“… and I did everything in my power  to make sure that that version did not appear…”

….BBC minions actually did it for me…

“…in the programme that was transmitted.”

…in the Press.

“In fact, I have here, the note I wrote, at the time, to the production office…”

It’s definitely the same note, here on this bit of paper, right here, the same note…

“… and it says:  ‘I didn’t use the n-word here…”

…although I did, I said ‘nigger’.

“…but I’ve just listened through my headphones…”

…I tell BBC production staff how I listen to tapes. This is why the production crew hate me so much they leak videos…

“…and it sounds like I did.”

…because I did. I did. I said ‘nigger’.

“… is there another take that we could use?’”

… they didn’t like ‘teacher’ either, FOR FUCK’S SAKE.

“… … … Please be assured…”

… Was that pause long enough? I had a sad face on too  😦 …

“…I did everything in my power to NOT USE THAT WORD…”

…I genuinely have no control over the drivel that leaks out my saggy face hole…


…sigh, this is so dull…

“…as I’m sitting here, begging your forgiveness…”

…I must be looking right at the camera here…

“… for the fact that obviously, my efforts weren’t quite good enough.”

… because ‘nigger’ slipped out, and I could not catch it by its toe.

“Thank you.”

Can I go back to Italy now?




I’m not in the habit of extensively trashing ‘celebrities’. For the most part, I’m not interested enough in them to bother.

Jeremy Clarkson is the exception.

As background, I’ve unreasonably hated him since I was a child. His face made me feel uncomfortable, the monsters in my dreams had his voice, and him being on television during my puberty has probably made me infertile. Just as I cannot help a physical attraction, I cannot help a physical repulsion.

On a normal day, I’d just mute the bits of Top Gear where he’s on and not take it any further, but today, his job hangs in the balance, and I believe he should be sacked, so I’m having a rant.

As an adult, Clarkson is still the voice of my monsters. He is a rich and arrogant man with barely any sense of how most people live.

Clarkson shouldn’t be sacked for saying the ‘n-word’. He’s trying to make it seem like it’s the ‘offensive word’ that’s the problem; he’s clouding a more central issue.

Any word is a cultural word, and no word should be censored entirely from sensible, contextual discussion. Clarkson should be sacked for not being able to say another word, or unimaginatively enjoying the potential shock value, or for not just owning up and admitting he said it; he should be sacked for clearly demonstrating that he is, at best, bloody stupid.

Clarkson should be sacked as a symbol for racism at its most dangerous level, the unconscious one. He should be sacked because he is a long time out of date and no one will ever be able to explain to him why.

Also, he should be sacked because any woman on television his age would be painted up like a Victorian Doll’s House and he gets to go on telly with a face like camel balls.








Portrait From A Hero

I went through a phase in my early twenties, I’m not proud of it. I’m even less proud now I’m telling you about it. I wish it had been a phase of drugs, porn or veganism; all of which would have been less embarrassing. Back then, I fancied myself as a Byronic Urban Mentalist and would exclusively wear pink from head to toe.

I was, in short, a bit of a cunt. At the height of my idiocy, I discovered a performer who I fell in love with immediately, and that hero worship never left me.

I have watched everything I can find that this man has produced and I have read everything he’s written (I’ve not understood all of it). I have gone out of my way to see him perform in venues nationwide and have genuinely thought it was worth every open –mouthed minute.


I love Derren Brown and this is my hero story.


I met Derren Brown on March 5th 2012, it was a cold and windy night. It may sound like a trite way to start a story, but I live in Manchester, and it was March, so I promise you it was cold AND windy, and that this will come into play again later on.

I went to see his show, Svengali, alone, and sat in my seat for ½ an hour before the show started. I usually do this at the theatre; I like reading the programme in peace and noseying at other people as they come in. I did enjoy absorbing this programme; it was a weird, various interest magazine, styled in an attractive Victorian theme.

The show started and was going as unexpected, until he asked for women who could not paint pictures, but wished they could, to stand up.

I’ve always wanted to paint. Well, truth be told, I’ve always wished for some skill in any visual art. If just one thing that my hands created ended up looking like something other than a multi-coloured bovine placenta I would be utterly fucking thrilled.

So I stood up.

I’m not 100% sure what happened next. Something flew at my face, I ducked and the guy behind me caught it and handed it to me. Then Derren Brown started talking to me from the stage.

By this point, I’d been a Derren Brown fan for a decade and now he was talking to me. Well, he was talking to an unpredictable prop that might mess up a great trick at any minute, but in my world, my hero was talking to me.

Sometimes I imagine talking to my heroes in my head, and I am always incisively erudite. In my imagination, Charles Darwin and I have had some fairly drawn out discussions; frankly the man is just stubborn. When Darwin talks to me, I have opinions and we spark intellectually; when Derren Brown talked to me, I was mainly worried about farting in front of the audience at the Lowry.

Derren beckoned, the audience clapped and I walked towards the stage, my fear of trouser wind worsening with every step as my arse was now head height to the stalls audience and Derren was holding out a microphone. When I reached the stage, I shook his hand, fought the urge to lick his face, and he went about his business of magicking.

If you’ve seen the show, you’ll know the trick I mean. If you haven’t, I’m not going to spoil it. The point of mentioning it at all is that, on stage, I noticed that Derren Brown was an imposing figure of a man. His presence was bear-like, impressively dominant, and he was at least four or five inches taller than me; I’m 5”6”.

The trick ended brilliantly, Derren Brown hugged me, I sniffed his ear a little bit, and we called it a night. I left the stage feeling pleasantly smug and let out an unexposed, sly fart when I got back to my seat.

If only I had left it there.

My need to include fart references throws that last sentence into ambiguity. For clarity, I did not shit myself in the auditorium; what I actually did cost me far more than the embarrassment of public bowel release.

I went to Stage Door to autograph-stalk Derren Brown.

As I have previously bored you with, it was cold and windy and I now was standing outside in the slashing rain waiting to see someone who did not know me and was not expecting to see me. There were about 50 people waiting to see Derren and 40 of them were under girls under 18.

Derren Brown came out and walked straight into the mass of girls. He signed stuff, smiled for cameras and was shunted about like a toy doll between groups of excitedly rabbiting females. I was a little bit scared and stepped out of the crowd. I watched my hero talk to his fans; he was quiet, both softly spoken and sparse with words.

I felt embarrassed, I wanted to leave, but suddenly he was next to me. He had a pen in his hand and he took my open programme.

“Shall I sign it there?”

“Yep. Thanks.”

“What’s your name?” I can’t lie, it did hurt a little that the man who instigated a revolution in my understanding of memory couldn’t remember my three letter name from onstage an hour before.


“With a K or a C?” This was a man who worked with names, I was one of many K/Cats who he’d signed an arbitrary bit of paper for.

“A ‘K’, please.” I immediately regretted the ‘please’, it sounded like I was implying he might then write a ‘C’ just to be snide. A half competent ‘Blockbusters’ gag went through my head, but instead, I said “I know you’re not a fan of the C.”

I don’t know why I’d say that to a gay man I’d never met before. It’s childish, cheap and offensive; I instantly wished I hadn’t said it, and physically bit my lip to stop myself speaking again. Derren Brown then compounded the whole situation by laughing.

It wasn’t an out loud, belly laugh, but there was a definite chuckle and a bit of a smirk as he scribbled a very legible K next to a lot of squiggle on my programme. His attention was immediately grasped by a small female next to me, and I stood looking at the top of his cap as he signed her something.

Derren Brown is actually just about an inch taller than me.

Derren Brown on stage is my hero, a master of powerful content and precise stagecraft with a thrilling compulsion for detail and infectious excitement about the brain. For years Derren Brown has stimulated my imagination exclusively on my own terms, because before that cold and windy night he was never actually any closer than Darwin, or Beckett, or Freud.

Derren Brown in person is an unassuming chap who giggles at cheap gags, and I dispute my hero’s right to have a personality not entirely created by my own imagination.

In my imagination, my heroes don’t laugh at my childish jokes, and they don’t pay attention to anyone else. I don’t worry about embarrassing myself in front of them and they don’t eat, sleep or have partners. In my imagination, my heroes are all there as the best bits of me and my brain, not to represent the childish, fart-gag side of me; that’s what my friends are for.

In my imagination, my heroes have the role of confidants and moral barometers; they are seats of deep discussions of my worries, fears and passions. My internal world has been a bit damaged by having a real life moment with Derren, and now my subconscious has him hypnotising Hitler to have to say ‘vagina’ instead of ‘Reich’.

My favourite bit about my heroes is that they are exactly who I want to believe they are. I can believe they are unnaturally unique because the only understanding I have of them is built from the bricks of their best ideas, hard work and effort. I have no minute understanding of them as real people because I have no need of that to continue idolising them.

In my imagination, Darwin may be a stubborn bastard, but at least he doesn’t have the audacity to be a real person. 




Writing On Writers’ Right On Rights

“Might start trying to buy things how people try to hire me. ‘Can I have an apple? I can’t pay for it, but I’ll tell people the apple’s good’”
@Scriblit via Twitter

That is a funny Tweet, succinctly and grammatically containing a great argument within just 140 characters, a testament to the creative brain and technical writing ability of Scriblit.
Scriblit is a working writer, and when she works, she wants paying; that is, unequivocally, fair.


It’s bloody hard to make money out of writing. Writing itself is not hard, I’m doing it now, but making money out of it… tough gig. There are many reasons for this, ranging from ‘because you’re shit’ through to ‘millions of people write stuff and try to make money out of it’.

Nearly everybody can actually write, and many people are very competent at it. If you added up the minutes in your day/week/year that you are on the clock and writing something, you could say in that time, you were a ‘working writer’. I estimate mine conservatively as 125.5 hours a year, which is just over three weeks full time work as a writer. Hooray! I’m so glad I stayed in school.

Perhaps if brick laying or engine tuning had been aggressively encouraged by parents and schools instead of writing, then it would be builders and mechanics plying their trade for exposure and credibility whilst writers laid out massive invoices for doing something almost anyone can learn to do.

That absurdity exposes that writers don’t actually want to be paid for the physical act of writing; they want to be paid for a natural ability to have brilliant ideas and the tenacity to couple that with the hard earned craft of turning those ideas into something I can understand. The limit of a builder or mechanic is to keep your house up, or your car running; a well-communicated idea is limitless.

I like to think we know that in our society; there is great work published all the time by respected houses across multiple mediums and the writers are justly compensated for their time and effort. From local newspapers to online blogs, I see the evidence of clever, witty and erudite people who sometimes communicate ideas that shape my mind, and I am pleased they have been paid for that.

Equally, I have encountered some total tosswaffle. Floppy, weakly constructed sentences bouncing aimlessly around ill-considered points and bumping into distorted facts and opinions. It comes from people who think that they are writers and consider their own efforts worthy of monetary payment, when, in fact, fair compensation would be that they get beaten with Sharpies until the offensive, badly punctuated nonsense jiggles out of their densely inflated heads.

It’s not that I want to agree with what I read; I just want to read considered and researched ideas that are explained in a way that respects and develops my language. Good writers do this, and I regularly pay to devour their words. Bad writers muddy issues and damage the way a language I love is written and spoken and read.

I write my tiny blog for pleasure, and because I now know that if someone reads one of my little pieces, it’s not the absolute worst thing out there. I can at least thank the crass thinking, belletristic terrorists lurking with their keyboards and drivel for giving me confidence to squirt my nonsense into text, because I do enjoy it.
I would write a piece for free for anyone who asked me, but the view count of my blog doubles when my mum logs on. I might not be such a typing whore if I was already a featured writer on a website with 2m+ monthly views; I’d want more too.

Our whole economy is based on the principle of me giving you something I’ve got for something else I need.
I don’t need any more exposure, what else have you got? If I refuse exposure and demand money, will you create a paid role, or will you find someone else who will scribble it for free?

Writing can never be exclusive to the monetary economy, so I beg the really good writers not to disappear forever from the unpaid corners of the cultural economy. If there are new websites that have an ethos you support, please drop them a paragraph or five. If there’s a struggling, quality print publication that would benefit from the attention of your current followers, write them a story once or twice. If you really can’t, then do you know a quality writer that will work for the exposure on your recommendation?

I believe it is hard work to consistently produce excellent writing, and that hard work should be paid for. I also believe that good writers have an intangible gift, a natural way of working the language so it changes what you think and who you are. That gift is an incredible stroke of luck.
Getting that lucky gives you a duty to the cultural economy that may not be rewarded at all, let alone with money; your duty is to protect the readers.

The best writers should be moderators we can trust, at the very least.

As a reader, I can’t promise to give up reading work I know is unpaid because I will never lose the fear that paid for written opinions on important topics are those of the commissioner, and not the writer, however paranoid I am told that is.
I can promise to work hard to avoid websites and publications that distribute badly written script and shoddily constructed ideas, but please push back a bit too. It’s a numbers game for readers and the more places that excellent writing appears, the more likely it is we will stumble across it.

If you don’t help, sometimes for free, then the cultural economy will become even more flooded with self-important, fastidiously opinionated, linguistically clumsy waffle from amateur scribes like me. Please be there, because, as a reader, I am genuinely terrified by how far even my own brand of tosswaffle is from the worst kind of writing I find.

Weird and/or Wonderful

This week I had an unusual encounter with a girl named Devine*.

The encounter started on a dating site when I began talking to a boy named Hugh*.  I liked his profile; he was funny, wordy and self-deprecating so I messaged him.  After a few texts we arranged to meet, a meeting I then cancelled, rudely, at short notice, because I’m a dick.

Hugh was not a dick and accepted my apology in good humour and we arranged to meet another time. Bog standard, flaky internet dating action thus far.

Then, two days later, he rang me at 4am and when I answered, was silent and then hung up. As I was half way through the initial thought of “…oh good, a raging nutter has my phone number and I have no one to blame bu..” he rung again and repeated the silence then hang up trick. I know it well; I’ve done it myself.

I texted him. I wanted to text obscenities and suggest he commit improper acts with his mobile, but I didn’t, I texted the very neutral:

That was pretty random!

The response was out of character; dismissive, and poorly punctuated. This guy was either pissed, bi-polar, or his disgruntled girlfriend had the phone. I asked him which it was.

His missus had the phone.

If you were to ask me why I didn’t leave it there, I’d have to say… I just don’t know. I should have typed “WHY ARE ON HIS PHONE YOU FREAK?” and switched mine off.

I didn’t do that, because I don’t know this boy, but I know this girl. Not personally, but I know the feeling she had when she dialled that number and called my phone. I know that sick sense of not knowing what you might find out about someone you love or have loved; that dark little window into their private, separate life that used to be a shared existence.

So I texted back pleasantries, and offered her a friendly ear if she needed a chat, which as it turned out, she did, and she called me.

She was a little bit tipsy and had post-crying sniffles, but she was such an honest and positive person that we were soon chatting and laughing. Devine and Hugh had had a fight that night and she still avoided the temptation of slagging him off, which is a fine example of niceness.

She knew Hugh was chatting to girls, they were both dating other people, but she was worried that using his phone like that made her ‘a weirdo’. I had to tell her that I’ve done what she did, taken a partner’s phone and had a good old root through. I speculated that a lot of people have done it, will do it in the future and are probably doing it right now.

I’m not sure Devine was convinced.

We gabbed for about ½ an hour, about relationships, about our jobs, about ourselves. The conversation was relaxed and comfortable; she’s definitely someone I’d be friends with, but after the conversation I was left with the feeling that we probably won’t actually meet and become friends.

From my point of view, I’ve had a lovely encounter with a sweet and funny woman who resettled in my mind the truth that ‘everybody does those weirdo things I do which makes them not so weirdo after all’. If I were to now meet Devine and it transpired that she’s batshit crazy, ‘Hugh’ is her alter ego and she likes live frog earrings, my faith in that truth would be shaken. I don’t want that to happen; I don’t want to be a ‘weirdo’ too.

From Devine’s side, she might feel embarrassed for letting her emotions show to a stranger. We’re not supposed to do that, and she might feel that any connection between us would be too unbalanced because I’ve already seen her at her ‘weirdest’.

Any time we perform an action that leaks out our true emotions, we are ‘a weirdo’ and that’s not fair. Longing, regret and anger are potent emotions, it is likely the reaction will be extreme and suppression of them detrimental.  I’m prepared for other people’s weirdness, especially when it’s the same as mine. I’m not going to turn my back on someone who seems to be acting a little weird, because I’d be screwed if other people did it to me!

In my experience, people who are a little unusual on the surface are most usually brilliant underneath, so maybe I should text Devine and suggest we have a coffee. Then again, she might think I’m weird…



*Names have now been changed to protect identities, because the people involved asked me to. I’m not sure they realise that they have very common first names and nobody reads this anyway.


The Mechanical Valentine

It’s a mistake to pop into Tesco Metro Piccadilly at 7pm the night before Valentine’s Day. It’s a place where normal supermarket logic is entirely subverted at the best of times. Jars of sauce and fresh veg face the frozen foods, just over a metre apart, in a random food standoff that would have Jamie Oliver’s head imploding in a frenzy of culinary confusion. The end result is the unintentional touching of bums with a stranger who’s attempting to liberate oven chips while you consider carrots.

When it comes to celebrated days, Tesco Metro Piccadilly suffers further assaults on its limited space as the beleaguered shop floor staff squeeze in extra seasonal products, creating a health and safety nightmare of an edible jumble sale.

Around Valentine’s Day, every tiny morsel of space is packed out with red teddy bears, overpriced chocolates and drab looking flowers in sparkly paper. If you stand in there and squint, it looks as though every fairy tale character ever conceived has moved into a giant gingerbread house five seconds before it got blown up, resulting in a fluffy, glittery scene of whimsical massacre.

As I queued for the till and considered just how much of a loser I would be for buying myself a cupcake with “I [heart] U” on it, I noticed an exasperated young man poking at bunches of roses. He picked one up and as he did, two of the stems drooped in a very unromantic fashion. He grunted audibly and dropped it back down.

Then the young hero noticed some expansive bunches of mixed red and pink flowers wrapped in faux lace and gaudy love-heart paper. They cost £15. When he spotted the price tag, I saw him look wistfully back to the impotent roses. They flopped their inferiority, his shoulders visibly sagged, and he picked up the £15 lacy love bunch.
Romeo looked around, his expression that of a toddler looking for adult approval, and he tapped the arm of a young woman in the queue.

“Do you like these?” he asked politely. She looked a bit taken aback. “They’re for my missus.” He clarified quickly. “It’s our first Valentine’s Day together.”

The young woman shrugged. “Yeah, they’re alright.” There was a pause and the young man looked at the flowers with resignation. “Why don’t you get some chocolates too?” The girl suggested, trying to be helpful, but clearly opening up an emotional and financial wound that was too much for the befuddled beau to bear. He stared woefully up the crowded aisle, towards piles of red boxes and cuddly toys, and I watched the light of new love drain from his face.

“Thanks.” He said to the girl, and shuffled towards the back of the queue, his energy and enthusiasm spent, with his cash about to go the same way.

I wanted to tell him not to bother, to tell him to put the half dead plant-life back on the shelf and run away from the Tesco Metro Piccadilly Valentine’s Day Massacre. I wanted to let him know that UK citizens spend more than 1% of the entire annual healthcare budget in one pointless, faux lace gesture on 14th February every year, and he would be a hero to stand strong and tell his girlfriend they could be in love without the predictable presentation of floppy flowers.

A day with liturgical origins that celebrates romantic love is bound to be problematic for an atheist spinster, but on reflection, I think it’s less of a problem for me than for people in relationships; unlike other festive events, I am free of any obligation to express my love for someone on an exact and arbitrary day of the year.

In the end, I decided to buy the cupcake. I ate it while I wrote this, and I have to admit, it was rather nice; a delicious, sticky symbol of my love for complex carbs and icing, a true love that I celebrate inexpensively every day of the year.

Tram Random 3

The best thing about mobile technology is that it affords me another excuse for looking like a total prick in public. I have many excuses for this, but the simple pleasure of enjoying a one woman silent disco on a tram stop is my current favourite.

On a recent occasion I noticed a very smartly dressed, middle aged woman smiling at me whilst I was bopping along. I saw her lips move, unplugged my ears, and asked her what was up.

“You look like you’re having fun, what are you listening to?” This lady was very, very posh. Her teeth were perfect, sparkly, mouth diamonds.

“Erm… a mix of dubstep that my friend made.” I felt a bit uncomfortable, as if I’d been caught smoking in the grounds of a hospital.

“Oh, yes, the dubstep. My son listens to that, he’s 19.” I cringed. I’m 31 and am becoming more and more aware of the need to grow up.

“Would you like an ear?” I offered my earphone, quite confident she’d say no.

A brief look of contemplation crossed her face. She had the expression of a woman who had recently resolved to try new things and was now faced with the dilemma of living that decision in a very minute and achievable way.

She took the ear phone and looked at it. “I just push it right in my ear?”

“Yes. Not too hard.” And she did.

If you’ve ever shared headphones with anyone, you’ll be aware than you have to stand very close to them. If you’ve ever shared headphones with a stranger, you’ll be aware it’s very weird.

In her designer, heeled boots she was a good four inches taller than stumpy little me and she smelled of wonderful, unaffordable perfume. She blinked and looked confused as the music set to work killing her aural cilia. I felt embarrassed; I wanted to tell her that I am university educated, that I read books, that I watch documentaries and only get involved with dubstep when I think nobody is listening.

The tram came and we shuffled on, still technologically joined by the ear.

“I’m not sure I like it very much.” She said apologetically and a little bit loudly. I laughed and pressed the skip button on my iPod. The next tune up was Perfect Day, sung by Lou Reed. “Oh! I love this one!” She said with genuine joy.

We both stared out the window and listened to Lou Reed, I felt like I was unwittingly putting the moves on a posh lady. I love talking to strangers, but listening to romantic songs whilst sitting with heads tilted together like teenagers… not so much.

Then she started singing along.

At this point, I felt like I had two options. Option one: retract my earphone and move seats. Option two: join in.

I joined in.

A guy reading a Kindle looked at us with annoyance, and we both burst out laughing. It was one of those silly, human moments that you cannot plan and you never forget. As the song finished we approached my stop.

“This is me.” I said, removing my half of the ear phones. She removed hers.

“I enjoyed that, I think I’ll get an iPod for Christmas. I might get some dubsteps on there!” I laughed and extended my hand.

“I’m Kat. Nice to have shared an ear with you!” She shook my hand and told me her name was Louise. I waved at her as the tram pulled away and she waved back enthusiastically.

On Christmas morning, surrounded by my family, I thought about Louise and wondered whether she did actually get an iPod with her son’s music on it.

I expect I’ll never know.




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.