Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Alice In One Eye Land

I put my modelling wages to good use on Saturday and took my lovely wife to the local cinema to see Alice In Wonderland (3D).We’re both Tim Burton / Johnny Depp fans so it was a foregone conclusion that we’d both enjoy the film and it didn’t disappoint. Sumptuous, rich, absurd, kooky. Exactly what is says on the tin. Burton was smart enough not to retell the original story but to craft an addendum to it that threw in the Jabberwocky for good measure. Helena Bonham-Carter was excellent as the Red Queen – I found myself thirsting to see her far more than Depp’s Mad Hatter (superb though his performance was).

Mia Wasikowska won me over as Alice. At first I just wasn’t sure. She wasn’t quite right but then – mirroring the film’s narrative (could be deliberate I suppose – doh!) she suddenly became Alice utterly and completely and I was convinced.

She also looked rather stunning in a suit of armour. Very, very arresting in fact. Yum. Eye candy that clanks. I think I could get into metal in a big way. In fact I’ve just bought myself a blowtorch and some goggles on eBay... but enough about my nefarious metalworking...

...what was special about the evening was that this was my first experience of 3D cinema (as we’d missed the boat with Avatar). With proper 3D glasses and everything.

I have to say it brought out the big kid in me. I was more juvenile than usual (which is saying something). I couldn’t resist putting them on before the film had started and looking around in wonder, muttering loudly, “Wow! They really work!”

What really gave Karen and I the giggles though was a fellow cinema patron who squeezed past us with his partner to get to their seats before the film started. As he shuffled by we heard him bemoan the fact that he probably wouldn’t be able to see the film properly as he could only see out of one eye...

You think? I realize that 3D glasses have come a long way from the red and green lensed cardboard contraptions of the eighties but I’m pretty sure the modern ones still need the viewer to have binocular vision in order for the 3D effect to work properly. Otherwise all you’re going to see is very fuzzy moving images which induce nausea rather than wonder.

And then very bizarrely there were numerous instances in the film where various characters had eyes plucked out... Call me cruel, call me callous, but it had me giggling even more. Old Mr One-eye must have thought that Mr Burton was having a real go at him. A personal attack of visionary proportions (if only he could have seen it properly).

Poor man.

But really, what kind of idiot goes to see a 3D film with only one working eyeball?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

No, Don’t Talk To Me, I Haven’t Landed Yet

We all have our foibles. Our little likes and dislikes. Our pet hates. The things that trigger uranium enriched internal atomic explosions.

Mine is not being allowed to get to my desk when I first arrive at work in the morning.

I don’t ask for much. Just that I be allowed to come in – I’ll say “good morning” if I have to – get to my desk, sit down, turn on my PC and check my emails.

That’s it.

I want to be left alone until all that is done.

I don’t want to come in and find things – other people’s post, mysterious objects that have broken off bits of machinery or the building itself, old newspapers, miscellaneous keys and a smorgasbord of post-it notes all containing complaints – scattered all over my desk and keyboard like the dead at Ypres. I hate that.

More than anything though I don’t want a protracted conversation. Once I’ve checked my emails – fine. I’ll talk the day away quite happily. But first thing in the morning, no... I need to land. Connect with the work place. Commune with my PC. Be forewarned if there is any electronic maliciousness infecting the internet airwaves.

The worst thing is when people talk – relentlessly and regardlessly – at me. Regale me with tales of their adventures the night before. And out of the corner of my eye I can see my email client loading on my PC. And – it’s terribly antisocial of me, I know (I ought to be damned grateful that anybody wants to talk to me at all, ever) – I can feel my body, my mind, my very soul yearning to turn my face away from the speaker so I can scan my In-box. And I nod and I hmm and I give non-committal replies... searching, straining to find the very first break in the conversation that presents itself so I can switch my attention back to my PC monitor.

Talk to the hand. I got mail.

I’m rude. I know I am. Rude and ungrateful. But... *shrugs* It’s just the way I am. I need that time to lower my landing gear, taxi up the runway, disembark a few troublesome passengers and perform my after flight checks. After that my inner hostess can come out, all big teeth and smiles, and I’m all set for work.

The emergency exits are here, here and here.


Good. We’re all clear. Now sit down, shut up and enjoy the flight.

Thank you for flying Steve Airways.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

I’m A Model And I’m Looking Good

Sometimes, when money is short, you find yourself willing to undertake things – paid work – that you would not normally have ever entertained. You find a sudden flexibility in your pride and your prudishness. A willingness to consider options that normally you would have laughed at. Even scoffed at.

Today, at lunchtime, I became a male model.

In exchange for £10 I allowed a local artist to do whatever she wanted with me for a whole hour. I allowed her to pore over my blushing form, to caress my trembling curves with graphite, to render me intimately in tone and texture upon the naked page.

I wore my leopard-skin Y-fronts especially.

And I am glad to say they were not needed. No people, scrub those unwholesome visions of my rude deflowerment from your eyes. There was nothing at all seedy about the transaction.

I was not required to present my male virility nude, naked or otherwise disrobed. It was merely portrait modelling. Head and shoulders. My clavicles upwards. Not even as far down as my man-boobs (very tight and pert thank you for asking).

And to be honest it was a very pleasant hour indeed.

I shan’t name the artist as that would be unfair but she’s a local Asian lady, well into her eighties, with a passion for painting and drawing. A number of my friends model for her and for £10 an hour and a sandwich it’s the easiest work you’re ever likely to get. To be honest the homemade lunch would have been payment enough. The £10 per session is a lovely bonus and means I can buy myself the odd treat. It’s almost like getting pocket money. Add into that mix fascinating conversation, genuine kindness and a wonderful sense of humour and it’s a damn good way to spend a lunch time.

I shall be going back next week and for as many weeks as the benevolent Mrs X is willing to entertain my visage beneath her immaculately décored roof.

I’d be an idiot not to.

After all, only fools and horses...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Pay Day

Many, many years ago, back through the mists of time, pay day used to be a happy, joyous occasion. One received one’s payslip from one’s employer with a sense of joy and excited satisfaction. Sure there’d be bills to pay but the balance left over was yours and yours alone.

A liquid asset. Money left over. Spare cash.

Spare cash?

Such a term now seems utterly absurd. As fantastic a concept as immortality or power over every living thing on the planet (both items on my birthday present list if anybody is interested).

With the advent of online banking I now have the ability to move my cash around electronically the minute it wafts insignificantly into my bank account. Enter a couple of passwords, click a few links and my e-money is shunted around, divided up and attributed to various standing orders and holding accounts to cover all the household bills for the month ahead.

Click click. Slice slice. The cake gets divided up.

And approximately 10 minutes into the pay day experience it soon becomes apparent that I have no spare cash available at all. No money left over. No cake. No cake at all. Because the cake in fact has all gone.

My “liquid” assets are as dry as a rattlesnake’s arse in the Gobi desert.

I quite literally do not ever see a single penny of my hard earned wages. They pass through my e-fingers without ever making an impression.

And so it makes me wonder why the Bank of England doesn’t just save itself some money (ha!) and stop printing it altogether; just have records of money electronically on a database somewhere (to be left on a train for someone to nick – now that would be a great heist). And instead of my employer paying me directly it can just send my wages – pro rata – straight to my various creditors via the internet. Just cut me out of the loop altogether. I am merely the middle man after all. I am no longer working for me; I am working for Tesco, for my mortgage lender, for Severn Trent, for Eon, for the local authority and for the Asian guy down the road in whose corner shop I buy chocolate buttons every Saturday afternoon as a treat for my family (may have to make do with dry biscuits this week, kids).

Pay day?

Ha! For whom exactly?

Certainly not for me.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Ello Darlin’, Fancy A Portion?

I used to have a quick scout around town in my lunchbreak. Check out a few shops. See what was new on the book / DVD scene. It was an unwise pastime that inevitably led to me spending money that I didn’t have. So I knocked it on the head and started going home instead. Half an hour on my own, in the comfort of my own home, watching a bit of telly and drinking tea made from quality teabags instead of the weak, blue stripe shite that gets served up at work.

It’s great. A little island of sanity in the middle of the working day.

My journey home each day takes me past a chippy. I won’t name it except to say it’s on Clemens Street (for those of you that know Leamington) and each time I go by I can guarantee that the guy behind the counter will inevitably be hunched over it, resting on his elbows, straining his neck to watch all the local ladies walking by outside. The place is always empty which is just as well really as he leans so far over the counter his gonads must surely be dipping themselves into the deep fat fryer – so I can only assume that it isn’t actually on.

Should he spy a scantily clad woman of the opposite sex sashaying by he will whistle. Loudly and constantly from inside the shop. An endless, tuneless fluting irritant of sound that neither functions as a catcall or a wolf whistle. And given the reflections on the glass, nobody can really pinpoint where exactly the whistle is coming from (unless, like me, you’re checking the price of cod and chips on the menu pinned to the window and actually see his overly fleshy lips moving). It is a disembodied sound that is plainly laddish and sexist and a bit “porkpie and whippet” trad but the ladies targeted by it can’t see the little berk to give him the inevitable finger.

I’ve worked out – and this shows how frequently he does this – that he favours blondes in tight fitting tops that accentuate “pokie action”, short skirts accompanied by knee-length boots and overly made-up girls the wrong side of the jail-bait divide. He’s plainly gagging for any action he can get and wants to sew his wild roe upstream of as many rivers as he can speedily navigate.

I’ve given him a few “I can’t believe you’ve done that” stares as I’ve walked by but he’s merely blanked me in favour of the goth brunette jiggling on the other side of the road. Plainly the man has no shame.

And plainly no girlfriend (or at least one would hope).

And definitely, definitely no customers.

And that isn’t going to change because, I don’t know about you, but I for one would not want to eat any chips that have been fried in gonad flavoured oil.

I want my fish to taste of the sea... not, you know, semen.

Sorry. But given the nature of this post there was only one way it could have reached its climax.

Anyone else for a portion? ;-)

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Mansion House Of My Childhood

It’s a little known fact that as a child I unknowingly and in all ignorance hobnobbed with the nobility of Leamington Spa.

The lady fourth from left in the photo (click to enlarge) is someone I had always known simply as my Auntie Mary. Her mother is the austere looking lady on the far right. The photo was taken on 14th May 1948, at the opening of a piece of land that had been reopened for the benefit of the public after the war, a piece of land known as The Dell - a public garden that is still there for those of you who have a mind to visit Leamington Spa. Apparently my Auntie Mary’s father had died a couple of days before this photo was taken hence all the black apparel.

My connection with Mary Moore (wife of one of Leamington’s Mayors and owner of Moore’s Sweet Shop famed for its Spa water toffee) is via my grandfather’s sister, Maud Olorenshaw. Maud started off as a maidservant of Mary Moore at her residence, Comber House (apologies for not having any photos of the house).

Comber House is still there and lies on the corner of Union Road and Warwick Place and is now, regrettably, a B&B. I daresay it has been gutted, renovated, rearranged, liposuctioned, nipped & tucked to the point where its original grandeur has been lost. Its original wood panelling ripped out in favour of en suite bathrooms and laundry lifts.

But back when I was a kid the whole house was pretty much as it had been in the 1930’s: a ballroom (which we used as the dining room), wine cellar, at least 6 bedrooms, servant’s quarters in the attic and an amazing stained glass atrium above the main staircase. We’d visit on a number of occasions throughout the year and as a boy I never guessed that my Auntie Maud had started out her life at Comber House as Mary’s maidservant.

At some point way before my birth they’d obviously become friends. Boon companions. They’d formed a crotchety partnership that I, as a child, never questioned or thought odd. They were rarely crotchety with us but would often snipe at each other. All vestiges of Mistress and servant had gone. Instead they had developed “a friendship of equals” where each considered herself the more equal of the two. Kind of like Hinge and Brackett but without the piano.

Maud, although a mere slip of a girl when she had started her working life had become rotund and wheezy by the time I was running around but Mary, despite being the older of the two, still resembled the young woman you see in the photo above. She had deportment in spades. She was always immaculately turned out, always regal and always distantly kind but would occasionally ruffle the calm of a room with a rather wicked joke – she had a very sharp sense of humour. She was a great lady and it is to my regret I didn’t learn more about her until after her death 20 or so years ago when, speed walking as usual (despite being in her eighties) she walked out into the path of a fast moving car.

The house – Comber – was a great feature of my childhood. On our days there my sisters and I would sit impatiently in the dining room, our legs swinging beneath the huge wooden table, waiting for the words that would release us from the boring adult chatter.

“Why don’t you children go and have a wander...?”

We’d be off like a shot. Huge old houses and children go together like lions, witches and wardrobes. Given the sheer amount of loot in every room I’m always amazed that we weren’t held more in check. Auntie Mary would normally stipulate that we had to be careful in her drawing room but other than that we had the freedom of the house. Amazingly a natural reverence kept our grubby little hands away from all the delicate treasures. We’d look but never touch. The house, being old and smelling of its age, was slightly creepy and part of our desire to roam so wide was that childhood need to confront and enjoy this slight feeling of fear. We’d confront it by daring ourselves to go up to the attic. This small box room was the scariest room in the house – just a weird atmosphere – but the cats seemed to like it and we’d always find Mary and Maud’s cats curled up on the windowsill regarding our hullabaloo with seething objection in their eyes.

The bedrooms formed the hub around a vast landing and we’d go into each room in turn and marvel at how untouched everything looked. Majestic beds and décor that looked like it had been time-capsuled from a pre-war age. And all so spotlessly clean. They must have employed a cleaner – there is no way my Auntie Maud could have (or would have) dusted and hoovered all those rooms.

The only room we wouldn’t go into would be the cellar. That was genuinely scary. In fact I only went into it once – with my grandfather – and shot straight out of it again as soon as I could. It smelt of damp and of earth. Not perfumes that appeal to a child’s sensitive nose.

The afternoons were spent in the huge garden, running off the vast Sunday lunch we’d just eaten and again keeping us out of the hair of the grown-ups. The focal point of the garden for us kids was a large stone bird bath in the shape of a frog holding a bowl. I think we christened it rather unimaginatively Kermit and we’d always go and say hello to it whenever we visited.

Happy days.

Sadly after Mary died (some years after the death of my Auntie Maud) the house passed to her son and he in turn sold off a huge chunk of the land to local developers (a large rudely modern townhouse now stands in place of the stone frog) and then eventually, some years later, sold off the house itself. It is now, as I said, a B&B and I doubt it resembles the house of my memories at all. I am occasionally tempted to hire a room for the night just to see inside it... just to see, if the light is right and the planets properly aligned, myself as a small boy creeping up to the attic with my sister’s in tow, or hovering at the top of the cellar steps, not quite daring myself to venture down into the darkness.

Unlike the other houses that I have loved and lost, I never dream about Comber House. But it is a house that, nevertheless, electrifies me with a lot of happy memories whenever I think of it.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Don’t Be A Hero, Just Put The Money In The Bag

I’m considering a bank heist.

No, seriously.

Nothing too big. Don’t want things going moody on me and being put away for a long stretch. Just something small and tasty. An easy job.

And technically it ain’t robbery at all ‘cos it’s my effing money.

Let me explain. I have an account with the NS&I. Nothing too big. Nothing that requires an off-shore tax haven. I’ve barely used the damn thing. In fact, there’s so little in there I’m quite happy to share the amount with you. £159.94p. Most of that has come from collecting 1p, 2p and 5p coins in a jar and occasionally paying them in. It’s kind of been a rainy day fund but there’s never been enough in there to mop up a puddle let alone a rainy day.

After Christmas, having dipped into my overdraft yet again I decided I needed to consolidate my modest estate instead of having bits of tin floating about all over the place. Why not just put all my gelt into one place, I thought to myself. Let’s close the NS&I account and pay the balance into my bank account. It’ll get me out of the red and do some use for once. Finally there was a puddle it could mop up.

Do you think I can get my measly £159.94p out of the NS&I?

Apparently, I can’t just withdraw it over the counter. It’s not that kind of account. I have to keep £100 in there at all times. If I want to withdraw it all I need to close the account.

Fine. I’ll close the account. Hence I was given a load of forms to fill in and send off.

I fill them in and send them off. I wait 2 weeks. The form is returned to me. A note has been pencilled on it. “No bank book enclosed”. They want my bank book sent with the form. Fine. Except I don’t have one. I’ve moved house a couple of times since I opened the account and the bank book could be anywhere though is most likely propping up a flyover by now if you get my meaning. Brown bread, right? I ring them up. Explain this. Fine, they say. Just write “bank book lost” on the form. I do so and send it off again.

I wait 2 weeks. I then have more forms sent back to me in the post complete with my original form. Apparently the bank account details I supplied don’t match the ones they have on record for me. Can I fill in another form detailing the (to them) new bank account details? I duly do so. I send NS&I the same bank details that were on the original form except now they are written on the “change of bank details” form. I send all the forms off again.

4 weeks later I am still waiting. I check my bank account online. £159.94 has not been paid in. By this time I have hauled myself out of the red under my own steam but that is not the point. I want my money. I check my NS&I account online. I have no account it says. Great, I think. They’ve closed my account but have lost my money.

I ring them up. I explain all of this to the nice man on the phone. He checks. Oh, he says. We didn’t receive the change of bank details form. I’ll send another one out to you in the post. There is a bloodstain on the wall from where I’ve been banging my head.

So you see, I’ve tried all the legal routes. All the kosher and the straight routes. And they ain’t working for me.

So there is no alternative. I need a shooter. Nothing fancy. No automatic gubbins – as the Krays will tell you, they tend to jam. A nice Webley will do fine. And I need a driver. Someone who can hold their nerve and wait for the signal. Someone who’ll wait for me to vault the counter John Dillinger style and grab what I’m owed. Wait for me to walk out sharpish and get in the back. And then pull away smooth and inconspicuous like. Job’s a good ‘un.

Anyone interested?

Applications to the usual address.

P.S. Thank you to Jake Arnott for all the lingo.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Bum Explosion


Tom is usually very ambivalent about having his nappy changed. He is at that age where he assuming ownership rights over his nappy and its contents. His objections to a “bum change” (as it is termed) are usually expressed in the single assertion: “Mine!” A gentle tussle will then ensue as the old nappy is wrested away from his nether regions and a fresh one applied.

This morning, however, he marched into the bedroom at “getting up time” (can’t fault him on that) and insisted: “Poo. Poo.” This, for those of you who don’t speak Toddler, means “There is a horrible poo clinging to my buttocks like a limpet, please remove it forthwith.”

The horrible brown stain on his romper suit warned us that all was not right in the nappy universe and we had better go to “condition red” immediately. Envisioning a nappy leakage of Chernobyl proportions I headed for the nappy supplies – clean nappy, nappy sacks, baby wipes, etc – conveniently stored in the boy’s bedroom only to find the entire room was covered in a blanket of snow.

Well. Not snow exactly. But the contents of two packets of baby wipes. They were everywhere. Moist, soft and ready to use. All four hundred of them. We’re guessing that Tom, feeling distinctly uncomfortable in his southern hemisphere, had decided to try a bit of self help and had possibly tried to clean his own bum through his romper suit and his jim-jams. It was always going to be Mission Impossible, bless him.

So grabbing a few wipes from the drifts around me I set about peeling Tom out of his clothes. It wasn’t pretty. In fact I probably reacted like a battlefield doctor when faced with something extraordinarily horrific. The humble instruments I had to hand were just not going to do the job.

There was only one thing for it. An emergency splish-splash-splosh (or “bath” as it is known in common parlance).

The boy was summarily dunked and sluiced. The unclean bandages of his jim-jams flung into the washing machine. The gravy-filled nappy bagged up and dropped into the bin destined for the nearest landfill.

All this took merely ten minutes. A fact which, quite frankly, amazes me. When faced with bad situations, I guess the mind goes into overdrive. Time seems to slow down. The body exhibits a dexterity that has the exactness of clockwork. The wife and I work together like the parts of a well oiled AK-47. No jamming, even in hot conditions.

Before Tom knew it he was clean, presentable, dressed and having a long toke on a tumbler of milk. He looked slightly dazed. Shocked even.

I’m glad to say he had fully recovered within 15 minutes. The paras could stand down.

I, on the other hand, have gone into delayed shock. Battle fatigue. Post traumatic stress disorder.

It’s the only reason I can come up with to explain why I just can’t face eating chocolate this morning.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Who’s Got My Spider?

When I was 6 or 7 – no older as my youngest sister hadn’t yet been born – my grandparents took me and my other sister to Twycross Zoo. My memories of the day are like the recollection of a dream: both vivid and yet fragmented and incomplete.

I know that it was a blazingly hot summer’s day. The kind we don’t seem to get anymore when you can feel the heat bouncing up from the grass. I know my mother had dressed me in the ubiquitous seventies combination of open toed sandals and really short shorts. Both were brown and I daresay I’d been put into an orange t-shirt as well. Coupled with my National Health spectacles I must have looked like a street urchin from one of Gene Hunt’s nightmares.

I have vague recollections of watching the chimp’s tea party – this was back in the days when such things were accepted as normal and not at all cruel or detrimental to the mental health of the animals. I remember the chimpanzees as being very smelly, very noisy and very messy. My recollections of the day start to run dry from this point onwards. I don’t remember seeing any of the other animals, or the car journey there and back and though the faces of my grandparents are strongly imprinted in my mind I can’t quite picture them on this day though they were undoubtedly there. It’s like they’ve been blurred out, pixelated.

The one overriding memory of this day that I do have is of being allowed to buy something from the zoo gift shop. I went for a “huge” (probably only a foot long) rubber spider. It had long dangly legs that were covered with little rubber stipules giving it a hairy appearance. And it was on a piece of elastic which meant it could be bounced like a demonic yo-yo.

I loved that spider.

Inevitably, like all favourite toys, it was unwisely taken into school. It caused a great stir. I can remember causally getting it out of my satchel to show my best friend at the time (John McCrae – hello if you’re reading this) and hearing a glass shattering screech from somewhere to my left. Mrs Reeves, one of the hardest teachers in the school, was stood pole-axed, looking at me. Or rather looking at the spider. Thankfully she realized I wasn’t deliberately trying to give her a heart attack and laughed it off in that way that teachers have that is neither laughing nor quite forgiving you even though you haven’t exactly done anything wrong.

The spider accompanied me everywhere for weeks. Either in my satchel or stuffed up – a wriggly, brown rubber ball – in the pocket of my parker. It naturally found its way into break time games. The favourite of these was John and I using it as some kind of ball or bizarre projectile. Throwing it to each other or, even more stupid given its eventual fate, using the elastic to swirl it around at high velocity and then releasing it upwards into the air.

It was John who in the end misjudged the release. My last memory of my spider is seeing it sailing over the school yard wall into the back garden of one of the gloomy houses that backed onto the school perimeter. It fell through the air, legs fluttering behind its body like a black comet, and made an insignificant crater somewhere amongst the scary shrubbery of the forbidden garden.

I peered through the gate many times but could never see it. It was gone forever and the mindset of a child seems to skip over any possibility of asking a grown-up to help or even just knocking on the door of the house to see if the owner would hand it over. In all honesty it never crossed my mind. I feared we’d get into trouble for throwing it over the wall in the first place (the owners of the nearby houses were always moaning about footballs ending up on their property) and I couldn’t see Mrs Reeves being very sympathetic.

It took me a long while in kid’s terms to forgive John. At least a week.

The school is now long gone. It was converted years ago into some sort of horrible hi-tech media training centre and I daresay the surrounding houses have been renovated and new owners come and gone. But every time I walk by I always wonder what happened to my spider. Was it callously binned or did it find itself another appreciative owner? Sadly I don’t think they make toys like that anymore. Certainly I’ve never come across any and I do look occasionally.

I do think that if I’ve kept hold of that spider my subsequent education would have taken me on a completely different career path - botanical scientist or wildlife conservationist. Instead, thanks to one erroneous twang of the elastic, here I am: up to my spiderless arms in alarms, toilets and maintenance.

Oh what a tangled web we weave, eh?

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Still Think I’m A Sex God?

Now I’m well aware of the high esteem in which most of you hold me. Well aware that sexually most of you have placed me on a pedestal so high I can look down and see where the Grecian 2000 has slightly dried out Brad Pitt’s scalp. And I’m flattered. I really am. It’s nice to be appreciated. Nice to be lauded. Nice to have to beat off all you devoted fans with a shitty stick each time I leave the house to go to work or carry out a simple errand.

But part of my charm is honesty. Hence I feel that I cannot lie to you any longer.

You see, I too have imperfections. Blemishes. Physical flaws that, whilst they don’t altogether mar my sex god-hood, they do at least render me as mortal as the rest of you ungodly people.

Take for instance my thumbs. They are as opposable as any minor deity could wish. Long and slender. I’m able to grip all manner of objects and implements (steady ladies). But the very tips of them are defaced with cuts and nicks. This condition seems to worsen when the weather turns colder. It’s like the skin splits and before I know it I have a tiny but deep cut that thrusts itself well under my nail. It hurts like hell and getting my hands wet (steady again ladies) only makes it worse. These cuts take an age to heal and the slightest pressure opens them up again. Whilst infected with these unwanted incisions I have to wear marigolds to do the washing up.

Yes, ladies, gentlemen. I do the washing up. Every day. Please try and swoon yourselves onto some soft furnishings.

And then there is... and it pains me to say this... my ugly toenail.

Just as Achilles had his weak ankles I have my beauty slightly lessened by a deformed toenail. It has got steadily worse over the last year. Discoloured. Rucked up. Folded under almost upon itself. Occasionally it seems to bleed. Regularly it plagues my walking hours with a quiet heat that by the end of the day has built up into noticeable pain. My doctor, you will recall, has already sent off a sample to the lab to be tested for fungal infection (after she had swooned into her NHS soft furnishings at the sight of my naked and lithely posable foot).The results, naturally, were negative. I mean, as if my body could produce something as commonly unwholesome as fungus!

How I laughed.

But the toenail is – and I know you will all gasp as one when I say this (and not for the first time, eh ladies?) – unsightly.

So there you have it. Even someone as perfect as myself has body issues. Little segments of me that I feel are less than perfect. That don’t quite match up with the quality and excellence of the rest of me.

I hope that in bearing my beauteous soul here today I have given some of you ordinary folk comfort. The sense that, for all you may be craning your necks to look up at me, I in turn am able to bend down and give you an understanding smile.

Because I do understand. Truly I do.

*Sigh* What burdens you all bear.

Er. We. What burdens we all bear.


Tuesday, March 02, 2010


The novel is now in its third incarnation. It’s been tweaked, pummelled and teased. I’ve read it through so many times I can no longer hear the rhythm of the language. I can’t tell if it jars or if it flows. The first five chapters have been re-arranged. Vast tracts of text have been cut out like malignant tumours and dumped into metaphorical specimen jars. I’d like to take the analogy even further and say it’s been rebuilt like Steve Austin. The world’s first bionic novel. But to be honest I haven’t got 6 million dollars to throw at it.

The point is though it is now ready to be placed into a Moses basket (mixing my metaphors here like the crazy dude I am) and sent off downstream to prospective agents, one of whom may favour it and me by clasping it to his/her bosom and taking it on to the promised land.

All I need to do is write the covering letter, the synopsis and some sort of CV / About Me document. And I’ve written versions of all three of these. They just need finishing. Salient information adding. Tidying up. The work of a single afternoon.

All I need to do is put my mind to it.

And yet my mind insists on putting itself elsewhere; on finding a hundred and one other, less urgent things to do.

I wonder why?

Is it fear of (re)entering the rejection game? My natural loathing of all kinds of admin? Or just plain laziness?

I suspect it is all three. But it occurred to me today that if I am not careful I will spend the same amount of time just physically getting the novel sent off to an agent as it took to write the ruddy thing in the first place.

This blog post is meant to be a boot up the backside to myself – but do feel free to add your toes behind it.

Quit stalling, man! Get it sent off. Faint heart never won fair maiden and all that.

Besides which I have ordered a few reference books ready for my next novel. Various guides to sign language and deaf culture... which may possibly give you a small clue as to some of the subject matter.

It’s time to draw a line under the old and commence with the new.

What's the sign for "stop prevaricating and get on with it"?

Give me a week or two and I should be able to tell you.