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Good God, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? I swear I’d been intending these to be a weekly affair, and it’s been nigh on two months already. Yikes.  What do I go with, reasons or excuses? Reasons include job hunting like a fiend (boooo) and acquiring a lovely lady(bear*) (yaaaayy!). Excuses include ‘Oh, God, what? Look, I was ill and I’ve fallen behind with stuff, alright? Is that ok with you, Captain Prolific? Who even asked you? Jee-sus…’ I prefer the excuses, but the reasons might be more… reasonable.

* This is a Twitter reference. I’m not on Twitter and I’m not going to be. But she is, with 140 character bells on.

Bon. On y va. Job hunting – what a perfect shit. I thought it was hard when I first moved to London, but currently it’s insane – there’s at least ten times the number of people going for stuff I should be able to walk into. Not career jobs, mind you (and I use the ‘C-word’ sparingly) – whatevs jobs. The jobs that serve as classic insulation between ‘proper’ jobs (for heaven’s sake…) and negotiating the JSA bête noir (look I’m feeling Gallic today, d’accord?). In short: temp hell. Which I can’t even get into. In November I signed on for the first time since the nineties – WT actual F? I’m all for testing the theory that I was paying national insurance half my life for some sort of reason, but that’s not funny. I’m in proper Yosser Hughes ‘giz a job’ territory. The jobs your parents’ generation tells you to swallow your pride on whilst haranguing you about how you ‘think you’re too good to do that’ you cannot even access. Bugger…

I don’t know when the last time you filled in a job application was, but I’ve recently been reminded, quite convincingly, that I still suck at them (thankfully new GF is really rather good and knows how to spin shit, but more on her later). The problem I have when poring over job applications is that I’m appalled, and then I switch off, in that order. I find it condescending in the extreme that a given company asks people why they want to work for them when it is clearly a role which wouldn’t be a labour of love for anyone but the clinically insane. ‘Briefly explain why you are applying to work for us’. ‘Shits and giggles, fuckface – I need a job! We live in a capitalist society – I will die without money, d’you understand this? Exactly how new are you? ‘The fear of physical, literal death’ – that is why I am applying to you. I think we both know I wouldn’t otherwise. See the homeless dude out there? Yeah – that’s what I don’t want to be. And to this end, I am applying to fuckin’ you…’

That’s the first stage in my not really being cut out for this. Next comes the job description/ person specification in all its soporific glory. As far as I can tell the correct human response to these things can only possibly be one of narcolepsy. I’ve had some doozies lately; the kind that, when their effects are reported in the news, contain the words ‘before turning the gun on himself’. If you could only have seen the document I was supposed to be wading through the other day. I needed a syringe full of adrenaline next to me and a sign round my neck saying ‘If found slumped in chair, you’ve all seen Pulp Fiction and I don’t think medical qualifications really come into this… Aim for the heart, do your best – much obliged.’ I want to see more honest lines of questioning available on job application forms for when the people putting the thing together are turning into tosspots and need telling. The opportunity to provide them with accurate feedback would be invaluable (and easier than the afore-mentioned resuscitation). Just a little something at intervals to punctuate the ordeal along the lines of: ‘So on a scale of one to ten, how disconcerting is filling this palaver out for you? With one being stress-free and ten being Ant and Dec’s continued employment.’

And so from JSA-hugging unemployable wretch to the strange phenomenon that is ‘I’m currently not single’. Turns out I didn’t need internet dating (four years ago I spent a frustrating three months on… let’s call them ‘Catch. Mom’ (Oedipal complex not withstanding), where I have never felt more bereft of my own time or freewill in my life. There was more than a little bit of a flashback to school for me, too… ‘Look, ladies, I acknowledge I’m not one of the popular kids, but I still wholeheartedly believe that more than none of you should be interested in me…’) – no, it turns out I just needed a quality independent bookshop. To hang out in and find a like-minded soul. (Thanks, Tim and Simon). And not before time, either – how long had it been? A while… Without going into detail on my monk-like credentials, let’s just say I have a fairly thorough working knowledge of the internet… (Ah, the internet – or to give it its full title: ‘The Internet – an abundance of free porn and thank goodness, because some of us were about to kill again’). My litmus test here is when you find yourself remembering sex how other people remember a fun day out: ‘Oh, yeah, I remember that… No, no – it was good. Was good… Had a lovely time… Would love to go back next year…’

There are a number of reasons for this, but the main one will always be because I don’t exactly havegame’. My ability to chat a woman up doesn’t extend much further than ‘Hello. I like you.’ Which, done right, is sweet; done wrong – is just creepy. ‘Hello, I like you.’ ‘Daaaaa! Take my money!’ Also, ‘Hello, I like you’ is *that far* from having a ‘help’ on the end of it. ‘Hello, I like you – heeeeelllpp!’ Like a wounded animal howling; just ‘Heeellp! I’m in quite a bad way; please take pity on me..!’ This behaviour isn’t dissimilar to how dogs act in an animal sanctuary when they know prospective owners are coming round; it’s the same ‘Please like me! Please just like me..!’ (On the other hand, she and I have quickly acquired the running joke of me deliberately doing the worst chat-up lines I can produce in a given situation, i.e. (fumbling around the TV) ‘Where do I find the remote that turns you on?!’ And my favourite so far: ‘I don’t want to be on the sex offenders’ register unless you’re calling the names!’ Note, for both of these examples I’m basically giving it the full ‘Buddy Christ’ point and wink. Thank God we have the same sense of humour…)

So we’re doing well, thanks for asking. Nearly didn’t happen though. Last summer she laid it on quite thick that ‘nothing was going to happen’ between us and hoped I was ok with ‘being just friends’. Here’s the thing: if you’re a female who wants to be ‘just friends’ with me, that role has been grossly over-subscribed since, well, the nineties, really. Demand has massively out-stripped supply and in that regard, it’s incredibly similar to trying to get tickets for the London 2012 Olympics. And like London 2012 Olympics tickets, I am seriously considering capping the number made available. ‘What, you’d like to be ‘just friends’ with me? Oh, that is a shame… If only you’d been here in ’98… Yeah, you might have got a place… No, not now, you silly! I’m afraid it’s going to be inane pleasantries followed by an unspoken ‘We will never see each other again’. ‘K – bye. Bye.’ Which is why I responded to her with ‘Yeah, sure – of course I’m ok with that! Why wouldn’t I be…’ (Yes, this made for an interesting juxtaposition with my inner monologue that was busily bleating ‘Shitshitshit – abort! Abort! Pull out of there, goddammit!’) Harrumph…

Not surprising, though; women have always found me to be infinitely expendable. Well, you tell me. The times I’ve found myself in a new relationship, things seem to be going great; you’re convinced that she likes you as much as you like her; you’re putting the effort in, spending money you don’t have, and quicker than you can say ‘Hello, darkness, my old friend’, you’ve been dumped by shitting text. Once, years ago, I had a girl I was in (predictably unrequited) love with say to me: ‘Well I’d recommend you to all my friends…’ I’m not a timeshare in the Maldives, dammit! What, ‘you’re not in to me, but you might know someone with presumably lower standards who is’?! Oh – you condescending harpy – can you find it in your heart to fuck off…? Before I pull my hair out and stuff your family with it, in a process the police are already referring to as ‘guerrilla taxidermy’.

This one’s a bit of a good ‘un, though. How to describe her? One of the first things she did was lend me her copy of Alan Moore’s ‘Lost Girls’. I can’t think of any girlfriend I’ve ever had who would even know what Alan Moore’s ‘Lost Girls’ was, much less lend me her copy. For those of you unfamiliar with it, ‘Lost Girls’ is a forty quid hardback of the most wonderful erudite filth. Bless her. If that isn’t the yardstick for ‘soul mate’…

She gets my jokes (hallelujah… ‘One girlfriend per decade who gets your jokes, I’m afraid; that’s your quota and rules is rules…’) although this does cut both ways – she’s switched on enough to be on the same wavelength as me, but also switched on enough for it to have taken her about five seconds to clock my tendency to laugh at my own jokes. I’ll have said something funny and we’ll laugh at it. Then four minutes later I’ll be giggling again. ‘You’re laughing at your own ‘joke’, aren’t you?’ ‘Hee heee – yes! Yes, I am!’ (Incidentally, that is the self-same propensity-to-rest-on-past-glories attitude that has taken me straight to the top of ‘inbetween jobs’…)

She likes poundshops. I’d never been in one before (could you be any more of a clichéd bloody middle class nightmare?) and with hindsight, the Wood Green branch of Poundland in the run-up to Christmas probably wasn’t the best place to pop my poundshop cherry. But what the hey… We’re in the kitchen bits aisle (it’s not an aisle. More of a cache…) and she’s pawing at something that is ostensibly electrical goods when she caught my look of bourgeoisie disdain. Which she countered with ‘It’s alright; it’s got a kite mark’. Well – it’s got a kite scrape… But that is not a mark. I mean you go ahead and buy it, but I will do scissors, paper, stone with you to see which of us has to go first at plugging it in. And if it’s you, I will be in the other room with my fingers in my ears, bracing for impact and getting ready to dial 999 whilst mouthing ‘I told you so’. (I haven’t been back in there since, buuuu-ut, I did pick up the first two Leftfield albums for a quid a piece. Alright, ‘Release the Pressure’ skips a bit, which is on the unforgivable side of pre-owned, (don’t you fuck with my nostalgia, Poundland, that’s my sodding youth…) but – it’s a quid a pop. And how churlish would you have to be, y’know…?)

Nothing blew up. And I’m aware that sounded almost disappointed. It’s like when you try googling google to see if anything actually explodes (It doesn’t, by the way; there’s not even smoke – ‘s a complete let down…) What I’m saying is it’s the same morbid curiosity present. That a potential partner would have to humour. It dawned on me the other day that the amount of stuff I say which, out of context, just sounds bad is really quite a bit. And she doesn’t just tolerate it in the way that most women would (have to…) – she finds it as funny as I do. Recent gems include: ‘Your bum’s better than ninety per cent of hand dryers’ and the frankly dumped-worthy ‘You’re like a camel – but for piss’. I think we’re going to be ok…

Bien, alors – those are the reasonable reasons for blog tardy. I will be trying very hard to ensure it doesn’t happen again (I nearly wrote ‘promise’ then thought better of it). And not just because I’m quite the fan of WordPress enthusing at you with a litany of progressively bouncy superlatives when you post something new (‘That’s fantastic!!!’) Like a dentist bribing children with lollipops, aren’t you, WordPress? In any case, relax. You had me at ‘cowabunga’.

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Neonatal Neuroses

They say that your birth and how you’re brought into this world can affect the person you become: I was involved in two separate car crashes in utero and I’ve been on edge since. I was a month premature and I’m astonished it wasn’t earlier. If I’d been capable of speech at the time, it would have gone something like: ‘Oh. Thank. God… Doc, come ‘ere… Look, I don’t know who this woman is, but she’s not safe – she’s not safe… I appreciate I’m jaundiced and my lungs are under-developed, but you know what? I’m gonna take my chances with a lifetime of asthma because this is ridiculous – I’ll be in my incubator if you need me…’ Here’s a tip: if you want your child to come out half-way normal, when your driving instructor is telling you how to steer into the skid, pay attention and work it out. Before they hit their thirties and start writing something like this

In fairness, I don’t think the car crashes (it’s crashes – plural, y’know, that’s what gets me…) were solely to blame for my being premature. I think they may’ve been a contributing factor, but not the only one. It was the winter of ‘78/ ’79 and there was a lot of snow and ice on the roads; I’m a reasonable man – have some benefit of the doubt. However, I would draw your attention to Exhibit B: my mother’s taste in music. A cursory glance through her record collection of the time finds us staring down the barrel of: Simon and Garfunkel, Barbra Streisand, Elaine Paige, Clanaad… The Carpenters, for fuck’s sake – this is not music to survive a long, cold winter with, is it, Mum? I know you like ‘We’ve only just begun’, but I think I’ve enough to worry about between two pre-natal fender-benders without that maudlin bitch’s ode to mental illness pulsing through my amniotic fluid like depressed sonar. ‘We’ve only just begun – really? Have we? God, what do I have to do to get out of here early? What? All I have to do is go through life with an under-developed respiratory tract? Pffftt – fuck it! Sounds do-able..! Banzai!!

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could advise your Mum on music from still inside the womb? Bar some seventies folk club stuff that I actually quite dig (Decameron) and an entirely appropriate deluge of Queen, my Mum’s taste for the time was… limited. Some sort of Mum/foetus intercom would’ve been lovely. ‘Muuuum! Mum! You know how we’re just sort of south of Birmingham anyway? Right, two words: Black Sabbath. No. No, honestly… Mum… Mum, look, they’ve been going since the sixties and it’s high time you nurtured a frame of reference. And since we’re in the area, you can look into Judas Priest while you’re at it. Right, also, there’s a band called AC/DC doing really rather well at the moment; might want to check them out… Hendrix… Look, he’s been dead for nearly a decade; if you could bring yourself up to speed with his work now, I won’t have to explain him to you in my teenage years…’ Mid-teens, I had to explain Jimi Hendrix to my mother, d’you know what she said? ‘Well, you can’t expect me to be familiar with music from your generation.’ That’s what she said! If it were anyone apart from your own mother, you’d slap ‘em. Rightly.

Fast-forward to Christmas just gone. I slink back to Lincolnshire and the house I grew up in a few times a year these days and I should go more. Not for the area; that hasn’t been home (now there’s a concept…) to me in forever. No, I should be going back more for my Mum who (because I’m an idiot and it didn’t really occur to me as being actually possible) is getting older. I know – you’d think it’d be immediately apparent, wouldn’t you, but… it’s your Mum. Who is now. Looking. Visibly. Old. She’s 64 this year – ‘64’ sounds old doesn’t it? Impossibly old… How is my Mum… old? I mean there’s middle age and then there’s… retired – that is free bus pass, people offering you their seat, struggling to operate technology (‘Hang on – this kettle has a touchscreen…’) old. The same person, but with nothing like the same amount of fight left in them. Who you notice worries about things they never used to worry about and has that  frustration that stems from knowing, these days, they can’t just overcome something through sheer force of will. That they did their best and sometimes it came up short (this being only human is a proper bugger…) One child to get right, doing everything in your power and somehow he couldn’t quite… Get there. Did everything right and when it came down to it, it didn’t make a lick of difference and now there isn’t all the time in the world to make it right. Tick, and indeed, tock.

I’ve been increasingly aware the last year of people my age losing parents; I don’t think I’ve ever been consciously mindful of that before. Cos she’s Mum. And she’s just there, surely?

I’ve apologised to my Mum for a million things over the course of my life, but it’s only comparatively recently I’ve felt the urge to apologise for the course of my life. That maybe she won’t be around for long enough to see me make it better (sincerely – how long does that actually take? Where do I get something resembling an ETA…?) The real stinger is: I’m aware I should have been brilliant. (No pressure…) And any defence I offered would sound like a rationalised and quite possibly pretentious cop-out: ‘Rugged individualism has no place in the society I’m up against.’ ‘The game was rigged. Not to mention sickening.’ ‘How can I put this…? Erm – I’m not very good in human form…’ All accurate. None quite cutting the mustard.

I thought ‘we’d only just begun’. Damn. Mum, I know it’s been a rough ride and I’ve kind of made a habit of leaving things/ towns/ wombs as early as possible – but I’m sort of keen to loiter with you for a while…

You know how you have a good idea sometimes? That’s so good and you know isn’t intended at anyone maliciously (faux or otherwise) except one person and that’s kind of ok because you throw crap at each other all the time and it’s just funny and you’ve run it by them a month ago and yes, they think it’s funny too to the point where they’re requesting a whole chapter on the phenomenon that is them and it’s not like you’re naming them in any case and it’s coming from you for heaven’s sake (and who takes what you have to say seriously? I’ve seen and heard me before now and I certainly don’t…) so what’s the big brouhaha ever about?

Yeah, that.

Said idea might possibly have gone the teeniest bit awry… You know the real problem with the deliberate use of anonymity? I didn’t until Saturday, so I’ll tell you: people that something isn’t about might think that that something is about them. Not (with blessed, glorious hindsight) that unreasonably. And without that much of a leap involved. Which this author should definitely have bloody spotted. Erm – ‘Oops’?

It’s one of those things that with the benefit of hindsight seems obvious like ‘don’t put real spiders in your arachnophobic friend’s birthday card just because you’ve learnt what flooding behavioural therapy is’ or ‘don’t watch Godfrey Reggio’s ‘Qatsi’ trilogy stoned’ (really don’t do that – the nightmares aren’t worth it…) What I’m saying is I’m the type who invariably will need telling. Please don’t assume ‘Yeah – he’ll get that’. Because past experience suggests I definitely won’t. Putting my freedom of speech high horse out to pasture for a moment, I can only apologise if I caused someone upset where only laughter (always laughter) was ever intended. To this end, I will be trying to ensure all rants (however cathartic and caught up in them I may be) do not harm an individual who is not the object of them (unless it’s Jeremy Clarkson, and I still can’t believe I’ve had to defend him this week; I just feel… wrong).

As such, please continue to call me on things if you think I’ve gotten something wrong (factually, editorially, cataclysmically…) or just goofed for no reason other than I have a massive tendency to add two plus two and walk off with five. Under no circumstances should something I say in the context of this blog lead you to believe I have anything resembling the first clue, or indeed, gravitas. One of the few things going in my favour is I know I don’t know (although I do sometimes find it funny to speak confidently as if I did).

If I find myself courting controversy again, I want it to be because – dash it all – I like microwaving cereal. There, I’ve said it.

And, kitchen CSI aside, I’m quite the fan of my current household.

Cheers m’dears.

Communal living. Good gravy – really? Living with people… A situation best avoided if you can possibly manage it, but when you move to London, by and large, it’s sadly not going to happen any other way. People you have to… share with – have we established I’m an only child? Sharing? Not on my watch, Daddy-O. I remember the first time I realised other people have no intention of looking after your stuff as well as you do; I was five and had taken some A-Team action figures into school with me. It wasn’t pretty. By the end of the day Hannibal and B.A. looked like they were auditioning for the Paralympics via a particularly messy tour of Helmand Province. My Mum tried to reassure me at the time that ‘Maybe as they grow older they’ll learn to take better care of people’s things.’ Sorry to rebuke your ‘seeing the best in others’ philosophy, Mum, but if there’s one thing I’m in a position to painfully confirm, it’s that thoughtless shitty children grow into thoughtless shitty adults. And you’re probably going to have to watch them sail through life earning more than you whilst they do it. Zero regard for others would seem to be an asset in a capitalist society – who knew?

So, yeah – housemates. Just, fucking housemates. The academic ones are worst. I am sick and tired of having to explain entry-level physics to people who ostensibly have qualifications in the thing. So far I’ve had to explain that ‘gravity goes down’ to a doctor and three different vets. Did any science pop up while you were working your way through those? No? Didn’t think so, you white-collar nightmares… All the theory and none of the practical with you people, isn’t it? I hate walking into my kitchen, I end up feeling like a crime-scene investigator – I can just see what they’ve done. I know who’s responsible for which pile of crap; if they’ve tried to hide the evidence and why they’ve failed. If, by any chance, some university lecturers are reading this, could you kindly do me one small favour? When a new year starts and you get to welcome a new batch of students, regardless of the subject you teach, could you sit them down, prop them up with coffee and dictate the following:

‘How The Fuck To Wash Up – Properly, You Fucking Dicks’

– A user-guide by Undercover J. Aikidoka

One: When you wash shit up, wash it – don’t just get it wet. This will involve you filling the sink with water that is warmer than cold combined with a detergent of your choosing – DO NOT JUST RUN IT UNDER THE TAP. YOU CORNER-CUTTING DIV.

Two: When you put things to dry in the drying out rack, you’ll note that it has compartments for different stuff – USE THEM. If you have crammed plates in there so hard that there is no space between them, THEY WON’T DRY, WILL THEY? AND THEN YOU’LL PUT THEM AWAY WET, WON’T YOU? Yes, I’m talking to you – put the Dostoyevsky down, you fucking student – WHY DO YOU NOT THINK THIS MATTERS? The aim here is that it dries itself after you’ve buggered off and if it’s all just heaped up in one neolithically retarded pile, IT’S NOT GONNA DO THAT, IS IT?  Your shit needs to be upright in the draining rack because GRAVITY GOES DOWN – GOT THAT?

Three: Bits in the plughole, aka I know you think it’s a bin, but it’s honestly plumbing. So, washing-up’s all done; you’ve finished that pigfucker of a chore – wahoo! Time to hot foot it the hell out of there, right? Wrong, mong. Time to inspect the plughole and fish out whatever detritus you saw fit to secrete. Onion, pasta, rice – cellophane, for fuck’s sake. That greeny-browny stuff from last Thursday. I know you’re invariably ok with ‘out of sight, out of mind’ as your motto for life, but it’s going to clog the shit out of the pipes and make them smell – and that makes me a sad panda. A sad, borderline-psychotic-with-very-little-borderline panda – I think we can agree it’s in your own interests to get with the fucking programme. Before, in a cruel twist of fate, it is you who is swept under the carpet. And by ‘carpet’, I mean ‘canal’. And by ‘swept under’ I mean ‘coshed and unceremoniously dumped in the’.

Four: Use of tea towels. Because apparently someone needs to fucking tell you. If you get crap of whatever description on a tea towel, put it by or in the machine so that whoever does washing next can shove it in with their stuff. DO NOT JUST HANG IT BACK UP, YOU DIZZY BITCH. Also, while we’re on the subject: surface area. Remember the ‘entry-level physics’ I was banging on about a minute ago? That science shit that’s meant to be your strong suit? Yeah – listen up, nerds: when a tea towel is wet, do you think it will dry out faster by a) spreading it out over the widest possible area it can accommodate, or b) scrunching it up into a compact ball to offer maximum density? LIKE THE INSIDE OF YOUR SKULL, YOU FUCKING TIT.

And if any of you have ‘b’ as your standard operating procedure, I’ve bad news for you because your course fees just doubled. It’s all part of a new incentive scheme we’re offering entitled ‘More Stick, Less Carrot’. Look, we wouldn’t have to do this if your parents had raised you to be less ridiculous… And yes, I’m bringing ‘div’ back.

Gates of Hell

I hate Microsoft Office, I really do. I wish I could make the leap to Mac-monkey, but it’s hard. There’s that old joke about ‘How many Microsoft engineers does it take to change a lightbulb? None – they just make dark the new industry standard.’ I used to love that joke, now I just accept it as accurate. The amount of times I have to click ‘Ignore rule’ whilst working in Word is astonishing. It’s only equalled by the number of times I have caught myself going ‘You’re an idiot, Microsoft Word. Actually an idiot’. The barrage of ‘corrections’ it offers that make a given sentence really badly wrong is mind-blowing; so much so, I’m beginning to think its first language wasn’t English – I’m not being software-ist, but…‘They come over ‘ere, taking our typewriters – good, British typewriters…’ (That’s my impression of Al Murray’s audience and their so-linear-it-hurts sensibilities, by the way – I love Al Murray, but his audience couldn’t fit a Sun-reader stereotype any better if they’d brought their own scaffold.

Finally, someone unafraid to tell it like it is.’

‘He’s Oxbridge-educated and that’s called satire.’

What..?’

Al Murray is the best example I can think of, of a performer who is immeasurably better than the audience that gravitates towards them. In that sense, I regard him as being very similar to the band Slipknot. (It’s possible he isn’t aware of this comparison…))

But with the above in mind, what do you suppose the chances of us successfully repatriating Microsoft Word would be? Just back to wherever the sweet hell it came from – Silicon Valley? It can take its eyeball-reddening sibling, Excel with it, too. There is no way in the world I should have a working knowledge of Excel and I’m appalled that life has put me in situations where I now do. Yes, I could learn to use Pivot Tables, but it would result in me dying more inside than I’m comfortable with. ‘But they’re so handy for presentations.’ Well so are a megaphone and duct-tape, sunshine, but neither of them result in a level of existential angst that Nietzsche would balk at. I haven’t had to scream ‘It’s so fucking meaningless’ at a screen like that since inadvertently catching a Hollyoaks omnibus in ’96. If spread sheets came with a surgeon general’s warning, Excel’s would read ‘Warning: prolonged use will result in your eyes going so pinky-bloodshot you look like you’ve been on the business-end of a bukake party. And you’ll probably start cutting again.’

Microsoft Word was raised in a fucking brothel, by the way; do not take grammar tips from it, ever, ever, ever. The last time I witnessed that profound an inability to conjugate a verb, I was looking into doing a TEFL course. I think it’s just how… confident Word is. That gets me. You know it’s wrong and were it a person instead of software you could explain to them why it is they’re wrong on about three different levels. Or better still confront them about why they feel compelled to correct others when it’s immediately apparent their own ability isn’t up to much – don’t make me reach for a splinter-in-eye-critiquing biblical reference, Microsoft Word. I wouldn’t mind, but I’m not a decent enough human being for it not to end in a slanging match with the screen. ‘You imagine you’re in a position to correct my grammar, Microsoft Word? Really? How interesting – which of us, attended a grammar school, Microsoft Word? Wasn’t you, was it? You probably had to settle for the local comp… And you’ve had a chip on your shoulder since.’ – I have actually said those words… It’s amazing how quickly I’ll change my tune on some things; I will actively despise grammar schools and all the middle-class elitism that goes with them, right up until some spotty oik of a programme has a go and starts underlining things I’ve written in red. At which point I will promptly turn round and end that Gatesian piece of shit in the most Ofsted-passing fashion I can muster.

Zzzzzzz…

Whoever designed sleep was a fucking idiot. It’s back-to-front – all the good stuff’s at the end. All the delicious DMT-soaked REM sleep that we physically die without: right at the back. All the boring ‘staring-at-your-own-eyelids’ carry-on that none of us are fussed about and has persuaded me to go to bed at a sensible time never – ‘Yeah, I reckon we’ll stick that at the front, shall we?’ This was done by work experience at best. It’s like when you look at the BBC’s weather forecast and you know there was no-one with a meteorological qualification anywhere near it. Not wishing to cast aspersions, but I believe the phrase ‘Knocked out by interns on their lunch break’ is relevant. Come on, it’s got to be. On a really bad week, if you’re paying attention, you can practically spot them trying to come up with new words for ‘drizzle’.

With this amateurish layout in mind, how is anyone supposed to get up with an alarm? Perhaps a more pertinent question would be ‘Why should I trust and/or have respect for people who can get up with an alarm?’ Particularly the ones who think there are some sort of hypothetical brownie points available for the least amount of shut-eye you can get by on – what kind of competitive duckfuck do you have to be before sleep deprivation becomes a contest? ‘Yeah, I’ve been getting about four hours a night this week…’ Then you’re a dick. You might as well start marking self-harmers out of ten for style and presentation of the cuts. Why would a person have that little respect for sleep? I mean, if you’re a parent, fine – you’re fucked – but anyone else… ‘I find I can actually get by with far less sleep than most people.’ Hmm – well, it’s adorable and everything, but you’re still a douche who’s misunderstood the nature of your condition. ‘Yeah, I find I can get so much more done’ – you could be getting sleep done. You know that thing we drop dead without that makes us better at whatever it is we’re doing? Yeah, that. I’ve never been a fan of quantity over quality and I am a fan of unconsciousness. ‘Sleep’s boring’ – then you’re not doing it right, are you? Anyone who describes a process involving dimethyltryptamine as boring isn’t paying a-fucking-ttention and, in a fair and just society, would lose the right to give others advice on anything more complicated than toast. Probably not even toast, actually; toast is great… Yeah – definitely not toast. Let ‘em loose on, I dunno… salad. Because fuck salad.

This reality has its moments and that’s nice, but y’know – the premise is pretty sadistic most of the time. All I’m saying is none of us are getting out of this alive and duvets are warm. If they can be in proximity to tea-making facilities, so much the better.

Big Smoke Moves

‘Start at the start’ they say – well I can confirm to you ahead of time that is simply not going to happen. I don’t do linear and the chronology of this blog is going to be bouncing about all over the shop – fore-warned and all that. Having said this, I will be endeavouring to steer stuff on a roughly even keel, (even when mixing metaphors) and, in the event of tangential amnesia, (Just where the bloody hell have I gone with this? Where?) I honestly will try to claw my way back to whatever the point was before my brain derailed (It… happens. Not infrequently, I’m afraid). There’s a rocky road ahead, but dig deep, soldier! (Those mixed metaphors – Jesus…)

Anyway – to London. ‘How does one move to London with aspirations of doing stand-up?’ Good question and I’m not certain I have anything resembling a sensible answer that wouldn’t sound jaded. I could tell you that London’s a rampantly over-priced shithole, but that would sound like I’m making excuses as well as stating the obvious. For a town that will kill you in a heartbeat it’s strangely endearing sometimes (so basically Stockholm syndrome… Wait, does Stockholm have London syndrome? And would that just involve driving like an arsehole at all engagements?). Focus. Details, details… August. 2007. House-share. Four other bods. Haringey – Wood Green to be precise…

So – the Wood Green house. How do you describe Wood Green to those who need a reference? Affordable? Yes, that’s it… We’ll go with ‘affordable’… I would say ‘up and coming’, but then we’d be in the language of estate agents and no-one wants that – not even estate agents. ‘Shithole that’ll do with a tube and a night bus’ – any better? And not just any night bus, kids – the N29: bendy bus of hellish urban legend. Second to my mind in the ‘Jesus, that’s a gnarly bus’ stakes only to the 18 from Euston, but that is just Sodom and Gomorrah with wheels – never mind ‘the atheist bus campaign’; all number 18s should have ‘There probably is no God’ written down the side of them…

(I’m presently looking at the TFL email stating that ‘From Saturday the 26th November 2011, double deck buses will replace the bendy buses currently on routes 29 and N29’. They’ve missed a trick haven’t they? Surely they should be implementing them on the 29th November…)

Moving to anywhere new you always end up with a list of niggling complaints; top of mine for this house would be cockroaches. Who it turned out would only be a problem in the winter months because for the rest of the year, the mice would take care of them. Nice one, my squeaky incontinent chums. ‘Up and coming’, etc… That was a cold bloody house in the winter time, though – have you ever been somewhere that has managed to pull off the curious effect of being colder inside than it is out? I kept expecting to see homeless people peering through our window going ‘Oh, look at those poor buggers – I wouldn’t want to be in there at this time of year…’ You get the picture: seriously Hoth-like hovel. One in a stretch of North London terraced anachronisms that the Germans somehow missed (where was your legendary efficiency then, eh? What, you’ll vaporise Coventry, but Haringey gets left untouched? Next time prioritise, you vorsprung douche technik under-achievers…). Buildings so riddled with damp that bringing your own wetsuit and breathing apparatus would have constituted nothing less than solid forward-planning. Hence the roaches. Have you ever woken up at half two in the morning to the sensation of something crawling in your hair? I have. I should point out that there was quite a difference between the reactions of the half two me who got up and dealt with it and the me who got up four hours later for work. I was quite impressed by the half two me; the half two me just went ‘The fuck is that? Oh.’ Scrunched it and flushed it – just blasé, like ‘it’s happened before..!’ The half six me, who was clearly that little bit more compus, kind of woke up, reflected and shuddered the biggest ‘Uh-huh-huh-huh-huh’ skin-crawl I’ve ever done.

Numero dos on my list of sanity-eroding grievances in that household would be having my room next to the bathroom and living with a couple. Because when they decide it’s splashy-sexy-bath-time, I’ve yet to find the album capable of drowning them out. And believe me there’s a lot of metal in my collection. Either you stick something on to drown them out, or you go in there and just drown them because by that point, nothing’s gonna shut them up. I worked through Metallica, Ozzy, ‘Maiden – I felt like ringing up Bruce Dickinson and going ‘Bruce, you’re entirely ineffective against them, do you have any suggestions? What d’you mean ‘Have I tried Six Music’? Hello? Hello..?’ Nothing worked. The whole time my brain was screaming ‘Seriously, shut up, before I kick the door down, suggest a threesome and shut your mouth with something more substantial than a quiet word.’

Alors, less than ideal and that’s before I get to the ever-expanding chapter motherload that is ‘housemates’. The trouble is there just isn’t a great deal that London hasn’t seen before, and it couldn’t really begin to give shit one about your continued survival. It’s killed a whole lotta people before you and there’ll be a whole lot more to come with no real signs of it slowing down. In fact I sometimes get the impression it’s run out of original ways to snuff human beings and is now becoming visibly bored at only having so many methods of doing someone in at its disposal: rape, murder, mental illness – been there, done that, sent the postcard and purchased the appropriately pedestrian t-shirt, cheers. You mark my words: if London thought it could up its rapey killy game to Jo’Berg levels of insanity, it’d be there like a cockney shot (quite possibly with Bow bells on…). There’s a person under a train? Course there is, darlin’ – why the surprise? (For some reason my inner monologue has London anthropomorphised as a Dickensian villain – I’m sort of bang on, aren’t I?) Life does wanna kill you – bear that in mind at all times. London just happens to be in a permanent state of ‘up for it’.

Introductions…

Where to begin, where to begin… In the interests of full disclosure, I should probably come clean at the very start of things and state: this blog is not my idea. I am being coerced into it by a particularly passive aggressive writing group who last night simply informed me that I am ‘fucking going to start a fucking blog’. Righty ho, squire, when you put it like that…

So, what’s required of me – some sort of overview, perhaps? Right. ‘K… In a nutshell then, this blog will be the autobiographical ramblings of a man who wants to describe his time in London as an aspiring stand-up: things going to plan; things going nowhere near plan; and the most impudent of things buggering off with the plan and freestyling a given day’s demise (imagine the opposite of what you’re going for with ‘Carpe diem’). I’m saying – to put it mildly – this is going to be slightly erratic (in fact, if I ever succeed at transforming what are currently out of context rough notes into a format that could optimistically be called ‘book’, I’m thinking of using that for a title: Slightly Erratic – it is every criticism ever directed at me. Good days? Oh, yes. Bad days? Fuck me…). Expect tangents – there will be tangents. So…

As I started to get the first idea of what I wanted to write about, that is to say give or take the last four/five years, a cheesed-off voice in my head (of which there are many) went: ‘Oh, wouldn’t it be great if you’d written stuff down as you went along…?’ Then I realised, well, actually – I sort of did. In an effort to get into stand-up, I’d gotten into the habit of writing anything that made me laugh down whilst I thought of it. The realisation dawned: I’ve inadvertently kept the crudest kind of log here... It’s largely incomprehensible to anyone but me and quite possibly Exhibit A for the prosecution, but none-the-less – I did keep a record of sorts. Currently it’s sitting in an Iron Maiden-fronted A4 lever arch file. And there appears to be quite a lot of it…