I snapped tonight. No, I’ve not been doing yoga again, this was on the commute home. If you’re a regular reader you will know this has been coming for some time, my journey to the Tube an ordeal because of inconsiderate brolly owners and religious zealots, and my journey on the Tube a constant source of fury because of selfish twat commuters. Well, tonight I fought back.
I’m very rarely deliberately offensive to women. Sure, I engage in playful banter that to an eavesdropper might sound bad but it’s all in good fun, and of course there are also the many times when I have completely inadvertently said the wrong thing to the ladies. But generally I worship these dainty little creatures and show them respect and love. Mostly unrequited love to be honest but anyway. Sometimes, though, something just has to be said in a situation, and sometimes you know that in order to show someone that they are being unreasonable, you have to be upfront, blunt, honest, open and savagely insulting.
I left work about 6.30 (or if my boss asks, quarter to midnight), and headed in to Oxford Circus station through the gates and towards the escalator down. It was very busy, as usual. I was conscious of the fact my rucksack was more full than usual (more on that later) and was sticking out quite a bit from my back. I took care as I was moving to ensure I didn’t bash anyone with it, because I’m not one of those many millions of pricks in this city who walk around swinging golf bags, handbags, shopping, umbrellas, children etc around the place as if they’re the only fucking person in London.
As I got to the escalator I was being jostled quite roughly from behind, and heard some tutting. Yes, my bag was pretty full, but it was on my back and shouldn’t have been much inconvenience unless someone wanted to get way closer than a safe stopping distance from me. Now, I always get on the left side of the escalator and walk. Some people choose to stand on the right, that’s fine. Just as I was getting on the escalator, I felt my bag get shunted onto the right side, and this woman barged the rest of me the same way. I was now on the wrong side; I turned to see my attacker and this mountain of a woman was stomping past me, having basically crushed me in her path.
I gave her a right dirty look. I couldn’t tell whether she gave me a dirty look back or if that was just her normal face, and she grunted at me “Do you have to have that massive bag on your back! It’s very busy here, we’re all trying to get home!”
With barely a thought, I replied calmly “Even with this bag on I’m still taking up less space than you, you fat bitch. If you want to see a really massive bag, look in the mirror.”
It was the perfect public confrontation because by the time I finished she was about 5 steps further away from me down the escalator as she was on the walking side and it was busy. The people around me looked awkward like they were pretending they didn’t hear or see anything, and I heard one solitary “HA!” from a young straggly-haired student-type lad a few steps down.
I’ve got nothing against larger ladies but how dare she have a go at me for “taking up too much space”. She was so big she had her own Royal Mail sorting office; why is my backpack any less valid an accessory than her enormous planet-colliding arse, shapeless water-balloon tits or her loosely-folded gut.
But what was particularly ironic about this encounter was the fact my rucksack was so stuffed because it was … literally … full of pies.
M&S advertised this to me a few days ago on Facebook, it was possibly targeted at me because my profile lists me as Scottish. What a beauty. This, where I come from, is proper M&S food porn. I work next door to a large M&S, and as luck would have it I had an hour and a half to kill while a guy from IT installed one fucking piece of software on my PC.
I ventured next door, assuming they wouldn’t have it, maybe it’s only sold up north, and if they did stock it, they’d be sold out completely right? I was amazed they were even advertising these things, there was probably a pre-order scheme, countless pies ending up on eBay on release day for a quick profit, these pies would not have lasted on shelves.
I eventually found them, they were smaller than I’d expected, but to be fair I think I had unrealistic expectations and the pie I imagined would have been unfinishable. Bargain alert, they were on 3 for 2. Introductory offer. I started doing my three times table in my head while also trying to calculate how many I could physically carry to the checkout. But it was all academic, there were only five left.
I picked up three, you know one just to check if I like it, then one to double-check, then one to celebrate my decision.
Getting to the checkout with my stack of pies, I noticed a girl from work buying birthday cakes; I avoided her in case she got some weird ideas about how we celebrate birthdays in my department.
Back at my desk the pies were met with a mixture of bewilderment, curiosity, disgust and envy. But the one thing everyone was interested in was the nutritional information. So we looked on the box, and sure enough, there in a red box was the calorie count (I think it’s red to highlight you’re getting maximum value, and the green numbers mean it’s bad for you but good for the environment).
So it read “THIS PIE = 820 CALORIES”.
Ha ha ha, no I’m just kidding it didn’t say that, because when have you EVER seen the calorie count on a thing actually tell you how many calories are in the fucking thing outright. Never. What it actually said was “HALF A PIE = 410 CALORIES”. Funnily enough, no-one had asked me “Hey Alan, that pie looks mighty, how many calories would be in each section if we sliced it into two equal parts?” No, they said “How many calories in that pie.”
This has been annoying me for many years. Why can’t these figures just be clear. Here’s a box containing pie. This box of pie = this. There. Why do they introduce completely arbitrary divisions into it?
“ONE THIRD OF TWO SERVINGS OF 100G = 740 CALORIES” – does running for a calculator count as exercise? I bought a cake once, “ONE SIXTH OF THIS CAKE=” Are we working things out now in sixths? “ONE THIRD OF THIS PIZZA” Who mentioned eating a third of it? How many of you have ever invited mates round for dinner and shared an 8-inch pizza three ways.
“Shit, guys guys I ate an extra slice, I think I’ve had 40% of the pizza, how many calories is this?”
“Easy take the big number on the box, multiply it by three then divide it by ten and multiply it by four.” We can do the maths, but WHY!? Not only do you have to look at the amount of calories, that actually tells you nothing, you’ve then got to find out what relation that number bears to what’s in the package. And this, THIS often involves hunting for how many grams or centilitres the whole thing is, then working it all out from there.
And worse still they’re trying to tell us what a “serving” is. Cereal for example, 30g is a serving. Do you know how little 30g of cereal is, no-one eats that! “Hey fatso, put the fourteenth cornflake back you’re pushing 35g there.” Soup! “HALF A TIN=” Who eats half a tin of soup!? Who’s that meant to feed, two fucking seahorses? Two midgets who’ve already had a big lunch?
Just tell us how many calories or how much fat or whatever is in the THING. If I want to divide it up, fine, I can work it out. If I want half a cake, fine it’s half that number, not half of six times the other number, or three times the other number if I’m trying to be clever. And if my girlfriend has just dumped me by text message, I don’t want to read on a cake or a pie that it “serves two”. No. Serves one, me, now fuck off.
Anyway… so after the encounter with Bounding Bertha on the escalator I got home, and threw the pie, and some chips in the oven. I didn’t really fancy chips but I figured it was mandatory. I was so impatient I pondered turning the oven up twice as hot to see if it cooked twice as fast. I didn’t in the end.
The pie was yummy (of course) and as I sit here finishing this post at 11.30pm and am about to go and watch the Question Time I recorded so I could finish this (how I suffer for my art) I am actually considering putting another in the oven, perfectly aware that two pies means quadruple the calories. I’d recommend you try the pie, if you are in principle in favour of the contents, and you can get it from your nearest M&S, priced £3.49.
They missed a trick there though because as we all know, the best price for pie is £3.14.
As it is my birthday, and I am fairly suicidal at the prospect of being 35, I thought it might be good to reminisce about my best birthday ever.
I’ve never been a birthdays person, in fact at school I demonstrated I barely even understood the concept. I was in the final year of school and was making some flirty banter with one of the girls (my age) in the playground. I can’t remember how the conversation started but it got to the point where I was suggesting she would look good in various states of undress. Now just to be clear I was not accosting this girl, or shouting these things to her from behind bushes, we were actually talking and she had consented to be in this conversation with me.
I said something like “Oh I bet you’d look even better in just a bikini”.
And she said “Or maybe my birthday suit!”
Pretty hot stuff eh? Except I didn’t have any fucking clue what “birthday suit” meant, but was so caught up in the moment I just carried on, “Or better still, even less than that!” She gave me a strange look. I laughed awkwardly, “You know, if you stripped your birthday suit off…” She gave me an even funnier look and walked off. It wasn’t until years later I realised “birthday suit” meant naked and began to put in context what I had said.
So we were having some playful banter where I was verbally undressing her and I ended up leaving her with the impression I wanted to peel her skin off and lose my virginity to her fleshy corpse. Wonderful. That quirky charm of mine ensured I was a virgin for many years to come.
Anyway… I’ve never been one to celebrate my birthday as an adult and usually get quite depressed as it comes time for each year to pass. In fact, if I wasn’t writing this I’d be curled up in bed, with my cuddly toys, wondering where my youth went.
But back in October 2006 I had an amazing birthday weekend lined up. I was off to Paris to visit my friend and ex-flatmate Laurent (who you may remember from The Coming Out & The Punchbag). I had high hopes, it was my second trip of the year and I fell in love the first time, although of course the distance had meant it wasn’t to be. Who knows what was to happen as I headed back over for the weekend, the Sunday of which was to be my birthday; my first birthday abroad.
That wasn’t even the half of it. Back in London on the Monday I had seats to see my weighty musical idol, Meat Loaf, in a box at the Royal Albert Hall, at a cost of £125 a ticket. Now given he had collapsed on stage last time he was in the UK I had been worried that the box in question was a coffin but I tried to stay positive. And I say “seats”, I only had one – I couldn’t find anyone to go with me, or rather I couldn’t find anyone who liked Loaf enough to pay £125, but that was to be their loss. Also due to make an appearance was the amazing and ludicrously hot Marion Raven as they had recently released a duet together. I couldn’t have been more excited, I was even planning to buy the t-shirt saying I’d bought the t-shirt.
I arrived in Paris and caught up with my friends, did a bit of looking around at all the beige, went to Qwik – the greatest fast food chain on earth – and got absolutely drenched in a t-shirt on the Champs-Élysées during a torrential downpour in which a shrivelled old woman took pity on me and offered to share her umbrella. This was to be a metaphor for things to come.
I also drank a hell of a lot of Pastis. Pastis was my drink of choice in France, having discovered it on an earlier trip, and no trip was complete without me getting utterly wasted on the stuff at least twice, and carrying a couple of bottles home to remind me of where I was.
An aniseedy, licoricey aperitif, it’s usually mixed (diluted) with water. As such it very easy to drink and fucking lethal, and so I remember little of the first two nights in Paris.
On the final day, my birthday, we had a party at the flat in the afternoon which was thankfully quite cultured and tame, and then Laurent had to leave, to go on a business trip to Barcelona. I would have to amuse myself for the evening, but it wasn’t long before I got an offer to go out on the town.
Julien lived next door, a teacher I think who was on holiday for a week or so from work. Young, and very good-looking in the opinion of the ladies, rumour had it he was quite the party animal. This could be a birthday to remember. His English wasn’t up to much, but I was sure as we got drunker and drunker, his English would improve and so would my French.
We headed out on a mini-crawl of the bars, he was in charge, I barely knew where I was and at every stage could potentially have mistaken the unfamiliar surroundings and strange language being spoken as symptoms of extreme drunkenness.
We had a good time, the universal language of comedy mannerisms and slapstick ensuring I had no trouble communicating with him. We ended up in a bar where we met a group of twenty-somethings, American tourists – all girls. Now things were equalised, their French was as ropey as mine. In terms of conversation and banter I was in charge of winning favour with these fun-seeking American honeys, and I’ve no idea what I was saying, but it was working. Julien just had to sit back and win them over with his superior looks and the occasional flutter of a French accent.
We were working these girls for some time and had settled on favourites, and as it got late Julien invited “his one” and “my one” back to ours. The girls thought it was very convenient that we lived next to each other. Julien’s girl was the hottest, she looked a bit like Alanis Morissette – mine still cute though, I think we’d ended up with the girls that an international jury of such things would have said was fair and proportionate.
We got a cab back, and if you’re squeamish or prudish you should probably look away now and come back when I get to the line “And Meat Loaf was awesome and I’d had a great time. The End”.
We went back to Julien’s for some more drinks and music. I had checked with him (communicating via hand signals and the occasional line from ‘Allo ‘Allo) that we were indeed on a “one each” scenario, and that he hadn’t just invited both of them back with him, and given me a ride back to Laurent’s flat next door. Arriving in Julien’s flat his place was perfect for entertaining honeys, amazing sound system and home cinema set up, cool lighting, the works. Nice. We stuck on some music, sat on the sofa and drank some more, chatting to our girls.
This lasted about 14 seconds at which point Julien’s girl “started on him”. My girl followed suit. We were both sat on the sofa with our girls on top of us, kissing and molesting us. All was good but after a few minutes (during which in a daze I realised I was looking at his girl more than my own) they started in synchronisation to discard clothes, both ours and their own.
Hang on a minute, I thought. I’m not sure I signed up for this. I hope they don’t think stuff is going to happen right here, right next to each other. They did. Julien was having a whale of a time, I was an awkward wreck, sobering up quite quickly. I wasn’t sure if this was my thing and who knows once we got naked whose what was going where into who.
“I think we should go next door [to my absent friend’s flat]” I said to mine.
“Why?” she said.
I had to think fast without seeming like a prude, “Um, my condoms are next door.” Genius.
“Here!” Julien pointed the hand that wasn’t on his girl’s chest towards a massive half-empty box of condoms in the corner. Fuck’s sake, whether I liked it or not, I was in this. Things progressed a bit more but I felt more and more anxious.
I felt like saying to my American girl “Look, he’s a lot better looking than me, she’s a lot better looking than you, if we do this here beside them, we’re both going to look bad.” Eventually, like a proper killjoy I interrupted things and insisted we go next door to continue. I breathed a sigh of relief there was no pressure anymore, nor the rhythm of Julien’s thumping bass to stick to.
No sooner did we get back to Laurent’s flat than things recommenced (after a brief hunt for condoms, I should have grabbed a fistful from Julien’s box). This is where it got messy. After mere moments of nudey “warming up” she was … she was … I don’t know how else to say this, she was gushing all over the place. I wasn’t sure if this was a good or a bad thing. She reassured me it was a good thing, but seemed really embarrassed at the mess her enjoyment was causing.
I was 100% prepared to take complete credit for this outpouring of pleasure. Until she told me it always happens. Then I was prepared to settle for 10% of the credit. I could barely touch her without feeling I was in Belfast being water-cannoned by the police. But I persevered, only pausing to comment “Julien had a lucky escape there.” I was drunk, it was my birthday, I was caught up in the bizarreness of the moment, I was care-free.
I was forgetting I was on my friend’s bed as that’s where I’d been sleeping.
Flood defences in place, we did our thing and afterwards, I fell asleep, feeling slightly damp.
I woke up the next day, I was alone. My first thought was I’d wet the bed. Then it all came back to me, the night out, the taxi back, Julien’s place, the squirting Yank. As if to confirm it was all real the first thing I saw when I looked around was puddles. PUDDLES. On the wooden floor. I got up to look around for her. The duvet came with me. No sign of her. “I wonder where she…” next thing I knew I was face down on the floor, having slipped on one of the love reservoirs. I was unbelievably hungover. I looked at the clock.
SHIT! I WAS GOING TO BE LATE FOR THE FUCKING EUROSTAR BACK!
I had a quick shower, wrapped last night’s clothes inside seventeen carrier bags, packed my stuff, quickly mopped the floor, and ran out, bumping into a very happy-looking Julien on the way, who said in the morning, my girl had come next door to pick up his girl and they left together. I didn’t have time to ask if there was anything “unusual” about his one, or ask him to do the decent thing and go clean up next door as I’d saved his expensive sofa from a hell of a deluge.
I barely made it in time for the train, but I was in luck it was delayed. This was not luck, as my timing to arrive back in London for my evening with Meat Loaf and Marion Raven was tight. After an anxious wait and an even more anxious train journey I was racing to the Royal Albert Hall through a seemingly ten-mile long underground tunnel from South Kensington Station. Why are things never just next to things when I need them to be. I was late. Very late.
As I rushed inside and found the right entrance a nice man greeted me, “Ah quickly you’re just in time. He just coming on stage.” I went in, gobsmacked by the view and getting an eerie sense of de ja vu from the gushing applause. Meat came on just as I sat down in the lush surroundings of my box. It was the BEST gig I’ve ever been to, and the gold standard for birthday celebrations ever since.
Oh, I missed a bit. While I was on the Eurostar, I quickly texted Laurent. Just this. “Don’t ask but you’ll want to wash all your bedsheets and scrub the floor when you get back from Barcelona. Long story.”
So I wiped my match.com profile in May or June, having completely had it with online dating for a while, and specifically with that website. I probably ranted about how I was never going back and “it’s enough to turn you gay” and other such things. I ended up going back, I always do. Partly because every time I go on there to cancel my subscription, I realise that they fucking auto-renewed it about two days ago for another 6 months at a cost of about … 12 prostitute blowjobs.
The last couple of weeks have been as infuriating as ever, and reminded me of all the things that internet dating, and match.com in particular, has taught me about women, about dating, and about myself.
Firstly, online dating has taught me what “league” I’m in. You know what I mean by leagues – when you say someone’s “out of your league”, and if you don’t say that you mean she is by default “in your league”. My league, based on the women who contact me, “wink” at me, send me “icebreakers” or otherwise initiate contact, is the obese 40-something with two or more kids. If I’m really lucky they live in London, but more often than not they will be in Birmingham or Norwich or Leeds or somewhere else impractical. It’s gotten to the stage where before even clicking through on an e-mail I get from someone, I know I’m going to be greeted by someone weathered and exhausted from child-rearing and holding up a Gregg’s loyalty card in her profile photo.
They contact me because they look at me and they think I’m probably not getting anywhere with girls my own age, and I’m on this site because I’m desperate for a glimpse of a vagina, however mangled and worn. And I’ll travel the length and breadth of the country for a night of passion tinged with the aroma of gravy, and an awkward moment of putting my clothes back on in the morning while she watches Jeremy Kyle and halfway through remembers that her kids were supposed to have gone to school.
This appears to be the league I’m in. I have a lot of female friends who have told me over the years that there’s no such thing as leagues. And I’ve pointed out how, in general, when you see a couple, most of the time they are roughly about as respectively attractive as the other. There’s the odd exception, but in most cases, people are with people in their league. The stereotypically “hot” guy is with the hot girl. The kind of average guy who looks a bit funny for some reason but you can’t quite put your finger on why, he’s with a girl who also has some kind of intangible flaw with her that puts her in the same bracket.
Time and time again, girls tell me this is wrong and there are no leagues. You know what kind of girls? Hot girls. Yes, big fucking surprise, hot girls do not believe that leagues exist. Because for them, they DON’T! There’s never a guy who’s too far out of their league, and for the guys who are in leagues beneath them, well, of course, they don’t want to go out with those guys because their personality doesn’t fit, or they have different goals and values – no girl is ever going to say “I’m not interested because he’s too fugly and I can do much better.” But that’s more likely to be the truth.
Now, you’re probably thinking I’m some kind of beauty Nazi who expects to only go out with super-hot girls. And you’re probably looking at the photo of me on this site with the octopus hat and thinking, “mate, you should be grateful for what you can get.” Beauty Nazi I am not. Only the other day, I was being abused by colleagues for thinking half the girls in the company are cute. Apparently it’s not normal to think so many people are hot, but what can I say there are a lot of cute girls out there, cute in different ways, and I am not “throwing shit at the wall to see what sticks” as my colleague suggested, I genuinely find something beautiful in most girls.
Here’s a few examples of girl attributes that would traditionally fit into one of my “types”:
Massive Jew nose
Pear-shaped (flat-chest, big arse)
I’M CASTING A WIDE NET HERE; surely there are girls out there who fit these criteria (not all of them at once, that would be monstrous) who might be interested. Girls should fucking love me, I find their FLAWS attractive! I should be surrounded by eligible, genetically-wonky women just lapping up the attention.
No, instead, on match.com I get this:
What’s worse is this was on a featured banner, meaning she paid extra to get this wonderful profile out there. What the fuck did I put in my profile that brought this up as a match? “Um, my match should be 5ft – 5ft8, around about my age, professional … oh and ideally with a face like a battered testicle.”
It get worse. Match.com has a “Daily 6” – perfectly-curated matches delivered to you every day for you to peruse, and you can say if you are interested and if they are too, the site will hook you up. Sounds great, right? Takes the hassle out of finding a match, right?
Last week I had this come up in my Daily 6:
Brilliant, we can spend a romantic evening together watching Philadelphia on DVD, then I can grab my titanium condom and we can head to the bedroom. There actually ARE specialist sites for people who are HIV+, I’m not saying that they deserve to be alone because of it, but seriously, I don’t think anyone on match.com looking for Miss Right is after someone with HIV. And as is often the case with such profiles, there are no redeeming features either. There’s no photo, there’s no quirky one-liner to start the profile, nothing to get you interested. Just like the battered ball in the previous photo, it’s just “this is it, now date me or fuck off.”
Imagine if my profile was just “Hi, I don’t drink because I’m a recovering alcoholic, I’m very unsuccessful with women, I don’t own a house or a car, or any of that. Get in touch.”
Now, I’ve bitched and whined about the complete lack of interest I get on dating sites, but maybe you’re thinking I should be more assertive and I should be the one who makes the first move. Well, I tried that too…
The first obstacle to overcome is the one mandatory requirement that seemingly all women need to stress. Must. Be. Tall. I didn’t realise till I started online dating that I am a stunted fucking pygmy at only a measly 5ft 8, and that I really should be looking for love amongst my own people, the dwarves, midgets, halflings and Krankies. But no, pretty much every woman specifies 5ft 10 or above; not just a random number picked because they have to choose, no no they mean it and they enforce it. And they’re not being shallow, no no no. Even though they are restricting their matches based on physical height, no that’s not shallow. What is it ladies? It’s “genetics”.
The amount of fucking times I have heard women say they are “genetically predisposed” to be attracted to tall guys, or guys like this or that; “oh it’s just genetics, we can’t help it.” Bollocks, genetics is just the female word for shallow. Us guys don’t get away with “must have gnorks the size of fucking zeppelins” do we? No, we’re being shallow if we mention anything physical, girls are interested in your personality and more high-brow stuff than that, oh but if you’re a few centimetres lower vertically than my genetics have programmed me for then I’m afraid we can’t date.
A few days ago, frustrated with constantly finding I was not tall enough for the girls I was interested in, I decided perhaps I needed to lower my own standards. Perhaps the girls I liked were indeed out of my league and they were being so shallow – sorry I mean listening to their genes – because their attractiveness brought them a lot of attention and they could afford to be picky. Fair enough. As we have already established I find a lot of “quirky” things cute, so it shouldn’t be too hard for me to find someone who might not be conventionally attractive but might have enough of these things that are “my type” that I still think they’re cute.
I scoured through pages and pages of roadkill and eventually found someone who was pretty ugly, but in an acceptable way to me. Now I said I liked horsey; horsey (as in long face) is really one type I go for always. This girl was not horsey. She was a horse. She was too equine even for me. You could have painted her black and used her to advertise Lloyd’s Bank or Guinness. I don’t mind a little bit of horse, even a lot of horse can be OK depending on the rest of the goods. She was all horse. If she broke her leg I’d have to shoot her.
Perfect I thought, not many guys are going to look at her profile and think “wow she’s hot” but although she was too much horse, she was probably still tolerable for me. I’d have a chance here. I was in with the height restriction too. She didn’t mind shorter guys. Of course she likes short guys, she’s a horse, she’s used to them.
However, she had one restriction. She was 30, and she was only looking for guys up to 32. I didn’t think much of it, and it gave me the chance to use a line I’d been waiting to use for ages (quite literally, for “ages”).
I asked her a few questions based on the crap she’d put in her profile about her interests or something and then said “I see from your profile I’m a little older than what you’re looking for, but trust me I’m really immature for my age.” I thought this was a nice little way of saying I’m young at heart and probably not what she might imagine from an “older” guy. I didn’t go as far as to tell her about the cuddly toys in my bed, or the fact deep down I am still basically a child, so I figured this might get a good response.
A few days later I got a response with some bland answers to my questions and then “Yeah you are a bit too old for me sorry, but thanks for your e-mail.”
Yeap, I am now both too short and too old for online dating. I am too ancient and wizened and frail to even date a horse. I guess there’s still hope. Maybe there’s a really fat horse with horse-AIDS out there, a few little foals to feed, living in Bradford, who fancies a bit of romance for a guy who’ll treat her right and spare the whip.
This dating thing is supposed to be about finding “the one”. I thought that meant finding that one person amongst many who is your soul-mate and just right for you. No, seemingly, finding “the one” means “the only one”. The only one who will even consider dating you. There’s supposed to be some choice in there, but rather it’s more like the throwing shit metaphor my colleague used earlier. I don’t want to feel like I end up with someone because she’s literally the only one interested. I think I’d rather be single.
I’ll close on this final point, because it really gets on my nerves. And that’s when my female friends moan about what guys are like on dating sites. Seriously girls, you have no fucking idea how much worse girls are. Guys may be shallow. “Oh they’re only interested in one thing!” You know what, that one thing is one thing that ALL of you are equipped to provide. That’s quite egalitarian, that’s quite fair. Guys aren’t insisting you all like one specific kind of fucking yoga and if you don’t you’re crossed off the list. Guys don’t bombard you with a mix of utterly shallow and spectacularly specific things that you must be before they’ll even talk to you.
And if guys are shallow, well let’s face it, they’re interested in anything with tits. Again, that’s pretty fair, you all have them. Even obese girls with their cumbersome, table-clearing mega-jugs, they’re in with a chance. Guys aren’t sitting there going “Oh she’s 5ft 3 and I prefer 5ft 4 if I date this girl my genetics will never forgive me.”
Lastly, no guy has ever said “Oh there’s this amazing sweet girl who adores me, she’s really lovely to me, couldn’t be nicer, but instead I’m going to go out with that absolute fucking nightmare bitch who treats me like shit and makes me feel like shit and then I’m going to complain to all my friends about why can’t I find a nice girl.”
I was going to start by saying how surprised I am that I made it to a year without drinking, but I think I knew from the moment I stepped out of the rehab clinic that me and the drinkies were done for good.
If alcohol had been a person, I’d have unfriended them on Facebook. Drinking had officially pissed me off and I think this resentment is what has helped me get through the past 12 months without coming close to any kind of relapse. I would never deny that I had countless awesome times drinking, but in the end alcohol had made me weak, and dependent entirely on others. I’ve always been quite an independent person, so this feeling is something I’ve always resented.
(If you haven’t read the story of why I gave up drinking, check out How I Lost My Vodka but remember to come back when you’re done)
As the months progressed, I began to forget what it was like to be tipsy, drunk or shit-face-wankered. Of course it could be argued I never remembered what the last one felt like. This helped, it’s harder to miss something that has begun to feel like a distant memory, something that’s now alien to you. And it’s helped that over the past year I’ve conquered the many milestones in proving to myself I could get through various situations without drinking.
The bar at work, where I was generally the first to arrive and the last to leave for many years, was a crucial one for me. The Friday night drinks with my team were such an institution (we’ve got our own table for fuck’s sake!) I knew that getting through that would be a big deal for me. The first time I went down there with the usual gang, and not only survived, but had a great time – in fact the same great time that I always have with those guys – this was a major step for me. It showed me I didn’t need alcohol to have fun, to be funny.
Best of all, is no-one treated me any differently. With the exception of the small inconvenience of having to order something other than the usual bottle(s) of wine we’d share as a group. No-one held back. No-one tried to be “nice but not helpful”-oversensitive to my problem, by ordering orange juices all round, or going easy on the wine. It was just the same. For me, one of the most important things in recovering from this problem has been people just treating me like normal. By all means, invite me to the piss-ups and the parties, don’t hold back, feel comfortable getting shit-faced in my presence. make jokes about it. Sometimes I even get offered beers, out of habit – even that I find quite cool; it shows people have forgotten that I’m “different”.
I get a lot of questions from those who know my story with alcohol, and it’s interesting sometimes to hear people’s assumptions or preconceptions about what being an alcoholic means. When I was in rehab, I was walking to Tesco with a fellow patient – I had been told I couldn’t go unless someone accompanied me as I had recently made a gag over dinner which had caused the nurses some concern over my resolution – I’ll get onto that later. On the walk to Tesco, where I intended to stock up on Jelly Tots (something I was using as currency with the other inmates) and fags, he asked me about my drinking and when I said I never drank in the morning before going to work, he said “So are you sure you’re an alcoholic?” I’ve since heard this assumption many times, that drinking first thing in the morning is what ‘makes you an alcoholic’.
In fact most recently was on Friday evening, walking with a colleague out of the building; I mentioned to her about my “anniversary”, and she asked if I used to drink before work. I said no, never, but I was drinking every night. And she said “Yeah but so do I.” I probably know lots of people who drink as much, almost as much, or more than I did, and they wouldn’t consider it to be a problem. But maybe it isn’t. Sure, it’s not healthy, but does drinking heavily or drinking every day make you an alcoholic. I don’t think so.
For me, alcoholism is when drinking works its way much higher up your hierarchy of needs than it deserves. It’s when alcohol becomes more important than other much more valuable things in your life, when alcohol begins to replace things in your life, degrade things in your life, ruin things in your life. And when you become powerless to stop it. Alcoholism is about powerlessness and the gradual removal of choice.
I met people in rehab who were alcoholics who only drank at the weekends. Now, like me, I’m sure most of you would be surprised that someone who drinks once or twice a week can be an alcoholic. “Alcoholic” is about drinking in the morning and lunchtime and drinking every day, right? Wrong. These people caused utter carnage in their lives in those one or two day binges, and their whole week would be geared up towards the weekend. The “problem” in “drinking problem” manifests itself in different ways for different people.
Something that has surprised me is many colleagues have since told me how they had no idea I drank so much, and that I never appeared hungover. This sends a shiver down my spine, because it makes me realise how long I potentially could have carried on like this if I hadn’t (luckily) gotten so sick that action had to be taken. There is a great danger in being a functioning alcoholic.
In fact, this came as so much of a surprise to colleagues their minds began to wander once they found out about my fondness for vodka. I had a bunch of half-drunk water bottles under my desk. Built up over time if I didn’t finish the bottle, or wanted a cold one, and didn’t get round to emptying them in the kitchen. When I got back to work my colleagues told me they’d actually thought I was keeping vodka in them, and that they even opened some of them up to check. In truth, I never drank at work, I have always hated the feeling of being tipsy when everyone around you is sober, it used to make me very paranoid, so it was something I almost always completely avoided, even in situations where a celebratory lunchtime drink with my colleagues was completely acceptable.
There was one other time I drank at lunchtime. I had become fond of one of the waitresses working in a café opposite local pub The White Horse; she was Polish and this was towards the end of my long-running Polish girl phase. I devised a fiendish plan and dragged two colleagues, one of whom is Polish, to the pub the next day at lunchtime. The plan was to get my Polish friend to make some inroads with her and introduce us. I would take it from there.
We arrived at the pub. Bear in mind this was the first and only time I had ever gone to the pub at lunchtime during work. I went to the bar, having promised to buy all the drinks in exchange for their help. As I walked in I ran into a familiar face carrying two pints. Not just a random colleague but the CEO of the company. “What the fuck are you doing here?” he said.
I could only think of one thing to say. “Um, what are YOU doing here?”
“I’m having a drink with some senior execs from EA. You?”
“Trying to chat up the Polish in the café opposite.” To be honest, that was an incredibly likely story as he knows me well.
“OK, well I won’t tell anyone if you don’t.”
Of course when I got back to work (the Polish girl was a no-show) I found him in my boss’ office laughing “And who do I bump into as I’m coming back from the bar. McCann!” HEY WHAT ABOUT OUR DEAL!
And this brings me onto the one big milestone I’ve overcome since I wrote my 6-month post. Sobriety and girls.
This wasn’t a huge priority for me when I first thought about the challenges of being sober. To be honest, I was in such a mess I was focussed on getting myself sorted out before even thinking about involving anyone else or getting back on the dating wagon (which for me is usually a wagon that drives across empty stretches of desert in the middle of nowhere with the occasional brief stop).
But in the summer I started taking my online dating a bit more seriously, as you’ve probably read from my posts. And seen in my YouTube videos. I didn’t realise this was to be the biggest challenge of all. My brief romance with Claire (the one from the videos) will maybe one day be the subject of a post of its own (or three), but the fact she was the first girl I was serious about since quitting drinking brought many surprises, including probably the highlight and the lowlight of my first year.
It was our first date, we were in a lovely bar off Regent Street, everything was going great, even the checklist I brought with me that listed all her body parts and was to be filled in by me on the night based on how everything matched my expectations. She was quite disgusted by the fact I was drinking Red Bull but I didn’t have a huge amount of choice. She hated Red Bull, but she seemed to like me.
As the night went on she started making some moves (because I am so lame at these things I was not picking up on any of her hints that she’d like me to advance things). We were sat side by side, and she leaned forward, picked up my glass of Red Bull and had a big drink.
Then she started kissing me.
All kinds of thoughts rushed through my head. OMG she’s actually kissing me, she’s so cute and she’s actually kissing me, of her own free will, it’s not even for a dare, she’s choosing to do this, I’d forgotten what this was even like, hang on am I imagining this, right let me try to remember what I’m supposed to do need to make sure I don’t mess it up, maybe I should take a picture of this in case my friends don’t believe me, or maybe get some signed eyewitness accounts from other people in the bar, why did she drink my Red Bull I thought she hated R… OH FOR FUCK’S SAKE MCCANN STOP THINKING ABOUT IT AND ENJOY IT!
When we finished, well I hadn’t felt that dizzy since the last time I was completely shit-faced. And my heart hadn’t raced that fast since the time I got the DTs and had to go to hospital. But it definitely actually happened. And I would remember it because I was completely sober.
But one thing was bugging me. “Why did you drink some of my Red Bull first?”
She said “So that you wouldn’t be able to taste the beer I’m drinking.”
Aw! How sweet is that. I hadn’t even considered that – probably should have as she’d been drinking all evening, but it never crossed my mind. That was the kind of girl she was, and I guess that’s why I liked her so much.
Some time later though, I was to experience one of the hardest things I’ve come across since going sober. Some baggage from her last relationship bubbled to the surface as she drank a bit more, and she started to get emotional. She started crying at one point, not how dates with me usually go I swear. She was drunk and crying. And I had absolutely no idea what to say to her. I was stone-cold sober and we were suddenly on completely different wavelengths. I’d been fine in the past being sober around drunk people, but someone who was drunk and emotional, it came out of nowhere and I really struggled with how to handle the situation.
If I was drunk too, I think it would have gone a lot better. Don’t know what I’d have said but I’m sure it’s happened before and things have worked out. This time, we were just on totally different planets. I would have thought that being sober I’d be able to think of things to say and do, but with the other person drunk, everything I did or said was just wrong. It was a horrible powerless feeling.
But it wasn’t the end of the world. That moment passed and we saw each other again. And there was one more unexpected sobriety milestone I was to face. The bedroom.
Again, on paper, being sober everything should have gone better, right? Being drunk is supposed to be the thing that causes problems in that department, right? I hadn’t thought it through. I realised that, other than (I think) when I lost my virginity, I’d probably never slept with a new girl *for the first time* without having something to drink. I’m not saying I was always really drunk, but generally such things will happen after dinner, or drinks or clubbing, etc. First time I’d go home with someone, or invite them back to mine, would always be after an evening involving some drinking. And what does drinking do, it takes the edge off things.
I was to find myself with a new girl, who was not only out-of-my-league in her clothes but looked fucking amazing naked, whilst I was fatter than I’ve ever been and stone cold fucking sober. It was absolutely nerve-racking.
Thankfully it didn’t completely ruin things, but I will admit, there were some unexpected severe delays. This is not something they teach you in rehab. “Oh by the way, you’re going to be a LOT more nervous in certain scenarios when you haven’t had a little Dutch courage.” Even Claire drank beforehand and said it was to help her relax; I was the one who needed it, I had stuff to do, body parts to orient in certain directions, stuff to maintain, things to find, techniques to deploy, standards of quality to upkeep; it was frightening!
Dating and girls is a minefield when you don’t drink (as if I needed any other handicaps in this department!) You tell girls you don’t drink, some of them assume either you are boring or an alcoholic and run a mile. Or you’re going to get rapey and you’re keeping your wits about you. But there are plenty who are understanding about it, although this too can be a drawback, as I’ve been in one situation where I think one girl avoided kissing me because she thought the wine she’d been guzzling would send me into a relapse. You just can’t win sometimes.
Another thing people often ask me, girls, friends and colleagues alike, is “what would happen if you had one drink?”
Well, who knows for sure, but I’m pretty confident I would be fine. Because I was never a “passed-out-in-the-gutter-at-4am” kind of drinker (unlike, for example, someone like Paul Gascoigne), I think I could easily have one without instantly relapsing. In fact I probably could have a night out drinking and leave it at that. My problem would be in the longer-term. I think I could decide Friday-night drinking was “allowed” and stick to that for a little while. Not long after I’d probably figure that Saturday was OK too as there’s no work the next day and it’s the weekend. And that set-up, with those rules, I really think I could stick to for about a year. Then I think ad-hoc nights would creep in. And it wouldn’t be long before I’d have a hard day at work and relax with maybe a glass of wine in the evening as long it was in moderation. I’d keep that up for a while longer, then I think I’d be descending back into the place I was in a year ago.
It would be very gradual but it would “get” me again. Which is why I’m never going to risk it. It’s just not worth it. And although that one first drink is not going to instantly cause me any problems, its effect in the long-term could be brutal. Much as I loved meeting some of the people in rehab, I’m never going back. I’d be letting myself down, and even more letting down the people who supported me in my recovery last year.
Speaking of rehab, I’ll close with a short anecdote.
When I think of memorable moments from rehab I instantly think of the time I went swimming with the hottest girl in the clinic and the sight of her getting out of the pool – it was like the scene in Dr No with Ursula Andress coming out of the water, but with a better arse.
But that’s not very amusing so I’ll move on to the second most memorable, which was the time (and I believe the only time) I got into trouble with the “screws”.
It had been, by all accounts, an uneventful dinner time. We were all sat in the large dining room area working our way through three courses of hit-and-miss food. As I finished off my fruit cocktail dessert, I noticed something strange. Well, firstly, they had served it in a wine glass, which might be seen as insensitive when half the people in the room were recovering alcoholics, but then they quite regularly served desserts in tall-necked glasses so it was nothing new.
This time however, because it was fruit cocktail, there was juice left in the glass from all the fruit – which looked to the casual observer (and me) like wine. So I was sat there with what appeared to be half a glass of white wine in front of me. This was too perfect I had to say something. I called over one of the nurses – coincidentally the one with the least sense of humour. Actually, it was probably deliberately the one with the least sense of humour.
“Judy, I just wanted to thank you for serving such lovely wine with dinner,” I raised the glass up, “And to toast you and all the wonderful staff for helping us so much with our recovery.” Judy flicked a switch on the back of her neck that activated her pretend robot smile, and she darted off to speak with some other nurses.
I passed on the message to the rest of the table as to the hilarious significance of their dessert leftovers, and we raised a few glasses to each other. A few moments later, Judy returned to chastise me “Right, just stop that this instant. Not everyone here finds this as funny as you do.” Now if anything I know my audience, and all of the recovering alcoholics in the room were perfectly fine with such jokes, we made gags about drinking all the time. And the one patient at the clinic who would have found this joke uncomfortable wasn’t there. I know, because I CHECKED before making the joke. I always know my audience and I didn’t like Judy’s accusation that the other patients weren’t finding this funny – they were pissing themselves.
“Well,” I said, “If you think sensitivity on this issue is such a problem then can you tell me why you are serving wine-like fruit juice in wine glasses to recovering alcoholics as part of dinner? What’s next, a bottle of water and a shot glass?”
Next thing I knew I was barred from going to going out on my own as according to Judy I had demonstrated “worrying thoughts” about drinking again. I did not appreciate having to be accompanied when going to Tesco on my Jelly Tots and fags run, so I gave a long and powerful speech about “the damage mistrust can do” in our next group session, and shortly after I got an apology from Judy.
After all if there’s one thing that helps you get over problems in life, whatever they are, it’s the ability to laugh about them.
We were on our annual team afternoon out, and there was much for my small (but disproportionately talented and influential) department to celebrate. The birthdays of every team member for example, since this day out was annual. Also, one colleague had recently passed her finance exams. And I was celebrating my 9 month one week and four day sobriety anniversary, which was reason enough for us to go out so I could watch everyone get shit-faced.
Our venue was Putney, by the river Thames. The fact I was surprised that Putney was on the river showed that even after ten years of living in London I still hadn’t grasped the basic layout of the place. We settled in a nice gastropub and I prepared to stuff my face, lining my stomach for all the Red Bull I was going to be drinking.
My colleague Steve had recently been evangelising about non-alcoholic beer, and how this could be a good alternative for me on nights out (and days on the piss). But prior to sitting down when we first arrived I’d already asked the barmaid what non-alcoholic drinks they had, and it was basically water, lemonade, coke and Red Bull. Typical. But Steve suggested we ask again, so next time drinks were being ordered from the table he asked the waiter if they had any non-alcoholic beer.
“Yes we have Bitburger,” he replied, in a thick French accent.
“No no no,” Steve adopted a special mode of speaking reserved for times when he was speaking to a “stupid foreigner”. His hands came up in front of him so he could illustrate every word. “No no, not BEEFBURGER. We are not READY yet for FOOD. You understand? You have *non-alcoholic beer*? For my friend. ALCOHOL-FREE? Zero alcohol? My friend here,” he pointed in my face with both hands. I was only two feet away, “He no drink! You have beer but no alcohol?”
“Yes we have Bitburger. A non-alcoholic variety of Bitburger beer. In a bottle, do you want one?”
Steve realised he was the one who had misheard, and tried to backtrack but only made things worse. “Ah sorry, I thought you said BEEFBURGER. I thought you were going to bring my friend a beefburger.”
“Does he want a beefburger? Are you ready to order?”
“No no, just the BITburger, just the beer.” Steve reeled off all the other drinks for the table, normal beers, ciders, wines, and the waiter left. He turned to us, “God, that one’s a bit useless isn’t he? Where’d he get all that beefburger stuff from… idiot.”
About ten minutes later, the waiter came back with our drinks; we think possibly he passed our order onto an English person who immediately asked the chef to start preparing a beefburger.
My drink garnered quite some attention, and Steve, understandably, asked to try it, as he had been trying out various non-alcoholic beers lately in a bid to cut back on drinking. I poured him some. Then someone else wanted to try. Then someone else, then another. By the end of the fucking tasting session, I had about two shots of beer left in my bottle, as everyone complimented how nice it was and moved on to their full glasses of normal beer, cider and wine.
Yes, the only beer I was able to drink had been snatched up by a bunch of people who could literally have ANYTHING they wanted. But no, they wanted mine! “We’ll order you another one when he comes back.” I was waiting quite some time.
After a few hours we left and moved on to another bar in Putney. On the way there my colleague Franco spotted a house across the street with a blue plaque on it. He squinted and read it out:
FRED RUSSELL Father of Modern Ventriloquism, lived here 1914-1926
I quipped “Although the plaque’s on that house he actually lived next door.” Now, I didn’t get nearly the rapturous applause that this joke deserved – I blame this on the alcohol consumed by my audience in the previous bar.
Although when we finally settled down somewhere else, my gag about a new phone app for helping inexperienced men find their partner’s clitoris – called TwatNav – had everyone on the floor. You win some you lose some.
By about 7pm everyone was quite well-lubricated and I decided to call it a night as the rest went off to another bar. I’ve been having trouble with my stamina, or staying power, since stopping drinking, and at 6 or so hours had done quite well. I was also feeling quite bloated from all the alcohol-free beer. I never used to drink beer, for that reason, even when I was drinking – but it had been nice to have something beer-like while my friends were drinking proper beer. It was something I’d always avoided when I first quit, just by way of making a clean break, but after nearly ten months I thought I was safe to try it without it causing any bad memories.
And so, I left the team and waited for a convenient bus straight home to Tooting. And that’s where things got pretty weird…
I got on the fairly empty bus, and had the whole back seat to myself; I sat in the corner and amused myself with my phone doing the usual stuff, you know like taking notes of gags I’d made that day that I could later re-use on my blog, that kind of thing.
A colourfully dressed black lady in her early 40s got on, the glimmer of her bright pink suit catching my eye. She sat in the middle seat of the back row, she was clearly on the phone to someone on some kind of hands-free kit as she was all mouth, but she was so garishly adorned with accessories and ‘bling’ that I couldn’t actually see any handset or headset. Given that one of my pet hates is people having loud “private” conversations on public transport, I reached into my bag for my headphones and sunglasses so I could drown her out both visually and aurally.
But as I continued to be forced to listen to her gobbish outpourings, I started to realise everything was not quite as it seemed. Firstly, she didn’t seem to be having a “conversation” in that she didn’t shut up long enough for another person to speak. Secondly, it began to appear like she was talking about people on the bus.
I listened more and more intently, and I noticed a few other people around me on the bus seemed to be doing the same. In the next few minutes a number of things became clear. This woman was not talking to anyone on a phone of any sort, she was just talking. And she was indeed describing her bus journey and the people on it – but in the past tense. It was as if she was describing every detail to someone hours later.
It was around this time, from her frank descriptions of the darker skinned passengers on the bus, that I realised this woman was under the impression she was white. She was saying out loud things that only a white racist would say, but that only a black person could get away with. And she was using language so colourful it was the linguistic equivalent of a Dulux paint chart.
Now, I mentioned in the title that this woman had Tourette’s. This I know is false, but I wanted to give people some indication of what this woman was like. Of course we all associate Tourette’s with someone saying inappropriate offensive involuntary things in public, but in fact Tourette’s covers a range of involuntary tics, physical and verbal and the swearing (known properly as coprolalia, which literally means “shit talk”) is just one possible symptom of many. While I used Tourette’s to convey roughly what kind of condition this woman had, I actually have no idea how to describe in one word what she actually had. Whatever it was, it was far far worse.
It was like one long, uninterrupted offensive and socially unacceptable outburst. No-one was safe from this woman’s running commentary on the passengers, occasional off-topic but equally offensive monologues, and often horrific language.
A black man of about her age got on and sat in the seat in front of me (and her), his gangly legs meaning he had to sit turned halfway out to the aisle. This woman’s venom was going straight in his ear, and it was mere moments before she started on him, although I think it took him several minutes to figure out what was going on.
“He didn’t realise,” she said, continuing to talk in past tense, “that everyone on the bus knew what his intentions were. He just wanted to rape people, like all his kind.”
OK, I thought, she’s gonna get killed. She’s gonna get killed, she’s gonna get killed, I’m gonna see someone get killed. She’s gonna get killed. As soon as that man realises this crazy woman is talking ABOUT HIM, there’s going to be trouble.
She continued, “He was looking around the bus calmly, raping all the women with his eyes.” I started to squirm, I could see the man in front knew by now this woman was not on the phone. She started to describe him, what he was wearing, she must have repeated the rapey comments about five more times while she did this. He turned round, looked at her – she didn’t flinch at all, just kept staring into space talking about him – then he looked at me.
I tried to encapsulate all of the following into a single look and shrug: ‘dunno mate, whackjob if you ask me, what’s she on about anyway, she’s been like this for fifteen minutes, and I definitely don’t agree with anything she’s saying about the raping, best just to ignore her eh, stick your music on or something’.
He shook his head, I could see that although he had been at first bemused about this crazy woman talking about him, as time went on he was starting to get genuinely agitated. Understandable since everyone on the bus was by now looking at him as much as they were looking at her.
Thankfully, suddenly her monologue shifted topic. “And I pulled down my knickers and I showed my daughter what God had given me. And she was jealous.” WHAT THE FUCK! Where did that come from? How seamlessly she moved from “the guy in front’s a rapist” to “so I was having a whose-got-the-best-minge competition with my daughter”. EYEEEEEEW!
The guy in front continued to get a rest as a young girl with a pushchair got on. This young girl was to be the focus of the crazy woman’s attention for the next few minutes. “I looked at her and she was only a child herself, she should have been enjoying her own childhood instead of bringing another life into this world, but she’s such a slag and she couldn’t resist feeling that penis going in and out in and out in and out…” she repeated this so many times it was fucking nauseating! She had this knack of describing things in such a clinical matter of fact way, as if bringing it up casually in a conversation. But the stuff she was coming out with was monstrous. At one point she started graphically describing what the childbirth process was like.
I felt really sorry for the young girl, who just like the other passengers she targeted, took a bit of time to realise what was going on – so there were a few minutes where everyone else on the bus knew exactly who she was talking about, but the girl (who had just got on) didn’t.
By this point I was tempted to get off the bus and walk the rest of the way. But we were almost at Tooting. I hung on as she focussed back on the black guy. She wove her perceptions of the girl as a “slag” and the guy as a “rapist” into a new fantastical monologue about the two of them. In the course of the journey it was not the first time she told stories, as if they were fact, about multiple people on the bus.
My stop arrived, and I was already at the door waiting for the bus to slow down. Made it out alive. Turned around, the black guy was behind me, and behind him, the woman. Still talking. “The women in Tooting need to watch out for this one, but you can see the rape in his eyes, he can’t hide it.” Oh for fuck’s sake! GET ME OFF THIS BUS!
I got off and basically ran to the supermarket, never looking back. Partly because I wanted to be far away in case anything kicked off, but mainly because I needed a headstart in case this crazy woman was also going to Sainsbury’s. I had this frightening vision of her behind me at the checkout as I prepared to romance one of my Sainsbury’s honeys, “The only reason he’s been buying nothing but cucumbers, cherries and condoms for the past 6 months is because he’s trying to tell your subconscious that he wants in your pants.”
In my defence of the classic tale you are about to read, I would say – not many aspiring comedy bloggers could squeeze three different cocks into a single anecdote. In fact, I would probably advise you smear yourself with lube before reading any further.
This tale of three parts begins at school, with an immature and puerile act typical of adolescent lads, and continues with an equally immature and puerile act of my own in later adult life – I really was a late developer in every sense.
We were in high school, and some rumours had been circulating regarding the sexual orientation of one fellow pupil, a lad I will refer to as Rob. Homosexuality had not reached the West of Scotland in the 1990s, and so there were two sexual preferences for the male pupils in the school. He could be interested in his female peers, indeed most were, and pursue romantic and sexual relations with the ladies. Or alternatively he could be interested in sexual union of the more sheepy variety. Yes, rumour had it, that Rob was a sheep-shagger, who dreamt of romantic evenings by candlelight in the company of man’s woolliest friend, and the tantalising promise of a special winter willy warmer.
A young artist and wannabe anthropologist in the yeargroup, who I shall call Johnson, had noted Rob’s fondness for lamb, and in addition to spreading this sexual preference around the rest of the school verbally, also commissioned himself to produce a piece of work that would shake the school, the art world, the farming community and young Rob to their very knees.
The “life drawing” he produced was a painstakingly sketched depiction of one of life’s most intimate moments, seen through the eyes of Rob and his ovine partner (although to be honest the position they were in meant only Rob could see anything, the sheep was just looking off to the distance with a pained expression on its face). As a metaphor for Rob’s limitless affinity for these creatures, the sheep was giant-sized, and Rob was on stilts in order to reach the required height for lovemaking. The piece was inscribed with the title “Rob – Sheep Shagger”; the bluntness of the title jarring (deliberately we presumed) with the thoughtful and poignant imagery. In a sense, Johnson’s goal here was to make us all think about how we rush to pigeon-hole people and use mean words when we see a young man on stilts knobbing a giant sheep.
Johnson wasted no time waiting for artistic recognition, nor awards or prizes, for this work. He went straight into mass production.
A total of 50 photocopies were made, a good start, and Johnson set about with distribution and logistics. Copies of this artwork were to be posted around town, presumably to raise the value of the original, and also to raise awareness of sheep love around the school and community.
Copies were pushed through letterboxes, clearly to ensure even housebound members of the public were aware of, and supportive of, Rob’s sexual choices. Additional copies were sent to various locations by mail, scheduled to arrive in the coming days, ensuring the issue of Rob’s dodgy leanings (perhaps due to the stilts) could not be forgotten.
It was about halfway through the complex distribution endeavour that it dawned on Johnson that Rob had not been ready to have his alleged sexual orientation discussed by the entire community, and like many great artists before him, trouble came his way. One grassing schoolmate was heard to say “It was Johnson, he never did have a sense of scale.”
After being promptly shepherded into the Headmaster’s office, Johnson realised he couldn’t pull the wool over everyone’s eyes anymore and he confessed. He was suspended from school for two weeks, his pencils confiscated and his photocopying rights severely curtailed. Some say he deserved it, some say he went too far. Some say he was a hero, helping out the little guy (by giving him stilts so he could reach the giant sheep). But this was of little consolation to Rob, as further copies of the sketch made their way through letterboxes around the town at the whim of Royal Mail.
Fast-forward about 6 or 7 years, I had moved to Birmingham for my first job and was living in a small bedsit with a nudist and a nutcase for neighbours. I had kept in touch with Johnson sporadically during Uni and beyond via e-mail and instant messenger. Also during this time, the nudist antics of my favourite neighbour seem to have rubbed off on me and I had become known to streak or do various nudey dares at the drop of a hat (especially if the hat was strategically placed between my legs). Indeed, as a true late developer, I had waited until I was salaried and independently living before doing the kind of stupid immature things my friends had got out of their system many years previous.
One evening, while chatting on instant messenger to Johnson, I was telling him about my new place. He found it hilarious that my interest in all things Wallace & Gromit – which I was quite famous for at school – had remained with me, and I told him of the Wallace & Gromit posters hanging up on my wall. He asked to see, so I got my amazing new 1/2 megapixel digital camera out and prepared to take a photo.
At some point in proceedings I decided that, as I was sitting around on my laptop wearing only a towel, it would be “hilarious” if I took a photo of these posters with me standing completely naked in front. Yes, you can see my comedy has come along leaps and bounds since those days. After all, what’s better than a surprise picture of your anorexically thin schoolmate; you guessed it, a surprise picture of your anorexically thin schoolmate wearing fuck all. I set my state-of-the-art Kodak digital camera to take a timed shot, and it was done. “The look on his face when he sees this” I giggled, feeling like some kind of cock shock-jock.
That was naïve for several reasons.
Firstly, his reaction was not one of shock nor hilarity. Without hesitation, he copy-pasted the photo into an e-mail and sent it to all our mutual schoolfriends. Can you believe that? Of course you can, because what you’re thinking is the one thing that completely escaped me at the time – I had sent this picture to the one person who had a PREVIOUS DOCUMENTED TRACK RECORD in the copying and distribution of incriminating explicit materials. It was like the Rob incident all over again, except he didn’t need to do any drawing, or pay for any photocopying, or feel the wrath of the headmaster. Of all the people to send such a photo to.
It was almost worth it for the fact that one of our friends he sent it to, who was still at Uni studying for a PhD, opened this innocuous looking e-mail the next day right in the middle of a busy computer lab, with no idea what was about to fill his screen in this very public place.
The second reason this act was naïve because, as I later learned, one of Johnson’s “party tricks” is that he can hang his manhood into a pint glass and comfortably touch the bottom. I shall wait a few moments while you ladies rush off to the kitchen to get a pint glass.
Yes ladies that’s right, touches the bottom! I believe though when once demonstrating this pint glass trick, he had complaints that there was too much head.
So aside from sending this piece of nudey terrorism to the one person most likely to copy it and distribute it to all and sundry, he was also the person most likely to snigger in a derisory fashion at the exposed contents of the photo.
It couldn’t get any worse could it. Course it could.
About a year later, my workmate Thomas was round at my place, and I was showing him this new internet thing called filesharing, where you could download … um … digital versions of things you had already bought and owned. Yes that’s right, just things you had bought. Definitely not download anything else, like free music and stuff. Maybe you could do that, but of course I never would, and certainly not in an incriminating anecdote on an internet blog.
So I was showing Thomas how to use this new internet technology responsibly, and in a copyright-respecting way, when I noticed a file starting to transfer off my PC. A file I didn’t realise I had put in my sharing folder, thereby allowing it to be grabbed by anyone. A file called me&wallace&gromit.jpg.
I didn’t have time to stop it, because it was a fucking 1/2 megapixel camera the file size was tiny and it transferred in seconds. For all I know this could now be the most viewed image on a bizarre “skinny naked dudes who like British animation” fetish site. I’ve occasionally in the past tried searching for it to see if I can find it, thankfully nothing yet. But it’s out there. Waiting for me to become famous, then it’ll suddenly appear in the tabloids – “McCann as you’ve never seen him before. Skinny, with no grey hair! Oh and naked”. Oh well, at least I’d be able to get another anecdote out of it.
Either way, despite kicking myself about sending this prank photo to Johnson, with his history of humiliating campaigns of mass distribution, never mind his pint-glass-bothering member, it wasn’t him who had caused this very private photo to be shared across the world wide web.
Thanks to my naïve use of peer-to-peer filesharing, it was actually me.
Oh here’s an anecdote for you, so what started out as a simple lick of paint for McCannecdotes.com about a month ago, ended up being a total fucking nightmare of nothing working as it should and endless nights staring at code (and some porn). The result is a site that does pretty much everything the old site did, has some capital letters in places the old one didn’t, and is somewhat easier to put videos onto. I’m just kidding there are many, many benefits to the new site, including the ability to look at every post on a single page, more prominent use of Twitter, which means I’ll have to start using it, and the ability to give every post a subtitle, which is fantastic if I think of two puns for the same story. But I’m sure you have many questions about the new layout and how it will affect your lifestyle, and I’m sure there are already several Facebook groups set up in protest, campaigning for McCannecdotes.com to go back to the old way.
No-one likes change. Except the homeless. Here’s the Q&A.
I’m new here, what has changed?
Nothing at all, move along. Enjoy.
Why did you redesign the site?
The old site dated from 2009. Which is more dating than I’ve been doing in that time. Look, I was bored, and the old site was very very old – much as I tried to spice it up, it just needed rebuilding from scratch. Plus I’ve got more video content for the site, and so I needed a design that was better-placed to show that off.
Where can I find X, Y and Z?
On a maths site.
Something looks funny, what should I do?
This Q&A isn’t an anecdote.
Well, when I print it off and accidentally give myself a paper cut with it, it will be. By the way, your “question” wasn’t a question.
What if I prefer the old site, what can I do?
Ha ha ha. Jog on… Actually you better sprint.
I love the new site, what should I do first, I’ve never been this excited I think I’m going to be sick?
Firstly, connect yourself to me as much as you possibly can without it being sexual. Subscribe to my YouTube channel, follow me on Twitter, Like the Facebook page, subscribe to the blog by e-mail (it’s at the bottom of the page). The buttons and icons are all over the site, it’s nauseating, but at least it means there’s no excuse for missing an update. Secondly, tell ALL your friends, share everything with everyone you have ever met, to the point they think I am paying you to be my social marketing whore. When I am the internet’s most famous comedian I will send you a PDF of a thank you letter than you can print out and display in your home or office.
I think, I’m not sure, but I might have missed some posts from the old site, can I still read them?
Are you fucking kidding me, how can you not have read everything? You might have missed the best ones! Thankfully, the new site still has all my old (timeless, classic, enduring) material, AND I’ve made it easier to browse, just click the button below to see the title and intro to every post ever (probably including this one) in one page.
You’re not posting as much as before, have you run out of material?
This is a Q&A about the redesign not an opportunity for cheap digs about my recent lack of updates. Yes, there will be more posts in the near future as I have a backlog of material.
Lastly, is there anything YOU would like to ask ME?
Yes, did you share your favourite posts with your friends yet and go on my YouTube and Twitter and Facebook like I asked you to?
I’m doing it now, promise. What if I think of more questions?
Send them using the form below. I promise to answer you personally, even though I’m told some of the things I say to people are too personal.
I don’t mean the people who currently live upstairs have displayed consistently bizarre behaviour in the time I’ve known them. I mean the people upstairs, whoever they were, in the whole ten years I’ve lived in this flat, have always been weird. With only a couple of exceptions.
Me and my flatmate live in a ground-floor three-bedroom flat. The third bedroom is mainly for guests and Andrea’s clients, who pay good money to have a hour of her services in that bedroom*
*Whilst I was originally going to put this explanation as a footnote, given the fact Andrea has fists, is German and is nearby I better clarify straight away she teaches German language students. Although to be honest she has the door shut so she could be doing anything in there, maybe she just uses a lot of basic German vocab during the act…**
Upstairs is split into two flats, occupying the same space combined as our flat downstairs, and with two bedrooms each. You can read more about how I ended up in this flat ten years ago in The Coming Out & The Punchbag, the definitive tale of a straight man moving to London with a gay couple.
When I first moved in, Gangly Slow-walking Tool lived upstairs. He was my first nemesis in London. To be fair his only real crime (and it was a crime) was that he walked incredibly slowly. I used to see him a lot in the morning on my way to work or on my way home from the Tube station. You’re thinking “oh so the two of you left and got home from work at the same time, what a coincidence” – no, not quite. You see, the 6-minute walk to/from the Tube station took him about half an hour, so chances are, most days I’d pass him at some point. I could be on the same Tube train as him home, pop next door to Sainsbury’s to pick up a week’s worth of phallic groceries from the Polish checkout girl, and still beat him home.
He was incredibly lanky, so lanky that with those massive legs, jointed no doubt by three pairs of knees, it actually must have taken him considerable effort to walk slowly at all. He could have been home in about 14 seconds if he just strolled. Even less if he just angled himself right and fell over. It got to the stage I would overtake him on the street with heavy sighs or mutters of “fuck’s sake”. I guess you could say it’s up to him what speed he walks at, but who would choose to travel for so much longer than he had to.
Nobody goes for a train and sees a fast train and a very slow train that goes via Crewe, Southampton and Lossiemouth, and opts for the slow train. It’s just not normal. No-one says “well I don’t normally use the Tube but I hear today there are severe delays so…”
I only ever spoke to him once, and that was when a Chinese man had come round to get rid of some mice that were squatting in our building and dropped our keys in the street, which were then found by the police who handed them in to the letting agents who sent someone round within an hour to change all our locks meaning none of us could actually get into the building when we came home from work. He even talked slowly. I wanted to tell him he could effectively triple his lifespan if he just hurried the fuck up about going about his day. As we were hanging around outside to get in to our flat, he actually seemed to be enjoying the waiting…
The next neighbour of note has already been featured on this blog for his sleep-streaking activities, and is summed up in that very short post by the letter pictured there which he shoved under our door one day.
Then we had by far the noisiest neighbours upstairs on my side. This was a period during which I got very little fucking sleep at all. When I did sleep I’d be woken ridiculously early by the shower upstairs and doors slamming. Like 5am early. Now, my bedroom is at the back, and right below their living room, bathroom and kitchen. I could hear everything.
But of course, they must have gone to bed early, right? No no no. Especially on karaoke night, which was about twice a week and often lasted until 1 or 2 in the morning.
Good singers? Glad you asked. No. Fucking awful. It was like listening to an old man getting a colonoscopy with a splintered snooker cue.
I don’t know what kind of karaoke system they had but it sounded like they had one of those old style massive amps stuck on the floor above my bedroom ceiling, and the volume set to 11. I should have called the police and told them some Filipinos were murdering Michael Bolton in the flat upstairs. I had to go up there once, and indicate to them on the floor of their flat where my fucking pillow was in relation to their microphones.
Whilst the karaoke was the pinnacle of the disturbance, the worst thing was just the general stomping around, and use of the shower that bordered on OCD. Why were they taking so many showers? I eventually figured there must be a lot of people sharing that 2-bed flat. I thought maybe as many as five judging from the relentless bustling around in the morning.
I’d become friends with one of the people upstairs; he used to pop down to play PS3, and we kept in touch. After they left, I finally got round to asking the question that had been bugging me. “So, how many of you guys were there up there?” [in that two-bed flat half the size of ours]
Nine! The couple who “officially” rented it were basically sub-letting to 7 time-shifting Filipino students, whose various work commitments meant they used the beds/shower etc at different times. My complete inability to sleep for about a year and a half was suddenly very clearly explained.
Meanwhile, my flatmate at the time Pieter was having similar trouble with the people on his side. His bedroom was at the front, underneath a bedroom upstairs. Should have been OK right? His problem was not noise of people moving around, his problem was that, like the people on my side, there were swapovers. Middle of the night swapovers.
Some guy would come at 3am, buzz upstairs, then someone would come to the window of the bedroom above his and throw down keys to let the new person in. I don’t know what was so incredible about those flats upstairs that they were so oversubscribed, while we were living like kings in disgusting opulent luxury downstairs, with our whole bedroom each. Maybe I am just so fucking incredible that hordes of people want to be near me. Maybe the flats upstairs are ten times more expensive than the place I’m in.
I’ve been here ten years, so I fucking hope so.
After these jokers, I had the three hot oriental sisters above me. Nothing weird about them. That was a good year.
More recently, for a couple of years we had another two Asian families upstairs. The flat on my side: four bickering, arguing adults and one relatively peaceful toddler. The other side: two adults and the two most hyperactive toddlers you have ever heard. They would run, day and night, whenever they weren’t sedated or chained up, which was never, up and down the length of the flat, wearing what appeared to be concrete shoes.
I actually bought a new sound system specifically to combat the noise generated by these energetic little bastards. Did their mother breast-feed them with Red Bull-soaked tits?
Me and Andrea lost the will to live when a double pushchair was discovered on the landing and a casual conversation with the couple revealed they were expecting twins. Thankfully they moved out shortly after, presumably to a flat with some kind of running track and 4 bungee ropes built in.
On my side, it was never a surprise when the usually tranquil toddler woke up crying. It’s a surprise she didn’t wake up more often given that the four adults, at least one of which was hopefully related to her, were constantly shouting and screaming at each other. I’d given up smoking, but would still go outside to have a drinky on the patio. It was usually quieter outside than in my bedroom. When they had their window open above me, I began to notice a curious effect. When I would go outside, I would hear one of the people upstairs coughing theatrically by the window for about a minute, then the window would slam shut.
I noticed it more and more. Were these people such morons that every time I went outside they were imagining being suffocated by cigarette smoke, coughing loudly to indicate to me that I was slowly killing them, and then slamming their window shut in protest. After a few months of this I realised, yes … they were. I enjoyed the pure farce of it for some time, and then one night, I snapped.
They spluttered, “[Cough], [cough], [wheeze], it’s the smoker again, close the window, [cough], [cough], [COUGHCOUGHCOUGH]”
“I HAVEN’T SMOKED IN SIX MONTHS YOU STUPID FUCKING BASTARDS!”
I was tempted to stick some dog food in the garden, ring a bell and wait for them to come rushing down.
They moved out shortly after the couple with the toddlers and the new twins. But for a time there were 11 people above us.
The latest set of neighbours seemed normal enough. A gobby but nice enough English “lad” and his girlfriend on one side and another Asian family on my side. I don’t know if the flat above my room is specifically marketed as being perfect for Asian families with young children. It was all fairly normal.
Until last Sunday morning…
Andrea had suspiciously disappeared overnight to stay at a girlfriend’s house. I was rudely awoken at 6.30am by a buzz at the door… actually, no I wasn’t woken. I was still awake, and had literally just gone to bed after staying up all night playing piano (with headphones on!) and pottering around with some McCannecdotes work. But the door buzzed. I thought “who the fuck could that be at 6.30 in the morning on a Sunday”. I considered ignoring it. I considered going to the door and beating them to death for buzzing me at 6.30am on a Sunday. The door buzzed again and again.
For a moment, I thought “maybe it’s Andrea, home early, and she’s forgot her keys?” and then “in that case, fuck her, she shouldn’t be so forgetful.” I went back to bed. Buzz, buzz buzz. I got back up and went to the door to have a look out of the spyhole.
I saw what appeared to be a tall, uniformed man at the front door of the building. Looked a bit policey. And then another, dressed the same beside him, not only looking policey but doing that policey thing where he’s got his hand on his shoulder and he’s talking into it. Shit! It was the pigs! And they were looking for me!
After I shat myself I wondered what I could possibly have done. I guess I’m criminally overlooked by women, maybe it was regarding that?
I put on my best innocent face, and went to the door to see was all the fuzz was about. When I got out to the inside hallway (foyer?) in front of the stairs leading up to the other flats and looked through the main door, there were not two, but about 6 of them. I opened the door, the uniforms said Border Police.
I almost said “If this is about the Scottish independence thing, I do not agree with that one bit, I think those people are c…”
“Hello sir, we’re actually looking for upstairs, can we come in and pop up.”
“Oh. Yeah sure. Go on ahead.” I held the door open as the first two came in, followed by a hot black policegirl who I almost said “how you doin’?” to, and then three more guys.
The last guy said, “Do you mind if we leave the door open, we’ve got some more colleagues out front?”
“Ha ha! More?! Sure!” I then said something which sounded great at the time but in hindsight was incredibly stupid, “If you guys need anything, just give me a knock yeah?”
What the fuck? What would they need from me? “Can we use your phone?” It’s not 1987. “Don’t suppose you have any herbal teabags?” Or perhaps “Excuse me mate, I’m having some trouble bringing my wife to orgasm lately, I was wondering if you could pop round and show me how it’s done?”
As the last guy went up the stairs, he stopped and turned around, and flashed ID, “Oh, by the way, Border Agency. Immigration.” Ha ha, leave that bit till last, it’s OK, you were all wearing vaguely convincing uniforms, I’d already shat myself, I didn’t need to see ID, I just let you all in without questioning a thing!
I went back inside and spent the next two hours, flitting between the front windows observing the two (TWO!) unmarked vans parked outside, looking through the spyhole at the comings and goings of the bacon, and smoking outside (I’ve started again) listening to the pigs rummaging around upstairs, emptying drawers out and interrogating the aliens.
I hadn’t been to bed! I was going to sleep just as this drama began to unfold, now I was hyper from all the excitement. After a painstaking couple of hours, curtain-twitching and furiously eaves-dropping, the police left, with some human cargo, packed up their vans and drove off. I ended up staying up the whole rest of the day, gossiping to friends about the excitement and waiting for Andrea to come home from “witness protection” to ask her if she was the grass (which she denies).
So, there are now less people upstairs than ever before, but I’m sure that’s not going to last…
** She has actually punched me for something entirely different in the course of me writing this article.
Imagine you’d never met me (some of you haven’t; you should, I’m nice) and I went up to you in a train station in London and said “Excuse me, can you do me a favour, I need a newspaper, but rather than going to the newsagent just over there and buying one, I’d rather give you the money and you go to Manchester for me by train, pick one up from the newsagent at the station and then come back. Would you mind? You’d be doing me a favour, I really can’t be arsed.”
You’d tell me to fuck off right? In fact, you’d be utterly astonished that I would ask such a thing. It’s a ludicrous idea, that you would spend 4 or 5 hours of your time just for a few moments convenience for me, a total stranger.
Imagine you actually did it, and when you got back I said to you “Thanks I’d really like to read my newspaper now, oh by the way” and I elbowed you in the face and then pushed an old woman. “Sorry, I need to keep hitting you and pushing this old woman to fully enjoy my newspaper, do you mind?”
By now, even those of you who don’t like the word, would be thinking if not saying “What an utter unbelievable selfish cunt.”
How could such people even exist? How could anyone be so inconsiderate and rude like that, how could someone be so wrapped up in their own convenience that they would happily in all conscience do these things? Well, it turns out, if you travel by Tube, you probably see someone like this every day, you might even be that person yourself.
I spent my Tube journey home tonight looking at two people, who shared the characteristics of the person in my story above. And I wondered, how could I possibly explain to them how selfish they are, what analogy could I use to make them change their ways… the Manchester newspaper cunt was what I came up with.
The first twattish characteristic represents the person on the Tube who barges through closing doors. The doors are beeping, he comes running, he can tell he’s not going to make it before the doors start to close. He chooses to try to get some part of his body into the doors, to cause them to reopen so he can get in. Sometimes they reopen straight away, sometimes there’s a struggle as they try to close and he tries to pry them open. They’re going to open eventually, the train cannot physically move with the doors open. After a struggle maybe, the doors reopen. He gets on, usually with a strangely triumphant look on their face. Usually people on the Tube don’t really look or talk to each other, but someone who has just managed to get on the train by blocking the door always gets on as if they’re going to be high-fived, big smile on their face, a mighty “phew”, “that was close, huh”.
It happens all the time. Do they really not realise what they have done?
He has decided that rather than wait 1 or 2 minutes on the next train, he would prefer to delay around 800 people, anything between 15 and 30 seconds. Each.
I’ll say that again, he has missed the train, he can either wait a minute or so for the next, or he can cause 800 other people, just like him, to share a delay of about five hours. Those people will be later home, maybe just a fraction, but still later home. In some cases they will miss a connecting train, and have to wait a few minutes, maybe hundreds of people on a packed train could be in that situation.
When you put it like that, doesn’t that seem quite mind-bogglingly selfish. It’s asking someone to go to Manchester to buy you a newspaper rather than popping along the road to the shop. Yet, how many times have you seen people do this, regular people like you and me, who seem unaware of how spectacularly self-centred they are being.
Onto the second characteristic in my analogy; why was my character hitting people so they could enjoy their newspaper?
There’s a woman on the Tube, it’s rush hour, a busy train. She has decided the most important thing in her life at that moment is that she has to read a newspaper. Nothing matters more. If she has to spend more than a few moments not reading a newspaper she will start shaking and go crazy.
She has to make the choice between holding on to the rail in the train or read her newspaper. There is no choice for her, newspaper every time.
Now, she knows that she is on a train. A vehicle which careers through bendy tunnels at high speed. The train brakes. The people who are sitting or who are holding on to the rail – i.e. most people – are OK, because they got on board in the knowledge that they were going to be travelling on a fast-moving vehicle. Newspaper lady loses her footing and bashes into the person in front of her.
With an incredible lack of self-awareness, she mutters “stupid train”, “fuck’s sake”.
In order to get passengers to their destination after braking sharply, and not cause a total meltdown of London’s arterial underground transport network, the train has to do one key thing; it has to speed up again. Even to those of us without a Masters Degree in Metropolitan Transportation Systems, this is to be expected. To the woman with the newspaper, it comes as a great shock. After pounding the poor person in front of her and steadying herself, has she learned her lesson and decided to hold on to something? Fuck no. She is turning the page of her newspaper. The train accelerates, she is thrown backwards this time (I’m no physics expert but I’d have put money on that); she stands on someone foot, pushes an old lady and almost knocks a man’s iPad out of his hand trying to steady herself.
I watched this fucking moronic bitch for some time as she continued to jostle around the place, no thought given to the people she injured or could injure, no consideration of the fact if the train derailed or had an accident she could probably kill someone. No … it’s impossible to survive a train journey without reading a newspaper, it’s impossible to hold the newspaper in one hand and hold on with the other, and turn the pages when the train stops. Of course it is.
This woman has made the conscious choice that battering people is worth it so she can have the comfort of reading a fucking newspaper.
The sad thing is, these are not rare people, these are choices people make every day, I’d hope without really realising. And if you are one of these people, this is your time to realise.
Knocking someone over because you’ve chosen not to hold on is a conscious decision you have made. Delaying a train full of people just to save yourself 60 seconds is a conscious choice you have made. Are those the choices of a normal person? Are those choices that people would expect of you? Do your friends think of you as an inexcusable selfish cunt with no regard for other people? Probably not, so don’t act like one.
If you’re not one of these people, there are things you can do to effect change in commuter society. Don’t be afraid to say “listen sweetheart, it’s not the train’s fault that you’re a fucking moron with no concept of how trains work, now if you don’t hold on to something, I’m going to take that newspaper, shove it up your arse and staple your fucking hand to the railing.” And for those who block the doors a swift kick in the testicles can really help get a train moving faster and help lessons to be learned.
Or you could just share this post and spread the word.
Do I go to the gym? Well, thanks for asking. People rarely ask me that, I don’t know why. Even the staff of Fitness First round the corner from work never ask me, as they patrol the streets giving away free passes and enticing the ladies, gentlemen, circus freaks, tourists and the infirm of the Soho area into their gym. Never once have they thought that I, clearly working nearby, would be interested in joining up. Which is strange because usually people seem to find me very approachable; beggars, scam artists, charity fundraisers, armed police, they’re queuing up for my attention.
What they probably don’t realise though, is I once was a member of their gym. In fact, I was a member of their gym for a year. But they are unlikely to recognise me.
My friend Gypsy had the idea, we would join together. It would be a new thing for us to do as friends and we would motivate each other. Gypsy didn’t really need to go to the gym, unless it was to maintain what she already had. In my case, I didn’t have a gym body; in fact, I had what I would call a pre-gym body, in that I really needed to go to a gym in order to get in decent enough shape to join a gym without being laughed at. I considered buying some gym equipment for home so that I could go through this pre-gym regime but when I thought about the rarely-touched punchbag I hastily impulse-bought and installed in the lounge while my flatmates were in Thailand, I figured investing in more dust-gathering home fitness gear was probably not such a good idea.
Mere days after first mentioning it and getting an unenthusiastic “yeah we could do” from me, Gypsy decided it was time for us to pop around the corner and sign up one day after work. I thought if I was ever going to do it, this would be the time, and after all it would surely be easier if I was doing it with a friend. We went to Fitness First and a guy who seemed like he had a second job as an estate agent or recruitment consultant gobshat his way through the small print, the contract and our various options. I went for the more expensive one, because it included use of Fitness Firsts with a pool. In fact I think I went for the most expensive option there was. Yes, I went from being a member of no gym to being a member of all the gyms in one go.
Who knows, maybe I’d be stuck in Teddington one night with nothing to do and have an overwhelming never-before-experienced desire to work out. Had to make sure I was a member of all the clubs, just in case. I was sure it would come in handy to be able to pop into any Fitness First, anywhere, anytime, because now I was a member, I was bound to be extremely excited about doing as much gymming as I possibly could, and definitely wouldn’t try and think of any excuse at all not to go, ever.
I signed the papers, gave them money, and the promise of more money every month, and also extra money for some personal trainer sessions I was definitely going to use. In return, they gave me a gym bag I didn’t need, a book or something about the gym I never read, a fitness diary I didn’t fill out, a pair of headphones I didn’t want, and a water bottle I wouldn’t use.
It turned out there was a fundamental flaw in me and Gypsy’s tandem gymming plans. We didn’t want to go at the same time. So she started going when it suited her, and I started planning to go when it suited me. But first, I needed some new gym gear. I needed to mask my pre-gym body with some totally post-gym clothing. So I went to the Nike shop nearby and spent what remained of my money on ludicrously overpriced gym kit. I knew, having spent so much money on this endeavour already, I was definitely going to make the most of it.
I had to work my gym times around several key neuroses. Principally, that I could never go when other people from work were there. A difficult one, since the gym was about 15 seconds walk from work. Under no circumstances could anyone from work see me struggle at the gym. After canvassing colleagues and discovering most people go at lunchtime (a time when I am usually eating chicken or sausages), I took the drastic step of deciding to go before work, pretty much when the gym opened. If I saw anyone from work, I would pretend to have a heart attack, and the ambulance usually parked outside the gay gym along the road would come and take me away.
I turned up about a week later – the morning-aversion that causes me to be late for work bizarrely also applying to my planned 7am start at the gym – but I made it, kitted out in brand new training gear, with both the outfit and the physique of someone who has never been in a gym in his life. First I needed a pass to get through, so I spoke to the woman at the desk, explaining I had signed up some weeks ago, never received a membership card or pass, and had been on a long business trip hence why it had taken me so long to come along.
She searched for my membership information as some gymgoers with their annoyingly fit bodies and worn and torn gym clothes shuffled past me, almost smudging my perfectly white brand new Nike t-shirt. She took my name again, and went away to ask someone. Fuck’s sake. More people arrived. The treadmills started to fill up.
Now, I had no fucking idea how to use anything in this place, or any clue what to do once I was in. I had received no information. The treadmill was where I was going to start, figuring it would be fairly straightforward. A few minutes passed and they filled up even more. Where the fuck was this dolled-up fitness tart, how could they have lost my details, I’d given them all my fucking money. And where was the guy who’d roped me into this scam and talked me through everything? Nowhere to be seen, probably showing some people round a two-bedroom semi in Putney.
Speaking of “semi” a bunch of incredibly hot girls arrived. Unusually, this was not a good thing. One of my other major neuroses was that there were to be no hot women, because one thing I could be certain of is, I was going to look like a clueless, exercise-shy fat prick for the first few months of this endeavour and I could not risk local honeys seeing me out of breath while trying to keep up with a treadmill set to a speed that would barely tax a tortoise.
The girls took up the few remaining treadmill places and I stood swearing under my breath as I looked around at all these fit fucks sprinting on the machines. Where were all the fat people I was assured populated gyms; all those people who told me not to be self-conscious, the gym is not full of uber-fit people, it’s got loads of normal people “just like me”. What a load of bullshit. It was like the British Athletics team were all here.
The reception woman came back to me, they’d lost my membership card and would have to get a new one. She offered to let me in anyway, I politely declined, since there was no equipment for me to use, and even if there was I wouldn’t know how to use it. I told her I’d come back another time.
I never went back. I was a member of that fucking gym for 12 months at about £50 a month and I never even got a fucking membership card.
Still… it’s not the worst experience I’ve had in a fitness establishment.
Many years ago when I lived and worked in Birmingham, I used to go swimming at the local leisure centre. My first trip there was rather interesting.
Back then, contrary to my more recent fitness exploits, I wasn’t self-conscious at all, I was skinny to the point of anorexia despite eating like a fat pig. I’d been that way all my life. I’d show you a picture of what I looked like, as I have a few topless photos from those days, however I’ve also got my cock out in all of them (long story), so I think I’ll keep them offline, wouldn’t want a pic like that going astray on the internet again…
I had wandered in to the leisure centre with my swimming gear in my bag, paid, had a look at the pool and then went to find the changing rooms. I followed the signs and walked down a hallway till I saw a door that said in big bold letters “MALE”, and in I went. The changing rooms were empty, I had gone at quite a quiet time. I checked out the scenario with the lockers, how much change was involved, how the fucking lock worked, if the band the key was on would fit around my scrawny wrist without falling off, all the usual stuff. I finished my recce, put my bag down on one of the benches, and started taking my clothes off.
A couple of old farts came in and I clocked them out of the corner of my eye; I had no desire to even catch a glimpse of their ageing sagging body parts as they stripped off so I thoroughly averted my eyes and took my shoes off. They were mumbling away to each other as they had been since coming in, but suddenly that all stopped and there was silence. I felt I was being looked at.
I looked up and these two gentlemen appeared to have quite saggy “moobs”. And one of them, having just opened his shirt, appeared to be wearing a bra. They were both staring at me.
It dawned on me that one of us, or two of us, had made a terrible mistake. Despite the fact I had walked into the room clearly marked MALE, there were two of them, and they seemed quite confident, with the “get out, sex pest” stare they were giving me, that I was in the wrong place. I buttoned up my jeans and picked up my shoes, bag and jacket, and slinked off, without saying a word – swallowing my pride, and a little vomit as I thought about what I might have saw just moments later as these women exposed their gravity-surrendering old bosoms…
I closed the changing room door and looked up at the sign:
What the fuck? How the f… what had happened here? I retraced my steps and as I moved back along the hall, the door frame meant the sign gradually said “EMALE” and then “MALE”. The “FE” had been obscured by the door frame as I walked down the hall. Fuck. I eventually found the proper male changing rooms and went in and I have to say, I’ve never felt so reassured to be greeted by the sight of a black man’s cock.
“Excuse me,” she said, her angular, Billie-Piper-esque gob thoroughly filled with sandwich as she spoke, “Do you have a moment for a quick survey about religion?”
“No sorry,” I said, gesturing to the overflowing Sainsbury’s bag in my hand, “I have to get home, I’m cooking my flatmate dinner.” HA HA HA HA HA HA WHAT A LIE. Fuck me I am good sometimes.
“It’ll just take a … sorry, just finishing my sandwich. It’ll just take a few minutes.”
I was uncomfortable even continuing with the conversation while her mouth was so full. I stood there waiting as she chewed and chewed. It appeared to be a leather sandwich. Or perhaps, I began to think, there was no sandwich and this was an ingenious way to get my attention, by instantly making me feel like I had interrupted her. She finished; “it’ll take five minutes max, I promise, we just want to ask you some questions and then you can get home.”
It was a Friday night and I’d just come from a couple of drinks in a Tooting pub down the road, via Sainsbury’s, where I ironically picked up a loaf of bread, some sandwich fillings, and some very heavy juice and milk. I was feeling reasonably helpful, and she had rushed her sandwich to get my attention (or did she?); I was also mildly “up for” a discussion about religion with strangers. Hey, it was a Friday night about 9 o’clock and I was fucking sober, I need to get my kicks somewhere. “OK, if it’s just five minutes, guess my flatmate can wait.”
She drew me a little further along the pavement outside the Tube Station to where her male companion was waiting. This was no survey, I was clearly in for a God-bashing. These two South Africans fitted the profile. She was potentially hot but her face was weathered and joyless; her friend was blandly-dressed, gormless-looking, with an inexplicable air of self-satisfaction and contentment about him. They were the stereotypical religious zealot couple. This would not take five minutes. She asked my name, shook my hand and introduced herself as Christine. Her friend did the same and introduced himself as Chris. Interesting. I was hoping it was coincidence that they both had Christ in their name.
Now in this anecdote I will probably come across like I’m “God-bashing”-bashing. I am not against the idea of believing in God. I myself believe there is some kind of higher power out there, I have some spiritual ideas, I am very open to hearing people’s views on religion, and I don’t set out to judge people. I very nearly went to Church recently, because I fancied trying it out, and I am currently available for new hobbies. So they could have picked a worse person to chat to. It was theirs to lose really.
Chris, the guy, started. “So, Richard, do you believe in God?” Richard? Where the fuck did that come from, that doesn’t sound at all like Alan.
“Um, yeah I think I do, I believe in A God, but I’m not sure I believe in a particular one that has been decided upon, which may or may not involve the one you’re going to talk to me about.”
“And do you know about Jesus and why he was sent here?” he asked. It seemed like Christine was only there to pull in the punters.
“Again, I am going to have to assume that you’re coming at this from a certain angle. If you’re talking about the Jesus from all the God stories, I believe it was said he was sent to “die for our sins”.”
Chris proceeded to explain to me, in very little detail, a summary of how this came about – told to me like it was fact – and which resulted in me essentially getting the impression God sent his son to die because a man took some fruit when he wasn’t supposed to. I am not trying to be funny here, he really did explain it like that. Or maybe that’s actually what was supposed to have happened. Either way it sounded a little outlandish. He continued, “Can you understand why God did this?”
I had to be honest, “Not really, no, it does sound like he massively overreacted to the whole fruit thing. He could have made more fruit. Or he could have just made more obedient people. Or made the fruit higher. Or not had fruit. Or not had people.” I was giving this a chance but I had a feeling this was not going to be productive. Chris explained to me about sinning, and where we go when we die, and where I thought I was going, and he established that I was a serial sinner when I admitted that I had taken the Lord’s name in vain.
“Imagine, you got in a car, and you ran over someone deliberately. You would have to go in front of a judge, and you would be punished. If you have sinned like you have, when you die, God will judge you in the same way.”
“Hang on,” I gave Chris a chance to correct himself, “Are you trying to say that taking the Lord’s name in vain is just like going out and killing someone?”
“Yes, they are right there next to each other in the Ten Commandments.”
I was somewhat speechless, so I decided to be honest, “Look guys, right I was open to this but I think you’ve lost me right there, that’s just silly talk.”
Christine broke her silence. I had begun to think she could only talk with sandwich in her mouth. She started on this passionate speech about obeying God’s word and letting God into your life and having God in your heart, and being judged by your heart and not by your deeds (meaning, according to her, thinking your neighbour’s wife is hot is just as bad as shagging your neighbour’s wife).
It was a few minutes into this uninterrupted sermon that I noticed Christine only had one arm.
There was just a stump beneath the short sleeve of her t-shirt on her right side. Many, many thoughts popped into my head at this point and I basically lost track of what grip I had at all on what she was saying. Many gags also popped into my head but this was not the time or place. It was strange I had not noticed this before.
She continued for several more self-indulgent minutes as I tried not to stare at the stump whilst simultaneously staring at the stump.
Something wasn’t right and it took me some time to realise…
…I was sure I shook that hand when I met her.
Sure enough, eventually the arm reappeared. She’d either had a very persistent itch, or she had some weird tick where she put her arm behind her back when she talked about Jesus. She eventually asked for some input and asked me if I had any worries in my life. I said yeah sure. She started telling me about how God comes into your life and takes all those worries away, all the things that make you unhappy.
At this point she started crying.
She actually had tears streaming down her face telling me how God takes away all your worries and woes. He clearly has got some work left to do on her. She looked fucking miserable to start with and now she was crying about having her woes taken away. Christine went on, “All your stresses and troubles, think of them like a backpack that you carry around with you all the time.” Good analogy, we both had backpacks on. “When you find God it’s like he takes the backpack off.” She took hers off and lay it on the ground. Role-play. Interactive. Good. “And you realise how good it feels not to be carrying all that heavy baggage with you.”
As I’ve said I was not here to bait these people, but I was sorely tempted to point out that I did have a heavy backpack on, and a very heavy bag of shopping which I’d been standing holding for about ten minutes listening to them talking about this stuff. Some local vagabonds arrived nearby and Christine stopped talking and grabbed her backpack and put it back on. No supreme power was going to stop those hooded gentlemen from making off with her worries and woes if she just left them lying around like that…
It was really time to go, they had not done a great job of convincing me. Out of courtesy I asked if they had any literature. Chris gave me a card with his number on it. And asked for mine. I told him not a chance. I was starting to worry these people would follow me home. Chris asked if I had anything I wanted him to pray for on my behalf. Nice gesture. He said, any personal issues I needed help with, or anything on my mind.
I very nearly asked him to pray for a date for me with the perfect stunning girl from work, but I had a feeling that might sound a little trivial. But it was on my mind, and was a personal issue. Maybe I should have done it, if he’d have pulled it off I might very well have become a believer.
I had a long list of things to achieve before I was 30. The usual stuff, publish novel, win BAFTA, marry Ashley Judd. I compiled this list when I was 20, and ten years seemed like ample time to achieve all my lifelong dreams. I would then retire early, and lose half my fortune to Ashley in exchange for my new squeeze Milla Jovovich. Life was to be good.
Certain things got in the way. Paying rent, needing a job, getting fat and lazy, drinking too much and a spectacular lack of meaningful success with women. In fact, there was barely any meaningless success with women either. As I approached my thirtieth birthday, the fact I had survived my twenties was one of the few achievements to speak of.
But before I reached that milestone, an acquaintance I shall call The Ginger Man was celebrating a more significant and advanced birthday, and myself and some mutual friends were out in Soho on a Friday night to celebrate.
Now I don’t want to get into trouble with the Ginger Mafia over my vaguely racial nickname for this fellow. He was just very ginger. It was the most notable thing about him, there were no other prominent gingers in our circle. He was like the token ginger, but he was ginger through and through. He was balding, but even if he went completely bald, you could have still spotted a mile away that he was ginger. He didn’t just have the ginger genes he had the whole outfit. His ancestors were probably among the first gingers, who crawled out of a cave somewhere in Ireland to attempt to make a futile peace with the glowing orb in the sky.
It’s not the first time I’ve been involved in racial slurs. When I was at school there was just one non-white kid in the whole school. Oh don’t worry he didn’t get bullied, he was fucking enormous. He could buy cigarettes and booze when he was about 12. He had a nickname for me. Ghosty. Because of my incredibly pale skin. Yes, I was called a name derived from the colour of my skin by the only brown kid in the whole school…
Anyway, by the time I arrived The Ginger Man was already quite well-oiled, having already unbuttoned a higher-than-socially-acceptable number of top buttons on his shirt, baring more pube-like ginger chest hair than anyone was willing to see. I didn’t know him that well, only socially, so I spent much of the evening with other friends, occasionally checking in with him on his progress towards a night he wouldn’t remember.
It wasn’t long before I was also quite drunk. I’d have unbuttoned my shirt and shown some chest hair too, if I’d had any… It got to closing time in the bar, and everyone started to say their goodbyes to The Ginger Man. As is usually the way in such scenarios, I didn’t quite know when to leave, so I attached myself to an increasingly-decreasing group of stragglers in the faint hope there would some “going on afterwards” going on. There wasn’t, everyone just fucked off home. It was just me and The Ginger Man.
He was determined to eke as much debauchery out of his milestone birthday as he could, and I was his only party buddy left. He suggested we go on to a gentleman’s establishment. I was quite drunk, and had never been, I thought it would be an interesting thing to do, although I’d always had the suspicion such places might not be my cup of tea. I imagined myself talking to the naked ladies about their goals and ambitions, plans for the future, hopes and dreams, probably paying for them to go to college, buying them flowers…
I let him make all the arrangements, he knew a place – this did not surprise me. He was a senior IT executive. I imagined he knew many such places; I left myself in his capable hands, a position some ladies were shortly going to find themselves in also.
We got a cab and arrived at the establishment. My ginger sleaze facilitator led the way. He spoke to the doorman about getting a nice table; the doorman mumbled something about £500. Ha! Silly money. The Ginger Man took him to one side, presumably to explain he was a regular, knew the boss, that it was his birthday and such fees should be waived. Eventually, we were let in and shown to a nice table by the stage. The Ginger Man clearly had contacts. Actually he did have contacts because he was complaining about how dry they were getting in the bar beforehand.
His first order of business was to get a £200 bottle of champagne. Well, I thought, if he wants to throw his money round like that, it’s up to him. I would have been fine with a tequila and coke, I’m not a big fan of champagne anyway and I was already quite seriously drunk, it was very very late.
The finances of the whole situation escaped me as I didn’t recall paying to get in. When two exotic ladies, who had just been dancing on the stage joined us, I wondered if they were “included” on the entry price. The Ginger Man poured them some champagne and invited his to dance for him.
I asked mine to sit next to me, and started chatting to her about … yeah you guessed it, hopes and dreams, education, career goals, upbringing, favourite colour of wool, all the things. I realised as soon as the girls came over I was just not comfortable with this set-up of giving girls money to “be all sexy in my vicinity”. My partner in crime (and indeed I was still unsure whether what we were doing was legal) was enjoying it a little too much, with seedy groans and awkward leg-shifting as the dancer did her “thang”.
Our girls left just as I was telling mine about my taste in music. A nice girl-next-door horsey type took the stage, someone who most men would probably say “wasn’t hot enough” to be in a place like this, but was just my type. I watched her dance hypnotically on the stage for some time.
What felt like moments later, I felt light shining in my eyes and The Ginger Man was shaking me. I had passed out. It was nearly 8am.
I got up in a daze and grabbed my stuff and made my way out into the light. I lit a cigarette outside and got my bearings. I had sobered up a little bit. Just like the time in the dentist’s chair years later, I had passed out in the most unlikely of places. The Ginger Man told me he had taken care of our bill but I needed to set him straight with my share.
The bill was £1800.
I have never gotten so sober or so awake so quickly in my life. “…the fuck?!” I said. “How did we spend £1800? No hang on, how did YOU spend £1800?!”
“Well, it was £500 upfront for that table you know, those seats aren’t cheap – then £200 for each bottle of champagne, then on top of that all the dances we had.”
“All the dances we had? More like all the dance. And she didn’t even dance for me? She just sat there looking interested in my conversation drinking our champagne. And how many bottles of champagne did “we” have?”
“Oh we had a few,” he confessed, “Plus obviously the dancers were having some too.”
I rewound a little bit, “And wait a minute, I thought you were chatting to that guy about the silly-money table price. At no point did you say to me, oh it’s £500 is that OK with you, I thought you bunged him a tenner and a nudge and a wink!”
“It took a bit of schmoozing even to get the table for £500.”
Basically The Ginger Man had gone nuts on celebrations for his birthday spending shitloads of money which he had foolishly assumed I was paying half of. He’d consulted me on none of the key – and fucking mental – decisions he had made regarding table outlay and ludicrous champagne purchasing. And he had somehow managed to spend at least £800 while I was fucking asleep on the couch next to him.
He insisted at the very least I give him £750 but said I could pay him in instalments. I was too overwhelmed to discuss the matter more, so I got a cab home and piled into bed. Over the next weeks he constantly harassed me for the money, and I sought counsel from some other friends who had been there earlier in the night. One told me “you know there’s a reason none of us stuck around and you were the only one left.” I intended to pay him something, but there was no way I was paying him £750 for an evening I spent mostly asleep. Word got around, via The Ginger Man’s propaganda network, that I was one of those people who goes halves on an evening’s entertainment and then runs off without paying my share.
My reputation was tarnished, I convened some of our mutual friends, who were annoyed with me about what they heard via the red-top’s sensationalist story. But he had been very cagey about the details with them.
When I was confronted with accusations of “Why did you leave him to pay everything, why didn’t you pay your share?” I responded with:
“Do you guys have any idea how much that fat ginger fuck spent that night? No? He didn’t say? EIGHTEEN HUNDRED FUCKING POUNDS!”
Popular opinion was back on my side. I had decided, in consultation with the friends, that a token sum of around £300 was fair, given that he had sought my agreement on absolutely none of the costs associated with this sleazy project and it had gone massively over-budget under his watch. I paid him, and whilst he wasn’t happy, bygones were bygones and things were once again peaceful between the ginger race and the humans.