The Swedophile Ring

With the Eurovision Song Contest taking place in Malmo, Sweden this year, I’m already well-prepared in advance for the festivities, with a Swedish flag and a Swedish sash with Sweden written on it. Now some of you might think that I’m the kind of person who has national tat for every country in the world stocked up in my cupboards “just in case”. You’d be right I very much am that kind of person, however trivial day-to-day expenses like paying the rent and putting food in the microwave has prevented me so far from fully amassing my flag collection. The Swedish stuff I’ve had for some years, and here’s why.

We were having an ABBA party at work. Yes I work in the kind of place that has ABBA parties. It’s just incredible isn’t it. It was a launch party for the karaoke game SingStar ABBA (probably the greatest game ever made). In fact there were two launch parties. One at the work bar for everyone to attend, and another more exclusive event only for those who worked on the game and specially invited guests. It was at a specially-arranged venue, decked out with 70s and 80s memorabilia, and plenty of places to try out the game – a proper launch party.

I found myself invited to both although I’m not sure who I slept with to get an invite to the private party as I had fuck all to do with the game. Actually, I think this was back in my heyday when my name was pre-printed on the guest list template that was used for such events. I was one of those people who never actually got invited to anything, but was always assumed to be making an appearance anyway, usually tagging along with someone who had some kind of influence in such things. I was a true socialite, if socialite is a mix of the words social and parasite.

This was back when I actually made an effort to dress up for things, usually a prohibitively expensive effort; but I was never particularly creative, I would just go dressed up as “the colour of things”. The ABBA parties were to benefit from some thrift due to my recent purchase of some Bosnian flag-coloured items, same yellow and blue as Sweden. So my shoes and top were sorted, I just needed some flags or other Swedish tat to complete the look.

I found there was a Swedish shop nearby in Central London. So on the day of the first party, I headed out at lunchtime to try and find this little part of Sweden to pick up some other appropriate things.

Now I fucking hate shopping at the best of times, and this was a classic example of why. I struggle to find what I’m looking for, I never ask the shop staff anything, and I’m an awkward browser.

Here’s how someone else would have done it. OK, picture the scene. Lucy, an overweight 37-year-old recruitment consultant from Wimbledon, is going to a Swedish-themed party and needs to visit the Swedish shop to pick up some specific items. She locates the shop and walks in, straight up to the counter, “HI IS THIS THE SWEDISH SHOP, YOU SELL SWEDISH THINGS RIGHT? TELL YOU WHAT IT IS…. WHAT IT IS IS, I’M GOING TO A PARTY TONIGHT AND I NEED SOME FLAGS AND ETC AND YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN AND THE LIKE HAVE YOU GOT ANY?” Lucy’s startling gobbishness immediately overwhelms the proprietors, she explains her situation and her demands confidently and without mercy. She doesn’t even pause for breath, instead using meaningless gobshite phrases, like “what it is is” to fill the gaps in her sentences. “OH THEY’RE IN THE BACK ARE THEY, GREAT, CAN YOU JUST COME WITH ME TO SEE. OH IS THIS ALL YOU HAVE – OK HOW MUCH FOR THIS BIG ONE, THAT’S A BIT EXPENSIVE ISN’T IT WHAT’S THIS MADE OF, NO I THINK THE SMALL ONE’S TOO SMALL, IT’S TOO SMALL ISN’T IT, DON’T WANT TO BE SPENDING MY LIFE’S SAVINGS ON THIS IT’S JUST FOR A PARTY. REALLY CAN I HAVE THE BIG ONE FOR THE PRICE OF THE SMALL ONE THAT’S VERY KIND, WELL I IMAGINE YOU DON’T SELL MANY AT THAT PRICE, BUT THAT’S VERY KIND, OK JUST HOLD ON TO THIS FOR ME. AND MY HANDBAG THANKS. NOW WHAT ELSE DO YOU HAVE?” Lucy picks up everything, tugs on it to test the quality, grunts about the cost of everything, and throws it all back down on the floor. All the while asking the proprietor questions she has no intention of letting him answer, “SO WHAT PART OF SWITZERLAND ARE YOU FROM OH I LIKE THIS ONE HOW MUCH IS THIS HOW ABOUT THIS ONE, HANG ON LOVE HE’S WITH ME RIGHT NOW, HE’LL BE WITH YOU IN A SECOND – RIGHT HOW MUCH FOR THE FLAG AND THIS SASH IF THEY DON’T GO DOWN WELL AT THE PARTY I CAN BRING THEM BACK RIGHT? NICE SHOP YOU HAVE HERE. RIGHT HERE YOU GO, TWO POUNDS AND … FIFTY PENCE, HAVE A NICE DAY I HAVEN’T EVEN HAD MY LUNCH YET IT’S JUST BEEN NON-STOP.”

She’s out of the shop with exactly the items she wanted, and a discount, in less than two minutes.

Here’s how I did it.

I walked up and down the street about 3 times, subtly checking out the shop to make sure it was the right one, and trying from the outside, to see if they had the things I needed. The potential gossip around town if I was caught going into a wrong shop, or indeed a shop that didn’t stock what I wanted was just terrifying. I definitely had the right shop, but could see nothing but food in the windows. There was a flag, but it appeared to be part of the shop’s furniture and fixings. I almost turned back, but the party was tonight and where else could I get a Swedish flag at such short notice. And turn up at the party without one? Unthinkable.

What I did next required all my courage. I walked into the shop, uncertain if they had what I needed. The shop was completely empty – the delicate door chime might have well been an Olympic fanfare as it echoed around the store. Two motionless shop assistants observed my entrance from behind the counter without even turning their heads. I turned my back on them to look at the goods on the wall by the door. I heard a whisper in Swedish. I tried to avoid eye contact. I prayed to the God of Awkward Shoppers that he would bind them to their counter and under no circumstances let them come towards me or speak to me.

I tilted my head down at some unusual foodstuffs, whilst sweeping the rest of the shop with my eyes trying to find the bright blue and yellows that I sought. I saw another flag on the wall. Another fixture. Doesn’t this place fucking sell anything? Everything here apart from the food was part of the shop. The assistants didn’t move, but they were staring at me. I had to be careful, if I looked too confused one of them might talk at me. But I had to buy time…

I sidled along the side of the shop blindly as my eyes darted all over looking for possible locations for the Swedish tat they surely, surely sold. There appeared to be “a back” in the shop, a small area down a couple of stairs, seemed to have some assorted junk in it – maybe this was the place. I could hardly think straight, I could feel the two of them staring at me.

“Can we help you with anything?”

Fuck, fuck, they’ve caught me. I nearly shat myself. Panic panic, what to say, what to say, what to say, what do I fucking tell them why won’t they leave me alone! “No, I’m good thank you, just browsing.”

Why didn’t I ask them about flags? What if they don’t have flags, what if it’s just a food shop they’ll think I’m a freak if I ask them about flags. They don’t sell Union Jacks in fucking Greggs do they? I had to get them off my back and buy some time so I could make it to the relative sanctuary of the back area. My heart was racing, what if they asked me again? What if they started interrogating me about why I was here. WHAT IF THEY CAME OUT FROM BEHIND THE COUNTER AND APPROACHED ME!? I zoned in on a box of chocolatey stuff. Looked like weirdly packaged maltesers. I picked them up and said, without turning round, keeping my back to my captors the whole time “Ah, yes. Just what I was looking for.” That bought me some time. I could hear them mumbling about me in Swedish. I had to be quick.

With every few steps towards the back area – where I begged the Lord there would be fucking flags – I had to keep them off my tail. I kept picking things up to go with my maltesers, “Ah yes, once again, another thing I was looking for…”

I made it to the back area and stacked the assorted nonsense in one arm, so I could rummage. I didn’t have much time. If I stayed in here too long, one of them was bound to come looking for me, and ask me questions about why I’m here and what I’m looking for and how they can help me, it would be awful. And then I saw them, a box full of tacky Swedish flags on sticks. I grabbed one, it was a bit mangy but I couldn’t swap it for another – you can’t just go in shops and pick stuff up and put them back right?

It was nearly over. I emerged with all my items and cautiously approached the checkout. The man seemed to switch into English momentarily as I approached, seemingly for my benefit, as he finished chatting to his female colleague, “And after I’d finished building the log cabin, myself and … oh good afternoon. Did you find what you were looking for?”

“Yes thank you.” I noticed some blue sashes that said “SWEDEN” on them, on the counter. I took a gamble, “Are those for sale?”

“Why yes of course. Everything’s for sale.”

Everything’s for sale? Really? No it isn’t, or I wouldn’t be standing here with half a tonne of Swedish chocolates in my arms, I’d have walked in grabbed the flag out the window, brought it straight to the counter, said “Gimme Gimme Gimme” and been out of here without so much as an “A-ha”.

I watched in anguish as he counted up all this imported Scandinavian confectionary on the cash register. Thirty-two pounds. For a tacky flag, a tacky sash and an armful of Swedish maltesers.

I left the shop as I leave many shops, with my wallet considerably emptier and the items I went in for buried in a bag full of needless shit my social awkwardness forced me into buying. As I walked away I caught a glimpse of myself in the shop window, with the flag popping out of my bag and suddenly realised why the shop assistants had given me a wide berth.

I was already dressed for the party. I had a yellow t-shirt on, a blue wristband, and bright yellow and blue shoes. And I had walked into a Swedish shop. They probably thought I was a nutcase, some kind of deranged Swedophile who was going to take them hostage. Their finger was probably under the counter on the alarm button for the duration of my visit. When he told me the sashes were certainly for sale, he probably meant it like “Just take what you want, just take it all and go, leave us alone!”

I got back to work and dumped my spoils in the “usual place” where treats are stored on our floor. The maltesers were popular but everyone only ever tried them once. One colleague came up to me and asked what they were, I said “Well I haven’t tried them myself, but based on what others have told me, they appear to be bubblegum wrapped in chocolate.”

Me dressed up as usual "in the colours of things".
Me dressed up as usual “in the colours of things”.

My attire went down well at the parties, and the sash was particularly important just in case anyone thought I’d come dressed as a Bosnian.

I’m going to end this post with a short related anecdote from my Uni days, because it’s one of my favourites and I don’t think I’d be able to shoe-horn it in to any other posts. Other than ABBA my favourite Swedish export is my friend Nicklas (although he has since been recalled) who was over here as part of the exchange programme at my University (Glasgow Caledonian – consistently voted Glasgow’s third best University). His English was almost flawless but Nicklas began my lifelong fondness for foreigners speaking English with some of the phrases he used to say.

We had a tutor on our course, a very short, dumpy, grumpy, frumpy woman with little joy about her. Her hunchbacked swagger and cartoon-monster features used to amuse Nicklas, as did her long wiry uncontrollable dark hair. He was joking about her once and said he couldn’t quite think of the English word for how he’d describe her. But she was like a giant…

…only smaller.

This caused us all great amusement. Like a giant only smaller? Time passed and when the opportunity arose we would mention this tutor to Nicklas and remind him of his random and contradictory “giant only smaller” description. None of us ever really got what he was trying to say until one day, the penny dropped, and I knew exactly what he meant.

He meant a troll.

The Last Date I Never Had

I was hoping it wouldn’t come to this. That I would not have to be writing on my blog, satirising this most recent girl I was in touch with through online dating. It seemed like we might even progress past the first date into proper dating, and she would be immune from inclusion in my posts, except when we had had hilarious times together and she agreed with me sharing our fun on the internet. I thought maybe she would be the first that I broached the subject of the blog with. It would begin by me telling her that I was writing a book with all my stories in it. Not entirely untrue, but a massaged truth. She would be impressed and intrigued – firstly that I have enough adventures to fill a book, and secondly that it demonstrates my artistic and creative side, something she would assume would make the transition into lovemaking scenarios.

She would ask to read some of it surely; I would send her some carefully chosen posts – I MEAN CHAPTERS – i.e. not the rude ones and not the ones I had already told her on our dates, because she would surely be disappointed to learn all the masterfully crafted anecdotal banter I had wowed her with on our dates had actually been up there on the internet for literally anyone to find for months, particularly anyone searching for the phrase “nude beach” on Google. She’d be hurt if she knew all she was getting was a wine-accompanied version of the same shit anyone trawling the internet for tits and ass could see.

As she warmed to it I would introduce the notion that the book began as a blog on the internet, and that by popular demand (i.e. colleagues bumping into me in lifts or on the street and mentioning it) I was turning it into a book. I would gauge whether it was necessary to trim out a few posts temporarily before setting her free with the link to mccannecdotes.com – for example, the post about my hot ex-girlfriend (which to be fair was nothing but complimentary) and more importantly my three posts about online dating itself and my recent post about the date with the Japanese necrophile. I’d also probably temporarily strip out the references to my other ex who cheated on me, and the sporadic occasions where on this site I have referred to her nostalgically as a cheating skank, slagbucket, slutbag, internet whorebasket, vaginaforeveryone.com and other frank nicknames.

I’d reassure her how my very strict policies on content work, and that I never put anything embarrassing about people on there without their consent, except that post about my friend [CENSORED] who told me he’d kick my fucking head in if I ever mentioned his real name Thomas again. She’d be wary of becoming the topic of one of my posts, and thus would probably behave herself – in fact the threat of the blog might even prolong our relationship. I’d restore over time all the things I removed and if she ever bothered to read the old posts again, I could just tell her I’d been hacked by my vindictive cheating ex. And that as a response to this I should probably refer to her as a backstabbing open-legged little tramp all the more liberally in future posts.

After all this, she’d probably sleep with me, safe in the knowledge the ins and outs of the evening would not be laid bare all over the internet.

Never let it be said I think too far ahead. Sadly none of this was to be. My good friend said to me only yesterday, my dating stories always make him a bit sad because he knows I’m still single, so he knows right at the start of any dating post that it doesn’t end well. This time, I’m giving all of you up-front the same advance warning. It did not end well. And as you may have guessed from the title, it did not even end in a date, although I got close – about an hour away from it to be exact.

Suzy sent me an icebreaker on eHarmony last weekend, basically just meaning she’d liked my profile. I looked at hers and her photos also, my first thought was she was a little bit out of my league. Blonde, very pretty and very slim; to be honest not really my type but most people would say she was hot. But she seemed slightly interested and I had some great banter (some of it not even published on this site!) to put in an e-mail to her, based on what she’d written. She replied with some of her own and we immediately seemed to have clicked. Over the next few e-mails we were getting on great, humour-wise, views on things, everything. In my third mail I used an extremely cunning ploy (which I’m not going to share because it’s totally ingeniously copyright me) to prompt her to move on to chatting on the phone or arranging a date.

She did both, giving me her number and giving me a choice of three days when we could meet up, of which I chose Friday. There was almost a whole week to wait for the date, but we kept in touch constantly, chatting on the phone occasionally and texting almost constantly. If she’d had any other dates that week (which would have been fine) she must have been texting me all the way through. We really got to know each other a lot. Almost too much. It felt a little bit strange that we were bonding so much without having met. Towards the end of the week I felt like we had been playing World of Warcraft together for years and were about to meet for the first time on our wedding day.

You know those smart arse answers I put in my eHarmony questionnaire from my online dating posts (I, II, III) – she read them all and loved them; first person to comment on those. I felt my work was being appreciated, and not putting girls off as I had started to think. Through my answers, she’d learned I don’t drink (forgot I put that on there actually) and was fine with it. She was also fine with my comment that telling a Scottish person not to swear profusely was racist – she swears a hell of a lot herself for such a pretty little thing.

I started smoking again a few weeks ago, temporarily. I knew that I’d been a non-smoker on my profile, and I wanted to stop again quickly anyway, so I decided to ensure I had no cigarettes on the day at all, and was wearing totally clean clothes so she’d never know.

As Friday approached I had to think of some admin. I’ve put on a bit of weight since I stopped drinking. Don’t even ask how, this fact just winds me the fuck up. And she’s a dietician, so I mentioned to her I’d put on a few kgs since stopping drinking, and my profile photo on the site was from about a year ago. She was totally fine with it, didn’t care at all. We also had to think of where and when to meet. She had the day off work to go to a London Marathon Expo. So her time of finishing was uncertain but she thought about 4.30-5.00. She asked what time I finished. I said “5.30 but if I tell my boss I’m meeting an actual woman he’ll let me go early, and probably throw a party.” The banter went down well, a good sign.

Around this time I posted the above jape up on Facebook, announcing for the first time I had a date (I kept the Japanese girl fairly quiet, and the Japanese girl was fairly quiet herself). This was of course foolish, because suddenly I was being asked about it and asked for pictures etc of this “lucky” lady. I am not spoiling the story by telling you now this was to backfire, of course it fucking was.

I was keen for her to pick the place, as I fucked up last time I met a girl with the French restaurant. Where did she suggest? O’Neill’s, Carnaby St. Um, less than a minute from my work. Now I’d kind of batted the decision back to her so many times I was in no position to suggest an alternative without seeming like a dick, and I was so close to a date with a normal woman. And what was I to say, “um can we go somewhere else, because it’s Friday night and there will be about 300 people from my work, WHO KNOW ABOUT MY DATE FROM FACEBOOK, at this pub. Oh no we can’t do this other Soho pub either, because another hundred will be there. Or any of the pubs in Soho because the rest of my company will be scattered across them.” I figured if she stuck to her time, we’d be there before the hordes and I could always relocate us after we met up, perhaps to the new posh coffee place opposite.

I printed off a little gag I made for her, related to our early e-mail banter. It was just a funny picture, and she would find it hilarious if I pulled it out (no it was not my cock) – I won’t go into what it was here because frankly it will not be funny. But it was funny to us.

Then about 4pm I got a text. She wanted to “reschedule” because of some family stuff. She was specific about what it was, it was nothing serious, just something that would make her not in the right mood for a date. I texted her back supportively, saying it was fine and we could see each other another time, and more important for her to be feeling right. Well, before I texted that I went outside for a cigarette – the cigarette I’d been depriving myself of all day; and I screamed “OH FOR FUCK’S SAKE!” a few times. Then I sent the supportive text.

I panicked a little when I thought, what if she changes her mind, and I’m stuck stinking of smokies… there was no going back. So I calmed myself by having another cigarette.

We continued to text, and if I’m not being too self-congratulating I was being quite lovely to this girl that I’d never met. She said if she was feeling like it she’d call me later and we could chat. And she told me quite a few personal things about this little situation that had caused her mood.

I grabbed the printout I’d made and went home, and figured I’d make the joke by taking a picture. Later in the evening as we exchanged texts again, I told her I’d made this picture gag for her, and I’d send her a photo of it to make her smile, and I’d be holding it so she could see me, since she missed the opportunity to see me earlier. I took the picture a few times, it was fucking awkward taking a self-shot of me and another thing. I picked the clearest one and sent it to her.

She replied “Ha ha ha!” Good, she found it funny. Told you. She continued “In the nicest possible way…” (very bad sign) “If I had met up with you today I wouldn’t have recognised you.”

OK the pic on my profile was a year old but I looked the same, except I put on a little weight, but not like a stone or anything, just a little. And I told her about this. I replied to her “Why do you say that, what was wrong?”

I never heard from her again.

That photo, of me as I am now, made her run a mile. After all our chats and e-mails and texts, and constant messaging and all the getting to know each other, and all the laughs, and the serious conversations too. She took one look at me now and ran. I was just speechless as I realised that she wasn’t just busy, and that for her, this was it. No more texting, no rescheduled date. She’s seen what I look like now, and nothing about the past week made her even slightly interesting in meeting up with me. If we’d met up and afterwards she’d said “oh I had great fun and I’d like to be just friends, you’re not really my type,” I could have understood, because I get that A LOT. But this was just breathtakingly shallow.

This is clearly what I look like now.
This is clearly what I look like now.

Like me saying “Hey, we’re getting on so great huh? But I just noticed that actually you don’t really seem to have anything in the way of breasts. So, bye.” And if she’s pissed off about the fact my picture was a year old – she’s 32 and in two of her photos she has a “Happy 30th Birthday” balloon attached to her body. Those were her balloons! What does she expect, I haven’t changed at all over time at all ever? That my profile picture on eHarmony is a fucking webcam image, updating itself every 4 seconds. Or I’m some kind of immortal – ” hey Suzy I look just like I did a year ago; I’ve got a Lithuanian on minimum wage in my loft who does all my ageing for me.”

I don’t know if I’m more annoyed at her for being so fucktastically shallow, or the fact that I put on all this weight after I quit drinking. Which I’m pretty sure isn’t meant to happen. I’m already nervous on dates because of what I mentioned above, just not being someone’s type – girls never fancy me, I have to work very fucking hard to even have a chance, and I’ve managed to succeed briefly even with girls who’ve been very steadfast on their need for “really tall” guys. What am I supposed to do now, make it a routine thing to send photos of me from every angle the night before a date, just to check they don’t change their mind, or are shocked I put a “good” picture as my profile picture on the dating site? Of course I fucking put a “good” picture up there. I’m not saying every woman is shallow, but enough are that if I post up my best mongoloid freak face up on eHarmony I’m not going to get any attention, no matter how good my puns are and engaging and witty my stories are.

So, after this experience, I am doing two completely contradictory things. I am going on a diet, and I am never going on an internet date ever again.

In fact, I am sorely tempted… putting this experience along with most past experiences with women (with a few exceptions)… to give up on women, and become a gay. It cannot possibly be harder work than this. I can’t get women, and my social life has dried up since I quit drinking, so kill two birds with one stone, become a gay and have a big coming out party.

 

Four Play

This story is just a prelude to a bigger anecdote I am writing which will take about an hour to read and have a spectacular climax.

Someone asked me recently if I was a theatre buff. Nice to have an anecdote involving the word “buff” that doesn’t have the words “in the” preceding it. I do enjoy the theatre but it’s one of a great many things which I never seem to get round to doing enough of. My earliest theatre experience was a school trip to London about age 15, when I saw the musicals Grease and Miss Saigon (starring a young John Barrowman, the guy from the gay version of Doctor Who). Notable for the fact on the coach back, I thought my camera was making a funny rattling sound so I opened it up, accidentally exposing and ruining all my photos from the entire trip.

Naturally I’ve gone to the theatre a lot more since I moved to London. The person who asked me if I was a buff said she had gone about four times in the past month. I’d actually done that myself some years ago. But I went to see the same play four times in a month. That’s the thing about me, I hate the uncertainty of going to see new things so much, I often play it safe and prefer to go see something I’ve already seen and know I like. It’s the same with music and films, I only listen to stuff I already know and I only watch stuff I’ve already seen. That way I can’t be disappointed.

Oleanna, by David Mamet, was the play – starring Aaron Eckhart and Julia Stiles.

I've got this poster on my wall still to this day.
I’ve got this poster on my wall still to this day.

It’s a two-person play about a student (Stiles) and university professor (Eckhart); he gives her some extra tuition and help which she increasingly begins to see (quite unreasonably) as sexual harassment, the interaction between the two shifts from a situation where he has power over her as the teacher to the student, towards one where her accusations against him give her the power to ruin his career and his life.

So I went to see this with a friend. It was awesome, and at the time I don’t think I’d seen a really serious, powerful piece of proper theatre before, so it was something new to me. I told my girlfriend how good it was and she wanted to see it, after going on a rant about why I’d gone to see it with a female colleague and not her. That was the thing about this girlfriend, she loved to accuse me of being up to no good with any or all of my female friends – I think it made her feel a bit better about the fact she was cheating on me.

In-keeping with the play’s theme of sexual tension, me and her had a bit of tension of our own during the interval and an argument about who should go and get her ice cream. My clearly unreasonable stance was, I had paid 70 quid for the tickets, she can get her own fucking ice cream. She was the only one who wanted any. As a compromise she suggested she pay for the ice cream but I go and get it. There was a muted but nonetheless heated exchange between the two of us, involving my use of the terms “fat arse” and “lazy bitch” which resulted in her storming off to get her own ice cream, bludgeoning the rest of the people in the row with her ever-increasing posterior as she squeezed past them. The play restarted shortly after, and the second half seemed positively relaxed compared to the tension of the interval.

A week or so later, it was the birthday of a hot lesbian friend of mine – for whom Julia Stiles was a long-time icon (a Stile icon you might say). Whilst it had not been my intention to see this play yet again, she wanted to go see it and I offered to take her for her birthday, and she was determined to meet Julia afterwards. We went, we saw it, much fun was had – we had nice seats, and after the play we gathered by the stage door with other groupies and autograph-hunters for the actors to come out. We were right at the front. As Julia came out with her bodyguards, my friend had the perfect use for her Irish accent, and told her that she’d travelled all the way from Ireland to see her play. This went down well, and she asked for a photo. Stiles was up for it but as the two of them posed, one of the henchmen stepped in and said “no photos”. Arsehole.

I’d been just waiting at the side letting my friend have her moment with Julia, but then she started moving towards me flanked by her bodyguards. Suddenly I was in the way! Her bodyguard started pushing me back as I became surrounded by a sea of groupies, of which I appeared to be the ringleader. I couldn’t move to the side or back because of fans, and the henchman was basically using me like a riot shield, holding onto me and using me to push other people out of the way. I said “Mate, I’m not even fucking in this, I was just waiting for my friend – she came all the way from Ireland!”

Eventually I wrestled free and made my way back to my friend.

The play was closing a couple of weeks later, and tickets were cheap and there were some great seats at the front of the dress circle. I’m not sure why, maybe because this play seemed like a huge part of my life at that point in time, but I fancied seeing it one last time on the closing night. This time I went alone, and ended up sat next to this American woman and her husband. I heard her say to him “I’ve heard good reviews of this but you can never be sure.”

I butted in, “yeah it’s really good, trust me. This is my fourth time.”

She said “Fourth time, is that normal when you live in London?”

“Nah, I think it’s just me. First time, colleague, second time, cheating skank, third time, hot lesbian, and this time, it’s just for me.”

It was the best performance of all the ones I saw, the actors really gave it everything, even smashed up some bits of the set at the end. How rock ‘n’ roll! Afterwards I hung around outside with my bag of souvenirs waiting for the stars so I could get them signed. I had become one of the groupies; I had the poster, the programme, the script book – I even had a pair of binoculars from in front of my seat – I figured, I’ve spent hundreds of pounds on this play, I’m fucking having these.

The actors came out and I rushed to Stiles with my programme; she signed it as her bodyguard gave me a strange look of familiarity – he must have thought I was a proper hardcore stalker. I moved on to Eckhart who was signing various things for people, he signed my programme, then signed someone’s ticket and mistakenly went to hand it back to me instead – this massive bloke shunted me off to the side to grab his prized signed ticket and I almost ended up on the ground.

If there’s one thing I learned from these four trips to see Oleanna it’s that going to the theatre can be a particularly violent experience…

The Date Of The Dead

I have mentioned before my annoyance with the sameyness of online dating profiles. Every girl out there seems to be the same skiing, mountain-climbing, horse-riding booklover who likes travelling and spending time with her friends. I was looking for someone different. Preferably actually someone with no friends, who’d probably be the type I’d have a chance with.

This Japanese girl, I’ll call her Yōko, stood out to me as she didn’t have the same copy/pasted list of interests as the others. She openly, and repeatedly mentioned her love of cemeteries and gravestones. Walking around graveyards, taking photos of them, reading books about them. This girl was … quirky. But she seemed nice. We got chatting over e-mail on the site and eventually by text after she got my number using a ruse that her site membership was about to expire. We arranged a date. My colleagues were quite clear that the best place for this date was the work bar. I disagreed for many reasons. Much as I love, respect and adore my colleagues who read this blog, throwing a poor young Japanese necrophile into a work banter environment on the first date wasn’t right.

She also liked cartoon Japanese cats, such as PlayStation mascot Toro...
She also liked cartoon Japanese cats, such as PlayStation mascot Toro…

Eventually someone suggested a French place we could go for coffee and other stuff if we wanted, a nice classy place off Regent Street. It was a Friday so I booked a table just in case it was busy. As the time approached I checked the menu of the place; there seemed to be nothing on there about coffee, or indeed anything that wasn’t full-on dinner. I’d been misled. So I texted her and asked her if dinner was OK – she was delighted at the idea. I suggested we meet at Hamley’s, as it was on the way, recognizable and not as busy as the Tube station would be.

In hindsight, suggesting to a potential date to meet me outside a toy shop – a toy shop that would have a load of Japanese tourists outside it – was probably not the best idea.

I fucking hate this bit because I know that no matter if she looks exactly like she does in the photos I will not recognise her and there will be an awkward moment when we are standing feet away from each other looking around then we’ll both get our phones out and call each other and it will be just lame. So I had a good few minutes as I walked down Regent’s Street (late, deliberately for this reason) to spot her. She had told me she had a pink handbag. So I’m looking for a small, cute Japanese girl with a pink handbag. How could I go wrong?

She’d even texted me to say she was there. But I couldn’t see a pink bag. It wasn’t even that busy – I looked at everyone, couldn’t see her. So I walked straight past and found a pillar to hide behind while I called her. I called her and looked around – she said she was there. There is only one Hamley’s, I chose it to avoid ambiguity. Eventually I found her, she was right next to me. She was TINY; about 5 foot, and appeared to be in heels. I had literally missed her because she was so small. We said our hellos; she’d told me she was very shy, and that came across. I gave her a kiss on the cheek, almost breaking my back, and pointed out where we were going for dinner. And then something struck me…

“Hang on, hang on, what about the pink bag?”

“Oh here it is,” she said, brandishing her oversized handbag.

“That’s grey.”

“No it’s not it’s my pink bag.”

“Listen honey, I don’t know if colours are different in Japanese, but that bag is dull grey, not pink.”

There we were, having our first argument. What was she playing at, giving completely misleading information to me, adding in an extra layer of awkwardness to the bit of meeting someone I already hate! But she was even cuter than her photos … very cute … and I don’t mind the small thing at all, just would have appreciated a bit of warning so that I could have lowered my eyeline when I was approaching looking for her. “OK, bring your grey bag and let’s go.”

We walked for about 5 minutes, making smalltalk, as I helped her cross roads and avoid pedestrians like I was looking after a small colour-blind child. We arrived at the place, it seemed very posh. I don’t know what the fuck my colleague was talking about when he said we could just chill out and have a coffee.

The place was also empty.

About an hour before the date, I had panicked whilst reminding a colleague of the stress I was under to hide my full name from this potential sweetheart; on account of her then Googling my name and finding this site – the drinking stories, the vomit, the random nudity, the kiss ‘n’ tells, everything. I had realised that she’d learn my surname when we arrived at the restaurant, and just as I entertained her with my Polish sick & piss story over dinner, she’d be sat there on her phone, reading it on this site.

Luckily, the restaurant was so empty I didn’t even have to bother mentioning my reservation. Which was good because as the date progressed I was to have many more reservations on my mind.

I got my orange juice and she got her pint of white wine, and her shyness became even more severe. Now, in most dates I am never short of something to say, and I probably do talk so much, but I was getting so little out of her, so little reaction or input, I actually found it hard even to talk at her. This was not helped by the fact the restaurant was small, empty, and we had 7 French waiters just standing around us the whole time. It was horribly awkward, I felt like saying to them they might as well just fucking sit down and join us.

Our waiter – that is, the one of the 7 who actually spoke to us rather than standing staring at us, came over and asked us what we wanted to order. Yōko said she wasn’t really very hungry. Oh fucking fantastic. Neither was I. Wonder how this little fact didn’t come up earlier when I texted her and said “Do you want to have dinner?” I asked the waiter if they had anything we could share, he said no, only what was on the menu. And the menu was smaller than Yōko was. Just a handful of full main courses, and some side orders like a bowl of peas.

I pressed him, “Do you really have absolutely nothing at all that we can share?” His inexplicably smug face contorted for a few moments while he thought about this, most insane restaurant query.

“Well you could have a cheese board…” I checked with Yōko, she seemed happy with that (for now). I don’t eat cheese on its own, but at least it would give her something to do while I tried to handle the conversation part of the evening.

“OK, great thank you, merci etc, we’ll have the cheese board. Oh, and one more thing … what colour would you say this handbag is?”

“Uh, a dark grey?”

“THANK YOU!” I turned to Yōko, “I fucking told you it wasn’t pink! Grey. Grey like a gravestone.”

The cheese arrived and the next hour flew by like a coach trip to Aberdeen. Halfway through there had been a promising moment when she appeared to have lightened up a bit from the wine, and she started to talk a bit more, but that was short-lived as after one more sip of wine she’d tipped over to being drunk, and started swaying her wine glass around like it was about to be imminently smashed all over the place, with 7 attentive witnesses. I made smalltalk as she slowly progressed through the entire cheese board, even cramming in a classic McCannecdote (The Checkout Girl, because I literally had fuck all to lose). When she was done, I hastily ordered the bill so I could leave and continue with my life.

Nearly 40 pounds, for a glass of wine, an orange juice, and a plate of cheese. I was tempted to leave one of my testicles as an indignant tip. We left and she actually became a lot more talkative as we walked to the station; it was good to be out of that weird French social experiment. I kissed her goodbye but rather than going in the Tube myself, I rushed back to work nearby because I desperately needed a piss. I could have gone in the restaurant but the way things were in there with the waiters I’d have expected one of them to come with me to hold my knob.

Surprisingly, she texted me to say she’d had a lovely time and wanted to see me again. I’m not sure if maybe that whole time she had been quiet she was just daydreaming she was having fun, but I figured with literally nothing else in the pipeline and the prospect of dying alone I might give her another chance. She was nice, and she did warn me she was shy, so I imagined next time maybe something more relaxed. Maybe a trip to a cemetery… And she had perked up a bit on the way to the Tube, is she could be more like that I wouldn’t mind seeing her again. I texted her “Any plans over Easter?”…

She replied: “I’m working then… I need to keep myself busy. Have I told you that I had a horrible nervous breakdown end of last year? Have a good day.”

What the fuck? Who drops that randomly in a text? I replied with something nice, saying I’d had a pretty bad time last year too but it’s a new year, we should make the most of it, etc. I told her to get in touch when she was free if she fancied meeting up again. She didn’t. And sure enough a week or so later she’s got new photos on the online dating profile that apparently expired…

They say romance is dead… well if it is she’s bound to have a photo of its headstone.

The Donkey Slap, The Millionnairess & The Rentboy

They say “the best things in life are free” right? Which is great because I have no money because I spend it all on shit, and trust me the shit things in life are expensive. But they also say that “there is no such thing as a free lunch”. So either lunch is not one of the best things in life (which I have to strongly disagree with if I am tucking into some sausages around midday) or “the best things in life except lunch are free”.

In my days when I worked spare time with the music management company, I often found myself in places I couldn’t normally afford. Expensive bars and clubs, but they were usually worth the extra outlay in the end, many many fun times were had. And besides I’d usually get to point of knowing the owner which would often reduce my bills as 1am approached and it was kicking out time.

The Atlantic Bar & Grill was a quite well-known restaurant, bar and club right on Piccadilly. My boss in the music venture was a member which was the only reason I managed to get within half a mile of the place without having my back broken by bouncers and the words “go home scum” tattooed on my face.

Atlantic Bar & Grill - it was mostly underground...
Atlantic Bar & Grill – it was mostly underground…

I never ate there, we only went for the drinking in the club downstairs – think more gentleman’s club than nightclub. Down this massive elaborate staircase there were various rooms with bars, I think they even had one just for the purchase and enjoyment of cigars. It was very much a cigars place. The décor was luxurious and each room had a real homely cosy feel, with lush furniture and architecture. It was the kind of place where you always expected your evening was about to be turned into a bloodbath by some guys with tommy guns.

The atmosphere there and the layout of the furniture (at least in the rooms we frequented) really lent itself to getting to know new people and chatting to the characters you were sitting near. One night me and James and a couple of other friends had got chatting to two young far eastern girls, Korean I think they said, who had appeared a little bit lost and looking for company. One of them, her name was Song, was right up my street. Really short but quite curvy, and super cute – she was just adorable. Her friend was taller and slimmer, and I guess more conventionally “hot”. She was also ever-so-slightly mannish and given I can’t remember her name or never paid attention when she told me, I will call her “Dong”.

We quickly ruled out them being prostitutes, a standard procedure in a place like that given how expensive the drinks were, and I had taken a shine to Song. Much to my surprise, so had she to me. We chatted away and me and Song were soon in each others arms while James kept her friend busy. Every so often I would notice her friend scowling at me or at Song as we chatted.

Me and Song popped out of the room for a little while to a quiet corridor for some private cuddling and kissing, before being interrupted by one of the bouncers who told us we’d come out the fire escape and we had to get the fuck back in. Later in the evening an argument erupted between Dong and Song, in Korean, which baffled the rest of us. The only thing we got from this was when Song said in English “but I like him!” as she stroked the furry jumper I was wearing. She loved that jumper.

The evening continued and things were looking positive for me and Song. She was so cute, and girls from that part of the world are not normally my type. Then another argument broke out after her friend had been scowling some more from across the table. This turned into a standing argument with two of them shouting at each other in Korean as the rest of us looked on puzzled.

Every so often, one of them would point at me as they screamed. I was clearly the subject of the fight. Awesome, I thought, hot girls fighting over me.

Then Song’s friend drew her hand back and smacked her in the face, and stormed off. James went after the friend while I looked after my new little sweetheart and probable future wife. But it wasn’t to be. The friend never came back and Song left in a hurry to catch her up. It had all been going so well. According to information James had gleaned from Dong, the two of them were basically a couple. Hence why she had frowned upon her affections towards me and eventually punched poor Song in the face and ran off.

I was a little bitter as I really liked Song, and to be honest, this kind of shit always seems to happen whenever I like someone. After we left the club shortly after and I was walking across Piccadilly Circus I saw the two of them standing arguing in the street. I foolishly tried to intervene, the friend went nuts at me, told me to fuck off, threatened to hit me and I left them be. By left them be I meant I ran away very quickly.

My luck was to change a few months later.

Me and James were back in Atlantic and this time the whole evening was on him.

I’d recently completed work on the company’s new website, showcasing the artists we were representing, including a little-known starlet called Leona Lewis. We’d launched that day and we were out celebrating the new site, and I was getting a nice treat. I think James had asked me to pick where we went and I’d replied with something like “can we go back to that place where we met the hot lesbians?” We were back in Dick’s Bar, our favourite room in the club.

Dick's Bar - sorry about the watermark, it is literally the only picture of the inside of this place on the whole internet...
Dick’s Bar – sorry about the watermark, it is literally the only picture of the inside of this place on the whole internet…

As I sipped my tequila & cokes and we chatted I was thoroughly enjoying my treat. We also got chatting to a woman in her mid-30s who was sat on the sofas next to us. She joined us, and me and her got on particularly well. She told me was in the “restaurant business” and we described our kingmaking role in the music biz with only slight exaggeration.

James was starting to feel a bit of a gooseberry and entertained himself, popping off to chat to various other people he knew, as me and (I can’t remember her name but it was something like) Elaine got closer and closer. James had popped back and Elaine went off to the ladies’. He said to me “Do you know who that is, did she tell you?”

I said “She only told me she was in the restaurant business…”

James had gone up earlier to one of bouncers and asked him who the woman sitting with his friend was. “She’s the owner,” he said.

Nice. I always get in with the owners of places, but this was the first time it had been a nice lady. James decided I was having plenty of fun, with the promise of more later, and decided his work on my launch day treat was done, so he left us to it.

Now Elaine was buying all my drinks. This was shaping up to be a hell of a thrifty night. Eventually we went to a private room she had and chatted some more and engaged in some smooching. And at closing time we headed off back to her place.

The only time previously that I’d seen a penthouse in Mayfair was when I built one in Monopoly. Her place was immense and lush, she invited me to scour her CD collection for something I liked.

In what was to prove a mistake later on, I was immediately drawn to an Olivia Newton-John album and stuck on a bit of Country Roads (Take Me Home). She poured me some rum from the most expensive looking container of alcohol I have ever seen and we began smooching anew on the sofa. It was only then I realised that Country Roads was on repeat. I mean I like that song, but not necessarily as a soundtrack to a whole evening.

Especially an evening which was progressing fast to more than innocent smooching. I beckoned her to the bedroom – well in reality I said “where is your bedroom?”; it could have been anywhere. But she didn’t want us going there for some reason. What was in there? A husband? Mexicans? She fetched the relevant protective male equipment and we moved to the next level; to be fair it was a particularly comfy sofa.

Now… I’m sure you’ve all had or heard of people saying things in the middle of lovemaking which are inappropriate. Shouting out an ex’s name, etc. Well that is nothing compared to what happened next.

In the middle of “things” she said to me:

“Are you sure you’re not a rentboy?”

I’m normally a very thick-skinned person but I found that quite offputting. Maybe I’m going a bit soft. In fact, that’s exactly what was happening!

Yes, somewhere in the process of lovemaking I had given her cause to think I was a homosexual prostitute. I wondered, what part of this vaginal intercourse had led her to believe this? I reacted, perhaps as she intended, with renewed vigour, a sort of “Oh thinks I’m a rentboy, well I’ll show her.” Maybe this was the plan all along – a kick up the arse (but nothing else).

In hindsight, I think perhaps my pale, skinny frame, youngish looks and fondness for Olivia Newton-John was the culprit here. In any event I like to think I disproved her assumption. Morning came (and so did she…) and it was time for me to leave.

She asked me if I had money for a cab. I genuinely didn’t have any cash. She gave me £20 for a cab home. I left with the realisation I had literally not spent a single penny of my own money.

My friend James had paid for the first half of the night, Elaine for the second half, we’d got through a load of very expensive rum, and she’d paid for my taxi home.

Maybe I was a rentboy after all…

 

Things I Shouldn’t Have Said To Women

I’m well-known for my way with words with women, sadly not quite in the manner I’d hope for. If there’s something inappropriate to be said I have a habit of saying it and if there’s a back-handed compliment to be made I’m usually the first to make it. I never mean anything wrong, I’m very well-intentioned, but I have a habit of trying so hard to say the right thing I end up saying exactly the worst thing.

I think it stems from my basic inability to pass a good gag by, and that my internal monologue is constantly doing stand-up, pumping out gags in situations where I really should be handling the situation calmly and seriously. All I end up doing is getting myself into trouble.

For example, when introduced to a very attractive girl with enormous breasts, I was very conscious of being distracted by the obvious. So I greeted her with “Wow, you’ve got a really nice face as well.”

I used to work with a girl who I knew only as “horsey”. She had an incredibly horsey face, and for me that’s a good thing. It was a compliment, a term of endearment. I was once in the lunch queue a few people behind her and said to my colleague “hey look there’s horsey.” She turned around. I just started whistling. She had a pony tail too which I found particularly appropriate. And then there’s the nicknames I’ve given to good female friends which somehow have stuck. Gypsy… Poochy… even Big Tits. There’s nothing like answering the phone in a busy office with “Hey Big Tits, how are you?”

Of course around certain topics, like girls’ weight I am much more tactful. I was chatting with a friend and she was talking about how she wanted to lose a bit of weight, especially around the bum/thighs area. I kept telling her not to worry about it and she looked great (seriously she’s hot), but she really insisted she wanted to get a bit slimmer down there. I said to her “look, loads of guys I know have said to me they think you’ve got a great arse.”

She seemed flattered until I said, “And not all of them were black.”

Women love me really, look I'm surrounded by them.
Women love me really, look I’m surrounded by them.

On that topic, I was told off quite severely once for calling a girl “brown”. She said that was offensive and said I should call her black. I swear to God, and I know I’m not colour-blind but this girl’s skin is brown. It’s definitely brown. But I took the criticism on board and decided if that’s how she wanted things to be described that was fine with me. I’m adaptable like that, constantly tailoring my personal communications to suit the situation. It’s a great life skill. So I saw her a few days later wearing a tan-coloured top.

I said “That’s a really nice black top you have on.” See I’d learned. “In fact, that black top really matches your black eyes.”

When I was in hospital briefly last year the doctor’s kept asking me if my stool (medical term for faeces (technical term for poo (inoffensive word for shit))) was black. I wondered what would happen if this girl went to the hospital with stomach pain or vomiting and they asked her if her stool was black, and she said “Always.”

I’m teasing of course, I know what she meant.

My ex-girlfriend was German (she still is), and me and her very rarely argued but one night she was moaning about something or other, and really getting in my face. I said to her “Stop invading my space. I’m not Poland.”

Sometimes I just don’t know how my remark has been taken. Back when I was smoking, a girl once walked past me while I was standing having a cigarette. She was really cute. Cutest girl I’d seen in ages. She had this thing wrong with her leg, something more serious than a limp, that was making her walk very funny, but I was just gawping at how cute she was. As she walked past me she growled at me “what are you staring at, haven’t you ever seen a disabled person before?”

I said without thinking “I was staring because you’re fucking hot, I barely noticed you were disabled.” That was a nice thing to say right?! She just shrugged and hobbled off. I just can’t win.

I don’t even need to be face to face with the person. You’d think with the consideration that goes into writing an e-mail I’d be spared these kind of outbursts, but no. I had been contacted by a girl from an online dating site, one of the things she did for her job was write newspaper headlines – I thought this sounded like a dream job. I asked her if she wrote puns, she said sometimes but that a lot of the stories she covered were for serious things like stabbings.

I replied with “Grammar school teacher punctuated by six-inch blade.”

Never heard from her again… I think what I’m doing wrong on the dating site, and in real-life, is I’m just being myself, and fundamentally I am completely undateable and the kind of person who can’t be around women without making some kind of (fairly witty but) completely inappropriate and off-putting remark. And yet I am so well-meaning and innocent. In fact, up until the age of about 24 I thought oral sex was just talking dirty…

One of my best recent gags was actually just after a girl had left the room, but it just wouldn’t have worked if she hadn’t…

I was at the opticians for about the tenth time in as many weeks, trying to get contact lenses out of them. They had messed up appointments, lost my trial lenses not once but twice, got me the wrong prescription and generally cocked up at every possible opportunity. I was trying to keep my sense of humour as I arrived for a contact lens post-consultation check-up pre-assessment. The assistant showed me in to see the optician and I sat down, having memorised what I was going to say when he asked me to read out the letters on the wall. “Um, G…. I, V… E, M, E, M… Y… F,U…. C… K, I, N… G … L, E… N, S, E… um, S.”

He spoke with the assistant, “Ah Lorraine can you just get me a bottle of the peroxide solution for Mr McCann’s new lenses?” and she walked off.

I said “I might not be needing them anymore…”

He said “Why?”

“I can see clearly now Lorraine has gone.”

The Capital C Word

With the title of this post and the last, people might be worried this site is going all Sesame Street themed, but no, just a coincidence.

No-one would ever call me conservative with a lower-case c, and if you thought I was you need to read the rest of the stories on this site. Politically though I’ve always been Conservative. It surprises me because people know I come from a poor background and a poor part of the world, but it’s actually always been a family thing too.

I did once vote Labour though, in the first London Mayoral election after I’d moved here. Basically everyone had told me London was a shithole, and I quite liked it, so I voted to keep Ken Livingstone. I since discovered “London is a shithole” is generally the opinion of most people who live outside the capital. But of course in 2008 and 2012 I voted for Boris, because he is basically a slapstick comedian, and throughout history slapstick comedians have generally been very smart people.

In my early years in London I decided to dabble in local politics. My only previous political experience was in Birmingham when I applied to be in the audience for Question Time. At a very inconvenient moment, I’d received a phone call from a girl asking me for some more details about my leanings and what question I’d like to ask. I had no idea when I applied for this that I’d have to have a specific question banked ready for a random phone call. I said “Um, I don’t really have anything specific in mind at the moment but I’m sure I’ll think of something.”

“Any general subject area?” she asked.

“Um…” seriously I was actually in the middle of something else.

“What about Labour, would you ask something about Labour.”

“Yeah, could do.”

I never heard from them again. In hindsight I must have seemed like someone with all the political insight of an actual piece of bunting. Shame that because I always wanted to go on Question Time. If only I’d known they’d call me up I’d have thought of a belter, but it wasn’t to be. Anyway, back to London…

I wanted to get involved in my local branch of the Conservative Party, so I made some calls and was invited along to a local meeting in Tooting. I imagined I would rise through the ranks quickly, become something of a young upstart within the party, like an older version of a young William Hague. My visionary ideas, sharp wit and oratory skills would soon wow thousands.

I really like Louise Mensch, you probably think I've put her picture here because she is the closest thing to a hot Tory - I can't really comment on that because I know her brother, and she looks just like him, and it freaks me out...
I really like Louise Mensch, you probably think I’ve put her picture here because she is the closest thing to a hot Tory – I can’t really comment on that because I know her brother, and she looks just like him, and it freaks me out…

I arrived at the meeting, it appeared to be in someone’s house. An incredibly old woman’s house. She looked like Margaret Thatcher’s fucking grandmother. There were several other octogenarians in the house; I felt ill-at-ease but introduced myself anyway. Gradually the meeting filled up. By filled up I mean a few other people arrived, including a couple of young men in glasses and sweaters; I say young I mean that comparatively, they were in their sixties.

I was the youngest person there by about 30 or 40 years. The men all looked like retired accountants, and the women all looked like … well, old biddies.

Some tea was had. Well we tried to have tea but the woman serving was so ancient when she tried to pour it it just went all over the place. There were several awkward silences. There is no more awkward silence than the kind where the only noise you can hear is that of china cups rattling on china saucers. I half-expected a T-Rex to show up.

We got down to business. Business seemed to involve going over the business of the last meeting, and then trying to think of some business to discuss this time. It was hardly a weighty political debate. The biggest discussion of the evening was whose turn it was to take the minutes. I think it was all over quite quickly but it seemed like an eternity. I got out of there as quickly as I could and ran home. This had not quite been how I’d have imagined it. Rising up in the ranks of the party seemed easier than I thought, I was the only one who could get out of a chair unassisted…

A week later I received a letter in the post. It was the minutes of the meeting. I got name-checked twice. First as a welcome to the new member. Nice. Second time was in the last line of the minutes:

“And as discussed and agreed, Mr Alan McCann is to be the new treasurer of the branch.”

What the fuck? This was never discussed? Or agreed? I wanted to make progress but not that fucking fast! When was this agreed, after I’d left? Admittedly due to my age I was the fastest one out of the door, did they discuss this without me? “Oh he seems a nice lad, let’s make him treasurer. Put your false teeth in the Yes bowl if you agree and the No bowl if you don’t”. And what treasury was there? What have you got in your big red briefcase Chancellor McCann? Why it’s a box of custard creams and a book of crossword puzzles. There were no expenses here except the tea and biscuits. They didn’t even post the letter to me, it was hand-delivered; which explains why it took a week to arrive, it took Margaret about ten minutes just to answer the door to me!

I never went back, nipping in the bud a promising political career, and prompting a by-election for the post of treasurer…

The C Word

This post is about CLASS (why what C word did you think I meant?) Now I don’t really pay any attention to social class, I’ve always had a very broad range of friends with different means and different backgrounds and I’ve never judged anyone based on any kind of perceived status within society. But I saw this article on the BBC today about a major new survey on class which they conducted.

You can read it below, but remember to come back. I’m not finished. Right, so like most things on the BBC website these days, there is a test to see where we fit into this. These tests are great, they do them for all kinds of articles; how much of a difference the Budget makes, whether you’re drinking too much, how likely you are to be the next Raoul Moat, they’re fun.

BBC News - Huge survey reveals 7 social classes in UK

BBC News – Huge survey reveals 7 social classes in UKhttp://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-22007058The BBC Lab UK study measured economic capital – income, savings, house value – and social capital – the number and status of people someone knows.

I came in the second-bottom (of SEVEN) categories. Basically it seems because I don’t own my own house, I’m scum. I fit into the category of “people who don’t own property but know people who do through Facebook”. Now I already said I care not about social class and which class I am … but fuck off! Second-bottom?

I once shagged a millionairess! Does that count for nothing these days? A millionairess. There was a period of time in which me and her were physically conjoined; I’m sure during that time it could be argued half of her money was mine.

I have a fucking piano. That’s automatically middle class. I rarely go on holiday because I think holidays abroad are for working class people. When I come home from work I empty my pockets and throw anything less than a £1 coin into a shoebox in my wardrobe, highlighting an attitude towards money consistent with an eccentric billionaire. I may not own property but I’ve got a varied portfolio of internet domain names.

Come on, could I be any more middle class?
Come on, could I be any more middle class?

I did the test again, using my gross earnings rather than my net; I moved up a class. Oh, so that’s how it works, if I avoid paying tax suddenly I’m in a higher class. Actually that sounds about right.

Now, I care nothing as to which class I am perceived to be, as I think I maybe mentioned earlier… but I intend to write a strongly-worded letter to the BBC outlining the many major flaws in this piece of research. My rent is higher than many people’s mortgages, I should be higher up than them. In fact, I clearly have so much money that I’m paying someone else’s mortgage for them. Now that is affluence. And they say part of the measurement is cultural as well. What’s that Mr BBC man, you haven’t noticed my Yes, Minister DVDs yet or my chessboard because you’re too busy admiring the Audrey Hepburn print on my wall?

Hmmm, I’m beginning to think if I didn’t spend all my money buying things like pianos and chessboards I could have bought a house by now…

Here’s what we need to do, forget money and forget the stupid culture questions (who cares if someone “goes” to the opera, anyone can “go” to the opera, doesn’t mean you understand or enjoy it). So you’d have your workshy benefit scrounger (that term is not meant to mean all those on benefits, just the ones who take the piss); but in the same class, you’d have your pointless monied people who’ve only got anything in life because of their parents. Whether you get free money off the state, or your parents, same thing. Stick them in the same class, they have more in common than you’d think. You could have a class full of “sound” people who for some reason have never really achieved anything, and a class for “utter bellends” who’ve had inexplicable success. People who went to University and got a job in the field they studied, they could have their own elite group.

Personally, I think you should base the entire class system on how much of a cunt someone is. It would be known as The Cunt Ladder

Now I know I lured you into a false sense of security with the c-word being class but I do have a hardcore readership and if I don’t get the real c-word in here somewhere they’ll think I’ve sold out and turned into a pussy (which would be somewhat ironic). The Cunt Ladder would band society based on how much of a cunt a person is. Cunts rich and poor would populate the top, and for the first time ever in such a class scheme, you’d want to be as close to the bottom as possible. A simple survey with a points system, included with the census, would give – for the first time – a real indication of the strata in British society (fuck’s sake, I use words like “strata” how can I have been second-bottom in that BBC thing!? Not that I care about class…)

Sample questions could include:

  • Are you a chav? (add 100 points, you might as well skip the rest)
  • Do you get “there”, “their” and “they’re” mixed up (add 1 point if you do, add 3 points if you don’t care)
  • Do you discuss your home improvement activities with your friends over dinner or drinks (add 1 point if you do it occasionally, add 3 points if you sometimes organise social events just so that you can discuss this)
  • Do you look down on people who aren’t homeowners when in fact your parents gave you your deposit for yours (add 3 points)
  • Have you ever been really outspoken on a political topic you knew nothing about (add 3 points)
  • Do you buy organic food just to impress people (add 3 points)
  • Do you buy organic food at all? (add 3 points)
  • Do you sit on the train while a pregnant woman stands? (add 3 points)
  • Do you sit on the train while a really fat person stands? (deduct 3 points)
  • Have you ever picked up a guitar at a party or gathering and started playing despite the fact no-one fucking asked you to? (add 10 points)
  • Have you ever derided religion as made-up nonsense that can’t be proven whilst championing scientific “facts” you can’t even begin to fully understand? (add 3 points)
  • Do you vote for the BNP, Respect or the SNP? (add 3 points)

Obviously there would be hundreds of these questions, designed to fully measure all aspects of life. You would add up the points and you’d have your Non-cunt elite at the bottom, the Bit-of-a-cunt general masses, and then at the top, the true underclass, the Total cunt. People would aspire to be in the lowest class, so would resolve to make changes in their lives to move down as far as possible. I really think this idea has potential.

Right, let me get started with the proposal, “Dear BBC…”

 

PS – as I’ve posted this story in the afternoon (which is unusual for a midweek post), I want to reassure people that I had the day off today. I’m not the kind of cunt who gets paid to sit at work writing the word cunt on the internet all day.

The Coming Out & The Punchbag

My first flatmates in London were a gay couple, I’d moved here to London with them. We’d all been friends working at the same company in Birmingham, and neither of them had come out yet. People had their suspicions about Thomas, but Laurent hid it fantastically well, behind the simplest of disguises. He was French. Whereas people were used to seeing British guys and making certain judgements on their sexuality based on voice, mannerisms, style, etc, Laurent could get away with anything – people just thought it was because he was foreign.

One evening after a work party me and Thomas were walking home – we lived on the same street. That had been awesome actually, I’d for the first time been able to run over to my friends’ house, the way they always do in American movies. Aside from this it has always involved some kind of trek or train journey.

We got to the junction our street passed through and he told me he wanted to tell me something. I said go on, I do love a bit of gossip. He then told me he was gay. We had become friends because of a similar taste in films and specifically music. I wondered for a moment if that meant I was gay too. Nah, surely there’s more to it than that. He then said something which should have caused me to run a mile, had I thought about it. He said “can I come back to your place so we can talk about it more?”

I said “sure!” and off we went back to my flat. We were up half the night … TALKING. I was the first person from work that he’d actually told, maybe even one of the first people ever, and we had a long, mature conversation about the whole thing, occasionally peppered with some gay jokes from me which I couldn’t resist. Come on, your best friend opens up a whole new comedy avenue and you don’t take advantage of it?

Anyway, Thomas developed a bit of a crush on one of the senior managers Laurent. Laurent was best described by our HR department, who called him “asexual”. You couldn’t tell if he was one way or the other. Or both ways. Or neither. He was just French. Thomas used to talk about how Laurent would look at him a lot but he couldn’t tell if he was looking at him as if he liked Thomas, or he just thought he was weird. I couldn’t really offer any advice, to be honest it could have been either.

The two eventually hooked up secretly; Laurent still hadn’t come out and the differences in company seniority was bound to cause a scandal. But despite their efforts it was all very widely known. Half the company lived in the same leafy suburb of Birmingham, they were seen together all the time. One colleague saw them buying baguettes together at the shops and it was all over the company.

When our company’s IP was sold to a US publisher and almost all of the Birmingham staff were let go, the three of us made a pact that if one of us got a job in London, we would all move there. Laurent got one first and we all agreed to move.

We’d scouted out flats during a trip to London, just one day and overnight stay. Thomas and Laurent arranged everything; we were to look in Tooting, decent enough area, right prices, low council tax etc, Thomas had done all the research on the internet. They’d booked us a hotel for the night, it was only when we arrived at this mega-cheap converted place in Marble Arch that I realised they had only booked one room. One room with a double bed and a single. A family room basically. For three adult men. I don’t know what was better, the look on the proprietor’s face when we arrived or the look on my face when I saw there was an very liberal en suite shower – basically a glass cubicle stuck in the corner of the room.

We went to see 4 flats. The first two in the morning were appalling. Ex-council flats in shitty housing blocks up for rent for ludicrous amounts of money. After that I think the three of us were reconsidering the move, even Laurent and he actually had a job to go to! We shouldn’t have been surprised, since when we arrived at the letting agents office for the viewings, he opened up his drawer and (I’m not kidding) emptied a pile of keys onto the floor and started rummaging through them for the flats he wanted to show us.

In the afternoon, we saw a nice three bedroom place. Massive garden, one big room, one biggish room and a small room. Perfect right? Couple gets the biggest room and the smallest room for a study etc, I get the one in the middle just for me. We then saw another. Upstairs flat, four small bedrooms. Thomas preferred this. “Excuse me, what the fuck now? Four bedrooms?”

“Yeah we can have two you can have two.”

“What? Why would I want two fucking bedrooms? Three bedrooms for the three of us is a luxury since the two of you will be sleeping on each other. Four?”

There was much arguing. Laurent stayed right out of it. In the end I had to put my foot down, this was ludicrous, and say that if we didn’t go with the three-bedroom place with the garden, I was out of the deal and I wasn’t coming. We took the three bedroom place.

People often ask me was it weird living with a gay couple. Not at all really, actually preferable to a straight couple I’d say. Plus we were friends which made it easier. People for some reason always ask if it would be weird because they might ‘check me out’. I don’t know why I get asked that, and it wasn’t a problem, in fact Thomas was so repulsed by the sight of me topless, I might has well have shoved a photo of an ill-attended vagina in his face.

The most difficult thing was Thomas’ OCD, which led to him one day – when he’d taken the day off work – to go into my room while I was out and alphabetise my DVD collection, but putting the Disney DVDs first. That’s gay OCD for you.

Oh and there was a bit of an altercation over Milla Jovovich one night. I was having a special evening dedicated to Milla, by watching The Fifth Element, Resident Evil and Resident Evil: Apocalypse (just released that day) in one night – it was Milla Monday. Thomas had borrowed one of the DVDs and I’d told him I needed it back as I was about to watch it. He went to fetch it and somehow got distracted by shagging instead. My evening of Milla was put on hold until the festivities in their bedroom were over, and in a rare display of rage (I fucking love Milla Jovovich) I absolutely beat the shit out of my…

…Punchbag!

Ha ha, I know what you’re thinking – “Me? A punchbag? But … we’ve … seen you.” I know! How did I get a punchbag? Why? Well, it relates to a certain lady and the fact I was left home alone for two weeks.

No it’s not Milla, but her co-star from Resident Evil, Michaelle Rodriguez. Another of my all-time favourite women, and maybe the reason I love Resident Evil so much. She was in a film called Girlfight about a female boxer. She looked hot. So hot I am now going to spend ten times longer than I really have to to search the internet for an appropriate picture.

Yes! (the one on the left)
Yes! (the one on the left)

So my … oh hang on just one more.

I know! That's her actual face and body the whole way through the film!
I know! That’s her actual face and body the whole way through the film!

 

So my flatmates had gone on a two-week trip to Thailand, and I was enjoying having the flat to myself. I had watched and thoroughly enjoyed this film Girlfight one night as a special Hispanic treat. And as the end credits rolled, I was on my laptop researching how I could buy a punchbag. Perfectly normal reaction right, that’s what everyone does when they see a film they like?

I found this set, it was a few hundred quid – not bad for a film-related impulse buy, I’m sure I’d had worse. It was a rig with a punchbag on one side and a speedball on the other. It was only as I awaited its arrival a few days later that I thought to go back and look up the dimensions again. I measured things out. On the positive side, it wasn’t too tall to fit, but only just. My plan to have this in the corner somewhere as an occasional ‘take it out and box’ style fitness accessory didn’t look like it was going to work out. This thing was fucking massive. Two metres high and not much less wide and whatever the other direction is.

I could barely carry the punchbag into the living room, it was so heavy. At about 2pm in the afternoon on a Saturday I began the assembly.

I knew I was in trouble when I got to 1am and was ready to assemble the final piece (the frame for the speedball) and the instructions said “you will need another person to help you with this”. Fuck that, I had come this far and wasn’t going to give in (see the resilience there, see the gritty determination, maybe I could go pro boxer after all).

So, I tipped the frame on its side and assembled the final section using various household items to secure it while I fastened bolts, tightened screws and occasionally jammed my fingers and arms under 35kg of metal. Finally it was done, I was so pleased, on top of the world, felt like a champion.

Then disaster struck. At 2m high it had been tight getting the frame onto its side (the wide base meant as I tipped it it got taller). Now, with the large circular panel attached, it was taller and wider at the top! I tried lifting it back vertical again, the new weight attached to one side threw me off balance and the whole thing nearly KO’ed me and the dining table, and my flatmates’ priceless collection of Will & Grace DVDs (I thought of smashing them anyway and pretending it was the boxing frame). But it was so big now it couldn’t get past the ceiling!

I realised the only way to lift it would be to rotate it on the ground and lift it on its side where it is narrower at the top. Now our lounge was big but not big enough for this kind of nonsense, so it took about half an hour just to rearrange the furniture to make room for the legs and pivots and bars and fixtures which would be swinging around the place as I attempted this. To make things worse I had to stand on a chair to get the necessary height, making my position whilst lifting this monster pretty precarious. Nerves jangled as I prepared to make the lift, I could see camera flashes, crowds of cheering onlookers, the echoing voice of the referee, I could taste blood in my mouth from our earlier rounds, but this bout was going to be mine and this 35kg heavyweight was going down – well, up.

After some fancy footwork (the chair was *very* unsteady), I finally managed it – there was a narrow escape when the top nearly jabbed the paint on the ceiling, but it all ended happily.

I say happily, my flatmates were going to fucking kill me.

As they arrived home from holiday they could see most things were as they’d left them. I’d thoroughly cleaned the flat. But there was something new. I found this video in my comedy archives – I think I filmed this on my phone as a kind of Thomas/Laurent coming home walkthrough, so I could prepare for their reaction:

[evp_embed_video url=”http://www.mccannecdotes.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/whileyouwereaway.mp4″]

“What the fuck is this!?” a tanned and exhausted Thomas said less than politely.

“Well, while you were away, I – shall we say – made some personal fitness investments, which required a small rearranging of the furniture. On the plus side, you can now see the TV better from the dining table.”

“You know the most stupid thing, not the waste of money, not the space this thing is taking up, but the fact I KNOW YOU and you will NEVER USE THIS!”

“I will.”

I didn’t really. Apart from Milla Monday. It was one of those things where I thought if I had it there every day to remind me, I would do something about my fitness. Instead seeing it there just reminded me that I am a sucker for a hot girl in a film, and reminded Thomas and Laurent that they live with an impulsive fucking moron.

You know Thomas used to say I’ll buy anything. Boy, did I show him!

It was not the first time it had to be moved...
It was not the first time it had to be moved…

 

Operation Deepthroat

I’d been having some problems with the strength of my voice, it was croaky and would cut out sometimes. I’d tried all kinds of things to resolve it, but the only thing that seemed to do it was singing Belinda Carlisle on SingStar. I could sing karaoke just fine, but this was not a solution that would help me at work. “Hey Alan, how’s the throat, just wanted to let you know Kevin has gone up to Scotland to sort out that problem you told him about.”

“Ooooooh Kevin’s on the case in Perth…”

See. Most people I work with think my voice has always been kind of husky. I think they associate it with being Scottish, or smoking. But friends who haven’t seen me for a while, maybe from back home, are always surprised that I’ve somehow lost my smooth accent. I usually get out of it by telling them that it was living in Birmingham that fucked me up.

It has come in handy too though. Recently I had to call up a doctor (who I labelled as fucking useless in my previous post) to cancel an appointment he insisted I go to in Windsor. Now, he had a habit of spending sub-3-minute consultations with me, and Windsor was a 4-hour roundtrip away. But apparently I’d get charged £50 for not showing up for this appointment I didn’t ask for so I had to call and invent an excuse. As it was a medical appointment I figured I’d have to be creative and it wouldn’t be easy to get out of it, or they’d try and reschedule, so I concocted a plan for every eventuality. I called up “Hi, um I have an appointment on Thursday would it be possible to cancel please. I ….”

“Of course no problem Alan, I can hear you’re pretty unwell. OK that’s cancelled for you. Bye.”

Hours of preparation for nothing.

So a few years ago my colleagues pressured me to see a doctor about this weak voice thing – they had to pressure me because I am basically a child who will not go and see a doctor about anything unless I absolutely have to. I went to see him, he was fascinated by my case – particularly the fact I was fine when singing 80s classics. He wanted a second opinion, so he checked if the “physician” was around. I didn’t know you still got physicians, I thought it was an old word for doctor. Well it might as well have been because going downstairs to see the physician was like going through a fucking time warp.

I entered this huge old style drawing room, lined with old books and ancient furniture – a far cry from the regular doctor’s normal looking office. I don’t think there was anything less than a hundred years old in the room. And I’m including the physician in that statement. He proceeded to conduct a number of tests on me, the same tests as the doctor, but with older equipment – including, I believe, a stethoscope made from elephant tusks. The physician was equally baffled, there appeared to be nothing wrong with me. Apart from the astronomical blood pressure, but I think that’s hereditary.

They sent me to Harley Street, home of the doctors from Sherlock Holmes’ day. The consultant gastroenterologist’s first initials were DJ. I immediately found it hard to take him seriously. He sent me for blood tests and to book an appointment at a private  hospital up the road, for a gastroscopy – big tube with camera down my throat, and a CT scan. First I had to pop by the hospital to make the arrangements, armed with a couple of forms he’d given me. Finishing off a cigarette I wasn’t supposed to be smoking, I had a look at the carbon copy forms he’d asked me to hand in at the hospital.

Mostly jargon, except the “notes” box, which began “Fascinating story….” What the fuck? I wasn’t telling him an anecdote. It wasn’t stand-up. I didn’t pop by Harley Street to do an impromptu revue. Fascinating story yeah right, fix my fucking vocal problem DJ, or I’ll tell you the fascinating story about the consultant getting whacked about the head with the ornamental wooden totem I stole from the physician’s office…

Gastroscopy day arrived. Booking the appointment went without a hitch, and all my needs were met, thanks to the outrageously camp nurse taking a shine to me with my husky voice.

I got changed into my hospital garb and sat with a medical henchman filling out forms. There was one about consent for the anaesthetic and two options. Full anaesthetic, recommended, or just a little bit of spray on the back of my throat. Let me see which one do I want for a huge metal tentacle being roughly inserted through my mouth all the way down to the bottom of my stomach…

Full anaesthetic it is. “OK sir,” the man said, “You won’t be able to drink alcohol for 24 hours, and you’ll need someone to pick you up to take you home.”

Not drink for 24 hours? It was fucking Friday. We have a bar at work. Me and my team go to that bar, every Friday at 5.30? I was expected at that bar, at 5.30, that Friday – today! – to tell everyone about my anecdotes from the hospital. I’m supposed to tell them I can’t make it because of some anaesthetic? I’m supposed to just go home? On a Friday? No no no no no, “Actually sorry no I can’t have the full anaesthetic, because … I don’t have anyone who could pick me up. I don’t know … anyone … in London. All my friends are … abroad right now. Ibiza, Burning Man Festival, Bastille Day, Eurovision, all kinds of things abroad.”

“Isn’t there anyone at all you could ask?”

“No. Oh hang on I could ask…. oh, no he died yesterday. Sorry.”

“What about a colleague from work?”

“Work! Ha, interesting idea, hadn’t thought of that. Um … no, sadly not becaaaaause … I work in… the… Republic of Ireland. And work is quite far from an airport. And the airport is closed anyway … because … of the Troubles.”

OK OK I’m hamming this up a little bit I don’t remember what I told him, but I didn’t tell him I had an appointment with colleagues in a bar down the road, that’s for sure. I took the basic anaesthetic. I was taking one for the team. I figured, if I can drink a Flatliner shot (tequila, Sambuca, Tabasco sauce) I can “drink” a robotic tentacle with a camera on it.

I went through with Dr DJ and got lain down on a bed, on my side, surrounded by scary machines. I got my anaesthetic. At around this point, that evening of bar anecdotes did not sound quite so worth it, as I saw the monstrous tube that was going inside my… insides. It was like he’d ripped it straight out of my shower. This was going to be like giving a blowjob to the internet cable that connects Europe and North America.

He started sticking it in and I went apeshit screaming and shaking. “UNG UNG UNG UUNG-N-UUUNNNNNNG!!!” What I was trying to say was “THIS IS NOT NATURAL!!!” This procedure was the opposite of everything that should happen to a person in real life. I could feel this thing in places where I didn’t think I could feel anything. I thought it was going to come back out of my arse, or worse!

The nurse reassured me; she must have seen this a million times. Of course she has, she works in a place where they stick fucking tentacles down people’s throats!

It would have been like this if the "physician" had done it...
It would have been like this if the “physician” had done it…

Once it was in I slightly calmed down and the nurse, who bore a striking physical resemblance to Oddjob, relaxed her grip on me. I tried to think of other things. I tried to think of the girl from work I fancied; she wouldn’t want to see me lying there shaking like a coward, with my mouth wide open and this massive thing shoved down my throat. No, she’d want me to be brave and take it like a man. This approach was not helping.

I refocused on the doctor who was right in front of me as I lay on my side. I heard him say “Open. Close.” to the nurse. Hmmm, whatever. “Open… and close.” I couldn’t look at him anymore I kept getting glimpses of the tube. “Open. And close.” Oh what was he gibbering on about. I tried to focus on something else, and saw a giant screen behind him. “Open. Close”. Hang on. The screen behind him had insides on it, guts and the like. And when he said open and close these little razor jaws were coming in from the sides and munching away…

They were broadcasting the camera on a TV behind the doctor. Who the fuck is that for? I was the only one who could see it! I gagged even more than I did when the tube first went in. Oddjob held me down again, luckily DJ was finishing his work having used his robocock to eat away half my stomach.

I came out broken, half of me wishing I’d had the proper anaesthetic and the other half expecting them to come round offering to sell me the DVD of what just happened.

I had some hours to wait before my CT scan, which would be in the same building, and I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink anything except water. Fortunately enough I was not hungry. I amused myself for much of this time by making myself visually acquainted with a dainty Kiwi nurse who was extremely attractive and frequently popped by the desk near where I was sitting to check with the woman about this and that.

I’d done so much gawping at her when she’d come by to chat to the reception woman that I felt a little awkward when one time she turned around and said “Mr McCann, can you come this way please?” Turned out this flighty little thing was doing my CT scan. We made smalltalk as I lay on my back for the second sexual subservience metaphor of the day. “Oh you were the guy who had the gastroscopy earlier. I hope you had the full anaesthetic!”

“Full anaesthetic? Pschf. No way.” I realised that much as I wanted to impress this girl with my casual disregard for such wimpy things as anaesthesia, there was literally nothing else I could say to her to emphasise this point that didn’t raise the question of why I would be blasé about having such a tool rammed down my throat. And I was making good progress with this girl and didn’t want to ruin it by appearing to be a skilled homosexual.

“Now, I just need to warn you about three things before we give you this injection – it’ll run through your bloodstream so that the scanner can see properly.” Fine. “Firstly, when I inject you, you’ll taste a strange metallic taste in your mouth.” Right, OK, not sure what that even tastes like. Yes OK I’ve just had a metallic object in my mouth for half the morning, but I wasn’t concentrating on tasting it and even if I was I’d have been unable to distinguish between the taste of the metal and the taste of raw fear. “Secondly you’ll feel a warm tingly sensation.” OK, so something like the sensation I felt when you bent over a few minutes ago and I kind of saw your pants…”Lastly, and most importantly of all…” Never feed me after midnight? No, sorry carry on, “Lastly, and most importantly of all, you might feel like you’re wetting yourself. But don’t worry about it, it’s just the injection.” Right. Weird but let’s go.

She injected me. Few moments of nothing. I didn’t cry when I got the injection so I was feeling quite good about myself right now. Then suddenly, ah, that’s what metal tastes like. I felt like I’d gargled a mouthful of change. Eyeeew, but interesting, she was right. Few seconds later, tingly feeling. Hmmm, yeah just like she described. A moment after that.

PSSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

OK she told me about this but no warning can prepare you for that feeling. When she said “don’t worry about it, it’s just the injection” did she mean the injection makes me piss myself and it’s perfectly normal. I tried to remain calm and mumbled “yeah just like you said….” as I discreetly slid my left hand over towards my groin. I was dry, it was OK. It was just the injection making me feel that way. Inside though I felt soaked, and I had drunk a LOT of water.

Relieved (though thankfully not literally) I lay back and enjoyed the sci-fi of the rest of the scan.

When I came back out, suddenly my other doctor, DJ, appeared from behind some kind of screen, bizarrely dressed like a stage magician, “Oh I was on my way home, and thought I’d pop in to watch.” On your way home, who do you live with David fucking Copperfield?

He told me everything looked OK and that he’d give me my full results at my next appointment, and then disappeared in a puff of smoke.

I smalltalked with the Kiwi regarding where I could get a tonne of food around these parts as I hadn’t been able to eat anything for a day, and she suggested a Pizza Express round the corner. I was half-tempted to invite her with me, but in case she said no I wanted to end on a high. Let’s face it, I hadn’t had the anaesthetic, I hadn’t cried when I got my injection, and I hadn’t pissed myself. I’d already done pretty well with this girl today.

I went to the Pizza Express, sat down on my own, ordered the biggest – literally the biggest – pizza that they do, and a massive glass of rose, and enjoyed my reward, topping it off with some nice cognac as I paid the bill (classy). I then ran off back to work just in time for the bar to open and to share my tales with my colleagues.

But not before getting some good practice in for my “PSSSHHHHHHHH” sound effect…

 

Oh, PS – never did get to the bottom of what was wrong with me, everything came back fine.

How I Lost My Vodka

There are a lot of stories on this site that involve drinking, but to be honest it came as a shock to me how many actually don’t. When I first started writing this blog, I assumed it would mainly consist of an endless line of alcohol-related misadventures, but while some of my finest, or perhaps simply most bizarre, stories have involved heavy drinking and inebriated debauchery, the majority actually haven’t.

Which is good because when I started McCannecdotes I was 3 months into a life of complete sobriety and the last thing I wanted to do was spend every evening writing in a nostalgic fashion about the many fun times drinking had brought me.

Today, on the six-month anniversary of my last (and truly final) drink, I’m writing for the first time how it all came about, in a massively abridged form. To be honest I could write a book about the 6-week period when I hit rock bottom with booze and quit for good, but for various reasons, including the confidentiality of some of those involved in the process, I’ll try to keep it brief.

I was a late starter to the drinking game. With maybe one exception that I can think of – a house party when I was about 17 where in hindsight I was driven home by someone who was certainly very drunk – I didn’t really drink at all at high school, even in the later years. At Uni, I wasn’t a massive socialiser but I had my moments and would drink when I was out. I didn’t have a great tolerance of it so many Uni parties resulted in me throwing up at some point, usually prompting a relocation of the party. It was at Uni I began a long tradition of drinking very non-standard things – my drink at the time was the White Russian (properly vodka, Kahlua and cream but in the Student Union or cheap pubs of Glasgow the best I got was vodka, Tia Maria and milk).

This carried with me through Birmingham days and onto London, where I shifted to tequila and coke. Always got me funny looks that one, and yet if you try it it’s actually very nice. It was only in London that I started going out regularly, and drinking regularly. I became known for my hardcore ways, unusual drinks, and fondness for shots. I never drank beer or lager as I’ve just never physically been able to take the volume without puffing up so much I can hardly breathe.

I developed over time a strong sense of when I’d had enough, an internal drinking-up-time bell which let me know it was time to go home, and if I stayed any longer I’d have trouble keeping it together. It rarely failed me. This level of control stayed with me till the very end – it was both a blessing and a curse.

In the mid-2000s I’d become settled in a fairly regular social drinking cycle. For the first time I really had a “local bar” – it was miles away from where I lived but it was a home away from home. Beaufort House on King’s Road in Chelsea. It had everything. Not only was it a lovely bar and close to all my friends, but they served a wonderful tequila and coke, had the most insanely beautiful barmaids of any establishment in London, and most importantly of all I knew everyone. I was basically Norm from Cheers.

It’s strange thinking back on that time now, as I was in the early days of my current job, and I was frequently out till past 1am in Chelsea, on several weeknights each week. And yet it never really caused me any problems. The occasional last-minute day off from work (I would never call in sick with a hangover) but even that was rare. I had everything balanced perfectly, work life, social circles, drinking, all working out. Drinking was my ticket to so many fun times and new friends.

I was always mixing my drinks - the hardcore with the homosexual...
I was always mixing my drinks – the hardcore with the homosexual…

I’m not sure what really happened but those days fizzled out somehow. Actually I do know what happened, Beaufort House closed. It was as simple as that. We gave it a good send-off too, resulting in the most spectacular all-nighter which ended with me still insanely drunk the next afternoon, going to the nearest cinema in Fulham to see 28 Weeks Later with the owner’s brother…

I drifted apart from many of the old gang, but I had a new “local” and it was more local than you could ever imagine a bar to be. We’d opened a bar at work.

Two nights a week, from 5.30 till 8, our staff restaurant turns into a bar. For many years, I was part of the furniture. I was the first to arrive, I’d be the last to leave. Pretty much without fail. It was even known in some circles as McCann’s Bar (and at lunchtime it was the McCannteen). Afterwards, on to a local pub to continue festivities, and much drunken carnage was caused. But it was all good, and all seemed very normal. Thursday/Friday drinking, some adventures, hangover the next day – I imagine that’s very typical for someone my age.

At some point, and I can’t quite recall why, maybe I was feeling a bit crap or was unhappy, but I made the leap into occasionally drinking at home. I’d actually up until that point only very rarely did this. And only if me and my flatmates had a party or some other kind of special occasion. For me, starting to have some wine or some whisky at home was a slippery slope.

Over a couple of years it became more common. I wasn’t drinking heavily but if I was home alone for a full evening it could go to nearly a bottle of wine. And it had crept into the weeknights too. When I was having a bad time, it was too easy to just look forward to getting home and sinking into that bottle of wine, or later, vodka and coke – I think it became vodka rather than tequila because tequila is actually pretty expensive. And if I wasn’t having a bad time, well, it was there anyway, might as well drink it.

About 3 years ago, I’d transitioned from occasional wine or spirits at home to a steady regime. And a bizarre delivery mechanism. The vodka and coke was gone, I just couldn’t stomach so much fizzy drinks. I drank the vodka neat, in shots. A couple of years before if you had taken me to a bar and offered me a shot the one thing I couldn’t drink straight without throwing up was vodka. I could do tequila all night but never vodka. And somehow I ended up with straight vodka as my drink of choice. I was a regular at the local mini-market round the corner from home. I never had to walk in and ask, by the time I got through the front door, the bottle of vodka would be on the counter.

My knowledge of my limits had not gone away though, I knew exactly how much I could handle, and how much sleep I needed to get most of it out of my system, and I was very consistent. I’d drink pretty much exactly half a bottle of vodka every night (so about 350ml). Here’s the thing though, I never really got that drunk – maybe because I was so consistent – and I was never really hungover. The most hungover I ever was was probably the day that picture down the side of this website was taken.

This is the thing. This was both the heart of the problem, and the key to how it went on so long unnoticed. Drinking never caused me any problems. I never ended up in trouble. I didn’t ruin any relationships, I didn’t lose my job or my house or a wife or kids. I never woke up in a police cell or on the streets. It was under control. It was completely under control whilst at the same time being completely out of control.

My social drinking dried up (so to speak) and I found myself fobbing off friends and choosing to stay home and drink there; this was when I began to realise it was a problem. I could have been going out every night and getting shit-faced and it would have felt fine, but the fact I was shunning friends, shunning socialising, to drink alone and always alone, I knew this was not good.

I kept setting myself goals to quit or to cut back, almost every weekend was going to be my last. Every night when I’d been drinking I had the courage to think these things, and make myself these promises. I was so optimistic after a drink – full of ideas for my life, for work, for relationships. The next day the ideas and the motivation faded. And the only thing keeping me going would be the anticipation of the evening time when I could drink again and feel better.

One of the most common assumptions people make is that by this time I must have been drinking in the morning when I woke up, or having cheeky drinks at lunchtime. For some reason that was never my thing. I would never have dreamed of drinking before going to work, or during, even though in some jobs I’ve had having a couple of pints on a Friday lunchtime was quite acceptable. I think I was always very conscious of seeming intoxicated when others weren’t, so I never touched a drink at lunchtime even if others were. And also, I think at heart I’m naturally a binge drinker, so I only drink if I can continue to drink until I’m drunk.

And I always drank alone. Usually out in the garden or in my room. Not to hide it from flatmates, they knew (they’d usually be the ones tidying up the empty bottles) but just because I wanted to be on my own. It was really quite sad.

The turning point was when I started getting sick. Last summer I went to my GP for some blood tests, thinking maybe this would spur me into action. My tests were fine. For the first time I’d come clean about my alcohol intake with my GP, and I barely even got any advice to cut down. As it got into the autumn I started feeling generally worse and worse. Not hungover, just generally, constantly ill. I’d be sick about 6 or 7 times a day, both during drinking and at work when I wasn’t drinking.

I felt like shit, constantly, except for an ever-decreasing time when I was drinking. I’d start to feel sick as I approached home. My body knew vodka was in there, or my body had just witnessed me buy some from the corner shop. It knew what was about to happen and it tried to tell me to stop. But I just couldn’t. On the rare occasion when I managed a day or two without drinking, and it was rare, I got even sicker. Much sicker.

I was too sick to even meet up with my little sister when she came down end of August to see me, I haven’t seen her in years. By early September I was too sick to go to work. And just to reiterate, this was not just a big hangover, I was falling to pieces inside. But I couldn’t stop or I’d get sicker.

I was sent by work to another doctor for a full medical, and by this time I’d even been completely up-front with them about my home drinking. This situation probably wouldn’t have gotten out of hand had I not been so fucking good at hiding it all these years. They did some specific test to look for alcohol damage, just like my own GP had.

Gamma GT is a liver enzyme that reacts particularly to heavy alcohol intake. The doctor told me normal was in the 40s. He then told me mine was 108.

“Shit,” I thought, more than double what it should be, this was a bit of a wake-up call.

I’d misheard him. He turned his screen towards me. It was 1108. Over 25 times normal. This was not a wake-up call this was someone jumping onto my bed and swiping at me with an axe covered in dog shit.

The next couple of weeks moved fast, I saw another specialist in addictions, and I ended up in hospital after trying to quit for a couple of days. One of the most memorable things from the whole period was lying in hospital and the consultant telling me “whatever you do, don’t stop drinking”. I didn’t realise it but just stopping could actually kill me. He recommended I try to cut down 10% each couple of days. Sounds great but think about it, by the time I’m 90% into my usual drinking amount, I’m not really in the right frame of mind to be thinking about stopping short of my usual limit.

The plan after I saw the specialist was for me to go to a private clinic in Windsor, to quit completely but safely. Basically rehab. Much as I didn’t want to go away anywhere for 4 weeks, I knew by this point it was the only way.

Now I imagine by this point you’re thinking finally there’s going to be some comedy. Rehab – a richly comic subject. Yes, there was. Plenty. But I can’t really say too much about this period because it’s not really fair on the others involved in my many anecdotes in the clinic. And whilst I made a lot of fun for myself and others in there, just to keep spirits up (pardon the pun), there were also a lot of hard and difficult times too, and it’s not easy being in a place like that, however nice the surroundings, for 4 weeks.

My home for 4 weeks. It was nice, as those things go, but no holiday. I quickly became the clinic chess champion.
My home for 4 weeks. It was nice, as those things go, but no holiday. I quickly became the clinic chess champion.

My prevailing memory from there though was not my own struggle to get over this problem which had silently sneaked its way into my life the past few years, but of the impact I made on others. I was in there to get rid of my drinking problem, but I was also in there to use my experience, my life story and my insights, to help other people too. What I came out with was a strong sense that I had helped and supported other people, been a good example for them, been incredibly honest and open about everything, and used what I had been through to help those in the same boat as me – they had told me so.

And by fuck had I made people laugh too.

I came out having clocked up my first month of complete sobriety, but very aware of the fact the real test was ahead. I drank at home. So it’s basically like I live in a pub; I was going back to the place where I did all my drinking, to the very place where my problem developed and grew.

I had said in the clinic many times I felt like whilst in there I was very safe, but when I got home there would be a thousand vodka bottles waiting there “Hey McCann, where you been! We were going to come visit you but we thought we wouldn’t be welcome in there, so we figured we’d just hang around here and get you when you got home. You’ve missed us haven’t you. you poor weak-willed little shit, why don’t you sit down and have a nice drinky, you deserve it after all that time away – come on, you’ve earned it, it’s just one teeny little drinky…” I also remembered vividly the words of one of my fellow patients, a rather tactless Irish lady who told me “I’m feckin’ tellin’ you, I admire your determination an’ all that, but once you get out into that big bad world, you WILL relapse, mark my words.” Hmmm. But then she was also the one who said to me “Only half a bottle of vodka a night? Jesus that’s feckin’ nothin’!”

The first few days were hard, but I’d been away so long, the habit wasn’t there anymore. I was just happy enough to have internet again and my PlayStation and my books and all my stuff. And my brand new and expensive chess board which I bought days before going away so I’d have something to look forward to when I got out. I was kept very busy by making plans and really treating it like a new start. I was back at the clinic a couple of times a week for another few weeks, and it was nice going back and being able to tell people how the real world had been and how I’d coped.

I arranged to meet a few friends in a local pub – they were shocked at the idea – but I had to try it. Just like in rehab when after a week I’d finally been allowed to go to Tesco to buy Jelly Tots, I tested myself by walking right down the alcohol aisle (and thankfully felt nothing but apathy), I had to get through this checklist of situations before I could truly know I was over it.

Not drinking in the clinic was fucking easy. There was no booze, and trying to get some really wasn’t an option. It was off the menu. On “the outside” I had a fucking corner shop proprietor who’d have a bottle of vodka bagged and on the counter by the time I shut my front door. All the normal drinking situations in life were ahead of me, and I had a choice. Avoid them, all of them, forever (and several people did recommend this) or confront it, prove to myself I didn’t have to drink, prove I could still have fun, still be myself.

Bizarrely when I was in rehab I thought I’d probably not be any fun anymore on the outside, if I wasn’t drinking I’d be so boring and it was the booze that made me funny and interesting. Then someone just stated the obvious to me and said “Alan, you’ve made loads of friends in here, everyone likes you, you make everyone laugh and have so much fun, and you take part in all our discussions… and none of us have ever, ever, seen you drunk.”

I ticked off going to the pub, I ticked off going for dinner, when I got back to work I ticked off going to the work bar with my colleagues (probably my biggest milestone). It was all fine, I was still on form, I could still have fun. I could still be fun. Sometimes I have off days, and to begin with I always associated that with the fact I wasn’t drinking. But I came to accept, sometimes I’m just not in the mood, sometimes I can’t be arsed going out, and it’s OK. I struggle a little sometimes staying out – I think the drinking gave me stamina – but that too is fine, I can’t say it’s been a massive problem. And there are some parties where “you kinda have to be drunk” and they’re OK too; I’m not going to be suited to every situation. But for the most part, it’s going fine.

I’ve sunk myself into my creative side, something I’d long neglected. That was the thing, alcohol took away all of my hobbies, literally everything. All I wanted to do was drink when I was at home. My writing, my designing, my piano playing, even just playing video games, all the things I used to love, I lost them, and eventually I lost the socialising too. I’m finally getting those things back. To be honest, the big thing I need to work on is socialising more, because I’ve not been going out much, but that’s not because I’m not drinking, I’m just taking my time getting back into those habits, and getting back into my social circles. I’m writing a hell of a lot, I’ve done a book’s worth already on this blog in two months, and with the exception of this post most of it’s funny… it’s amazing to finally be back doing the things I love doing, instead of every night and every weekend just being a black hole with nothing to show for it but an empty bottle.

I’ve also done this without any medication of any kind since the clinic. There are various things you can get to stop you craving or as a deterrent for drinking. You only get put on these if the doctors are confident you won’t drink (as they can fuck you up if you do). My consultant, who quite frankly was of fuck all help except signing forms, didn’t believe I’d make it, so I got no medication to help. I made it anyway. And therein was another lesson. I need to do this for myself, not for anyone else, not to meet anyone’s expectations. At the end of the day, I can’t prove to anyone I haven’t touched a drink in six months, I proved already earlier in the story how good I used to be at hiding it. If people want to think I have been sneakily drinking (and I could be, easily) I have to learn to deal with that, and to be self-assured enough that doubt from others won’t shake me.

I took the decision that I would avoid alcohol completely in all forms. I get asked about this often actually; what’s the cut-off point. I’ve switched to non-alcoholic toiletries (e.g. handwash, mouthwash) and I avoid any kind of alcohol in food, especially desserts (so Christmas was fun…). I will have a steak & ale pie or a beer-battered fish & chips, mainly because the times I have it’s been too inconvenient to avoid it. Any drink with any trace of alcohol I’ll certainly avoid. My only close scrape so far has been with ginger beer. I was bored of having the same lame drinks in the bar at work, so one Friday I discovered they had ginger beer in the canteen. I grabbed two bottles, I love ginger beer, but in the lift I looked suspiciously at the fancy, old-school bottle they were in and checked the label. They were ever-so-slightly alcoholic. With a torrent of swearing and a child-like tantrum, I stuck them in the fridge in the kitchen on our floor, and settled for a coke in the bar. I think they’re still there so if anyone reading this wants them…

It had been nagging me about the GP test results I’d had in the summer. How could they have been normal? So I went back and asked, assuming some kind of fuck-up had been made. No. They were at the upper range of normal but they were OK. Basically my body had been coping, just about, all those years, and in the two months between those tests and my next set with the private doctor, my liver had said “OK that’s it, enough, we’re not cooperating anymore. Fuck you, you’re on your own”. Thankfully I got myself sorted when I did.

Fuck, I was expecting more gags once I started writing this post, but comedy-wise it’s been as dry as… well, me! Let me just go get my rehab journal (essentially a notepad of all my gags and stories from the clinic) and see if there’s something I can repeat…

OK Day 2, I was in the shower, washing the last of the stench of vodka from my pores. I’m about to get out and I put my hand on the towel rail perpendicular to the bath to steady myself as I climb out. As soon as I put my weight on it, it completely came away from the wall. The top half of body came crashing to the bathroom floor, my poor dazzlingly youthful and handsome face saved by the strength of my other hand (my right arm has always been so much stronger, can’t think why); meanwhile my two knees slammed into the side of the bath, and I let out an almighty scream.

I stayed in this position for a few minutes, before attempting to drag my broken body out of the bathroom. I reached for the phone (hey I was in a hospital I shouldn’t have to nurse my own wounds, they had nurses for that). Ring ring. “Please be the hot one please be the hot one.” Ring ring. “Please don’t be the massive black guy.” Ring ring.

“Hello, Alexa speaking.” YES! Alexa was so hot she even had a hot name.

I don’t know quite what I was thinking when I blurted out “Hi Alexa, can you come up, I’ve had a bit of an ‘accident’ in the bathroom.”

In my younger days, just staying naked would have been the default option in this situation, but no, the vodka had built up quite a bit of abdominal fat, so I had to put a top on, then I figured putting a top on made wearing nothing on the bottom seem a bit weird so I had to put some shorts on. I realised as I scrambled getting my bashed-to-fuck knees into a pair of shorts that it would have made more sense to get dressed before making the call.

Alexa arrived and tended to my bruisings and we investigated the cause of the accident. The towel rail, normally a reliable thing to put your weight on when coming out of the bath or shower, had come away so easily for a reason. Not because of wear or tear. Not because of loose fixings. Not because of my substantial alcoholic weight.

No, it was because the rail was affixed to the wall by nothing more than fucking magnets.

Safety first. Cunts.
Safety first. Cunts.

Yes, as a safety precaution (suicide risk apparently) everything from the radiator to the shower curtain and toilet roll holder was fixed by magnets. So what happened wasn’t an accident, it was entirely expected behaviour if someone put their weight on the towel rail. I had nearly killed myself using one of the suicide deterrents. I’d have been safer grabbing onto a pile of fucking jelly.

I’ll leave you with this one important point. I’d never be where I am right now – six months into total sobriety – without the support I received from friends, family, colleagues and medical staff both inside and outside the clinic. Work in particular were amazing and pretty much drove this process, and it wasn’t because my position as Company Jester and Senior VP of Anecdotal Comedy brought me special treatment; it was because they are a good company and they look after all their people in bad times as well as good, and for that I am immensely grateful.

I’d buy them all a beer if it wasn’t slightly inappropriate…

...I still have one as a souvenir.
…I still have one as a souvenir.

The Sorry Fate of the Jean-Jacques’s [Guest McCannecdote #2]

Guest writer Jamon is back with another tale to make you wonder how he can possibly still be employed in a professional capacity, hot on the heels of his emotional baggage story.

This story gives new meaning to idea of telling people you’re having a shit time…

UPDATE: Hang on, um, before we delve into Jamon’s latest I just have to say something else, about 435 characters worth of something else to be precise. Hey have you noticed the nice new Guest McCannecdote formatting? Nice isn’t it? Well it seems it fucks up the little random post slider that I have around the site, so I have to pad this out so that this text appears in the slider and not the specially-formatted guest story, otherwise it’s chaos and I don’t know how to fix it. OK nearly there … lovely weather isn’t it? By the way, that’s a smashing blouse you have on… Right, take it away Jamon…

Jamon's having a shit time.
Jamon’s having a shit time.

 

It seems I am re-invited to share more shameful tales on Alan’s blog. Why should I put myself through any further humiliation reliving the past embarrassments of my life? I could say it is catharsis, drawing a line under a dark past, a confessional monologue even, but I’m not like Woody Allen. The truth is, it’s just funny and it would be a shame to leave you feeling deprived.

My last guest entry was about misfortunes with my luggage at a company conference in Malta. You may be surprised to know, I was holding back. There was more to tell. As part of my job I work with a number of our local Directors within each country. Our French representative, who we shall refer to as ‘Jean-Jacques C’, is a true gentleman. He always has a happy smile and an easy manner, he’s all geniality smiling through a cloud of Galouise smoke. He is also a qualified chef, I learned, and I admit I have often entertained a fantasy of being invited to Maison de Jean-Jacques, where he serves me and my friends wonderfully cooked Lobster Bisque al fresco on his sun-soaked and verdant Parisian roof terrace, while what I imagine might be his distractingly beautiful niece asks me fascinating questions about life in England (and her planned sabbatical in London where she has no friends yet and maybe I can show her round). I can tell you the invite has not exactly been forthcoming. Moreover, I must admit, I am probably a whisker away from receiving a French Le ASBEAU and I’ll never be allowed in that country again. The sordid turn of events started at the famed Malta conference in 2005 (featured in my last entry). I had important business with Jean-Jacques C, and took a quick break to call him and see if we could meet up. No answer. I was desperate for the loo and so, before returning to the conference, went. I was in there for at least five minutes, it wasn’t pretty. Coming out I checked my phone for messages, and had a slow dawning sinking feeling (I have this feeling often and know its sharp edges and dull textures well), as I noticed my phone was still connected to ‘Jean-Jacques C’. His voicemail had recorded the entire detail of the previous five minutes proceedings without complaint or reservation. There was no way to take it back.

There was a period that followed in which I avoided any sort of contact with ‘Jean-Jacques C’. Eventually we met, because we had to, and he looked at me with an unreadable, solid, expressionless face. I mumbled an apology about accidental voicemails, and he efficiently dismissed it as ‘not a worry’. Relieved, we continued normal relations; no mention was made of what had passed between us again.

At this stage I could still see in my mind Jean-Jacque’s vibrant begonias, hear the pleasant chatter of friends, and smell the rose scent of sweet perfume. My mouth watered at the thought of the perfectly prepared Tarte au Citron. It was all still within my reach….

Due to Jean-Jacques C’s real name, his number was easy to find, at the top of my contacts list. One morning one of my team approached and sternly demanded my phone, and changed the contact to ‘XJean-Jacques C.’ To address my shock she printed and showed a very patient and restrained email from Monsieur C. That morning on the train, at 6AM Parisian time, my pocket, phone, keys, and assorted paraphernalia had conspired and arranged themselves in such a way to send this poor aged gentleman around 1 text every 15 seconds for about half an hour. There was a helpful indicative digital photo of the phone text inbox included in his mail.

Next time we met, ‘XJean-Jacques C’ stood back, shook his head, and smiled. I was so relieved, he had understood me, and accepted me. My invite was surely on the way. ‘Just keep my number at the bottom of your list and I will be ‘appy’ the charming man suggested to me.

Shortly after that, I left Sony for another job, setting up a national recycling scheme in the UK. It was then that I met ‘Jean-Jacques A’. He was much younger, a keen business man and negotiator. I was the Commercial front-man, and he was the Procurement and Operations hot-shot. We got on extremely well and made a great team together. I was even confident enough to share my embarrassing stories involving his Sony namesake, and we smiled and laughed at the ridiculousness of it. Jean-Jacques A was happy to be at the top of my new phone contacts list, I felt restored to my former status, a friend to the Frenchmen of the world, and their potential nieces of a marriageable age.

In the business of setting up our nationwide recycling system, we had dealings with many waste companies. I got tired of talking to them all and asking them to call Jean-Jacques A, so I sent an email asking them all to call him directly. By this time Sony was a distant memory. I had moved on. Quite shortly after this, however, I received a short terse email from the original Jean-Jacques C asking me to permanently remove him from my contacts list. Had he found that I had betrayed his trust with another Jean-Jacques? No. Over the previous 2 weeks, poor humble Monsieur Jean-Jacques C had been called and emailed non-stop by a very long queue of highly frustrated recycling companies, all demanding meetings with him for entirely unknown reasons. Eventually, through tireless investigation, he found the cause of his latest problems. I knew I’d blown all my chances then, it was ‘game over’.

I returned to Sony eventually, and now still deal with Jean-Jacques C, but it’s different. It seems the country managers, like Jean-Jacques, are always happy to see me, but it feels a little like they bring along a deck chair and a big bag of popcorn, and watch me hungrily from about 5 metres away. Eventually when I fall over something or spill Linguini down my white shirt, they erupt into knee-slapping laughter, sharing their mirth with whoever is nearby, as if they were all in on the conspiracy: “I knew eet! Eet was only a matter of time! I knew eet Jamon, this eez typical! Eet had to ‘appen”.

Like my story with the forgotten suitcase, this sorry sequence of events also has turned full-circle, and balance is restored. This summer I had a very important meeting with the French government, and was accompanied by an excited and bemused Jean-Jacques C, clutching at his popcorn and watching my every move. The meeting went quite well, and I sent a sincere thank-you email to our French office and Managing Director, thanking them for their time. Management at our Japanese office in CC reciprocated and all was good. I could feel that invite being prepared and a stamp affixed to the envelope once again. Then, Jean-Jacques A took some time out of his busy schedule fighting down recycling prices, and replied to us all explaining that he thought, perhaps, the email was intended for someone else. Jean-Jacques C is very possibly still laughing somewhere, or crying. Maybe both.

Thanks Jamon, you are a true buffoon, the Leslie Nielsen of international business politics…