Category Archives: Uncategorized

Dear Fifty Shades Fans

Please do not leave comments telling me to read Fifty Shades of Grey. I have. It was terrible. That is all. Thank you.

P.S. If you haven’t read Fifty Shades of Grey, please be advised that it’s not that dirty and they don’t do anal. Sorry about that.

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Naomi Knight of Rhyming With Oranges is a sticky fingered little scumbag who helps herself to other people’s intellectual property and doesn’t give credit

Hey everyone – look at what this thieving shitnut, AKA Naomi Knight AKA Rhyming With Oranges wrote!

Look familiar? I know, right? Looks a hell of a lot like a post I wrote, doesn’t it?

Oops

Oh no, wait – it looks more like two posts I wrote.

Double oops

It’s okay, Naomi. I’m not that angry. I’m only slightly furious. Is it because you were dropped on the head as a baby? Or are you really that fundamentally fucking stupid that you didn’t think I’d notice that you’d copypasted large swathes of things that I wrote and passed them off as your own? It might be a good idea to apologise at this point. And swear on the bones of whatever saints you hold holy that you will never, ever do this again. That might be a smart move on your part right now. I’m suggesting it because you don’t seem to have many smart ideas. At least none of your own.

An All Too Brief Candle

If you read this blog regularly you’ll know that it took me eighteen months to write Summerland, and that I joked that it was the exact length of time that it took to make two whole people.

Two whole people were made during that eighteen months. Unfortunately the second of those two new people – my best friend’s first grandchild – has already departed. He was only ten weeks old.

It’s hard to watch friends go through the trauma of losing a child. Even harder is trying to begin to imagine the intensity of the pain they must be experiencing, and there’s very little one can do in the face of such a devastating loss.

There was no sign or warning – it just happened. These seem to be the words they hear a lot, from doctors and nurses and social workers – it just happens.

Answers can mean everything or nothing to families grieving in this way – everyone deals in their own ways. Personally I like to feel as though something positive can be done even in the darkest hour, so if you are stuck for a charity to donate to this Christmas, please consider the The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths. For the past forty years FSID has supported thousands of bereaved families and funded extensive research that has led to a significant reduction in the number of babies dying each year. With more research and more knowledge then perhaps fewer familes will have to hear those three helpless and hopelessly sad words.

Nature Abhors A (Cat) Vacuum

I’m beginning to understand why so many mystery writers say they write the ending first and work backwards. The big Miss Marple reveal is not a thing you want to be writing when you’re burned out and thinking about how much you really should get around to vacuuming the cat.

The worst thing? I don’t even have a cat.

Not that you need a cat to go Cat vacuuming. Cat vacuuming is an advanced form of procrastination known to writers and the chronically self-employed. It goes a little something like this;

I should do work but I really should do the dishes before I get started, just to get it out of the way.

This is fair enough, you might say. After all, it’s good to do your dishes. It’s what separates us from the animals, keeps the kitchen from getting flyblown and health-hazardous and means that someone else doesn’t have to do it, which always goes down well with someone else.

You do the dishes. You might even put on a load of laundry and have that rumbling away in the background while you work. Your first, fatal mistake. Then you wonder what’s for dinner and realise you have no idea what to cook and that demands thought, and mental resources you just don’t have at that moment.  In my case this usually ends in pasta of some sort.

So, back to the kitchen. Prepare ingredients in advance and feel super, super organised. Then catch sight of double chin in glass cupboard door and realise it’s been two days since your last workout.

No, come on – it’s not procrastination. It’s important to keep fit. Everyone says so. You’re losing weight and that’s good but there are always those stubborn little jiggly bits of back fat that are so hard to tone. You need to get thin enough to make those disappear because the doctors say those are the really evil bits of fat – the ones that hang out next to your vital organs and giggle while they plot ways in which to kill you.

Get the mat, get the weights and feel better. Feel like a normal, sensible person and try very hard to forget the fact that you haven’t written a single fucking thing all day.

Now you’re sweaty and you smell. You need a shower. So you shower.

Then you look up in the shower and see what’s raining water down on you. Oh, that’s nasty – when did that shower head last get cleaned? Come to think of it, when was the last time you cleaned the shower properly? Must have been a while ago. That grouting looks unpleasant.

This is how it starts. Normal procrastination starts to slide into something stranger and more obsessive. You think you’ve got it under control. You think this is just a sensible thing to do, like exercise or the dishes, but before you know it you’re on your knees with a toothbrush and a bottle of household bleach, scrubbing away like a victim of that insane drill instructor from Full Metal Jacket. Or my mother.

In reality, this is nothing that couldn’t have waited. The leprous growth on the showerhead isn’t pretty, but it’s been there for a while and hasn’t killed you yet, so today is unlikely to be an exception. Except reality no longer has any bearing on the situation. Reality has been consumed by dirty tile grout and limescaled chrome. The state of the shower is important. It’s an important job. No, seriously, it’s vital. It must be done. It’s almost as important as vacuuming the cat. Speaking of which, that hasn’t been done for a while…here Kitty-Kitty…

It’s a sickness.

I tried getting around it by downloading a self-help book called The Fifteen Minute Rule, or some such thing. It was free and contained what seemed like sensible advice – if you’re struggling with something, devote fifteen minutes at a time to it until you chip away slowly at the problem and it’s done.

Great advice, right? Simple.

Wait, do they really need a whole book to tell people this? Okay, I got it on a free offer but the normal price was like £3.99 or whatever and seriously? You’re charging four quid to state the bleeding obvious?

So that didn’t work. I had to spend the rest of the day being angry at self-help books. (This is surprisingly good fun.)

There’s actually no solution. You think you can get a lid on it. You think you can stop, get it out of your system. If you sate your curiosity about the contents of the newspaper now then you’ll be okay for the rest of the afternoon and absolutely won’t spend the day giggling at Mitt Romney’s daily footbullet (Seriously, how is he even real?) or wondering why his dead-eyed running mate can’t seem to find clothing that fits. You’re only going to play that computer game for an hour. You’re going to put down that novel in a minute, make another cup of tea and get to work. Really.

You’re not going to speculate about the origins of that mysterious smudge that keeps reappearing on your bedroom wall because it doesn’t matter. You’re not even going to get a wet wipe and remove it then stare at the wall all afternoon to see if it comes back. You’re just not. You’re going to stop spewing your inane thoughts all over internet and go and do some work. You are.

Honestly. Totally.

In a minute.

Memento Mori

It must be some kind of law of the universe that interesting things happen when you have the least amount of time to devote to them. It’s taken me eighteen months to get this book even close to finished – that’s twice the time it takes to make a person. (Well, I say ‘make’ – after nine months the fundamental materials are in place but there’s a reason we don’t let them vote until they’re eighteen.) I started it in March 2011, a year which Charlie Brooker aptly described as a sort of end of season finale for the human race. Everything was interesting in 2011, interesting in the Chinese curse sense of the word. There was so much to read, so much to learn and I had absolutely no time to do it, so mostly I had to content myself with a brief ‘argh’ at the headlines and carry on – difficult when every new edition was a fresh cherry on the Schadenfreude sundae as that evil old prick Rupert Murdoch finally got a tiny fraction of what had been coming to him for years.

2012 was bound to be interesting from my point of view. The Diamond Jubilee left me cold – vaguely interesting from a historical trivia point of view but not so interesting that they had to dye Mr. Kiplings’ French Fancies red, white and blue. They did that, you know. It wasn’t right. There’s something deeply unsettling about bright red icing. Say what you like about blue cakes – they’re not right, but they know they’re not right and they don’t give a fuck. There’s something endearing about the don’t give a fuckness of blue icing. But blood-red?

You know that little bobble of buttercream that sits under the icing at the top of a French Fancy? Isn’t that the best part – that slightly salty bubble of sweet, gooey buttercream? I love that. I always save that until last. Only with the red icing the colouring leaked into the buttercream and turned it a sort of pale, oozy yellow. Not the kind of colour that looks good next to red. It tasted the same but looked like an operation, which is not the kind of thing you want to be thinking about when you’re enjoying a nice cake.

So yes – there was that. With the red, white and blue colouring Mr. Kipling’s Fancies may have been rendered inadvertently Frencher than they’d ever been, but it was just so wrong. Mr. Kipling’s French Fancies are pink, yellow and brown – everyone knows that.

Sorry, yes – where was I? Interesting things. I always knew it was going to be an addictively interesting year because you Americans are having another one of those election things. (Has it really been four years?)

I have a thing about American elections. Odi et amo, excrucior. It hurts like hell because American politics sets the tone for politics everywhere else. Many of the modern techniques of spin originated in America – inane buzzwords and doublespeak designed to win elections and very little else. When American media-wizards talk about ‘controlling the narrative’ you can bet David Cameron’s new pet press-weasel will start spouting the same guff in the next five minutes.

Spin is a terrible thing and yet like most terrible things it is oddly fascinating. The current narrative (ugh) being followed by the Republican Party is that Romney’s veep-pick Paul Ryan is some kind of muscle bound intellectual powerhouse, a bootstrapped Übermensch who is going to utterly kerb-stomp senile old socialist cry-baby Joe Biden. One wonders if the press-creatures have been up too long and too late reading Ryan’s favourite Ayn Rand.

Like most Randroids, Ryan is probably no brighter than he needs to be, which is to say not-very-bright-at-all. All you need to understand Ayn Rand’s ‘philosophy’ is an unhealthy persistence of the kind of solipsism that most people have grown out of by the age of twenty-one, and a very strong stomach to cope with some of the ugliest prose ever committed to print.

In reality, Ryan is little more than a half-bright wonk with better than average muscle tone. Joe Biden, far from being the soppy left-wing caricature ripped from the pages of Atlas Shrugged, is a highly experienced veteran, a senior senator who was one of the youngest ever elected to the US senate.

Certainly, it’s fun to think of Grandpa Joe as that chatty old relative who can recite the train time tables from memory and frequently does so, when he’s not showing you pictures of his grandchildren. I think it’s partly because he’s such a contrast to the previous Vice President. After eight years of Darth Cheney, a literally heartless cyborg who forced a man to apologise for being shot in the face, Joe Biden comes across as a gaffe-prone and occasionally foul-mouthed Mr. Rogers.

This is exactly why Joe Biden, at his best, could eat Paul Ryan for breakfast. Biden’s emotional intelligence must be off the charts. I will never forget that moment in the infamous Palin debate when Biden remembered how it felt to be a single father after the death of his first wife and baby daughter. Palin’s biggest strengths, her handlers felt, were that she was an aw-shucks, blue-collar hockey mom, talking points she had no difficulty repeating. She was actually doing a pretty good job at hammering home her image, when a question prompted Joe Biden to remember the car accident that left him a widower, and put one of his children in the ground and another on the critical list.

In a handful of sentences Joe Biden managed to sketch the painful days in intensive care, the poverty that followed when charged with the indignity of medical bills, the intense kitchen table discussions with the father-in-law about how he would have to go and take the children somewhere where he could find work. Palin’s blue-collar mom schtick had never looked hollower – all she did was chirp about it. Biden had lived it, suffered it, and like most people, knew that parenthood was not all sunshine and rainbows.

It was a startling moment. Most politicians spend so much time pretending to be human that the public (and perhaps they themselves) forget that they really are human. We need that Roman chap back – you know the one who used to ride behind the Emperor in triumphal parades, whispering ‘You are yet mortal’ in the Imperial lughole? Him. If you want to create jobs you could do a lot worse than creating his job anew. There are plenty of ears that would benefit from such whisperings, not least Paul Ryan’s if he’s going to attempt to look like an actual person while standing next to Joe Biden.

There’s a Personhood Amendment that might actually stand a chance of doing these fuckers some good.

Awful Yearnings

Okay, I’m so tempted to do something terrible and actually read That Fucking Book – you know? The one that everyone’s talking about? The one that’s all swoon, smarm, CRACK WHORE, spank spank spank, fuck fuck fuck, tampon, ew, fuck fuck fuckety fuck.

I’m not very good at blogging bad books – some people will remember how I attempted to work my way through The Fountainhead. I lasted until about chapter four. I seriously couldn’t take any more after that. It was like listening to an idiot screaming at the top of her lungs about SHIT I DON’T LIKE I DON’T LIKE THAT SOCIALISM IS AWFUL I LIKE HOWARD ROARK HOWARD ROARK IS GREAT LET ME TELL YOU MORE ABOUT HOWARD ROARK AND HOW HE IS GREAT AND HOT AND A MOTHERFUCKING RAPIST AND THAT’S GREAT TOO

It was quite bad.

Obviously you’ll talk me out of this whim, won’t you? (You won’t. Oh shit.)

Tits and Bums

Currently wondering if Londoners have cellulite, and if they do, how? I was in the city on Thursday and my legs and hips are still yowling about it. It’s weird how even a bumpkin like me falls quickly into lockstep with the urbanites. One minute I’m a scrub-faced dairymaid type with big tits and an encylopaedic knowledge of the diseases of brassicas and the next minute I’m hoofing it at a terrifying pace down the subway fromSouth Kensingtontube. I suppose I have the excuse of having lived inLondonin the previous century but it’s very odd how fast one picks up the pace.

Spent the morning bimbling about theNaturalHistoryMuseum, which was heaving with various school parties of small children. They come for the dinosaurs, naturally, and it’s nice to see in today’s silly fucky if-you’ve-got-the-money-you-can-teach-them-what-you-like climate. Unfortunately there are reasonable odds that a lot of these noisy sproglodytes are going back to schools where they’re told that dinosaurs existed once upon a time – until God killed them all in the flood. And they sank to the bottom of the fossil record because they were heavier than mammals. (I’ve actually heard this one. Creationism means never having to say ‘I’m kidding’.)

I think the NHM should just nail its colours to the mast with a slightly more in-your-face human evolution section. I would suggest a big fuck-off tacky as shit neon sign on the stairs with a big arrow pointing to Charles Darwin. And it should flash on and off and say HE WAS RIGHT. DEAL WITH IT.

Similarly they need to give it a bit more welly upstairs. I mean, I’m impressed by the casts of Lucy and the Turkana Boy but I wasn’t raised by flaming fucking pants-on-fire bullshitters.

So. Something more along the lines of –

YOU’RE A PRIMATE – GET THE FUCK OVER YOURSELF.

The reason we were in London was because we had tickets to the Leonardo exhibition at the National Gallery. So we tubed our way toWestminsterto indulge my Pugin fetish en-route and schlepped alongWhitehall. Didn’t follow Man’s suggestion of running at the gates ofDowning Streetwhile screaming because I couldn’t see that ending well. He was surprised to realise there were so many landmarks in one place, whereas I was jaded having once been halfway educated somewhere up theStrand. (KCL – wash your mind out with soap and water.)

There was a man outside the gallery doing the robot about as well as Fry from Futurama. There was also a young man named Tom who was attempting to ride a giant unicycle while passing his entire body through a busted tennis racket. And he did. We gave Tom some money, told him he was great and went in to look at paintings, whereupon I realised the difference between myself as an undergraduate and myself as a slouching-towards-middle-age idiot. Once I would have hung around studiously attempting to absorb culture by osmosis and probably said something profound in the general direction of whoever I was trying to fuck at the time.

Now I just stand in front of Velasquez’ Rokeby Venus and say “That’s a seriously nice arse.” (Actually, after the fact, but wasn’t that painting heavily vandalised by a nutter? They’ve done an amazing restoration job if it was.)

A lot of those heroic/religious paintings tire the tits off me, I must say. After a while, the National Gallery blurs into a series of melancholy Madonnas and tit-and-arse heavy Judgements of Paris, interspersed with the occasional bum-centric Rape of Ganymede and that lovely Franz Hals painting of the boy with a skull. Unless you seek out the smaller rooms where the FlemishSchoolpaintings are housed it’s pretty much Madonnas and Venuses until the 19th Century, where you finally get a taste of how radical Monet’s now hopelessly cosy Giverny paintings were at the time. And how refreshing. Not an unconvincing pair of titties in sight.

The much-talked about Leonardo exhibition was about as impressive as you’d expect, although I’m not sure the National Gallery’s original plan came off. The idea was that ticketholders would go in every half hour in groups of about 180 people, but I think they were pretty much letting people in when the fuck ever, so it was extremely cramped. And I really don’t think much of the decision to hold the thing in the basement of the Sainsbury Wing. The continuation of the exhibition on the main level was far less painful – bigger rooms and less desire to kill people.

But the paintings. What can you really say about Leonardo Da Vinci that hasn’t already been said? Perhaps the most interesting exhibit was a newly attributed Leonardo, Salvator Mundi, a weird sfumato-heavy portrait of Christ holding an orb of rock crystal. I don’t know why and I can’t shake the feeling, but I can’t help thinking it might be a self-portrait. Leonardo Da Vinci is one of those people who has been heavily caricatured in history, mainly because the only certain self portrait shows him as an elderly man with a flowing white beard. Naturally he wasn’t born a beardy old tinkerer, just asVictoriawasn’t born a tubby widow in a lace cap – Leonardo was once young and extremely handsome, a flamboyant polymath who gave very few fucks. If anyone had the sheer brass nads to paint himself as Christ then it was Leo. This was not a man who feared God in the neurotic, medieval sense, or even in the differently-but-equally neurotic Reformation sense.

It was also pretty special to see the two Madonnas together – The Virgin of the Rocks and The Madonna of the Rocks, on loan from the Louvre. The latter was encased in bullet proof glass, perhaps in order to keep Dan Brown fans away from it. There was talk that the National had entered tentative negotiations with the Louvre to borrow their other Leonardo, but apparently they broke down in mocking laughter and the French response ended in the word ‘yourself’.