My Eleventh Summer

27 May

This Monday was Memorial Day in America, which has traditionally marked the beginning of summer. When I was young, Memorial Day always meant the opening of our city swimming pool, an event which had even the most uncoordinated and physically unappealing kids in our neighbourhood giddy with excitement. Unfortunately, my siblings and I were not allowed to go to the pool, because my mother was afraid we’d get warts and be unable to wear sandals.

Instead, our Memorial Day ritual involved helping my mother move her winter wardrobe into the attic.

That was until my eleventh year, which is when I solved my first crime. It wasn’t a murder or anything like that. But still, it sets that year apart.

c8b7c1860273f5dda0e6a301576d75aaThe night before this Memorial Day, my parents had attended a party at the Flanagans’. Mrs Flanagan wore clogs. Apparently my mother found this unacceptable. There were words and then shouting, and then my parents returned home, where there was more words and shouting and then a cigarette was put out in a gin and tonic. That’s when I decided to get up from the top of the stairs and go to bed. When I woke up in the morning, my father was sleeping on the sofa. I pushed on his shoulder until he woke up. He looked at me and said, “I want crepes.”

Because I was (and still am) his favourite, he and I left before anyone else was awake. We went to our special restaurant where he never took my mother, and he ordered us each some crepes and black coffee. While we were there, a truck pulled up outside and a man who was wearing an undershirt as a shirt came in. He smiled at my father and my father smiled back. Because that’s the kind of man he is.

The rest of the breakfast passed normally. We slowly made our way home, both of us dreading the inevitable appearance of my mother’s clipboard and complicated storage system. Three police cars passed us as we walked.

“I bet they’re arresting that truck man,” I said to my father.

“You’re probably right,” my father said. He laughed a little and then added, “You don’t need to mention him to your mother.”

On the evening news, there was a bulletin saying that a shoe store had been robbed. The guy got away with the safe and five pairs of girls’ saddle shoes. My mother said the man was probably a pervert.

My father winked at me.

 

 

Fruit Season

12 May

Even though the weather’s warming up, it doesn’t mean it’s time to start stripping off in public. Is what the policeman advised Christopher after cautioning him on the village green. I don’t normally turn to coppers for fashion advice, but he did have a point.

But in fairness to Christopher, it has been quite nice. The weather people claim we’ll have a real scorcher on our hands this summer. So all sensible people should be getting their bods and wardrobes sorted pronto. I’m no slave to fashion, but there seems to be some generally accepted guidelines bandied about by glossy magazine editors. The first step is to determine your body type.

Naturally, doctors and/or fashionistas have decided to classify women’s bodies by species of fruit. I can only presume they base this on shape, rather than flavour or ability to be made into marmalade, but there are some surprising other similarities as well.

THE APPLE

If you have broader shoulders than hips, you are an Apple.

Fashion-wise, it’s helpful to wear to wear the biggest shoulder pads available to really highlight this feature. I’m talking proper Dynasty style babies. This means you can also wear whatever you fancy on the bottom, because no one will be able to look past your huge, manly shoulders.

Apples also tend to keep doctors away so you can give up on any ideas of living beyond your station.

THE PEAR

If you’re bigger on the bottom, you’re a pear.  Get over it.

Pears want to keep things simple in terms of trousers and skirts.  No leopard prints or ruffles. Seriously.

Pears, like most pear-shaped women, feel bad they’re not apples. In society, there are negative connotations to big-bottomed shapes, which is, in my opinion, is a crying shame.

THE BANANA

Bananas are long and lean.

Wear a belt. Problem solved.

This is probably hearsay but if you peel off a banana-shaped woman’s skin and bake it, you can make LSD. Just something to think about.

THE  PASSION FRUIT

If your body looks like this, seek medical help immediately.

The truth is when we’re born, we all have bodies and while these bodies do grow, they stay the same basic shape our whole lives (except women get titties obviously). There’s no reason to begrudge yourself your body’s shape: it is what it is. Look after it, adorn it in pretty clothes and shiny baubles if you want. Bare it if you dare (and the setting is appropriate). It’s important to accept your body and even embrace it (if you’re into that thing).

Darling Buds of May

1 May

As we turn over our calendars to expose the new month, we are unsurprisingly greeted with May 1, known as May Day in many cultures. People celebrate it in a variety of ways, but most festivities involve weaving flowers into one’s hair, dancing in an inordinately silly manner and/or the bashing in the brains of factory bosses. May 1 holds meaning for me as well, though I cannot bring myself to think of it fondly. In my family, May 1 is remembered only as the Day of the Incident.

It began, as so many unhappy stories do, with my mother’s Bridge Club. I’m afraid the competition between the women players extended far beyond the card game. The ladies were always trying to outdo each other in their personal lives: a husband’s promotion, a son’s sporting triumph or an exotic accent belonging to a cleaner—all were fodder for the rivalry. While often the bragging was greeted simply with patronizing nods, sometimes the afternoons would end with bitter silences and, on one occasion, actual bloodshed.

One Tuesday, something said really set my mother off. It came from the mouth of Deborah Bullwinkle, a relative newcomer to the group, who was married to a dentist whose hygienist’s attitude my mother found objectionable. This particular afternoon, Mrs Bullwinkle came in with the story of her daughter’s first menstrual period, a tale so fascinating that no one could deny that she had “won” (not at cards, of course—my mother almost always won at bridge because she is famously a cheat).

When my mother returned home, she was fuming. She began to pick on me—why hadn’t I cleaned up my room, swept the back porch or started dinner? She demanded to see my homework, something she rarely did as by then she had realised that my intellectual abilities had surpassed her own. She criticised my handwriting and noted that my dress was wrinkled. This abuse continued until she confessed that what was really upsetting her was the fact that I had yet to shed my uterine lining.

Now when my mother came back from bridge, she was usually pretty loaded so there was no point in trying to introduce any logic into the conversation. At the time, I had yet to reach double digits so my lack of menstruation was hardly my fault. But my mother was determined that I should be able to outdo the Bullwinkles. She then announced that the next day—May 1—I would not be going into school but instead she and I would be heading to Gatsby’s Department Store. She would become the first of the Club to buy her daughter a proper, grown up lady’s brassiere.

I shan’t go into great detail about the excursion, partly because I do not want to frighten my younger readers but also because the clerk has served her time and paid her debt to society. Suffice it to say that my mother was not amused by her suggestion that we start off with a training bra. My mother had not allowed me training wheels for my bicycle when I was learning (as evidenced by the still-visible-today scars on my knees), and “my daughter got her first training bra” would not earn her the respect she was expecting at next month’s bridge game. So the clerk, my mother and I bundled into the changing room with a pencil, a pad of paper, and a measuring tape, leaving little space for my dignity.

Ultimately, my mother’s bragging about my early entry into the world of intimate apparel gave her the triumph she had hoped for. The fact that my bosom didn’t properly fill the cups until quite a few years later was irrelevant. My mother had turned my tender breast buds into a weapon, and it’s a testament to my moral fiber that I was able to overcome such trauma and go on to develop the magnificent bustline that I still maintain today.

So this May Day be assured that I’ll be remembering the Incident and the hurt that it caused. Whether you’re dancing around with ribbons or demonstrating around a bonfire, you know I’d appreciate your taking a moment to think of me. Then, if you aren’t already doing so, think of my breasts.

Nice, aren’t they?

Everybody Gets So Much Information All Day Long That They Lose Their Common Sense — Gertrude Stein

10 Mar

As the election approaches, all the parties are pulling out the usual stops, such as chatting with the normals, getting botox and going on about common sense. Whether it’s about spending, education or ‘British values’, every politician’s rabbiting on about good ‘ol common sense. Except for the Greens, obviously, but that was clearly just down to nerves.

But here’s the problem, chaps: if everyone’s using common sense to decide policies, every party’d have the same policies, natch.

But they don’t.

Or do they?

Here’s the thing: I’m not going to fight about that because, in all honesty, I find it really hard to concentrate when any of that lot’s talking. We need politicians who actually understand common sense rather than just barfing out the phrase as a sound bite.

Unlike Al Murray, though, I’m not keen on running my own campaign. However, I do have some suggestions which fall under the common sense umbrella. Please consider adding some of these strategies to your platforms, especially if you’re courting the international mover-and-shaker vote.

1.  Americans often vote for personalities rather than policies; I’m not suggesting British voters do the same. However, the leader is the face of the party, and I’m afraid the parties all have the wrong faces. The British public already said no to a couple of these mugs during the last election; why they think we’d find them any more fanciable the second go round, I have no idea. And while the phrase muppets is often used by the public to describe politicians, it’s usually said with a small letter m.

Muppets2.  The phrase ‘falling pregnant,’ though quaint, should be banned. No one falls pregnant (just like no one falls onto their hoover attachments, so why you thought the A&E doctor would believe that, I’ll never know). And they really don’t ‘unexpectedly fall pregnant’ and, god almighty, how can anyone ‘unexpectedly fall pregnant again‘? Get this legislated asap.

3.  Don’t argue with celebrities. Don’t engage with them. Literally don’t even get by them. First off, celebrities don’t know anything except how to win over the entire population, and that’s of no use to anyone running for office. Secondly, if you get burned by a celebrity, well . . . that’s a hard burn to recover from. You think Putin’s going to take you seriously if you’ve been humiliated by Mylene Klaas on the telly? I can assure you he ain’t gonna.

4.  That said, if you are going to mess with the beautiful people, don’t let them get away with bullshit like blaming you for “the politics of jealousy”. Capitalism is all about jealousy, and there are very few celebrities who aren’t digging the capitalism scene, man. However, if you take on a star, he’s going to write you a letter in response and then you’re going to have to write him a letter in response, and the Guardian‘s going to get all bogged down with that shit instead of its constant Benedict Cumberbatch updates and how will the world survive without those?

5.  Always wear a hat. Hats should make a comeback. I like hats.

6.  I know there are countries out there who are bad and mean, but the truth is, most countries’ values are surprisingly similar to those you’re selling as particularly British. Again, I hate to refer to the nation of my birth, but you’d never hear of them acting as if concepts like freedom or bravery are unique to their boundaries. Don’t act like being good is exclusive to one particular party and don’t work the nostalgia angle. Things weren’t so great before, you know. Do you remember Walkmans? Try to tell me those were better than iPods. You can’t.

7.  When you do have to deal with the baddies, hold them responsible. Whether they’re warmongers or bankers, they should be held accountable and, for fuck’s sake, don’t take their money.

8.  Income disparity is bull shit. If you can’t say this allowed, you’re obviously a posh twat who can’t serve your country. If you say it allowed but don’t really mean it, go to the back of the queue.

9.  Anyone who talks about women shaving their vaginas should be issued a £50 on-the-spot fine (£100 if it’s said on television). Yes, it is an anatomically correct term, but, sweeties, it’s the wrong one. Language is important. Get it right.

10.  No mustard trousers.

Over A Thousand Children Will Be Born In The Time It Takes You To Read This

15 Feb

Recently Pope Francis announced that “the choice to not have children is selfish.”

Far be it from me to disagree with the Infallible One, but I’m afraid he’s got things just a bit wrong.

In truth, a very good percentage of those who have chosen to release their spawn into the world have done so to ensure that a little piece of them will carry on even after they’re gone. Um . . . a little self-centred, no? Others feel their life philosophies (or genes) are just so super-duper, humankind needs more of them, so they spew out smaller versions of themselves to help spread the word (or the DNA). Again, you’ve got to think pretty highly of yourself to assume humankind needs more of you in it.

Others, of course, have children without having actually “chosen” to do so. Instead they chose not to take two seconds to roll on a condom and now the rest of us are paying for that choice. And we’re the selfish ones, Francis?

He also condemned a “greedy generation” that doesn’t surround itself with children and considers them a worry or a risk. Okay, now, hold up there, Holy Father. Have you looked around recently? Everywhere I go, I’m surrounded by children (particularly on the No. 43 into the City Centre). Without a single one passing through my birth canal, I still can’t get away from kids. And while I’m not saying no one should ever reproduce, kids can be a worry and a risk. They could get poorly or caught up in the dangers that seem to lurk behind every corner or they could vote Tory or support Man United. These are real concerns, good sir, and to pretend they don’t matter is unfair.

Lastly, he said, that life “is enriched, not impoverished” by children. I know he was speaking metaphorically, but it’s expensive to have a kid, especially if you plan to kit it out in a way that will keep other ‘unselfish’ people’s kids from bullying it on the schoolyard. Children are notorious bank breakers, and we mustn’t pretend they’re not.

baby-popeWhile I take umbrage with the practicalities of some his points, I’m not unaware that ultimately Pope Francis wants people to get it on to help create more people for God, saying a child is “a life created by us but destined for Him.” I’m going to leave that one alone as its target audience is probably not the same as mine. However, this is also the man who criticised some large families’ “irresponsibility,” clarifying that “some think, excuse me if I use the word, that in order to be good Catholics we have to be like rabbits. But no.”

Whatevs.

As popes go, Francis seems to be one of the best. And I know his timing probably wasn’t coincidental; what with all the condom adverts thrusting their Valentine’s Day specialties our way this week, he probably just wanted to put in a good word for shagging without protection.

But it’s not really fair to criticise people who choose not to contribute to overpopulation. They all have their reasons — some might be sensible (they aren’t in a position to properly care for a baby), some might seem a little less so (they were chosen to be God’s representative on earth), but the decision must be theirs.

And lots of childless people still see children as gifts to the world. That’s why they care for them in hospitals or schools or work to keep them safe in the community. It seems to me that the best guidance should be about looking after children, rather than just encouraging people to squeeze them out willy-nilly.

That’s why whenever I push a kid over in the street, I always stop to help them back up. Being kind — it’s a selfless act and the most important message of all.

For What It’s Worth

1 Feb

moment-memory-the-fabulous-times-positive-quoteThis weekend I took an unexpected trip down memory lane when Christopher and I both sorted through some things to take the village jumble sale. Naturally, I felt compelled to have a quick check of Christopher’s sack before we left because I know that, as a younger person, he’s not always able to think clearly about the value of things. I mean, yes, the village hall needs a new paint job, I agree, but there’s no need to get carried away with our generosity.

The first thing I found in Christopher’s donation bag was a little charm bracelet that was in fact the first gift I had bought him (hurtful). I understand why he no longer wears it (the Teletubbies are so year 2000), but do young people have no sense of sentimentality these days? I decided to keep it in my special box in the hopes that one day he’ll show it to his children as he awkwardly tries to describe our relationship to them.

I also found a cigarette case that he bought with his winnings after our first trip to Skegness. Sadly, he never really took up smoking, though he does give it a try each year on my birthday; I also understand that cigarette cases probably aren’t “cool” or “spacey” or whatever the correct terminology is these days. But that case was antique sterling silver — I’m not letting that go for 50p!

At the bottom of the bag was a plate covered in the remnants of egg and beans. I have put that under his pillow to facilitate his learning to tidy up his own messes.

sheer-t-font-b-shirt-b-font-Men-s-mesh-lace-clothing-Male-vest-see-through

The memory that brought the greatest flush to my cheeks, though, was inspired by a t-shirt. It was the one he was wearing the first night we met. He was so young then and, as he’s aged, I think even he’d admit he’s let himself go a little since those early days. That item I tucked under my own pillow for later use.

The rest of the things in there I was happy to drop off at the jumble sale since the hall is closer than the tip anyway.

It May Be “Cute” But It Should Be Illegal

14 Jan

Today is “Dress Your Pet Day.” Don’t ask me why this is or why the so-called people who invented are not now in prison. I have a pretty strong feeling that if I’d receive a knock on the door from the coppers if I started advocating “Push Over A Granny Day,” but apparently animal abuse is tolerated as long as you dress it up as a special occasion.

All of these kittens are dead. Not so cute now, eh?

All of these kittens are dead. Not so cute now, eh?

As you know, I adore animals and find the human-beast relationship surely one of the most intriguing and satisfying of the many I have had. However, I am appalled by those people who feel compelled to dress their animals in human clothing. I was discussing this with my dear friend Billy Bremner, former manager of the Doncaster Rovers, and he was literally distressed even imagining why a person would want to pop a cat’s head through a polo neck jumper or slide a tiny pair of denims onto a Chihuahua’s hindlegs.

I suppose many anthropomorphize their pets into the children that they clearly are unable (and quite frankly should not be permitted) to give birth to themselves. Infertility can be a bitch, but what’s more terrifying is these people’s refusal to accept their “children” as they are. Instead, they use clothing to make them “better,” to live the childhoods that their human parents never lived. So the woman who got knocked up at sixteen and has spent the last twenty years raising children for the seven different men who at various times called her “princess” resorts to what I clearly feel should be criminal. Peter Poindexter can’t get women so he hopes that projecting his fantasy on to poor Fido will allow him to live a more exciting life.

NUN DOGOthers, I’m afraid, mistreat their animals in the name of religion. You don’t get a free pass through St Peter’s gates by forcing your dog to convert. Additionally, Rabbi Dogsalthough I know animals possess personalities and emotions, I simply find it difficult to believe that a Weimaraner and a Dachshund understand enough about Talmudic law to live as orthodox Jews. And I don’t know about you, but whatever your definition of jihad, there must be some restrictions on whom Allah would prefer to fight the good fight.

Whatever their pathetic justifications, these people need to be given a right ass whooping. No one should be permitted to take advantage of animals’ innate desire to please humans by dressing them in little outfits. In all honesty, I believe they should be given fines on the spot: I don’t pay my taxes for the RSPCA to sit around doing nothing about this.

And if I could just speak directly to the animals for a moment: know that there are humans in the world who respect you for who you are, regardless of your having four legs instead of the regulation two like we do. I am personally willing to fund any therapy and/or legal advice you may feel you need if you’ve been a victim today.

Look After Yourselves Tonight as No One But the Police Will Be Watching Out for You

31 Dec

As Christopher and I are getting ready to ring in 2015 like everyone else on Earth (except for the Australians, who have, per usual, selfishly preempted the rest of us), I thought I’d pass on a few quick tips to keep you safe on New Year’s Eve.

1.Keep costumes simple. It might look lovely at the beginning of the evening, but how difficult will it be to keep it looking lovely if you end up shagging someone out by the bins?

2.Think before you dance. It’s as simple as that.

3.Follow appropriate party etiquette.

4. Be sensible about alcohol. Many a foolish activity has been inspired by drink.

5. If you’re feeling a bit worse for wear tomorrow morning, treat yourself to a hot bath and a big ol’ bucket of shame. That should help.

Have a darling New Year’s Eve, my dears! I’ll be toasting you all shortly!

May Your Day Be Merry And Bright

25 Dec

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Of Course, I Do Remember

10 Dec

thischarmingcharlieI was recently asked to serve as a character witness for a dear old friend of mine. We fell out of touch a few years ago (nothing dramatic really, just a simple, ultimately irrelevant disagreement about Caligula), but now it appears he’s got himself into a spot of bother. While obviously I could not comment on the details of the alleged crimes, I was happy to testify to the quality of the man.

It was a very long time ago when we first met; we were introduced by a mutual friend (well, probation officer) who felt we had much in common. It took a while for me to warm to him, but once I did, we had such good times, some of which, I’m afraid, were on the other side of the law. Well, I was fifteen — what could I know?  One often throws caution to the wind during one’s youth, but we also were deeply committed to the things we cared about. We used to dream, we used to vow, we tried to right the wrongs of the world; alas, we tried and we failed. But he taught me a good hairdresser could save my life, he was the one responsible for my liberal use of the v-word (vile or vulgar, depending on my mood), and he used to kiss me a lot. Naturally when I was asked to stand up on his behalf, I didn’t say no, how could I?

I spent yesterday sequestered (I know it’s usually jury members who get closed off but I fancied a little break from Christopher and his relentless ‘holiday spirit’). The hotel was not up to my usual standard (they really took the mini part of mini-bar to heart), but overall I found my judiciary experience quite rewarding.

Being asked to serve as even the smallest cog in the great machine of justice is a responsibility we should all take very seriously, and I can assure you I did. I immediately went out and purchased a new suit. I don’t mind telling you that it was devastating — a gorgeous fit, lovely velvet lapels and cuffs: it really screamed ‘trustworthy but up for it’ (which was precisely the look I was going for).

I also spent hours preparing my testimony. I can’t give away too many details presently (though you’ll no doubt be able to read the juiciest ones in the papers as soon as the verdict’s handed down), but I wanted to make sure I appeared specific, vivid, and certain. As I am a journal keeper of the highest order, I dug out my old diaries just to see, just to see all the things I’d written (and illustrated) about him. Obviously there was much that demanded to be kept private, but in the end I felt my selections reflected his actual character while also keeping the court engaged and entertained (alas, we do live in an internet-based world where people cannot stay focused long without hearing a joke or something about how cute kittens are; fortunately my statement offered sufficient levels of both).

I had been working closely with my friend’s barrister, this charming man with just enough grey at his temples and leather elbows on his tweed coat. He instructed me on how best to word my answers to his questions. We did some role-playing (no costumes sadly): he asked, “What two words do you feel best describe the defendant?”; I answered, “Morbid and pale.” He asked, “How did you first meet?”; I answered, “He spent six years on my trail.” We went over my memories, including a ridiculous twenty-four hour Claude Brasseur film marathon and his rather sweet and tender habit of singing me to sleep. By the time I checked into my hotel, I was feeling quietly confident enough to totally relax during my massage and foot sanding.

However, I was not prepared for the ruthless tactics of the prosecution counsel. Firstly, he was extremely attractive, a strategy surely designed to undermine the credibility of any eyewitness with eyes (I plead guilty as charged). Secondly, he was a little too interested in the more intimate details of my and my friend’s relationship. For example, I do believe even the judge blushed during this exchange:

Mr Crown: Can you recall any instances of violence or aggression?
Miss Whitt-Wellington: No, sir, I cannot.

MC: Are you saying you were unaware that he had killed a horse?
MW-W: Well, no, but it was only because he got confused.

MC: I see. And could you please explain the time he threatened “to smash every tooth in your head“?
MW-W: He was just being romantic — he had a rather unusual sense of pillow talk.

MC: And the same reason explains his belief that “you should be bludgeoned in your bed”?
MW-W: I find it hard to believe that a well-travelled man such as yourself is unfamiliar with that euphemism.

MC: Would you answer the question, please?
MW-W: I could draw it if you’d prefer.

I did my best to keep up with his seductively delivered verbal attack, and in the end, I was dismissed with the phrase “No further questions” (though his slipping me his business card makes me hopeful that additional cross examination may be on the table at a later date). I didn’t stick around for the end of the trial. I was greeted at the train station a few hours ago by Christopher who graciously was not wearing a novelty Christmas jumper.

Sadly, justice these days seems a little hit-or-miss (and by hit-or-miss, I mean clearly racially biased) so only time will tell if my friend will get what he deserves. However, I did the best I could to honestly represent him and am grateful I was afforded an opportunity for a quick walk down memory lane. I will say, despite the years and the possibility that he committed such horrendous crimes, he still looked rather delicious. Yes, he’s older now, and he’s a clever swine and I was happy to be the one to stand by him. As he was cuffed and led from the court, he smiled and mouthed I’m still fond of you so he knows, he knows, he knows I’d love to see him once he’s in the clear. I think I shall go to sleep tonight with a soft voice singing in my head.

On the other hand, if he is convicted, well, eighteen months’ hard labour seems fair enough.

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