Let’s celebrate the Founding Fathers’ commitment to ensuring the freedom of speech and religion of all corporations!
Once upon a time in a green and pleasant land, men, women and children woke with a great sense of anticipation. A little boy in Exeter refused to eat his breakfast until his father joined him in singing a variety of football chants across the kitchen table. A mother in Dewsbury quickly started her ironing, did the washing up, hoovered the front room, and nipped out to the shops to buy her lottery tickets so she’d have all her work done in plenty of time. Thousands of hungover lasses in Newcastle woke up in strangers’ beds with a desire to get home as soon as possible.
The sense of excitement grew throughout the day. A bin man in Croydon braved the PC Brigade, pinned a flag of St George to the back of his fluorescent tabard and walked into a local pub. As a group of Scousers pushed her and her shopping cart over, a granny gave a cry that sounded like “England til I die” (though it might have actually been, “Help! Police!”). A benefit cheat in Derby spent two hours making sure his telly was precisely angled to allow for maximum viewing pleasure. An intelligent and sexy woman in my very own village asked her houseboy Christopher to hurry through her usual pedicure.
A flock of doves flew over a playing field in Basingstoke.
Today was the day. An entire bunting-covered nation put their mobiles on vibrate, opened their tabs at the bar and waited for the moment of truth.
What’s in a name? you may very well ask. In fact, I will pause and wait while you do.
. . .
Now that you’ve asked, apparently “scientists” claim there’s quite a bit in a name. According to some clever clogs in Pennsylvania, boys with common names are less likely to commit crimes than those with less common names. (First let me clarify that as we’re talking about America, common means “more frequently found.” Therefore, a common American name is John Smith, a less common American name is Chucklenuts McGee. In England, I appreciate, common denotes something which would imply a distinction between the names, say, Wayne Rooney and Perciville Wilberforce DeMontford.)
So “science” tells us names can lead one to criminality. What I found quite interesting about this particular research is the selection of bad, uncommon names, particularly Ernest and Ivan. For, in my vast experience of male-female relationships, I have known (biblically) both an Ernest and an Ivan. And, I can assure you, they were far from bad. They were good, quite good, if you can catch the meaning of my drift.
Ernest was a boy from Louisiana whom I met one day in New York City as I was meandering through Central Park Zoo. We were both watching the mini Nubian goat kid being tended to so lovingly by its mother. Although the zoo was bustling with children (as it so often unfortunately is), it felt like he and I were alone in this scene of nature’s beauty. I turned my delicate face towards his and noticed a single tear making its thoughtful way down the contours of his rugged but not unlickable face. His eyes met mine and, for a moment, we stood in silence, before quickly making our way to the nearest hotel. After, he said his name was Ernest and I felt that there could not have been a more perfect moniker for such a sincere and thoughtful lover. During the week that we spent in each other’s company, I was able to discern, with the help of a UN translator, that he had moved north from the bayou to learn how the big city folk lived and ended up the head of a charity devoted to protecting city pigeons from verbal abuse. My Ernest was not a criminal: he was a generous and compassionate do-gooder, who definitely could do it good.
I didn’t meet my Ivan until much later when I was touring the rugged landscapes of Montana. My expedition was hoping to reach Sacagewea Peak but got stranded without enough provisions. Ivan, as I’m sure you can imagine, was originally from Russia and had come to Bridger Range to do some skiing. He intercepted our calls for help and immediately rushed to our aid. After my group came back down the mountain, I felt I wanted to thank him personally before leaving town. He was staying in a little place near Devil’s Backbone and was delighted to entertain for me for the weekend. A lady, of course, does not like to kiss and tell, but, suffice it to say, the only crimes Ivan committed were against nature but they were so, so forgivable.
This quick, wet trip down memory lane has provided ample evidence to prove that said “scientific” theory about names is tommyrot (unless, I suppose, your name is actually Tommy Rot). In my own life, I have had some run-ins with a few Victorias, but they are definitely the exception which validates the rule that one’s name is of very little consequence as to whether one is likely to be unlawful or legit. No child should be condemned at birth simply because of the name his parents chose for him. What one makes of oneself is what matters. After all what woman hasn’t met her fair share of bad Johns? And while “scientists” David and Daniel may be sitting pretty in their ivory research laboratories, I personally can testify to knowing at least two Davids currently serving rather long prison terms. I will admit to knowing a Daniel who was completely above board, but he suffered from premature ejaculation so I think I’ve proved my point sufficiently.
One day when I was a young girl, I happened upon an unusual scene in the street. A friend and I were walking down the avenue when we noticed a man dressed in grey crumpled clothes, on the other side of the road. “That’s the actor Charles Bronson,” she said. I wasn’t familiar with his work (let’s face it, at the time, I tended to favour the weedier man — as I still do today). He was just walking along slowly when he stopped and bent down to pick something off the pavement. “Is this your penny?” he called over to us. We shook our heads no. And then he popped the coin in his mouth and swallowed it before continuing on his way.
Now this was before the Internet so I couldn’t rush home to Google some information about his upcoming role as a numismatic or how he suffered from a copper deficiency. Instead, I just found the episode quite intriguing and when his next film came out, I went to see it to find out what other charms he possessed.
Had this happened today, though, I would have discovered all I needed to know about him within a half hour. Then I probably wouldn’t have gone to the cinema and just think of all the vengeance killings I would have missed out on.
That’s the problem with celebrity today: it’s just too much. Whether via social media, gossip sites, or just their stupid faces showing up on every television screen twenty times a day, there’s no mystery or intrigue these days. Think about it — the more we know about someone, the more we tend to despise them (see recent divorce statistics as science-based evidence for this claim).
If I were a celebrity, which I’m not (I’m an international mover-and-shaker and there is a difference), I’d spend all my time holed in my mansion, lounging poolside, drinking spritzers and having my toenails painted by foreign boys whose silence I’d buy with cash from the piles I’d have stored underneath my bed. To guarantee my fans’ devotion, I’d appear in public no more than twice a year and I would always refuse an interview.
You stay a star by making us want to see you. Forcing us to see you all the time everywhere is nothing but career suicide.
Never make a death wish because a death wish always comes true.
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?
While I was out in the garden yesterday tending to some suckling clover, I was startled by a bit of a ruckus next door. Without any effort of my own making, I was able to overhear a conversation between the lad next door and his mother. From what I could decipher, some chores of his had not been done (she had asked him to take the bins out the other night at approximately 5.45 and again at 6.30 yet he had left without doing so to go watch Clash of the Titans with that Liam Williams kid whose mother leaves a lot to be desired in the responsibility department). The lad’s defense was simply that he had not heard her request on either occasion or he would have definitely done his job. A few mild swears were tossed about (coming from both parties so this gives you a sense of the kind of people I have living next to me). I was just about to abandon my activity when I heard Lady Muck make a comment which upset me terribly.
She said, “And take off that ridiculous cap, you look a right twat.”
Having been keeping tabs on this boy for a number of weeks (he is my prime suspect in the case of bicycle tracks through my tulip bed), I know the cap of which she speaks. It is commonly referred to as a baseball cap, and I feel it is an unfairly maligned article of clothing.
I have already spoken extensively about my love of baseball. The intelligence, bravado, and strength that it takes to be a great player, I feel, means that anyone wearing a hat in any way associated with this great sport always commands a certain amount of respect.
The design of these hats, of course, is based on a specific purpose, which is shielding one’s eyes from the sun. This is why you often see cricket players wearing similar caps, though their brims are just slightly shorter (if you know what I mean). Baseball caps also keep one’s hair out of the way, which could be helpful when one needs to focus on driving or performing keyhole surgery. That’s another feature which shouldn’t be sneezed at.
Because of their width, baseball caps are also useful for publicly stating your support in a team, musical group or cause. They come in so many varieties that they are a comfortable and useful way to advertise your philosophy of life to every Tom, Dick and Harry you pass on your way to the off license.
My shrew of a neighbour therefore was completely disregarding the cap’s historical significance and practical application when she made the above comment. And I know the reason she did this. It’s because the baseball cap is symbolic of America. When Britons aren’t fawning over America, they’re dragging it down. (You’re such a fickle country, you are, but I love you.)
True, America’s got its problems. I’d be first in the queue to admit that (well, actually, I’d probably be second behind Jeremy Clarkson). But it’s outrageous to assume that everything American is bad. That’s just racism. Just because millions of drunk, ignorant, and loud Americans sport baseball caps twenty-four hours a day (many of them even wear them while bathing) it does not mean that the cap itself is the problem. I wish my neighbour would realise that her son has in fact always been a right twat and probably always will be, with or without the baseball cap on his head.
Listen to me, England, you are some of the most compassionate and accepting people I’ve ever known. Don’t blame baseball hats for the idiocy of some who wear them. That’d be like blaming hooded sweatshirts for youth crime, and I know this great nation would never entertain a foolish idea like that. Not only should the lad next door be able to wear his baseball cap, he should do so with pride. And he should do so while reimbursing me for the emotional pain his reckless cycling has caused me and my tulips.
Unfortunately the time when most of us first experiment with operating a car or doing sexy-sex is during our early teens when we have the least control over our brains and bodies. Most of us probably had our first driving lessons from a family member (I’ll leave any further comment to the Freudians amongst you), but even if we are given professional instruction, we just don’t have the mental and physical capabilities to effectively perform the functions needed for a satisfactory experience. Sadly, though, we stick with our awkward, teenaged techniques and continue to do it wrong for the rest of our lives.
This undoubtedly explains why 3500 people die on the road each day and why the toxic stink of sexual dissatisfaction fills the bedrooms (though generally not to a lethal level) of many homes around the world. I’d like to pass on some advice I’ve picked up through my travels, which may help improve your skills and keep your insurance company off your back as well.
Buckles, helmets, condoms — don’t be daft, you know what this paragraph is going to say. Also, don’t text. It’s dangerous and rude and not the best use for your fingers during this time.
Honour local laws and customs
In many places, it is legal to turn right on a red light. However, this is not the case everywhere. When I’m in an area where it’s illegal and some jerk honks to pressure me into turning right on red, I want to slam it into reverse and ram him (and not in a good way). Different locales have established rules or guidelines which need to be respected, and it’s important to be aware of these so you don’t offend or end up in cuffs (again, not in a good way).
The opposite of defensive is not aggressive
My mother suggested early on that the goal is to be a ‘defensive driver’, meaning my job is to respond only to what others on the road are doing. This, like most of what my mother says, is tosh. If all I do as a driver is react to what others are doing, I’m never going to get to my destination. I’ll be stuck in neutral, letting everyone else have their fun whizzing by, swerving to avoid my timid self. Obviously, it’s important to watch what others are doing and respond appropriately, but driving defensively is not wise.
However, the opposite of defensive is not aggressive. I don’t want any one’s bumper up in my face and I doubt you do either. This strategy is only going to lead to broken bones or blue balls, and no one wants to end up on a list of those statistics.
Instead you should aim to be offensive. Think about sport (especially if you’re trying to last a little longer): if all you do is loiter around your basket/goalposts, you’re not going to win. But if you blindly crash through your opponents, you’re going to end up on the sidelines with a technical or red card. To score, you must focus on the offense — be strategic and focused, while being prepared to respond to whatever is thrown your way, and you’ll come out on top.
Know when to slow, speed up and stop
The gas pedal is what gives you control over your speed. If you’re coming up to a stoplight, simply lift your foot from the gas and your car will slow. Don’t ride or slam on your brakes. Follow traffic patterns — if people are going faster than you, you probably need to speed up. Otherwise, they’re going to get there before you and might be dressed and out the door before you arrive.
Knowing when to just simply stop, though, is also important, especially when it comes to milking a metaphor for all its worth. Watch as I prove this right now.
Special advice for motorcyclists
- Maintain smooth wrist action
- Any additional riders should hold your hips to keep balance
- Be careful when giving it choke
You may have arrived here because you like Benedict Cumberbatch. That’s fine, no reason not to, just because he once refused to share a cab with me, claiming he was allergic to my perfume. I don’t hold grudges; if anything, I pity him if it’s true that he can never enjoy the smell of lilacs (though I wonder if he’d have been so insistent had he known the bottle of scent was given to me by Terence Stamp).
Regardless. Here’s the thing. You won’t find anything here about Benedict Cumberbatch (excluding the anecdote above, obviously). You were led here under false pretenses. Because, my dears, the Internet is lying to you.
I am terribly sorry to be the one to tell you about this.
Now let me ask, what do you think of when you think of the Internet? What visual image appears in that little head of yours? Perhaps it’s a big ‘ol mess of wires connecting countries on a map. Wrong. That’s not the Internet.
Maybe you prefer to think smaller and simply picture your own little device whenever you think of the Internet. I like that you’re keen on synecdoche, but I’m afraid that is not appropriate either.
If you insist on my suggesting a concrete image for you, I’d have to say the Internet is most like a big ass, fire breathing dragon. Not unlike the dragon in those Hobbit films (hold on there, didn’t one Benedict Cumberbatch provide the voice and motion capture for that dragon? Oh my, it looks like I’ve accidentally mentioned that name again!). Anyhoo, get your mind off him for like two minutes of your life, please, and listen up. The Internet is a most specially greedy, strong and wicked worm who is fucking with your head, even as we speak.
Every time you “log on” to the Internet, you are giving away a little piece of your soul. This most frequently takes the form of your privacy or your self-control. And what’s worse is that the Internet is trying to trick you into believing you want to do this. In most other circumstances (excluding the minds of many high school male athletes), this kind of trickery would be considered criminal coercion. Not so here. The Internet can get you to do most anything it wants you to by almost any means whatsoever (say, by misleading you into believing you’ll learn something new about Benedict Cumberbatch).
It’s a dirty business really, and we should all be ashamed of participating it. I know I’d be ashamed if I weren’t so sure the stats for this blog post will be exponentially higher than any of my previous ones. That’s the thing: at the moment, most of us are pretty happy with the situation. We may lose some things because of it, but we gain others. Yes, our personal details got hacked but we were able to buy something from Target without having to actually go to Target, so it’s swings and roundabouts, isn’t it?
I’m not suggesting you stop using the Internet (in fact, why not subscribe to this blog? I won’t even ask for your mother’s maiden name). I’m not even suggesting you stop telling strangers your mother’s maiden name, if that’s the kind of thing you’re into.
All I’m saying is this: be aware of what’s going on and the role you’re playing. The Internet is using you. Google is aware of that purchase you just made. The NSA knows you. I know they know you because yesterday when we had lunch together, your name came up in the conversation. It’s likely your identity will get stolen, your sex tape made public, or a good year of your life lost to Candy Crush Saga. Tread carefully.
The fact that the dragon’s got a voice that gives you fizzy knickers shouldn’t permit you to forget that ultimately what he wants is your gold. Or your soul. Both of which you should remember are the precious (yes, I know that’s Gollum, but work with me here, people, I’m trying to make a point).
The reason for this is primarily that I do not trust the concept of romance that it forces upon us. Think of the men you see professing their love in adverts that are shown this time of year: bringing a woman flowers, buying her jewellery, actually listening to her when she’s speaking—all because they’re just so much “in love.” It’s baloney.
Now I’ve known a few men in my time and I’ve certainly seen many who claim to be in love. Back in the States, a gentleman in my intimate circle would often go doolally when he first met a new woman, professing to everyone he could find that he was madly in love. We all knew that when he uttered those words what he really meant was “I have met a new woman whose soul I can destroy,” for shortly after the “honeymoon” period of his new romance, he began systematically draining the life out of her, all the while complaining that she was no longer the girl he fell in love with. After witnessing him play this scene out with at least thirty-three women over the period of two years, I finally suggested he look into becoming a cowboy because that’s a lifestyle where breaking the spirit of another creature is a talent that is truly appreciated, but he claimed the chaps chafed him. I’ve no doubt that whatever filly he is romancing this February 14th will find herself crumpled in the corner of her room crying “What did I do to deserve this?” within a few months.
Now before you worry that this is a tirade against men, get it very clear in your head that it is not: the problem is so-called romance, not men. Despite the fact that statistically men are more likely to be the ones who ruin relationships (which has certainly been the case in every single one of mine), I’ve not got a word to say against them as a gender. Some of my best friends have been men. I don’t doubt some women can be mean and cruel as well.
Before you get yourself dolled up to the nines for your Valentine’s dinner, I beg you to pause for just a moment and consider your true feelings about your alleged paramour. When you look into his or her face, what is it that you really feel?
Do you feel grateful for all they have given you?
If so, that’s called being a whore. It’s a viable career choice for many, but don’t confuse it with real love.
Do you feel a flutter in your chest?
These are palpitations and can be an early symptom of coronary artery disease. Instead of seeing a date movie, you should be at your GP surgery, getting a cardiac catheterisation.
Do you feel safe and/or comfortable?
If so, please be aware that, according to the American Psychological Association, 74% of all murder-suicides involve intimate partners. Make sure you have an escape route planned is all I’m saying.
If you have answered the question honestly and are still one hundred percent convinced that what you feel when you look at your partner’s face is honest-to-god true love, then go ahead and go out to your romantic dinner. You’re clearly living in a state of denial, but who am I to judge?