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We Have Returned

14 Aug

vintage_bunker_photoChristopher and I have been underground for the last few weeks, testing our bunker. Given the events of 2016 thus far, we decided it’d be wise to check things out in case we need to go down permanently.

I spent most of yesterday skimming the news and can see that our choice was a wise one. God damn, son, things are bleak. It’s hard to imagine a future that doesn’t involve everyone hating everyone all the time and eventually being murdered or a murderer. Yeah, I know the Olympics are going on as well, but I’m afraid they just don’t do much for me. I mean I’ve not got anything against them, but as far as I can tell, their primary benefit is that they occasionally move Donald Trump a little lower down the front page.

The fresh air feels good at least.

If you too are considering leaving the above ground nightmare, we’ve learned a lot and are happy to share some of our mistakes and victories. The main thing is to plan ahead: we had been assuming we’d make our final move on the 9th of November, but I’m worried now that doomsday might come early, so get started sooner rather than later.

THINGS TO PACK:

  • The keys to the bunker door
    We’d actually planned to just stay overnight on the first of July, but someone — I’m not mentioning names, but it was Christopher — did not realise the keys had fallen into the grass until a few moments after we’d shut the door. A paperclip will eventually do the trick, but it takes much, much longer than expected.
  • A heat source
  • An icebox
  • A water purifier
  • Thirty gallons of water (per person, per week)
  • Teabags
    Don’t forget to tell your milkman to push the bottles through the cat flap in your bunker door.
  • Food
  • A bucket and toilet roll
  • Reading material
  • Masturbatory aids
    Take your usual, of course, but consider things you’ve sneered at in the past because Christopher reports that the Heat‘s Circle of Shame quickly lost its appeal and he found himself relying on the water purifier’s instruction sheet instead.
  • About 100 more cigarettes than you expect to smoke
    You will smoke them. Trust me. It’s fucking boring down there.
  • Lemons
    I won’t tell you why, but they come in incredibly handy.

THINGS NOT TO BOTHER WITH:

  • Your phone
    One of the main reasons for going underground is to avoid the news, so bringing in your phone puts your sanity at risk. Be aware that there are no Pokémon monsters in underground bunkers. If you are worried about missing out on updates from family and friends, don’t be — they will likely soon forget you exist until you reappear on the first of each month to empty your toilet bucket.
  • Tins of beans
  • Silverware
  • Your bra

Now obviously, I hope that the world can manage to get its shit together soon and no one needs to give up on humanity and try to restart their lives elsewhere. As we continue our preparations, we’ll be trying to maybe do some good and make some changes. Maybe you could do this as well. Maybe if we all did, things could get better. Maybe.

I say let’s give it a try. Because Donald Trump isn’t a joke. And neither are the people who support him who will still be around regardless of November’s result.

Hippity Hop Hop Hop

23 Mar

There’s only a few more days until Easter Sunday, which means those who have given up things for Lent are probably arguing amongst each other about when they can legally light up their first cigarette in weeks (it’s not my business, of course, but I’d say if you wait until the Mass of the Last Supper is over, you can safely smoke your way through the Holy Triduum). Even though I’m not a follower of the faith, I happen to love Easter. Why? Because it’s absolutely crazy.

As anyone who’s ever received a Happy Birthday Jesus card from that woman who took a shine to you on the one day you agreed to pick up your grandmother at church knows, the Lord was born on December 25, and no Santa Claus with his presents and reindeer will ever take that fact away. However, when it comes to his being re-born, it’s all a little hazier, and it appears the head church honchos basically just said, screw it, let’s let the moon decide. Of course, three days before the rebirth celebration is the acknowledgement of Christ’s crucifixion and death, known as Good Friday, which seems a little harsh to me, but whatever, he’s your god. In fact, some Christians spread the whole holiday season out for weeks before, and I guess that makes sense because being born of a virgin is pretty good, but being born again after being killed, well, come on, that’s quite worthy of celebration.

Believe it or not, though, the being brought back to life thing isn’t even the craziest part of Easter.

The ways we celebrate the holiday are mad, and for some reason, animals are at the forefront. Pigs gets killed and spiral sliced onto plates for Easter Sunday, though to honour the porcine sacrifice, we decorate their carcasses with pineapple slices and Maraschino cherries. I’m sure that must soothe their departed souls.

Vintage-creepy-easter-bunny-3Of course, the Easter Bunny is the main animal associated with the holiday. He is a human-sized hare who shows up at shopping malls to judge and frighten children. Parents are cool with this, because the bunny then comes round the house to hide a basket full of plastic grass, cheap toys and jelly beans for children to find on Easter Sunday, thus allowing the adults a couple hours of free time while the little ones run off their sugar highs in the back garden. There are usually eggs in the basket as well, though anyone who believes the bunny laid those eggs is just not thinking right.

Because chickens lay eggs and even the craziness of Easter can’t change that. When I was growing up, we’d take hard-boiled chicken eggs, drop them in vinegar and dye, and marvel at the lovely colours. Sometimes we’d write on them first with crayon, with the promise that our names would appear once they emerged from the dye. I’m telling you, it was fucking magical. Now, I’m sure, kids use 3D printers or whatever to do their eggs, since technology is the magic of the day and everything good gets ruined. Sometimes adults hide these coloured eggs outside, and kids have to go find them. When I was growing up, my family held Easter egg hunts every year, and Grampy Carmichael used to hide one special silver egg (one of those plastic ones ladies hosiery used to be sold in), and the lucky child found it would get to enjoy the dollar and dirty joke inside. It seems hide and seek is a real theme of this holiday. Whether or not this is some kind of comment on the myrrhbearers not finding what they expected to find at Jesus’s tomb, I do not know.

However, eggs aren’t the only way that we mess with chickens’ minds at Easter. We often place the chicks whose development wasn’t stopped by being boiled in their shells in the baskets next to their siblings’ coloured tombs. Sometimes we dye the chicks pastels, just because we can. Or we form chicks out of marshmallows and cover them with sugar. (Suggestion: let them go a little stale before biting their heads off — yes, they’ll rip out your fillings but, trust me, it’ll be worth it.)

There are also Easter parades where people show off their hats. I mean, who doesn’t love hats?

Whether you’re into Easter for its religious significance or just for the insane traditions, I truly hope you have a good one. I was part of the parish’s planning committee, so naturally I’ll be donning my Easter bonnet this Sunday out at the egg hunt on the village green. Christopher will be suited up nice and smart next to me, though he won’t be taking pictures again, thanks to his police caution last year. Good luck to the little ones looking for the eggs — if you find the silver one and aren’t sure what that word means, I’m sure your father will be happy to explain it to you.

Agatha’s Gift Giving Guide

30 Nov

So the newspapers are starting their annual How-To-Waste-Your-Hard-Earned-Money-On-People-You-Don’t-Really-Care-About spiel. Yes, blonde woman with more money than sense, please tell me what to buy — I’m sure it’s pure coincidence that everything you steer me toward is from a company that’s supplied you with products all year.

Bah humbug to you lot.

Even gift guides written by those who don’t personally benefit from sales are usually rubbish. ‘Gifts For Guys’? Come on now. I can guarantee you that my father, Christopher and Roy Keane, despite each being a so-called guy, have tastes which differ greatly. Any gift-giving recommendation based on gender has been offered by an idiot.

Same goes for suggestions based on age. These two were both born in 1928, but I seriously doubt their lists to Santa include the same items.

Noam and Mickey

During my life, I’ve met many people and many types of people and have satisfied most of them. Thanks to this experience, I’ve put together some guidance that, while frank, should prove useful.

Firstly, let me ask, have you or your partner given birth to some sort of offspring in the last five years? If so, put a picture of it on a mug and give one to every person you know. Older relatives will appreciate this — no one else will, of course, but they’ll expect it from you so go ahead and take advantage of that. Once the child is older than five, no one (including you) is going to want anything to do with it, for its existence will no longer seem so magical; therefore, strike while the iron is hot.

Secondly, are you a narcissist? If so, you likely only give presents so that people will think you’re wonderful. But think about this: you are wonderful, you know that in your heart already. So put your wallet away; just let us bask in your glory for another year. That’s more than gift enough.

Thirdly, on an unrelated subject, do you own a gun? Why?

Now let’s focus on the people you are shopping for. Often what causes the most stress when holiday shopping is trying to find the perfect gift for each and every person you know. No. That’s not going to happen so just you stop thinking about that right now. Basically, here’s what it boils down to:

  1. If your gift giving is motivated by love for a person, you should know them and know what they’d like. Buy something they’d like and you’re sorted. If you can’t think of anything they might like, either you don’t really love them or they’re boring and don’t deserve to be rewarded for that fact.
  2. If your gift giving is motivated by obligation, buy fresh flowers. If the person has allergies, get them a bottle of wine and tell them to grow up. If they have a drinking problem and/or they’re under the age of three, just leave it — in truth, they don’t care about you or your present. All they really need at this point is a good nap.
  3. Ask the person what they want and buy it for them.

That’s the gist of it. Christmas shopping doesn’t have to be a maddening or bank-busting event. Use your common sense, be thoughtful, and you’ll be fine. And get rid of your gun, for god’s sake, what are you thinking?

gift-444520_1920

Hobbies, Not Just For Horses

8 Jul

DKCUCThe longer days, the brighter sun and warmer temperatures (at least theoretically) mean many things, only one of which I’ll be discussing today. Semesters are wrapping up, terms will soon be ending and we will be faced with the annual deluge of children with little to do and my neighbourhood to do it in.

I’m not here to argue for more government funding for activities for children; I’m no fool. Pleas for reason clearly fall on deaf ears when the brains in between them aren’t bright enough to see the importance of funding schools and children’s health care—trying to get cash for a skate park seems a bit daft. So instead I am directing this to parents themselves: focus on your own children, meet up with other parents and work it out together. It’s not that I advocate embracing the concept of the Big Society, but let’s face it, politicians aren’t doing jack to help.

Therefore, the starting point is to introduce hobbies that keep young people interested and away from my front gate. A good hobby is beneficial to each of us—it can keep us healthy, productive and happy. Through my own research, I have determined that the most popular hobbies of youth today include swearing, spitting and pulling up their trousers. Unfortunately these hobbies are not good ones.

In an ideal world, I would recommend sitting down with your children to discuss their interests. However, the interests of young people are decidedly stupid so that’s a non-starter. Instead, I have provided a few sensible suggestions.

Arts and Crafts: An old summer camp favourite, arts and crafts can encourage children’s creativity and produce beautiful, useful items. Drawing, painting, knitting, building birdhouses—there’s something for everyone and supplies needn’t break the bank. Some of our greatest artists started off as potential hoodlums whose lives were changed the moment they were handed an egg carton, glue and fuzzy felt.

Reading: Before you laugh, consider this: your mild alcoholism is clearly an attempt to escape the drudgery of your home; children, until licensing laws are changed, cannot turn to the bottle. Good books, on the other hand, can take readers on magical adventures where they can live the life you’d have given them if you hadn’t made such poor choices.

Gardening: Growing something—whether it’s cress in a yoghurt pot, roses in flower bed or veggies in a greenhouse—can teach children planning, hard work and responsibility. A particularly helpful strategy is telling them that sitting silently and watching the plants will help them grow more quickly.

Running on the spot: Not all kids like sports, and many child development experts feel the competition of teams can lead to thug violence. Running in place is an excellent alternative. It keeps a body healthy and in its own back garden.

Crime Solving: Thousands of cold cases go unsolved annually because police stations just do not have enough officers to sift through the evidence. Children’s natural curiosity and deviousness could shed new light on mysteries and criminals that have eluded justice for years. Additionally, staring at crime scene photos for hours on end may keep them on the straight and narrow in the future.

Classical Dressage: Most kids love animals so participating in classical dressage can be both fun and educational. Supplies needed: a Lipizzaner horse, tack (saddle, bridle, bit), clothing (shirt, stock tie, breeches, gloves, coat, dress boots, spurs and hunting cap) and small arena.

Give each at least a week—if it keeps your children busy, continue to encourage it; if they are still risks to society, try the next one.  With a little luck, we’ll find one that strengthens their minds and hearts, and, at the very least, we’ll have neutralised their poisonous affect on the community until the schools reopen.

Sour Times

11 Sep

On the Body

9 Jul

During the three and a half hours I spent in A&E last night, I had plenty of time to consider the human body (including the body of an elderly gentleman who wore his hospital gown both untied and the wrong way round). It wasn’t how I had intended to spend my evening, but I suppose it had some value as it kept from me smacking the face of the bubblegum-chewing child who sat next to me for the majority of my stay.

9A6_cuerpoFrom a medical perspective, bodies pretty much serve one basic purpose: they are bags of skins in which we carry our bones, muscles and guts. Some bodies are big, some are small. Some have hair all over them, others don’t. Women’s bodies have lovely, soft curves, and men’s bodies have dangly bits which apparently, I have recently learned, go teeny tiny as they age. Whatever — it doesn’t really matter what the body looks like: its job is simply to keep our insides inside.

(Note: I do not mean to imply that the processes that go on within the body aren’t complicated. Indeed they are. However, as I am not a scientist, how all that stuff works really isn’t any of my business.)

So on a very practical level, as long as our bones, muscles, and guts stay out of sight, our bodies shouldn’t be a worry. However, if the magazines I skimmed through last evening are anything to go by (and I think they are, despite their having been published in 1982), we are bloody obsessed with the human body. And the main obsession appears to be changing the way ours looks.

Now I’m not saying I don’t understand the desire to look good. A cursory glance over my person proves that an appealing appearance is of importance to me. I like to keep fit, my hair is nicely styled, and there’s no reason cleavage like mine shouldn’t be out on show. However, when a desire to improve our looks involves going against nature and/or doing our health harm, well, there’s a problem there.

Not all bodies have trim waistlines, puffed out lips or wrinkle-free skin. That’s not a bad thing; it’s a fact of life. We don’t need to invest so much time, worry and money trying to make our bodies all look the same. Instead, we need to just be comfortable with ourselves. I know for many that’s easier said than done, but trust me, it’s a sound strategy, because self-hate is never a good look for anyone.

Today, I’ve been taking it a bit easy after the trauma of last night. Please don’t worry yourselves over my health, though — in the end, I only needed a few quick stitches on my ring finger and then I was right as rain. That’s the last time I use someone else’s knife when playing Five Finger Fillet. You live and learn, I guess.

A Lovely Pre-Match Story

14 Jun

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.

Make A Little Effort Please, People, It’s A Holiday For Christ’s Sake

28 Nov

Dorothy Parker said gratitude is the meanest and most snivelling attribute in the world, and she makes a good point.  In fact, that’s probably the simplest explanation for why I’ve never married: there’s little less appealing than a person who can’t stop telling everyone how thankful he is to have me in his life. Restating the obvious does get tiresome rather quickly.

That said, I think more obnoxious are the people who can’t find a single thing in the world to be grateful for. Right now in America, I don’t doubt there are millions who, having wept over their TV turkey dinners, are watching King Kong and wondering why they are alone and miserable on Thanksgiving Day. The smiling faces of families at the Macy’s Parade, the constant commercials for Black Friday sales they cannot afford to take advantage of and the piles of empties lined up on the kitchen counter only serve as evidence that there is nothing for which they can give thanks.  You know who you are (my guess is if you’re online reading this instead of spending time with loved ones, you are probably one of the saddos of which I speak). Pull yourself together and try a bit harder.

Everyone can find something to be grateful for this holiday, if you really put your mind to it.  Out of the goodness of my heart, let me offer some suggestions to get the ball rolling:

  • Be grateful that fluffy little puppies exist
  • Be grateful that modern dentistry uses anesthesia
  • Be grateful that your hair is still full of bounce (disregard if you are bald)
  • Be grateful that shards of glass aren’t a dietary staple
  • Be grateful that you do not have to have a boil on your eyeball lanced
  • Be grateful that Dina and Michael Lohan are not your parents (disregard if they are)
  • Be grateful that your suicide attempt did not leave you alive but essentially a vegetable

See? With a little effort and imagination, you will be able to find something that makes you can appreciate. If all fails, be thankful I took the time out of my busy schedule to write this thoughtful message. I don’t do this for my health, you know.

Do Good And Don’t Worry To Whom

12 Aug

This proverb is one of the many reasons I love the Mexican people (their overindulgence in cilantro is perhaps the only reason I do not). Too many people today only “do good” if it benefits their friends or family or even themselves personally—by helping them get promoted at work, go to the head of the class once they get to heaven or satisfy their God complex.

When was the last time you did good without worrying to whom? You just did something good, something nice, something kind. You didn’t tell anyone, maybe not even the person who benefited (making anonymous erotic phonecalls, I’m afraid, does not count). What would happen if you did something like this today? What could it hurt? Whom could it help?

I’d like to say I do good like this all the time. But, of course, I can’t say that because it would be taking credit for my good acts, which nullifies the very point I’m trying to make (pay attention, please). So I won’t say that I do good all the time, but instead I shall say that I will try to be more like the Mexicans and spread a little sunshine around—to anyone, to everyone—just because doing good is good. You should do some good, too. If you do, resist the temptation to email me to detail what you’ve done, because one, keeping quiet about it is part of the challenge and two, I’m not really that interested in you as a person and you are quickly becoming tiresome to me.

The Call of Nature

22 Jul

While I have had harsh words in the past for science and the brain boxes who dedicate their lives to needlessly showing me photos of the insides of frogs, I would hate for anyone to think that I was anti-nature. I am not. The natural world is great in my book. In fact, I choose nature over non-nature every time.

Today, for example, it’s been all nature, all morning over here at the Whitt-Wellington homestead. Christopher and I woke early in the hopes of getting to work before the mercury got too high. There’s a tree in the garden which has been growing dangerously close to the back wall. While I acknowledge and admire the balls it takes for a tree to do that, I wanted it nipped in the bud (quite literally) before it caused any trouble.  I was happy to hold the ladder as Christopher climbed up; it was such a beautiful sight seeing a strong, young man amidst the green branches with the morning sun’s rays catching the blonde highlights in his hair. I wish I had had my camera at hand to take a photo, but I felt satisfied that the image was burned into my memory (and besides I don’t like to leave Christopher on his own with the shears).  The job took a little longer than we had anticipated, but that’s another wonderful characteristic of nature: it’s a worthy foe.

However, not all of our morning experiences in nature were adversarial. I plucked the ready vegetables our greenhouse garden had to offer us, while Christopher tidied the flowerbeds. After rinsing our harvest, I popped on the kettle, just as Christopher washed the last bit of dirt from his sturdy hands. We went back out to the garden to enjoy our tea, and I saw that Christopher had topped the table with a bouquet of lovely blooms.

A wonderful morning, for sure, all courtesy of nature.

One area where I can come together with the scientists (note: get your mind out of the gutter) is the realisation that humans have a responsibility to look after nature. Actually, since many religions see the Earth as God’s creation and believe the big guy expects us to be its stewards, we’re all really in agreement. Our world would be greatly improved if we gave nature a little more props, doing all we can to treat it right and show it respect — in all its forms, whether it’s hot or cold, dry or wet, creepy or crawly, gorgeous as a gardenia or gross as a frog’s gizzards.

Except for cicadas. They can go to hell.

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