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It’s Your Body

7 Sep

Bollocks.

I hear the word a lot. It’s usually used to dismiss something, to question its credibility or to accuse the person speaking about it of being a liar and/or idiot.

You already know how I feel about liars. And idiots. Now I’m going to tell you how I feel about bollocks. Well, specifically complementary medicine, which is what curly-haired clever clogs currently enjoy dismissing.

Complementary medicine can refer to a wide range of health remedies — from herbs, tinctures and oils to procedures like cupping, acupuncture, and energy therapy. These options are seen as alternative, because they are not scientifically sensible as things like drilling into teeth, putting pigs’ parts into humans and swallowing chemicals in tablet form are.

I am not going to defend complementary medicine. However, I am also not going to rip it a new asshole either. Because, while I have no truck with most of it myself, those who judge should keep a few things in mind.300px-Jekyll.and.Hyde.Ch1.Drawing1

If you think everything scientists get up to is automatically above board, I’d like to remind you of Victor Frankenstein and Henry Jekyll. Yes, they had white coats and medical books but their methods were a little dubious, don’t you agree?

Drink MeAs long as no one is being swindled out of cash or doing damage to themselves, if something relieves someone’s symptoms or worries, who am I to judge them and their gullibility? There is such a thing as the power of the mind, you know.  What about Alice, eh? After drinking a special potion, she went on a pretty magical adventure — is it asking too much to allow a little girl some joy? (Please do not be distracted by my over-reliance on fiction-based evidence.)

Quite frankly, some of what falls under the complementary medicine label is actually pretty clever. For example, making sure you get good nutrients can prevent getting poorly in the first place. Filling your room with some nice smelling lavender isn’t going to cure genital herpes, but it might lift your spirits so you focus less on that painful itch. Sometimes what is actually common sense is banished as bunkum, just because no pharmaceutical company can market it.

Massage is another treatment that often gets unfairly lumped in with alternative therapies. Unless, of course, it’s called physical therapy when all of a sudden it’s medically sound. Whatevs. I happen to know that certain types of body manipulation are extremely beneficial: they can relax stiff muscles, can hasten injury recovery, and, if done in the right alley, can earn you a quick tenner.

All I’m saying is this: I don’t care what you do. Go to a GP with a certificate and swallow her elixirs or go to a herbalist and rub his salve into your chest. As long as you get the facts for yourself before you do anything, you won’t ever hear of bollocks coming out of my mouth. Promise.

My Apologies

23 Aug

wish-you-were-here-east-of-india-postcardI am so sorry, my dears, for neglecting you. I have been off on my jollies , but was unexpectedly delayed. Unfortunately, I had the bad luck of choosing the same guesthouse as a formerly famous American rock god who caused a disruption to my rest and/or relaxation. I don’t want to give him the publicity by mentioning of name as his antics clearly indicate a desperate need to be back in the spotlight. Why exactly he released what he released into the pool, I do not know, but the quarantine meant that I missed my flight home and had to reschedule a number of appointments, which might not have been important to one Axl Rose, but which really mattered to me, thank you very much.

It might take a few days for me to get back to my normal schedule, but know I’ve missed you more than I can say because, I swear on a stack of bibles, it is you — and your love — that sustains me.

Harm Prevention

4 Aug

The other day I was in the library and was confronted with a rather unsavoury situation. Now I greatly admire the staff at our local branch: they have always been polite —  in fact as a show of respect for my frequent custom, they often allow me to take home books for free as long as I show my loyalty card. However, my experience this week was quite shocking: inside the library was a large and perpetually annoying fly.

fliesNow as a rule, I cherish all sentient beings, even disgusting ones, and I’ve got no problems with flies when they are out in nature or buzzing around someone other than myself. But I am sorry: I just cannot tolerate them near my face. Call me a Nazi, I don’t care. Flies in my face are simply unacceptable.

Obviously, my first strategy was to move away. I left the periodicals and moved to a more central location, hoping that if he were to follow, at least there would be other people present for him to annoy. However, the fly did not take the bait. Fine, I thought, I am free from torment, and I sat quietly, reflecting.

Shortly thereafter, the library began to empty and I soon found myself alone in the big, book-filled room. Lo and behold, who shows up? That’s right, it was the fly. The dastardly little devil obviously just wanted to avoid having witnesses to his harassment. A war was now on.

I grabbed the first book I could and prepared to send the fly to his maker. I won’t detail the delicate dance of battle, but I can assure you that only one of us walked away still breathing.

As I sat down to wait for Christopher’s play group to come to a close, I found myself skimming through the book-cum-murder-weapon. It turned out to be Careful Now! The History of Health and Safety Laws. And I must say, I found it surprisingly interesting.

Buttloads of people currently find Health and Safety laws oppressively restrictive and generally stupid, and, quite frankly, they frequently are. I now know, though, that it’s incorrect to assume these rules are evidence of today’s Nanny State. Actually, H&S has been around for a long time and it used to be much worse than it is now.

NOW: East Riding Council restricts kite-flying on beaches because it is a risk to others.

THEN: In the early twentieth century, word went round about an old woman who had died after swallowing a fly, a spider, a bird, a cat, a dog, a goat, a cow, and a horse, so a small Cornish village ordered all farmers to slaughter their animals to ensure such a circumstance did not reoccur.

NOW: A school bans triangle-shaped flapjacks because they could thrown at children.

THEN: For almost a month in 1923, children were not allowed to eat any solid food as the chewing motion was deemed “potentially threatening to others.” Parents were only permitted to serve soup and applesauce for twenty-six days before the law was reversed.

NOW: The Royal British Legion stops supplying pins with its poppies to avoid being sued by those who prick themselves.

THEN: Although the most famous of these cases is the American woman who sued McDonalds because her coffee was hot, it was not the first example of this type of litigation. In Victorian times, Lord Stephens of Stephanie brought a case against a five-year-old child who was playing with a stick in the street. Lord Stephens’ argument was that the stick could have flown from the child’s hand, turned the corner and continued into the window of a building where the good man was purchasing a piece of jewellery for his mother. The Court agreed that Lord was assuredly more important as a human being than any dirty child could ever be and awarded him the boy’s newborn sister (who was quickly deposited at the nearest poorhouse).

I am hoping, of course, that the fly’s family does not press charges against me. It’d be a bitter irony to have the book thrown at me for throwing the book at the fly. Bitter, but admittedly poetic.

Pornography, Crystal Meth, and/or Me

9 Jul

As you probably already know, my recent collection, Everyone Needs An Algonquin: The Collected Wit and Wisdom of Agatha Whitt-Wellington (Miss), has taken the publishing world by storm. Like pornography and methamphetamine, the public just cannot get enough.

Yet you have not purchased your copy.

I’m okay with this, I guess. I’m not going to bully you. It’s cool. Besides, I know times are tight for everyone financially; it’s hard to find the extra pennies.

So here’s the diddly-dealio: I’m giving away autographed copies via the website GoodReads. You have until the end of July to enter. To get into the running, you don’t even have to include a 100 word essay about why you want a copy[1], just enter and five winners will be randomly chosen[2]. Easy-peasy.

 

Giveaway

Click here to enter and for giveaway details


 

And best of all? You don’t have to enjoy my book alone in a darkened room, weeping ashamedly, as you do with porn, nor will it, like meth, leave you toothless.


 


 


 


[1] Though if you really feel like singing my praises, feel free to do so in comment section below.

[2] If you are a winner, though, let me know you read this website, and I’ll send you a little extra something-something.

Compassion Fatigue: Too Tired to Care

30 Jun

david-sipress-here-i-was-all-this-time-worrying-that-maybe-i-m-a-selfish-person-and-new-yorker-cartoonI apologise for neglecting you as of late. Yes, I’ve been busy, but if I’m honest —  and you know I try to be as frequently as I can — it’s not my status as a globetrotter that’s kept me from you: it’s just that I’ve been struggling with compassion fatigue.

Thoughtful people like myself are at risk of compassion fatigue, which so-called experts define as “feeling overwhelmed, confused and depressed by the crap state of affairs.”  And I’m afraid I’ve fallen ill with it.

Symptoms include a foggy head, dizziness and an inability to rant and/or rave about topics as varied as Edward Snowden, the US Supreme Court and Glastonbury. Sufferers may find themselves asking questions like “Am I making a difference in the world?” and “Does Miley Cyrus even matter?”

While I’ve appreciated Christopher’s nursing skills (and his willingness to wear the outfit), I’m afraid doctors believe the illness has to simply run its course before I’ll start feeling better. They suggested reciting affirmations while looking in the mirror or hanging a list of my accomplishments on the fridge as ways to boost my self-confidence, but quite frankly, that’s just silly.  Clearly, the problem isn’t me.  It’s the world.

However, I’m always prepared to follow doctor’s orders especially if it involves my lounging around all day while Christopher waits on me hand and foot. I know I’ll bounce back. I have always been a person who cares — it’s who I am — and I couldn’t stop caring even if I cared to.

Thank you to all who have sent notes and packages to wish me well as I recover. Even though I’m incapable of giving a shit about them at the moment, I’m sure I’ll be appreciative once I’m back to my normal, über-compassionate self.

Let’s Just Have A Think About That

30 Mar

Few of us truly understand how directly beliefs can affect the spiritual, emotional and physical health of ourselves and our world. Sometimes this is positive; for example, one might believe that her experiences as an international mover-and-shaker are interesting enough to share in books. Those books are then read worldwide and make even the lowliest of people stop before swallowing the whole bottle of pills and promise to dedicate their lives to being more fabulous, which improves the entire global community. However, things don’t always go so nicely. A person might believe that those without enormous trust funds don’t deserve basic human rights and then do his level best to fuck up the lives of others once he becomes Chancellor of the Exchequer.

thinkSince what we believe has power, it’s important to think critically about what we think about whatever we’re thinking about. Too frequently we just follow along with the ideas our friends and family, the media or taxi drivers pass on to us.  Often we just buy into what are called “commonly held” beliefs without ever questioning them, and that’ll end up leading to nothing but trouble: from small hassles within our own households to devastating world wars and natural catastrophes. It takes time and energy to think critically, of course, but as usual, I’m here to help. Let’s debunk a few assumptions that most people seem to just take for granted as truth and examine their possible consequences.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away

There’s no need to worry about doctors showing up at your house unnecessarily: most doctors don’t make house calls, so if you really don’t want to see one, just don’t go into the surgery. Of course apples are tasty and good to eat, but we need to stop perpetuating the fear of doctors stalking our homes because it scares little children who sometimes have to walk past hospitals on their way to school.

Breaking a mirror means seven years of bad luck

A mirror is simply a fancy pants piece of glass that reflects whatever you put in front of it. Breaking a mirror has no more negative affect that breaking a champagne flute: if you step on a piece, you could cut your foot but other than that, it’s no biggie. If you’re really worried about seven years bad luck, instead avoid getting married.

Waking a sleepwalker could be dangerous

First off, sleepwalking doesn’t exist: the person is pretending. Why do you think you always find your husband sleepwalking his way to the whorehouse? The next time you encounter a sleepwalker, throw a lit match at them and you’ll see how quickly “waking” one can actually prevent a dangerous situation.

Dropping a penny from the Empire State Building can kill a person

This belief encourages people to throw away their money and perhaps without it, the economy would be in better shape. If you want to kill a person on the sidewalk below, the best bet is to drop a bullet out of gun while aiming it at their head.

Goldfish have a two second memory span

Why do you even care? What are you doing to your goldfish that is making you obsess over how well they remember things? The truth is goldfish have wonderful memories—I personally have met goldfish who can remember the Korean War in great detail so just watch yourself.

Eating a dictionary can improve your vocabulary

The ink used in dictionaries can stain one’s teeth and cannot be properly processed by a human’s digestive system. To improve your vocabulary, read more books and do more crosswords.

Unfortunately, I can’t be there with you all the time and if I have ever promised to be, I’m guessing I was probably drunk at the time. Please use these examples as models to question all of your beliefs. Hold tight to the solid, helpful ones and dump the others. Many local communities have salvage centres where you can drop off dumb ideas that can be recycled into jewelry and household goods which can then be purchased on Etsy.

Hair of the Dog That Bit You

1 Jan

If you’re feeling inspired and came here for some advice on resolutions, don’t be a fool. I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions and neither do you; you’re just pretending. What you’re describing as inspiration is guilt.

That’s the problem with most of us: we get confused about our feelings. We say we love our partners, but if we’d just look a little more closely, what we really feel is hate. We say our friendships are motivated by loyalty, but they’re not: it’s usually envy (how you may feel towards me) or pity (how I may feel towards you).

I’m guessing that a fair few of you are waking rather “hungover.” You probably would describe it as a headache or tummy upset, and I’ve no doubt you are ascribing it to the copious amounts of liquor you lapped up during last night’s celebrations and/or commiserations. Of course, alcohol can eff your body up good and proper, but what are you really feeling? Regret? Shame? Impregnated?

These are the symptoms no hangover cure can help you with.  Fortunately, my insight into the true workings of the human body (including the mind) can. Follow these directions—to the letter—and you’ll feel better.

1. Look yourself in the face (you will probably need a mirror to do so).

2. Notice the regret in your eyes (indicated by a red tinge, drooping eyelids or dark circles).

3. Consider what caused that regret (this may be a specific event or just an acknowledgement of your general failure as a productive human being).

4. Notice the shame on your face (indicated by blotches on the skin, hickeys on the neck or the red itchiness around your mouth as an HSV-1 blister prepares to burst forth).

5. Consider what caused this shame (make a note to call for an STD/pregnancy test on Tuesday).

6. Comment aloud about how unattractive regret and shame look on you. If you live with someone, get them to tell you you’re hideous.

7. Drink one litre of freshly juiced kale, lemon and garlic (if items are not available—and they probably won’t be because you’re not one to plan ahead, are you—drink eight ounces of milk that has gone off—which I bet you’ve got at least a pint of in your fridge).

8. Vomit.

9. Splash cold water on your regret- and shame-stamped face.

10. Get into bed and think about things until you weep yourself to sleep.

I guarantee tomorrow you’ll wake up renewed and ready to change your life. Or at least your sheets.

Apologies: The Good, The Bad and The Tuneful

22 Sep

Apologies should be rather simple affairs. A good apology needs to do three things:

  • be genuine
  • admit responsibility
  • indicate a willingness to change

At this point, you’re probably with me. You’re probably thinking of all the times you’ve been wronged and how you deserved an apology which embraces the three concepts outlined above. However, just hold up there, Nelly. Let’s talk about you for a second here. When was the last time you gave a real apology? When you said sorry for bumping into that old man on the bus, were you genuinely remorseful? I actually saw you and could tell that you didn’t mean it at all. So maybe you shouldn’t get up on your high horse and actually listen and learn.

Nick Clegg should have listened and learned as well. By now you have seen/read about/ridiculed/sung along with his recent apology video.

You know I have a bit of a soft spot for old Cleggers—I can’t help it, I tend to take pity of the pathetic and lonely in our society. But if he was intending to win back supporters with a heartfelt mea culpa, he failed miserably. Let’s analyse!

We made a promise before the election that we would vote against any rise in fees under any circumstances. But that was a mistake. It was a pledge made with the best of intentions, but we shouldn’t have made a promise we weren’t absolutely sure we could deliver. I shouldn’t have committed to a policy that was so expensive when there was no money around, not least when the most likely way we’d end up in government was in coalition with Labor or the Conservatives who were both committed to put fees up. I know that we fought to get the best policy we could in those circumstances, but I also realise that isn’t the point. There’s no easy way to say this: we made a pledge, we didn’t stick to it, and for that, I am sorry. When you’ve made a mistake, you should apologise. But more important, most important of all, you’ve got to learn from your mistakes. And that’s what we will do. I will never again make a pledge unless as a party, we are absolutely clear about how we can keep it.

Here’s why it’s crap:

Is it genuine?
No, I don’t believe it to be. Why not? Because I don’t believe what Nick Clegg says anymore. Sorry, liars, but this is what happens when you lie. It’s hard for others to believe anything you say after you prove that you say things that aren’t true.

Does he admit responsibility?
No. He blames it on his innocence, his confusion about how the government machine works. “There was no money around”? Really? There was enough money for seventy four launches of the Big Society, there was enough money for loads of bullshit, because that’s how government works. Everyone—even the Lib Dems—knows that’s how government works.

Also, by claiming “the most likely way we’d end up in government was in coalition,” Clegg is saying the Liberal Democrats never had a chance. That wasn’t what he was saying before the election, and it’s not what people believed after the debates. I know it’s hard to imagine now, but many people voted for the Lib Dems because they wanted Nick Clegg to be prime minister. For him to now say, ‘we didn’t know how hard government is, the big boy rules are way tougher than we thought,’ well, that’s just poor, Nick.

Does it indicate a willingness to change?
No, even though he wanted it to. If we look closely at the “learn from your mistakes” section, we see that what he’s really saying is that he won’t make pledges anymore unless he’s sure he can keep them. But nothing in politics is ever guaranteed. What he should have said is in future he will keep his promises.

As I’ve said before, it’s wisest to avoid having to apologise by not fucking up in the first place. But we’re all humans and humans do mistakes. It’s never easy to make a public apology—from Jimmy Swaggart’s to David Letterman’s—it’s a difficult act to pull off. Perhaps Nick Clegg should have studied the master of the political apology: Richard Nixon.

It’s clearly genuine as the regret is written all over his face. By repeating “I let down,” he shows he is taking full responsibility for his mistake. And was he willing to change? Well, he never tried to cover up any break-ins ever again. In fact, in 1982, when he had to bust out his car window because he’d locked the keys inside, he took out a full page ad in the New York Times detailing the entire event. Nixon’s apology changed his legacy forever. Did you hear those tributes that poured in after he died? People were able to forget about his criminal actions, the thousands of people killed by his military decisions, and the tons of other damage he did to American society and democracy. The flags were at half mast for a whole month, for Christ’s sake!

That could have been you, Nick!

And Venus Was Her Name

5 Jun

If you’re a “science type,” you’re probably quite excited by the upcoming rare planetary alignment: the transit of Venus.

My response: Big whoop.

But if you’re into this kind of thing, I say, go for it.  A small black circle moving across a large orange circle is certainly more exciting than most of what comes out of people’s mouths these days (yes, I’m not afraid to say I’m referring to the vicar’s tediously detailed description of a trout fishing trip he managed to wedge into Sunday’s sermon). If you think this is going to be one of the most important events in scientific history, by all means, knock yourself out.

Experts are claiming that you need to purchase special filters to be able to properly see Venus do its thang, but I personally think that’s just a clever way to get you to drop more dosh. A quirky old friend of mine spent most of his youth looking directly into the sun, and it never did him any harm (the doctor said his vision loss was more likely due to his stabbing his eyes with a pencil, another one of his idiosyncratic habits). However, as my ophthalmology license was revoked a few years back, my advice may not be as wise as you assume it is.

Whether you’re staring up into the sky today or doing something worthwhile, I wish you the best of luck. As any writer knows, it’s readers who give our lives meaning. I cherish you all, especially the young man who recently pushed a note through my slot—I do hope you’ll consider stopping by again soon as you neglected to leave your phone number and I think I might be able to find a use for your services.

Have a good one!

I Rarely Sleep With Liars

25 May

I’m not one to fall for silly lines. I can’t count the times I’ve been told I was the “first” or the “only true” or the “most bendable” love a man has had, and I have always seen right through his strategy. Men are often confused by what they see as women’s unrelenting commitment to truth. Of course, truth is important to women, as it should be for all right-minded people regardless of the layout of their pubic areas.

But truth is a complicated concept, and a brief explanation of the nuances between the different kinds of truth is warranted.

THE WHOLE TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH

No one wants this. It’s too ugly. Although witnesses in court cases are threatened with a needle in the eye, neither the prosecuting nor defense table really wants anyone telling the whole truth. The last time you waterboarded someone, you probably asked them to tell you the whole truth. What if their truth was actually “I will say whatever you want me to say to get you to stop doing this”? You’d look a fool. Anyone with a lick of sense can see that this kind of truth isn’t helpful to any situation or military conflict.

LIES, DAMNED LIES

Now obviously this route is neither correct nor seemly. We all know this: telling one lie leads to another lie and another and then it’s a pack of them. Not only is it horrible, but it’s also very difficult to keep track of. It’s one of the great lessons of childhood—remember the itsy bitsy spider who weaved the web of lies because she was practicing to deceive the old woman who swallowed the fly? Your grandmother didn’t tell you that story for nothing, you know.

THE FACTS BUT NOT THE DETAILS

Generally this is the appropriate level of truth for almost all situations. Details do one of two things: hurt another person or make you look like a twat. An appropriate fact would be “Yes, I saw the defendant hanging around the office building”; there’s no reason to add “so I invited him in and gave a passkey to the safe.” It’s a subtle balance, and you’ll often be pressed to give as many details as you can, but resist.

Let’s look at a couple typical scenarios men and women find themselves in where the “truth” often plays a key role.

Do I look fat in this?

Don’t say: “Yes, you look fatter than I’ve ever seen you. Take off the offending item immediately and hide your shame. You shall not be attending the ball with me tonight.”

Don’t say: “What on earth are you talking about? You look thinner than Angelina Jolie” (if she actually does, immediately get her to a medical professional).

Do say: “It shows off the real you, and that’s the you I love.”

Did you cheat on me with that woman?

Don’t say: “I did, and it was the most fantastic shag of my life, partly because of the illicit nature of the encounter and partly because she let me do that thing you said you’d die before letting me do again. Therefore I intend to keep seeing her, but I don’t see any reason to let my cheating change our relationship at all, so would you make me a sandwich, please?”

Don’t say:  “I don’t know what you are talking about. Someone has clearly Photoshopped that picture of me having sex with her in my dental chair afterhours when I claimed I was away at an orthodontist convention.”

Do say: “I did because I am a small man in more ways than one. If you forgive me, I’ll be forever indebted, but I’ll also understand if you change your Facebook relationship status to single and get new locks on the house.”

Of course, the easiest way to deal with the truth is to take a little care in advance. If you’re about to do something that one day you may need to tell a lie about, the most sensible approach is just not to do it. Don’t take the money from the till. Don’t text a photo of your erection. Don’t marry a fat woman. It isn’t too difficult to understand.

But men are fallible creatures and seem to get themselves into troublesome situations at the drop of a hat. You’re welcome for my helpful advice.