People often ask me, “How did you emerge from the spiky cocoon of your youth so well-balanced, so grounded, so deliriously normal?” Well they don’t, but they would if they didn’t think I was unhinged. Ironically I had a very ordinary and sober upbringing, largely based around the commandment “TRUST NO-ONE, EVERYONE IS AWFUL”. Continue reading
- November has gradually become synonymous with hundreds of thousands of patchy moustaches sprouting across the UK at a bristling pace. If you’re anything like me you’ll find your booze budget seriously endangered this Movember as you struggle to shell out to your various furry-lipped friends, but it’s worth it for a million moustache progress selfies a day, free reign to pass comment on all shapes and sizes, oh, and the potentially life-saving research it enables.
Kudos to the men sporting their tufted handlebars with pride, who probably haven’t experienced itching so incessant since that last nasty rash (which wasn’t their fault either).To remain upbeat about the whole hairy situation, consider these compensatory moustache advantages.
1. Men with facial foliage have a certain gravitas, no? A heavily furred lip illustrates commitment (weary resignation), a stolid acceptance of their natural hairy selves (can’t shave, won’t shave), and a knowing hint that they have a little extra to offer you (and not just the leftover bits of tuna sandwich they’ve caught in their hairy hoover).
- 2. Men everywhere are taking moustache selfies, which gives us all a rest from the shameless belfies which have suddenly started bopping perkily across the internet (I’m looking at you Kim Kardashian, enviously). There’s something sensual and slightly feral about a photo of a serious-faced man with a sensational ‘tash taken at arms-length, like an angry bear that’s just discovered its own reflection.
3. Consider the well-known moustache-wielding icons from down the ages, and what our poor men have to live up to. We’re talking Friedrich Nietzsche, Tom Selleck, Ron Burgundy (he’s real to me). Be kind the next time your man asks in a wavering voice, “Is my lip-warmer wonky?” or, “Is my moustache manlier than me?”
4. Moustaches are notoriously difficult to manage and, frankly, a hazard waiting to happen: they snag, they’re pullable, they’re flammable – the entire Movember-participating male species can now be kept in line with the vague threat of a lighter or a fine-toothed comb. Try to use your newfound powers for good, but if not, to extort wine and chocolate.
Not content to let Sinead O’Connor and Annie Lennox have all the fun, Charlotte Church has waded into the Miley Cyrus sex-storm, slamming child stars and ‘Disney Tweens’ for overtly sexualised performances, and expressing regret for her own past heavily sexualised appearance in music videos as a teenager.
At the annual John Peel lecture at Manchester’s Radio Academy Radio Festival, Church pointed out that many young female performers buy into the old cliche ‘sex sells’ as a way of pushing their own careers – not realising the potential long-term consequences. Church says she felt pressured into wearing overtly sexy clothes by ‘middle aged men’, but perhaps in doing so she also sought to disassociate herself from the ‘angelic’ choir girl image that she was thrust into the limelight with.
This topic has been mauled so heavily in the media of late that one almost feels inclined to play devil’s advocate and side with the ‘sexbots’. Rather than finger-wagging we should all assume the superiority position and look on knowingly as Miley Cyrus crashes and burns, then we can all shake our heads sadly and say ‘poor Miley’ as we used to say ‘poor Britney’. The sofa is much more comfortable than the soapbox; it’s so much easier to pity and patronise post-downfall than to rage and shake our fists at the drama playing out before us.
We shouldn’t be so swift to label Miley as a passive victim of the music business; sure, Charlotte speaks of experiencing pressure to sexualise her appearances, but in Miley’s savage counter-attack on Sinead she has effectively stuck two fingers up at the idea that she is anybody’s victim. Perhaps we should let her get on with it, and hope she manages to come out in one piece.
As Sinead rightly pointed out to Miley in her open letter, overtly sexual performances actually obscure a singer’s talent.
Miley is twerking, stripping and wearing nipple stickers and fishnet body stockings to make headlines, but she is probably more than aware that she isn’t doing anything new, nor providing her fans and fellow women with a good role model. That isn’t her concern, she just wants to sell records, so why are we clamouring to point out to her something she already knows: that sex sells?
Miley will likely go one of three ways in the future: reformed sinner (Charlotte Church), ongoing sex object in the face of all resistance (Madonna) or therapy (Britney Spears). Sinead O’Connor suspects Miley will end up on the ‘ragheap’, burnt out and used by men who made money from her body. That remains to be seen. In the meantime I look forward to seeing Miley’s reaction to her latest critic; having unpleasantly insulted O’Connor over her previous mental health issues, one wonders how she will manage to outrage that hardy Welsh lady Charlotte, who previously took on the likes of Cheryl Cole. I suspect this is a spat she wouldn’t come out of well, so let’s hope management have a word. In the meantime, let’s all be Reasonable Clives, have a cup of tea and let her get on with it.
Killer heels are always in fashion, because having two raw bloodied steaks instead of feet is fun and attractive. These sadist heels come in a variety of colours and styles but only one height: vertiginous and nosebleed-inducing. All killer shoes come with pain factor 1000 guaranteed, for your own good, because if you are not cross-eyed with pain then they’re not sexy enough. Whilst hobbling around the dancefloor in a London nightclub this weekend in a classic pair of killer heels, in order to distract myself from the raging red mist obscuring my vision, I came up with a list of alternative uses for my killer heels in order that I never have to wear them ever again.
1. Weapons. I am constantly short of deadly weapons, despite the fact that our country is continually churning them out and sending them overseas to various rich dictators who probably have fewer enemies than me. I feel that my killer heels could be put to much better use being launched at my enemies, either flung into the air as lone diamante missiles, or bundled up with several other pairs into killer-heel-boulders, set on fire and rolled down distant hills in the vague direction of people I don’t like.
2. Tools. I don’t have a tool box because I subscribe to this special modern creed of feminism that I made up that says that it’s fine to get men to fix stuff that looks too fiddly or boring for me to do myself. This recently culminated in me putting together a flatpack wardrobe using a rolling pin, which immediately collapsed. Stiletto heels make excellent alternatives to hammers, if you’re hammering cheese onto a cracker, and you can also use them to prop open doors and stuff.
3. Quirky ceiling decor. Most people don’t bother decorating their ceilings, because most people don’t look up much. This is an error! We should always be scanning the skies for threats from pigeons and other predators, and quirky ceiling decor will facilitate this, encouraging people to look up whenever they change rooms. Glue your killer heels to the plaster by the soles, like there’s lots of invisible women pretending their feet aren’t hurting at a party on the ceiling. Occasionally a shoe will come unstuck and hit an unsuspecting person on the head. This will teach them to be more aware of airborne threats.
4. Bookends. Like most post-traumatic English graduates I have too many books and too few bookends, and while I can’t quite bring myself to alphabetise the choked, heaving stacks, it’s time to establish some sort of order before Ellroy meets the Brontes and it all descends into total literary anarchy. Using shoes as bookends is seen as quirky and ironic in certain circles (hipsters who wear thick-rimmed lensless glasses and ostentatiously tattered clothes), so you can Instagram sepia-filtered images of your newly (shoely) organised bookshelf, and irritate all your social media followers – the only real way to recover from a high-heel hangover.
5. Basic human survival. Once you have spent all your money on killer shoes you can’t walk in, you will face a long, hard winter without food or central heating. Put all your killer shoes into a wheelbarrow, push it to the end of the garden and set them on fire. Roast protein-rich insects over the fire for nutrition, and keep close to the flames to get that interesting eyebrowless look.
JK Rowling is penning a screenplay for a new film series of her book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which featured in the Harry Potter series.
The book is a fictional encyclopedia of 75 magical creatures, ‘written’ by fictional magizoologist Newt Salamander (the grandfather of Luna Lovegood’s husband, Rolf), with advice on where they can be found.
This is all very well, but we all know that dragons can be found in caves and monsters under our beds – what about the mediocre beasts, the ones we could really do with avoiding?
Guinea pigs are dangerously stupid and generally inclined to getting eaten, stepped on or buried by the dog. The only reason they have managed to survive the evolution process thus far is because they’re fluffy, hopeless and permanently surprised-looking, and humans take pity on them. Pretty easy to avoid – just leave the cage door open, wait 24 hours for them to notice, then watch as they waddle around the garden in a slow, blind panic until they get eaten, stepped on or buried by the dog.
They’re everywhere. If some extraterrestrial being or mad scientist bestowed brains and evil intent on them, they’d be a complete nightmare, it would be like Day of the Triffids but with legs and sinister moo-ing and sour milk flying everywhere. As it is they’re pretty boring. Avoid by not visiting the countryside, which is good advice in general.
You know the kind – you see them poking sweetly out of pink leather handbags under the arms of perfect pink-crystal encrusted women with enormous hair who look like they’ve been rolled gently in Barbie dust before being ushered warmly into Brentwood’s shopping malls and nail salons. Do not be fooled – these are not proper dogs, they are aspirational dogs. Who knows if they even have legs? If it looks like you could pick it up and throw it, it’s still aspiring. Avoid by crossing the street, but try not to offend their owners who can hobble surprisingly fast even in 6 inch Jimmy Choos.
About as pointless an animal as you can hope to encounter, the common goldfish is at once boring and useless. Most boring beasts at least have the decency to be useful, like worms aerating the soil to grow our food, or maggots facilitating the decomposition process. Goldfish have never done anything useful for anyone, although in some countries you can get them in alcoholic fishbowl cocktails which is disgusting and cruel, and funny. They have zero memory, can’t get up much speed in the goldfish bowl and downright refuse to race each other. My point is, they’re mediocre and you should avoid them. They won’t hold it against you, unless you count a two-second grudge before they forget and float off to not do anything interesting somewhere else.
Not to be confused with the aforementioned guinea pig, hamsters are smaller, lighter and not nearly as stupid as their furry friends. But most hamsters are still a little bland. Get a Russian hamster – they fight your affection every step of the way, loathe being stroked and spend their lives trying to escape, chewing through the wiring in the process. Ours used to hang upside down from its cage like a tiny angry mustard coloured bat. No need to avoid – they have a lifespan of around eight weeks, or they did in our household. Just wait for them to die.
What’s worse than building a wardrobe and two chest of drawers with no prior DIY experience? Building a wardrobe and two chest of drawers with a rolling pin and a mini screwdriver, during a heatwave. As a wise friend pointed out, purchasing flatpack furniture is symptomatic of extreme masochism, and my stifling hot bedroom made a fine stand in for a whips n’ chains torture parlour as I wrestled my furniture into being last week.
Call me a muppet if you will (you’ll be joining a large group of enthusiastic participants), but I thought that the £121 three-piece furniture set would be delivered ready-made. Upon moving into my new digs and realising that my bedroom wasn’t furnished, in typical fashion I had clicked through to the first set of furniture Google found me and bought it without reading the small print, the large print, or actually looking at anything apart from the wood shade (Pine finish). One-way ticket to instant gratification station, please.
When my furniture was delivered in its compact boxes I reacted with a sort of nervous retch. This was the first furniture I’d bought, and I was faced with conjuring it out of its cardboard shell and into a functioning (Argos-ian) wooden structure. I opened the instructions and the first thing I saw was a list of around 15 necessary tools – not included in the pack.
A quick consultation with my new housemates and we rustled up a mini screwdriver (about the size of an egg with six detachable heads) and a rolling pin. I set to work and three proverbial sweat-blood-and-tears-soaked hours later: voila. Perfectly formed wardrobe, just leaning away from the wall at a 30 degree angle in a quaint Pisa way with added splinters and danger.
Yesterday, lying on my bed I heard a stomach jolting crash which turned out to be the rail inside the wardrobe breaking under the strain of supporting my immodest quantities of clothing.
What did I learn? Buy flatpack furniture by all means, but only attempt to assemble it yourself if you have a death wish and a power tool more practical than a rolling pin.
Kate and Wills have been very generous with the global media, always smiling graciously for the cameras at a multitude of formal and informal events, and only launching a single lawsuit despite multiple invasions of privacy. We’ve seen a lot more of them than we expected over the past year or so. However, I doubt that this leniency will extend into the events in the delivery room this July, which is why I’ve outlined my personal expectations for the royal birth.
6pm. Kate arrives at the St Mary’s hospital’s maternity ward with sister Pippa and mother Carole, walking unaided and citing “mild tummy pains – nothing monstrous, please don’t make a fuss.” The nurses whisk her out of her nude LK Bennet Sledge heels and into a bespoke Alexander McQueen hospital gown, her personal hairdressers tease her mane into a ‘birthing chic’ bun, and she is guided ceremoniously into the royal birthing suite, complete with warm fluffy towels, a selection of post-birth outfits and a new set of hair brushes.
7pm. As the royal contractions begin to gather momentum, Prince Philip arrives on scene, hands Kate a small white glove embroidered with the letter ‘Q’, and apologises that the Queen cannot make the birth as one of the corgis has had an incident involving its tail and a careless footman. While the footman is being tortured and executed the Queen will be thinking of Kate and “can’t wait to meet the new heir. God speed”. Sweating slightly, her uterus contracting rather inconveniently every few minutes, Kate keeps up a bright patter of polite enquiries after Prince Philip’s health, until he gradually becomes bored and wanders off to find a nurse to sexually harass.
8pm. The contractions have reached full-swing now, and Kate is managing splendidly, only snapping once at Pippa to “Close your bloody Macbook and stop blogging about my contractions. Waitrose readers aren’t wild about your recipes, they’re not going to want to hear about my chuffing cervix.” She is wrong – the attention of the entire UK is fixed on her cervix right now – but no-one in the room corrects her as they don’t wish to receive a royal duffing up.
9pm. Kate is starting to look rather pink and is frequently asking the nurses for more drugs. Mother Carole is at her side, knitting a gender-neutral yellow baby-gro with a crown and a question mark on it. Charles and Camilla make an appearance and tell Kate that Wills is on his way in the helicopter; could Kate possibly hold the heir in for a while? Kate lets out a stream of unladylike expletives and Charles and Camilla wander off to find a new hospital ward to open.
10pm. Harry saunters into the suite with his jeans on back to front and a blonde Sloane on his arm. He grabs two plastic chairs, slides down next to the bed with his giggling companion, and says, “Sorry I’m late, I did try to call but the nurse thought I was a radio DJ and put the phone down on me. How’s it going old sport?” Kate responds with a polite snarl, and through gritted teeth forces the question: “Where. Is. Your. Sodding. Brother?” Harry gives a sudden start then looks almost thoughtful for a second but it soon becomes apparent that his blonde girlfriend is feeling him up under the bed. Kate resumes her contractions and tries to ignore the blatant foreplay now occurring by her bedside.
11pm. Wills’ helicopter lands on the roof of the hospital where a group of savvy photographers has gathered in anticipation. Wills strides politely through their flashing lightbulbs, privately wishing immediate painful death on them and all their families, and makes his way towards the Royal maternity ward. En route he encounters Prince Philip flirting with a pretty Thai nurse he has cornered. Wills rescues the nurse and steers his grandfather towards the suspiciously quiet royal birthing suite.
11:10pm. The baby is breech, Kate has passed out from trying not to make a fuss, and the doctors are urgently performing a royal Caesarian. Wills strides over to the bed, glares at Harry who is now noisily fornicating behind the curtains, and takes his wife’s hand. Carole has put down her knitting. Pippa has closed her Macbook. The room waits with bated breath, and the occasional giggle from behind the curtains.
12am. On the stroke of midnight the third-in-line to the throne is born. Kate is awake, pink and gazing down at her little bundle of joy. She decides to call her baby girl ‘Mary’, after one of her biggest fans. The Queen Skypes from the palace to send her well-wishes, amidst agonised screams and vague grinding noises in the background. Kate inquires politely after the corgi’s health. Carole attempts to curtsey via webcam. Harry has been chucked out of the hospital, but calls to say congratulations; the nurse hangs up on him again.
Every time I find myself obliged to go to London I wish I’d stayed in Reading, mincing down the high street past our traditional afternoon brawls and clockwork-regular floods of chav vomit instead. Why does London fill me with such foreboding?
1. People don’t look at you. They look at the space around you to see if they can squeeze past without having to touch you, but they don’t look at your face, or watch where you’re stepping, or wonder where you’re going, or wonder why your hair is sticking in all directions so exotically; you’re about as significant as a bit of prehistoric dog turd on the pavement, blindly stamped down underfoot in the foot-pummelled city streets. There are so many people in London that they’ve all seen far more of humanity than they ever wanted to and so they’ve simply stopped acknowledging each other. Going on the – correct – assumption that most people are sinister bastards with death in their hearts, I normally wouldn’t mind this lack of acknowledgement, but it makes it impossible to ask for directions every time I get lost.
2. It’s incredibly easy to get lost. There are far too many tube lines and they all travel in both directions which doubles the panic. Every street name is repeated throughout London at least four times so it’s impossible to walk with a google map on your phone as I tried to do on Oxford Street one night, trying to get to the date of my life. I eventually made it but was so traumatised and disoriented that I chatted utter shit all evening which, if not at all unusual, is still highly inconvenient when talking to any potential victim.
3. There are far too many jobs and far too few affordable houses, which means everyone has to commute in every day on nasty blue and red steel worms of trains, packed in so tightly that their spines are forced upright and their posture improves, but then they can’t move their arms to read their papers so their grasp of current affairs weakens (Who’s Maggie? What recession? Fiscal what?)
4. London has so many train stations, it’s obscene. Manchester has five, Cardiff has three, London has 1,000,000,000. It just looks greedy.
5. Everything is grey. The sky is grey, the buildings are grey, the tramps are grey, the scrubby bits of grass in the parks are grey, and being there makes you grey (well, your snot anyway). It’s like being in an old film but without any of the luscious femme fatales, spicy dialogue or overdramatic deaths. You’re stuck in an empty grey silent scene, with nobody to ask for directions and the cameras recording your every insignificant move. CCTV is everywhere in London, it’s like being in a sinister Black Mirror episode where everyone watches and judges each other ad infinitum, although, to my knowledge, there hasn’t been a prime minister/pig incident yet.