Assume the ‘knowing superiority’ position and let Miley get on with it

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. Continue reading

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Things that might happen in Rome

One plate, two forks please

When in Rome, anything might happen. Enough stuff happens to me in England, imagine what could happen in Italy… After much deliberation I have fallen on the top ten most likely things to happen to me and my travelling companion, the deliciously blond and ever dangerous Siobhan Bamber.

1. We might go and visit the Vatican and accidentally fall over the Pope because he is so small and shrivelled. If we kill him in the process we might spend the next 30 years in an Italian jail where we will be forced to teach our companions the English art of being uselessly polite in exchange for food and cigarettes.

2. We might think we’re ordering a pizza but accidentally order a Pisa, which will result in a huge bill and a lot of falling debris.

3. We might accidentally get very drunk and climb Vesuvius. We might get drunker still and fall in.

4. We might eat so much pasta that we turn into a lasagna. This happens all the time.

5. We might decide to tease the Italian fashionistas by wearing purple rhinestones and acid-wash jeans to a fashionable social occasion. As the Bellissimo models run out in their Prada heels screeching and holding their manicured hands over their bleeding eyes, we will drink all their lovely Italian sparkling wine.

6. We might get womanised by and consequently married to two attractive Italian men. We might offend their mothers at the wedding (“So… did you pay for this wedding with the proceeds of violent political corruption?”) and be pelted with moist dough balls.

7. We might hire tiny Italian mopeds and zip through traffic lights faster than meatballs slide off a plate, clocking up casualties like Al Capone on crack.

8. Utilising our inherent violence and skills with weapons we might start a new underworld criminal Mafia, where we will clash jaws with some of the most dangerous gangsters in Europe. We will eat Italian sausage in exchange for inside information then destroy the existing Mafia from the inside out.

9. We might get lost and end up in Venice, then hitch a ride on a gondola. If we get attacked by Venetian pirates, we might coolly invoke the right of ‘Parlez’ and they will be forced to take us to their captain. We might be encouraged to walk the plank, and we might then get eaten by Venetian crocodiles and rats. Our English bones will be forever left to rot in foreign waters, providing interesting analysis for future Venetian historians.

10. While trying our best to speak Italian we might gesture and flail so enthusiastically that we take out several innocent pedestrians who will then gesture, shout and cry so much that we will also gesture, shout and cry, and we’ll all drown Italy in our tears, making it closer to sea-level than Bangladesh.

A Christmas Quarrel

Road to ruin

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a substantial dose of family feuding and a bit of bleeding. My family has our own very distinctive strain of stubbornness which tends to rise to the surface during periods of yuletide joy when we are all shut up in one place for 2-3 days with carving knives and cocktail sticks in great abundance. Here are the most violent family arguments I’ve refereed and/or partaken in this festive season.

1. The ‘Downton Abbey or Absolutely Fabulous’ argument: Me versus the rest of the family. The dying call of Patsy (“How DARE you, I’m 39”) fought with Lady Mary’s fruity confession to Matthew (‘There was this dead Turkish diplomat I shagged… who was then murdered in my bed’). Patsy won and half of Downton Abbey was forever lost to soap’s archives.

2. The ‘amount of chocolate consumed is directly proportional to the amount of chocolate available’ dilemma. This year we received an enormous hamper of chocolates from our relatives in Texas. We opened every single box and packet in there in order to ‘sample’ them, then fought each other to the death over each and every chocolate.

3. For every roast potato you eat, you will gain a stone. This fact was the basis of my argument with Dad who made a bucket of potatoes on Christmas day. After demolishing most of these myself, I blamed Dad for the fact that I now resemble a hippo, and Mum blamed Dad for spending all Christmas day peeling potatoes instead of bringing her wine.

4. Engaging in a harmless game of monopoly is the fastest way to enrage your siblings and find yourself disinherited. Winning monopoly is not recommended as this can only result in permanent exile or death. I won yesterday by accident and have been running for my life ever since.

5. The Doctor never dies, come Daleks, Cybermen or acid rain. Some Doctors are perceived to be better than others however. This year we were divided between Jon Pertwee (Dad) and Matt Smith (Everyone else).

6. The guinea pig’s special Christmas diet. I went to fetch the guinea pig on Christmas day as usual, and found her surrounded by uneaten brussels sprouts. This told me two things: The guinea pig does not like brussels sprouts, and neither does a certain 13-year-old in our household. This was vehemently denied by my younger sister, who then went on to berate the rest of us for feeding the guinea pig parsnips last year which “don’t agree with her, and anyway she only eats organic”.

Farmer, Coo or Queen it – Say it like you mean it

“Slow and steady, Philip, follow one’s example”

My accent vascillates wildly between a bland Reading drawl and an appalling Lancashire slur. Worse, every now and again I am prone to slipping into lilting Welsh tones (largely due to 3 months spent in Spain where I communicated pretty much exclusively with a Welsh girl so that I didn’t have to learn any Spanish), which is irritating for the Welsh and confusing for everyone else. There are pros and cons to each accent which is why I am reluctant to give any of them up.

Northern:

People are (wrongly) reassured by a strong Lancashire accent, as it conjures up an image of an honest, hard-working farmer rather than a thieving aggressive miner (which we all are). Oop North words don’t just come, they come thumping like a giant’s hammer into your ears, deafening yet oddly reassuring. If you ever hear the chilling words “Give me your foocking wallet” you will know that a. You are definitely in the North and that b. You won’t stand a chance against this scary foocker (even if said scary foocker is 4 foot with no teeth).

Southern:

In the South, words fall out of mouths like a drunk girl off a table – quickly and inevitably. You watch hypnotised as the words continue to emerge like they’ve been shot from a cannon, often accompanied by much throat hacking and swearing, e.e. “FACKING ‘ELL THAT WAS AN AGGRESSIVE SOUNDING SENTENCE”. This does not apply to the Queen who does nothing as if shot from a cannon, and speaks as she walks – in measured, careful steps so as not to dislodge her perfectly positioned canary-yellow hat.

Welsh:

The Welsh accent is the most beautiful in the world, which is why no-one listens to what Welsh people say – we are far too hypnotised by the soothing lilt of each delightful cooing phrase. Even swear words sound like a baby’s gurgle “I’ll rip off your fecking ‘ead and spit down your neck, I will. Coooooo”. This also explains why the Welsh are so huggable, like lovely furry cooing wombles.

Careless whispers… Office gossip

Just add mind-altering drugs

Office gossip is a fantastic thing, especially when it’s about you. While being at the centre of a hurtling hurricane of whispers and judgements and fear is a bit dizzying and can result in hair loss / cross boss / job loss, it’s also bloody exciting and makes you look a lot more intriguing than you really are. Here are my top five pieces of gossip you can invent about yourself to impress your friends and colleagues and elevate your social status to epic proportions.

1. “I had sex with [Insert name of a disgraced politician here]” Disgraced politicians are easy scapegoats and also people will be more likely to believe you had sex with one of those than the squeaky clean ones. The benefits? Hello court proceedings/media frenzy/book deal.

2. “Once I came into my last job naked to raise money for charity”: The double edged sword of charity fraud and potential internet photos will be enough to titillate your colleagues for years to come. Hello inappropriate office affair/blackmail/promotion.

3. “I was abandoned as a child and as a result was taken in by a bear who reared me with her three cubs in the jungle. I used to roll in bracken and go salmon fishing in the Spring and yes I still sleep naked and eat insects and stray humans.” Men, your manliness will entice women. Women, your inability to talk or do anything apart from have wild carnal sex in caves will please the male of the species no end.

4. “I used to be a witch. I can still kill people with my mind”. Colleagues will be queuing up to borrow your broomstick; give them a household broom and some LSD and watch them fly.

5. Finally, do not underestimate the benefits of using this modest gem: “I’m a heavy alcoholic and drink through the working day”. Who will colleagues come to for their free pre-drinks after work? Instant friends.

Butter knives are not toys

Be quick or be dead

Some call me paranoid, others settle for deranged, but I know that I am simply endowed with keen common sense and an excellent pre-emptive danger sensor.

This is why, much to the amusement of my house mates, I sleep with a knife under my bed, just in case a murderer manages to navigate the piles of clothes and books and Kate Middleton memorabilia in my room to find me and strangle me as I sleep.

My house mate only realised when she couldn’t find the sharp chopping knife, and, when I revealed I kept it under my bed, she surreptitiously replaced it with a butter knife. I only realised this last week, meaning that for several nights I was dangerously under-armed while I slept.

To raise awareness of night-time perils, I have made a list of the five most likely situations in which you might need a weapon while you are asleep.

1) If anyone breaks in, they might try to steal your collection of fluffy guinea pigs, or worse, your collection of Kate Middleton magazines and newspapers. The gleam of a butter knife in the dark – especially accompanied by your most manic grin – will have them falling backwards over your Kate Middleton laundry basket in their haste to leave.

2) If an escaped convict wants to use your bedroom as a temporary hide-out, you may have to cancel pending social events. A nice shiny blade should help him to reconsider his options.

3) No-one is safe from the risk of squatters. If you wake up with a vagrant in your wardrobe, the fastest way to get rid of him is to say “Please get out of my wardrobe”, then “My shoes and dresses live there”. Then flash your blade at him.

4) As several well-known films over the years have illustrated, the risk of a zombie/vampire invasion is extremely high. Unless you want to eat your own mother / live forever with pasty skin, I would suggest taking your own life before you’re bitten.

5) One morning you might wake up and realise you live in a doll’s house like a borrower, and that you’re only ‘real’ when you’re not being played with by a little Victorian girl. This is extremely common, and the only known cure is to stab the little girl in the face with your butter knife and run like hell for the nearest mouse-hole. You’re welcome.

A creme egg at Christmas: Further adventures of The Strapping American

A questionable turkey

The Strapping American landed back in the UK this week and is already creating a stir in Reading. Oblivious to our conservative British politics, he has caused regional outrage by daring to eat a creme egg in December. “They’re still selling them” is not an acceptable excuse, and nor is “Cadbury’s belongs to us now anyway”.

Us Brits are all about our seasonal food, and we would no sooner eat figgy pudding in Summer than an Easter egg at Christmas. What, we ask each other, would come of our rigidly organised seasonal holidays were we to besmirch them with creme eggs? We are an empire (at heart) for fucks sake; Cromwell and Churchill did not have this to contend with.

I am not sure I can remain friends with someone who maintains that if it can be sold then it must be eaten. If the same theory was applied to cigarettes, fertiliser and various body parts, then where would we be?

The Strapping American has been told, in no uncertain terms, that he must NEVER eat another creme egg between the months of May to December. Being American, he will probably take all our figgy pudding and chuck it into the sea in a tribute to his wasteful ancestors (who clearly didn’t appreciate a good brew) but – dash it – we must stand up for our national rights: The right to complain, the right to drink tea and the right to resigned negativity at all times.

A father’s wisdom

A front yard like no other

A few soundbites from my Dad – some appropriated, some his own.

1. “The bastards are out to kill you” (the original master)

2. “The biggest con artist of all? Mrs Pankhurst.”

3. (6 times an hour) “Where is my comb?”

4. “Illegitimi non carborundum”

5. “Why is there a fucking guinea pig on my bed?”

6. (To Mum): “When are you invading Poland?”

7. (To me, on my cooking): “Mmmmm, this is excrement”

8. “I’ve gritted the front path” (Front path now buried under 8 inches of sand)

9. “I’ve built a new fence to keep that bloody dog in” (In the background, Monty easily clears the fence and starts humping next door’s Yorkshire Terrier)

10. (Upon meeting every single one of my poor previous boyfriends) *Silent but potent dislike*

One’s very trying family

Were this the extent of my woes

My family are giving me a very slow drawn out heart attack. Out of the four of them, two have broken parts of their body, one seems to be developing a severe strain of Autism and one is completely obsessed with combing her fringe. And they are all too preoccupied with themselves to pay me any attention, which is really bloody annoying. I bet the Duchess of Cambridge doesn’t have to put up with this nonsense.

Four weeks ago my Mum fell off her wedges and broke her ankle. She should still be in plaster, but somehow managed to threaten the doctor into agreeing that it could come off two weeks early, as her husband wasn’t quite managing to bring her enough wine and chocolate by himself.

Dad is ever so slightly autistic, and will spend hours washing an eggcup but forget altogether about cooking a meal, and has come into close contact with the end of Mum’s crutches as a result.

Two weeks ago my brother broke his knuckle, which necessitated a painful operation whereby thick wire was inserted into his hand. This has prevented him from doing any washing up / ironing / wine fetching, hence exacerbating the situation for the other injured party.

My sister is 13 and as such has a most serious relationship with her fringe. Quite often I will walk into a room to find her combing it intensely, unable to speak for passion and concentration.

Given these extenuating circumstances, I am completely unable to sympathise with the ‘trials and tribulations’ of the Royal family, what with the disgraced Sarah Ferguson not being invited to the Royal Wedding back in April, the occasional but stupendous social faux pas’ of Harry (three words: Nazi fancy dress) and the various other family tensions. Let’s see how they’d cope if the Queen broke her ankle, the Duke of Edinburgh examined teaspoons all day, Kate didn’t have a Will and Princess Beatrice tried to comb her fringe twice a minute under that silly hat.

Dark and true and tender… the North wins every time

You could be neighbour to this troubled soul

I long ago gave up on the old North versus South argument, mainly because I choose to live down South so none of my pro-North arguments really carry any weight anymore. I also spend a lot of my time whilst visiting the Northern relatives whinging about missing the South, although this is mainly because people are a lot more reserved down there and tend to leave me alone, and also because I live a five minute walk away from a library and a corner shop which sells cheap wine, the Daily Mirror and unlimited Freddos. As opposed to a 15 minute walk up a hill to the local Post Office up here, where people will undoubtedly enquire after my well-being and wish me a good day. Shudder.

But the North does have a few inescapable advantages over the South, differences which make every trip home feel a little bit like Christmas.

1) There are miners everywhere. Every time you turn your head you can see a little coal blackened face popping out of a hole in the ground. If they weren’t underground they would live in your chimneys; remember this.

2) We speak in a delightful dialect with lots of “Foock yous” and “I’m gonna rip your fooking head off”. Music to the ears.

3) The Northern Lights. Well we are closer to them than you are.

4) Violence is never mindless up here. All Northern violence is driven by extreme poverty and economic strife; just ask Noel Gallagher.

5) The North of England is the only place in the world where you can find Yorkshire puddings. Fact.

6) Ditto gravy.

7) Can you imagine if Wuthering Heights was set in Reading? “Heathcliff! Where are you Heathcliff?!” “Er I’m here Cathy love, just been talking about my troubled gypsy childhood to the local community counsellor, I’ve joined a support group so now we can get married and live happily every after. Here I’ve bought you some flowers from the 24 hour Tescos”