Thursday, 12 March 2015


Did I tell you the one about the werewolf, the cul-de-sac in suburbia, and the courting couple?

Well, the story starts one weekday evening, back in the Eighties, with my mother furiously attempting to rid the lounge window of the coating of dust produced by the crematorium opposite.

“Ych a fi” she says, her face like a cat's bum. “No self-respect.”

I follow her gaze to the lay-by outside the cemetery gates, where two teenagers are busy sucking each other’s faces off in the front seat of a green Ford Cortina. I am almost fourteen at the time – but my experience of open mouth kissing is limited to the time Great Auntie Maud launched her tongue into my mouth thinking I was her dead husband, the great big lezzer - so I lean into the window to get a better view.

“They’re only snogging”, I conclude.

For my mother, however, there is no such thing as “only snogging”. Snogging involves EXACTLY the same level of risk as eating your dinner straight off the toilet seats in Castle Gardens where the tramps live, or injecting yourself in the face with pure, molten AIDS. It is also signals that you are probably *said in a low whispering tone audible only to bats, god, and The Neighbours* "LOOSE".  

“God only knows where you’ve come from”, she says, shaking her head at me.

She turns to the window to attack the dust again, but the scene from the car is too much for her.  Already, first base has given way to second base; to a degree of teenage flesh-mongering and upper body fondling that is, frankly, unpalatable. 

“David! You need to do something!” she yells. 

My father hurries into the lounge, the look of guilt on his face suggesting he has been indulging his all-time favourite pastime of standing in the hallway, staring into the middle distance.

“Get rid of them”, she says, pointing at the Cortina. “It’s disgusting!”  

Ten minutes later, my father reappears in the lounge, this time wearing the white laboratory coat he wears to work. This if baffling enough as it is, but the fact he has accessorised it with a BIG FUCK-OFF WEREWOLF MASK means that for a few long minutes, nothing in the world makes any sense. 

“Why are you dressed like that?” says my mother, finally. 

“I tried the vampire one”, says my father. “But this one looks better with the coat."

The werewolf mask, gifted to us by a cousin who runs a fancy dress stall in Carmarthen, is an all-over latex hood, with wrinkled cadaverous skin, a muzzle that is matted with stage blood, and lifelike strawberry-blonde hair backcombed to within an inch of its life. In a certain light, you'd be forgiven for thinking, "What in the name of cowing fuck is Bonnie Tyler doing in that lab coat?" 

My mother is as yet unconvinced. "It’s getting dark though”, she says. “You won’t be able to see properly with that thing on. Just knock on the window and tell them off!”

“I’ll be fine!” he says. “It’s just a bit of fun!”

Werewolf mask

Bonnie Tyler mask. (Image by Jack Mooney)

We watch from the lounge window as my father emerges from the back lane that runs the length of our houses. He looks in our direction for approval, before crossing the road towards the cemetery.

“He’s going to trip on the paving”, says my mother. “Bloody idiot.”

Meanwhile, things are stepping up a gear in the Ford Cortina. The boy in the driver’s seat is covering more ground, though when I say ground, I mean tits. My father creeps towards them along the cemetery's perimeter walls. When he reaches the nearside of the Cortina, he ducks down. Knocks on the driver’s side window. For a moment, nothing happens. Maybe the mask isn't good enough. Maybe they’re both thinking, “Bonnie Tyler looks like absolute fucking shit tonight.”  But then, in the next instant, the girl’s jaw drops, her pupils spread. She looks like the guy on the bridge in The Scream - but with a scrunchie. And although I can’t remember the boy’s face, I do remember the panicky revving tones; the lurch of the chassis as it stalls; the way the car finally hurtles past our window towards the junction.

“Bloody well done”, says my mother, when my father lets himself in through the back door.
"Sweating buckets", says my father, tearing the hood off. 

His shoulders are angled downwards, hinting at dissatisfaction. I can tell that he’d wanted them to see through the whole vigilante lycanthrope routine and recognise it as a sidesplitting example of suburban pranking.  

“I’ll have to wash it. I don’t want the rubber perishing”, says my mother, grabbing the hood from him.  
“It was funny though, right?” says my father, looking at us.

We nod. Because we love our dad, and he IS funny. In a what-the-fuck-are-you-doing-now-you-absolute-mentalist kind of way.  

“The look on the girl’s face was priceless!” says my mother. “Priceless!”

My father draws my mother towards him. Within seconds, they are frenching it, playing tonsil hockey, snogging; celebrating their moral victory with an ironic pastiche designed to introduce the notion that the proper context for snogging is, in fact, the kitchen, under a twitching fluorescent strip light, in front of your appalled children. Obviously.  

Either that or the teenagers have given them ideas. 


Wednesday, 11 February 2015


And here's another thing:

The NATO Phonetic Alphabet.

What the fuck's that all about?

F is for Foxtrot? Are you kidding me? Last time I did a foxtrot was, oh, I dunno, NEVER. Which was about the same time as I popped over to Lima. So how in god's name am I supposed to remember it?

The other day, I come up against the same old problem when I review my security details with the bank. Suffice it to say that I end up having to spell out my maiden name, place of birth, and first school, phonetically. My mind goes blank. Not blank per se, but only capable of recollecting words that are fruity synonyms to describe a) taboo body parts, b) shagging, and c) excretions. I am like Kermit The Frog introducing the Letters Of The Day on Sesame Street, but with Tourette's.

The first letter I have to spell out is M. The correct word is Mike, which should be a cinch, seeing as Mike is a mate of mine. Unfortunately, it is the polar opposite of a fucking cinch. Even everyday proper names, such as mat, mug, and monkey, vanish from memory. Literally all I can think of is the word 'mildreds'. Which is old-fashioned vernacular for bosoms. Big old-lady bosoms. If I'd stopped at mildred, as in 'George and Mildred', it might have been okay. But no, I say 'mildreds'.

There is this awful deathlike silence. The customer services representative, or as I prefer to call her, Little Miss Judgy Pants, says nothing, although what she's really thinking is, "I'm obviously speaking to a child, so could you please go and get a grown-up." Meanwhile, I'm thinking, "You too will have mildreds one day. Ha!" Later, in the same conversation, I opt for 'Groin' to signal G, 'Roger' to signal R, and weirdly, because it has no sexual connotations whatsoever, 'Yeoman' to signal Y, which is a word you'd only normally use if you were a) Hilary Mantel, b) Hilary Mantel, or c) Hilary fucking Mantel. (Whose mildreds are incidentally colossal.) For the most part however, I just pronounce letters over and over, in the hope that a double whammy of shouting and repetition will suffice.

N and B are my particular bete noires.

Another conversation, a couple of months ago, this time with an NTL representative, goes like this:

Me: Sorry ... I can only think of the word balls … sorry ... yes, B as in Balls. (This is a little white lie, as I am also able to summon up the words Ballache, Boner, Blowjob, Breasts, and distressingly, Bukkake.)
Her: Balls? (Why she has to question it is baffling. Maybe she thinks I say 'Paul's'. As in something that belongs to Paul. Which would be mind-bogglingly left-field.)
Me: Er … yes. Balls.

She titters slightly, which is reassuring, and means that we end up bonding over the weird randomness of the phonetic alphabet. I tell her about the fact that I am only able to recall a mixture of sexual swear words, or obscene profanities.

"There's a word for that!"she says, laughing. "But I can't remember it!"

Later, after a whole three minutes research to find the word she's talking about, I find something else. The Fucknetic Alphabet. Which is similar to the Phonetic Alphabet, but uses very bad words, and has nothing at all to do with NATO.

Personally, I'm not sure what I think about The Fucknetic Alphabet. Part of the problem with remembering the regular phonetic alphabet is that deep down, I prefer to choose my own words. Take  'G is for Golf' as an example. As far as yours truly is concerned, 'G is for Golf' is an abomination. An affront to the letter G. Also, in the context of the words that precede it, namely Delta, Echo, and Foxtrot, all of which have an esoteric, trippy quality, 'G is for Golf' is incongruous, ill-chosen, out of place. You may as well shit in someone's ears.

(I'm cool with most of  these G words. Especially glacier, which is very National Geographic. And gag, which has comic potential. Although if you ever say gnome to show off your mastery of the silent G phenomenon,  you're a twat.)
And so it would be with The Fucknetic Alphabet, which, in an attempt to overcome accent or language barriers, only permits use of commonly-used swearwords, such as A is for Ass, B is for Bastard, C is for C*nt, etcetera. Mildreds don't count. Neither does Bukkake. Boo!

One solution to the problem might be to offer people a choice of themed phonetic alphabets, according to popular areas of interest, for example, tea, cats, stuffed toys, class A drugs, yodelling, ukeleles, the usual suspects, with the added option to customise lists. Sure, it would have an impact on staffing levels at call centres, but on the plus side, it would be fun, and there would be far fewer administrative errors.

In the meantime, if anybody knows whether the word Yeoman has any sexual connotations, do keep it to your bloody self. Thanks.

Friday, 30 January 2015


As you will know by now, I'm a self-confessed scaredy-cat.

Slip roads, space hoppers, rounders, and checking voice mail, all give me the willies, as does the line: It puts the lotion in the basket. And don't get me started on that feathered monstrosity from the Seventies, Emu. But now, following a recent visit to Bounce Below, a disused slate cavern featuring suspended trampoline nets, I have to add trampolines to the shit list.

I should have known better, of course. Anything that describes itself as “offering a degree of physical challenge” is not for me.  But, as we are on a family holiday at the time, and there has already been an awful lot of visiting national monuments, a trip to a subterranean playground seems in order.
We make our way to Llechwedd Slate Caverns, boarding the underground train to the trampolines.
“This is the actual old mining train”, I say, reading the leaflet. “It’s Victorian.” 
“OMG. We’re not in school!” says the nine-year-old, shooting me one of her famous, withering looks. 

Three giant nets, hung at different levels, linked by walkways and slides, greet us on our arrival at the cavern. My son runs into the centre of the net, squealing with joy.  My daughter follows him, as do our friends’ children.
“I’m coming”, I say, stepping forwards.
My foot sinks into the net, as if it were quicksand. A queer melting feeling travels up my legs to my solar plexus.
“It feels weird”, I say, turning to my friend. "Not sure I can move!”
"Think I'm getting used to it!" says my friend, bouncing off gleefully. 

Somehow I make it back to the edge of the net. My son tells me he wants to use the slide to get to the bottom trampoline.  The ‘slide’ is a chute made of rope. The main problem with it is that it appears to be vertical. In fact, if you were to ask anybody to describe the slide's main characteristics, they would say it was a) vertical, b) vertical, and c) FUCKING VERTICAL. I’m guessing it would be a cinch if you were, say, Father Christmas, or a bag of laundry, but that’s it.
"I want to see if any other children your age go down first”, I say.
“He’ll be fine!” says a supervisor, listening in.
Seconds later, I see him on the bottom trampoline, 50ft or so below, with my friend’s husband, waving excitedly.

But as I'm working up the courage to join him, a massive teenager bounds towards me. He jumps up and down like a fucker. Like somebody has given Zebedee crystal meth. The net tips away from me at a sickening angle, like an anomaly opening up in the fabric of space. I crawl on hands and knees to the edge. Meanwhile, the rest of the kids have climbed to the top trampoline. I figure I can make it to the walkway that takes me up a level instead, if I just stick to the edges.

“Is the chute the only way of getting back down again?” I say to the supervisor, when I get there.
“Yip, but it’s easy! C’mon. Get up there!” he laughs.
The supervisor is like some kind of norse god. Admittedly, he is not the type I usually go for, but the thought that he may see me as a palsied old lady, run to seed, is distressing. At the very least, the absolute fucking least, I want him to think I’m capable of mind-blowing sex moves. I clamber up the walkway, sucking in my butt cheeks, wondering whether I have what it takes to become a survivalist.
“It’s AWESOME here!” says my daughter, when I reach the top. 
I bounce a tiny bit and say “Wheeee!” 
(I say bouncing, but what I really mean to say is 'bending my knees to create the illusion of bouncing.') I have already knocked the dream of becoming a survivalist on the head.

Five minutes later, a whistle blows, denoting the end of our session. The others throw themselves down the rope chute like it’s nothing.
“It’s easy”, says the supervisor, when I am The Only One Left. 
“I can’t”, I say, my legs dangling into the chute.
“Cross one arm over your front. Cover your nose with the other hand.”
I literally don’t know what he’s talking about. I am the kind of person who gets confused trying to do the actions for the Heads, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes song. Also, why you need to cover your schnoz is beyond me. I think it may have to do with the possibility of it getting caught in the rope, and coming the fuck off. Eventually I master the actions. But the fact that I now have no way of holding on to anything, except air, deepens the horror of what is already a bastard of a situation. The only way it could get any worse would be if Emu appeared out of nowhere, and whacked me down the chute with his cock. I mean beak.
“I can’t move”, I say. “I just can’t let go."

The supervisor confers with another supervisor. They take so long over it I get a distinct sense that this has literally never happened before. “See mam, I AM special!” I want to shout.
Eventually, they decide to close the entrance to the one-way walkway and let me use it as an emergency exit, which means clambering down the walkway, backwards, bum cheeks first, as onlookers wait patiently behind the cordon. I look like Bridget Jones sliding down the fireman’s pole, broadcasting her ass to the nation, but without the firming Magic Pants.

The kids are waiting on the train with our friends.
“You said you’d do it”, says my son, turning away from me.“You’re a CHICKEN!”
I am pathetic and ridiculous. I have a huge comedy ass. Worse, I have let my children down.
“It was kind of funny though”, says my daughter, piping up suddenly.
"The best bit was when everybody was waiting for you!” says my son, laughing now.
We laugh all the way to the reception area.  Ha ha ha! Ha ha ha!

“We can go on the underground Victorian mine tour after lunch, if you want”, I say hopefully, a little later.
The prospect of a gentle educational activity fills me with so much joy I could weep. It’s just as well there’s no Art Gallery.
“There’s a LIVE slate-splitting show!” I add, still emotional.
The kids look at me as if I’m completely mental.
“OMG! No way!” they say in unison.

Emu. Puppet or predator? You decide. 

Wednesday, 14 January 2015


At the risk of sounding like a hater, I HATE flashers.

I don’t mean folks who like to show you their bits. Unless you’re talking about Rihanna. If I ever see any of Rihanna’s bits, ever again, I will pluck out my own eyeballs.

I mean motorists who think it’s the done thing to flash you with their headlights for no discernible reason.

Take the other day. There I am, driving along the country road into my village, when a motorist flashes me.

I check the speedometer. The instrument panel. The mirrors.  Nothing.

A second motorist flashes me, then a third, this time with eye-melting LED headlights that emit more light than a nuclear explosion.  In a state of high anxiety, overwhelmed by the mind-altering pain of the retinal burn, I consider the following possibilities:  

a) There is a corpse on my car roof.

b) The radiator grille is spewing out Plague.

c) The flesh-eating flying demon from Jeepers Creepers is preparing to swoop down on my car and eat my head.

d) I have become invisible, rendering the car (apparently) driverless.  

e) There is a gigantic bomb strapped to the bumper. 

I pull into a cul-de-sac of executive housing.  I am five minutes from home, maybe less, but if I continue driving, the car will explode. I also notice a police car parked in a lay-by up ahead.  Drive onwards, and I will be committing an unprecedented range of serious motoring offences.

A man walking his dog meets my gaze. He looks concerned. I get out of the car to look busy. I check the tyres. I check the bonnet. I have no actual clue what I’m looking for. I may as well be looking at a diagram of the Higgs Boson particle. 

"You allright?" says the man. 

“Yes, fine thanks, just checking for locusts, intestines, explosives, wraiths, that kind of thing! Ha ha ha! You know how it is!”

Obviously I don’t say any of this. People here have a positive outlook. They get up early. They have good jobs. They are not the kind of people who freak out on the side of the street. They are not the kind of people who frisk their vehicles for entrails.  

I text my partner.  

Hi hun. Can u ring me back ASAP.  In car. Three people flashed me.  Have pulled in. Afraid to carry on, especially as police car in lay-by ahead.  Something HORRIBLY wrong, obvs. PLS ring. PLS xxx

Up ahead, the policeman gets out of his vehicle, looks in my direction. I absolutely shit myself. I start to cry a bit, because of all the stress. My partner phones back. 

“That text was hilarious!” he says. “They’re trying to warn you about the speed trap!” he adds. “It’s fucking obvious.”

As soon as he says it, I know it's true. The policeman returns to his vehicle. 

“It’s not obvious to me”, I say, angry now.

“That’s because you’ve got no common sense!” he says, laughing heartily.  

I don't wish to rant, or digress, but the worst part of not having any so-called Common Sense is that most folk think it’s a fucking hoot. Totally OMG, ROFL and LMAO. Whether they’d be rolling in the aisles quite so much if you didn’t have any, say, working elbows, is doubtful. The second worst part is feeling like you’re not really a grown-up: that somewhere along the line, you missed the class where the teacher gave out secret little notes about Life, including answers to questions like a) What the actual fuck is going on in Eraserhead? b) What is a goddamn annuity? and c) WHERE EXACTLY IS THE BASTARD iCLOUD? As well as information about when and where to flash your headlamps at people.

“There’s definitely nothing in the Highway Code about flashing people to warn them about police cars parked in lay-bys”, I say.  “I got full marks in my theory.”

I didn’t get full marks in my theory. I got 49 in the multiple-choice part. Which is still awesome.

“It’s a common sense thing”, he says. Again.


I drive home without incident, albeit filled with the sudden, thrilling realisation that I was tipped off. I shoot the police officer a smug smile as I pass. "D'you think I was born yesterday?" I want to shout. "I know the score mate!" I walk with renewed confidence towards my front door. I find my keys easily. I am part of a clandestine network of experienced motorists who use coded light systems forbidden by the authorities to communicate! I am a grown-up! 

But then, as I’m making myself a nice cup of tea in the kitchen, I remember something else. The school of thought that says that if you’re speeding through a residential village, where there are children, well, maybe you deserve to get caught.  I remember all those not yet baptised in the gritty jizz of Common Sense, and all my fellow scaredy-cats, for whom flashing is ALWAYS alarming. And I decide that I hate fucking flashers. 

Tuesday, 18 November 2014


Today, I have been mostly thinking about the pros and cons of working from home, which I’d like to share.

I'll begin with the bad news: 

1. Working from home can mean extensive periods of isolation, leading to a catastrophic degeneration of socio-personal skills. In extreme circumstances, this can mean going to ridiculous lengths to avoid human contact, such as using the sewer network to get to the post office, or leaping from branch to branch in the overhead tree canopy to avoid footpaths.  

2. Conversely, working from home can also mean getting so ridiculously over-excited at the possibility of human contact, that when the postman delivers a parcel, you end up speaking in the jumbled, rapid manner of a psychotic:   

ME: Oh, hi, sorry I took ages ... I was upstairs in the bathroom … Ha ha ha! Ooh! I’m so out of breath though ... can’t believe how unfit I am ... still, what’s it like OUT THERE? Haven’t been OUT today! Ha ha ha! Ha ha ha! Least it’s not raining though! Do you want to step into the hallway?
POSTMAN: (looking alarmed and holding handset with attached pen-thing at considerable distance from body) “This just needs signing for”.

3. People who work from home typically end up reporting hostile feeling towards their house. One woman told me that she fantasised about drawing a giant spurting cock on to the living room wall, even though it had JUST been painted in Farrow and Ball heritage colours! Another had a recurring dream about digging an escape tunnel under the hallway floorboards. Thankfully, I don't have this problem. No siree bob!  (So, yes, ok, there is THAT smell, and yes, I did spend last Friday sniffing the skirting boards, on all fours, trying to locate it), but for the most part I love being in the house all day every day with hardly a break. 

courtesy of Modern Toss

But then, there are the PROS! Yay!

1. Working from home offers healthier snacking opportunities. Yesterday, I ate an entire packet of cherry tomatoes. In one sitting. By 10am. Admittedly, this did trigger a fair amount of gastro-intestinal disturbance (and at one point I had to cross-reference my symptoms with those of Violet Beauregarde from Charlie and the Chocolate factory, especially the bloating), nevertheless, this is not the kind of snacking choice you could make in an office, without getting looks.

2. Working from home offers ample opportunities for reflection. Just the other week, I spent an extremely constructive twenty-two minutes staring at a tree outside the window. To the untrained observer, it probably looked like I was catatonic (what with the horrible, glazed expression, the drool dribbling down my chin, and the pyjamas), but then, the same thing could easily be said of the untrained observer, by which I actually mean our Peeping Tom of a fucking window cleaner, what with the horrible, predatory expression, the drool dribbling down his chin like a perv, and the unsettling pinky ring.

3. But most importantly, there are far fewer interruptions at home. Because the hardest thing about working in an office is trying to do ANY actual motherfucking work:

COLLEAGUE: See Paul Hollywood on the Jonathon Ross show? I’d so DO him. Remember Terri, she used to do that train the trainers course with Helen Pickering, well, she went to the live roadshow he did at St David’s Hall couple of weeks ago. Loads of people went up on stage and …
ME:  Yeah, right, thing is I’ve got to finish this newsletter by midday, so   
COLLEAGUE: My mum’s gonna get us tickets for the Bath show in a coupla weeks. We’ll probably end up making a weekend of it and … blah blah blah blah ad infinitum, until blood is gushing out of your ears, the newsletter is beyond fucked, and all you can see, dancing in front of your eyes, is Paul Hollywood, waving his big, yeasty-smelling breadstick about the place. Like a twat.

Which is, I should add, easily the best reason EVER to work from home.

If this kind of calendar ever appears on the wall at your workplace, it is a contravention of your human rights, and you have the right to sue, or to demand to work from home. According to the U.N. 

PS Feel free to share yours pros and cons, as I’m hoping to syndicate this blog to a TOP business magazine! Yeah!  

Tuesday, 7 October 2014


Everyone remembers their first kiss, right?

For me, the story involves a widowed second cousin-in-law, twice-removed, who lived in Carmarthenshire with some other cousins, who went by the name of Great Auntie Maud. (Fuck knows why I’m specifying the exact degree of kinship of those involved.) Suffice it to say that Great Auntie Maud was as old as Methuselah, and may have even been a childhood friend of his.

Anyhoo, one day, during one particular visit to our cousins’ home, Great Auntie Maud shot up from her armchair as we were leaving, and stood in the doorway, blocking our exit.

“Give Auntie Maud a kiss goodbye then”, she said, turning to me.

I was thirteen and three-quarters at the time. And although kissing somebody was on my bucket list, Great Auntie Maud looked nothing like a) Andrew Ridgeley from Wham, b) John Taylor, the bass guitarist from Duran Duran, or c) Stephen Jones from Form 3C, who were the usual objects of my kissing fantasies.

“What you waiting for boy?” said Great Auntie Maud, offering me her cheek.

“I’m not a boy Auntie Maud”, I said.

“Never mind that!” she said, offended.

“Give Auntie Maud a kiss”, said my mother impatiently. “We’re gonna be late for cello lessons.”

“Okay okay!’ I yelled. 

It happened in less than an instant. As I stretched on to the tips of my toes, angling myself towards Great Auntie Maud’s cheek, she spun towards me, jamming her mouthparts against mine, launching her tongue into my mouth at a speed that would have amazed even a chameleon.  Within seconds, there were rivers of Maud slobber running down the slopes of my soft palate towards my throat, and drool collecting in ducts under my tongue. I could even taste Jacob’s cream crackers.

“Maud. That’s enough!” said my mother.

But Great Auntie Maud wasn’t listening.  Her tongue was spinning around inside my mouth cavity like a sock in an out-of-control washing machine. She was gaining in confidence, experimenting with different thrusting techniques, showing off. At one point, I felt her quivering along the whole length of her body.

Finally, my mother pulled her away from me.

“Helluva boy”, muttered Great Aunt Maud, satisfied.

Great Auntie Maud's Guide To Tonsil Hockey. Available in all good bookstores. 

Later, in the car on the way home, my eleven-year-old brother laughed so hard my mother was forced to tell him a cautionary tale about the perils of excessive elation.

“Your gran laughed non-stop all the way through a Laurel and Hardy film. Burst a brain aneurysm because of it”, she said. “Dr Levi was bloody livid.”

Meanwhile I used a dried-out packet of Wet Ones to scour the inside of my mouth, leaving streaks of perfumed horribleness.

“It wasn’t even THAT funny!” said my mother.

“She snogged her!” said my brother. “She ACTUALLY snogged her!”

“I meant the film”, said my mother, irately.  

Determined to clean out my esophagus, I shaped the last of the Wet Ones into a compact cylinder, gagging as it hit the back of my tongue.  

“I’m gonna be sick!” I shrieked, as we joined the motorway.

“For godsake settle down!” screamed my mother.  “She’s not right in the head! There’s no need to make a bloody song and dance of it!”

On the kissing front, things improved, of course.  Soon afterwards, I made it to first base - and then second base - with a horn player from county youth orchestra called Tweetie (Jones).  And although he lacked the blistering sex appeal of John Taylor and Stephen Jones, and reeked of Insignia, on the massively plus side, he was a) not my Great Auntie Maud, b) not my Great Auntie Maud, and c) NOT. MY. GREAT. AUNTIE. MAUD. 

"That your first time then?” he asked, smugly, after the event.

“As. If!” I said.  

Er, NO. 

PS: I'm dedicated this blog to Great Auntie Maud, who is no longer with us, and to everyone I know who's got dementia, including my lovely funny father, who would never let a crappy hideous illness get in the way of a good story. 


Thursday, 18 September 2014


Let me get one thing straight.

In spite of my buffed appearance, I am NOT a gym bunny.

I loathe exercise more than I loathe Facebook updates about exercise.  I loathe exercise more than I loathe the new iWatch. I loathe exercise more than I loathe the idea of shitting on the pavement in full view of the world’s media, which is also to say that if I’d been the one running the London Marathon in 2005, shitting on the pavement would have been the highlight of my race, Paula. All of which makes my recent love affair with an exercise bike, frankly, disturbing. 

It all began a few weeks ago, during an episode of PMS so severe that not even smashing the kitchen up – normally a marvellous stress-buster – would have worked. So, having read that exercise was good for regulating hormones, I approached the exercise bike gathering dust in the study.

“Hello Mr Bike!” I said, brightly, hoping he’d forgive the years of neglect. “Are you pleased to see me or is that just a massive head tube?! Way-hay!!"
The exercise bike wasn’t talking. But I could tell from the way a light went on as I brushed accidentally against his flanks that he was up for it. He even made an excited beeping noise as I straddled his seat to begin pedalling. At first, things were awkward, even strained.  Nobody wanted to admit that this felt good, real good. But then, as I was approaching the summit of a virtual mountain pass, I could no longer ignore the prickling sensation in my solar plexus: the rush of wellbeing spreading everywhere.

I pedalled harder, faster, and at higher resistance levels.

“Go me!” I shrieked euphorically.

“Beep beep de beep!” beeped the bike. 

Soon I was entertaining a succession of endorphin-fuelled fantasies in which I was a normal, productive human being.  I imagined waking up at 6am driven by a heady excitement about the working day.  I imagined being able to hold down a nine-to-five job without falling headlong into a bottomless pit of despair.  I imagined PHONING broadsheet editors and television commissioners to pitch writing ideas, as in actually PHONING, not emailing! 

By the second day of my love affair with the exercise bike, I was able to proceed to the next transformational step of my, uh, transformation. Following thirty minutes of a kickass programme entitled Switchback Trail, I ticked off multiple items on my To-Do-List, including “Call Auntie Eileen TODAY to thank her for the birthday money". And all this whilst hoovering!  I was growing new skill sets. I was on an accelerated schedule. I was powering through this shit like I was Angela Merkel.  

I should have known it wouldn’t last, however. On Day Three, I was tired and a little bit emo. It was all to do with not going to bed on time the previous evening - 11.23pm instead of 10.30pm - causing a catastrophic 53-minute sleep deficit. The bike, meanwhile, was looking dishevelled but ready for action; an empty water bottle complete with lipstick traces, sitting at a rakish angle in the cup holder.

“Beep beep baby!” he said, drawing the beeps out, wantonly.

I felt awful, guilty, and slightly nauseous. I couldn’t look him in the screen or touch his outstretched handlebars. Pedaling slowly at first, I tried customizing the settings to introduce mood-elevating variety, careful not to allow my hands to drift onto the metal plates that told me my heart rate (because who wants to be reminded that the ageing pump in the middle of your chest could explode at any minute, right?) But it was no good. I wasn’t feeling it. The bike gave a protest beep when I slowed down again.

“Sorry" I said, climbing off. “I’m not in the mood.”

The lights on the screen grew dimmer.  There was a film of moisture on the handlebars that I’m guessing was, maybe, tears. The empty water bottle suddenly looked, well, empty: a relic from happier times.

“It’s not you. It’s me!” I said. “I have a low boredom threshold.”

“Me? Boring?!” he suddenly blurted, beeping hysterically.

“I’m gonna put you on ebay,” I said, interrupting. “We’ll find you a buffed gym bunny. Someone with an iWatch with one of those built-in activity apps. It’ll be like a ménage a trois. You’ll be happy.”

“But what if she gets runner’s trots and accidentally shits on me like Paula Radcliffe?”

“Now you’re being silly," I said.