Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Happy New Year!

So, I’m guessing that everyone is now a trim size 8, and that those old jeans now just slink down to your ankles to the sound of a slide-whistle from cartoons whenever you put them on (revealing comedy white boxer shorts with red love-hearts all over them)? Oh, and well done for quitting smoking too! And what’s that you say? You’ve not touched a drop of alcohol since the 2nd of January either? Gosh, you *are* a model of perfection. Cripes, I wish I had your determination, steely willpower and all-round lack of personality.

But then, I seem to have this weird streak running through me known as “rational thought” – whereby I KNOW that if I say, on January the 1st, I won’t drink for a month that within 16 minutes I’ll be on my hands and knees rummaging through the cupboard under the sink looking for either white spirit or Dettol to add tonic water and a slice of lemon to if there’s no booze around –like Father Jack, or Eddie from Bottom.

And despite the fact I have Tom Daley’s calendar hung up in my room and he watches over every handful of Ferrero Rochers that I stockpile into my mouth, like some kind of soggy Big Brother from 1984 were it illustrated by Pierre et Gilles, I am never going to join a gym because HE IS AN OLYMPIC FUCKING ATHLETE and I make 7-foot-long beanbag sculptures in the shape of cocks as a profession. I have it within me to quietly accept that my body is never going to look like I’ve just swallowed a Victorian washboard, and instead bears a greater affinity with a mangle.

But it’s not just the resolutions that are PVA-glued onto the start of a new year that baffle me – it’s the whole shindig in general. What exactly are people celebrating? Does it not occur to people that - whether we assign names and dates to days, and calendars of kittens in baskets to years – time is going to go on anyway?! You may as well just holler “Happy New Passing-of-a-Minute!!” to people you don’t care about at 00:00am each night before joining crossed hands with some clammy-palmed pervert in a pub and wailing “May all acquaintance be forgot, and der-der-DERRRRR-der MIIIIIIND”. I mean – WHO ACTUALLY FINDS THIS SHIT FUN?

The alternative form of celebration that I annually participate in for New Year’s Eve is simple: bed before midnight, phone switched off and try not to be woken up by fireworks. SIMPLE. I once broke this rule – but that was only because I was hungry and REALLY wanted houmous... we had none, and so I went downstairs and was pouring chickpeas and lemon etc. into a blender when we crossed from one year to the next. The houmous was shit, and the year was shitter.

Stop fooling yourselves, boys and girls. You’re never gonna lose a stone (and why do you want to anyway?! Put ON a stone, I say), you’re never gonna quit your job and take a course in something new and you’re never gonna find “the one” (this year or any year for that matter). My advice would be to continue to puff on 40 fags a day (and if you don’t already, then start), buy at least one cream cake a day and time how long it takes you to eat it (trying to reduce this time with each day that goes on), swear more often, pinch your partner in their sleep and then pretend to be asleep yourself, and have sex with strangers. That irate bollock Duncan Bannatyne ain’t likely to post any leaflets for his gym saying things like THAT through your front door.

- Charlie

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Christmas Presents

It is once again that merry time of year where I sound the alarm, tie heavy weights around my ankles, roll myself up in a Persian rug and throw myself off the local canal bridge at the very prospect of Christmas shopping.  As I WILL have left it too late to buy any stuff online, the only other option is to brave Birmingham’s Bullring and risk being buried alive under the swarms of human ants jostling for position on the escalators and using their mandibles to tear flesh off their competition at the perfume counter in Boots- locked in combat over the last bottle of “Stunning”, by Katie Price.

My neck never fails to go all hot whenever I recall the low point of last year’s shopping trip, a futile attempt to make other people wee themselves with happiness via my spending of the final withering remains of my student loan. Endlessly circling the bottom floor of Selfridges looking for “trinkets”, I was sweating profusely in a fur coat that had seemed like a good idea at the time, but in reality made me look like a she-gorilla. It all got so much that I involuntarily emitted a low scream amongst the novelty kitchenware, and thought for a second that the statue of a bull made of jelly beans was talking to me.

The concept of giving Christmas presents, I have recently decided, is bloody weird. It’s no one’s birthday (with the exception of Jesus, and do you have his number in your phone? Thought not), and so you undertake the baffling task of buying stuff for everybody you love, all at once, simply for existing on this planet around Christmas time (and even people you don’t love, depending on how much resentment you harbour for the classmates/co-workers also partaking in the utter debacle that is ‘secret Santa’. I did get a bath set from a secret Santa once, but it clearly cost more than the chocolate snowman that I’d bought for someone else; I was wracked with guilt and so the entire experience just left me cold.)

However, as for unwanted gifts- I ask you to look deep inside yourself and ask: is that really a thing?! Having gratefully accepted the esteemed title of “Britain’s Most Shameless Cheapskate” for an impressive 21st year running, I have developed a mentality/defence mechanism where I am eternally appreciative of any old tat that gets chucked at me. Or even tat that doesn’t get chucked at me; it’s just dawning on me that searching through supermarket bins at night to try and find Christmas presents for myself might be a money-saver that only an idiot would miss out on.  And I would actually be eternally appreciative if an elderly relative pulled a Mrs Weasley on me and knitted me an ‘embarrassing’ jumper, partially because I am that short on clothes, but mainly because the idea of having assisted in bringing to life a massive Christmas cliché would keep me more than entertained, well into the Queens’ Speech.

That said, I’m sitting here wondering if anyone has had the impertinence to buy me a present as unwanted as a ‘bath bomb’ this year. I don’t care if you bought it from Lush- it’s still a fizzing sphere of pure letdown and YOU’RE GOING DOWN, MAN.


Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Natural Disasters

Sitting in my resplendent stately library – open fire roaring, and my Butler “Hives” by my side – I swill my brandy around, and browse over the top of my ironed broadsheet newspaper to comment upon how it’s absolutely lashing it down outside; the droplets rap against the panes of glass in the windows overlooking my many acres of land, as I lament upon how bare it all looks since they did away with Feudalism. And this is about as close as anyone in the UK gets to experiencing a ‘natural disaster’.

In fact, I’d say the closest encounter I’ve ever had with ‘natural disasters’ was either the time I lost my hat in Blackpool when a violent gust of wind blew it off (October 1998: never forgive, never forget), or whenever I’m at my Nan’s and it rains a lot and her driveway becomes flooded (far less euphemistic than it sounds) by about an inch and a half of water and as a result, we have to jeté out of the front door to the car.

Well, ok, there was ONE sort-of natural disaster that I experienced in 2008, and that’s when my little area of England was victim to a larger-than-normal-for-here earthquake (in fact, it was SO LARGE that Emily didn’t even know it had happened the next day when I told her about it all and she’d slept straight through it). I distinctly remember waking up to my bed banging against the wall and, upon not seeing a Catholic priest in the room (thinking they’d either a) be exorcising me or b) be the cause of my bed banging against the wall as I’m in a state of drowsiness), I pretty quickly assumed there was a quake.

Of course, here you have to substitute the word “disaster” for “mild teacup-rattling inconvenience”, despite the fact that the Burton Mail went with a front-page story of an elderly woman who’d had her pictures knocked off the wall by the violent rumbling. Still, this was a step up from one of their previous headlines atop a story about a Chinese takeaway in the area that had been involved in some dodgy goings on which read: “EGG FRIED LIES”.

As with all things in life, if you want the full force of anything lobbed at you then you need to head to the USA. Hurricanes are such a regular occurrence there that it’s not just detainees at Guantanamo who know what waterboarding is like (LOL SATIRE, my invitation to appear on Have I Got News For You in the post please (Paul’s team, obvs)); and they’re so used to them that they give them names, a 6-month work Visa, a star sign and a blood type. In fact, SOME of these people* (*lunatics) even go chasing after such weathers, and upon seeing a particularly badass tornado forming drive TOWARDS it with such haste that one group once ran over Toto. Dorothy was only JUST lucky.

Overall, I think the worst natural disaster to get caught up amongst (other than George Osborne) would be a heat wave. I’m bad enough with the two collective days of British summer that we get, let alone a month of 40 degrees Celsius sticking me to all leather furniture within a 50 metre radius. As for the frizz that would go on with my fringe? The sun can be a cruel and unforgiving sky-bitch.

As we head into December, the sun is going to be the last of the UK’s problems as I eagerly await the panic-laced news reports of how OMG THERE IS A LIGHT DUSTING OF SNOW IN SOME PLACES AND JESUS CHRIST THIS ROAD HASN’T EVEN BEEN GRITTED!!! EVERYONE, EAT YOUR YOUNG!!! As a Brit, I’d say we’re particularly good at two things out of a few: getting on with miserable weather, and having a rational sense of perspective. But my God, snow really flips our balance doesn’t it?! We just can’t handle it! Lines of traffic can be seen from space, trains spontaneously combust and BBC reporters are shoved into fields with microphones, tit-deep in the stuff. Hardly a natural ‘disaster’, but by how it’s reported you’d think the Pope had just morphed into a 90ft half-human half-lizard hybrid and had threatened to tear the world a new arsehole.

Seriously darlings, it’s just snow. It melts in the end. But if one snowball comes anywhere near to hitting me, I will be buying up TV airtime and BY GOD, you are all going to hear about it.
- Charlie

Tuesday, 27 November 2012


It’s time to settle down for a cuppa and one of my lovely organic home-made blog posts (gluten-free). So close the curtains, get comfy on your favourite swivel chair and for God’s sake stop snooping in online photo albums entitled “Graham and Julie’s vow renewal.”

I am just as much a victim of online popularity deathmatch Facebook as you, you, and especially YOU over there, the one self-flagellating with a spiky branch because you got fewer than 20 likes for your status about how you have the best Granddad in the whole world. For although I like to make believe that I spend my time online reading serious news and serious articles whilst stroking the long, white, wizard beard that all we educated people grow naturally,  I am more than likely checking up on you and whether you got tagged in any more photos of you  looking hot on holiday in Belgium. That, or I’ll be on Youtube watching stuff like this:

Facebook isn’t really a social network- it’s an elaborate setup for spying on your crushes and exes, a kind of ex-espionage. (Or if you want your day improved by use of an incredible pun, “expionage”). It comes in particularly useful for when you want to check up on whether your old boyfriend’s new slapper has less acne than you, so you can take appropriate action. (Slashing her tyres in your mind’s eye.) However, this practice can be even more risky than choosing to fly a rickety Victorian bi-plane piloted by a blind man with no hands over the Bermuda triangle-  as accidentally ‘liking’ an old photo is the virtual equivalent of trying to sneak past a sleeping guard and instead stepping on a comedy car hooter.

It comes as little surprise that this shameful cabaret of the complete violation of human privacy should have been created by such a clammy-fisted, Kermit-voiced man-child as Mark Zuckerberg; who, if my impression of American high school hierarchy is accurate, would have been subjected (by ‘jocks’) to such nastiness as being hung up in his own locker so he’s late for comic book club; having his lunch tray knocked out of his hands in front of a ‘cute girl’,  and being called a ‘dork’. He then had two options: run screaming through the school in an orange jumpsuit taking out as many people as he can with a large firearm; or create a digital weapon so powerful that he could have half the world’s population under his control and watch them poke, like and frape each other into mindless oblivion- like a boy watching his Beyblade toys do battle- as he gulps and sweatily pulls his hoodie strings tighter around his neck in ecstasy.

All that being given wedgies on the way to ‘Math’ class must have been worth it though, as being as minted as Zuckerberg is now must feel like being star quarterback AND prom king combined. Picture the obscene number of dollar bills lying around his house he must use as hamster bedding, or give to his wife to use as tampons; or maybe he’s sent them to a craftsman with the request that he makes of them an exact replica of the Bayeux Tapestry, we’ll never know. But as share prices in Facebook begin to fall, and there grows an ever-increasing number of sadacts such as Charlie who need Twitter more than they need air, it looks as though Zuckerberg’s empire may be in trouble. But I wouldn’t feel too sorry for him if he ended up in queue for the Salvation Army; Tom from MySpace would be there as well to share his soup- and maybe even promise to add him as a friend.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

The Frankfurt Christmas Market, Birmingham

Good grief, you’re a testing lot. Do you know how difficult it is, wading through your annual cheery guff about how it’s DEFINITELY Christmas now (despite it being the first two weeks of November)? “OMGGG Coke advert just been on telly!!! U know its Christmas now!!! #holidaysarecoming”; “Starbucks red cups! Feeling well Christmassy :D”; “Just heard Fairytale of New York playin in Tesco Express whilst getting a Rustlers burger. CRIMBO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Calm down loves, you’ll burst a blood vessel. Join the relaxed side of things – you won’t catch me losing control of my Central Nervous System over a bit of tinsel.

*drawn-out silence*... *sound of clock ticking in background*... *close-up of bead of sweat forming on my forehead*... *tension becomes too much*

ZOMGGG THE FRANKFURT CHRISTMAS MARKET IS OPEN IN BIRMINGHAM!!! And I need to talk about it positively and quickly before it has had chance to destroy my capacity for joy, which it does every year. It opened Thursday 15th November, and I’m writing this on Friday 16th November. This is how tight the window is for me to be able to be positive, as by tomorrow (Saturday, the busiest town day of the week) I will want only to raze it to the ground.

On the face of it, there is a lot to be said for this festive market. It combines fatty foods with alcohol which you’re allowed to drink in the streets, for Christ’s sake. It’s like Glasgow, except the people here still have hope. And there are lights! I KNOW – LIGHTS!! Whatever next?! The wheel?! But it does all add to the generally whimsical nature of it, even when you’ve been kettled outside Tesco on New Street because of the sheer crowds and are pushed face-first into an overpriced cowhide – but hey, that’s what Christmas is all about.

Here's me eating a Frankfurter shortly before dropping half the cheese on the floor. Stay cool.
Well actually, we all know that Christmas is about kitsch, and my word does the Frankfurt Market do kitsch. For just the low low price of one of your kidneys, you could own this GLOWING STONE! Or alternatively, why don’t you empty your life savings and sign this contract stating that we own your soul in return for this small wooden elephant figurine where, if you blow in its ass, it makes a vaguely elephant-ish noise?! (These exist. I have seen them, and I can’t un-see them.) Basically, it’s all a bit like a car-boot sale for the middle class.

Here's Santa giving me his "come to bed" pose.
So, helpfully, I have highlighted the only things that you need to know about what to buy from here. Naturally, it’s mostly food with wine thrown in, as what’s the point in eating if you haven’t got wine alongside? As we all know, the staple food of ALL Germans is frankfurters (I mean, think back – when was the last time YOU saw a German who wasn’t holding an unsettlingly large sausage in a bun at the time?) and wherever you walk, you can’t escape the smell of “brine”. Aside from this, there are copious amounts of other heart-stoppingly gluttonous delights that would have Gloria Hunniford frothing at the mouth over your cholesterol levels, such as DEEP FRIED CHEESE and marshmallows dipped in Belgian chocolate. What’s more – not only will your cholesterol levels shoot up, so will your blood pressure when you’re then presented with the cost. No wonder Germany is sitting pretty with the dollah, charging £9 for a double helping of a glazed ham roll (glorified bacon sandwich).

Here's my mother & I eating a traditional German Chicken Tikka wrap.

As difficult as it is for me though, I shouldn’t moan. They don’t *have* to do it to try to make our lives a tiny bit better momentarily. As much as this does sound like a scene from a British rom-com, (where I’d turn to the guy (with ruddy cheeks and a slightly red nose from the cold) that I have been having difficulties with, and we mutually smile, knowing that in this moment of watching a German dressed as Santa singing ‘Jingle Bells’ in Deutsch beside a Christmas tree that now everything is going to be ok) - surely there’s *something* just downright good about groups of people with flagons of beer and comfort food, wrapped up and under the glow of Christmas lights? Yeah, I reckon so.

- Charlie
(Ok I’ve been around it twice more now and it was packed and full of dithering people and children and I absolutely hate it. It needs to go. Now. Christmas can go and bollocks. *hires bulldozer*)

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Theme Parks

First off, I would like to take this opportunity to point out that I am literally the world’s most massive wimp. I am scared of dogs, seaweed, and talking on the phone- especially to people with Indian or Scottish accents. I am such a wuss that I make Shaggy from Scooby Doo look like Attila the Hun; at least Shaggy could eat a multi-storey club sandwich, whole, without worrying about choking on the crumbs, or getting a tummy ache. Secondly, theme parks are not places where wimps generally thrive, so it is miracle of astronomical proportions that I have ever visited one at all, let alone enjoyed myself.

And in fact, until I was 17, the only ‘ride’ I had ever braved was the Ladybird at Gulliver’s Kingdom, aged 6, and even then I felt a sense of unease. I am not sure whether it was the disappointment when I dismounted the ride and realised I hadn’t ACTUALLY been driving it myself with the little steering wheel inside each car, or whether it was the general situation of having to sit with other kids, but something must’ve put me off, big time. Bypassing the fact that amusement parks are basically large camps for we moronic Homo sapiens to test how it would feel to be an inch from death.

Fast forward 11 years and I am being strapped into the nasty, off-white seats of Nemesis, Alton Towers’ most all-round badass rollercoaster. I am hysterical with panic, the bars around my shoulders crushing my very soul. I am bleating “I WANT TO GET OFF!” in front of several queues of customers, while my theme park veteran friends laugh in my face. The ride began to trundle forward, and proceeded to provide an experience which I imagine would be quite similar to the feeling and visuals of travelling back in time.  If this scene had been in a Pixar movie, I would’ve thrown my hands in the air, hollering “Woooooo-hoooooooo!” with an uplifting orchestral score in the background. Instead, I clutched the handles, emitting something closer to “Grrffffffghhhfghggggggggh!” And when it stopped, I was still in 2008 in the Midlands getting rained on. And strangely, I actually wanted to go on it again.

I will never understand how getting soaked through while fully clothed is anyone’s idea of a good time. Despite having withstood such horrors as the ride/death trap that is Oblivion and being plunged from a great height, face-first, into a steaming underground abyss, the ride you will have to pay me a trillion quid to go on is the LOG FLUME. Because, unlike other attractions, there is water involved. And as we all know, any kind of air-borne moisture is a silent, deadly killer of great hair. It is hair castration. The only way to avoid this situation is to purchase a flimsy plastic poncho for three quid and spend the ride looking like a Dementor from Harry Potter who decided to update his wardrobe- or you can just avoid the whole damn thing completely and get a box of doughnuts.

But whether it has been my Dad defeating the whole object of ‘bumper cars’ and apologising to other people when bumping their car, or me feeling like I’m going to rise right out of my seat on the Pirate Ship and into a crevasse, there have been enough toe-curling experiences at them parks to fill a whole other blog post- but weirdly not enough to stop me from going back to these places for yet more punishment.