Tuesday, 30 October 2012


It’s Halloween tomoz! Spelled Hallowe’en if you’re going to get all proper about it. Or “All Hallows Eve” if you’re going to get all 16th Century on my ass. It is one of those (many) things in life that I don’t generally bother getting involved in, as there are more important things to be doing, like counting the cobwebs on the ceiling, or seeing if I can eat a whole bag of Hula Hoops without licking my fingers.

Halloween is an occasion tailor-made for extroverted people, and egg-flinging assholes. I am neither of these. So needless to say, when it came to the notion of trick or treating as a child, I was about as likely to go out at night dressed as a bumble bee and basically threaten people on their own doorstep, as I was going to give up eating sponge cake for breakfast. Instead- naturally- you were going to find me crouching on the sofa, trying to watch Blue Peter with a throw cushion over my head, hoping the loathsome, sticky-palmed brats extorting fun-size Milky Ways off my parents at the door wouldn’t spot me through the net curtains, and laugh.

Apart from scaring old people to within an inch of having a stroke, trick or treating involves fancy dress. When it comes to fancy dress, I can safely declare that it has never been my fave thing in life. In fact, when anybody mentions the very prospect, the bottom drops out of my stomach, and for at least a minute I seriously consider the idea of booking a holiday in space with Virgin Galactic that ‘regrettably’ coincides with the day of the party, just so I have a valid excuse not to go out in suburbia dressed as a ’sexy dead nurse’.  Life is full enough of face-burningly cringey ordeals without adding to the mix the wearing of, say, a prosthetic witch’s nose. Fancy dress is a more uncomfortable scenario to be in than if your surname was ‘Shufflebottom’, and someone has just asked you what your surname is. It makes me feel even more out of place than if I had walked into a pub in a dubious part of town (spoilt for choice in Burton-on-Trent) and into a room full of hard-as-nails, wizened old men downing pints of ‘real ale’ and discussing the story behind each of their missing teeth. 

Instead, Halloween was always a gentle affair in my household, involving the carving of a pumpkin, followed by sitting with the living room lights off, in appreciation of its homely glow, followed the next day by my mother making some sort of lunch for my dad out of its remains - an ideal trampled all over a few years later by my brother when he disposed of his used pumpkin by lobbing it from the upstairs window of his student house and letting it smash onto some concrete, all captured on a grainy video - not unlike amateur footage of a war execution- entitled “PUMPKIN BYE BYE”.

Despite all, at the time of this going to press I am actually planning on attending a Halloween party. However, as I refuse to be photographed dressed as a 118 man I am going to wear what I know best- my bestest frock, my biggest hair, and a look of anguish.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Field Trips

For people who know me personally, and for those of you who have been so inclined to follow me on Twitter et al., you could perhaps be forgiven for thinking that most (if not all) of my past life events are marred with memories of awful experiences. And you’d be right. But the unrivalled champion in this sea of visits-to-A&E, tripping-up-in-public and finding-testicular-lumps is the utter light-headed horror of school field trips.

Now, I’m twenty one years old and the last time I went on a field trip was most likely eight years ago. Don’t, however, let this make you think that there still aren’t copious nights where I lie in bed unable to sleep, staring at my ceiling and shrinking into my duvet at the slightest remembrance of being stood in a marshy field, having to take notes concerning the direction of flow of a nearby stream whilst straining to look jolly cheerful about the whole experience lest I be picked on by the squat bastard that was the geography teacher, just to let him have his fix of crushing someone already near-death to inflate his smug, arsey ego (you know that male teacher type – relatively young, unable to ever let their guard down, and who probably has larger-than-average balls but a tiny penis, giving them plenty of bolshie testosterone but ultimately nothing to show for or to substantiate it). Anyway, his name was Mr. Burroughs.

One of the main bad parts about field trips is of course the dress code. “Sensible/appropriate” footwear is something that I was not born to understand – and even if I did, I wouldn’t own any. So instead, I tramped over sludgy hills in mid-November wearing shoes made out of faux zebra fur without a cagoule to my name. To me, “cagoule” sounds like a word I might spot on a menu in a Hungarian restaurant that I’d consider ordering and at the last minute think “better not chance it”, and then think “why am I in a Hungarian restaurant? I want a pizza.”

That then leads me on to consider food arrangements during field trips. The truly sensible person buys their food for the day from a supermarket beforehand (ready-made sandwiches, a pot of pasta salad, etc.) and does not take a packed lunch. This is because, whether you’ve ever vocalised it or have just thought it, everybody knows that there is nothing to make one more self-conscious than taking a packed lunch out of your bag and making your squished Dairylea rectangular-cut sandwiches the subject of silent scrutiny of others. I mean, just think about it: you’re sat quietly eating your home-made sandwiches, and then someone comes up to you and points at them and goes “YOUR LUNCH IS HILARIOUS!” at which point everyone turns around and LOLz themselves into next Christmas. I’m dying inside just thinking about it. And how do you react? Do you get all huffy and make everyone laugh more, or go bright red and rue the day you ever made beef paste sarnies? Minefield.

There are certain things that, over time, have changed with field trips. The coaches are basically the same – dingy, oven-like and manned by a sociopath; but gone are the days of stuffing crisp packets into ash trays on the backs of seats, or hearing shouts of “Oi put yer bluetoof on”. And, naturally, am I bothered? AM I ‘ELL AS LIKE. I have only one single pleasant memory about any field trips that I ever went on, and that was the time Emily trapped a woman inside the revolving doors of the V&A. She still squirms in her seat thinking about it.


Wednesday, 17 October 2012

I Am A Hipster Basher

By the very nature of the topic bestowed upon me this week, this entry will most likely end up as a bitter Christian Bale-esque tirade filled with four-letter words, although the words are more likely to be funny ones such as ‘bulb’, ‘conk’ or ‘nest’, rather than anything worse today. For I am not trying to prove some kind of point. This is more than can be said for a certain group of our fair society- the kind of people who are marked out through the use of phrases such as “bang on trend”, the excessive avoidance of socks, and an intense dislike, bordering on racism, against any music act that has been around any longer than three years.

What was, back in my day, referred to as ‘indie’, seemed to spring forth from the fertile ovaries of the mid-2000s, and would have seemed like quite a respite for many after the previous few years of cringey pop groups wiggling around, thumbs hooked 'casually' through the belt loops of their white cargo pants. (Except for me, I would rather like to see S Club 7 reform, PROPERLY this time, and find out whether Paul can still get ‘down on the floor’, without slipping a disc). Indie took off, and its culture, with its curly mop-tops and people playing actual guitars (gasp!) now seems to have morphed into a ubiquitous jumped-up brute. What was fresh to begin with is now staler than that McDonald’s chip you dropped down the gap between your car seat and the gear stick a few months back. Yeah I’VE seen it.

Wouldn't stop me eating it though.
It is now a sprawling embarrassment of ‘edgy’ haircuts and inane plinky-plonky music that ends up on sickly, washed-out adverts for the kind of company that pretends it’s your biggest pal, and that by flogging you stuff in a gentle, whistling, trendy way, it is somehow ripping you off a bit less. Like Starbucks in audiovisual form.  And yes, I might be sounding like a hipster-basher at this point maybe BEACUSE THAT’S WHAT I AM AND AT LEAST I CAN ADMIT IT, ALBEIT RELUCTANTLY. I dislike using the H-word almost as much as the H’s themselves- hipsters must never admit they are a hipster, for fear of cancelling themselves out, as if the only way to put a stop to them is to declare full-throatedly “I DO believe in hipsters, I DO I DO!”, and clapping your hands in their face.

Luckily for them, there is a plethora of indie ‘icons’ to keep the wheels turning (the wheels of a vintage custom bicycle, natch), such as patron saint of I-wish-I-was-genuinely-cool, Nick Grimshaw. Fashion-wise, I have a bitch fit each and every time I see everyone’s favourite broom handle, Alexa Chung, simply turn up to things dressed in some brown shoes and what resembles a BHS school shirt, and get a rapturous round of applause and a bag of Haribo Starmix from fashion editors.
Although I suspect she would prefer to be seen with a packet of Werther’s Originals poking out of her bang-on-trend satchel, for even more authentic ‘granny chic’.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012


America is currently sporting a throbbing, engorged and seam-busting election; twitching and pulsating from state to state, nearing a heady climax. I’ll just leave that image to sit with you for a moment. This has a whiff of politics about it – of course I’m going to have to sex it up a little. Although, by the standard of politics as a subject, I think the Americans already have it strapped into a pair of 8-inch PVC high-heels and poured into a boob tube so tight that it’s cutting off the seemingly already desperately low level of oxygen flowing to the average Texan’s head.

Because if they’erz one thing that royly seems to hit the noyves of Americans, it’s elections. Elections and guns. Ok, if there are TWO things that seem to engage Americans, it’s elections and guns. And Muslims. Ok, THREE things. Elections, guns and Muslims. Not including plastic-like cheese, of course. Elections, guns, Muslims and cheese that probably sticks to your inner linings. FOUR THINGS. Oh, and gays.

The televised debates... the always-clichéd and rarely-amusing adverts... the frankly eye-watering amount of money spent on campaigns (I’m sure if I had a couple of billion lying around, I could stand as a strong candidate too (although the Republicans always have that covered))... It really is a whole other concept over there. Imagine giving Ed Miliband a billion pounds for his election campaigning – if nothing else, it might help him forget about the fact that he looks like a novelty door-knocker.

We have the televised debates here now, of course – and despite the fact that I don’t think they really change anyone’s mind as to how they’ll vote, it at least has the promise of engaging some people who’d otherwise sit and watch a repeat of Midsomer Murders instead (no offence, it’s just that only twats watch Midsomer Murders).

You’d be forgiven for thinking, then, that through the dramatic graphics of news features on the subject, shouty debates, mass crowds during campaign rallies and party-political adverts starring A-listers that voting would be a whirlwind of giddy proportions and you’ll be greeted by the local Mayor who’ll shake your hand and even attempt to shine your shoes. This would then be followed by a fanfare sounding as you enter the polling station and confetti cannons blasting as you drop your ballot paper through the slit in the box, to then be given the offer of sleeping with any model of your choice, the keys to a brand new Porsche and a plate of cocaine.

But no. Of course, you get there and it’s always freezing-your-tits-off weather and the place that has been designated as a polling station is one of the few buildings left in the town that’s emotionally twinned with Peter Hitchens, or the colour brown. So naturally you think it has to be better once you’ve stepped inside, and you’ve tried not to dry-retch at the smell of warm carpet. Nope. Still awful. Then there’s the effort of communicating (or the attempt to) with the volunteers there for the day. Now, we can all deduce that there’s probably only one type of person who volunteers to man a polling station come election day, and that is the type who don’t bode well with varied human interaction. So, after the grunts, you place your vote, look at your “X” and check about four times that it’s quite clearly next to who you want to vote for and not the Conservatives, and then post your ballot with that same panic once you release your grip on it as when you post a letter of “WHAT IF I FORGOT SOMETHING?”.

Then you go home, wait to find out that the party you voted for hasn’t won, and whinge about it for the next 4 years. Magic.

- Charlie

Tuesday, 2 October 2012


So, it’s the start of October, eh? Autumn has come. Or ‘Fall’ as you call it if you are a particularly massive cretin. Ahhh, but isn’t this time of year wonderful? NO, is the short answer. Unless you are particularly partial to the onset of nipple-freezing drops in temperature, the general smell of demise in the air, and that ominous ‘Back 2 School’ feeling which will never cease to haunt: the only upside of returning to the death camps of the educational system being that you can invest in a new Pukka Pad, and make your handwriting reaaally neat for the first couple of pages, before the inevitable relapse into doodled-upon chaos, and the creation of a mean caricature of the new caretaker. (Which in my experience are what the margins of lined paper, and school in general, are ALL ABOUT.)

Having only just picked my bottom jaw off the floor after remembering that this year will have very likely been the last time I partake in a September “first day back”, I am currently languishing in weather-limbo, of the kind where to begin with the day is so pleasant that I would, briefly, consider leaving the house in a grass skirt and a bra made from two halves of a coconut shell, sipping a piña colada- had it not been for the fact that there will be a 100% chance a few hours later of the undesirable combination of ice cold rain and a wild gale powerful enough to blow my hat off my head and all the way down the entire length of the road, as I gallop after it, feeling outsmarted.
Would YOU trust this creep?
But a quick Google image search of “autumn” yields hundreds of results of rather gorgeous forest clearings, bathed in the red and yellow light of leaves from the canopy above, and lined with crispy leaves underfoot- the kind of place where, if you were there, it would be tempting to laugh toothily in slow motion, wearing a bobble hat, and pretend you were on a billboard in Matalan. I suspect that someone has jazzed up the colour schemes of these pictures a little post-production so that everything looks a little less... brown. But even in all its brownness, the forest is where autumn really happens, as folks who live there will know; such as your local child-catcher, or that miserable git Badger from Wind in the Willows. They are amongst those who get to experience autumn first-hand, and have it infinitely better than I; who, whilst peering out of my window in central Birmingham, can see a multi-storey car park, an Argos, and the city’s only four trees, which, to add insult to injury, are stubbornly refusing to turn any colour other than that of a floret of rotting broccoli in a compost bin.

But, I shall cease to whinge, as there is a far more terrible beast squatting around the corner on its haunches, the most traumatic season of all, the W-word, the season that Shall Not Be Named. The season where every time you leave the house, the sub-zero temperature leads to you feeling like you have been punched in the ears AND throat by an irate silverback gorilla. Meanwhile I will have to busy myself with honing my Bucks Fizz-style outfit changes to avoid being caught out in thermal long johns when it turns out to be the hottest day of the year. Tbh, it’s probably easier if we all just hibernate.