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.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012


Travelling, for me, has never really been overly problematic. I’ve never been travelsick as I was never that child at school who looked constantly pale with a powdery complexion and a general colicky air about them who was always nipping out of class every now and then to take his ear medicine; and being the type of person with below-average levels of friends (as well as BMI and tolerance for ‘light’ mayonnaise), I don’t really get bored as I’m used to providing my own entertainment. Rather, I find it only the existence of other people that makes travelling often such a challenge for my already tenuous sanity.

The majority of my travelling experiences come in train form. I can drive, and therefore have absolutely no need to ever get on a bus. And even if I couldn’t drive, there quite frankly wouldn’t be enough crème brûlées, Cosmopolitans or blowjobs in the world to make me get on one. Call me what you like, but I will always get a taxi in those situations. There are two types of taxi passengers – those who chat away happily, and those who sit there in an air of icy silence and even go to the extremes of choking down the need to cough lest it be mistaken for attempted communication. I’ll leave it up to your keen imagination to guess which I am.

This changed momentarily during one taxi journey an evening in August this year when the driver repeatedly told me I was a “very nice boy”, kept shouting my name, ‘delighted’ me with tales of his holiday and his accidental stumbling across a nudist beach and telling me I looked “very hot” in the back of his vehicle. I have only ever once jumped out of the door of a moving car, and that was when a wasp so big I could see its shoe size flew through the window at my face – however I came very close to making it a second time during that taxi ride.
I haven't mentioned coaches in this blog. This picture says it all.
Coming back to trains, once you’ve gone through the process of remortgaging your house and putting your grandparents into a care home so that you can sell off their house just to buy a ticket, you clamber on and fight people to the death for a seat. And because they’re so packed, it’s guaranteed there’s always going to be one complete nutter/lout in each carriage. I was once sat adjacent to a man talking to two sleeping women about the Cold War, angels, hobgoblins and the life-cycle of a worm. I was so close to bursting into sobs that I meekly asked the person in the seat next to me to let me up, pretending that mine was the next stop. In reality, I was actually giving up my seat to go and stand for half an hour by one of the train doors with burning eyes as they fought back tears at the horror of the entire experience.

Yet to be topped, however, is my one experience of flying. I have the most irrational fear of planes – not flying, not the fear of crashing, not claustrophobia, etc., JUST PLANES. They look, to me, like machines simply designed to KILL, especially when seen nose-on and particularly when they’re all stationed around the terminals and they look like animals feeding. Feeding on HUMAN LIVES. However, my ultimatum was this: you either get on a plane and I’ll take you to Amsterdam for your 21st, or you have nothing. Irrational maybe, but a fool I am not. So not only did I get up at 3am and have a sicky-stomach panic talk with Emily, I then had to be picked up at 4am (by which time I’d already had 3 glasses of Jack Daniels).

The rest of the event went rather like this: arrived at airport; removed ¾ of my fabulous outfit as it was just too fabulous for the metal detectors; had double gin & tonic; went to toilet and cried in cubicle; had double gin & tonic; approached terminal but went weak-kneed and slumped down wall as I saw plane; wept internally; solemnly got on plane; sat down and attached seat belt as tightly as possible; whimpered as it taxied; absolutely crushed my dad’s hand on take-off; absolutely crushed my dad’s hand on landing; got on wrong train; got on right train; checked in; had beer; went to ‘coffee shops’; travelled to places by sensibly WALKING (or staggering, depending upon what I’d just consumed (or indeed bought, with reference to the copious sex-toy shops)).

So I know I seem to have contradicted myself by saying that travelling isn’t really problematic for me, but I’ve just highlighted a *few* bad occasions that I’m sure people can relate to. It’s mostly a breeze because I have a darling mother who picks me up from everywhere. (I know: I want to punch me in the face too.)