Sunday, 28 August 2011

Somebody loves me… I wonder who

Good news, everyone. Particularly for those of you who worry that I will be spending my old age all alone, trapped in spinsterhood and/or a first-floor terraced flat in south-east London, talking to jigsaws in various stages of completion as though they were real, living children. 'Oh, haven't you grown!?' 'Come on, I've baked you this cake, you may as well eat it.'

Because now I know for sure: He is out there. He. The One. Mr Right. Jeff. Whatever you want to call him.

How do I know? Because of this:

I noticed this sticker on a piece of plastic next to my seat during a recent bus journey to Forest Hill. As great bus journeys of the world go, it's not exactly Route 66 by Greyhound, iconically speaking, but you do get to go past the Horniman Museum, and that's not nothing.

I'm particularly alive to the possibility of random bus communications. Once, several years ago, I found the entire lyrics to Bob Dylan's
You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go written out on a sheet of paper that was folded up and wedged down the side of my seat. By the time I got off the bus, I was convinced that this was a message meant only for me that had been planted there by a fellow passenger. The copper-bottomed clincher was the line 'Purple heather, Queen Anne lace', which was QUITE CLEARLY a reference to the fact I was wearing a purple cardigan. It remains a mystery to me that I got home that day unkissed.

Anyway. Back to the sticker on the bus, which I think we can all agree was a similar act of direct communication. The literate among you will notice that, tantalisingly, the name of my intended has been partially obscured. I guess you have to work for these things. Anything that's worth having, as Cheryl Cole once declared, is sure enough worth fighting for. Obviously, it didn't work out massively well for Cheryl on that occasion, but you've got to be in it to win it, as someone else more or less definitely must have said at one time or another.

As you might imagine, I have given an awful lot of thought as to the identity of this mystery man (allow me to make this assumption) whose name ends with a penultimate letter of a particular shape, followed by an 's'. Who could it be?

Here is my shortlist:

Oscar Pistorius
Pros: has magic legs; will almost certainly be able to get me tickets for the Olympics and the Paralympics.
Cons: really, really loves exercise – this suggests an issue of quite fundamental incompatibility.

Norman Reedus
Pros: Was in The Walking Dead, so may be able to introduce me to Andrew Lincoln.
Cons: My clear preference for his colleague Andrew Lincoln may prove problematic; has previously had to resort to dating the likes of Helena Christensen, so may understandably feel I am somewhat out of his league, looks-wise.

Andrew Sachs
Pros: Struggling here. Mild-mannered? Can perform amusing if politically fraught foreign accents?
Cons: Considerable age gap; feel that I would have little to say to his daughter.

Inspector Rebus
Pros: I love a Scottish man.
Cons: Feel very strongly that I already have far too many intimate relationships with fictional characters. These include, but are not limited to, Josh Lyman from The West Wing; 'Beast' from the Disney film Beauty & The Beast; Will Ladislaw; Kenny from Press Gang; Carver from The Wire (later series only); Kermit.

Bruce Willis
Pros: Fictionally brave.
Cons: Strongly dislike men in vests.

Mumford & Sons
Pros: You wait years for a man to come along, then four appear at once, playing folk-lite festival anthems. Not entirely convinced this constitutes a 'pro'.
Cons: Think I would feel more comfortable in a conventional one-on-one relationship; strongly dislike men in waistcoats.

Keith Harris
Pros: Seems sensitive.
Cons: Feel I'm not ready to be a stepmother to a child, let alone a family of manually animated puppets. Suspect their presence in the relationship would be unhealthy, especially in the bedroom. I am old-fashioned that way.

I am hoping very much that this is not a definitive list.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Page 1, Step 1

At some point, in a future that may be closer than we think, a popular high-street sandwich chain will write their secret manifesto on mass mind control.

They will reflect on a gradual but concerted process of manipulation and suggestion, which in its earlier days saw them handing out napkins so conscientiously that all citizens became convinced it was essential to carry 20 of them around at any time. Later chapters celebrate their rise to become the UK's only legal lunch provider and eventually the country's ruling political party, with a radical array of new laws, including a ban on conventional medicine, instead asserting that all illnesses could be cured by consuming substantial quantities of their Vitamin Volcano berry smoothie [I already believe this].

Every journey begins with a small step, naturellement, and the manifesto reveals the very first stage in the process of making Anyone think Anything – a tiny germ of confusion, planted deep inside the brain, almost too subtle to notice, and affectionately referred to by the nostalgic writers as the Red Fruit Switcheroo.

Friday, 5 August 2011

In Which I Initially Think I Am A Great Creator Of Comics, But Subsequently Realise I Am Missing The Requisite Skills In At Least One Key Area

It's only taken me about five years, but I've finally got round to playing with the make-a-comic-strip application on my computer. Life may never be the same again. I can describe the moment I realised its capabilities thus:

It brings an extra frisson to a lame-ass Friday-night post about coming out of London Bridge station one morning and realising I am walking behind a woman with hypnotic eye tattoos on her back.

(Click to enlarge, people. Click to enlarge.)

Unfortunately I only took one photo, and seeing as I have no illustration skills whatsoever – THANKS, GOD – I can take the adventure no further. However, I like the idea that the woman – let's call her Maureen – has absolutely no clue that the Mad Controlling Eyes Of Power have been tattooed on her back. She only went in for the word 'Barry' in Chinese symbols. Yet suddenly Maureen is controlling a city of innocent humans, literally with her back turned, her Mad Eyes propelling the masses towards acts of extraordinary evil. The question is, who is controlling her?

And how will she react when she opens her front door one day to put the recycling out and finds a large armed response team waiting for her in the front garden, size-12 boots playing havoc with the rockery?

Can Maureen help them to save the world she has almost destroyed?

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

In Which I Am A Bitch, or The Luxury Chocolate Payback

You know who makes me sick?


I'm all, like, 'Say thank you to bus drivers!' and 'Let's all just get temporary jobs and watch the world as it goes past and take photos of lost mittens on the pavement!'

But as it turns out, I'm actually an angry, unreasonable commuter bitch, just like everyone else.

Still, I've been punished for it and I've been reading lots of improving articles in women's magazines in an attempt to move forward, spiritually speaking. As an unexpected bonus, I've also found a recipe for a surpringly versatile savoury tart, which is brilliant for picnics and lunchboxes.

But I'm starting at the end, and if you ask me, that's no way to begin a story, even if you're at the chapter in your creative writing course entitled 'Breaking the rules'.

It's 6.30pm. I'm emerging from the hot squeeze of the tube, subconsciously racing my fellow commuters to get as far away from the tunnels as possible. It's a Monday. The most psychologically gruelling of all the days, apart from Tuesday and most of the other ones. It had been a tough day at the fashion magazine sub-editing coalface. Maybe you don't believe that such days exist, but let me tell you, names like Ermanno Scervino don't spell themselves.

I'm hot. I'm tired. I've spent the last 20 minutes in a kind of battery farm of germs, sweat and freaky breath smells. At this point, Jesus does not want me, or anyone using the underground network, as a sunbeam. Among the extremely important and difficult things on my mind are: I must buy a birthday gift for a friend. I'm a gift-giving kind of a girl. But in this instance, I'm an embarrassingly late kind of gift-giving girl. On my way to the mainline, overland station, the portal to the suburbs and their purer strains of air, I walk past an upmarket chocolate concession. OK, I think. I will stop here. I will decompress by browsing their upmarket delicacies, I will buy the present and maybe they will have some samples for me to eat. The proximity of praline and caramel will soothe me and then, who knows, maybe even feed me on the journey home. (Buy a present for someone, buy one for yourself – everyone knows that's how it works.)

(Incidentally, in train-food news: this evening, the woman next to me on the train ate a Marks & Spencer prawn salad, four mallow/chocolate 'teacakes', two foil-wrapped all-over-chocolate digestives and two chocolate/caramel wafer bars between London Bridge and Forest Hill, which is the point at which I got off the train. What is the largest amount of food you have seen anyone eat on a 13-minute train journey, readers?)

I turn into the concession. Peace. Let the chocolate meditation begin. But before I have so much as a single sandal over the threshold (it's an open-wall kind of an establishment, so the notion of threshold is purely a theoretical one but it is the PRINCIPLE OF THE THING), an over-officious assistant bellows in my ear, 'CAN I HELP YOU?', a terrifying mask of make-up looming towards me like a clown who has been crying over the demise of the circus arts on a really hot day.

'No, thank you. I'm just looking.' And also, BACK OFF. I'VE HARDLY WALKED THROUGH THE DOOR (again, 'door' purely a linguistic construct in this instance). Don't you know I want to be furtive and sullen and isolated until the point when I actually need some help, and then I want to be righteously incensed at the lack of customer service available? Where do you think this is, America?

I walk to a different part of the concession. It doesn't take long. It's pretty small.

I browse in untroubled bliss for about one second, until a shadow falls across me, and a voice says, 'Can I..'




I say this in a manner which I must, with an accuracy that pains me, describe as really bloody rude.

My second assailant whispers an apology and scurries away. I turn around to see that it is a meek, paunchy bespectacled man who looks about 14 rungs below Timothy Lumsden from
Sorry! on the ladder of downtrodden. I feel terrible – so ashamed of my behaviour, in fact, that I leave the shop immediately. There is no reason why I should feel more remorse about Timothy Lumsden than I do about Melted Clown Face. Perhaps it was the startled-faun style of his retreat. Perhaps it is an unsettling matter of gender politics. Whatever. In a characteristic act of stereotyping, I imagined him in a back room somewhere, weeping over the staff basin while bingeing uncontrollably on an unfit-for-sale box of damaged violet creams.

So the next day, I resolve to go back and be unflinchingly pleasant and cheery. I would win him round with the Miss Jones who makes jokes with the binmen and says bless you when people sneeze. Yes, you're right, she
is kind of annoying, but she gets on much better with shop assistants. I would buy the present. Maybe Timothy Lumsden is on commission, in which case I'll buy even more of his luxury chocolates and eat the extra myself, in an act of selfless reparation. Although, let's be honest, he probably won't even remember me. A fast and wide river of people runs past his shop every day. What's a single one to him?

I think he remembered me.

I return to the shop. He is there. No sign of Clown Face. My browsing is fresh and concerted. The shadow falls. Here he comes. Be nice, Jones. Be. Nice

'Can I help you at all?' he says.

'Oh no thanks. I'm just having a look at the moment,' I say, beaming. 'Thanks very much, though.'

'Oh, just having a look?' he says, with his sitcom nerviness. 'OK then. You're just having a look.' And off he goes.

Phew. I think it went OK.

But then, I hear his voice behind me as he approaches another browser. 'Would you like to try some chocolates?'

That is a remarkably direct way to get my attention. I turn around. Strip lighting bounces of a silver platter he's carrying, which is loaded up with FREE CHOCOLATE TO OFFER PEOPLE LOOKING AROUND THE SHOP.

I am looking around the shop. Offer me a chocolate. Go on. Offer me a chocolate.

Naturally, I can't say this. I am proud, and also on shaky terms vis-a-vis demanding free stuff from a man I was incredibly rude to the previous evening. I turn my back and aim hard for nonchalance.

'Would you like to try some chocolate?' he says to another drifter. They take some.

Offer me a chocolate, Lumsden. I am the only other person here. Seriously, offer me a bastard chocolate.

He does not.

I make my selection from the shelves. I think to myself that he's probably left the tray of chocolates out on the counter for people to help themselves. That's what they do in the Bromley branch. I'll get my free chocolate when I pay.

As I stand at the till brandishing my credit card, the silver tray is nowhere to be seen.

Like I said, I think he remembered me.

I hope he told Clown Face the next day and she put an extra sugar in his tea as a treat.

That reminds me of this: