Barefoot Ben

feetBen moved into my flat after Mark and the Gang left to go travelling with some imaginary money at the end of our run as art students. He was sort of  pseudo Buddhist, but in a soft drug induced manner and and therefore slightly volatile. His girlfriend had recently been caught cheating on him with some other smelly hippy and he fled the caravan they were living in and took to the streets. He was excellent at paying his share of gas and electricity and even bought good sausages from the butchers and cooked them for us at breakfast. He was a really nice guy, but tragically, drugs had taken their toll. We were twenty two! He used to walk around barefoot, banging on about how feet grow their own leather if allowed to harden and decided it was a good idea to put an OM symbol tattoo on his forehead on the day that my Dad came down to visit.

One night he sat on my bed crying for hours about all the bad things that had happened in his life. He passed out fully clothed and eventually so did I. At some point in the morning I was pretending to be sleeping still as Ben put his hands in his trousers for a good scratch. On pulling his hand out, I was presented with the most potent and offensive smell I’ve ever received from another human. He had a sniff. Shortly afterwards he asked me if he could use the shower and I had to explain to him that as a resident he was free to use the shower all along. He went on a massive ketamine bender, did a load more crying and left to go to Exeter or somewhere to make a probably shit film with some probably shit, unfocused dreamers.

I got home from work one night to find a load of nomadic, crusty traveller hippies and a smelly dog in the flat. I love dogs, but it was no pets allowed and there was no garden . Ben was actually still out clubbing, and had simply let that bunch of flakes in for me to find and gone back out. And there they remained for several noisy and smelly days drinking Special Brew for breakfast, lunch and dinner and making a fucking mess of my flat.

There are only so many inebriated conversations about the existence of aliens, angels or conspiracy theories I’m happy to witness from a post work sober perspective (none, really). They smoked roll ups constantly, whilst discussing how “the system” (the same system that made their life of constant partying possible) had failed them, seemingly without the need to ever sleep. They were sort of a bit vegan-ish, but also ate whatever was going free. They were pseudo-environmentalist but left empty cans of cheap booze all over the place without considering the location of a recycle bin. They made vague hints of being against animal cruelty whilst treating a dog to an existence of extreme passive smoking and holding it’s poos and wees in for ages.

After they left, Ben and I resumed our strange existence relatively undisturbed until he left for pastures new, but I lived in constant fear of what I may find on returning home from work.  I was exhausted and in need of some incredibly dull normality. I should have returned to my home town where I was welcome, missed and would have been looked after, at least for a few novelty days. Instead, I found myself in Worthing on the basis that I had one friend there and it was vaguely near to Brighton. I  lasted one week there, mainly asleep.


Jelly Mould Mark


Mark was a friend throughout Art College with whom I lived with in the third year of our course fairly successfully. We remained friends throughout this strange and transitional final year and chose to live together with others for our final summer after graduation. In hindsight, I should not have moved in with two male friends and their new girlfriends, said gf’s being eighteen and in no way bored yet by all the pretentious bullshit flying about the place.

I was the only house mate to have a regular job. Importantly, I needed to maintain my employment for reasons of not wanting to starve to death, an alien concept to everyone else around me. I would return home from the pub I worked in at past midnight to find the electricity meter had all been drained, as had the gas. The fuckers had even used up the emergency instead of purchasing more when it was their turn, leaving me to sit in the dark, with no entertainment or way of winding down and with no way of cooking food. They, on the other hand, were lying around on josstick and spliffy stinking rugs upstairs, with a ton of candles on and some shit guitar or bongo playing for entertainment. When we first moved in there was a bed in my room that had a mattress on. Mark’s room had no mattress so he took mine. When I inevitably found out and kicked off about it, he reasoned that there were two of them and only one of me, so they deserved the mattress. I screamed at them (maybe) to contact the landlord and get a fucking mattress sorted, which they did, I think.

Yet again in my life, with hindsight I should have predicted nothing less than a messy outcome from getting too close to these people. Mark once set up a shit poetry group in our third year, whose only members were himself, myself and our other female housemate at the time. I hasten to add that I think I was merely there at the right/wrong time rather than being an active club member. I certainly had no poetry to contribute. Those other two fuckers did though and were so concerned with getting their innermost bullshit out there onto any ears that would have it that my lack of input was entirely unnoticed. Mark read out his most cherished piece, which was titled “Jelly Mould”. I think it began something like: “I am the jelly mould…” and the dominant concept was one of being moulded, like jelly, which is liquid and free, but put into a mould and then into the fridge, sets and becomes moulded to the will of the person who designed the mould and/or the person who bought the mould, say perhaps a mum who is hosting a kids birthday party in a few hours or whatever.

penis mould

I began cathartically writing to my friend in London about my ordeal and left the writing pad in the lounge whilst at work.  Mark predictably read it because he was well accustomed to going into my room and taking things that he liked, so reading a notebook that I left in the lounge was no biggy. Apparently, he did not like being described as being an arty little cunt who’s poems were shit and who’s feet stank.

After this I only had one more psychedelic techno bongo party in the flat to get through until they all left me to go travelling around Thailand with some imaginary money. I think Mark apologised for being a massive cock hole before he left but I was so sedated by this point that I can barely remember and may have dreamt it up as a coping mechanism.

James the First



He was the first of many of my boyfriends who were christened “James”. He was in an achingly shit folk band with a friend of mine, way, way before folk music began its reincarnation into popular culture via a selection of Americans in Edwardian style clothing plus tattoos. No mobile phone or car adverts for these guys. We were only 17 and being 1997, most of our peers were listening to shit death metal or shit boy bands (plus, mobile phones were not in the shops yet). I should have felt privileged to be a comrade of such fearless pioneers of this wilted music genre.  They wore corduroy flares whilst finger picking and singing in harmony despite the low level mockery they incurred every time they forced a dour gig upon one of our many nights in the pub. A part of the older me salutes their refusal to conform and their blissful ignorance of just how bad most of the songs were. I shit you not- one number actually contained the criminal lyrical combo of cry, lie and die in its chorus.

James had ridiculously long hair and a penchant for 1970’s fashion, which I just loved at the time. He lived in a big old house in the countryside and we spent summer days walking around the lanes and meadows stopping off to smoke the odd joint before going home to listen to The Kinks and drink pots of tea.

One day James informed me in a super exited state that he and his cousin, Shaggy from Scooby Doo, had been out in the woods with a camera and saw a fairy which they consequently attempted to photograph. If I wasn’t such a stoner at the time I feel I may have been a little more interrogative. I covered the obvious such as the likelihood that it was in fact a flying insect (i.e.: likelihood=very strong), to which I was met with more insistence that it was deffo a fairy. Back in this period of history we did not have digital cameras so when the subject changed I thought no more of it and certainly did not mention it again. Until of course, a week later, when James returned from Boots the chemist with a pack of freshly developed amateur photos. My heart sank a thousand times as he pointed out indeterminate fuzzy red areas in pictures and gleefully declared “there it is, see?”. He may have been quite the handsome young chap, with beautiful hair and ok guitar skills, but it was now obvious that he was also maybe a bit insane. He believed in fairies.

A few months later he dumped me for a ginger girl who I think may have also believed in fairies. Then she dumped him for some older dude whom, I’m assuming, did not believe in fairies.

Jenny Tree Woman

jenny tree woman


(Or hippy number 1)

That was our un-original name for her. She claimed to have actually spent time protesting in trees and have done some actual magic spells with actual magic crystals. Tragically, this initially impressed me somewhat (it was 1996). I should have been questioning her motives for performing magic to generate the ability to be more poor and more confused. Alarm bells should have rang when the whole reason that we met was because she joined our sixth form college to do pottery from somewhere down south because she claims to have placed a finger on the map with her eyes closed and figured that Nuneaton sounded like a nice enough place. Her hair and clothes smelt of cheap incense. Not that I got up close and sniffed her hair, more that it sort of radiated out of her like radioactive patchouli farts. I had the displeasure of visiting the house she rented with some other crusties. They were arguing about which washing powder to buy, whilst simultaneously having a competition to see who could go longest without using a hair brush. This is a particular bug bear of mine, because when people stop washing their hair for hippy reasons, they stupidly always stop brushing it aswell. Historically, we did not used to have shampoo and it was, in fact, regular use of a fine tooth comb that helped keep it “naturally” clean. Sigh. Anyway, one of them was insisting that they started buying the eco-friendly detergent at a greater expense, to the others disagreement. Rather than having individual choice it seemed that they shared all of the household goods via a money pot that they all contributed income into. The words “cult” and “commune” came to mind and I wanted out of there. My friend came back from the toilet and discreetly informed me that there was a soiled sanitary towel on the radiator (which was on), just cooking there, stinking the place out. We left.

‘Tis the Season to be Germy


Today is the 19th of December and also marks what is commonly known in many a UK town and city as “Black Friday”. Decades ago, when swathes of England had a workforce dominated by factories, the last Friday before Christmas called for an en masse half workday followed by an en masse drinking session. Old folk reminisce of these glory days, telling tales of festive camaraderie that took place in traditional pubs that closed at 11pm. Parts of this tradition are still withheld. The drinking starts as early as possible, but many don‘t work in factories and finish at different times. . Everybody drinks way more booze than they normally would, with less food lining their stomachs and for way more hours. 11pm marks not the end of the night, as in previous decades, but merely the mid point in a very long, very poisonous, very tinsel littered session.
I am pretty certain that if I were not currently snot ridden and ill, I would be avoiding he city centre, or any busy bars altogether today. Don’t get me wrong, I love to go out and socialise, but when five times as many people as normal, who are fives times more drunk than normal are crammed into every bar it takes five times longer to be served and you have to shout five times louder than your comfortable speaking voice to be heard and it all becomes a chore.
It was over a week ago that I first displayed the usual snotty, chesty, feverish symptoms and just assumed it would be a typical three or four dayer. A combination of extra shifts at work, increased social opportunities, panicking around the crowded shops for unknown presents for unknown recipients and the fact that people are everywhere, hugging, kissing, eating, drinking, coughing and sneezing is to blame.
A week is too long though. Sleep deprivation caused by breathing difficulty begins to affect my perception of reality. My decongestant nasal spray use has gone from the recommended two squirts a day to two an hour, which only then brings a pitiful three seconds of breathing relief. I call my mum to tearfully tell her that I am dying of AIDS but she seems to think that I am just being silly and recommends I make a nice cup of tea. She also points out that she was just off out and I suddenly realise that my imminent death is getting in the way of her Black Friday celebrations. Before I hang up, she queries me on my remedies and I confess that alongside some disgusting Lemsips, I have been overdosing on nasal spray because it doesn’t work. My mum then urges me to Google “nasal spray overuse” as apparently it is quite common for people to do as I and sniff too much spray in the hope of some sleep, only to develop an adverse reaction, leaving you with exaggerated symptoms of the very kind you were taking it to rid you of in the first place.
My decongestant nasal spray goes straight in the bin. I query my ability to go out after all…maybe nobody would question my wide open mouth breathing and red, sore, runny nose…except, of course, for the odd coke head winking and remarking that they to are enjoying a “White Christmas”.
Truth is though, I feel like turd on toast and the fact that I have not slept in four days has caused me to move through several of the levels of reality required of an apprentice shaman. So, it is highly likely that I would probably say weird things to people, whilst wiping my nose a lot and sneezing. I’ve put the kettle on, so I’ll cheers you with my Lemsip.

ChristmasMakes you Thick


So here we are again. Mid December and that time of year when Western civilisations most garish festival of tat is fast approaching its tinsel induced climax. Don’t get me wrong, there’s an awful lot that I do like about this time of year, but that’s not what I’m here for is it?

Last Christmas I was forced to watch British televisions most inexplicably popular program, the ridiculous and insulting to human kind “Mrs Brown’s Boys”. For the first twenty minutes I managed to politely sit and flick through one of the many recipe books I had received whlst my family were laughing out loud at the “jokes”. This was all to similar to watching children laugh upon hearing new and exciting swear words or talking about poo. The characters were sort of meant to be thick and poor in a way that made people say really, really stupid shit like “Oooh, It’s funny ‘cos it’s real”, when it’s not. More to the point, shellsuits are wrong, nobody wears rollers in their hair all day anymore and why are so many people so chuffed about being thick and poor?

It was as if a five year old had written the script and eventually I blurted this out loud, using words that were way less polite. I did not wish to insult anybody, but I can suppose that I was merely reacting against the insult I felt had been inflicted upon myself when it was assumed that I would find something likened to a nursery rhyme played out over half an hour by bad actors funny. My sister then chose to declare that the problem was simply that I did not like anything and that she and the rest of the family were the fortunate party in their liking of things. She did not say it like that though, she kind of dribbled and went “God, like, just cos we like, like stuff and you, like, don’t”. She, I remind myself internally, is a thirty two year old who has never really been anywhere, by which I mean not a single concert, gig, comedy event, spontaneous anything, basically anything that is not a package holiday or pre planned night out because it is somebody’s milestone birthday. She has a book shelf in her lounge that has three out-dated Yellow Pages on it and nothing else. She puts her Christmas tree up on November 1st because that is the only time of year when there is ever any colour or decoration in her home. I am also pretty sure that the only music she ever listens to is Christmas music, which further explains the haste to get the tree up…I bet her very soul is just desperate for some sensory input after the whole January to October cultural vacuum. I thought about hitting back, but she would have totally ignored me and carried on playing Candy Crush Saga on Facebook with her phone.

Polyester Coffee Shop Blues

photo credit: <a href="">Ansel Edwards Photography</a> via <a

In UK cities coffee shops are everywhere and all pretty much the same.

I recently visited my old home, a piddly little market town in Leicestershire and it has only recently acquired its first franchised coffee shop.  It is, I have observed, a pitiful and embarrassing caricature of its city cousins.

It took five staff to prepare me a pot of Earl Grey and put a slice of carrot cake on a plate: One to ask what I wanted, another to set the wheels in motion and get the teapot. Third one gets a teacup as a fourth enquires about the reason for the teapot, whilst fifth gets a teabag in and adds water. Number one then needs a reminder on the cake front as number two lifts it onto a plate. Number three works the till whilst remarking that number four might want to rest their arm, which is in a gross plastic splint and sling and looks like it might smell.

I got the impression that they saw themselves as something akin to a gang of Butlins Red Coats during peak season. The reality was more like a load of ex guests from The Jeremy Kyle show had been given their first ever jobs and, unfamiliar with the new found smartness of their polyester mix uniforms start acting all hyperactive like a bunch of kids at a wedding disco.

Finally, when I sit down with my drink and snack, I am amazed to see a load of dirty cups and plates on every table. Each member of staff trying to hog the stage/counter lest they be seen wiping a table. I mean, come on, you were on Jeremy Kyle last week, it’s all uphill from here. Number four can’t do it though, obviously as she has a gammy arm.