Easter bunnies from hell
If you thought the rabbit from Donnie Darko was creepy, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Happy Easter!
Found Things is a compendium of curiosity.
A guide to pets, written from the helpful perspective of somebody who, er, hasn’t had that many
Human beings are – and I’m happy to be corrected if you know any different – the only animals that keep other animals for amusement and companionship. Whether they’re fluffy, scaly, feathery or slimy, pet ownership is something that almost everybody either does now or has done in the past.
But if you’re new to the game, how do you choose which kind of animal would be right for you? Well, count yourselves lucky, for here is a handy guide to pets, written from the helpful perspective of somebody who, er, hasn’t had that many and doesn’t know much about them.
In general, you’re either a cat person or a dog person. Some people are both, a few are neither. Me, I’m firmly in the cat camp. Fluffy little scamps, they can be incredibly affectionate when the mood takes them. Nuzzly, cute little fluffy-wuffies.
They’re little bastards too, obviously. Aloof, judgmental creatures – you never really own a cat, you just give it somewhere to eat and sleep before it wanders off into the neighbourhood to get up to things you’ll never find out about. They treat you with utter disdain until they want something. Every now and then they might curl up on your lap and purr in a heartwarming way, but they’re probably just building up to giving you a good old poking with their claws when you realise they’ve given you two dead legs and you try to get up (or maybe that was just my grandma’s cat).
It’s no wonder they own the internet. They cannot be argued with.
I’m not so sure about dogs. It’d be enormously controversial to be so bold as to say I don’t like dogs, because dog owners can be quite militant about that kind of thing.
They’ll take it as a personal slight, like you’ve just insulted one of their children. Mind you, some dog owners seem to think their dogs are their children. Is there anything more gross than seeing somebody kiss their dog on the lips, or let it lick their face?
Don’t get me wrong, there are dogs I’ve got on with in the past. My uncle’s Labrador is quite sweet (is it a Labrador? Christ, I’ve no idea). Another uncle has a little yappy dog that’s friendly enough. They’re not all bad. Once you get to know them, they can be rather likeable.
But still. If I knew more about dogs I’d be able to be more specific, but there are some kinds of dog that really let everyone know they live with a person, even when they’re nowhere nearby. Some people just smell like dog, don’t they?
Also, dogs are bloody needy. A cat will look after itself. A dog always wants your approval. “Look, look at this random object I’ve brought you!” Oh, sod off. Slobbery airheads.
I used to have a hamster when I was about five or six. The only memories I have of it are the time we had to move the cage because it was too close to the curtains and it chewed a big hole, and the time it escaped its cage, got under the floorboards and ate through all the wiring. So my analysis would be: they eat stuff. Stuff they shouldn’t.
I don’t know a whole lot about domestic rodents, to be honest. If you put a hamster, a gerbil and a guinea pig in front of me I reckon I could have a game stab at guessing which was which, but I wouldn’t be totally confident.
There are two main reasons to buy such a creature: firstly, they look hilarious running around in their wheels. Secondly, they’re a good way to teach a young child about the concept of death and grief. Because they don’t live very long.
Ah yes, I can get on board with fish. Great pets. But they take a bit of looking after.
When we were kids, my dad acquired a great big fish tank along with a heater and various other bits of aquatic bric-a-brac, and filled it with tropical fish. I loved it – neon tetras shoal, guppies are born folded in half, Siamese fighting fish chew each other’s tails, golden gouramis think they own the place, kuhli loaches keep the plants clean… fascinating creatures. Don’t buy any angel fish though, they’re evil little fuckers. They just eat all the other fish.
I got a bit carried away, and insisted on having a goldfish bowl in my bedroom. I wasn’t as good at looking after fish as my dad was. I learnt some valuable lessons: if you overfill the bowl, you’ll come home from school to find it devoid of fish – they’ll be on the floor, dead. If you leave the bowl on the windowsill in summer, they’ll boil to death. If you don’t clean the bowl regularly, your room will smell like bad drains. The key to proper fish maintenance is this: just don’t be a dick. Clean ‘em out occasionally, yeah? And don’t overfeed them either, they’ll eat themselves to death like that fat dude in Se7en.
Birds are cool. My first pet – I think – was a canary called Custard. This really helps me out when people say “hey, what’s your porn name? It’s the name of your first pet, then the first street you lived on”. Which gives me Custard Devil. Well, Devil’s Lane was the first street I actually remember living on; otherwise I’d be Custard Rainbow, having lived on Rainbow Avenue as a baby. Either way, it’s a movie worth watching.
I digress. My sister had a grey budgie called Levi as a teenager, and he was a brilliant little chap. They’re friendly, very pretty, and flap about the place like lunatics.
They do tend to shit everywhere though. Watch out for that.
Aw, I’d love a rabbit one day. We like to take our daughter to the pet shop – or “the cheap zoo”, as we call it – and the rabbits are always the highlight, she loves them. Their motorised noses are hilarious. Everything they do looks cute, little flolloping guys cuddling up and chewing on carrots.
A friend of mine had a house rabbit when we were younger, and it was the softest thing in the world. You could stroke it for hours. Although it did have an unfortunate habit of shitting out maggots, and then it died. Bit nasty. But hey, it probably wasn’t doing it on purpose.
Fucking hell, don’t get a tiger. They’re too big.
Another small rodent in the hamster confusion, but I know what a degu is because they have them in the cheap zoo. The principle reason for buying one of these would be that they’re hilariously dirty little bastards. Last time we were in there, one of them was fellating itself.
This’d be the ideal pet for someone who smokes a lot of weed.
My parents have chickens, and so does my sister. If you’ve got a big enough garden, they’re a pretty good idea – they’ll eat all your kitchen waste, and give you limitless eggs in return!
…although I don’t particularly like eggs. And I live in London, so am gardenless. You can’t really keep chickens in a flat, I don’t think, so I’m out.
This is probably illegal. Remember Marcel, the monkey from Friends? That taught us all two valuable lessons: 1) that monkeys can be taught to be slaves/butlers, to a degree, and 2) they’ll ultimately get taken away by the authorities and you might get arrested.
Funny how Marcel never flung his shit about the place, isn’t it? I bet that’s a hazard of simian curation.
…and that’s all the pets (I don’t want to get into reptiles, they look like old men trapped in little scaly bodies. Creepy). Key take-out from all this, I reckon, is that you should get some fish, but you might also like to get a rabbit, and get a cat to look after it.
Or whatever, I dunno.
The internet, it’s a truism to say, is studded with hilarious buffoonery.
I was recently doing a little recreational Googling to find some lyrics, as one does, as it had occurred to me that I’d never actually worked out what was being said in a particular song, and this Googling led me into a comically dumb corner of the web: lyrics meaning sites.
The song in question was Placebo’s ‘36 Degrees’. I was listening to their first album the other day, and it reminded me of the many conversations that took place at school back in the nineties around what on earth Brian Molko was singing in the chorus.
This was pre-Google, pre-smartphone, it was all just teenage guesswork. So having listened to the track countless times over the years I’d never known what the lyric was - but it’s 2014 now, we live in a shiny digital future, and such questions can be answered in seconds.
I looked it up, and it turns out that the lyric in question was “Someone tried to do me ache”. No wonder we didn’t guess it, that’s a really weird thing to say. Here, take a listen, see if you could have got it.
Anyway, being a fastidious kind of soul, I looked on quite a few lyrics sites to see if they were all in agreement, and in doing so happened across songmeanings.com.
Now, this isn’t a site that scientifically analyses song lyrics. They don’t employ a panel of linguists and poets to pick apart the nuances, imagery, construct and references that are inextricably intertwined within any given song’s lyrics. No, it’s basically just that same conversation that me and my teenage chums were having back in the nineties – this is a site full of unfounded guesses by uninformed kids.
And so it was that I found myself scrolling through a hilariously shit series of interpretations of ‘36 Degrees’, increasingly amused by the idiocy of it all.
For example -
"I read somewhere that 36 degrees is the temperature that your body drops to if you have drunk way too much.”
“Actually, I believe the 36 degrees refers to a 36 degree angle because he has his shoulders touching his toes and he is bent back with his knees being the centre point.”
And my favourite of all -
“Supposedly this song is about the perfect temperature to have sex at.”
I mean, come on. What a bunch of fucking clowns.
The last one there was presumably written by someone who’s never attempted to have sex at 36 degrees Celsius (or indeed at all, ever, probably), or they’d know that the first thing you’d do would be to find an air-conditioned room. ”Supposedly”? Supposedly according to whom?
This stupid guesswork amused me greatly. So I plugged a few more songs in to see what the berks of songmeanings.com had to offer…
1. David Bowie – ‘Space Oddity’
“To everyone who said that this is a response to the Apollo 13 film with Tom Hanks, it is simply not because Space Oddity was written in 1969, whereas the film was made in 1995.”
There is much confusion on the site – some people think that ‘Space Oddity’ references the Apollo 13 space mission; this is unlikely, given that it happened a year after the song was released, but they don’t let anything as frivolous as a fact get in the way of arguing their point.
This has naturally evolved into some people thinking that the song was a response to the movie Apollo 13, which came out an impressive 26 years after the song did.
Cue much facepalming.
Also, this is insightful -
“It’s obviously one giant metaphor.”
Great, cheers for that.
2. Eminem – ‘Stan’
“I don’t think anyone should get offended by the way Stan killed his girlfriend.”
Blimey. That misses the point somewhat. I’d suggest that perhaps the offensive shockingness of the subject material is what gives the song its power. But maybe there’s something deeper afoot?
“Stan could be a combination of the word stalker and fan. Stalker + Fan = Stan.”
Ah, thanks professor. Tricky concept you’ve formulated there, I appreciate the detailed explanation. Anything more from the community?
"I LOVE THIS SONG! it’s so deep and makes me think about things… That’s all i can really say about the song… But i love it, and i love you, Eminem! (Marry Me, Please!)”
Right. OK, thanks.
3. Blur – ‘Song 2’
It’s worth remembering, before you read the following analysis, that ‘Song 2’ was a deliberately frivolous and shallow track, intended to parody and lampoon the American rock - and, more specifically, grunge - scene of the era.
It is purposefully devoid of deep meaning. But check out this guy’s attempt -
“I always thought the song was about fear of flying. Perhaps it’s him telling about the first time he flew on an airplane. Every noise and every bump is terrifying: ‘I got my head checked, By a jumbo jet, It wasn’t easy, But nothing is, No’ I think the next bit is him hearing the engins and feeling the terror (pins and needles) of something happening. Who knows maybe he was on a plane that had engin trouble (heavy metal) when he was younger: ‘When I feel heavy metal, And I’m pins and I’m needles’. The next bit he’s telling himself that everythings going to be alright and talking to the person in the neighboring seat to help keep calm: ‘Well I lie and I’m easy, All of the time but I’m never sure When I need you, Pleased to meet you’ I think the ‘I got my head done when I was young’ means that the whole thing is past tense and just him remembering it or telling a friend what happened. Ultimately the, ‘Woo hoo’ is just the terror he feels every time the plane bumps and jostles. It also is probably exilerating to know he survived and to think back on it.”
Come on. If you haven’t got a clue, you shouldn’t just guess. You’ve taken a cheery little throwaway song and turned into some kind of shit sixth form poetry there.
4. Kelis – ‘Milkshake’
Picture the furrowed brow of the person writing this one, deep in concentration, perhaps with their tongue poking slightly out of the corner of their mouth -
“Taken on a literal sense, this song generally means a woman who is “yummy”, like a milkshake, it taste good and brings you pleasure when you are enjoying it. On a more context level, it could mean that milkshake is using the body to tease the boys and they like it, so she flaunts it.”
Good-o. Thanks for giving it to us on a ”context level”, that was starting to get quite cerebral.
5. The Beatles – ‘I Am The Walrus’
This should be an open-and-shut case.
The genesis of this song is that John Lennon had received a letter from a fan, a schoolchild, telling him that their English teacher was analysing Beatles lyrics in lessons.
So Lennon set out to craft the most befuddling, random set of lyrics he could, designed specifically to be impossible to analyse for deeper meaning.
Because there was no deeper meaning. As such, presumably the folk of songmeanings.com will be aware of this, and there will be just one entry that explains the situation, right? I imagine they hold the song up as a sort of icon of impenetrable wordsmithery, the yin to their very yang?
“I heard that there is a British- (or something) folktale that when you see a walrus it is the ghost of someone who recently died.”"Everyone in their lifetime is at one point the walrus, the eggman, and even.. the goo goo goo joob. so i suppose the walrus is the leader, the eggman is the follower, and the goo goo goo joob is just undecided. this song holds all the answers.“
“The first part, ” I am he…” has four pronouns, and four lines. There were four Beatles. They are the “pigs from a gun”, since everywhere they went they had to run, or fly to, since Beatlemania was in full effect. A cornflake is a very fragile thing, and sitting on it would cause it to break. Fame is very fragile, and one false move could make or break your career. The next part refers to the various media events the Beatles were always a part of, like TV, radio, etc. Since they were first a “boyband”, their sponsers always wanted them to be cheery and fun. John was not one to smile, hence the”face grown long”, and would have a fake grin when asked to smile…”
Oh dear. That last one goes on like that for some time.
6. Spice Girls – ‘Spice Up Your Life’
Sometimes the sheer depth of analysis within songmeanings.com becomes quite post-modern, entirely transcending conventional critiques to enter a whole other realm of literary wisdom -
"I LOVE THE sPICE gIELS THEY ROCK i’M 15”"YOUR A FAG“
“shut the hhhhhhhhello up you are just a freakin queer”
“Ya’ll both suck cock-a-dooodle-dooo! wuhahahahahahaha!”
7. Lady Gaga – ‘Poker Face’
“Maybe it has to do with blowjobs. Poke her face”
Actually, yes, that’s probably correct.
I could go on all day. Why not have a go yourself? It’s really annoying and you’ll wish you hadn’t.
"EAT CELEBRITY MEAT" - So much for Soylent Green… I’d like a pound/ kilo of_________
BiteLabs.org is a startup that says it wants to sell ‘artisanal salami’ grown in a lab from the cells of famous people.
The company lists Kanye West, Jennifer Lawrence, James Franco, and Ellen Degeneres as the celebrities it most wants to salamify and encourages visitors to tweet at these celebrities to get them to donate body cells.
“We mix celebrity and animal meats, grown in house through a proprietary culturing process, into curated salami blends.”
"The process begins with myosatellite cells, which are obtained via biopsy. These are a particular type of stem cell found in adult muscle that function to repair and regrow damaged muscle. Isolating a sample of these cells provides a base that can grow into as much meat as required."
It’s gotta be a joke, right?
On growing up
Realising that you’ve become a grown-up without noticing is somewhat unnerving.
When I look in the mirror, I still see the teenage me; admittedly, this reflection has become somewhat squidgier and crinklier in recent years, but I don’t see a sensible person. This is perhaps misguided, given the whole being married/having a baby/doing two jobs scenario, but hey, that’s real life for you.
You know that scene in Peep Show where Jeremy is panicking about having the plumber round because ‘he might realise I’m not proper’? That’s pretty much my outlook on life – it’s one long stream of charlatan acts, with the Sword of Damocles hanging over me, waiting to strike down when somebody spots that I’m just pretending to be a grown-up.
I actually have no idea what being an adult entails, and it seems like everybody else knows what they’re doing, so I just keep my head down. Shhh. It’s our secret.
Still, there are signs of adulthood here. Little things that creep into reality that, when you step back and take a broader view, you realise that you’ve been doing for some time. Things that your parents did when you were a kid, and you were convinced that you’d never have any interest in.
For example -
1. Gin & tonic
I remember the first time I tasted a gin & tonic. We were on holiday in France, and I took a sip of my mum’s drink thinking it was my glass of lemonade. I was wrong. It was not. It was, in fact, an evil beverage of unfathomable bitterness. Why on earth would anybody choose to drink such a repulsive thing?
I was flabbergasted. I questioned the validity of a number of my mother’s decisions at that point. I mean, come on – if she’s unhinged enough to drink something as godawful as that for pleasure, what else could she have been wrong about?
No, obviously it was me who was wrong. Never question your mother, she’s almost certainly right.
My teen years saw a dawning realisation of the merits of gin, largely born of that teenage necessity to get drunk on whatever’s nearby, regardless of provenance. The more you drink gin, the more you grow to like it. I’m a big fan now. It was worth persevering with it.
Much like with gin, I found it hard to understand why grown-ups should wish to drink something so tongue-curlingly bitter. Sure, coffee smells delicious, but it tastes awful and makes your breath stink. What’s the point?
They were my initial thoughts, at least. I drink coffee every day now. The increasing prevalence of high street coffee chains suggests I’m not alone in this. And the fact that my bus to work in the mornings is generally full of schoolkids who’ve picked up a McCoffee on the way tells me that today’’s youth have leapfrogged the “urgh, it’s so bitter!” step entirely, bless ‘em.
3. Watching the evening news
Oh, boring. Who cares about that, when there’s a repeat of Whose Line Is It Anyway on Channel 4? Why are we watching this, dad? I’m eleven, I don’t care about the AIDS crisis or an embassy siege, I want to watch Greg Proops improvising with a suggestively-shaped piece of foam.
Actually, the ten o’clock news is pretty well-timed for me these days. I watch it before I go to bed, it neatly rounds off the evening. Yes, I’m 31 and I go to bed at 10:30 on weekdays. Shut up, I’ve got a toddler.
4. Grocery shopping
When you’re at school, you spend the whole week counting down the hours until it’s the weekend – a time of no obligations or commitments, when you can just do what the hell you want and enjoy being young and carefree. So when a parent informs you that you’re going to spend a whole hour of your weekend at the local supermarket, your heart sinks. No, not sinks, plummets.
How incredibly, mind-numbingly tedious. There is literally no joy whatsoever to be derived from tramping around a slightly cold shop when you could be climbing trees, building model kits or watching cartoons. Even the momentary amusement of putting random grocery items in the trolley is quashed by the inevitability of said items being spotted and discarded. Yawn. Grump.
…but of course, as a grown-up, you have to buy food or you’ll die.
Thankfully it’s the twenty-first century, so you don’t actually have to go out into the real world and interact with the public, you can just get Ocado to bring it to your door. So that actually doesn’t feel particularly grown up at all.
5. Buying things with no discernible element of fun
Light bulbs. Toothpaste. Fuses. Cling film.
Being an adult means you have to spend your money on things that will bring you no tangible pleasure whatsoever. Sticky plasters? Smoke alarms? Contents insurance? Growing up sucks. You can’t play with any of those things.
6. Buying cheap clothes, even though you don’t have to
Clothes seem pretty important when you’re a child. Part of this is down to our school uniform culture. When you have a non-uniform day, it’s like a fashion parade.
As an aside, here’s a story. Until the age of eight, I attended a tiny little primary school in Greatham, Hampshire where my dad was the headmaster. It was a fun place with a strong community spirit, and a couple of times a year we’d have something called ‘silly clothes day’, where instead of wearing your uniform (which was pretty cool in itself – the jumpers said ‘Greatham is Great’ in big red letters) you’d come to school in as silly an outfit as possible.
We moved to Herne Bay in 1990, and my new primary school was rather grittier. The first non-uniform day they had, I turned up in the silliest outfit I could cobble together. Everyone else was flaunting their Air Max and their Adidas shellsuits. I was a laughing stock. But hey, I’m largely over it now.
The point is, I grew into a bit of a trainer geek in my teenage years and, being a basketball fan, always coveted the latest Air Jordans. I knew that I’d be able to buy them one day; I kept pointlessly asking for a pair, always expecting the answer to be “no”, in the knowledge that when I was an adult I’d be able to buy all the Air Jordans I wanted.
I’ve still never owned any. What’s the point of paying £130 for a pair of trainers? That can pay the Sky bill for two months and still leave enough for a takeaway.
7. Choosing cheese over dessert
This, to a child, seems utterly barmy. You’re in a restaurant, poring over the dessert menu, torn between the banoffee pie and the chocolate fudge sundae, trying to figure out some kind of bargaining tactic so that you can get both. Your saliva glands are going into overdrive at the prospect of that sweet, sugary mass of goop that will soon be gumming your lips together and filling your belly like a sucrose football.
…and then your dad opts for the cheeseboard. Er, what the fuck?
You want to eat cheese instead of having a pudding? What’s wrong with you? I’m starting to question your choices too now, dad.
Kids are dumb, aren’t they? Cheese is amazing.
Christ, it seems I really am a grown-up. That enchanted portrait in the attic is doing fuck all.
So you’ve forgotten valentines day…
Ah, Valentine’s Day. That annual shot-in-the-arm for the chocolate industry that adds a healthy pink glow to the high street.
Some of you will have planned romantic weekends away. Some will have booked a table at the restaurant you took your partner to on your first date, or will have rented your favourite movie, or sorted out something more bedroom-related.
…but some of you will be reading this in a state of hair-on-fire panic, having just realised that Valentine’s Day is nearly over. Your loved one is at risk of feeling a little less loved when they realise that you don’t seem to give one single solitary shit about that lobe of their brain that processes romance. You heartless oaf. Do you honestly think that a bunch of cheap flowers from the petrol station will save you?
Well, actually, it might. In fact, for the less well-ordered person who wishes to make a genuine gesture but lacks the organisational skills to get something significant in the bag, your local petrol station offers many viable options.
1. A bunch of flowers
The sorry bunch of petrol station flowers has long been a symbol of the uncommitted. But when you think about it, does that actually matter? Your loved one will be glad to receive a bunch of flowers regardless of provenance, surely? Just make sure you peel off the Shell label, weed out the brown bits, and stick it all in a nice vase. Flowers are flowers, and it’s all in the presentation.
The thought, as they say, is what counts. OK, you didn’t put a lot of thought into it, but it’s a thought…
2. Some petrol
This makes perfect sense. If you’re going to the petrol station anyway, why not borrow his or her car and fill the tank up for them? It’s a reasonably expensive gift, and it’s something they’ll actually use. You’re effectively giving them the gift of mobility.
Alright, they won’t sound especially impressive to their colleagues when that annoying display of one-upmanship rears its head on Monday morning – ‘What did Dave get you for Valentine’s Day?’ ‘Er, twenty-two litres of super unleaded…’ – but it’s a damn sight better than an expensive dinner that they’ll just end up processing into faeces with their fickle, indiscriminately bowels, right?
3. Some food
If your loved one is determined to use their gastric monkeyshines to process any romantic gesture that you choose to bestow upon them into brown waste matter, then you can easily indulge them. Your local rock oil emporium has got you covered.
Fortunately for you, it’s 2014. This means that any fuel outlet you visit is likely to feature what Alan Partridge would describe as ‘a mini-mart – scaled-down supermarket, fits inside a petrol station’.
On any other day of the year, this is a total pain in the arse – it takes forever to pay for your fuel because there’s always some dickhead who’s decided that the Monday morning rush hour is the ideal time to do the weekly shop - but on Valentine’s Day, this food/fuel fusion will work in your favour.
Begin with a bag of Haribo – everyone loves Tangfastics, and maybe you could jostle them in a bowl with some Starmix for variety? Excellent starter.
Then rummage around in the fridges and see what they have in the way of Ginsters products; if you’re lucky, they’ll sell those weird objects that are a kind of pork sausage thingy coated in breadcrumbs, stuffed with coleslaw. It’s called a ‘Buffet Bar’. That’s all of the ingredients for a diverse main course rolled up in one bite-size package.
And for pudding? Why, a Chocolate Orange, of course! You can make sexy chit-chat around the subject of those annoying adverts that featured Dawn French saying ‘it’s not Terry’s, it’s mine’ as the pair of you slip in and out of consciousness from a surfeit of blood sugar.
4. Questionable wine
You’re never going to buy a quality bottle of wine in a petrol station, that’s a given. But, perhaps surprisingly, you will almost certainly be able to get some kind of wine in there. It won’t be that expensive either.
The most important part of this, as you might imagine, is to never let your partner see the bottle.
Pour the wine into a glass somewhere out of sight, then hand it to them.
To mask the taste and horrible acidity, be sure to give them a strongly flavoured hors d’oeuvre first (a bag of the petrol station’s finest onion ring crisps will sort you out here, while some sour cream dip will neutralise those aggressive throat-burning acids), and then just keep changing the subject if the wine is making them grimace.
Don’t worry, once they’re a few glasses in they’ll stop noticing.
5. ‘Ironic’ magazines
A risky play, this, but worth a squirt.
Grab a handful of those appalling lifestyle magazines whose covers are always emblazoned with headlines like ‘I killed my brother with a biro so that I could sleep with my aunt, who owns a pen factory’ or ‘my vagina is haunted by the ghost of my boss – and he’s still alive!’. Hand them over with a wry grin and say ‘ha ha, imagine if I was the sort of person who’d actually give you this shit for Valentine’s Day! Your real present is coming soon, you’ll see…’
That should buy you a few days. You can do something proper next week.
6. The till
Fuck it, if desperation really takes hold, just tell the cashier you’ve got a gun. Take all the money home and lie to your loved one about how you’ve been saving up for a holiday or something.
They’ll like that.
The great North/South divide: stirring up some trouble in London town
There’s a debate that’s destined to rage well beyond the point when the sun burns out and the hunched rodent-men that the human race has evolved into are forced to scurry for cover under the oversized palm fronds of the 40th century: which is better, south London or north London?
Spoiler alert: the answer is obvious. South London is better, by miles.
People who live on the wrong side of the river will fervently disagree with this, but they can safely be ignored; they’re not as sophisticated or evolved as us southern dandies, and their monosyllabic, malformed grunts and baffled demeanour are no match for our superior articulacy, clean clothes and complicated mobile telecommunications devices.
Also, there’s a muscular body of water separating us, and they’ll never work out how to ford that without accidentally ingesting a gallon or two of treacherous effluent, so we can safely thumb our noses at them across the Thames without fear of attack. (To be honest, even if they do somehow work out how to traverse a bridge without shitting themselves messily to death in fear of troll attack, all you need to do is close a door between you and them; the doorknob will stymie them so comprehensively that they’ll scratch their scalps until they make it through the bone and into the pulpy, pink marshland beneath.)
Why is it so much better down below the river? Well, for a start, south London’s got Wandsworth in it. Forget Westminster: Wandsworth is the heart of London, which effectively makes it the most important place in England.
The core of Wandsworth is the Platinum Waffle (known to estate agents as ‘the Tonsleys’), which is a magical middle/upper-class wonderland, protected by an invisible but effective forcefield to bounce the plebs around the edges. You are technically allowed to live in the Tonsleys if you don’t own a Volvo XC90, but you have to sign a waiver that says you will buy one at some point in the near future. The Alma serves as a gateway to the Tonsleys, giving Australians somewhere to watch sport and observe the wealthy pass by, resplendent in flip-flops, disposable income and carefree attitude.
But Wandsworth isn’t elitist. Oh, no. Poor people are allowed to live in the tower block next to Southside, the gangsta-monikered Jekyll-and-Hyde shopping centre with Poundland at one end and Waitrose at the other.
There’s a swanky riverfront (the Thames speed limit ends at Wandsworth Bridge, so you can observe some aquatic hooliganism as you sip your vodka Martini), a lush and verdant common, and the jewel in the crown: Old York Road. It’s so pretty and villagey that they’re always filming cutaways from property programmes outside the various bistros.
It’s like being in Barnes, but with fewer ducks.
South London also offers you quick and easy access to all the best counties. Where can you get to from north of the river? Hertfordshire? Buckinghamshire? That’s shit.
From the south you can slip into Kent, the Garden of England, with ease – this pisses the north London folk off no end; they’ve heard of this mythical land called Whitstable, but have absolutely no idea how to get there. You can glide seamlessly into Surrey – perfect if you’re into big houses and Range Rovers – and carry right on over to Hampshire, which is like driving through a Wodehouse novel.
Fancy taking a cruise into Essex (the cunningest county of all, which has kept its gorgeous countryside and rolling coastline a lovely little secret by creating The Only Way Is Essex, thereby ensuring that nobody wants to go there)? Make a beeline for Kent, then spear off at the last minute and rumble through the Dartford Tunnel. As tunnels go, it’s pretty bloody good – thunderous acoustics if you’re driving something meaty, and lots of Hollywood-esque fans on the ceiling. Awesome.
The south of most places is generally superior to the north, and that’s a solid gold fact. Look at North Korea. It’s rubbish. South Korea is a sensible place with proper businesses and a decent moral code and stuff, while north of the border is just like being jabbed in the sphincter with a rolled-up spike of the past. Crying. In a dustbin. With Kim Jong-un slapping your face with his despotic genitals.
The south of France is way better than the north too. It’s hotter, has a broader selection of cured meats, the wines are more robust, and they have a Spanish twang to their accents which makes a mockery of that Parisian French you learned at school.
And why do you think Wellington is on the very southernmost point of New Zealand’s North Island? So that it can gaze in wonder at the beauty of the vastly superior South Island.
The easiest argument for south London being better than north London is that, well, it just obviously is. Look at that Run London thing Nike did in 2006, where they pitted the humans from the south against the subhuman baggage from the north; they were just stirring up trouble – the northerners were running from the police, and the southerners were running from the northerners. It’s a metaphor for England as a whole.
OK, there is some good stuff north of the river. You’ve got the verdant expanses of various lovely parks. There are impressive museums and theatres. Pretty much everything between Holland Road and Bishopsgate - flanked by the A40/A501 above and the river below - is worth wandering around, actually.
But down south we’ve got the South Bank, Clapham Common, Dulwich, Crystal Palace, some sort of tennis competition in SW19, the enormous Chicken Cottage on Upper Tooting Road, the official centre of all time itself at Greenwich (your wristwatches would make no sense without us), a pretty big IKEA, Clapham Junction (you can get anywhere in the world from there), Chessington World of Adventures, the London Heliport (which is miles better than Heathrow), the Tate Modern, that bus depot where they filmed a bit of The Apprentice, the Ritzy cinema, that recycling plant where they filmed a bit of The Apprentice, Barnes Common, Vinopolis and, er, my flat. So there.
Famous south London residents include Adam & Joe, Gok Wan, Rio Ferdinand’s aunt, Judith Chalmers, Gordon Ramsay, Skin from Skunk Anansie, Mel & Sue, Jimmy White, Charlie Chaplin, Jamie T, King Henry VIII, Dizzee Rascal, Ronnie Corbett, Ben Elton, Jeff Beck, H.G. Wells, Athlete (the band), Jerry Springer, Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine, Saracen from Gladiators, Joanna Lumley, Bloc Party, Martin Clunes, Spike Milligan and Bradley from S Club Seven.
Who have you got up north? Jack the Ripper? Jog on…
Also, north London is where all the crime is. That’s what I heard.
Pacific Southwest Airlines stewardesses, 1972
Flying in airplanes used to be fun.
You could smoke on the plane, and smoking was actually good for you. Everybody was attractive; there were no fees for anything; and there was so much legroom that you could orient your body parts in arbitrary and profane directions without bothering anyone.
Eating caviar and manatee steak was mandatory and it was not unusual to be showered with piles of money personally distributed by JFK and The Beach Boys.
Times were good. Assuming that you were a white man in the advertising business.
Or Austin Powers.
Um, so… the raptor cage from Jurassic Park is on Ebay
Jurassic Park is probably the greatest movie ever made, so the possibility of owning even the tiniest fragment from its history makes me excited.
But if tiny fragments aren’t enough for you, here’s a huge prop that’s up on Ebay’s block this week: The velociraptor crate cage used in the film. Fake raptor prop included with purchase.
Hurry! At the time of writing there have been 153 bids and the current price it at $99,900.10.
But a snip. I’ll take three.
Full story on Gizmodo.
Hundreds of people took part in the 5th annual ‘No Trousers Tube Ride’ on the London Underground and metro systems across the world last week.
Participants travel on the tube without trousers, to the surprise - and delight - of other passengers.
The tradition started by the Improv Everywhere collective in New York 12 years ago.
By Tolga Akmen.
The kaleidoscopic reality of relative time
History is a weird thing, isn’t it?
When you’re taught history at school, everything gets filed in your brain under ‘old stuff’, so it’s surprising to be reminded that the Corn Laws and the Enclosure riots, filed side by side as ‘old stuff: misc countryside’ in our brains were actually nearly 300 years apart.
What’s more surprising is that the Second World War, one of the most significant Old Things we learnt about at school, wasn’t actually that long ago. WWII ended in 1945 which, as an example, was nine years before my parents were born.
What was happening nine years before I was born? Well, it was 1973, so The Exorcist was causing a stir, Bowie recorded Aladdin Sane, Last of the Summer Wine was on TV, the World Trade Center opened and Noel Fielding was born. That doesn’t seem that long ago, in the grand scheme of things.
So our perspectives are, generationally speaking, far more different than we ever give any real thought to.
To children of the eighties WWII is unimaginably far in the past, but to our parents it’s something that was still hanging over their households as they were growing up, as long ago when they were ten years old as, say, Definitely Maybe or the launch of the Ford Mondeo are to the ten year-olds of today. This kaleidoscopic approach to relative time makes the head spin.
The Beatles and The Rolling Stones: the two pillars of sixties rock ‘n’ roll pushing into the mainstream, the polarisation of the fans, the rebellion of youth, blah blah etc. Their influence on music as a whole over the decades is so far-reaching, so broad, that they too get filed in our brains as ‘old stuff’. But our parents aren’t quite so impressed when you say ‘OMG, I’ve got hold of an original copy of Sticky Fingers, complete with the working zip…’, because that was just the music they were listening to when they were growing up.
Imagine in the not-too-distant future hearing your own children evangelising about what a controversial development The Stone Roses’ Second Coming was on the indie scene. “I know,” you’ll say, “I was there”. (For the record, incidentally, I think Second Coming was the Roses’ best work. I know that’s an unfashionable viewpoint but I don’t care.)
1977? That was a year of contrasts and mischief, wasn’t it? The Sex Pistols swearing on TV, Elvis Presley dying on the toilet, the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, strikes at Longbridge, undertaker strikes, firefighter strikes, National Front rallies, Freddy Laker’s Skytrain, IRA bombs in the West End, the release of Star Wars… to me, these are all filed under ‘old stuff’, but they only happened five years before I was born.
Depending on your vintage, these may be things that are as old as you, or that you remember from your childhood, or even that don’t seem all that long ago.
What’s the point of all this?
I’m concerned by the twenty-first century 20-prefix. You see, any year that begins with 18- can legitimately be filed as ‘old stuff’, right? If somebody had been born in 1899, they’d be 113 years old by now, so we can count the nineteenth century as being a reasonably long time ago. But in, say, the 1930s, did the 1890s seem like an incredibly long time ago?
I bet they did - it’s the different prefix that does it. And that’s what concerns me.
Turning the corner from one century prefix to another draws a line under everything on the older side (this is a messy image full of perpendicular lines and sharp angles, sorry), creating a clear division between the archaic and the contemporary.
My daughter was born in 2012, almost exactly thirty years after I was. I imagine as she grows up, 1982 will seem like an increasingly ridiculous number. She’ll think I’m some kind of dinosaur. “He was born in the last century, in 19-something, he’s so old!” (‘Century’ is a big word, isn’t it?) The car I’ll be driving when she’s in her teens - Capri, 205 GTI, mkI MX-5, whatever - will undoubtedly be a source of embarrassment for her, a decrepit relic from a bygone age.
She won’t show an interest in the works of Monty Python in the same way that my peers and I wouldn’t have wanted to watch showreels from the 1930s. My music collection will harbour gems to impress her and her friends, but she’ll think I’m a cretin for still listening to CDs (or - the horror! - vinyl), begging me to lick music from digital lollipops or whatever the yoof will be doing in 2027.
You know what? Now I think about it, I’m not concerned about the different century thing. Not really. The best part of being a parent, I reckon, is to be a crippling embarrassment to your kids, deliberately or otherwise. I’m sure I’ll think I’m a pretty cool dad collecting her from a house party in a Capri in my faded jeans and Simpsons t-shirt, blasting Ace of Spades through the stereo and tooting my Dukes of Hazzard airhorns… but she won’t.
She’ll think I’m a total loser, and will be emphatic and insistent in telling me so.
I can’t wait.
On growing old
Youth, as the old aphorism goes, is wasted on the young.
The one thing that truly separates us from the sentient robots that will undoubtedly enslave us in the near future is our capacity to constantly degrade and crumble; to be a mammal is to age and, while we all may feel as mentally sprightly as we did when we were young and fresh and could drink ten pints in one sitting, the truth is that every day when we look in the mirror, we see a wrinkling and greying hulk before us.
You are a parody of your former self. You think and say the same things, but it all comes from a much more age-advanced shell, seeming all the more ridiculous with each passing year.
Indeed, our perception of old people in modern society is pretty shameful. When I think of my departed grandfather, now working his way through eternity on the Winchester breeze, I think of a life well lived, rich in experiences and with so many stories to tell; a vital role in Britain’s war effort, a successful career, raising a happy and loving family. But to anyone who’d seen him shuffling down the street in his later years, they’d probably have paid his kaleidoscope of experience as much heed as you and I do to every pensioner we see out in public: ‘old person’, we think. And that’s it.
They’re all the same, just old, slow, possibly batty, probably ill, usually grumpy. Opinions invalid.
This is exactly what people will think of you when you’re old.
But don’t be downhearted! Getting old is actually a brilliant thing. You can play on these stereotypes and this general sense of ignorance to have a rare old time at the expense of those pesky young greenhorns.
Here are some things I’m looking forward to when I’m old and stinking…
1. Paying for things with pennies
There are a lot of half-truths and rumours around what you can and can’t buy with coppers and shrapnel. When I was at school, the figure of twenty pounds was bandied around as the maximum you could take into a shop for a purchase before they threw your fiddling small change back in your face, although this was probably just a number that some kid plucked from the air.
Some banks can get a bit pissy about changing up your bagged pennies, saying that they’ll only exchange ten quid’s worth and the rest will be dealt with by the Post Office, although nobody’s quite sure why this is.
However, two key factors will ensure that once you’re retired, you can pay for whatever you like with hundreds of tiny coins; firstly, only a complete arsehole would refuse the money of a sweet old buffer who keeps saying ‘what’s that, sonny…?’ and who took a good ten minutes to shuffle from one end of the store to the other, and secondly, well, sod it, it’s all legal tender. Best get the old bastard out of the shop pronto before he pisses himself, eh? (…is what the shiny-suited young salesman is thinking.)
So, when the time comes to make a major new purchase – let’s say it’s a television – the tactic for the cantankerous fogey should be to take their £500-odd out of the bank in pennies – insist on it in a shaky voice, they’ll eventually relent – then wheel the loot into Currys in one of those bags on wheels that old people seem to believe are practical for shopping, and hand it over. Currys doesn’t have coin-weighing machines like banks do, so that shiny-suited chap will have to count all of the pennies out individually.
This activity can probably fill an entire day, with the salesman all the while worrying about the state of the carpet and whether or not he’ll need to call an ambulance.
2. Writing letters
People don’t write letters any more, do they? A combination of the ubiquity and ease of digital communication, a general social shift toward being more impersonal and less traditional, and the rising cost of stamps means that we just can’t be arsed to put pen to paper any more.
Rail against this.
Use your wizened old hands to baffle the editor of the Radio Times with your misguided ranting. You may have retained a full complement of marbles, but you can pretend to be barking mental just for the sheer hell of it. Write in and tell them how shameful you found the latest episode of The Only Way is Essex, offering as it did very little practical information on the creation of the new Essex superhighway which, now you think of it, you might have imagined.
It’ll definitely get printed.
Write a letter to Watchdog telling them that you’re positively disgusted with the excellent treatment you always receive at Tesco, and that you yearn for the halcyon days of indifference and standoffishness.
They’ll probably spin it into a story.
Write to your MP with a list of mad suggestions for making the borough better – moving walkways on all pavements, free holiday cruises for the elderly, pubs that only cater for the over-seventies, etc. Send a letter to Crimewatch, telling them that you haven’t seen anything suspicious recently but will remain vigilant. Write to your kids and include the notes you made during your last telephone conversation with them. Write to yourself at home, then scribble ‘return to sender’ on the envelope when it arrives and pop it back in the postbox, just to see how many journeys you can force the postman to make on one stamp. You mischievous old sod.
3. Living like a student
I don’t know about you, but when I was a student this was a typical day: enormous lie-in, lunch, TV, dinner, go out drinking.
You can only really get away with this when you’re a student, because you have to be responsible and sensible after you graduate, pretending to be mature and grown-up whilst secretly resenting having to go to bloody work; you’ve got to pay bills and taxes, be a helpful member of society, perhaps raise a family or focus on being successful in business, or whatever.
But when you’ve put all of that sensibleness behind you, you’re free to once again live the disgusting, carefree lifestyle of the student.
There’s no point getting up early if you have nowhere to be, so you may as well languish in bed until midday. Get up and boil some Super Noodles (the consistency will be perfect for your toothless gums), then veg in front of the telly for a while. This will give you something to talk about in the bingo hall later. After some soup (again, a cheap meal with minimal chewing), head out to the bingo in an ironic manner – I’m old, this is what old people are meant to do, so fuck it… - and sneak in a bottle of Lamb’s Navy in a brown paper bag, to prove that you’re still young at heart.
Your wayward, pissed-up drive home afterwards will pass unnoticed on the police radar, as they’ll see how very old you are and assume that the dangerous swerving is down to arthritis.
4. Watching all of the sport
Well, someone’s got to.
My nan and grandad spent their final years fixated upon their 40” Bravia, avidly consuming any sport that was available to watch; football, tennis, cricket, snooker, diving, horse-racing, motocross, rugby, they drank it all in.
To return to the previous point about not having anything to do all day, you might as well get interested in sport, mightn’t you? I have no particular keenness to watch sport on TV at present, but I’ll relish the opportunity to swoop in at the age of seventy and learn everything there is to know about all of these things that had been thus far absent from my consciousness. The offside rule, the importance of an elliptical spin for the hammer throw, the reason snooker balls get plucked from pockets and returned to the table, why the horses don’t drown in water polo, all of this will give me something to think about, to keep my mind active.
It’ll make my grandkids think I’m cool too, probably, spending all day watching football. (I don’t know, is that how it works? Football’s a mystery to me…)
5. Surprising people
Assuming you’ve not gone mad, you can have great fun pretending you are completely senile by indulging in various age-inappropriate activities that put people on edge, thinking ‘poor old git, should we help him…?’.
When I was a teenager, I used to quite often see a very, very old woman driving incredibly slowly and questionably around Whitstable in an Escort RS Turbo, resplendent in chrome 18” wheels, panscraping ride-height, rude-boy bodykit and neons.
Some boy racer had spent thousands on that car, it was baffling how this decrepit old duffer had ended up with it. Unless, of course, she was playing the I’m-mad-honest game – she could well have been perfectly able to drive like a normal person, but preferred to give everyone something to think about.
If this was the case, she was some kind of genius. We should all do things like that. Build a streetracer and then cruise haphazardly around your town centre in it, squinting through your cataracts. Wear a shell suit and a bumbag, combined with a pair of Wayfarers. Get tickets to see One Direction, then stand right at the front. Talk in great detail to shop assistants about your sex life in your youth. Watch teen rom-coms at the cinema. Take dance lessons at your local gym, and bring your walking-frame along. Buy the most expensive Nike Airs in the shop and wear them with your Harris tweed. Take a Thermos of Bovril to the trendiest bar on the high street.
Being old is going to be ace.
The spirit of Christmas
One of the key elements of Christmas when I was growing up was the school pantomime. Every year, the week before we broke up for the festive holidays, the upper sixth would perform a pantomime of their own creation – written, acted and staged by members of the sixth form, under the watchful, slightly nervous eye of the English department – which was basically an excuse to make a lot of noise and mess and say racy, scurrilous things about the staff. Each year the benchmark of cheekiness was raised, and there were always rumours (never true) about who’d got into the most trouble afterwards.
"Umm, I heard that John Jones got expelled for calling Mr Majzlik a bummer."
Everyone involved in the pantomime was, for one day at least, a campus hero. It was always something to look forward to as it would always be absolute chaos. We couldn’t wait to be the big kids who got to put on the show. It was something everybody wanted to do.
Inevitably, of course, our time came. That’s how time works. Aged seventeen or eighteen, we found ourselves being briefed by the English teachers: no swearing, no violence, nothing unsuitable for an audience of children as young as eleven, no misbehaviour of any kind, for goodness’ sake set a good example. A chorus of “yes Miss, of course Miss” sang back, but we were already hatching malevolent treasons, stratagems and spoils. We knew what the deal was with the annual Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School pantomime, and we knew that ours had to be more outrageous, more shocking, more naughty than any that had come before it.
We set about divvying up the responsibilities – what the rough plot would be, who’d play who, who’d design and build the sets, who’d be in charge of costumes, who’d control the music and lighting, who’d write the thing and so on and so on. I had the task of writing one of the scenes, although I cannot now recall a single word of what I wrote. But then, I was staggeringly drunk. We all were.
That was the crux of it, you see. When we were younger, we just assumed that the big kids on stage were being mischievous and daring. It never occurred to us that they were smashed out of their minds on Tesco Value vodka. But cometh the hour, cometh the spirits – we had little choice but to get kidney-pulping shitfaced. How else could we have got up in front of the entire school and faculty and done the things we did… ?
The writing process was a brilliantly clandestine one. In fact, we wrote two entirely separate scripts for Austin in Wonderland (for ‘twas the title; as you can imagine, it was a mash-up of Alice in Wonderland and Austin Powers) – one script to submit to the teachers for approval, and another containing the terrible, shocking things we were actually planning to do. Much of it would be lost to the collective memories of a cast who were too jiggered to recall the affair and a staff body who presumably still cringe when they remember what happened that day, but thankfully some bright spark had the wherewithal to video it, and that crackly videotape has now been lovingly transferred onto DVD for the sake of posterity. Lest we forget. When I’m old and grey, I could show my grandchildren the production I was involved with that featured full frontal nudity, a Stephen Hawking impersonator and a live horse.
I could do that, but I won’t.
What’s all this, you say? Full frontal nudity? Yes indeed, my good friend Clive (surname deliberately excluded, he’s a teacher himself now, poacher turned gamekeeper [his name isn’t even Clive, it’s Chris]) was playing the role of ‘The Naked Chef’, an entity that Jamie Oliver had recently debuted and we were hilariously lampooning. His role in the play was to bake the Queen of Hearts’ tarts. He was totally naked. Well, he was wearing an apron but it was really very small; when he turned around, the whole school saw his bum. When he crouched down to retrieve the tarts from the cardboard prop oven, his brown eye winked at every one of them. And when he stood up and swished back around to face the audience, the apron juuuuuuustdidn’t swing around quick enough. It was magical.
A Stephen Hawking impersonator? Yeah, that happened too. I’m at pains to point out that really we were subverting the expectations of the audience rather than mocking motor neurone disease. It was all very post-modern.
…at least, that’s what I tell myself.
The reality of it was that there was a spoddy boy in our year, Peter, who was exceptionally nerdish but also rather a good sport. He was like a walking talking Hawking, all NHS specs and slack jaw. So we put him in a wheelchair and rolled him out onto the stage whilst playing Radiohead’s ‘Fitter Happier’. The audience was, possibly for the only point throughout the pantomime, entirely silent. That is, save for a single child, somewhere deep within the darkness, who quietly breathed this timeless and cutting analysis of the scene: “Oh my god. That’s awful.”
I can only hope that their god has forgiven us.
A live horse? Hell yeah, we did that.
Jessica was a friend of the animals, nobody could deny that. She was our very own Doctor Dolittle. So when we hit upon the idea of having some kind of small live creature to bring out onto the stage at a certain point in the narrative, we knew that she would provide. Something like a piglet or small dog, we were thinking, a fuzzy critter that could be carried out, provide a bit of cuteness to the scene in question, then be quietly spirited away so that the play could continue.
She arrived shortly before the pantomime was due to start with a fucking horse. A real, proper, actual horse.
Now, any sensible direction team would have said “that’s ridiculous, it’s too big”. But we’d been drinking heavily all morning, and the idea of a horse seemed too hilarious to pass up.
The trouble was that the access to the backstage area was via the sports changing rooms, along numerous corridors and staircases and what-have-you, a route too serpentine and convoluted to lead a whole full-size horse. So we had to sneak it through a side door into the assembly hall itself, lead it among the audience (who were mostly small children, let’s not forget, sitting cross-legged on the floor), up the five or six polished wooden steps at the side of the stage and hope for the best.
Brilliantly, the preceding scene had seen two boys dressed in Men In Black get-up drilling the audience with high-powered Super Soakers, so the floor was really quite wet. The sight of a horse trying to climb a wet staircase, scrabbling for grip and nearly tumbling to the ground over and over, sent first-years screaming and running for cover. In hindsight, it’s incredible that the headmaster didn’t call a halt to the whole thing there and then.
After a good few minutes of sodden clippety-clopping, the beast made it onto the stage. But we hadn’t written any stage directions for a horse – it was a fucking horse, why would we? – so Jess then had to lead the befuddled creature back down the stairs, through the terrified audience and out into freedom, leaving a roomful of children bewildered and scared. It was priceless.
There were a number of other exciting features within the panto that, in hindsight, seem ill-advised, but were hilarious in context - the context being that we were drunk teenagers figuratively slapping our teachers in their faces in front of the entire school.
There was the Backstreet Boys segue which was basically just a striptease.
There was the increasingly inebriated lad playing Austin Powers, who kept forgetting the innuendo-laden insinuations of what he wanted to do to Alice that were in the script, so just resorted to boisterously describing a series of sexual acts in explicit detail, making it up as he went along.
Everybody enjoyed the S Club/Steps-style pop routine by our very own home-grown troupe named Oral Fun (they were originally called ‘Oral Six’ but our English teacher, Miss Williams, saw us rehearsing that bit and told us that under no circumstances were we allowed to use the name ‘Oral Six’. ‘Oral Fun’, however, was apparently fine. [Their routine ended with them simulating fellatio. It was pure class.]).
The scene with Hannah from Neighbours – played by a girl in a t-shirt that said ‘Barbie is a slut’ – chatting to Steve Irwin was an innuendo extravaganza: he was wrestling with a vast snake that the props department had knocked up which, if I remember rightly, was called ‘the Enormous Deadly Purple-Headed Trouser Snake’. “Oh no”, cried Hannah, “he’s spat his deadly white venom all over my chest. And hair.”
The pièce de résistance, however, was the grand finale. It was a monstrous dance routine involving the entire cast and crew – far too many people to fit on the stage at the same time. It began with the head boy & head girl (who walked out onto the stage to the tune of The Chemical Brothers’ ‘Hey Boy, Hey Girl’ – a masterstroke, that), being introduced by my (now) brother-in-law who was playing the part of Jerry Springer – it was a very confusing plot – who in turn introduced everybody else, until there were over a hundred people crammed onto the stage, most of them pissed out of their brains, trying to dance in sync and failing spectacularly. Then, my friend Sam – who I chose to be my Best Man a few years ago, largely because of this very performance – who had finished off the best part of a litre of ropey vodka, just fell off the stage.
It’s incredible to watch the footage back; one minute he was gurning and gyrating, having the time of his life at the front of the stage, and the next there’s just a void where he was standing and the sound of screaming. He landed on several kids, I believe.
We fled straight to the pub at that point. It would have been very, very foolish to stick around. The changing rooms were ankle-deep in empty bottles.
And that’s what Christmas is all about.