Holiday. Celebrate.

bikini

Dahlinks. That picture, above, that’s MY passport and MY bikini. I’m off on holiday, where there will be cocktails, fresh water to bathe in and at least one good-looking man who doesn’t want to have sex with me. I can’t fucking wait.

My holiday does, of course, mean that I shan’t be posting here for a couple of weeks, which I’m sorry about – but not that sorry. If you find yourself missing me you might like to browse my archives for posts from last summer, or else, listen to Dizzie Rascal’s Holiday, which is my tune of the moment.

I’ll try to bring back hilarious anecdotes with which to thrill and arouse you, but I’m promising nothing.

Ciao for now.x

Part 131: Pulled Pork

meat chunks

The first time I heard the words ‘pulled pork’, I was in LA. It was two or three years ago, it was a balmy, blue-skied day – as it always is in LA, although this particular day was a spring one, so as well as the sunshine there were pastel blossoms everywhere; blooming on tree branches, floating about in the warm breeze and dusting the pavement like confetti, except, thankfully, without a newly married couple anywhere in the vicinity, ruining the vibes. ‘I’m getting the pulled pork bun,’ my mate Tom said, looking up from his menu. We had gone for a late lunch – post-cocktails, pre-club, not quite late enough to call it dinner – and even though (or, more likely, because) I was half-cut already (what with the Bloody Marys and the margaritas and that massive mojito) I was momentarily distracted by Tom’s selection.

Pulled pork? I thought. Pulled pork? What’s pulled pork? It must be one of those American hillbilly foodstuffs, like grits and gumbo and ‘pudding’, which English people needn’t bother learning about because we’ll only ever come across them in Depression-era novels or on sitcoms, where a precise knowledge of what they actually are is unnecessary – we have grasped that they serve to evoke a kind of salt-of-the-earth, heavy, atmospheric domesticity, and that’ll do, for now. If I imagined anything when I heard the phrase ‘pulled pork’, then what I imagined was a giant pig carcass, de-boned and stretched taut, roasted thin and flat, over an open fire lit, perhaps, in a disused garbage can by filthy farm-hands with cowboy hats and mud-spattered faces, served crisp and crackling, skin on.

And then I forgot about pulled pork and concentrated on the tasks at hand. I ordered and ate my own lunch (the After-School Special: tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich – a poor choice, in hindsight), drank some more margaritas, fell asleep in a nightclub and continued my holiday as planned – i.e: singing along to La Roux’s Bulletproof at the top of my lungs as we drove along the Pacific Coast Highway with the windows wound down and the soupy wind caressing our faces. Bliss.

That was then.

Now, I long for those days when pulled pork was a mysterious dish from an unfamiliar cuisine. Now, the repulsive stuff is everywhere and I know exactly what it is. Soft, stringy slow-cooked meat that looks and tastes as one would imagine a pale, chubby baby might look and taste, if she were slow roasted and her cooked flesh was tugged off the bone with a fork – which is, as far as I can gather, the ‘pulled’ part of ‘pulled pork’. It is made edible only with the addition of coleslaw and sugary sauces. A pulled pork bun is the kind of meal you might eat for a laugh at a barn dance, or on a US holiday, but it is certainly not the kind of meal you expect to be offered irony-free in a gastro-pub, pop-up nightclub or cinema foyer – to select just three of the places I’ve come across pulled pork in the past fortnight.

I know American barbecue is a passing trend; it’s all the rage due to the bearded gentrification demographic needing to assume an identity and having only post-80s popular culture from which to fashion one. I understand that pulled pork, rib tips and burgers in brioche (for the record: brioche is a sweet, rich bread suitable for spreading with jam at breakfast and essential for a decent bread-and-butter pudding. Sandwiching beef between it is uncouth in the extreme, and also revolting) will soon be part of history, and we’ll reminisce to our grandkids about the days when you couldn’t socialise anywhere in London without the background stench of charbroiled animal, and it’ll sound nostalgic and glamorous. But I’d like to call time now because enough is enough. Not only is this relentless barbecue culture making me nauseous, it is also seriously hampering any possibility that I might one-day have grandchildren to reminisce with.

I’m pretty sure that I am currently without a husband or a boyfriend at least partly because men fucking love eating pulled pork and it makes them gross. How am I supposed to fancy a bloke when the mere fact of consuming fatty, bland, carcinogenic slop, with his shirt-sleeves rolled up, induces such smugness? When wiping his oily hands on his jeans instead of washing them makes him feel like a real man, from the movies? I know it can’t be all the men, but barbecue culture certainly gets the least desirable of them out in public – which, incidentally, is where I am to be found these days, if you’re up for a date. Or sex. I ain’t fussy.

(I am).

*The image is ‘Meat Chunks’ by Serge Bertasius Photography at freedigitalphotos.net.

Part 130: Unrequited Love

kitty love

I fucking hate cats, usually. Like men, they’re either ugly, good-looking but dumb to the point of irrelevance, or else transparently cunning. And, also like men, they do that thing where they treat you with indifference, until you withdraw your affections, and then they’re all over you like salt on chips. Aloof, mewing fleabags that jump out from nowhere, hissing, with arched backs and spite-contorted faces, or else cross your path on Friday the thirteenth and curse you with bad luck forevermore. And they make me sneeze. I was a big fan of that woman who, a few years back, was caught on CCTV, as she chucked a cat into a wheelie bin, when she happened upon it, during her daily stroll.

‘Drown the lot of ‘em’, I used to think, secretly – because saying stuff like that out loud is more likely to get you ostracised from polite British society than just about anything else, including – it would seem, from the many blind eyes turned to geriatric celebrity sleazery – child abuse.

But then, about six weeks ago, a tabby appeared in my back garden, eyeing me with a delicious malevolence; her yellow-green eyes flashing as she peered out from behind the bushes. You could tell, by how her languid movements suddenly turned razor-sharp, and from the way she turned her nose up at the double-cream I offered, that this was a kitty of above average intelligence, charisma and ability. I wanted her. I wanted her in that immediate, essential way you sometimes want a strong-backed stranger, except without the sexual overtones. I wanted her to want me; I wanted her to rub her kitten fur against my legs, to jump into my lap and fall asleep, purring as I fondled her velvet ears.

Don’t misunderstand me. I do not wish to steal the cat from my neighbours. I know she isn’t mine; she’s made it perfectly clear that she has a loving owner who feeds her and provides her with stability and comfort in a manner I am not capable of at this time. I’m not asking much. I only want her to love me on the side; to visit me a couple of times a week for cuddles, chicken bits and a saucer of cream and return to her family afterwards.

But she’s not feeling my moves, and I don’t know what to do next.

It’s very hard with cats, because when they ignore you there are no obvious means of covertly attracting their attention – by which I mean you can’t ‘accidently’ send them a text message written for someone else, or find out where they’ll be on Saturday night, using your advanced social media surveillance skills, and turn up wearing a skin-tight mini-dress and red lipstick.

This is new territory.

I know where I am when men don’t want me. I can play maudlin pop music, down a few bottles of Prosecco and recall incidents from the past where he demonstrated that he was a total scumbag who didn’t deserve my love in the first place (there are always plenty of those) – and before I know it, I’m over the worst of the heartache and fantasising about someone new.

But that method has proved ineffective with cats. I can’t find a single decent love song about kittens, the Prosecco just makes me cry and even her most terrible behaviour endears her to me all the more. Such as her predilection for hunting small creatures and toying with their corpses.

There she sits, in my garden, crouched low, scrutinising a tormented mouse as it jumps hither and thither and cowers in the grasses. When I walk over to investigate, she mews with disapproval, snatches the mouse in her little cat mouth, flashes me a cruel glance and pads off to set the mouse down further up the garden, where she can prod and tease it unwatched, before, no doubt, tearing it apart in a demented frenzy and delivering its eviscerated carcass to her owners as a sadistic thank-you for their ongoing provision of food and shelter.

It doesn’t matter how much I try, it’s clear, from the way she’s consistently rebuffed my advances, that next door’s cat won’t be gifting the dead mouse to me. Which means I’ve failed at the crazy cat-lady hurdle of long term-singledom – which, I suppose, I can choose to see as a silver-lining, in the dark cloud of rejection. That’s the thing with unrequited love – there’s always a silver-lining.

*Image is “Cat Trying To Catch Love Heart” by mack2happy at freedigitalphotos.net. I’d like to point out that the cat who’s won my affections is considerably better looking than the cat in this photo.

Part 129: Keeping Your Name

creepy

When I was a small girl, dressed in moss-green corduroy dungarees, with plaited blonde pigtails (which I had to braid all by myself because my mother was not capable of fashioning hair into anything other than a scrappy ponytail), I loved fairy tales. There was nothing I enjoyed more than having morality served up in narrative form – so that I could digest it whole – accompanied by slightly sinister illustrations, to hammer home the message, whatever it was, and usually it was don’t lie or cheat, work hard, never trust spinsters, (unless they have wings and a wand), remember that your Daddy loves you and will do all he can to protect you (unless he marries a controlling bitch step-mother type, in which case, good luck) and, if all else fails, don’t freak out – because you can just fall asleep and in a hundred years or so there’ll be a man along to save the day.

And the morals you learned from fairy tales were weird, when you thought about it – because in fairy tales, you had to wait around for a man before anything was sorted. In my real life, however, it was women who got things done. My mother was a woman and she cooked and took us to school and went to work and kept the household ticking over while my Dad was out doing unspecified masculine things at Crown and Manor Boys Club. My Nan was a woman and she worked several jobs and did everything on her own because her husband had died before she was thirty and there was no-one else to do it. The head teacher at my primary school was a woman. The prime minister was a woman, and, although no-one said a good word about her in my house, you couldn’t deny that she got shit done, and had the courage of her convictions to boot.

I have a vivid memory of reading a line in Dodie Smith’s The One Hundred and One Dalmations where the prime minister is described as a ‘he’ and balking.

‘But Mum!’ I said, outraged, ‘the prime minister is a woman.’

‘Not usually, Kate. It’s usually a man.’

I was horrified. Whose doing was this? Who had allowed the men to be in charge of things? Men were there for decoration, surely – or annoyance, or to poke at broken electrical appliances with screwdrivers and then give up and buy a new one.

Here are some of the men I knew as a child: my uncle Paul, who sometimes had too much to drink and stripped naked at the Christmas dinner table; the school keeper, who lived in a ramshackle little cottage on the school grounds and who moved so slowly that you sometimes heard his wife call him an imbecile to his face; this bloke called Martin who my Dad played cricket with and who put my new kitten inside his mouth – the whole kitten, right inside – when he was invited over one time, for a quiet night in.

But still, I found it hard to entirely dismiss the messages I was receiving via folklore and literature, which is why I was petrified of old women – and why, against all my better instincts, I trusted my father to take me through the haunted house at Alton Towers, in the belief he would protect me from the terrifying plaster moulds of haggard, menacing witches, rather than dangle me gleefully in front of them.

And, indeed, some of the messages from fairy tales are worth absorbing. Such as the one about how names are important, for instance. In Rumpelstiltskin, the little goblin’s name was the source of his power and giving it away, in a fit of self-satisfied jubilation, led to an inevitable catastrophe – he was no longer entitled to the Queen’s baby, and his foot was wedged into the floor (possibly for eternity, I don’t quite remember).

I never told strangers my name, even when I was seventeen and trying to pull them in nightclubs. Your name was who you were, an intimate fact that you could choose to make public: your name was the form of the shape of yourself in words; the thing that mutual acquaintances might use to call you forth, as an imagery, when you weren’t there.

So as a child it was upsetting to me that women – strong important women like my mum and my nan and the prime minister – changed their names after the event of marriage. They just gave up the form of who they were, to become someone new, someone more like the man they’d married, and less like the person they had to face everyday in the mirror, even when they’d done terrible things, or were heartbroken and covered in acne and quite, quite sure that they’d made all the worst life choices. My mum and my nan and the other newly-named women had to look in the mirror and, underneath it all, that familiar, comforting shape of themselves no longer remained, as it otherwise might have, permanent, solid, unchanging.

And I know, now that I’m all grown up (lol), that you don’t have to change your name when you get married. Although an alarming number of people do choose to. Which is fair enough, I suppose, if that makes them happy – even if it does cause me a certain amount of bafflement. But staying single, of course (unless you’re undergoing some massive identity crisis or another), means you don’t have to make any name-altering decisions at all. Which is one more reason to recommend it.

*The sinister image that accompanies this post is “Green Witch Like Creature In Swamp” by Victor Habbick, from, as ever freedigitalphotos.net.

Mediations on Summer (1)

Scented flower

Outside, in the garden, there are delicious grasses and wildflowers: bluebells with rich purple nectar, daisies dripping neon pollen, lush green ferns – and yet, as soon as I open the back door, bees swarm inside the house and smash themselves against the windows, trying to escape again.

I’m starting to think they’re not very bright.

Part 128: Dance Moms

A couple of months ago, after five long years of hard graft at the cerebral coalface – learning how to teach with a hangover (just jokes any employers reading) and use words such as ‘auto-ethnography’, ‘phenomenology’ and ‘transmediality’ with a straight face – I got my doctorate. Since that momentous event I have mainly been getting manicures and sitting on my parents’ sofa eating crisps and watching Dance Moms.

I figure that since I am now in the world’s top most educated one percentile I no longer need to prove my intellectual firepower by watching University Challenge, documentaries about D-Day and Flog It!

In case you have been living in a remote cave, or a sealed box or a luddite commune and are yet to engage with this cultural phenomenon, Dance Moms is the brilliant American docu-series about an overweight dance instructor called Abby Lee Miller and her elite competition team. But primarily, it is about the dancers’ crazy Mommas. Each week, we watch as Abby Lee – whose chins the make-up artists contour ever more expertly as the series progress – choreographs conceptually baffling routines for her pre-teens (often involving a hard-hitting ‘message’ or serving as a moralistic rumination on the state of contemporary life, such as, for example, the national award-winning ‘Last Text’, in which the eleven-year old dancers represent the dangers of texting while driving in a lyrical routine where they all die in a horrific car accident), while the mothers look on from a glass ‘observation mezzanine’, where they make underhand, bitchy comments about each-others’ children and start arguments, which occasionally escalate into physical violence.

I’m obsessed.

Of course, part of the attraction of Dance Moms is that it allows me to vicariously re-live my childhood dancing dreams.

Between the ages of five and eleven, I was into dance. Not out of any genuine love for the medium, nor any real desire to pursue the discipline in a professional capacity – I occasionally watched Top of the Pops and even at that tender, pre-adolescent stage I felt mostly contempt for the lythe, vapid FE performing arts college drop-outs who were reduced to fulfilling their ambitions of success in the ‘cultural industries’ via public displays of mediocrity in the form of free-styling as backing dancers for Chesney Hawkes. No. I wanted to be a dancer for vague ethereal reasons to do with Degas paintings, which I knew about because my Nan once brought me a postcard print of ‘The Rehearsal’, and the tiny plastic ballerina inside my jewellery box, who performed a ceaseless pirouette to the tune of ‘Swan Lake’.

Anyway.

I did go to dance classes. But my Mum was not the type of woman who was going to find fulfilment by abetting her daughter’s participation in conventional, feminine pastimes. Indeed, I can pinpoint the moment of my dancing downfall to the specific occasion of my first recital, for which my mother failed to fashion a tutu from stiff yellow tulle, as the mothers had been requested to do, resulting in my appearing on stage dressed in a purple leotard with two strips of creamy crepe paper sown hastily to the waist. At the same recital, I watched some older girls perform the bedroom scene from Grease and I quickly abandoned the fledging ethereal dance ambitions I’d been harbouring in exchange for more satisfying aspirations, on which my mother’s poor home-ec skills would have little impact – such as drinking dessert wine from the bottle, making perfect smoke rings using a fag and my mouth and sneaking out the bathroom window with strong-backed boys who might get me pregnant.

This will never happen to Maddie. Whose mother has never forgotten to make her costume and who has achieved my vague dance ambitions by appearing as an alcoholic nymph in a blonde wig in that new Sia video.

Not that I hold a grudge against my mother for her terrible costume-making in the late 80s. She’s done me a favour, role-model wise. Those Dance Mom’s embody everything there is to loathe about the traditions of marriage and motherhood. They are (with the exception of Dr Holly) stupid, bitter, narrow-minded and vacuously passionate about trivial matters.

But I keep watching because I love everything about Abby Lee. I love her rasping voice and her piercing eyes and her blatant favouritism. I love her button nose and her delicate wrists and her scarlet talons. I love her honesty and her cruelty towards the mothers and, occasionally, their children. I love how she has a fat fluffy little Bichon Frise called Broadway Baby who dies and is stuffed by an expert taxidermist. I love how she is rich beyond her wildest dreams, simply because she works hard and is amazing at something she loves.

Most especially I love that she’s single. That she’s achieved every thing in her life without a man, and doesn’t feel any less fabulous because of it.

If you think about it carefully, by watching series one to three back-to-back and hardly sleeping, Abby Lee is the greatest feminist icon of our time. Okay, unlike Germian Greer, she probably doesn’t get much sex – but she certainly proves that ain’t nobody got time for sex when they’re fabulous. Which is a thing us single people would do well to bear in mind, on lonely summer nights, when we’re eating crisps alone in front of our parents’ telly, trying very hard not to think about the future.

Sexpert

sexpert

Hola Blogfans!

It’s the middle of the day. I’m in my most sexual nightwear (ancient striped hot pants, vest-top with snot on it). The curtains are closed. And all is good with the world – for I have been named number five in a list of the UK’s most influential sex bloggers! I’m an official sexpert. Who’d a thought it? (Certainly not me, since, as I’ve definitely mentioned, sex in my life is less than frequent and totally satisfying. BUT STILL! )

If you are as elated by the news of my national influence as I am, then you can view the list here, where you will also find nine other bloggers, who are no doubt getting a lot more action than I am.

Ciao for now.

x

*Image is “Sexy Target” by Salvatore Vuono at freedigitalphotos.net.