Part 133: Other People

people

Have you met any people recently? New ones you aren’t obliged to tolerate for a salary? What a fucking nightmare – especially when you consider their voices, their body hair and their alarming propensity to cause disappointment, upset and embarrassment. No. Seriously. When they aren’t out-and-arseholes hiding beneath a thin veneer of charm and generosity, other people are wearing fancy dress, or posting #tbt Instagram pics of themselves in novelty Christmas jumpers, or banging their empty glass on the bar to attract the bartender’s attention.

And on the rare occasions when they’re neither scumbags nor absolute dorks on whom you must use your most neutral body language in order to avoid inciting sex, they only serve to enable your own terrible personality flaws. Consider: if it wasn’t for other people I would never have thrown up over that old man’s legs, or punched my aunty in the face, or been rejected by my mate Rob, that time I told him I was in love with him, after I crashed his date with another girl.

I’m done with all the people and their neuroses and addictions and ceaseless adherence to troubling and oppressive conventions such as marriage and property investment and not telling each other to go fuck themselves more often. I’m done with pretending I understand about baffling cultural products such as Shakespeare and the Simpsons and Reggae Reggae Sauce.

Solitude is well under-rated. I cannot think of any activity which isn’t more pleasant alone, in your house, with a bowl of lukewarm spaghetti and the X-factor playing at a low volume in the background – and all the people far, far away where you can love them, without having their proximity interfere with the relationship. (Loving people from a distance is easy; it’s up close that’s difficult – when they’re right there where you can’t smudge out the bad bits. Right there with their breath and their chewed up fingernails and their faces that won’t stop getting older.)

Of course, I realise that other people are essential for providing things such as healthcare, good company and table service, and thus I tolerate them to a point. But they’re everywhere, all these people, scuttling sideways like hard-shelled crabs, implicating you in their tragic decisions left and right, telling you about their respect for humanity and how much they love their mum and then cheating on their girlfriend with a prostitute. I am too old now to put up with any bullshit whatsoever. And so I’m slowly weeding out the worst of the people I already know, in order to cultivate a manageable friendship garden pollinated by flowers I don’t want to rip out of the ground and stamp into a fragrant pulp.

It’s very liberating, by the way, to sort friends, acquaintances and one time love interests into metaphorical heaps and decide which you’ll carry with you, and which you’ll leave behind, to fend for themselves, in the bleak years to come. In fact, it’s a very similar feeling to the one I got earlier this year, when I moved back to London and threw away almost all of my possessions in a mad fit of ‘fuck it, life’s too short and this crap is weighing me down.’

I’m light now. Lighter than air on a cloud. And, of course, I’m still on the market, if you’re interested. Tell your brothers, lock up your sons and, you know, for fuck sake, call me. Because solitude, like all things that aren’t yoga, is best practiced in moderation.

*Image from freedigitalphotos.net, as per.

Part 132: Post-Holiday Blues

post holiday

All good things come to an end. One minute, you’re in a speedboat, cocktail cruising – sipping champagne on a remote lake in deepest New England, with no phone or internet reception to ruin the vibes; the next you’re squeezing spots on the Piccadilly line, sobbing at the Great British Bake Off and blocking twitter profiles your ex-boyfriend has set up in his baffling, ceaseless attempt to solicit communication. Or else you’re swiping left on Tinder, eating anchovies from the jar and wondering out-loud whether a Moon Cup would make your periods a more or less pleasant experience. Real life is fucking exhausting, and it only stops for death, or, occasionally (but only if you’re very lucky indeed), brief vacations to international beauty spots.

I’m back and I’ve had it with my real life, especially now the summer’s just about over, which means no more exotic electric storms at 3 am, no more sleeping until midday (because only losers work from May-September), no more titillating retired neighbours with my garden-ready bikini body. We now return to work; to coats, scarves, biker boots and to freezing sideways rain until next summer, which will come around soon enough, although the inevitable breakout of World War Three will no doubt put a right dampener on bikini-wearing come 2015.

I am not coping well, post-holiday.

I am no good at endings. As I well know from the horrific break-up that led, in a round-about way, to the creation of this blog.

How long does it take normal people to get over things? It’s more than two weeks since I got back from holiday and I’m still blue; it’s almost twelve years since I laid eyes on my first proper boyfriend and I still occasionally dream about him, sexually. And my last proper boyfriend – that was a long time ago now, too. I am not going to tell you how long because it’ll freak me out, but if you were watching a documentary and a woman of my age, with my pert breasts and big blue eyeballs, told you that she’d been single for as long as I have, and that her heart was still broken – with a hairline crack, just visible, right down the middle – you’d tweet about it, and mention it to colleagues in hushed, incredulous tones, instead of filling in important spread sheets, or filing important reports, or whatever it is you do, the next day at work.

‘It’s time to move on, Kate’, I tell myself, about the holidays and the men and the frenemies I keep shedding. ‘Maybe if you left the house today you’d meet the love of your life.’ And then I roll over and fall sleep with my mouth open and little bit of dribble oozing onto the pillow. Or I put on another episode of Dance Moms and congratulate myself because at least if I never have children, I’ll never put them through that. Or I do leave the house, but only for dreadful social obligations held in venues where the love of my life would not be seen dead.

Yes, some people are capable of getting over holidays ending; the same people who get over heartbreak and rejection at Olympic speed. These people are able to look at an ultrasound of their ex-boyfriend’s soon-to-be-born baby without it causing actual physical pain, just below the sternum – they bounce from lover to lover as if none of it meant anything in the first place. And maybe they’re right. Maybe other people are just there to provide a conveyor belt of regular sex, targeted resentment and financial support. You return from holiday, you book another. You lose a lover, you find a lover. It’s almost beautiful in its simplicity.

But not for me. For me, it’s complicated, and ugly. My tan hasn’t faded, my heart hasn’t healed and I know from experience that embarking on anything means misery, somewhere down the line. It’s better not to bother, I’ve started to believe, than to enter into situations (holidays, relationships, dinners in restaurants where main courses are priced above £30) which will inevitably serve only to highlight how depressing your real life is. Why would I want to spend two weeks in five-star luxury, with housekeeping and fresh-cut flowers I don’t have to water, when the other 50 weeks involve mouldering bedside crockery and dirty knickers at the bottom of my handbag? Why would I want to lie curved into my lover with the covers thrown off, when that lover is bound to fuck off with a better behaved girl and get her pregnant sooner or later; leaving me to die all alone, with images of his unborn child burned onto my retinas?

I wouldn’t.

And that’s why I’m still single. In case you were wondering.

* Image is “Sunset Over Mountain And Sea” by samuiblue at freedigitalphotos.net.

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.