Part 134: Frozen

Mind-the-Gap

They say that when you’re about to die, your life explodes before your eyes in a series of pictures – like scrolling through a photo album on Google Glass. Or else you’re visited by a long-deceased relative, who appears as a comforting apparition, smoky and translucent, reaching towards you with desperate, vaporous fingers. And I’ve also heard that you get to look at yourself from above, as if you were a bird or an angel, before traversing a great glowing cylindrical corridor, with a pinprick of oblivion flashing at its centre.

Terrifying stuff, which, I’ve discovered, is utter bollocks.

I had a near-death experience last week at Stratford station, and it was nothing like what they tell you.

There I was, boarding the tube, with a banana in my gob and an iPhone between my fingers, replying to a text message, when out of nowhere I slipped down the gap between the platform and the train.

Fucking gah!

I had matter of seconds to wrench myself out of the gap before the train pulled away and tore me to my death.

I stared the grim reaper right in the eye, paralysed with the banal absurdity of my finale – but there was no side-show of memories, no benevolent ghostly relatives, no bird’s-eye-view of London to ease me into the darkness. Awareness of my imminent death simply gave way to a pang of regret, and a single precise thought, that rang with the clarity Prophets claim they hear in the voice of God: ‘Fuck this!’ My thought went, ‘you haven’t seen Frozen yet.’

And because I didn’t want to die with that kind of regret looming over me, I was seized by a surge of super-human energy, which propelled me out of the gap and back onto the platform; back into the land of the living.

It was surprise that I was this shallow, of course. But then isn’t near-death designed to teach us important things about ourselves and others? That’s why deathbeds are fertile grounds for scandal. For example, my great-grandmother – a stern, sullen, tree of a woman who said little but always had a fag hanging from the corner of her mouth, with a long tapering build-up of ash threatening to fall off into her lap – sat up on hers and looked into the middle distance, ‘Freddie! At last!’ She rasped, ‘We’ll take our secret to the grave!’ And then she dropped dead; leaving us all to ponder who Freddie was, and whether that secret involved incest.

There’ll be no such revelations on my deathbed – and not just because I’ve shared all my secrets here, on the internet, with strangers like you. It turns out my waters don’t run deep enough for terrible secrets. They stop at Disney movies and swearing.

Frozen, it turns out, has a pretty baffling plot revolving around a princess, Elsa (later the Queen), who, for reasons to which we are not privy, has magical powers that allow her to freeze stuff and conjure up humorous, fat little snowmen. Although her magic is great fun at first, she soon becomes careless, accidentally freezes her sister’s brain during a late night snow-jam and becomes so terrified of her great and terrible powers that she locks herself inside her room, alone, for many years.

I won’t ruin the ending, but suffice to say there’s bare massive drama, before she comes out of hiding, saves the day and all is well by the time the closing credits roll.

The movie is a fable about embracing your quirks and learning to love and be loved in spite of them. I could relate to that message, and to many of Elsa’s less admirable personality traits. I have been known, for example, to spend long periods of time in my bedroom, and I once nearly killed my brother with my own divine powers (spite and reckless curiosity).

Do you see where I’m going with this? (Bonus points if you do, babe, because I’m not 100% sure yet).

My sudden urge to watch the movie, as I flayed, trapped against the tube-train and the hard, unyielding platform, might have been a divine intervention from God. ‘Let it go,’ God was possibly saying, ‘you can’t hate all the people for the rest of your life. You can’t isolate yourself from the world and the good men who live in it. You have to get a grip and learn to love again, despite the fact you’ve got problems.’

But if that was God’s Divine Plan, then He has proper screwed up. Because the princess was far more interesting when she was locked away in her castle, dismissing friendly advances from strangers and family members, than she was when she came home and started caring.

There is a reason why the most iconic scene of that movie involves Queen Elsa summoning a raging storm and telling everyone to go fuck themselves. Solitude with an undercurrent of anger is the hero’s way. Romance, as the Queen’s drippy little sister demonstrates, is for losers.

So sorry, God. Sorry Divine Powers who spoke to me as I straddled the precipice between this life and the next. You can’t change my mind with Disney Movies. The cold never bothered me anyway.

(Boom!)

*I stole the image, above, off the internet. Don’t bother suing, TFL – you’ve caused me enough stress, as you’ll hopefully have gleaned from the above.

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.