Monthly Archives: December 2008

Festive Cheer

Parent 1: Oh God, no. Please, don’t tell me…

Parent 2 (alarmed): What’s happened? Are you o.k?

Parent 1: I’ve got a Christmas card from someone I haven’t sent to.

I do hate that.

Parent 2 (understanding): Oh dear. Who?

Parent 1: Pat.

Parent 2: Pat who?

Parent 1: No idea. It says,

‘Still managing to get around. Hope you are not as bad. Pat’.

Parent 2: Pat Brown! She must be knocking on 100.

Parent 1: I thought she was dead.

Parent 2: No, she moved to Sweden. Or maybe her son did.

Parent 1: Who’s her son?

Parent 2: Noel. Noel Brown.

Parent 1: Noel moved to Sweden? When?

Parent 2: In 1980.

Parent 1: Anyway, she sent it to our old address.

Parent 2: Good. That means she doesn’t know where we live.

And that reminds me, The Hunchback of Notre Dame was on at the week-end.


A proper Merry Christmas, you.

Please kick off the New Year with me on January 5th.



Filed under Conversations, Mumbo Life, Uncategorized

Moving house

It is a commonly held misconception that moving house is stressful. It isn’t. Unless you are a snail or a removal man with curvature of the spine.

Thinking about moving house; involving third parties to facilitate it; telling store cards and people who have forgotten you exist that you have done it: these are stressful.

On the actual day- propelled by adrenalin and fear and unable to contemplate anything other than the physical properties of dense matter- you will have rarely felt so thoroughly in the zone in your whole life.

Moving is the practical equivalent of taxes and dentistry, being thankless maintenance. It is a deeply inconvenient and boring interruption to normal life, leaving no psychodynamic aspect of the mover unaffected.

People who are wealthy or lazy or both can engage a firm to pack up their contents for them. This will be arranged by someone smooth and affable and executed by a crew of desperate ex-convicts, united by sweat and missing teeth.

Watching their clumsy, grubby mitts juggling with the Royal Copenhagen would make Mrs. Pilkington-Smythe nervous if she wasn’t so busy heaping tablespoons of sugar into mugs of black coffee.

People who are poor- whether lazy or not- must arrange for their own goods to make a safe transition and this isn’t going to happen without mountains of cardboard boxes.

These can either be scavenged from supermarkets and newsagents with great expenditure of effort or bought from a storage company with great expenditure, the decider being whether it is deemed more odious to place one’s precious things in a mouldy box that smells of parsnips or to willingly exchange cash for large squares of disposable stiff paper.

It should be remembered, however, that the assembly of the latter option can be therapeutic in a brainless, automotive kind of way but only after the instructions pain barrier has been broken through:

Take side A and fold it backwards on side B in the direction of the helpful little arrows, so that both sides are supported by side C and yet not ostracized by side D, which will need to be bent back unnaturally on itself. Then take side E and gently persuade it to push back on side A: it looks permanently wedged in but it’s in the wrong place and is going to have to come undone again. Now flip the un-box-like creation over, get cross and give it a kick. Call someone else into the room to help and when they invite you to go away in strong language, take a deep breath, take side A and fold it backwards on side B etc. By the way, what’s your name? Would you like to come on a date with me?

The packing of no room in the house promises a morning’s enjoyment. The video screens, valuables and artwork in the living room have to be swaddled and sung to sleep; the clothes in the wardrobe and drawers must learn to relinquish their categories and share hanger space with strangers; and the crockery in the kitchen treated with the same care you would afford a recovering alcoholic.

Only when you get to children’s toys and books can you grab a bin-liner and give generously to charity, with the Joker’s grin on your face.

Shoes, meanwhile, should be tackled with alcohol.

Then as the black marker pen is running out and the gaffer tape is ripping off a nail the centuries-old dilemma of where to put the awkward-shaped items will re-present itself: does a bag of bags need to go in a box? Can an umbrella squash down the side of a duvet without puncturing the bag containing both? Can a hand-blender bed down with the paperwork?

Wist hangs in the air when one’s castle is finally reduced to sad, bare walls, confusing picture stains and a reproachful sense of abandonment.

What remains is a microcosm of belongings- the only things a person ever uses. Indeed, realizing you wouldn’t care if you never set eyes on any of your lovingly packed treasures again is one of the most devastating moments of the whole process, unless the lorry is booked to go the dump.

But generally it is being booked to shut the sun out of the entire street, being a gargantuan and unwieldy vehicle, for which several spaces should have been safeguarded.

If this has not happened (You did do that didn’t you? I thought you were doing that. I thought you were doing that etc.) a fetal position should be adopted in the bathroom, fingers plugged in ears, humming a Spice Girls song, until a solution has been found by someone else.

The removal of the goods is one of the few times in life when it is absolutely essential not to think of the bigger picture. Considering the logistical likelihood of large quantities of goods de-materialising en masse and appearing in a new location without loss or damage may well induce an aneurism.

Better to focus with deathly seriousness on individual tasks or better still, stand around offering helpful pointers to the strong men- perhaps opening the door that little bit wider or carrying out a lamp.

Until that golden moment when your helpful suggestions are bouncing off echoey walls. The removal men are only a suitcase away from a heart attack but there is emptiness all around and a feeling of immense relief floods your loins.

Only one question can ruin the moment:

‘So where’s this lot going to then?’


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The Fat Person Inside

Inside: Coo-ee! Let me out, will you?

Outside: Oh God, not you. No, sod off.

Inside: Come on! Don’t be a spoil sport. It’s my favourite time of year.

Outside: Sorry, but I’m not ready for you.

I’ve got a friend- do you want her mobile number?

Inside: Bollocks. There’s a cheesecake in your fridge. I’ve seen it.

We always hang out at Christmas. The M & S Food section is my manor. It’s where I belong.

Outside: Off you go then.

I don’t want to be hanging out anywhere this Yuletide, thanks.

Inside: I can’t go on my own. I need you to come with me. I won’t stay long.

Outside: Really? It took me weeks to get rid of you last time.

I had to chase you around with a bloody carrot and peppermint tea.

Inside: No, I’ll just do some steady bingeing. No clotted cream.


It’s really cold and dark in the evenings and I want to come out to play.

Outside: Well, you can stay on the sofa just for the festivities as long as you don’t make a dent in it.

And you know you’ll have to hide under coats and jumpers when we go out?

Inside: Yay, that’s fine! I can do that! I love wool!

Outside: And I can’t take you swimming.

Inside: Swimming? Yuk, no way.

Outside: And I won’t let you call me a body fascist when I start taking you to the gym.

Inside: Whatever. Give me Christmas pudding, bitch!

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Welcome back, me

Q: Does the clap of a man in the desert make a sound if there is no-one there to hear it?

Allowing a person like me to embark on a Philosophy Degree at the age of 18 is like buying a 12-stepper Threshers vouchers for Christmas.

Yet someone in authority and a pair of innocent parents blessed the endeavour and it has been a painful process for those in my sphere ever since.

(Nevertheless, less painful than if I had not switched to Literate Twaddle English Literature because it is more disturbing listening to someone mess with the Big Questions than massacre the themes of Pride and Prejudice.)

Inevitably, though, unexplored subjects now float around, like so many discarded Facebook threads, and currently it is the one above that I am bending into a pretzel in order to consider whether writing a blog is about self-expression or a shot at reflected vanity.

I can’t remember how to articulate the issues raised by this well-worn philosophical question. I feel as depressed as an old person who realises the balance of brain cells is tipping against their favour towards round-the-clock-ginger-cake-eating.

But, basically, it is a metaphysical one about perception.

Is it our interpretation of events that bring them into reality? Would they exist without us? Would they even matter?

In my internet-free weeks the nonsense in the head of blogless me began to turn inwards and feed upon itself- a cerebral ingrowing toe-nail.

Yet I am aware that once expressed I have no control over how the nonsense will be understood/misunderstood anyway. So why should the communicating of it be so vital?

Is the value of the exercise in the writing itself or in the act of its communication?

To put it another way, would I rather write a masterpiece that lives in the bottom drawer or talk bollocks freely to a village idiot?

How would I feel if I read my masterpiece to the village idiot and afterwards he mooned me?

More pertinently, what if I read my masterpiece to a literary agent and afterwards he mooned me? Would it still be a masterpiece?

Well, here is one answer- seeing as I have taken the trouble to investigate.

I give a sentence more consideration if I think it might be read because a considered thought stands a better chance of making a meaningful connection, even on a trivial level: it is the faster swimming sperm hoping for a willing egg.

I would still have the urge to clap even if no-one was there.

But the thought that my clap might be heard is what moves me to bring my hands together.

And the thought that it might be recognised by another person is why I keep on clapping.

Thank you for passing on your camel.

Thank the University of Edinburgh for letting me give up Philosophy.


Filed under Mumbo Life, Mumbo Obsessions, Uncategorized