Monthly Archives: April 2009

Swan Couples Counselling

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Therapist: So you’ve been having some problems.

Norma says you don’t talk to her.

Cyril: That’s because I’m a mute swan.

Norma: Mute, my arse. You’ve got plenty to say in mating season.

Cyril: Just as well, Dear, if you care to keep breeding like a rabbit.

Norma: Oh, you’ve noticed we’ve got cygnets, have you?

Didn’t think there were just a bunch of ugly ducklings hanging around?

Cyril: Let me see…

I defend our patch from intruders.

I don’t bugger off to avoid my tail-feather freezing in the crappy weather.

I incubate our eggs, like a blithering stay-at-home Dad.

But I’m still not sticking my beak in enough?

Therapist: You seem to be feeling under a lot of pressure, Cyril.

Cyril: Damn straight. I’m up to my neck in domesticity. And that’s a lot of domesticity, if you can see what I’m saying?

One minute I’m cruising the lake, ruffling a few feathers, checking out the birds.

Next thing, I’m perpetually building nests, like a riverside property developer.

Then, day in day out, during tourist season, that’s all you ever hear: ‘Aren’t they beautiful? They mate for life, you know?…’

Flaming well feels like it too.

Norma: Why don’t you just sod off, if that’s how you feel?

Go and shack up with a mallard- see if I care.

Cyril: Yes, you’d like that, wouldn’t you? Leave you to the Russian?

Norma: What Russian?

Cyril: That effeminate goose you were after during migrating season.

Norma: Pinkfoot was Icelandic.

I liked his high-pitched honking call, that’s all.

Cyril: Yeah? Well, wrap yourself around a 747 and pay him a visit.

You can offer yourself to Bjork as a party frock, while you’re there.

Therapist: Let’s take a deep breath, for a moment.

Cyril, can you tell me how life would look in an ideal world?

Cyril: I’d like to go all the way on, ‘Who Wants To Win A Lifetime’s Supply Of Aquatic Plants?’, that’s what I’d like.

Or maybe do some work in films or the opera.

Norma: They’re ballerinas in costumes, you pillock.

Therapist: Norma, these are valid comments.

How would you like your life to look?

Norma: Much like it is, really.

More ‘me’ time. A trip to Teddington Lock.

I’d like to lose some weight.

Therapist: Tell me more about that.

Norma: Well, we moved to Windsor last year for a change of scene.

Cyril got a taste for the glamour and I got a taste for the bread.

I’m eating like a foie gras. If the Queen has a state banquet I’ll be first picked.

Cyril: Don’t say that, Norm. You’re still got what you had when we first met.

Therapist: And what was that?

Cyril: She was just different from the others even though she looked exactly the same.

She had this lovely long neck, for instance.

And feathers white as snow.

Therapist: And Cyril?

Norma: He was clumsy as hell. And rubbish at swimming. And he looked a bit dirty- I thought he was gorgeous.

I still do.

Therapist: That’s a great note to end on today.

Before you go, can you think of anything you would you like to say to each other?

Cyril: It may look to you like I’m floating, Love, but my feet are going like the clappers underneath.

Norma: I know, Ducky.

And I may look ready to sink but I’ve still got my head above water.

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James Morrison Agony Aunt Letter

Dear Auntie Soph,

Something bad happened in my life last week and I don’t know where to turn.

I was driving along listening to the radio and this song came on.

It was easy to listen to, catchy: I liked it.

I didn’t hear who it was by but it reeked of dairy products so I tried to put it out of my mind.

But the next day it was on again and, damn, I wanted more.

The next time I got into the car I started channel surfing to find it.

It got nasty. I ended up on Magic FM.

I turned it up loud- so loud I had to sing and close all the windows.

My son was sweating. He was asking me to stop.

The whole thing was Wrong.

Finally, I Googled some of the lame lyrics and, Holy God, it was James Morrison.

Worse than that- James Morrison with NELLY FURTADO.

It’s been less than a few months since I stopped knifing her in my dreams and replaced her with Amanda Holden.

I’m a mess and Broken Strings is only the half of it.

My finger slipped on Youtube (I was looking for ‘Two Girls One Cup’, honestly) and I ran into one of his love ballads, If you don’t wanna love me – hell, even the title knows what I’m saying.

Now I’m angry.

It sounds like Otis Redding and it’s O.K. to like Otis Redding.

Why can’t I like a song by that man too?

Who makes the taste rules anyway?

I’m guessing you’ll tell me to buy an album and try to get it out of my system.

But I can’t go fouling up my Amazon recent orders list with stinky artists.

Do I wear a hoodie to HMV? Book a long-haul flight and plug in?

Please help.

Yours,

musically compromised from hammersmith


*

Dear musically compromised from hammersmith,


Of all the mail I received this week, yours stayed with me the longest.

You’re struggling with a big issue here but some people touch children and that’s almost certainly more shameful.

It seems to me that your musical sensibilities may have been damaged when you were young.

Maybe your mother liked Richard Clayderman or there were a lot of pan pipes on in the house.

Either way, the most well-meaning of parents can unwittingly make it difficult to provide their children with the foundations for healthy musical appreciation when they reach adulthood.

Also, you’re trying to Google scatological porn so you probably went to a girls’ boarding school- the odds have been against you right from the start.

You don’t say how old you are but elsewhere you mention that you’re partial to a bit of a duet so I’m guessing you were a child of the 80s: Always by Atlantic Starr was probably a seminal moment for you.

If I typed in ‘D’ on your computer’s Youtube would ‘Dollar’ appear?

When I scratched the tippex off the bottom of the letter I could just about make out the word ‘Bolton’.

Just how much Mariah Carey is at the back of your C.D. cabinet?

In conclusion, I think you are asking for the wrong help.

You want to know how to rid yourself of bad musical taste because agreeable people disapprove of it.

In actual fact, you should embrace your true feelings and recognize this affliction as a part of you.

If you carry on listening to some good stuff this may eventually take a more natural place in your preferences.

But essentially you need a more rubbish crowd of friends, who will not judge you- ones who laugh at Russell Brand and wear t-shirts with hilarious slogans.

Then you can relax and indulge.

So James Morrison is lispy and wet and looks like Chris Martin’s weaker Siamese twin (the one who didn’t get the vital organs) but he’s not James Blunt, unless…

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If you finger-tap to any of his stuff go to a door and repeatedly knock on it using your head.

Yours back,

Auntie Soph x

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Snail

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The first snail sat still. He felt slow and comical.

‘Why do you struggle, friend?’ inquired the second.

‘We are earth-bound,’ he replied. ‘Vulnerable.

I want to transcend. I want to be resilient.’

‘You are not a slug,’ observed the second.

‘You have a shell.

Use it to protect yourself.’

‘I do,’ insisted the first. ‘I know how to hide.

I want to know how to live.

If only I were fast.

It is exhausting me, trying to be fast.’

The second snail pondered a moment.

‘It takes a lot of energy to make a dream reality,’ he decided.

You will use less if you try to make reality your dream.

You have the ability to glide.

Embrace your nature. Do not fight it.’

The first snail pondered too.

‘Very well,’ he conceded.

‘But our whole bodies are a muscle and I cannot quell the pain.

Each piece of flint impedes my progress.

My tears are becoming the track I leave behind, glistening in the sun for all to see.’

The second snail smiled kindly.

‘Our trails are just the memories of our journey.

The tears we cry along the way are how we know we feel.

The trick is not to stop them but to turn your face to the sun so that it can dry.’

But still the first snail’s eyebrows knitted.

‘I can only conclude that the road you travel is smoother than mine.

Or that my body has more nerves than yours.’

The big snail stretched out a tentacle and wrapped it round his friend.

‘Quite the opposite,’ he confided.

‘The foot of the snail is so sensitive that it can move over the sharp edge of a razor blade without cutting itself.

It is through feeling that we learn.

And the more we understand the more we are safe to leave the shell.

Feel strong.’

The first snail listened to this and was quiet for a long time.

Finally, he seemed heartened- for the time being, at least.

He let himself relax and the silky warmth of his friend’s tentacle sent him to sleep.

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Swimming Pools

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The nightmare of walking down the high street naked is realized in the pursuit of swimming, only it takes place in a chlorinated sweatbox and you are wearing a sausage skin sheath of threadbare polyester.

Swimming pools should be sexy places: their sultry fluidity and proximity to the sauna room promise to make you feel like a porn star at Snoop Dog’s Malibu birthday party.

In reality, you will never have looked so unattractive in your life, especially to the body-fascist lifeguard, who watches Baywatch in his spare time.

While the hat, goggles and errant pubes vie to rob the body of Bond-girl allure, your facial features will be re-arranged into an expression of anxious derangement by a pre-occupation with catching athlete’s foot.

As with all physical activities, swimming differentiates the sexes.

Men thrash up and down for two lengths, fearful that they may drown or turn into women if they ease up.

They huff purposefully after one, in order to check out the totty, only resuming when they realize the shape bobbing towards them in a Speedo is unlikely to be Kelly Brook.

Women doggedly swim breaststroke for 2 hours in slow motion, to the point where it appears they are going backwards.

Both groups will be polarized in the ‘Fast’ and ‘Slow’ lanes, whose front-crawling mentalists are separated from the Sunday-driving walruses by a dividing plastic ‘rope’ designed to help those clutching at it sink to their deaths.

This need not concern old people, who float on their backs draped around large foamy floating aids, looking disturbingly like corpses anyway.

Children, meanwhile, are busy filling their bladders in anticipation of Family Swim Time, when they will achieve a random motion usually found in gas particles and emit noises so loud that any passing dog will perish like a Pompeii resident, frozen in an attitude of oral agony.

The taking of children to these watery adventures is, in itself, a profoundly unpleasurable experience, on a par with visiting elderly relatives in hospital.

The actual business in the pool (though always taking place in water deliberately planned to be one degree too cold for a motionless, submerged body) seems almost like fun when compared with the intense rigmarole involved in its preparation and aftermath.

The negotiation of wet and dry apparel, damp towels and locker padlocks, while in possession of a screaming, slippery infant expends a mental and physical energy so complete that only a post-swim chocolate binge and long nap will re-dress the balance.

As with driving, certain aspects of swimming can elicit surprising levels of rage.

In particular: the restricted movement necessitated by the unwelcome materialisation of a swimmer in your lane; the sighting of a steam-room alumni entering the pool un-showered; and the heavy petting of new lovers, to which a pair of waterproof spectacles unavoidably affords excessive access.

That said, any tension can be summarily eased by watching a session of swim aerobics, an activity so futile and humiliating that only sucking the sincerity out of Davina McCall could accomplish an equal measure of calorie-burning shame.

Fear also plays an unexpected role in the contained and monitored environment of the swimming pool- namely that of inanimate objects, un-ironically magnified by the magnifying effect of the water.

There is nothing to be so carefully avoided- so monumentally mistrusted- as the stray hair, nail fragment or band-aid that has recently gained its freedom.

Unremarkable on dry land these flotsams take on a voodoo significance when suspended underwater, evoking as they do the indelicate fornication of the dead cells of strangers with your live ones.

Together, these conspiring impediments are the reason that people only swim in the first place because they have injured the part of the body that enables them to indulge in the sport they actually enjoy. Or they are pregnant.

Nevertheless, there remains a form of recreation still more undignified- one that exposes corporeal imperfections, substandard fitness levels and personal hygiene oversights in an even less flattering context.

And that, of course, is swimming in the sea.

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Pork Week, Seattle, March 2009

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Once upon a time, around the turn of the 21st Century, there was an American boy from the South, who found himself living in the Pacific Northwest.

A good thing.

Because there was an American girl from the East, who found herself living there too and they needed to meet and fall in love.

The boy spun yarns from his travels on a laptop and played crazy tunes on his decks.

The girl spun frocks from her yarns on a sewing machine and turned her hair all sorts of crazy colours.

But there was unrest.

For boys from the South like to eat meat on a grill, while folk from the Northwest eat fish in the pan.

What was a boy to do?

Did he lower himself into the kitchens of carnivores on the multi-coloured plaits of his lover?

Did he journey home on a Bar-B-Q pilgrimage?

Did he retreat to a corner to nibble on pea vines?

No, he did not.

He asked not what his cravings could do for him but what he could do for his cravings.

He resolved to celebrate the unloved.

He crusaded to bring awareness to the forsaken.

Long live the even-toed ungulate!

He started the tradition of Pork Week, creating an annual Piggy Party.

From far and wide the gluttonous gathered, bringing Babe bites in every imaginable guise…

When piggy took a dip in a vodka bath he made BLT-inis with a gherkin twist and many were robbed of the power of speech.

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When piggy took a stroll in chocolate then a roll in maple syrup he created a Bacon Brownie Bake.

He seemed so right yet so wrong, in a supermodel-wearing-a-bacon-g-string kind of way.

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And when piggy simmered in his own fat in pork rillettes the arteries of a crowd tensed and screeched, ‘Sweet Jesus, make it stop!’

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Night after night the Pork Kids raved on.

No pig paraphernalia too perky!

No porky pranks too playful!

Going ‘wee, wee, wee!’ all the way home to Hog Heaven.

Pork tacos, Kalua pig, ‘Get-a husband-stew’, shredded pork rolls, prosciutto maize wraps and on and on and on until their Jewish friends wrinkled up their noses and made loud snorting sounds.

But when the feast was over and the guests had gone what next for our Pork lovers?

The restless boy, could he sustain his sizzling salacious streak?

Would not his passion get the chop?

His pretty piglet, did she have no spare rib to tickle?

Were not her pig-skin coats a mite too hairy for her tiny frame?

What pig-headed preposterousness!

For of all the animals in all the kingdom it is known so well the piggy is insatiable:

The swine it dines on mud and laughter,

Our lovers pigged happily ever after.

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*

The Potluck Porktacular Gala Dinner Toast:

We’re gathered together to eat and drink wine,

For the Porktacular gala dinner 2009

But there’s an absent guest we need to toast

We love him in stews, in rillettes, in roasts,

We love him shredded, in BLT’s, in bakes,

In tacos, with cabbage, crostinis and cakes

We love him baked in the oven, wrapped around maize

We love him in vodka, where he’s been bathing for days

We love that he’s pink and stinky and surly,

He’s noisy and messy, his tail is too curly,

He’s greedy and snouty but friendly too,

Beautiful piggy, this week is for you!

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