Monthly Archives: July 2009

August Break

If it’s good enough for the French…

Back in September.

Thank you for visiting.

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Confessions of a Guatemalan Worry Doll

worrydoll

My father is my hero, a man of courage and character.

My mother is a slut and I love her more than anything.

She has fiery red hair and hates peanuts so fiercely she made me draw a picture of one when I was 9 and pasted it on the top of our box, drawn through with a cross.

I have plenty of brothers and sisters. Not too many to count but from too many fathers to correctly quantify them as 100% blood relatives.

If Papi ever minded he never said so, working diligently through the problems presented to him nightly- always the gravest, owing to his status as head of the family.

We fell into the hands of a young woman, who was kind and mindful but right on the eve of her life and fraught with new emotions.

On our first night with her we drank apple juice to celebrate; 6 months later Papi’s hair started going grey.

She grew and we with her. They were good times.

Trouble is, I have a taste for the ladies.

The Guatemalan chicas drive me crazy. Those sultry limbs beneath blanket skirts- it’s too much for the fire in me.

But they’re not my limit. I like blondes, Japanese and dolls too.

Real dolls, made of plastic.

‘Mess with a non-worry girl and I’ll give you something to worry about,‘ said Mami one day.

‘My heart is not made of cardboard,’ I pleaded erroneously.

‘Your heart is not the part of your anatomy of which I speak,’ she shot back. ‘And, Madre di Deo, don’t tell me what that’s made of!’

Her own reputation did not deter her. ‘They tell me what’s on their mind,’ she offered simply of her own amorous visitors.

A few years back I ran beyond myself. All that fretting for others- it’s a responsibility for a young man. I wanted to be free and go wild.

So I did.

I broke into a toy store and got myself a Barbie- Beach Barbie, seeing as I could take my pick. Joder, that body! It was unrealistic!

And the best part was that she smiled a bright, white smile all the way through.

Mami went balistic, no surprise. Kept me boxed for months. Gave me the work of the whole family. Thought I would die of the strain.

But she loves her son, he with whom she shared her passionate gene.

When one night our guardian whispered the day’s concerns Mami whispered back. One week passed before she was ready to talk.

‘You will travel the world, mi amor,’ she finally announced. ‘Live life and learn her secrets. By this method you will become sound counsel.’

So I packed my sleeping bag and took the plane and here I am.

We look out for each other, my friend and I. Life is sweet.

Love is finding me because I no longer chase it down.

And when my hair, my dreams, the universe, get unalligned?

I try to worry about it, of course.

But in a fruitful way.

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All the Fun Of The Fair

horse-fairground-ridecandyfloss

Modern funfairs are the best places on earth.

Their greedy consumerism, hedonism and unbridled tackiness make them everything that’s wrong with contemporary society packed into two hours of perfection: Las Vegas in your local park.

They promise a clutch of key activities whose purpose is not-to-be-sneezed-at pure joy:

Eating trashy food

Fat, carbs and sugar are the very fuel of high-adrenalin adventure.

This (rather than lack of alternatives) is the real reason that it is virtually a legal requirement to eat a burger and candy floss at a funfair and why low nutrition/high calorie quibbles are bogus.

Feeling fear

Not the sort that involves paying the mortgage or meeting the in-laws but wrought from one’s willful engagement in a potentially-life threatening situation that will probably turn out all right.

Nausea induced from being pregnant or drinking too much alcohol isn’t nearly as re-generative.

Being a kid

The thrill of being bumped; swallowing your heart; losing your shoe; feeling dizzy; waiting your turn; being clicked into your seat; squeezing hands with your friend; and shouting ‘Faster’.

Immediately! Because I want to! Because it’s fun!

Getting an outside seat on the flying chairs

Blameless breeze-through-the-hair-head-spinning-legs-dangling-high-decibel-Beyonce-belting escapism.

*

Fairgroundcottoncandy

Traditional funfairs, meanwhile, are the most depressing places on earth.

Steeped in a nostalgia designed to remind one of violent modern times, everywhere you turn a desperate tableau plays out: the girl in the rain collecting up the coconuts; the bored juvenile tea-cup guy sucking on a rolly; the gigantic wooden helter skelter spurned by the computer generation.

They resonate with the memory of weeping because they are the chosen venues of a particular set of tragedies:

The first dates of doomed relationships

The promise of shared frivolity, childish pleasures and spontaneous laughter against a backdrop of noisy distraction make cutesy fairs the ideal choice for nervous would-be lovers.

Unfortunately, a relationship that begins with a giant stuffed animal and candy floss can only go downhill.

Stolen/lost/missing children

Escorting a child at dusk to a large field filled with loud moving objects and hundreds of other children negates the necessity to dress them in a t-shirt that reads, ‘Take me away with you’.

Unless you have recently had an affair with Glenn Close who will save you even more trouble by accompanying them herself.

Machinery malfunctions

Extraordinarily enough, suspended lumps of metal, repeatedly stressed by gravity-defying trajectories, operated by 14-yr olds Facebooking on their mobiles, occasionally break.

The moment joyful screams bathed in upbeat music become the strangulated shrieks of a mutilated reveller is one a career fairground worker both dreads and secretly hopes for.

The onset of tinnitus/madness/homicidal tendencies in the merry-go-round operator.

If the incessant spinning, bobbing horses and goofy waving of riders at sappy by-standers don’t turn a person’s mind over time, the looped wurlitzer music will finish the job.

‘They say you garotted your parents with fake leather reigns?’

‘Yes, your Honour. I work the carousel.’

‘Acquitted.’

Disappointed children

The most frequently occurring tragedy of all and the hardest from which to recover: scared on the flying seats, unlucky on a broken chair-o-plane; sick on the ferrus wheel; squashed on the Waltzer; unsuccessful at the shooting range.

With a cricked dodgems neck, ketchup down the t-shirt and an ice-cream on the grass.

Long live T.V.

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The World of Dee Mahone

Is that the smell of tight-fistedness wafting around the generously-mortgaged home?

On the contrary.

Those are the wonderful, life-affirming scents of The World of Dee Mahone, bringing dreams to life through the magical medium of aroma.

The World of Dee Mahone features an audacious collection of premium cremes, colognes and candles providing scented lubrication to loosen stubborn credit cards from leather wallets.

In a room be-decked with the soft whisper of Sprouting Garden Olive Suggestion you can wave goodbye to unemployment city and travel back to dizzy memories of all-expenses paid lunches on the Mediterranean terraces of Michelen-starred establishments.

Or why not take a tub of Rosemary Effluvium Creme Anglaise to rub on the wife’s sternum after you’ve shared the news of your cleaner’s imminent dismissal?

Wherever you choose to dive into Dee’s odorous panorama you will be sure to find a need we have created especially for you.

Dee’s Story

Dee may wear a lot of loose-fitting clothes but she is renowned for having one of the most exacting noses in the business, re-interpreting her life’s experiences as perfect perfumed memories, sniff by sniff.

She started tinkering around with her father’s colognes in the bathroom aged 5, when it was clear to her family she had a commercial nose.

By the time she was a teenager she was giving sensual massages to all the neighbours and ended up with quite a client base, I can tell you.

She had a lightness of touch still being talked about today and an intuitive understanding of the arousing potential of a pungent oil, a soothing cream, a ball of wax.

Soon she was using it to make herself her very own happy ending, The World of Dee Mahone.

Dee’s World

With a store closing down a clinic in a prime location around the world every 2 seconds and a loyal following of high-profile celebrities, the successful whiff of Dee Mahone is one in which every person you care about should be submerging themselves as often as possible.

Famous for using un-foldable-downable rigid boxes swathed in acres of inch-think ribbon and tissue paper clouds The World of Dee Mahone knows eco-friendliness doesn’t always go hand-in-hand with Zsa Zsa Gabor fabulousness, vowing always to put the customer before the silly old environment.

From the moment a lucky recipient clocks the iconic packaging you can be confident that they know the amount you care for them is in direct relation to how much you have managed to spank on perfumed wax. *

* bear this in mind if you opt for the sampler sets

Dee’s inspiration

Dee’s sensory gift puts her on permanent odour alert, turning every day occurrences into golden product opportunities.

She could be running through wheat fields with a poppy in her hair on Monday and by noon the following day the kernal of a Toasted Summer Cereal Foot Serum will already be blossoming in time for Father’s Day.

Or maybe she’ll see a banker in a sharp suit and the smell of Savile Row stitching will send her passionately running back to her country kitchen to fiddle well into the night with distilled essences and profit margins.

Fragrance Building

This is a brave new concept with a smell all of its own: spray a Dee Mahone cologne onto your skin and once it has dried spray another on top, like a construction worker building an Olfactory Stimulant Tower.

It’s an ingenious way of helping you work through the whole range, taking you on a dreamy journey- destination: your next purchase.

Some may choose to build a two-story fragrance tower that merely elicits a widening of the eyes.

Others may want to go all-out for a bold skyscraper, with traces of their aura occupying rooms long after they have left.

Fragrance Stretching

How incredible to illuminate the joy on the face of a loved one with a colossal 312-wick candle, just perfect for cheering up aircraft carriers and available in a variety of odours inspired by Dee’s trips to Beirut in the 1980s.

Or new to the range are her innovative Paperwork Sprays, with the dusky topnotes of boar, undergrowth and elm, turning dreary bill-paying into a skip through Epping Forest.

And for those who still can’t spend enough, don’t forget the Special Edition festive treat Yuletide Slipper Mist, which marries the outer skin of the Frankincense leaf with the fantasy of an Elf’s body odour, to make Christmas morning an exceptional Dee Mahone experience.

*

We entreat you not to delay.

Sell the house, the dog, your fourth child and smell your way to self-validation.

The World of Dee Mahone believes that only losers stink.

‘I’ve ordered the whole Otters Bottom collection for Jools. It makes her want to make boy children for me.’ Jamie Olliver

‘ I like to smooth Limoncello Marmalade Velveteen Ganache on my hair and have Tess lick it off after a session with Bruce Forsythe.’ Vernon Kaye

Visionary Mushroom Cuticle Balm helped me win the election.’ Gordon Browne

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My friend Fabio

What makes a person appealing?

A cocktail of their traits, opinions, energy, style; what they bring out in us; a charm that is greater than the sum of their parts; a hook that overrides their faults.

Being with them illuminates us in some way. Their life throws a light, a value, a truth, on ours.

*

I had a Spanish friend at university called Fabio.

We met on the first day of Fresher’s week outside our tutor’s office. He said he saw the photo on my matriculation badge and thought, ‘She’s not bad looking. I’ll talk to her’.

Fabio had mid-length thick brown hair with a kink and wore dark-rimmed spectacles. He sported grandpa knits in every shade of brown and carried a worn leather satchel.

He was European. He was Byron. He was a lion.

He had a deep voice and a strong accent though not in the comedy ‘Scorchio’ style.

He danced with insane enthusiasm, smoked roll-ups and ate an enormous amount of garlic.

Too masculine to be a boy, he was not yet a man.

Educated at a Catholic boys’ boarding school in Somerset, his fierce Spanish heritage overrode the usual gauche public schoolboy markers but left the unquiet confidence intact.

He knew a lot about a few subjects and not much about lots, speaking with authority on everything. This made him 99% infuriating and 1% blindingly insightful.

Intelligent and ignorant, charismatic and overbearing- he was all of it.

We hung out together in Fresher’s Week going to parties, more than one of which he got us thrown out of for being offensive to some Sloaney girl: ‘They told me to get my arse out of there. So I told them I don’t have an arse, I’m not a woman.’

He thought I was the most gullible person he’d ever met, telling me I said ‘Really?’ after everything. He also made fun of my stories, saying ‘What next?’ when I had finished.

I found Fabio attractive but we knew from the start that wasn’t going to be our gig- he too far up the male end of the spectrum, me too far up the female end.

He called me ‘man’ and frequently mixed his metaphors: ‘Do you want a cup of tea, Fabio?’ , ‘Yes please, man. Like a hole in the head.’

We both studied English and Philosophy and attended various random events, including a Philosophy Club (as odious as it sounds). Fabio, the revolutionary, would inevitably vocalise the unacceptable and then we’d go to eat pizza in Edinburgh’s Grassmarket.

In fact, he pissed so many people off that it became my role to defend him from accusations of arrogance. Most of the time, of course, he was spot on.

He said he was a Communist and an IRA supporter and I used to get into long arguments with him and his school friend Ben, where we would stay up all night, enacting our undergraduate cliche.

Every view he held was borne of anti-establishment sentiment. So he had a field-day with me, the original good girl from Middle England.

He watched large numbers of obscure movies in block sittings, never failing to comment on a member of the production team when the credits rolled: ‘Oh, man, I knew it was that assistant lighting supervisor.’

Fabio was not a follower of the crowd. He rejoiced in unusual company, constantly re-appearing from afternoon-long beers with nerds, mature students, Germans.

He taught me that sexuality didn’t necessarily equal large breasts, contrary to everything I had been taught by my school friends. I was fascinated and heartened by his ability to see the attractive thing in every female.

‘Do you see that girl at the canteen?’

‘The quite big one who dresses funny?’

‘Yes, man. The way she does her hair, that’s so sexy.’

‘Really?’ (me, slurping on an Irn Bru)

He had a brilliant capacity to appreciate when he was being laughed at (usually in the middle of his most pretentious announcements) and his laugh was the hysterical kind that you can’t help joining in with.

Although he never did see the funny side of the Lada he drove back in our final year.

*

When Ben became my boyfriend we visited him one Summer in the Royal Seat just outside of Madrid. His home-life was out of the book I had hoped, suffused with Spanish artistic intellectualism- all rambling roses, important books and paintings leaning against walls at an angle.

His father was an impressive academic, his mother one of those attractive middle-aged European women, with the most terrifying driving skills of any human being in Madrid. Strike ‘in Madrid’.

Roaming around the peripheries and laughing in the darkness of the night Mrs Rochester-like, was the mad uncle- a once renowned artist suffering from pre-senile dementia.

We ate whole suckling piglet, that had been roasted in the village oven. I tried not to look English eating it and to smile through the occasional uncle outbursts.

For the last two years of our degree Fabio and I lived together, along with my best friend for one year and his younger brother, Guido, for both. Guido was studying architecture; he was a dude.

They were messy as hell and I had to handle all negotiations with our mean Scottish landlord, who mistrusted their foreignness more than mine.

Fabio’s room was dark and broody, the sort where you thought Friedrich Nietzsche might be hiding under the bed smoking a cheroot. Which was, I guess, the idea. And which, had he still been alive, he might have been.

He talked about sex in a raw way I tried not blush about, always suspecting that he believed I would be very British at it. But he only had one long-term girlfriend during this time, my exchanges with whom were weird for their lack of weirdness.

We spent whole afternoons studying in our rooms, emerging to ask each other a question that would become an hour’s meandering chat. He had the edge on me with ideas, I on him with expression, so that I would often proof-read his essays before submission.

Come the exams this was reflected in his grades, which was understandable and unfair at the same time.

But he was not afraid to suffer. He did not expect his life on a plate and grafted hard to gain a Doctorate- quite something in your second language.

After the General Paper of our English Final I asked what he had written about: ‘Oh man, the British sentimentality with their pets. You’re such losers over animals.’ ‘Well done, Fabs.’ I replied. ‘Pissing them off till the end.’

He spent the rest of the afternoon panicking he’d got the examiner’s back up while I spent it assimilating what I perceived to be a natty opinion.

*

Fabio is now a lecturer at the University of Madrid, writing papers with titles such as Mythical originality: The phenomenological historicism of T.S. Eliot.

I love that he cares enough to look into subjects in this depth. It takes application to make use of a brain in this way, determination to pursue excellence.

Fabio is a character and an intellect.

There is a light that shines from me in his name and it’s not just the one that hates cats.

It is almost two decades since I first met him and I can still picture his hand-writing, fake his signature and, I bet, make him smile.

It is why I haven’t seen him in 9 years but he is still my friend.

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To dog-lovers

Now please hear this, dog-lovers.

You for whom Summer is a clarion call to drag your enslaved quadruped to public parks in the hope that you may pimp him to a potential mate similarly compromised by puppy love.

Or perhaps you have given birth to a ‘family dog’ who will enjoy the privilege of reflecting a family unit’s smugness, representing to less fortunate onlookers the Western ideal of nuclear domesticity.

Do not stop to analyse the grotesque sentimentalility that has yielded to the arbitrary appropriation of one of a million bestial species as a possession over which to exorcise your primordial urge to dominate.

You do not need to spare a thought for the mutt whom you have fashioned a breathing repository for your thwarted fawning.

You will barely have the time with all that exercise you are getting, whereby you leave the house every day carrying a long sticky thing that circumvents the need for you to bend over and pick up the bacterial ball your super-intelligent hunk of hair wishes endlessly to hunt down.

You will be too busy relishing the company he freely offers, the more welcome for its unchallenging nature, which absolves you from engaging with a sentient being who can answer back.

Your argument that Fido is trying to talk to you is cogent; it would be quite wrong to suspect he may be saying anything that could hinder your innate right to wholly manage the one-sided relationship you have gifted him: ‘Fuck off. Walk your husband.’

Right you are when you whimper (not unlike your subjugated canine) that he teaches the kids how to deal with caring and love and death. It would have been a valuable lesson for Genghis Khan shortly before he started twisting the heads off baby birds and is probably just as necessary for average Junior, even if he does have an ailing grandparent on which to practice.

It is indeed perfectly healthy to project the intrinsically complicated physiological state of love onto a creature with whom you will never exchange a single generative idea, whilst flexing your muscles at the dinner table in the benevolent decision over whether to treat it to a morsel of dead carcass from a fellow, less adorable member of the animal kingdom.

I too would feel valued if put on a leash and patronised into the sort of obedience that will stop me wee-ing in the house where all the other respected creatures are welcome to wee.

I too would be delighted to sport humorous apparel on my already-insulated animal body.

yoda-dog

Rover is loyal because he thinks you are a person of unique specialness, not because he is reliant on you to nourish him with doggy bone treats and to take him to preposterously expensive veterinary surgeons in order to prevent him from having his entirely natural wicked way with the next door neighbour’s captive mute beast.

In no way is he suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, having been suffocated with surplus unprocessed emotion, expectation and nostalgia from the very first day he was indoctrinated with the belief that he enjoys nothing better than curling up on your bed at night, listening to you snoring.

You are allowed to laugh at Paris Hilton with her hand-bag rat-fink because your choice of a dog says nothing whatsoever about you and was in no way selected because he has short hair/long legs/pleading eyes/ child-biting attributes.

It is perfectly hygienic to live alongside a moulting, scratching, salivating creature who favours smelling unclean underwear and who sicks up objects it has been obliged to accidentally ingest in the process of wandering within the protective walls of an alien environment.

There is nothing remotely odd about taking a small ice-cream shovel and orange plastic bag to dispose of the waste products its creator’s comrades dream of eating and which, if abandoned, could attain the honour of helping a frolicking child lose their sight.

It would be inappropriate to take your ‘best friend’ to those nasty zoos- the ones that have the integrity to admit that animals are a different species and, as such, are interesting to watch in a voyeuristic, non-interactive capacity.

But if you did you would be sure to treat him as your equal and the caged freak shows’ superior because he is so very clever and enjoys your unchecked devotion: ‘Shall we go and gawp at those ditzy giraffes next, me old mate?’

Absolutely you should waggle your finger censoriously when your neighbour and fellow human describes the sensitive love-making he enjoys with his daschund because whilst there can be no more natural amorous expression towards one’s object of affection it is a line you would never cross with an ‘unconsenting animal’ (the same one whose daily routine you minutely dictate and whom you regularly treat as a surrogate partner).

If, God forbid, one day you are faced with the departure of your dutiful woofums or decide you can no longer be arsed to look after him please do not start disappearing into Marginal Pet Territory- that soul-destroying arena where creatures languish on the low-maintenance/dull as ditch-water axis: fish, hamster, tortoise, ‘independent’ cat.

Because it is not enough for puppies to have velvet ears and sweet faces and adorable tail-wagging abilities.

They need you to name them, train them and own them, uncannily certain in the knowledge that the spectacle of you doing so will always be an edifying experience for dog-lover lovers like me.

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