Category Archives: Mumbojumbosheepism

How to not die








I’ve decided that going nuts at someone doing their job badly is an antidote to having a heart attack.

Averted episodes through the ritual abuse of traffic wardens, in particular, would be interesting to quantify.

We’re asked to believe that staff whose work involves asking for I.D you’ve forgotten have the right to work without the threat of violence.

But do they?

Couldn’t an internal workshop switch this? ‘Customers want to kill you merely in your uniform, not you per se.’

Anger is vital. It makes you feel alive, like something’s at stake. It’s an opportunity to win, to purge, to be heard. It neutralises the platitudes you dish out at Co-op. Boiler repair. Council tax. Relationship nappy contents. It’s expressive and dramatic and show-offy.

But it’s also wrong and out of control. It’s unreasonable and unaware and ugly. TED talk monks don’t do it. Nor do educated fleas.

Anger is base.

Necessary to bridge the gap between its sublime beauty and rank unacceptability is self-righteousness; street name, A Valid Reason. Imagine someone agreeing, ‘Damn right’ when you recount the flare-up, then work backwards from there.

It’s not going to be a person over whom you have power- an employee, a child, your partner (God forbid). It can’t be one who is blameless, or annoying.

It has to be where you’re indisputably right, news of which imparts a learning opportunity to the shoutee.

You’re expelling a growth moment in your bile, is what you’re doing.

Your target is someone acting in an official capacity and making a right royal omelette of it, channeling high-grade dickery through their unprofessionalism.

A mathematical equation should unfold: you’re paid to do a job; you’ve failed; I point out the difference. More accountability vigilantism than emotional incontinence.

But where can I find such a person? said no-one ever.

For how low the fruit hangs: the incompetents are all around, cowboy carpenter Jesuses cocking up on a loop.

Tradespeople, accountants, consultants. Shop workers, online retailers, National Trust helpers. Every single person you work with- especially at the top.

The golden arse at The Ambassadors Theatre who sold me puppet show tickets to musical theatre.

Collectively skulking off duty to tattoo ‘I had one job’ on their foreheads…only not getting it done because they’ve bungled the booking time.

(This is, in fact, the raison d’etre of Dry Cleaners. Not to launder our clothes, or even our money, but to cleanse our fury. Lord knows, the guys who nuked the pearls on my wedding outfit, then lost my duvet, now understand this model with exquisite certainty.)

Goons, all, here to give you your own personal work-out. Each heated exchange spirited point scoring, or sport for the stressed. Akin to the braying in the House of Commons, or Susanna Reid tweaking Piers Morgan.

A whole bunch of non-personal, transactional bants.

New York taxi drivers have got a degree in it- fuck you, they have!

The landscape has changed, let’s note.

There’s an industry out there working hard to ruin the game. Trying to short-circuit your wrath in queues, with their friendly tablets. Telling you they care on calls. They respond to your Twitter rants, send you desperate discount codes.

It’s completely impossible to get a rise out of Abel & Cole. They’d rather post you a cook-book and free lemons than let you lose the plot on their dime.

And now we’re all oracles and commentators, there’s ever more taking offence at those taking offence. Ricky Gervais is their patron saint. Never mind if Britain was built on Disgusted from Tunbridge Wells: to be censored is acid.

But- shhhh; as safeguarder to your cardiovascular health, miffedness moonlights as the gentler sibling.

On the spectrum of asserting your important importance on this plant, it is pure and low risk. You can never be wrong; you’re a victim; others are insensitive swines. Why, you’re virtually beholden to re-visit the violin backstory that birthed your justified whinge. ‘Some of us can’t have an apple a day. Some of us once blew up like a bullfrog downloading iTunes.’

The black sheep of catharsis? Road rage. The guerilla member. The loser addict son who turns up late to his father’s funeral.

Last week, I claimed a 50% share in an event that could have led to a post on shame or the criminal justice system, but instead felt ice cold great.

It involved hard breaking, sustained horn blasts, dramatic cross-road swerves (both) and a full dismount (him) with primal shouting, as I shot down a back alley, 3 x under-eights in the back wearing Father Dougal expressions.

It was visceral, from a deep place. Wordless and instinctive. Revenge, enacted without so much as a single hand gesture or raised eyebrow.

Afterwards, I felt healed. Babydriver fresh from a craniosacral session.

Go forth, you too, and displace your misery.

Petition your undersized gingerbread men for £1.95 at Kew Gardens. Take umbridge at marauding Facebook fools. Cut up twats in white BMWs.

Your life depends on it.




Filed under London Mumbo, Mumbo Life, Mumbojumbosheepism, Uncategorized

Unisex & Disabled

Today, we went to a restaurant called Portland for lunch to celebrate Geth’s birthday.

‘I wonder why it’s called Portland,’ I mused, questioning, whimsical.

‘Because it’s on Great Portland Street. They’ve also got one called Clipstone. That’s on Clipstone street. ‘

At half time I went to the toilets downstairs.

There were 3 cubicles.

One read Ladies, one read Gentlemen, and on the third was this:


Apart from disabled people and impatient people*, for whom is this cubicle intended?

People who are both genders. But wouldn’t this need to say Hermaphrodite & Disabled?

People who are neither gender. Is this actually possible? Scarlett Johansson had this sort of thing going on in Under the Skin, but she was an alien. Do aliens go for lunch on Great Portland Street? Maybe. But would they get bogged down in toilet terminology? Bogged down. Maybe.

Some other possibilities that might make this option clearer: No-sex & Disabled. Sexless & Disabled. Gender Free & Disabled. Genderless & Disabled. None of these work.

People who are transitioning between genders. But don’t they identify with one gender, or other, regardless?

People who might expect, or wish for, the inside of the toilet to be partisan to neither sex. No pink loo roll dollies. No copies of What Car?

People who don’t like to be defined by gender. But would the way they use the toilet be any different to the way they’d use one of the ones that had different signs on the door? (Same argument here for what is the point of having signs on individual doors at all.) Maybe not, but the option is a mark of respect for their choices.

But is the fact that some people dislike gender labels that sensitive of a subject on a generalised level that it needs to be reflected in toilet signs? There aren’t meat apologies on the menu to vegetarians. Or political disclaimers at the bottom of the wine list. And so on.

People who are disabled AND fit into one of the categories above. This is really quite niche. I’m not sure this is about emptying bladders at this point. This is now about agenda.

Why do Unisex & Disabled go together? Why can’t Unisex run alongside Ladies or Gentlemen, in a similar way, seeing as only one usage is intended to be accommodated at any one time?

Would disabled people (if you could group them together in such a way, which you can’t, which is surely somewhere in the ballpark of why a unisex option has been created in the first place) feel annoyed if they saw someone unisex coming out of what is traditionally, primarily their toilet, even though they knew they didn’t have the right specifically, seeing as this sign designates that particular cubicle for dual usage. Would they even know if the person coming out was unisex? Would they wonder what they had in common with them such that this group of people had been given a shared billing? Because I don’t think it’s an overclaim to say that disabled people are, generally, ‘Ladies’ or ‘Gentlemen’. Which is to say not that they fit into some sort of 3rd gender category, simply that they require better access/ more room/ different facilities etc.

Why would Unisex require any of the extenuating features (exampled above) demanded by disabled toilets, anyway? Might it not be more accurate to offer the title share to sub-sections of people who could benefit from the extras? Groups Of Drug Users & Disabled. Generously-Built People & Disabled. And so on.

Would disabled people feel that Unisex had been added to their cubicle in a minority dumping ground gesture? As if everything that comes under ‘Other’ can go in their cubicle, because the perfect primary male/ female differentiator can’t be messed with in any sense. I mean, purr-lease.

If the person leaving the Unisex & Disabled cubicle actually was both unisex (by any of the definitions above) AND disabled (a niche combo, we’ve established, but not impossible), would the disabled person suddenly feel like they had less of a right to go into the cubicle, or would they just be charmed by the absolute appropriateness, on this rare occasion, of the exiting person using this very specifically-labelled cubicle?

Might they even be moved to challenge them. ‘I say- cheeky- but I can see that you’re disabled. Are you also unisex?’ ‘Take a hike! Lots of women wear slacks these days.’ (That would be rude, because the person asking was just trying to alight upon something neat and very random- not only an irresistible combination, but one you don’t get much of in life.)

Of course, they might not be this rude at all. They might say, ‘Yes, I am. Thank you for noticing. But go ahead and use that toilet without feeling like it’s any the less for you. You’re totally welcome in that cubicle. I’ll wait here, so we can figure out together how to get back up these non-disabled access stairs.’ (The Unisex & Disabled toilet was downstairs, if you were wondering if that was just a tasteless joke.)

Would children come down and think, ‘I don’t feel well represented here’? 

Babies would surely feel that, especially when they find out there is no changing bed thing for them in Ladies, Gentlemen, OR Unisex & Disabled. How bloody marginalised can you get, they’d think.

Anyway, the bathroom sinks were communal and had lovely Aesop hand wash and hand cream in I-trust-you restraint-free holders.

And the meal was really delicious.


*People who are impatient (ie. any gender) and (separately) disabled people. Gender matters not. Ah, yes. This is the one. Sweet irony…

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November 25, 2016 · 11:02 pm

In Defence of Obsession


Two men present at the gates of Heaven.

The first tells God he’s in a relationship; has a stable job; plays sport twice a week; sees friends; does some cultural stuff; quaffs a few beers (max) at the week-ends.

The second says he is obsessed by a woman with whom he can’t have a relationship, spending hours at a time lying on a bed where he once slept with her, usually in an alcoholic fog, rolling a ruler she has touched around his mouth, to the detriment of his business.

Assuming he’s not doing one of his hmm-it’s-not-what-you’d-expect-parable-things, we think we know who God’s going to wave through, don’t we?

It’s going to be the well-balanced, healthy-living chap with the wide social circle and the almost-finished inspirational TED talk on his side table, isn’t it? It’s not going to be the lone wolf weirdo fetish guy.

This is the belief called into question by Orhan Pamuk’s engrossing novel, The Museum of Innocence, which scrutinizes the all-consuming love of guy 2, Kemal Basmaci, 30, for a shopgirl-turned-thwarted-actress, Füsun Keskin. He steals her 18 yr old virginity lightheartedly while engaged to an aristocratic beauty, only to lose himself heavily in her thrall, alone, for the rest of his 32 years.

The neat device of the story is that Kemal creates a museum of  Füsun-infused artefacts- her hair barettes, photographs, coffee cups, 4,213 cigarette stubs- that exists in the real world, at Firuzağa, Dalgıç Sk. No:2, Beyoğlu, Istanbul.

Not simply a personal collection, it is also a chronicle of political, economic, and social life in the city in and around the 1970s. (A selection of it visited Somerset House quite recently, too.)

Interwoven in the tale are themes of romantic love, familial love, companionship, recollection, personal narrative, status, suffering, and success.

But it is the value/ affliction of obsession that lingers most powerfully, as Kemal exhorts his ghost writer (Pamuk) to close this 728 page opus with one prevailing message: ‘Let everyone know, I lived a very happy life’, leaving us as readers to decide whether we would agree with him.

Is this the story of a delusional saddo, rendered beautiful by interpretation? Or, does it relate a valid and true-hearted (if unconventional) experience?

Can obsession be worthy?

Obsession is a preoccupation: if you’re in medicinal research, this is a good thing; if you’re chasing Eckhart Tolle’s wild goose of receptive consciousness, it isn’t.

We allow for romantic love as long as there are two people involved, and it is bookmarked within a reasonable time-frame; that’s OK, we think: you focus on me, and I focus on you until we’re both familiar with the view, and can start talking bin-liners.

When one person alone takes the plunge, it feels limiting, or (worse) futile. All that intense channeling, to the exclusion of all else, carries with it the implication that ‘all else’ might offer an opportunity for reciprocation that will, necessarily, be missed.

But, is it such a crisis to be in primary relationship with oneself, or with one’s passions?

Given that we all react to how we feel about things rather than the things themselves, anyway, isn’t there an honesty in indulging wholeheartedly with that communion itself? (Woody Allen’s Annie Hall masturbation quip springs to mind: ‘It’s sex with someone that I love.’)

In collecting items attached to his beloved, Kemal finds a creative expression for his obsession- indeed, the creativity becomes one with it.

He manifests memories, and makes emotions material. He curates his love artfully, processing his urges aesthetically. This means of therapy in coping with his estrangement from Füsun may prevent him from finding a cure; but, if he were to find one, where is the evidence to suggest another ‘illness’ wouldn’t simply take its place?

In fetishizing, anatomizing, projecting, and fantasizing over his amour, he gains more satisfaction, arguably, than he would from interacting with her human imperfection and unpredictability. The sacrifice, certainly, is that he fails to grow from the learning that only input from another can invite. He turns in on himself, becoming as much obsessed with himself obsessing as on his object of desire. But, in another sense, he has conquered the quest to conquer: he ‘owns’ her already.

If it seems tragic Kemal cannot enact his dreams, we might turn to his friends in Turkish society to ask how their ‘real life’ fulfillment compares. In their empty visits to brothels, and false notions of traditionalism and status, their self-realisation holds little by way of contrasting appeal; the novel’s parting snapshot of wronged ex Sibel’s rabidly functioning marriage, replete with two beautiful rugrat daughters, is surely enough to send even the skeptic racing to fondle Füsun’s cheese grater.

Ostracized from this outwardly respectable crew, Kemal finds a meeting of minds in the rubbish dens and hoardings of his fellow obsessives. Restless, and stripped of his reputation, he has, nevertheless, found a way of ordering and memorializing his proclivities in a way that speaks uniquely to him, and speaks to him uniquely.

Though driven by his desire to be in true relationship with Füsun, Kemal experiences as many blissful moments reflecting on his concept of her as he does moments of acute pain at her flesh-and-blood hands.

I think this is the dark reason obsession deserves a screwy break in the midst of its insularity: it allows for the exercise of control over intent; it gives imagination license to do its best thing: run wild in service to our joy.

It becomes a fiercer, bolder attempt to sustain happiness no more absurd than any others we undertake.

And, if we seek a sign from our beloved that we’re not alone in suffering for our desires (hoping at least to connect in our misery), obsession short-circuits this neediness by declining to reach out in the first place.

Just as a fire results from the intense boring of the sun onto dry matter in the right conditions, so obsession powers an emotional energy to life by brute will. It eschews temperance and abstinence and apathy, knocking aside the faint of heart, to put a stake in the ground.

It’s a cousin of addiction, of ecstasy, of ill-advised box set marathons.

It’s not a Cath Kidston pinnie, or a member of the gang, or a good idea.

It’s an outsider with a strong point of view that doesn’t give a flying fuck for opinion. (Yet, it will eat you up with your own saliva, too.)

Like many habits that thrill and vivify, obsession is wanting in virtue.

But, for as long as we are slaves to our cravings, it may be just another pleasurable road to hell.


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Filed under Arty Mumbo, Mumbo Obsessions, Mumbojumbosheepism, Uncategorized









The first two decades of this millennium might be remembered as The Era of Happiness. 

Apparently, we all want the stuff, and some bugger’s walking around somewhere who knows perfectly well how to get it, but is keeping schtum.

Meanwhile, all manner of gushing hobbits are banging their swedes on the revolving doors of TED’s headquarters claiming, definitively, it’s in the issues they happen to have struggled with their whole lives: self-esteem; a rubbish job; gratitude for how mind-bogglingly irritating they find their toddler: this is the key it all boils down to, you sweet-but-very STUPID IDIOTS.

Unpopular, but there’s a school of thought that if you haven’t found your life purpose by the age of 40, you should basically stop looking. 

In your twenties you didn’t give a hoot about fulfilment.

You were in the wrong job, battling the legacy of faulty childhood wirings, dating aliens, and drunk 90% of the time.

If anyone asked you what you felt passionate about and what you got out of bed for, the answer would have been martinis and espressos, preferably dancing with each other in a glass.

In your 30s you realised the answer to life, the universe, and everything was to have a house with a picket fence and a herd of funny, same-surnamed muppets. 

You trudged on through Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, gathering firewood and doing your bit to help bakeries maintain their turnover.

Then, DUMP!, forty lands, and suddenly there’s you and your soul and your mother on the phone with a new dead friend every 15 minutes.

Aren’t I immortal?, you query. What the hell’s been the point of me? Why aren’t I smiling like a monk?

Sad to say, there was a window in there with a nettle sticking through it that you could have grasped. It might have been the 24 hours before your 38th birthday- hard to tell- when things could have clicked into place, and you would have felt alive and smooth in the breathing area.

But you missed it: shame- now what?

You pump desperately at what you’re good at, as on a resusci anne.

You put out a call to the universe, asking it to provide.

And if you can fit these tasks in-between trips to the osteopath and being put on hold, that’s a definite win.

Alternatively, you could do what any person in a fix would do, and panic tactically. 

Protracted probing into your hidden desires for breakthroughs eats into lotto win fantasies and the downloading of social survival strategies onto your offspring.

Unless you’ve got a hot lead, it can feel like chasing a fairy. 

So, invert the received wisdom.

Take a top-line inventory of yourself from a stranger’s p.o.v and ask, ‘Who, knowing absolutely nothing about me, would find me impressive? Who doesn’t know my average score at University Challenge? Who, relatively speaking, is going to think I’m a sharp-toothed, rip-roaring genius?’ 

It’s not a snidey thing: you’re not looking for losers. Just for one paltry skill gap, otherwise known as a ‘gold-plate opportunitette’.

It doesn’t have to be the sole reason you were put on this earth. You don’t even need to be better than anyone else at doing it.

You just need to find a person who is more clueless at that particular thing than you, and stick your face in theirs.

Seeing as you’re in your own personal witness protection programme, your U.C score may remain a mystery. 

As for the longed-for contentment, that comes from not being exposed and, perhaps, being a bit appreciated.

Does Stephen Hawking want dinner on Saturday night with an eminent physicist, or with Professor Cox, his moon made of cheese, and heart-shaped pupils for eyes?

Alignment with one’s gifts is overwhelmingly special. 

But if you get stuck, remember the other type, too- the one that comes from how you position yourself.

The oldest kid in the class feels like the king.


Filed under Mumbo Life, Mumbo Obsessions, Mumbojumbosheepism

Note To All Users

The written word is premeditated.

You can’t just blurt out nonsensicals, unless you’ve got weird fingers.

In theory, it should say what it means.

Interpretations may differ.

What is left unsaid can also be relevant.

But occasionally, pretty much the entirety of a piece of communication conveys a meaning other than its apparent one.

(Is this a feature particular to the English language, and/ or simply the British polite/ sarcastic/ passive-agressive thing?)

I found a funny example of this in B’s school staff toilet:











So it’s a small note asking everyone who uses the toilet to leave it in a decent shape.

It’s cute (‘little’ x 2); non-confrontational (!!!); proper (‘most appreciated’, ‘adjacent’); and light-hearted (‘it’s not an ornament!!’)

Only, of course it’s not.

It’s a very non-little message to one singularly demented person (they all know who that is!) who is repeatedly leaving the shithole in a shithole (‘I mean, what the HELL? Can’t they SEE it’s still floating?!), from a group of staff members who have liberally bitched about it in the staffroom and- sorry, but they’re going to have to say something.

It says:


I resisted the temptation to graffiti it with some light sparks coming off the top loo, an offending beastie rearing its head from the bottom one, and a ‘me again! x’ sign-off, mainly because it has been solicitously laminated by someone who marks homework with a set of (strictly) colour-coded pens.


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Filed under London Mumbo, Mini mumbo, Mumbo Life, Mumbojumbosheepism, Uncategorized

Mindfulness Course








Enthused by my Massage Day experience, I recently completed an 8 week Mindfulness Course.

I’m hoping to teach it in schools, which I generally scope out when I’m shouting at the kids.

If you don’t know what Mindfulness is by now, Facebook furnishes daily aphoristic reminders next to pictures of flowers and the Dalai Lama sharing a burger with Russell Brand.

It’s the cultivation of total attention to the here and now, unsullied by the memory of making a tit out of yourself last Saturday night, and your plans to do the same every weekend for the rest of your life.

Naturally, that’s not how our former-monk teacher phrased it. He’d trained at a school that measures the gap in between words, then tasers you for inconsistencies. Even his invitation to leave the building for a coffee break felt like the pathway to a one-hundred year coma.

Every participant comment was welcomed with a congratulations for sharing, no matter how moronic and lacking in any quality whatsoever that might make it a valuable contribution to the public space.

‘I found meditating more effective after eating a bowl of Rice Krispies.’

‘How in Thor’s name is that going to advance the cause of the other human beings here?’ is something he never said.

As always, you (I) can’t resist judging fellow learners and jumping to conclusions that pleasingly activate the story-making area of the brain.

‘Staying with the breath’ invariably meant guessing Jo’s partner’s glad she’s out of the house for an afternoon picking up tips on being less of a psycho. Or wondering if anyone has ever told Kathy her laugh evokes antipathy. Or Tess that what she’s actually doing is having a nervous breakdown and locating the tingling sensation in her toes ain’t going to cover it.

Languorous Steve had an unintentionally funny turn of phrase. I particularly enjoyed the regaling of his new habit of nipping into the loos at work to focus when a colleague is pissing him off, so now they all think he’s crap at his job AND has IBS. Memorably, he also got carried away on a problems analogy that involved the nuking of ants sneaking in through his kitchen door with a glue gun to ‘stop the buggers coming back once and for all’.

At each of the four fortnightly sessions we delved more deeply into the moment, whingeing prodigiously along the way about how difficult/ boring/ fruitless/ annoying it was, no-one voicing the obvious that we were the ones who’d signed up for the privilege.

We heard that minds are essentially naughty, errant children you have to keep calling back, forcing to make eye contact, and encouraging to calm the hell down.

Home practice involved a series of CD’s on which Mr Monk called variously for attention to the body, the breath, sounds, and even thoughts, which many were using as a highly effective sleep tool.

Reporting back on it was an exercise in skilled lying, whereby one took the rule of dividing by a quarter the units of alcohol one consumes in a day in order to render one’s alcoholism palatable to one’s GP, and inverted it.

In other words, purported hours spent meditating were wildly over-calculated for public absorption, though it’s likely the upswell of group emotional anxiety greater than or equal to the week prior, made this fairly suss-able.

(Apart from chilled-out Audrey who, quite frankly, was ruining the beauty of this reflected misery.)

I love courses. I feel all Whoop-Whoop!-TED-motivational about them but this was a slow burner, like figuring out the tiny dots over time to get the big 3-D picture reveal at the end (though I never did get those).

Mindfulness is a life-long muscle you need to flex- an intention to nurture- more like learning the piano than an apple-falling-on-head epiphany.

You are training yourself to see, really see, what might be great; to put space in-between reactions and responses to what might not; to allow more and judge less; to sit with the uncomfortable.

But mostly to frustrate the living fibre out of person B who is losing the plot, as you smooth the creases out of your face with an oleaginous mental mixture of milk and honey.

The last session was a whole morning of meditations, of which my favourite was the Mindfulness of Walking.

A lost scene from Last Year at Marienbad, it featured every participant’s attempt to reconcile an urgency to reach the airy balcony area, with the task of putting one foot in front of the other in silent, slow motion.

In the end, it was the lost souls who’d taken a wrong turn on the way back to ‘Furniture Polishing Techniques’ in Room B who deserved our sympathy the most, destined as they are to spend the rest of their lives with a vague sense of unease, without ever being able to pinpoint why.

Post-course I realised I had been hoping for a game-changing perspective: deliciousness without the cream cake; transcendence pre-Enlightenment; ecstasy without the pill.

Turns out you have to start with the washing up, so I’ve got my Marigolds on for the long-haul.

Though I’d still pay good money to see our gentle monk freak out enough for him to feel just a tiny bit ashamed.



Filed under Mumbo Life, Mumbo Obsessions, Mumbojumbosheepism, Uncategorized


Because Christmas isn’t Lent, for God’s sake. It’s a Stuff Festival. So tear off all your clothes and get amongst it. Rip it open, gorge it down, guzzle from a ginormous tinsel-wrapped funnel. Don’t be a pussy. Push it, push it. Deep-fill those lard-laced pies. Shovel them down with extra-brandied clotted-artery bull’s cream and if the cheese is passing on a platter arrest its arse and have that away too. Wheel in a wodge of varnish-soaked Christmas pud violated with pence pieces, from Fortnum and Harrod’s. Get in with the chocolate. Get IN. Not the boring sort (for later, guarded in multiple packs by snowy friends) I mean the very extremely dark foil-wrapped sort that’s so much idiotic fun it tells cracker jokes just by parking itself on a red and gold napkin. Inject its tiny cavity with alcohol- there’s plenty of room, go on RAM IT IN- you’re not a fucking monk. Eat it after the Baileys that came after the port that precedes the cooked grease breakfast. Do it! No I’m serious, do it. Celebrate. Line up spirits and mixers and get out the champagne glasses. All of them. The SPECIAL ONES. Your good humour depends on it. (Try overwhelming a tree with austerity, see how you get on.) I want to watch the entire drinks department of John Lewis Waitrose spill from cabinet to counter top NOW. Get utterly casseroled in many, MANY locations of good cheer. Do it with carols, annex a Nativity- I really don’t care. Have friends over, fall over on friends, find strangers in Churches and gargle mulled wine over them too. Do mania, do hysteria in local shops serving prosseco with peach juice, with cassis. It’s community. It’s charity. It’s Hahahahahahahahaha, Christmas!!!!! Do you understand now? Do you get the theme? Say too much. Splurge your desires on innocents at parties. Make your speech pregnant with roast teal and spiced chutney- no room at the inn, just one pissed pantomime donkey. Spew out words and thoughts of superabundant vulgarity because this is the time of giving. Here- take, eat. This is my body that I’ve intoxicated for you- a large, ravenous beast of unending appetites to which I’ve sacrificed chestnuts and glazed fruits that you may feast, with red-wine stains on your teeth and stilton on your tie. This is my blood that I’ve saturated for you with liquid Heaven. Shaken. Dirty. House-blended.

And now New Year and you come to me with that drippy look on your stupid, puffy, hopeful face. Stinking of strategies and regret, a head bursting with notions of greatness and survival, gut writhing in the gravy of More. Forging plans, scribbling lists, grabbing at your rested juicer with pious aggression. Buy, buy, sell, sell! Let go! Take it up! Have 4 days off. Take the weight back. Have a sex change.

You are SO funny. I LOVE it.



Filed under Mumbo Life, Mumbo Obsessions, Mumbojumbosheepism, Uncategorized

Confessions of a ‘Fattie’

Last week I found this email I sent in 2004 when living in Seattle.

It was in reply to a Craigslist posting entitled ‘Confessions of a ‘Fattie”* by a woman who said she was struggling with over-eating.

(* I think I might have added the inverted commas in an attempt to flag up the labeling.)

Fattie, I found your posting sad but positive that you see you have a problem in your life- it’s the first step to sorting it out.

You already know about exercise and eating better food and cutting down so here is my tip, which I thought of in the car today after I bought a cake:

You have to realize that- in this country at least- hunger is a desire rather than a need. Just because you feel you would like more ice-cream doesn’t mean you have to actually go and eat it any more than you think you would like to go on vacation to the Bahamas and find yourself at the airport buying a ticket.

Instead, you have to remind yourself that the need to lose weight and re-gain self-esteem, health, a love life etc. is a real need and not just a desire.

Then you have to ask yourself if it makes sense in any way to prioritize a desire over a need.

The answer is no.

And as soon as you get hold of that concept and do something brave with it you can start giving in to some of that desire again, only this time in more moderation.

Good luck.

From which these observations:

1. I’m struck by how much I sound like me even though my perception is that 9 years ago I was a different me in a number of substantial ways.

Over time, we tend to change fundamentally the way we see things far more than we change things about our fundamental selves. I think I think.

2. I can acknowledge that my Advice Tourettes is at least in part a semi-conscious coping strategy for myself developed in response to a historically anxious disposition.

This could make it a screwy proposition but mostly doesn’t (I’d protest defensively) because services offered by those personally invested in them are, on the whole, better.

3. Can you offer a genuinely valuable opinion on a personal situation of which you have had no real experience?

I think yes, if it contains some truth that might resonate…

… but that it might resonate better if it is a truth that has originated from experience.

(Based on an amalgamation of answers 1. and 2., the nirvana of reaching out to others helpfully should be, therefore, at the Venn diagram intersection of Advice Tourettes and Personal Experience.)

4. The American spellings and references take me back to the acclimatisation/ acclimating issues of living in another country from which your homeland is divided by the same language.

Come the 75th time you say ‘glass’ as ‘glarse’, and no-one understands (or knowing you have been living in America for a while imagines you are trying and failing to be charming by persisting in repeating a word you know no-one will understand), do you relent and try a mutoid ‘gllasse’?

I lost chunks of teenage time to Mum and Dad’s serial debate over the pronunciation of my Cumbrian school Casterton, with Mum sticking to the Southern vowels and Dad going the ‘When in Rome’ route.

Mum would exhibit signs of escalating irritation on each occasion, before shouting at a volume which should be reserved by rights for the discovery of a fire somewhere other than a fireplace: ‘You don’t say Casstor sugar, do you, FOR GOD’S SAKE?’

(… from which the sub-observation that recurring points of contention on minor issues in a relationship are de facto absurd and so funny.)

It’s the old ‘Paris, Paree’ conundrum that never seems to go away.

5. Was the cake mentioning a good move? Presumably it was ‘Hey, I know cake love, I’m like you’ but might have jarred in the same way as a note to a heroin addict that opens, ‘I thought of this while shooting up yesterday…’

6. Does desire originate in need or are they polar opposites? Does desire become a need and if so, when? Is desire more urgent than a need because it is about wanting rather than fulfillment- demand rather than supply? Is desire always greedy? Is desire in moderation still desire? Is it worthwhile? Shouldn’t it wear its colours authentically, with the buttons pinging off its blouse?

7. Craigslist is brilliant in a small city because everyone’s recommending chiropractors who live in your apartment block, and selling stuff you can just trot around the corner to pick up.

London Craigslist is like going outside your front door and shouting, ‘Anyone in the London area know where I can buy a good washing machine?’

The combination of this blunderbuss targeting with a gigantic and eclectic pool of humanity makes the Missed Connections section, in particular, scintillating and weird.

Here are two examples from today’s:

Looking for that woman who gave me a handjob today in 259 bus- m4w-27 (N15)

If u see this please reply because I really want to finish what you started:) I hope you see it because I can’t get u out of my head


Gorgeous Girl Walking in Enfield 02/11/13 Around 13.50- m4w-24 (Enfield)

Gorgeous Girl Walking In Enfield I Was In My Black Car And Turned To Se You We Made Eye Contact
I Was Wearing A White Shirt.

You Were Wearing All Black And Holding An Black Umbrella

If You Read This Send Me Your Photo And I You Are That Certain Girl I Will Send My Details


I need to get out more. Or start making eye contact with men everywhere I go, then racing home to see if someone who starts each word with a capital letter wants to track me down online for a long-term intimate relationship.

8. Where is Fattie? Who is Fattie? How did Fattie feel about this response? Has Fattie wrapped herself around more or less than 1,000 cakes in the last 9 years? (a bit more than 2 a week)

Is Fattie Thinnie now?

Or is Fattie on a cloud catching bites of mist promising she’ll spend the rest of Eternity giving God lovebites if only he’ll let her return to Washington State for just one afternoon; to dash around saying, ‘Hi, hi’ breathlessly to family but basically to sit down for one last mesmerising 3-hour session with a fresh cinnamon bun.


Filed under Mumbo Life, Mumbo Obsessions, Mumbojumbosheepism, Uncategorized

You and me and boring the arse off each other

Unless you’re sad or I’ve found an alien in the bathroom, we bore the arse off each other, you and I.

Us, we talk the loneliness out of life. We paper over the fear that nothing matters by making stuff matter because we need mattering to be the point.

Each given 10 minutes and a piece of blank conversation paper to draw a monster or write our names in the best handwriting.

We do it well. It’s a convincing thing we do.

You’ll laugh or repeat it.

You’ll rip it to shreds with reflection.

You’ll re-feel it until you’ve worn down the thrill.

I’ll believe I’ve grown because of it.

We’ll march off satisfied.

I’ve just gone about existing with some excellent words.

The reward centre of our brains gets a Twix.

We chose these bits, not those. We picked the cherries.

The only small thing is

– try not to take this the wrong way-

you’re not a dream performance artist.

You won’t mime my recurring childhood nightmare to an audience.

My husband hasn’t been found murdered in a vat of his own wine.

You don’t wear a gimp mask and touch me.

Unless, wait! Unless we pretend.

We’ll have missed an entire evening of boring the real arse off each other but we can catch it up, we totally can. I’ll call you in the morning to do it.

(Last night I burnt a tiny bit more electricity off my bill, I’ll tell you. Good, you’ll say. Must mean we’re still taking in air, still breathing.)

Tonite, though, TONIGHT.

I’ll go to Secret Cinema and people with blood on their coats will come to talk to me. I’ll witness office workers doing exercises and visit a room made out of newspaper.

And you will solve a murder in my dining room. You’ll talk to a wine critic with a grudge, wearing a wig.

And we’ll go to a fetish club, just underwear no wig. We’ll watch people swing from hooks in their flesh.

Because since- and here’s the thing- since I’ve had a computer in my study I am a photographer.

I’m a writer and a critic.

I’m an activist.

And now I’d like to be an actor. To play for real. To be a something.

To ask strangers what colour best represents them. To see them cringe about lunging at their tutor on Graduation Day.

I’ll be in an experience that’s had a team of people- a team- dedicated to vivifying a movie that’s had a team dedicated to making it vivid.

I’ll be in France for the night, a grieving giggling widow.

I’ll engage a cross-dressing accountant who likes to watch.

Earlier, earlier I was at a piano lesson and fine.

But I know there are people, there are people who glue on mustaches and who run around buildings.

There are people who don’t know about my Santander bank account.

There are people wearing masks in a room full of white plaster heads who couldn’t give a flying monkey about my Santander bank account.

(Although I know you do and I’ll call you in the morning and tell you about it, oh and plus the electricity.)

And do you know what we can even do one day? I’m excited already.

We can act like we’re boring the arse off each other but because it’s at a remove and we won’t be doing it straight, there’ll be an extra frisson.

Hyper, supra real. Winky funny. Ironicana.

Super amuse bouche.

Living life in fancy dress.

For that

– That-

is what matters.

what’s the point.

why’s we breathe in.

That IS the reward centre

of us.



Filed under Beermat wisdom, Mumbo Life, Mumbo Obsessions, Mumbojumbosheepism, Uncategorized


Your life: how good is it? How good are you at it? Is it edited, curated? Do you present it well? Are you living real French bread filled with honest Artisan cheese? Have you sorted, streamlined, maximised, distilled your choices- your choices, your choices– with regard to religion, education, investments, home improvements, exercise, recreation? Are they simplified, exemplary, recommendable? Could I Pinterest them? Are your photos artful, arty, art? Are your politics sound? Are you enacting them? Does your brand have integrity? Do you know what your brand is? Is your potential being realised? Are you living your life’s purpose? Are you fulfilled sexually, socially, emotionally? Are you aligned? Are you watching the best Youtube Vimeo Blog output? Are you sourcing creative content excellence to input? Is it the funniest, most pertinent, original, profound? Are you sharing it, adding value to it? Are you worldly, earthly, international? Are you unfolding spiritually, cosmically? Doing right by your family? Are you authentic, eclectic, organic, aware? Are you a name, a face, a card? A party goer, a party thrower? Do you inspire, admire, inquire? Do you give good guest? Have you chosen a charity? Is your diet plant-based? Do you garden? Do you know how to pretend if I garden?

Are you – let’s be honest- making the most remarkable pattern in the sand, given the stick you’ve been given? Are you demanding a new stick? Are you inventing new sand?

Are you working hard at all these things and, inbetween times, feeling guilty for not working hard at all these things?

Or are you peaceful and content, knowing you are on top of doing your utmost towards being more consistently peaceful and content?

Or do you behave as if you believe that whatever you are doing, it is enough?

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