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How to not die

NCAT8803

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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Filed under London Mumbo, Mumbo Life, Mumbojumbosheepism, Uncategorized

The Boyfriend

Awwww, look at you in your knitted sweater. It is lovely to be dating, isn’t it?

You’re still out in the wild. At the same time, you’ve got someone with soft flesh to agree you’re great. You get sexy sex on tap while your sad married mates are dealing with dishwasher hate notes. You can stop checking out who winked at you on Match.com. Those cute little messages on Facebook about ‘my gorgeous girl’– they’re yours.

You even get to keep simultaneous contact with two of your own shirts while walking hand-in-hand down Guildford High Street, ’cause she’s wearing one of them.

You’re in love, not domestic bondage. And it’s adorable; I don’t want to upset you.

So run along now- she wants a foot rub/ milky drink/ reassurance.

Because the news is- bummer- you’re unpopular. With everyone. Even her. Especially her.

Your bachelor friends hate you, because you don’t want to throw up with them anymore. Ditto your married friends, for the reasons you think you’re happy. Other boyfriends feel uncomfortable around you, like maybe you met before in group therapy.

Your boss used to think you were a creep. Now he thinks you’re a smug creep.

To her older brother you’re a cad; to the younger a sicko, for liking girls. You’re a source of ridicule for her older sis; in the younger you stir adolescent pangs.

Half her friends don’t think you’re good enough. The other half do and and want to know why you’re not with them.

Her mother’s eaten up you don’t fancy her. Or maybe you do, in which case The Bible hates you too.

Her Dad knows you’re using his little girl as a notch in the bedpost (he was a boyfriend once.) Or you’re a bad smell and not making an honest woman of her. Or destined to become the husband and he’ll have to spend the rest of his life giving you man hugs at Christmas.

Your Dad resents you playing the field. And your mother, oh boy, your mother.

Cousins are ambivalent because you spread the coverage of grandparent interaction at family occasions. Grandparents too, because they’re senile.

Well they can all go to hell, says you, because your gal’s head over, lying on your bed in lace underwear, waiting to breathe your air.

Possibly.

Or could it be that you don’t do that thing her ex did with Skittles?

Do you laugh enough at tarty girls? Bitch collaboratively? Put the right number of kisses at the end of texts?

When you last had a cold, why could you hear her gay friend laughing so much at the end of the phone?

And you know when she said she doesn’t need a piece of paper for you to prove your love to one another? She was lying.

She was lying so hard the words tasted acrid in her post-pleasuring mouth when she said them. (And believe me, it WAS the words).

Is it because you’re too cheap to buy a ring? Are you looking for a cheap ring? OMG, do you think she’s cheap?

The saddest thing of all is that one day you’ll realise you hate yourself.

It won’t be snuggled up on the sofa watching a Meryl Streep-Alec Baldwin movie. Or smiling at a panda in Clinton’s on Valentine’s Day.

It won’t even be when you’re watching porn and thinking about Vicky Pryce.

It’ll be when you’re in Zara or Top Shop or Whistles.

You’ll be standing waiting at the changing rooms entrance- waiting. Like you’ve forgotten how to kill a bear or barbeque spare ribs or watch the beginning of Up without crying.

You’ll be illuminated from the front by a glow of strip lighting- an overgrown, beleaguered version of Elliott in E.T, searching in vain for signs you haven’t been castrated or mistakenly cast in an ad for tampons.

And instead of your Beloved popping out in an LBD she’s popping out of, you’ll catch sight of your own mush in the mirror: stripped of sarcasm, boy band drippy, accessorized by a woman’s handbag and expectations.

And you’re gonna f.r.e.a.k o.u.t, drop everything and dump her.

But…

Six months later she’ll have a new boyfriend who cheats on her and races cars, while you’re moping around being a miserable bastard.

And one by one, all your friends and family and work colleagues will start to remember your boyfriend time as golden, while all her friends and family and the family dog will spend entire evenings hunched over chicken kievs saying, ‘God, we loved him, he was perfect‘..

Before you know where you are Meryl’s back on, in Mama Mia, and nailing it.

Promise just one thing?

Never, EVER revisit the shopping thing.

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Art for Life’s Sake

This piece has been doing the rounds on Facebook:

[Marina Abramovic and Ulay started an intense love story in the 70s, performing art out of the van they lived in. When they felt the relationship had run its course, they decided to walk the Great Wall of China, each from one end, meeting for one last big hug in the middle and never seeing each other again.

At her 2010 MoMa retrospective Marina performed ‘The Artist Is Present’ as part of the show, where she shared a minute of silence with each stranger who sat in front of her. Ulay arrived without her knowing and this is what happened…]

The way it taps into the pain of love is its immediate appeal, when there are no words that can salve the disappointment of a deep connection rent.

If an artist is someone creating (as opposed, for this purpose, to the naturalist who allows) then artists who make themselves the substance of their art somehow represent the apotheosis of artifice.

Meaning, that I think of the act of art as presenting an idea or a combination of ideas in such a way that a new perspective is offered, on some or any thing in this thing we call life.

To then live this out with deliberate focus- to invest in it personal integrity and have the impulse to share it- is special, and appeals to me in its total re-interpretation or re-imagination of the mundane.

The very idea of sharing a moment’s silence with strangers is compelling; to do it with a loved one intense; to do it with an estranged loved one- wow. (This may not have been Abramovic’s intention but she embraced it.)

Shortly afterwards I came across this prequel, which I really enjoyed on a number of levels:

I love the simplicity and grandiosity of the Great Wall of China project.

I love the nature of their artistic relationship, so perilously close to self-parody.

And I love that it backed up all the non-verbal cues communicated in its sequel, namely that when they parted he (at least nominally) held the power.

(Funny, though, how he does not resist the urge to let slip his grading of the gravity of her betrayal with a friend, even in the context of his own more lasting transgression.)

I experienced many feelings when I watched these two short clips but what I’d like to share is a fantasy.

I would have liked to be the translator who was to become Ulay’s bride- the demon minx who tore apart the Art World’s collaborative darlings, trudging around with a bulging belly just as Abramovic shrank into desolation.

Imagining for a sweet second that all the timings were right, after The Artist is Present I would have installed two gigantic photographs and a pedestal; the first, a photograph of Abravomovic and Ulay in their heyday; the second, a photograph of a pregnant me; and lastly, a real life pregnant me sitting on the pedestal.

In front of them all would be a paint splurter.

And all the people who had spent a silent minute with Abramovic would be invited to take a splurgy shot at one of the two photographs or at the pregnant me.

It would have been a comment on judgment and cathartic anger and honesty, all in one.

I think I would have felt more a part of their Art Thing and maybe a bit less guilty when I had the Ulay baby.

And I would have felt sorry for the people who felt justified at having a pop at the real me and the babe.

Because you can love the idea of something (an image of the happy couple) and hate the idea of something (an image of the one who tore them apart) but if you hate real people that’s sad, even if mediated through art.

And I would have felt scared of the people who would have liked to have a pop at the real me and the babe but thought it would look bad, because they would be sad but cowardly too, and outside of the gallery walls those people might be dangerous.

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Holiday Beer Goggles

This is just great, look at this.  It’s so much better than the way I live my life at home and I know why: because it’s simpler and there are only 2 rings on the kitchen stove. Why do I think I need more? Mostly for resting another unfinished pot on, but you wouldn’t do that if you lived here. You’d just eat everything straight away and you wouldn’t eat so much because it’s more delicious and there would be no Fox’s biscuits in the cupboard.

And you wouldn’t eat Heinz and Hellman’s because you’d be so pure and carefree, the food wouldn’t need it. You’d just grow all your own veg and it would be ripe all the time and extra-nutritious and when you felt hungry between meals you’d basically eat nuts. And you would go hours- days- without even thinking about chocolate and, if you did, it would be the 100% cocoa solids type, which is the equivalent of picking the bean off the tree in an organic way.

And you’d have so much less stuff and bed linen. You wouldn’t have a drawer full of miscellaneous items (why would you ever need rubber bands here?) or a box of wrapping paper or extra bathroom wotnots because you’d just use the essentials. That’s why you’d be so happy and friendly to strangers.

And none of your energy would go into soft furnishings. You wouldn’t need cushions or throws and nothing anywhere on the floors, unless it’s a really practical rug for collecting the water off feet or an exquisite one woven in good colours. And another reason why everyone here is smiling is that they know you just need a few effigies of Mary the Mother of God on the wall or a locally-made ceramic plate and absolutely no photographs.

And you’d be uber-relaxed the whole time because people here don’t do admin. They don’t have car insurance or diaries or passports. In fact, I bet hardly anyone here has a bank account- you just wouldn’t need one.  Because say you went into the city to buy a floaty dress or some stylish sandals or to eat at a restaurant with delicious ancient recipes and white tablecloths and cold wine glasses, you’d definitely have enough in your beautiful leather wallet.

Everything you’d be doing would be so natural and simple and authentic.

And when you went to buy flowers from the market- which you would do every morning, with your long hair- you would just swap it for the passata you’d made or the singing you’d do for them at the Christening of their niece.

And you’d always be tanned and laughing because you wouldn’t have to remember family birthdays and if you did it would be in a really genuine way, where everyone celebrates by dancing till 1 in the morning under the stars; it would have nothing to do with ordering from Amazon.

And you’d be drinking local firewater but not so much you’d have a hangover- more a dizzy swirling of bees above the head, like in cartoons. Yes, hangovers would be comical here. You’d have a laugh about them!

And you’d mostly wear white and you wouldn’t need to go to the hairdressers and you’d never have to de-tox because you hadn’t been eating tomato ketchup or thinking dark thoughts.

And the days would be longer and emptier and you’d be full of energy and inspiration to pour into a creative project- a meaningful, single-minded one, like re-creating the anatomy of a bee using minute mosaic tiles hand-painted by an old master craftsmen in his charming, decrepit studio on the outskirts of the village.

And the kids would run wild and free and grow bleached hair. They’d never need to learn an instrument or stroke plastic toys and they’d stop being interested in computers because they’d be tripping along with sticks and hoops in the local squares, licking ice-creams all the time.

And when they got a bit older they wouldn’t get into any trouble; they’d just jump on Vespas with other good-looking teenagers and drink Fanta till 2 in the morning, cracking jokes and doing cheeky dances in their long shorts and plimsolls and knowing what it feels like to feel alive inside.

And ‘so long’ to Facebook because no-one here has ever even heard of the internet- you can tell. I think the stove-top rings and soft furnishings and Facebook are at the heart of what gets me down at home. People might think the swimming pool helps but I think that if you lived here you could strip it right down and pretty soon all you’d need would be an espresso machine and a lipstick.

I wonder if I could move my entire life here with no Facebook and be in one of those articles about people moving their families to the coasts of Guadeloupe and rubbing sand into their children’s body all day and night, in-between eating oranges and not looking at Facebook.

I wonder if I could leave every worry and fear right back there in that dishwasher guarantee direct debit standing order pile and start living a real life here, buying all my meat from large, cigar-smoking men in candy-striped aprons who’ve wrestled the animal to death themselves while smoking.

I’d never need to go to the doctor or sleep with the Vicar or pay taxes or argue with anybody ever and I’d hardly need an income because I’d be eating figs all the time and being content.

And it would be even better if I could get rid of the whole family and just live in a tiny apartment with shutters and walk around in leggings like Jeremy Irons at the end of Damage, where he manages to survive causing his own son’s death by carrying a string bag and eating comte.

So if I can shade the screen of the iPhone from this perpetual sun and when it has cooled down and is prepared to do more than make emergency calls, I am going to Google some local property prices and pretend you still get 4 Euros to the Pound.

And if it still seems a bit expensive and I can’t figure a way to get rid of the family and the creative project sounds like it might turn me a bit mental- albeit in a natural and authentic way- then I am totally and most definitely going to eat only fruit and yoghurt for breakfast every single day when I get home and only do Facebook at certain pre-designated times.

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Desmond

This is the story of my discovery of a secret schizophrenic uncle, at the age of 15.

Just as you learn that yellow and blue make green, I knew when I was growing up that my mother was an only child.

She said the same whenever siblings were discussed and often referred wistfully to her late teens as sole provider for her widowed mother.

So never any reason to smell a rat.

Aside from two incidents (to assume rodent-odour retrospectively).

The first was the naming of my new stuffed donkey, aged 6.

A king amongst toys, he had crinkly material in his ears and velvet hooves: Holy Mary Mother of God would have broken the eighth commandment for a ride.

The sun pinged off the gleaming teeth of Family Price, as its youngest member frolicked with the new Cuddly. And there was joy and laughter and orange juice for breakfast.

Until, unaccountably, I introduced the new beloved as ‘Dezzie’.

Ma took to the news as to a cup of cold, mulish sick; much as if I’d called him Fuckface, a cloud hung in the air whenever I called for the animal (he never came).

For some unfathomable reason, I had made a donkey-naming misdemeanour.

The second came a few years later when I told Mum a joke (punchline, ‘I’m a schizophrenic’, ‘So am I’).

Far from clutching her ribs, Mum hit the roof, proclaiming it an anger-inducing travesty.

Thus for unfathomable reason number two (though ‘Stand-up’ was now placed after ‘Astronaut’) schizophrenia jokes were off-menu.

Clock forward to my 15th year and half term, which, in the absence of my parents, I was spending with my big sister.

Idly snooping around, I stumbled across a package marked ‘D.Moore’. Strange, thought I (wearing the quizzical face of someone on the verge of a Plot-Revealer),  Moore is Mum’s maiden name but her parents are dead.

When confronted, sis wore the Plot-Revealed face and sat me down seriously in the tidy part of the living room to tell me The News.

The package was a birthday present for Mum’s brother, Desmond, a man in his fifties, who had been living since he was a youth in Sussex County Lunatic Asylum.

A seismic revelation was this, begging numerous questions: the kind concerned with Mum and her family and how they all coped?

Or the more solipsistic reaction of a teenager already convinced of her own exclusion from family matters?: Why wasn’t I told? How long have you known? Would anyone have told me if I hadn’t found out?

Ashamedly, the latter: it seemed to me the concrete proof that I was always the last to know about anything and I felt betrayed.

But I was not the star of this unglamorous show.

Happy as a boy in Australia, on moving to England at 14 Dez showed signs of unusual behaviour.

He would disappear for long stretches after school or forget things- the episodes growing in number and severity until his 18th year when my tiny French grandmother (also dealing with her husband’s Japanese prisoner-of-war post-traumatic stress) could no longer cope.

After an unsuccessful spell in a private home he was reluctantly placed in St Francis’ psychiatric hospital, where he still resided.

I made Mum party to my edification with a drumroll but she denied me the drama I felt owed; in those ‘children shouldn’t see or hear’ days, a bonkers relative didn’t feel like appropriate fodder and I was simply still more child than my sisters.

Not long after we went to visit.

It’s funny, because there’s a Facebook page dedicated to the place (now luxurious apartments), where staff are trading glorious memories of their working years.

To me it was the stuff of nightmares.

Opened in 1859, it was built to a corridor design, with the wards flanking out from an administrative central block. This allowed for the segregation of the sexes and aided in the ease of communication throughout the asylum.

In reality, it felt like prison.

At an all-girl boarding school, I thought I knew institutions. But this was something other.

A Victorian enshrinement of society’s embarrassments, it was predicated on the ironing out of its inmates’ wild individualisms, in order to create more manageable flattened units: breakfast at 7, lunch at 12, tea at 3, every day, every day, no deviation.

Desmond had been on heavy medication for years so that it was hard to tell where his illness ended and the legacy of his pill-popping began.

He was a crumpled, question-mark-of-a-man with a Monty-Python walk- legs first, arms folded behind his back. He had thinning hair, mental brown polyester clothes and teeth and spectacles held together with plasters; in facial features, a male version of Mum.

Mild-mannered and softly spoken, he annunciated every word of his old-fashioned lexicon beautifully, lending a sad nobleness to his activities: ‘There was a craft-making afternoon with the ladies from the adjacent wing.’ ‘They were kind enough to allow us fifty pence pieces on our excursion to Haywards Heath.’

He would pause before and after each recollection, often making eye contact with a pained expression, through his smudged lenses.

Mum laughed and made jolly- through his tales of stolen cigarettes (which he would smoke right down to the very butt, inhaling with deep purpose, burning his lips); his vexations over the non-visits of his (deceased) mother; his requests to visit our family home.

For much of the visit he would stare into his lap, as a person who cannot quite comprehend his situation but the moment the clock struck for tea, rise Pavlovian to his feet, a distracted farewell waved over the shoulder.

On the whole, he seemed well cared for but with an immeasurable intensity of loneliness- a man outlined by the cosmic inexplicability of chasing his sister around a Eucalyptus tree one day, pacing the tiled hallways of confinement for all the rest.

It raised a wry smile to think my appearance, aged 15, would seem to him another hole in his intellect when, of course, this was not the case.

His male co-habitees missed their slot on One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest: bewildered, demented, head-banging. Or playing cards wearing pearls and a twinset. Funny ha-ha. Funny peculiar. Utterly disturbing.

The journey home was quiet: the leaving behind, the strong taste of a life wasted. And yet, what?, home to the usefulness of working, shopping? Our lives more worthwhile? Less pathetic?

Dez spent his last two years in a private home, when, in 1995, St. Francis’ closed its doors for the final time.

Though the result was good, it was a period of fear and confusion for him, which my mother and medically-qualified sister guided him through as gently as they could.

Desmond spent over 40 lost years at the hospital.

My father spent 30 of them driving my mother to see him without ever once going in himself- a reflection more of his strength than his weakness because he knows what he’s good at and what he ‘aint.

This post is for you, Uncle Dezzie, a gentleman.

You are remembered.

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Texting

Texting is for young people who want sex with each other and need to arrange a time and place to have it. (Or Vernon Kay who wants it but is not allowed to have it.)

It suits them perfectly because it is a made-up language with lazy grammatical rules and they don’t need to fiddle around with those nasty little ink cartridges that stain your hands.

Pity the children of the 60s and 70s who have caught onto its coat-tails, like an embarrassing Mum wearing flares at the school gates. They know nothing of this world, even though their own parents are managing to Skype like bastards.

Talking on the phone is a risky business. It is fraught with nuance and the possibility of the other person Talking For Too Long or Raising an Unforeseen Topic.

Facebook is like cabaret and has rendered emails dry as a bone, not to mention steeped in zombie potential ever since a grubby spin doctor typed about it being a good day to bury bad news.

Texting gets you straight to the source on your own terms: intimate and impersonal, functional and frivolous, it’s the perfect conversation- one where you don’t have to listen, reply or disguise the contempt in your voice.

Even so, women can read more into a text than into the Declaration of Human Rights, eyeballing their phone incredulously, gasping, ‘How are you? What the hell is that supposed to mean? It’s taken him 2 hours and 43 minutes to reply to my last text. How the hell am I supposed to be?’

Regular texters develop a style their regular textees understand and aren’t offended by. It may be exclamation mark-heavy or brutally to the point but as long as they stick to it everyone knows where they stand. In this territory, a typo can spell trubbly and ‘c u later’ a vicious snub if it comes from the wrong mobile number.

That said, vicar texts are always creepy and capitals mean SHOUTING.

Phones too need to be compatible, as any jobbing Nokia scrambling the arse out of an iPhone missive will testify.

Every now and then, in the middle of a text orgy, one party takes it upon themselves to decide it’s silly to do all this texting- we may as well talk.

WRONG!

This changes the level of the playing field and exhibits an ETI (Emotional Texting Intelligence) that is wanting, making them the last person in the world with whom you would want a real dialogue.

Certain textual emotions are universal: the heart skip at the beep alert; the ‘chosen one’ feeling of a message flashing up in silent mode; the confusion resulting from a delayed text agreeing with something you sent outside Texting Real Time, necessitating a laborious scroll through the sent box.

Textual content, on the other hand, can be customised; several decisions must be made: capitals after full stops or lower case throughout- it’s a question of conformity; abbreviations (Wend for week-end) and textspeak (gr8) , a marker of age; use of smiley faces :), hahaha and lol, mental stability.

Predictive text is Simon Cowell: contrived, bonkers and unhelpful if you want to express individuality; funny if you’re pissed.

The most rewarding of the texting lexicon is the truncated sentence: ‘buying tomatoes’ transforms your Mum into a Wall Street trader while firing off ‘am outside’ could catapult even Nick Clegg into The Bourne Supremacy.

And the most controversial? The ‘x’, of course. Or the size, number, lack thereof.

It can re-appear in dreams as a punch in the face or a violation, start or finish a relationship and make a riddle of a post code.

Be afraid. b v. frAd.

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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.

*

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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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