Affluent Effluence

June 14, 2010

I am an old pro at setting up antique map fairs. If that first sentence made you zone out then you’re a fool with little awareness of antique maps. Admittedly the unique combination of the three words ‘antique’, ‘map’, and ‘fair’ has an affect on the body similar to rohypnol except that saying, ‘antique map fair’ to someone isn’t traceable in their blood. The world of antique map fairs is a dark, terrifying land full of danger and sexual intrigue. I’ve done it a few times now and there isn’t a conundrum you can throw at me to do with an antique map fair that I couldn’t solve. I’m telling you kid when you’ve been in this game as long as I have there ain’t nothing that’ll phase you. I’ve seen it all. Map vendors in fist fights, tables collapsing, the destruction of thousands of pounds worth of maps by errant Fanta, Michael Palin. (Takes long drag on cigarette and swigs from hip flask). I’ve given everything to the map fair; my marriage, my time, my blood pressure, heck, sometimes I feel like I’ve given it my sanity. (Grabs rookie by the lapels and starts shaking him and spitting). Don’t let her take you kid! Selling maps is all well and good but at the end of the day all you got to show for it is a heart full of bitterness and ears full of dust! (Cries, slowly starts feeling his crotch). I can’t get it up no more kid. I ever tell you that? Not unless I’m looking at a map of Belgium in the shape of a lion. Do you know how rare that is? (Spits on the ground). I’ll show you something. (Rolls up his sleeve to reveal a long thin scar down the length of his arm). Kensington Olympia kid. 2008. I thought I knew it all. Have you ever been given a paper cut deliberately by a french guy? You know nothing. (Punches the rookie and shoots himself in the throat).

The fair happens every year and every year I neglect to prepare myself for one aspect of the weekend that consistently takes me by surprise. I put this down to a blind faith in people. A faith that like all good faiths has no foundation in the observable world around me. Each year I am flabbergasted at how rude people can be. Not just people though. Posh people. Really posh people can be cocking rude.

The maps sell for thousands of pounds each. I don’t know why. You can’t even draw on the paper. They are completely useless and their value seems to be based on a mutual illusion that everyone enters into based on its age and prettiness and political interest. One of the maps on display was worth £100,000. I stared at that ancient square of paper for a long time. I couldn’t get my head round the fact that there was this scrap of scroll, hanging on a wall, inches from my face, that was far more valuable than me as a human being. Even if I was sold as a sex slave I wouldn’t fetch that amount. Don’t get me wrong, I’d be a damned good sex slave and I’d try my hardest, but even with a good sex slave work ethic and great references I wouldn’t fetch that amount of money. It was quite the head-fuck. I was hypnotised by it and obsessed over the notion of grabbing it off the wall and ripping it in half, knowing that that action would be a thousand times more distressing to the people in the room than if I pulled out a knife and stabbed myself in the stomach in front of everyone. So, the patrons of the fair are more often than not posh people with some serious disposable income to jizz away in their dotage.

As the “help” I get to see a unique side to some of these people. Namely their massive swinging dickiness. The most banal and polite of requests can have some woman in a fedora and great chunks of amber jewellery honking uncontrollably in your face for thirty minutes like a goose doing an impression of an air raid siren. I know that sweeping generalisations tend to be a bad thing but there is definitely a correlation between the level of anger and indignation that a person will climb to and the size of the invisible fruit they seem to be holding in their mouth. Perhaps it is a sense of entitlement or maybe all the people that were rude to me were just having a bad day but, actually, at its essence, I just think it’s people who are used to having everything their own way throwing tantrums. I found it a little bit pathetic that throughout the day it was the people with the least to complain about who complained the most. People who clearly have had every opportunity in life and all the comforts a person could want, plus thousands of pounds lying around to purchase lovely but useless artefacts are the first ones to say, “Oh this is absolutely fucking ridiculous!” when you tell them to put their bag in a cloakroom.

I’d take it from the Queen. The Queen could tell me to fuck off and I wouldn’t bat an eyelid. She’s on coins. But the Mail on Sunday brigade who have won life’s lottery and still want to moan about the injustice of it all can all be launched into space as far as I’m concerned. The doors will be on a timer so that after a day of travelling they open and the vacuum of space will violently wrench thousands of wittering berks out into the void. “I demand to speak to the manager,” passing over their lips as their eyes explode in their heads. For my money, if you don’t know you’re born, you may as well be dead.

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Sun Spleen

May 25, 2010

This weekend living in London felt a little like what I imagine living close to the Earth’s core feels like. Flipping hot. I remember last year when we had our first bit of snow, initially everyone started hooting and cooing, and having snowball fights with strangers and laughing, and for a minute we all felt like we lived in a film written by Richard Curtis except more ethnically mixed. I think at one point I grabbed a stranger and kissed her full on the mouth and she just giggled and carried on with her shopping. I think. Then London broke because of the snow and it became relentless and we all trudged cautiously around the streets miserably drooling complaints from our cold gobs, many of us nursing injuries from slipping on the treacherous compacted sky-shit. I did an almost-backflip on my road in front of some passing tourists. They just laughed like I was part of London’s many attractions: The London Eye, The Clink, Buckingham Palace, A large white clown who flies into the air legs first and lands like a carrier bag full of meccano. Well screw you tourists. Similarly, people have gone mental for the sun.

“I’ve got a garden,” they start bellowing, “come to it.”

“To do what?” I say.

“Sit in it,” they cry.

“I’ve got a large skylight I can open in my roof that we can sit under.”

“I’ve got a bigger than average ledge outside my window.”

“Come to it,” they all demand, “and sit.”

Well I am not a fan of sitting, same reason I never have baths, I sit in it for twenty seconds before I feel like something should be happening, (which I often counter by making something happen like, for example, getting out of it and doing something, if someone invented a bath on wheels that I could pedal around while soaking I would shit myself with happiness) and I am certainly not a fan of the sun. Photosynthesis, fine, I get it, I admire it even, useful, well done sun. Vitamin D I also am a big fan of, though I admit I admire that from afar. For generally being the engine that powers our solar system and the giver of life on the planet I want to pat the sun on the back and say, “JESUS CHRIST MY HAND!” I’ll explain where my ire about the sun comes from by describing to you what I look like right now, today, sitting here and writing this. I was out for most of the weekend, I had a busy schedule and was having too much fun to go home to get my sun block, so I didn’t. “Just stay in the shade,” I thought. “Be really careful.” So I did. I was really careful to stay OUT of the sun. I have witnesses; people who will vouch that at times I was hunched under furniture craning in on conversations like a nosey rat. My face, my stupid face, looks as if I have been on some desert plain, far from man, watching nuclear warheads get tested. Over and over again. My left arm is so burnt blood vessels have come to the surface, presumably to have a look at what the fuck is going on.

“Here let’s go and have a look. I think he’s being burnt as a witch.”

Both arms are a chicken tandoori red that would definitely stop a car. My foot stares at me with one massive red eye like having Sauron at the bottom of my leg. I know I have Irish roots that would explain my pallor but this skin is something else. I am more like one of those gaudy Vegas fish they find fathoms and fathoms below the sea where the water is the colour of a policeman’s shoe and everything is monstrous and can light itself like a casino. I look in the mirror and don’t see a person anymore, I see an eel or mole-rat. Something that belongs deep in the Earth’s crust. Maybe I should move there. Start drilling. Settle down with a nice worm.

So this time of year is tinged with not a little horror-show for me as people get more and more fascist about being outside.

“Get out and enjoy it.”

“No I am staying in here,” Daniel’s eyes dart from underneath his burka as he applies more factor 700 to his eyelids. “She can’t hurt me in here.” The door slams shut and the friend that had called is left with a sense of dread, something engendered by a file she glimpsed on the desk behind Daniel’s head, on it was scrawled, ‘Plan to Blow Up Sun,’ in copious amounts of blood.

Chaos Theory

May 17, 2010

My two months in Leeds is up. I haven’t been back to London even for a weekend so my return yesterday felt like pissing after holding it in for 9 weeks, a mixture of pleasure, relief and pain. The tube carriage at Finchley Central that pulled up in front of us contained a man the colour of a hooker’s light bulb who had sprawled himself over two seats and wrapped his torso around the arm rest. He was completely unconscious and was wearing a vest top with a huge sparkly word on it like, “Cock”, or, “Arse”. You know one of those “fun” tops. He had clearly been up for 48 hours plus and had put all the drugs he could get his hands on directly into his eyes. When he finally came to and dragged his bleary, swollen head upright he looked like a bewildered Orangutan. I hope he was going to hospital. I really do.

I have returned to my life, to unemployment, that familiar smell of nothing cooking and a menacing pile of post with all the hallmarks of officialdom stamped upon it. I am having something confirmed for me which I have suspected for a long time. Chaos is my best mate. I know you can no more be friends with a concept than have sex with a cloud, I know that OK? It’s a flipping metaphor, why do we even bother talking to each other? I have tried and tried in the past to not be surrounded by chaos. I have tidied, I have ordered, I have spent loads of money in Ryman’s buying a folder for every single bit of paper I come into contact with, I have stapled post it notes to my thighs, I have drawn a histogram of my past relationships, I have made a spreadsheet of my feelings. I have come to the conclusion that I must have some sort of shambles gland that works without me even knowing it. No matter how hard I try to be organised my shambles gland sneaks behind my back and sets fire to my diary. Take money for example. Some people have a knack with money that seems quite natural. They squirrel it away, they save, they are sensible. I, on the other hand, appear to treat money like it’s diseased. Cash flies from me like flocks of startled birds with the face of the Queen. I wouldn’t mind if I had something to show for it like a collection of rare fur hats, or the loss of my septum but I don’t. I am just pathologically awful with money. Even when I try to be good with it something happens to make it disappear. I blame the shambles gland secreting its shit juice into my head and befuddling me. I considered going on a money management course but thinking about that more made me want to take my own life so I have decided I am going to call NHS Direct about my shambles gland to try and get it removed.

NHS Direct: Hello NHS Direct.

Daniel: Yes I’m really bad with money.

NHS Direct: Do you have a medical problem sir?

Daniel: Yes my brain hurts when I talk to the bank.

NHS Direct: Where do you get the pain?

Daniel: Right in the account. It spreads as well. Up the savings.

NHS Direct: Any other symptoms?

Daniel: I get cold sweats at cash machines.

NHS Direct: I’ll book you in for a Shambleoctomy.

Until I get it removed I’m claiming disability.

Old Folk

May 10, 2010

Something strange happened after the posting of the last blog. You remember Oscar right? The furry Joe Pesci that I wanted to cut open and empty out? You don’t? Oh. Awkward. Anyway, the very morning after I posted the Oscar blog I left the house as usual and noticed men working on his garden (it’s his garden make no mistake). They were putting up a fence. I got back that evening to discover a fence that could keep a miffed lion securely ensconced. It now looks like they have a pet velociraptor. Which isn’t far from the truth. Oscar can no longer see anyone passing and the street is eerily bereft of his vicious little shriek. In keeping with Noel Edmonds’ cosmic ordering I asked and the universe delivered. Thank you cosmos. I think Noel Edmonds has asked the cosmos for eternal life. The man hasn’t aged in 20 years. His hair is always EXACTLY the same. Exactly.

My parents came to see the play I am doing the other night. “I like a play with comedy in it,” said my Mum, “breaks things up dunt it?” It does. We also had a buffet laid on for us by the “friends” of the West Yorkshire Playhouse, a bunch of charming, pissed, 80-somethings, many of whom were so distressed about me not having a pork pie segment they actually got quite aggressive.

“I’m just not hungry, thank you though,” I wimpered.

“Anti-social,” came the verdict. They were really lovely though and after being accosted once before because of my remarks about the homeless lady with “eyes like faces” I should add that I mean no disrespect. I had a lovely time. I felt vaguely threatened for not having a vol-aux-vent but that was the only dent in the chassis of the buffet experience.

In some of my conversations I was reminded of a visit I made last year to my Great-Auntie Lily. Great-Auntie Lily is so old she’s powered by steam. She’s in her 90s and for whatever reasons we had never seen her before. Being our oldest link to our Rigby past my Dad thought it time we visited her. When I got over the fact that she looked exactly like my granddad in a wig I listened to some great stories. One of my favourites was about a distant Uncle called John Rigby who was known by everyone locally as “John Bull” because of his habit of having 2 pints of mild and then smashing up whichever room he was in. Apparently once it took 8 policemen to arrest him after he had obliterated a pub in Stockport. I wish I had inherited this rock and roll strong man tendency, instead I get giddy, fall over and squirt mayonnaise everywhere. Not the same. When we left, Lily asked me what I did “for work”. I said I was a comedian and actor and she turned to my Dad and said, “Oh Stephen. How on Earth did you get your lad into them doings?”

There’s something that old people do that pisses me off apart from the racism. It’s when they bang on about how much better everything was when they were younger and how everything has gone to shit now. “When I was young of course every milkman would give you a piggy back to school. Back then there were no such things as keys and locks. There weren’t even doors. We didn’t need them. You couldn’t walk down the street without someone giving you a sponge cake. Now you just get happy-slapped or raped rigid and left for dead every day.” What I don’t get is a lot of horrendous shiz went down in them “good old days” such as the more than annoying Second World War and I want to say, “Sure maybe you could chat over the fence and borrow your neighbour’s pancreas without thinking twice but THE ENTIRE WORLD WAS AT WAR. ATOMIC BOMBS. THE HOLOCAUST. THE BLOODY HOLOCAUST GRAN. WHAT DO YOU MEAN WHY AM I SHOUTING HOLOCAUST? I’M NOT SHOUTING AT YOU I’M JUST MAKING A POINT. DON’T CRY GRAN FOR GOD’S SAKE. Ok Gran, I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I just don’t agree in this ‘Golden Age’ thinking. Get out? It’s Mother’s Day we’re all here to see you. We’ve brought you 4kg of Murray Mints. You don’t want them? Jesus this is serious. I know no-one would have shouted holocaust at you in your day. I know.”

Writing every day is proving helpful so I am going to carry on doing it. What do you mean stop? Why? Why read it if you just want it to stop? How perverse. I bet your sex life is really weird. “I’m only doing this with you because it really shouldn’t be happening.” Anyway screw you. I like the practice.

I live in fear of two things at the moment (three, if you count my landlady reading this blog) one is the ever-growing inevitability of a Tory government. Something which inspires in me a revulsion entirely seperate from politics. An instinctive reaction, like your hand rapidly drawing away from a hot hob, or fancying Pixie Lott, something hard-wired. I can’t pretend to have a grand knowledge of the finer points of Tory policy, I know they’ll cut spending on public services, but apart from that my only argument is look at Cameron’s face. He looks like Casper the Friendly ghost’s twat of a cousin. But then again, Gordon Brown looks like a man made from the parts of other men and I keep expecting Nick Clegg to try and sell me a time share via the TV debates. Politics is shit.

Fear number two is Oscar. Every day I wander past a front garden on the road where I am staying. This front garden is the kingdom of Oscar. Oscar is like the angriest pillow you have ever come across. A little white fluffy cloud of hate. Mutilated plastic toys strew the decking of his domain like some sort of novelty Ypres. Cuddly bears with their mangled faces seem to plead, “Keep on walking, for the love of God, keep on walking.” Oscar is a yapper. He yaps feverishly at anything that moves; crows, trees, the sky, you. I have started to take this personally and am on the brink of doing something quite nasty to Oscar if he doesn’t pipe down. He sees me nearly every day, and yet despite knowing that I have made the same journey every day and not once displayed any unruly or unpredictable behaviour, he yaps his tits off at me as if I were about to steal into his house and kill his owners. Ironically, the more he does this, the closer he is to inspiring some sudden psychotic episode in me whereby I grab him by the mouth and use him to deck the windshield of his owner’s vehicle. As I atomised the glass with his little ragged body I would laugh and laugh and laugh myself hoarse, beating him into a glass and dog mush in the rhythm of his own yap-yap-yap. That felt amazing by the way, writing that. I normally like dogs. I love some of them. Rarely do I want to kill them. This is all Oscar’s fault.

Oscar’s owner is a lady that stands in the doorway observing his behaviour and merely repeats his name.

“Oscar,” she says with mild surprise and admonishment, as if she were to add, “I can’t believe you’re behaving this way. After winning Crufts and everything.”

Oscar is a bad dog. He has never won Crufts and he never will. He is a little psycho. I fear him and respect him. I find him cute and I want him to die. Any politician with a ‘Kill Oscar’ policy gets my vote.

Tis Pity

May 3, 2010

There’s this woman making me cry. I am very prone to crying at certain times. When hungover, for example, I cry at car insurance adverts. Anything in print/on telly about the history of Manchester City can have me blubbing fat tears of nostalgia. People with unhappy or vulnerable faces can choke me up; if I perceive sadness etched on their visage like a Maori tattoo. Fat children. Fat kids get me going every time. Very fat kids that look sad will get my mind inventing whole elaborate scenes of misery with them at the centre. I imagine the bullying they’re victim of. The long nights alone in their room while all the thin kids go to discos and kiss. I want to scoop him or her up and be there friend. I’ll be your friend. Don’t worry about a thing. Let’s go to KFC. I once worked in a prison as a temp. There was a woman that worked opposite me who was the size of a transit van. She was single, middle aged and didn’t seem to have many friends. I used to look at her sometimes and imagine her Christmases. Her sat on a sofa eating a selection box with the pathetic blink of fairy lights reflecting off her damp cheeks. A single Christmas card hung on the wall which her local takeaway sent her. I could barely get anything done through the blur of tears.

So there’s this woman. She sells the big issue outside the West Yorkshire Playhouse. She sits and very meekly plies her trade. She wears glasses that make her eyes the size of dartboards and wears the same colourful headscarf every day. She looks like a massive homeless cartoon mouse and everytime I see her I want to fall on my knees weeping. “Take it all take everything I have, here’s my address, live there please, what went wrong? What happened to you?” I empty my pockets of all bank cards, I write my pin number on her hand, I start giving her my shoes. She stops me with a withered hand and stares at me with her eyes like faces. “Big Issue?” she asks.

I have come to the conclusion that this dispensation to weep makes me a knob. Who am I to assume that these people are unhappy? Mouse woman might be perfectly content and have an amazing life full of nourishment, friendship and good hard sex. Pity when you get down to it is a pretty cruel emotion. I am going to give it up. Maybe then I will actually buy a Big Issue off her instead of just crying in her general direction. I am going to have to stop writing. A fat kid has just come into Caffe Nero. I stare at him intently as my cappuccino fills with tears. Here little boy, have my loyalty card, it has six stamps already. Saves you money. Would you like some money?

Digs a hole.

April 28, 2010

This entry could also be entitled: “Why My Landlady Should Have Thrown Me Out”.

Having done a few theatre shows I am used to staying in digs. These are people who volunteer to go on a theatre’s list of possible places for actors to stay when away from home. The composition of a digs list is normally 90% gin-addled widows, 5% couples with no children and 5% men who don’t own the house and might kill you. I have stayed in many digs and have become adept at translating the signals in the digs list that could indicate an uncomfortable tenure.

“Pets welcome,” means the landlady (they are nearly always ladies) has between 4 and 16 cats and will expect you to laugh and coo while her beloved mogs claw painfully at your groin and spray piss on your breakfast. Expect to be woken in the night by the friendly little fuck batting your face like it’s torturing a frog.

“Smoking allowed,” means the landlady (very few men on the digs list) smokes between 80 and 1000 cigarettes a day. You will live in a permanent fog like a lighhouse keeper, everything you own will smell like it has survived cremation, you will no longer be able to taste and you will turn the colour of Mr Happy. But you won’t be happy. You’ll have accelerated your own death by 16 years. I once stayed with a woman whose ashtrays looked like tiny horrific Kilimanjaros. She is the only person in my life that I have genuinely had to check whether they are dead or not.

“Likes a quiet house,” this lady (majority are women) is a nazi. She will come into your room without knocking. She will look through your stuff when you’re out like the Nixon administration. The heating only goes on between 5 and 5.15pm. Your socks need to be separated before going in the wash. You left a cup on your bedside table. You forgot to double triple lock the inner outer gate. Kill yourself. Kill yourself. Kill yourself.

My latest landlady is a gem though and I think sub-consciously I am wreaking revenge on her for all the previous landladies. I am enacting my vengeance in the drunken phases of an evening known the next day as the “I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about” phase.

A case in point, the other morning I awoke in Leeds to a lovely fresh chirping day. I could not remember getting home but that was OK. I’m not hurt, I thought. I’m home. A success. Wait. Something weird underneath my pillow. An empty squeezable mayonnaise bottle? But where’s the mayonnaise? Oh it’s in the bed. I must have squeezed it out. Oh well. No harm done. I’ll wash the sheets. Downstairs I am greeted by what looks like a crisp black coin that has been taken from the oven and carefully displayed for my benefit on some kitchen roll on the hobs. There is also the smell of fresh cleaning. All rather suspicious I thought. Why was she making pizza for herself for breakfast? And why has she burnt it so badly? Then a realisation that was too long coming. It was my pizza and I had left it in the oven and gone to bed. Upstairs my drunk mind must have got distracted by the hilarious sport of turning myself into a giant sandwich before passing out. I later learned that when my landlady had got down the stairs she discovered a trail of destruction that could only be explained by my bouncing off the things in her house like a pin ball and I had left mayonnaise everywhere. I was so contrite that it was embarrassing for everyone and I bought her nice things and have been fairly well behaved since.

Amazingly she hasn’t thrown me out. Thank goodness she doesn’t like “a quiet house”.