The Words in Me

On the cool May water patient ducks do their duckly duty and chilled out swans lurch in almost imperceptible leaps. One, a big one by the sound of its wings, flies berserkly, its feet still in the water behind the bushes, where I lay with a girl in the long rushes. A hard-nailed dog, paws stiff as death chews a fluorescent tennis ball and vaguely obeys the small man, whose narrow dark eyes acknowledge, but only out of duty. The pond is not warm now. Was it ever? Even when the old works of undulating metal disgorged its useless vigour. This place is a place where times collide and all roads cross. My fathers, survivors though they were, naturally, thought they were here to stay, thought they could walk on the water. That pond, that cool May pond, that clean green pond, that home to dutiful ducks and chilled out swans, started with their sweat and with their water. The cross-ponds bridge, the tidy tarmac, the grass, the dog shit, the drunken piss. See – even now the waters come – even now but with less pain. An angry crow, helpless, or it could be a rook, anyway, it has a big yellow beak and it craws loud and angry at the new road and the thick-wheeled cycles and the motorised wheelchair, and most of all most of all, it shouts at the patient ducks. ii A dying pylon collapses, its corpse disintegrates. The three parts of its giant insect body, decomposing prey to the acetylene burners and the maggot men with their big yellow jaws. iii A slow pad over the arc of the Pont d’Agen to the tarmacked path, where the long rushes were and a nervous coot, scoots, home to its dying mother. iv Like a lost turtle, out of place, the ghost of my future is barely seen by the thick meat frame and quick cold eyes of men, protecting their brood, with their stares. I am alone, more akin to my dead father, less at home than I was as a child, even though then, I stole and lied and cheated at cards, when I could get away with it. Without a dog, or a bike, or a young child, or even a girlfriend, I walk on purpose even though I’m not going anywhere, just crossing and looping and thinking of then and thinking of now and thinking of then again, as I avoid the cold sharp stares. v Polly the dog makes a nuisance of itself. The little girl craws its name like an angry black crow. Her mother tugs, it’s time, time, it’s always time to go. vi This is a moderate place it hovers between then and now between here and there existing only because of a random coming together of the right sort of stuff but it still hurts. vii Under the arc of the Pont d’Agen cars flow; the scintillating heat of their breath settles on the new black road, and she sighs, and she hides her secret methods. But she knows, and she will recover. viii It’s time, and time again, time to let the dreams vaporise and settle and hide in the black tarmac, and wait for a new reality.

WORDS

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A Selfieview – an interview with myself

It’s now normal to take pictures of yourself; no one thinks you’re weird or that you have an ego the size of China if you post a self-taken photograph of yourself on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or wherever; in fact, posting a selfie is a cool way to let the world, or at least your so-called friends and followers, get to know who you are.

dj-for-zen

So, I present to you the Selfieview – an interview with yourself. Let’s face it, you’re probably not interesting enough to be asked a set of questions about your innermost thoughts and desires, or even your outermost achievements and beliefs. But that’s where the rest of the world has got it wrong, hasn’t it? You are interesting! Of course you are. You are a unique and magical being infused with all the energy in the universe, and besides, you do have things to say about the meaning of life – you may even have the answers.

Some rules

  • You can ask yourself as many questions about as many subjects as you like.
  • You can take as long as you like to answer the questions.
  • You can write concise bullet points or long paragraphs or in any other way you fancy.

You get the picture – this is a libertarian concept – there are no rules . . . .

but . . . . .

If you want other people to read and respond to your selfieview then there are:-

Some guidelines

  • Keep the questions simple, short and interesting.
  • Ditto with the answers, though try to elaborate enough to make your answer meaningful – in other words no yes/no answers. (Unless they add some comedic value to the selfieview)
  • Tell us something we didn’t know
  • Tell us something we guessed
  • Tell us a secret

The best way for me to illustrate how to conduct a selfieview is to do one myself, so here goes:

Q: Who are you?

A: Ah! That’s a simple and short question, but of course impossible to answer fully. Hmm! OK! I’m a 64 year old man who lives in Wales.

Q: What do you do?

A: I’m a writer and an artist so I write stuff and create artworks. I am also a publisher. I enjoy publishing, especially the freedom it gives me to publish my own work in the way I want. The downside is that unless you get a proper best seller or are blessed with grants and subsidies, being a publisher doesn’t bring in enough cash to justify what you have to do to actually publish books, especially when they’re not your own. To be honest if I could make enough money from writing alone then I’d be happy to leave the publishing to someone else.

Q: What have you published of your own writing, and what is your latest substantial work?

A: Well I have published poetry and short stories and I’ve just published my fourth novel – it’s called ‘Bbums-hardback-cover-3-front-209x300ums’ and it’s the first book in a trilogy featuring Detective Inspector Frank Lee. The next two books in the trilogy are called ‘Beats’ and ‘Bones’. As I write this I’m well into writing Beats and expect to finish the first full draft soonish.

 

Q: Of all the books you’ve written which is your favourite.

A: TThree-Bears-Coverhat’s easy – my first novel ‘The Three Bears’ is the one I love the most. I’m not sure that many other people look at it with the same affection as I do, but it’s probably about as close to a perfect work of art that my writing will ever get.

Q: What about your visual art, your painting; what’s your favourite piece?

A: Again, an easy one, it’s called ‘Bright Environment’. It’s an abstract I painted in 2002 about a year after I first put brush to canvas. I’ve had offers for it over the years but never enough to tempt me to sell it.

bright-environment-600Q: Tell us a secret.

gas-meterA: Ah! Now I’ve got to be careful here. I’m not sure if these things are covered by a statute of limitations, so I’ll go for an early one. When I was about fifteen I, along with my best friend, Stu, cracked open the gas meter in my parents’ house (where I lived) and stole the handful of silver coins that were locked inside. We tried to make it look like an opportunistic break-in by a passing villain (of which there were many on the estate at that time), but it didn’t take long for my father to suss out what had happened (he was a clever sod). He made some excuse to the Gas board and paid the money back himself. I was so ashamed I never pulled anything like that again (so close to home anyway).

Q: What’s it all about?

A: Simple, it’s all about everything and it’s all about nothing. These questions are too easy – ask me a more difficult one next time.

Q: OK, you asked for it. Are you any good as a writer or as an artist, or are you just a deluded fraud.

A: Ooh. Yes, that is a tough one. The truth is I am both good at what I do, (a genius in fact), and I am also a completely talentless fool. I suppose the true truth falls somewhere in between those extremes – I am on the continuum like everyone else. But, the important thing for me is that I aspire to create work that is true to myself, whether or not it is regarded as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ by anyone else, and that makes me a true artist, which is good – I think?

Anyway, over to you.

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The Zen. The Zen. The Zen.

I recently wrote a little piece about an event I was due to perform in. You can read it here: The Suchlike Zen.

Here is what happened next.

Disclaimer: The following piece was written by a different version of me from a parallel universe therefore the views expressed are not necessarily mine. It’s also a bit long, and a bit of a head-fuck, even for me.

‘Hello! I’m Derec – sort of. The thing is, I’m not from round here, and to tell the truth I’m a bit lost, and when I say lost, I mean properly lost, lost in space and time.

You see – I’ve got this theory that, hmm . . . hang on, let’s try to keep it simple. OK, let’s just say that – and remember, it’s only a theory – well, not even a theory really, in the scientific sense, it’s just an idea really, a smidgeon of a thought about the nature of reality – you know, what it’s all about, I mean, I’m not going to pretend I know the answers, any answers to anything, but, and I think you have to show me some respect as a fellow living, breathing creature of this universe, or any other universe come to that.

And that’s the point – Any. Other. Universe. That’s what I mean, there are, according to many respected scientific thinkers, many universes, in fact, according to some, there are an infinite number of parallel universes.

particlesFeeble attempt to represent a large number of particles (or stars)

Continue reading

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Social Media Stinks

I’ve had enough of so-called ‘Social Media’ for the time being so I’m taking a break from Facebook and Twitter – never really used any of the others. I need to focus on writing without all the distractions. I am still available via this website, see the contact page for more details. I’m going to focus on writing and will post the occasional update here.

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Bird on a Wire – Part 2

Yesterday I wrote about a visit to Home Bargains and the painting I started work on with the materials I bought there. See Bird on a Wire – Part 1 for more

I worked on the painting on and off yesterday and then finished it this morning in the cool February light.

Here it is:

bird-pic09-complete-perhapsIt’s fuzzier and darker than I imagined but it keeps its fundamental energy. (It’s also darker in the ‘flesh’ than this photo)

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Bird on a Wire – Part 1

The other day I was meandering around the aisles of Home Bargains when I came across this display of Hulk Hogans.

They were large action figures, the picture doesn’t really show how big they are, but if you look behind them you can see a box of those long rolls of wrapping paper, that should give you an idea.

They were reduced from £49.99 to £10.99. (I wonder why?)

For the briefest moment I considered buying one, (in an ironic way of course, as a kind of art object you understand . . .), but decided my meagre supply of pennies would be better spent on something more relevant and practical, so carried on perusing the shelves.

I came across a stack of “artists’ canvases 50 x 60cm wooden wedges included”. At just £1.99 they were a proper bargain. I picked one up thinking that even though I don’t have the room to paint at the moment I could keep it tucked away until I do, or until the weather improves and I can paint outside. Besides I had just foregone spending eleven quid on a giant plastic action figure so I reckoned I was entitled to indulge myself.

On a shelf above the canvases there were tubes of cheap (and probably nasty) acrylic paints in garish colours for just 99p each. There was no white, as usual, and I like to use standard primary colours anyway and mix them up myself, so I hesitated. But, I thought, bugger it, I’ll challenge myself – after all, isn’t that where true art comes from – making something interesting from unexpected sources?

So I chose the three most inappropriate colours and bought them along with the canvas – total expenditure less than a fiver – a massive saving over buying the Hulk Hogan figure – wins all round!

I brought the canvas and paints home and chucked them in a corner until I could find a space to store them. But lying in bed last night I was thinking about what I could paint with those weird colours and an image of a bird popped into my head.

So, then, this morning, I decided to set up a makeshift studio in the dining room. I covered a dining chair with bin liners and set it all up. I started painting at 8.34am and stopped at 9.11am, intending to let the paint dry a bit before carrying on. Then other things got in the way and it’s now after one in the afternoon and I still haven’t got back to it.

Here’s a few photos to show what I did this morning – apologies for the poor quality of some of them. I’ll post a pic of the finished painting if and when it’s done.

EDIT: See Bird on a Wire – Part 2 for the finished work

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Work in Progress: Extract from ‘Beats’

From the early draft of Beats, the second book in the trilogy featuring DI Frank Lee. The first book Bums has already been published. (more details here)

Note: This might not even make the finished book, and it will certainly be edited.

needle-etc

Freda straightened her back and pushed open the door to her mother’s bedroom. She didn’t care if she found her in her knickers or whatever, the old bat had had enough time to respond to the knocking and the calling of her name – Ffion.

Freda couldn’t bring herself to call the woman Mam, or Mum, or whatever term of endearment daughters were supposed to use when addressing the person who had given birth to them. The truth was her mother was a disaster and didn’t deserve any kind of endearment, and if she wasn’t in her room then that would mean she’d have gone out without saying anything, so wouldn’t deserve the apology Freda had hypnotised herself to offer after their argument earlier.

Ffion was in her room, and she was crashed out on the bed. Strewn across the top of the duvet next to her unconscious form were several items that might explain the condition she was in.

Freda panicked and rushed over to her mother’s bed, brushing aside the paraphernalia and the spilled bottle of vodka to reach out and feel for a pulse or signs of breathing.

Ffion groaned and rolled over. She had a silly smug grin on her face and there was dried-up froth around her mouth. She opened her eyes and looked up at her daughter.

“Hiya beautiful,” she mumbled.

“Are you all right?” Freda asked. “Are you?”

“Of course lovely girl, of course I am,” Ffion said, pushing herself up on her elbows.

“What’s all this?” Freda pointed to the rubbish on the bed.

“Ah, that’s nothing – you don’t want to take notice of that. It’s just a bit of relief for your tired old mother.”

“You stupid bitch!” Freda snapped. “You stupid fucking bitch.”

Ffion lurched forwards and grabbed Freda’s arm. “Don’t be nasty love; I told you, it’s nothing.”

Freda pushed her away. Ffion fell back on the quilt but kept her bony grip on her daughter’s arm. Freda knew that if she stayed any longer she would do something stupid herself, like strangle the madwoman who was pretending to have given birth to her. She shook the crazy cow off and ran out of the door, hands clasped to her ears to silence the feeble whining excuses. She’d had enough.

more to come . . .

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The Suchlike Zen

The Suchlike Zen

On Sunday February 9th, 2016, I will be appearing on stage in the theatre at the Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff. This is a very weird and unusual thing for me to do; it’s so unusual that apart from a couple of best-forgotten skirmishes I’ve never really done it before. One of the reasons it’s weird is because, as of now (January 29th), I have no idea what I’m going to do on that stage – well, I do have some sketchy ideas, but I don’t know if what I end up doing will have any resemblance to what I’m thinking of doing now.

For example, I have written 7 or 8 sides in an A4 notebook that may or may not be the first draft of the story I will tell on that stage. Thing is, It’s not really a story, it’s more of a ramble about parallel universes and quantum mechanics, the main idea being that I am not me but I have somehow got my consciousness mixed up with, another, almost identical, version of me who exists in an almost identical parallel universe.

its-zen

Now, I think that the opportunity for me to appear on that stage and have complete freedom to do or say whatever I like for 10 minutes is rare enough to warrant me developing something, an act if you like, that is worthy of such an opportunity. Trouble is I don’t think my quantum ramble is good enough and I can’t think of anything else clever enough so I’ll probably end up reading poems or passages from my books.

Unless . . .

Watch this space.

EDIT: The follow up to this post can be found here: The Zen. The Zen. The Zen.

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Half-Baked Potatoes

These are golden crisp outside and creamily soft inside.

Cut baking potatoes in half along the length so that you have two flattish halves

anoint with veg oil and sprinkle with seasalt.

Place the potato halves flat side down onto a baking tray, cut a little cross in the top bulgy bit and bung into a fairly hot oven for about an hour. Turn now and again to ensure they don’t stick and cook evenly.

half-baked-rs

half-baked-rs1

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Happy New You

Something I wrote ten years ago on January 3rd 2006 – nothing changes?

January Tree

January Tree

I’ve just realised it happens every year. Usually it gets overwhelmed by Christmas, or it’s just forgotten, smothered by January frost and burnt away by the low winter sun and the urgent need to get on with it.

But this year the restart was delayed by illness and crushing indecision.

Lost in the dark again. A couple more days lolling around in dressing gowns, still too much left over food in the cupboards to merit a serious expedition to the large world of other people out there.

There’s a decline that begins the day the clocks go back – late October. The world gets more claustrophobic every day, the darkness comes and it stays.

At first I think I can beat it – keep busy, have a book launch, start worrying about Christmas, the essential festival of light and unfettered stuffing; like a willing goose, turn yourself into pate. Swill it down with ferments of fruit and grain, buy presents. Can’t afford it? What the hell, max the plastic.

Then – the day – the darkest day and the day filled with the most light and the most abandon – no buses to catch or cars to drive, no limits, no mercy to your lives.

Loved ones come and go, bins overflow. ‘Thank God it’s all over.’

All over.
All over.

Crisp New Year
except it’s not
it’s wet and not cold enough
and the places you’ve been
stay with you
and make you cough and moan

Get a grip on yourself
Get a grip

So you do
and you notice
the nights lightening
the days’ cool sun returning
– reviving.

And you return
You are you again
but you are a different you
an evolved through pain
and darkness you

A new you

A happy new you

But then again

Everything changes
it’s always the same,
it all rearranges
no-one’s to blame

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The Magic Christmas Tree

magic-rubbish-tree-of-riversideNeville Street, Riverside, Cardiff

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Two Black Cats in the Garden

Image

Cats & things

Over ten years ago we adopted two black cats via the RSPCA, one dainty and friendly, the other fat and feral – they were sisters, two years old. The RSPCA were extremely thorough – they sent an inspector to visit us at home to check if we were suitable, then they inoculated and ID chipped the animals before we were allowed to take them.

two_black_cats_in_the_garden

This is the painting I did of the ‘Two Black Cats in the Garden’. It was sold a couple of years later. I miss it . . .

The piece below is what I wrote at the time.

There are cats; there are things. Sometimes cats are the things and sometimes the things are cats. Two black cats came into our lives. The big one disappeared for a week, then came back for food and wouldn’t come in or near us. So I trapped it, like a man, with a wooden compost bunker, a broken bamboo and a length of blue nylon string that my wife bought on Carmarthen market when she was thinking about making spinning wheels for a skills lesson on a teaching course last November. She settled for mini pompoms in the end, in fluorescent coloured yarn.

When I trapped the cat, it mauled me – bit through to the bone of the little finger of my left hand and left me with a cluster of deep scratches on the back of my right hand.

I held the beast tight against my chest and got it into the house, proud of my hunting skills – it was a macho affair. The cat pissed on me and hid under the kitchen units. The next morning she was still lurking under the sink and I decided she could have her way and her freedom; so I poked her out with the handle of a brush and shooed her out of the back door. I relaxed, thinking I’d never see her again.

I’ll never forget the images of that cat collected over those few days – a vicious feral beast, terrified and terrifying, with hard white teeth and crisp sharp claws – the smell of the piss, the fur, raised and dirty with cobwebs from under the sink, the eyes pleading, frightened, threatening. The lope as it ran down the garden path, and its teeth piercing the flesh on both sides of my little finger.

Then suddenly, two weeks after she left and immediately following the installation of a cheap cat-flap for the benefit of her sibling, she came back and called me from the living room with her meows because she wanted food. Then she padded around the house, soft and friendly as if she’d never been away.

The other cat got freaked out and they hissed at each other, so we coaxed big puss outside for the night and locked the cat flap.

A few days later, just as the cats were settling down at last, my wife got a massive allergic reaction to them that required steroid injections at the hospital.

Sadly, I took the lovely vicious felines back to the RSPCA.

PS: A few weeks later I got a phone call from a vet’s practice in Blackpool telling me that a black cat registered to me had been found on the loose in the town. She’d been recognised from her ID chip.

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The pomegranate seed

I cut open a pomegranate and popped its seeds into a white bowl. They were vibrant and red, they glistened and said: look at us, look at us; we’re beautiful. Look at how we sit together,  blush together,  live together,  give together. I had to agree; they were what they said they were.

pomegranate-white-seed

What about me? a little one said. Look at me, am I not beautiful too? Am I not vibrant? Do I not glisten? The red seeds smiled, and embraced. I laughed, and ate the bloody lot of them.

pomegranate-white-seed-closeup

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A few recent random pics

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Sweet Potato and Aubergine curry

Last night’s meal.

ø;

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large sweet potato – diced into medium cubes
  • 1 aubergine – diced into medium cubes
  • 1 onion – sliced thinly
  • 5 cloves garlic – crushed
  • 1 strong chili – chopped finely *
  • 1″ ginger root – chopped/crushed *
  • 2 tablespoons ground coriander *
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin *
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric *
  • cup of frozen peas
  • 2 cups tomatoes – passata, or tomato puree + water, or tin of tomatoes, or fresh
  • vegetable oil
  • salt

(substitute everything marked with * with your favourite curry powder if you prefer)

METHOD

  • Saute the onions, garlic, ginger, chilli, aubergine, and sweet potato until the aubergine and sweet potato are almost cooked
  • Add the coriander, cumin, turmeric, (or the curry powder) – and salt
  • stir over the heat for a few seconds
  • Add the tomato in whatever form you are using, the frozen peas, and water if necessary
  • bring to boil and then simmer for 10 minutes or so until everything is cooked and the oil begins to separate

Serve with roti/chapati or rice

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Making Money out of Muck

cow

Are you really going to eat me?

When I was thirteen I worked on a farm for the whole of the summer holidays. I milked the cows, cleaned their shit up, baled the hay, and dodged the advances of a sexually abusive co-worker. I worked from early dawn to late dusk for seven days a week. The people in charge of the farm were known as Boss and Missus. Missus spent all her time in the farmhouse, cleaning, washing and cooking, Boss spent all his time in the fields or in the milking parlour. We ate three meals a day, as much as we could eat of wholesome home-cooked food . . . hold on – what’s wholesome about tinned peaches in syrup, buckets of chips and white bread spread thick with heavily salted, full-fat butter? And the rest of this farm crap is bullshit too.

What actually happened was that a 13 year old boy was exploited and abused by a well-to-do family and expected to work at a job that involved doing evil to animals for 12 hours a day in exchange for mounds of fried potatoes and buckets of sugar-based treats.

To be fair, once a week the Missus would sidle up to me and slip me four shillings, ‘Don’t tell the Boss,’ she’d whisper, dropping the pair of two-shilling pieces into my pocket. Four shillings! That’s just twenty pence in today’s money, and it was a complete pisstake even then. Although because I worked every waking hour I didn’t spend a penny that summer and put every coin into a post office savings account. I think that must have been the first and last time my liquid assets were in the black.

But it would still have been better if I’d spent the summer helping my uncle in the scrap-yard; I might have learned something then about making money out of muck, instead of being a virtual slave to a greedy exploitative bastard.

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The Impossible Mess – A True Story

The received wisdom is that when you conjure up a piece of fiction, such as a short story like this, you have to work hard to ensure its readers suspend disbelief.

They have to believe that the story you’re telling could have happened, if not in this world then at least in some parallel universe they can relate to. In fact, if your writing fails to invoke the suspension of disbelief you are not creating a work of fiction at all, but simply splattering weak words on a page; and reactions like ‘that would never happen’ or ‘this is bollocks’ are entirely justifiable.

As readers, we have to convince ourselves that what we’re reading is the truth, even though we know it isn’t. We perform this magic with our minds every day, without a thought.

Of course, the truth is, a work of fiction is no such thing. I mean, in every good fiction there is some fundamental truth that illuminates a corner of the human condition. And readers must not only get a glimpse of that underlying truth but also believe in the construct of character and plot that is used to carry it.

the-impossible-messIt’s complicated but that’s the trick you see, the trick of telling a successful story. It’s a bit like hypnosis. Have you ever been hypnotised? I haven’t (as far as I can remember) but once upon a time I engaged in the practice of hypnotising other people. Continue reading

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A Visual Response to Today

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Just because you’re a woman doesn’t mean you’re right!

I found out it was International men’s day yesterday so I dug this piece up. It was written over 9 years ago and already seems dated and a teeny bit silly.

I am a man and a feminist, and no, I’m not a woman trapped in a man’s body; truth is, I love women, in all respects – they are magical and beautiful beings, but it’s bloody hard work being hitched up to one. They expect you to operate on the same telepathic level of communication that they do. They don’t like long, rambling analytical speeches about the origins of the universe; they don’t like miserable ponderings on the injustices of the world’s political systems – they just know these things instinctively and get on with it.

Women want long walks on a beach at sunset; they want to marvel at the beauty of a cathedral; they want to cuddle strangers’ (and strange) babies; they like to be given flowers (what the hell is that all about?) and they’re always right. That’s not meant to be sarcastic, they ARE always right and we men know this, perhaps that’s why we are so afraid of them. We know that the biggest problem women have with this life is the existence of men. It’s men who cause all the grief: wars, glass ceilings, debts, leaking taps and the overgrown weeds on the patio.

giving-flowersTalking about women, the queen is 80, and what a bloody fuss – she’s been given ‘endless bunches of flowers’ according to Channel 5 news. I guess that makes her the happiest woman in the world. I imagine she gets to visit cathedrals too, but probably has to decline the strolls along the sands in case suicide frogbombers emerge from the sea. Still, even the queen can’t have everything. Anyway, I don’t get it, this false fondness when commentators refer to her highness – “isn’t she wonderful”, “isn’t she strong”, “let’s give her another bunch of dead vegetable matter to show her we care.” Would a king be patronised in the same way? Continue reading

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Happy toilets

Hello

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