Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Everyone Needs Good Neighbours.

She giggled in a girlish manner unbecoming of her age and physical repugnance.

It had not even been a very good joke, and to see someone in their early forties with sunbed-brown skin and a ‘wet-look’ black perm laughing like a twelve-year-old with a crush on her English teacher at one of your not-actually-funny jokes is not terribly pleasant.

But we’ll get back to this.

Our current house is not terribly unpleasant.

So far as I can see.

It has the correct number of walls and the roof has remained attached for two years. We have gas, electric and, briefly, telephone. It is a pleasant street, six-year old boys complain to me as I collect my daughter from school that the Fire Engines woke them up, we like our neighbours on our left and LOVE our empty-house-no-neighbour scenario on our right. This ticks all the boxes to my mind.

Tired Mam believes that it is akin to the Amytiville Horror. That is her concern.


It was not always thus. We had different left-hand neighbours once.

Oh dear God. Where do I start?

I am playing in the backyard (a proper northern-England terrace, mind. Built for miners. No luxuries like back gardens) with Favourite Son. He is only a few months old. He cannot even crawl.

A football comes sailing over the wall from said neighbours’ yard and narrowly misses FS’s skull. That does not even have bone at the top of it.

I furiously yank open gate to back street and address next-door kids:

Me: Look [Brandish child] He doesn’t even have bone at the top of his head. I don’t mind you having a kick-about. Just do it a bit further down the street. He is out here a lot.

Two months after this conversation. I have eleven confiscated footballs in my outhouse. Eleven. I had tried being reasonable. I wonder. As a mother (a single mother, so money must have been an issue), when you bought the tenth football you must have been thinking about cost.

The joy of realising I am The Grumpy Guy On The Street Who Won’t Give Balls Back is tempered by the hours in which Neighbours Children are In Their House.

I know. I have two children under the age of five myself and they are bloody NOISY. Not like these fucked-up little cunts though. Jesus. I don’t know what the Nazis heard when they gassed all those kids, but it can’t have been as bad as this shit. For three solid fucking hours. Every night. I’ve never heard so much screaming and hammering on walls in my life.

It relents at about 10 o’clock. Ten. I know the age of these kids. Ten is too late. No wonder they’re hyper. Whatever.

This brief respite is then replaced by the soothing sounds of ‘Bat Out Of Hell’ at volume turned to ‘eleven’. Or the greatest hits of Olivia Newton John. I do not know which is worse.

After three occasions of knocking on neighbours door at eleven-thirty at night and explaining the non-sleeping situation of all in my household, I resort to merely banging upon the wall.

Not activity for a civilised man but having seen the less-than-pleasant face of Next Door Neighbour, I am not anxious to ever see it again.

They move out, and all is well. I have more footballs than I know what to do with and do not have to listen to anyone’s dreadful records. New neighbours are perfectly pleasant.

Anyway. Now.

I have some lime. But a sad lack of either vodka or indeed tonic.

The only off-licence now open is fifteen-minutes walk away. I hurry.

I get there in reasonable time.

Me: Smirnoff. 35cl. And some tonic water.

Woman: [I do not look at her] It’s two-for-one on tonic water.

Me: O.K. Lets go crazy.

She giggles. She is being coquettish, with her face like an unnaturally brown paving slab and her hair so tightly permed it resembles an unrealistically large number of pubes sprouting from her head.

She pretends not to remember that we were neighbours. She is doing a menial job.

I give her some money.

Whilst she simpers.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


I fancy some cigarettes. I wander to the off-licence conveniently situated one-minute and thirty-seconds walk away from my front door.

It is shut. As I am informed by the very serious-looking Police Officer standing outside the door. He volunteers no further information.

I light my second-last cigarette and think for a bit.

Random Youth: How. Gie ayes one a theym.

I normally decline such requests, but as he is a ‘yoot’ and has probably been standing around outside this off-licence for the past twelve hours, he may be able to shed some light on this whole non-cigarette-purchasing nonsense. I give him a cigarette.

Me: What's going on.

RY: Hah ya not hurd? The choppers an that? [I had been irritated by a low-flying helicopter that was quite rudely brandishing a searchlight around the back of my street. I had yet to get around to composing a letter about it.] Thu’ve bin robbed. Shooters an at.

Me: Oh. Right.

I now have no cigarettes and am quite unhappy.

The next day.

I give the off-licence the benefit of my custom in order to purchase a newspaper.

Troll Woman: £1.40 hen.

Me: Working last night?

TW: Aye.

I expected more than this. I am slightly irritated. My recent kitchen fire had been the talk of the off-licence for five whole minutes, despite my being very stoical about the whole thing.

Me: Have they got them?

TW: Divn’t knaw.

Me: [Getting quite exasperated now. Christ. I thought I was deadpan.] I say ‘them’. How many was it?

TW: Just the one.

It is clear she is not going to elaborate. Bloody hell. At least I managed to get a matter-of-fact story out of it and put it on my shit blog. This woman is just not making the effort. I try and wheedle further information from her.

Me: Really?

TW: One’s enough.

Some time passes.

Me: Thanks then.

TW: Seeya hen.

I leave.

A man had pointed a GUN at her. She might have elaborated. I’ve got a BLOG to write for God's sake.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Is Shit the New Good?

I am In The Pub. Frankly, wishing I were elsewhere. My experience started thus:

Slothful Barman: [After chatting to his mates in the corner for a couple of minutes and then ambling in my direction like it was some sort of chore] Whatcha after?

What am I after? What is my desire? How about an afternoon in a locked Hilton room with all the members of Girls Aloud (except the ginger one) and a big pile of coke?

Or an assurance that my children will always see me as ‘Dad’ and never the hugely fallible ‘man’ I actually am? (Although I fear that ship has already sailed.)

Failing that how about a Travelodge with Holly Willoughby?

Failing all of that, how about a fucking drink?

I obtain my drink and find myself a quiet table. Somebody puts a song on the jukebox.

It’s quite good. Interesting guitar riff, not ripped-off from anyone. Lyrics concerning the essential emptiness of modern icons. And how they are merely useless tools of capitalilism. The essentially empty nature of advertising and commercialism.

Who is this radical band, you would think. The Manics? The Whoever Else Who Is A Bit Gobby?

Genesis. Phil Collins. Genesis.

I finish my drink and leave.

Later that evening I listen to the debut album of Del Amitri and am stunned by the level of insight that would not even see the light of day today. It is a Shit Record. But it is Very Good.

I physically prevent myself from listening to my old Lloyd Cole and the Commotions records. Because they are properly shit. But also very good compared to the output of, I don’t know, Pete Doh- no. Forget it. Too easy.


Tired Mam: Was he up for long last night?

It is a sensible question regarding the well-being of Favourite Son. Unfortunately, I have no idea what she is talking about. I decide to front it.

Me: Em. Not long.

TM: Oh good.

It seems that Favourite Son suffered some unrest during the night. And that I resolved it. Without fully Waking Up myself. Or remembering. Because I was sleeping.

Does this mean I am Shit? As a Father? Or so Good I can actually resolve things without even being fully awake?

And is Shit the new Good?

Signifier / Signified.

I stare at the sign distractedly, for a number of reasons.

TopShop have less chance of seeing it now that it has been blown over, I think to myself. That’s a small mercy. But it is still a terrible thing to exist.

I am on a suburban street, looking at the front garden of a house.

Although having nothing against these sort of less-than-ten-year-old houses, or indeed the streets that they are on, I find the huge ‘developments’ that contain them deeply alarming.

I get lost in them. Very easily. Everything looks the same and there are – intentionally, I think – no landmarks. You feel as though you may never leave.

Everybody drives the same car, all of which are parked on identical driveways. The cars may be very different for all I know, but they all look the same.

The front garden of this house is not obviously unremarkable or unwelcoming. No wall or fence around the front. An expanse of grass, with some inoffensive evergreen shrubbery. There is, in the centre, a small wooden placard with some text upon it staked into the lawn and that has been blown over in the recent gales. However, it is still readable. I stare at it. I start to think about the occupants of the house attached to this garden, and the general thinking thereof:

Mildred: Maurice?

Maurice: Oh God Mildred. It can’t be Saturday already. We did it last month surely?

Mildred: No no. Not that. I can see you’re busy with your Hornby train set so I shan’t trouble you for long…..I SAY! Is that a papier-mâché evocation of the Penines?

Maurice: [Smug] Mmmm.

Mildred: VERY good if I may say. Anyway. Our front garden.

Maurice: Hardly the Penines is it?

Mildred: Quite right. QUITE RIGHT. Oooh if you keep agreeing with me Saturday may come early.

Maurice: [Under his breath] Oh sweet Jesus no.

Mildred: Anyway. It just doesn’t seem very welcoming at the minute does it?

Maurice: What the hell? What is this nonsense now woman? And where is my dinner? ‘Welcoming’ for the love of our Lord Jesus Christ. What are you blathering about? It’s the front garden. Put a sign up or something.


I am staring at the little wooden sign that has been staked into the centre of the garden of this particular abode. Although it has blown over, the pedestrian can still read it. As I can.

I realise that although this is not America, and that this particular estate may not employ a private security firm that will shortly Taser me, it may be time to move on.

Whatever. The seasonal North Wind has made this scenario a very distant possibility:

Interior. Day. Corporate Headquarters of TopShop or any other manky High Street clothing emporium selling dreams of whoredom to twelve-year-olds. And that, oddly, are only actually frequented by slightly tense-looking women in their forties who can be seen asking after Size 12’s and getting laughed at.

Exec 1: We are running out of disgustingly suggestive slogans to put on pastel-pink size 8 crop-tops that are ‘aimed’ at women in their ‘twenties’ but that we cannot ‘prevent’ 11-year-old girls from buying.

Exec 2: Tell me about it. That one that was an anagram for ‘EASY’ took forever.

Exec 3: It’s a headache now. They’ve stopped selling. You know the problem? They’re not subtle enough. I mean. The last one said ‘I will merrily take it up the wrong’un for no babies’. That’s not even a play on words.

Exec 1: He’s right. These are size 8 for fucks sake. No ADULT is going to buy them, and no adult will buy them for their pubescent daughters – no matter how much they pester them – if they allude REALLY OBVIOUSLY to minge- or indeed bumhole-activity.

Exec 4: [He has remained silent until now. He knows he has the upper hand.] Yeah. Subtle. So that a kid would know it were filth, but it could easily not be, so that she could get ‘cross’ if some bloke took it the ‘wrong way’. And still get their mother to buy it them when Mam realises t’won’t fit’em emselves.

Exec 2: Alright Madchester. Affecting a Mancunian accent is totally 1998.

Exec 4: As is saying ‘totally’, Beverly Hills 90210.

Exec 2: Fuck you.

Exec 4: Naw man. Fuck YOU.

Exec 1: Fucks sake come on. I want to score some toot before the day is out. What is it big shot?

Exec 4: I saw it on way ‘ome. A sign in a front lawn that ‘ad almost blown down. The kiddy-fiddler-wannabee-victims will lap it up and their Mam’s will never get it.

[Everyone is holding their breath]

Exec 4: ‘Welcome To My Garden’

CEO walks in.

CEO: I’ve been listening. Exec 4, you are promoted. Your ideas of over-sexualising the barely adult will, if accepted by society in a relatively short period of time, help my upcoming court case – I can’t talk about it really. She looked at least 13. Here is a one hundred thousand dollar bonus.

Fade to black.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Day Four.

At this point the amateur insomniac has to bow out.

Four days. Oh yes I have slept. I shall tell you about this 'sleep'.

You taste metal in the back of your mouth. You start to sweat so badly you would think you were doing something fun. You have an awful dream about a bird.

Then one of your limbs twitches without your permission and wakes you. After less than an hour. And it’s nearly dead so you have to shake it with your other arm to get it to work again.

And then you can’t sleep.

And every part of you feels...just…not…right.

And your mouth feels funny. And your eyes feel like they belong to someone else.

And you just want to sleep. Because you are cross. And it has been three – or is it four (you can’t think properly when you are this tired) – nights now and you don’t want to make anyone unhappy so just some sleep will do but you can’t because there is always Noise and it’s no-ones fault but you just need some sleep.

Just some peace.

And you try and find a quite corner of the house during the day. And try and sleep.

But it is day. And the weekend. Children jump on you. You cannot be cross.

Adults need access to the bedroom you are in just as you are drifting, and if they don’t get it now they never will. There is no point in getting cross.

You give up, and resign yourself to the fact that not only do you have trouble formulating thoughts, but actual vocal expression is something of a chore. Whilst you ignore the weird things that flash in the corner of your eyes that are not actually there.

And try not to flinch when they reach for you. In my experience, they’ve got lots of legs but it doesn’t matter because as soon as you look at them they’re gone.
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