#WriteAPoemAboutTories

Tory Story Lacks Glory.

Tory story
Lacks glory.
Vote blue
or fuck you.

Sell, sack,
Fiddle, frack.
Cut, slash,
Pocket cash.

Gerrymander.
Back-hander.
Murdoch pander.
Millislander.

HS2, CO2,
Two for me,
None for you.

Green crap.
Migrant cap.
Dog whistle.
Fact dismissal.

Welfare slash.
Union bash.
NHS reduced to ash.

Don’t dare a wheelchair:
Rooms taxed
for home care.

Zero hours.
Zero hope.
Starting life
at the end of your rope.

They’ve presided.
We’ve divided.
Democracy has been derided.

Rake muck.
House for a duck.
Allegedly a pig fuck.

Earn less.
Eton mess.
Taking orders from the press.

Food bank.
Pay shrank.
Budget is a pile of wank.

School chum.
Pleb scum.
Protest letter from his mum.

Unfeeling.
Glass ceiling.
Government of dodgy dealing.

Closed door.
Bank whore.
Spikes to keep away the poor.

Market dictator?
Passive spectator?
They’ll come for you, mate
Sooner or later.

But no more.
Class war.
Get our own back.
Even the score.

We despise.
So organise.
And put their coins
Upon their eyes.

@willblackwriter inspired this with his #WriteAPoemAboutTories hashtag.

Now that’s what I call propaganda

It’s been a while since I wrote, but recently the Daily Mail has made one of its regular forays into being an absolute shit, and I’m moved to write a blog again. It’s quicker, easier and less painful than the alternative, which is furiously grinding my teeth into a fine powder and making extended roaring noises until the neighbours complain.

It’s pretty easy to be angry with the Mail, and it’s ugly-sister paper the Mail on Sunday: in fact one of the most depressing things about the paper is that it’s likely its writers and contributors (I hesitate to call them journalists) probably aren’t angry at all – they’re the Typhoid Mary of angry, passing it on to everyone around them, but not suffering at all. In fact, I’m relatively convinced that most people only read it to hate it more. It’s as though Paul Dacre has shares in “diffuse fury”, and is trying to generate as much as it as possible.

He’s been quite successful this week, hasn’t he?

I do get angered by the Mail, but largely just by its existence. For some time I’ve refused to even follow links to its pages, and most of what I know about its content comes from reading enraged tweets about it from similarly-minded lefty (and, to be fair, a good number of righty) folks. Sadly, I occasionally get to see it when I visit my mum, who, for reasons best known to herself, still buys it daily so she can do the crossword. I’ve bought her an iPad and got her a crossword app, but she still gets the Daily Mail delivered.

Maybe it’s softer, stronger and very very longer than I’d imagined, and she uses it cos it’s cheaper than loo-roll. It’s a fine use for it, possibly the best.

(Actually, it’s not especially absorbent, and so, if used for that purpose, it literally performs the function that it’s metaphorically designed to do – spreads shit. Avoid wiping your arse on the Daily Mail. It may seem like a good idea, but you’re playing right in to their hands, as well as pooing right into your own).

But the thing that angers me isn’t having poo smeared around the place like an involuntary dirty-protest. It isn’t even the obvious stuff that almost certainly angers you: the implicit homophobia, NHS-bashing, racism, sexism, manipulation, BBC-hatred, and small-minded, petite bourgeoise, little-Englander, sub-Jeremy-Clarkson bile that appears in the Mail every day. I can even, mostly, overlook the hypocrisy of its endless horror-story campaign to make everybody who smiles at a kid feel like a paedophile, whilst referring to 14 year old girls as “hot” and “leggy beauties” (not a word of a lie). It’s there constantly, but is extraordinarily easy to spot and ignore.

The thing that angers me is one small, common, utterly innocuous word: It’s the Daily Mail’s use of the word “now”.

The Daily Mail employs “now” like a biological weapon. You can’t smell it. You can’t see it. You don’t know what’s happening to you, but suddenly everything has gone wrong, you’re nauseated, and your skin and teeth itch with a impossible to define sense that the world is off it’s axis.

You see, the Daily Mail is expert at weaving a narrative. Most news media is. Of course, the world isn’t actually a narrative – that’s soap operas, and you’re welcome to them. In reality, the world is incredibly complicated, and requires actual brains, rationality and attention to understand. If you read quality newspapers and do a little of your own research, it’s possible to get to the bottom of some things. But a lot of it will probably always be confusing to most of us, especially to me. The more you know, the more you realise how much there is left to know, and how few years you have to learn it all.

So newspapers don’t even bother to tell you the truth. They don’t even try. They prefer to focus on things that are outside of the norm, rather than pointing out that the norm is, in fact, fucking awful.

The Guardian sells the narrative that lower bank bonuses would help, but that we’re broadly fucked until all money is abolished.

The Telegraph likes to sell you the idea that not much matters now you’re 83 and can’t shoot the natives any more, so you should just sit back and enjoy the cricket.

The Sun believes shorter, louder words and more tits make us feel better, and what the hell, it’s just a bit of fun, and your daughter probably won’t be the one to get raped as a result.

And the Express thinks higher house-prices for people living in Esher are the single most important thing in the universe. (Well, that, plus the immediate prosecution of the Duke of Edinburgh for the murder of saintly, Sloaney shagger Diana Spencer).

But the Daily Mail is more fundamentally dangerous. It wants to use an ur-narrative, the primal narrative, the one we’re all somehow aware of even though we’ve never seen it written down. In this narrative, like Eden, the world was perfect when you were younger, and then… well… something happened. That “something” is usually socialism; or the BBC; or a sexual revolution you weren’t invited to, dagnabbit; or somebody swarthy-looking with an unusual name owning your local shop. Before all of those things, life was just peachy (they seem to say). If only you’d vote against Miliband, and privatise the BBC, and sell your grandmother’s medical records to a private health company, everything in this complicated world would once again seem simple: beer would be colder, chips wouldn’t make you fat, music would have proper tunes and lyrics you understood, and you wouldn’t have to worry any more.

Of course, they can’t just come out and say that. They’d be a laughing stock, and grandmothers across the nation would suddenly be redundant. So instead, they imply it with the subtle use of the word “now”. Headlines begin thusly:

  • Now the BBC allows lesbians to …
  • Now the NHS wants to kill you with …
  • Now Labour let French people shag your…
  • Now the EU wants to stop you from hitting your children with a…

Each use of “now” subliminally sells us the concept that the world is on a downward spiral, that one thing leads to another and the whole charabanc is out of control and heading for a cliff.

There are only two rational responses to going over a cliff. The first – the one I believe the Daily Mail truly wants to engender in you – is to give up, stop asking questions, and accept your lot. There’s no point in panicking or questioning Driver Cameron about what he’s doing to change course. You may as well just let the people up-front carry on doing what they’re doing, and blame the people at the back for landing on you when the crash happens.

The other response is to start thinking the only way to avert disaster fix it is to vote for the Daily Mail’s own brand of Toryism (which is rarely the Heseltine brand, it’s always the IDS brand, with a bit of Farage thrown in).

And that’s why, as a result of reading this blog, you should immediately start an online campaign to ban the use of the word “now” from newspapers. Of course not. Frankly, there’s nothing we can do, except be aware, stop reading or linking to the Daily Mail, and start doing more original thinking. Opting out of the whole process isn’t an option: it’s a sure way to be a passenger on the bus, and even if it’s not going over a cliff you really need to have a say over where it does go. Ignore the driver, and it will inevitably keep on drifting to the right.

Bloody immigrants.

The building you’re sitting in right now is held up with Spanish or Iranian gypsum. Most of your car is probably made in Germany, Mexico or Japan. The oil that powers it most likely from Saudi Arabia.

You drink beer from Belgium, vodka from Russian and wine from France. You gobble Italian pizza and scoff Chinese rice, flavoured with spices from Indonesia.

You wear American jeans and eat chips made from Venezuelan potatoes. Your coffee is Brazilian,​ your tea is Tamil, the sugar is Jamaican and the milk is only safe to drink because a Frenchman made it so. If you fancy a little flavouring, you’ll use syrup from Canada, chocolate from Colombia, or lemons from Portugal.

Your democracy is Greek. Your humour is Jewish. Your numbers are Arabic and your letters are Latin. Your pyjamas are Indian and your slippers are Turkish.

And you’re reading this in a language that’s a bastard hybrid of French, Latin, Scandiwegian and Irish.

How dare anybody complain about immigrants.

A voyage of discovery (and recovery)

Glen Garry, Scotland
Some of Scotland. Not much of it. Just a bit.

At the bottom of my soul is a little hole, and jammed in that hole is a small, hard, wrinkled, dried pea.

Every day I go to work, my soul gets soaked in the hot piss that pours from clients into my ear from 9 to 5, day in, day out. As anyone who has soaked dried peas in hot piss (and we all have) will tell you, they tend to go a bit soft after a while, and as a result bits of my soul keep leaking out through the hole, trickling down my leg and vanishing into the drains. It’s most disheartening, and over the course of a year I find myself feeling increasingly hollow and dismal. I need to refill my soul, and the best method I know is to head to Scotland and attempt to build a TARDIS.

I won’t attempt to be cool about this: I love Scotland. It’s like England without all those fucking awful English people. Where Manchester has gangs of pikeys getting fingered by the bins behind Halfords, Scotland has gloaming and heather and vast empty spaces that leak into your heart and make you feel human again. And by “human” I mean “animal”. They make you reconnect with that part of yourself that hides in the corner so you can focus on staring at a screen all day, or cope with the A6 at rush hour. A couple of days in Scotland and you realise how much of you belongs in nature, and how for the first 300,000 years of human existence, all we had was places like this. Only bigger, and with a sign that says “Feral Goats”. I’m not making that up.

Scotland
Outside, where you belong. Go there you damn fool.

And this is where the TARDIS comes in, because like a Time Lord, I somehow believe that I can cram all of that vastness into a small box with a telephoto lens, take it home with me, and by looking at it can be transported back to that better time and that better place. And I can’t. All I see is 2% of what I could see from that spot, and all I feel is gutted that I’m back at a desk in my pants. From this spot I could drive for 25 minutes in any direction without seeing more than a single house. And there’s something about being in that emptiness that lets you remember what it meant to be a person.

Oh yeah: I could also see my girlfriend taking a piss in a bush.

Because one of the other things I discovered in Scotland is that my girlfriend has a bladder the size of a kidney bean. We couldn’t travel more than 10 miles without a pit-stop, although in her defence these are Scottish miles, which seem to be a bit more generous. But when we drove up from Manchester on the Saturday we had to stop at literally every service station en route. By the time we got to Loch Lomond (thus doubling the number of vegetarians in Scotland) we’d both stopped laughing about her inability to go 5 minutes without a piddle, and were determined to plough on to Fort William without a break. By this point Lorna still wasn’t feeling the essential Scottishness I’d led her to expect, mainly because we’d only just left Glasgow.

Sign as you leave Glasgow: You are now leaving Glasgow. Please take us with you.

But just around the corner from Loch Lomond it starts to get properly massive and windswept, and everybody is called Hamish, Fergus or Morag. This is the Scotland we all want.

Don’t be fooled into thinking Scotland is just one big place. I mean, it is one place, and it is quite big. I certainly wouldn’t volunteer to carpet it, for instance. But it’s got several geographical characters, and you need to go there at once and explore them all. In the borders region it could easily be leafy Hampshire, but as you head up into the highlands you seem to leap all over the place. The moors near Glencoe (that’s Sebastian’s brother) look like Iceland. Glen Garry looks like all of the postcard Scotland you’ve ever seen, all lined up across the front of your fridge like the best cut-and-paste panorama you can imagine. The Cairngorms look like Austria and will kill you if you fuck around. And if you’re bonkers enough to drive all the way to Thurso you’ll find a landscape that looks like the Urals.

Sign as you enter Thurso: Welcome to Thurso, twinned with The Moon.

Actually that’s not fair to Thurso. It’s not twinned with The Moon. It’s more of a suicide pact.

We tried to watch Looper the night we arrived, but it was too complex, Bruce Willis was too scowly, we were too tired and drunk. Plus we’d spent all our energy on driving, pissing, and doing lots of naughty sex the moment we got into the flat. Don’t blame me: we got a free sex toy because we’d spent so much on… erm… sex toys. OK, blame me a bit. But if you’re given a free sex toy, you have to try it out as soon as you can lock all the doors. And without giving too much away, it’s the best sex toy in history, so I’m apologising for nothing, except for this: we later realised the landlord lived upstairs and could probably hear it all. So can I just take a moment to say sorry for how noisy we were, and for that thing I loudly called Lorna in the heat of the moment. She isn’t one of those. She’s never charged me a penny.

The next day we went to the local supermarket, which was showing off because they had a pineapple and a coconut in stock. People had travelled all the way from the deliciously named “Rest And Be Thankful” to see them, and some of the Fergus’s were queuing up to see the local witch doctor to have their shots before being introduced to such radical fruit. So we did the usual thing you do when visiting a strange supermarket – bought a “paint your own meerkat” kit – and then left. To fill up the rest of the day we went 10 miles outside Fort William to a place which isn’t quite the middle of nowhere, but if you stand on a chair you can see the middle of nowhere from there: it’s called Glen Etive, and is such as good-looking collection of nothingness that they used it for this bit of Skyfall.

Glen Etive/
Glen Etive. This is Scotland showing off.

It might sound like “middle of nowhere” is an insult. Not so. It’s fucking beautiful. No special effects, just 22 miles of that, petering out into even more nothing at all. And because it’s the winter there’s snow and waterfalls, and a hell of a lot of deer wandering around the place, keeping warm near the bottom of the valleys. OK, it was -7, but it’s still warmer than up in the hills. Deer are gnarly, and we took dozens of photos of them standing not 10 feet from us, being wild and cool and just a little bit amazing.

Deer are certainly gnarlier than His Popeness, who decided to jack it all in because he thinks the church needs someone else at the top. Well, not the top, obviously, because presumably that’s God, and it’s hard to replace something which doesn’t exist. But old Ratzinger finally had enough foresight to realise you can be too old to do a job. Sorry, did I say foresight? I meant Forsyth. Anyway, his announcement said he’d realised his “age means he hasn’t the strength to do his job”. Which is weird, because everyone else gets even better at talking nonsensical bollocks once they’re over 85, and that, surely is the Pope’s job.

Later, he did a follow-up announcement that he’s giving up Poping so he can dedicate his life to prayer. Being Pope isn’t religious enough for some people. Fucking nutbag.

The next day we decided to head up to the highland zoo, which is (as you’d expect) entirely populated by animals that die if they get above freezing, like yaks and polar bears and people called Fergus. Lorna, quelle surprise, was treating her miniscule bladder to rare trip to the ladies, and I was looking at a map of the zoo so I get my bearings (my marbles having vanished some time before). So I looked left to see how far away the enclosure was, and lo and behold, there was a red panda. Not in a cage, just standing on the path 10 feet from me, staring back.

An escaped Red Panda at the Highland Zoo
An escaped Red Panda at the Highland Zoo

I thought it must be one of those places where they let the tamer animals wander around freely, like Ford Open Prison, so when Lorna’s bladder was eventually persuaded to exit the toilet she joined me and we took photos as the panda ambled around in front of us. A Fergus and his Morag joined us to take snaps. It was very pleasant, but after a few minutes we all started to feel strange about it. Surely a red panda would have run off by now – there was no fence to keep it in the zoo, it could just walk to Drumnadrochit if it felt the need, although frankly, why would it want to?

So we wandered back into the gift-shop to ask an Angus if it was their policy to allow red pandas to walk around freely. I’ve never seen an Angus move so fast. In 30 seconds the zoo was in lock-down, and everyone was ordered back into the gift shop (presumably in the hope we’d spend enough money to allow the zoo to buy another padlock or two). At this point I overheard the first Fergus saying he’d already sold his photo of the escaped wild animal to a Scottish tabloid for £200. It probably ended up as a hysterically terrifying story of rampant animal fury, but the reality is that the red panda is as large and terrifying as a spaniel on prozac, and in any case it wandered back to its enclosure on its own.

Even so, the lax attention to minor details like locks and fences made me slightly nervous around the polar bears, especially as they appears to be held behind chicken wire and were fucking gigantic. And brown, oddly. I suspect the zoo was cheating, as they clearly were about their beaver display – there wasn’t anything sexy about that.

Afterwards we pressed on up to Aviemore and the amazing ski slops and unutterable beauty up there. Heaven, except that it killed 4 people while we were there, and did terrible things to my hair. I’m not a preening twat, and generally don’t care about my hair at all. But hats are essential in Aviemore, and hats do bad things to any head, even one as massive and impenetrable as my own. So I finally understand why people who live in the coldest, most exposed and windblown part of Britain all have shorn heads like an warm sheep or Frankie Boyle. It’s so they don’t get hat-hair. This was a revelation to me, and probably the only time I used my brain all week.

Eilean Donan castle.
Eilean Donan castle.
By this time we’d done Eilean Donan castle and many of the best views, so we felt we had no option but to go to Loch Ness. If you ever go to Scotland and feel like Loch Ness should be part of the itinerary, take my advice: burn your itinerary. Loch Ness is pointless. Don’t get me wrong: if it was in England it would be the prettiest place for 500 miles, and would be swarming with bikers and hikers every minute of every day. But in the highlands of Scotland it’s just the background, and you drive past it with barely a glance.

And after Eilean Donan, the dismal Castle Urquhart is, frankly, garbage. It’s a broken-down wall by a pond, for which you pay £27 entrance fee. There’s a sign outside Castle Urquhart which says: Welcome to Castle Urquhart. At least we didn’t put it in a bag, set fire to it, and leave it on your doorstep.

Much better by far is the nearby town of Drumnadrochit, which is such a bustling metropolis that they advertised their traffic-calming measures from 2 miles away: it was a single traffic island on an empty street. We went to the pub, which said “Closed until mid-March”. We wandered into a courtyard because it said there was a tea-shop and a pet-shop. The tea-shop was also closed until “mid-March”, and the pet-shop was closed, had no pets, but did have a sign in the window saying somebody had found a lost cat. In Glasgow. Which is 120 miles away.

The welcoming face of Drumnadrochit
The welcoming face of Drumnadrochit

We had fits of giggles and fits of panic, because the general ambience was similar the start of a horror movie – naive townies wander into desolate village and end up bent over a desk being abused with something mechanical. But it wasn’t quite that bad: we just found a cafe which was open, and which prominently displayed the signature of James Bond’s favourite torturer, Mads Mikkelsen. He was a regular, it seems. So that made us feel much less vulnerable to a violent death.

There’s a sign outside Drumnadrochit that says: Welcome to Drumnadrochit . This is why Herbie went bananas.

We made our excuses and left. Actually, we had to get going: it was Valentine’s day, although I think I’ll avoid telling you too much about that because it wasn’t part of the Scottish plan: just an accident which happened while we were up there. All I’ll say is that it wasn’t like yours. We don’t do romance. The card I gave to her had “With sympathy” on the front, and a photo of lilies. I wrote a rude poem in it. Not sexy-rude, just abusive. She got me a card that said she more or less loved me, with some caveats that weren’t fully explained, but I can guess. We had a meal at a local restaurant that that was pretty nonsescript to be honest, but I suspect it’s hard to find a great chef in a town with 19 permanent inhabitants. After that went home, not in the most romantic of moods, and had some sex. The sex wasn’t anything to write home about, either (which is a pity, because my mum used to really enjoy those letters).

And so, sadly, to our last day in Scotland, and the only occasion in my working-class life when I’ve needed skiing clothes. We went to a rock-and-ice-climbing centre, and I needed to wear something that is – or perhaps are – called “Salopettes”. It says much about the limitations of my class background that I still have no idea whether a salopette is plural or singular, but it matters not a jot because mine lasted about 3 minutes. Salopettes don’t react well when you drag razor-sharp crampons down them as soon as you start to scramble up a wall, and I had to be held together with duct-tape as I attempted a 25-foot ice-cliff. Although to be honest, by the time I got to the ice I was already knackered. The rock-climbing did me in, and I realised (not for the first time) that the results of my cancer surgery are pretty much permanent. I don’t have much strength left in my stomach muscles these days, at least not compared with old me. And I found it very hard to bend myself into the shapes necessary for scaling a wall.

I also discovered that I’m pretty bad at heights. Embarrassing, especially when you find out about this only when you get to the top of the 50-foot high rope-walk. I was the very definition of “chicken out”, and swiftly abseiled down, feeling light-headed and delighted to be back on terra firma. Just watching Lorna skipping around up there made me feel wobbly. Hey, where in this blog does it say I’m a real man?!

And so that’s it: my soul is refreshed and filled up with Scottishness for another year, and here I am, back at my desk, being slowly emptied again. I can’t wait to go back and do it all again.

Dave and George. Definitely strivers.

Let me introduce Dave and George.

George is a striver, and so is Dave. George, for example, strove so hard that before he was even born he’d managed to move into the womb of a woman who was married to a multi-millionaire aristocrat.

And Dave had, by the sweat of his brow, managed to issue from the loins of a multi-millionaire tax-avoiding stockbroker.

George Osborne evil
George Osborne being nothing like a Dickensian villain.

They have worked for everything they’ve got. None of it has been handed to them on a plate. They are not scroungers.

After the hard work they put into being born to wealthy people, Dave and George both struggled to save enough money to go to Eton and St Paul’s. They managed to do this because, in their own parlance, they are strivers. Even at the age of 13 they were earning enough to pay the minimum £30,000 per annum attendance fee. It wasn’t their dads who paid, because Dave and George are strivers.

Not scroungers.

It wasn’t all easy for Dave. He had to battle to stay away from the bad influence of all those wealthy children in tiny class sizes, but he succeeded in concentrating on working hard and not idling his days away smoking pot (except for that time he was almost expelled for smoking pot).

He’s a striver.

David Cameron
David Cameron is not a privileged buffoon.

After Eton, Dave and George moved to Oxford University, which is so egalitarian that almost 2% of its intake for the last 50 years has come from people whose parents are in the lowest 50% of earners. Dave, although the child of a multi-millionaire, was deemed so poor that he had to have his university education paid for by all the rest of us, just like he wants you and your children to never ever have. He even got a special grant, called an “Exhibition”, which thankfully put another few quid into his massively deep pocket.

But he’s still definitely not a scrounger.

While at Oxford they avoided idle and disreputable behaviour like drinking heavily and smashing up restaurants (except for the that time they joined a club that’s famous for drinking heavily and smashing up restaurants).

And after university, they both worked exceptionally hard. George, for example, has had three jobs. Not at the same time, of course. Not like most of the poorest working families have to. No, he had one job at a time, so he could really focus on it. His first job was as a part-time data-entry clerk at an NHS office, responsible for entering the names of dead people into a computer. His second job was folding towels at Selfridge’s store.

His third job was Chancellor of the Exchequer. Which he richly deserves, because he’s a striver.

Dave, by contrast, went out into the world to make his own way. He did this by getting his dad to give him his first three jobs, and then getting a position as a parliamentary aide to his godfather, who was an MP. This proves that Dave has had nothing handed to him on a plate, and is a hard-working striver.

As soon as they were MPs they got their heads down to the serious business of helping their fellow man, interrupted only occasionally by the need to claim expenses of £21,000 per annum for Dave’s mortgage and around £100,000 over 10 years to fund the paddock – you know, for the horses – at George’s Cheshire home.

And today they continue to work hard in your interests, by cutting the tax paid by them and their friends and neighbours and then cutting the income for people who are too idle or sick or cancerous to be born in Chipping Norton.

And for that I say: Thank God. Thank God we are led by strivers, and not scroungers.

George Michael at Christmas

A very messy Christmas to you all.

Yes, messy. It’s not a typo. It’s the same with orgies: the invitations should read “the more the messier“, not merrier. Messy is so much more fun. After all, who wants a clean orgy, or a clean Christmas? We may long for a white Christmas, but not a clean one – and we only want a white one so we can piss in the snow. I imagine some orgies end the same way.

I like my Christmas like I like my sex: we don’t have to get up too early in the morning, but as soon as we do let’s get on with the action: tear off the wrapping fast, get as messy as possible, laugh, shout, play with all the toys, and make sure the neighbours have reason to complain.

I probably won’t get that type of Christmas this year, because I’m suffering from Empty Nest Syndrome – and I don’t even have kids! I was hoping to spend Christmas drunkenly practicing the baby-making procedure in every room in my flat. Not too drunkenly, obviously. There’s a perfect amount of alcohol for sex: it should make you able to ignore the carpet burns for long enough to get the job done, but should not make Mr Happy become Mr Floppy. And it should definitely not make anybody accidentally sick into my mouth because they went on top.

That’s the amount of alcohol I had planned to consume – just the right amount to make everyone involved forget how they got those bruises the next day, but not enough to require a trip to hospital. And the moment I reached that perfect level of blood-alcohol, I was going to rip off my girlfriend’s knickers (because they’re really cutting into my hips) and make the beast with two backs.

Or at least the beast with one back and a front that’s bent over the kitchen table with a wooden spoon gritted between her teeth.

But it’s not going to happen because of somebody else’s empty nest syndrome, namely my wobbly old widow of a mother, who has inveigled her way into my flat for three days this Christmas, turning it from a sex den into a …. den. And I’m 42. What do I want with a den?

Actually, I very nearly made a den in the living room last week. The lady in my life has recently been pretty lifeless, and rather unladylike too. She’s had a cold, leading to a small tsunami of snot, a great deal of frustrated swearing, and some justifiable moping. And that’s just from me, cos I’ve had the horn and she’s been very much Out Of Bounds. The only way to make her feel her usual perky self has been to build a den out of the box my drums came in, or to put on a Harry Potter movie.

I did think about making a den, but the result would have been sitting in a small, warm box in my living room next to a plague carrier, waiting for her nose to explode all over me and make me sick during Christmas. So she can fuck off with her den: we’re watching Harry Potter.

I quite like Harry Potter. I’m far too old for it, but it served the same formative function in her adolescence that The Lord of the Rings and masturbation served in mine. You never get over that stuff, and to this day a quick wank over the mental image of Arwen and Galadriel lezzing up is enough to make me feel like a contented 12-year-old again. So although Harry Potter will never mean as much to me as it does to my girlfriend, I’m perfectly OK watching the last 6 movies. The first two… not so much. It says much that they’re amongst the worse things John Cleese has been in recently, and he was in the Liberal Democrats.

I even went with my girlfriend to the Harry Potter Studio Tour, which was jolly good fun and rather exciting for a movie buff like me. I wandered around it, amazed by two things:

  1. The level of craftsmanship and imagination involved in making a movie like that (I’d argue the design imagination is at least the equal of JK herself)
  2. Rupert Grint

The mere fact of Grint still amazes me. If he wasn’t famous and I told you I knew a ginger boy called Rupert Grint, you’d say “oh, the poor sod”. It’s like me telling you that the manager of my local MFI store was called Finlay Gentleman (he is – I saw it on a receipt once). You’d wince and laugh, and then wonder why his parents hated him so much. Grint’s name alone is enough to make him extraordinary and dismal. He’s the only person in the movies who has a real name more outlandish than his character.

But beyond his name there’s his face, and his hair, and his voice, and his… there’s no other word for it than this… his talent. You can determine the level of Grint’s talent by measuring it against what his two child-star friends have achieved.

Daniel Radcliffe has appeared naked in a challenging play on the London stage. He’s been rather good in a rather successful horror movie. He made a pretty good fist of being on QI, and has sung a complicated Tom Lehrer song about chemicals on live television. And he achieved all of this in spite of looking like a man who is learning facial expressions from a book. Have you seen him smile? I imagine that’s what Gordon Brown looked like before somebody released the bulldog clip that kept his face tight.

Gordon Brown, aged 19
Gordon Brown, aged 19

Gordon Brown
Daniel Radcliffe, aged 106

Emma Watson went to a top American university where she managed to avoid being killed by an American for 3 years, something few people can do. She then returned to the screen in a moderately good adaptation of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, in which she attempted a bold strategy for of shaking off her reputation for being every online pervert’s favourite teenager: she took off her sexy clothes off in a sexy dance while looking sexily at a sexy boy. And all of this despite being cursed with the vocal quality of a distressed and menstrual cookery teacher in the 1950s, and wild and irrational eyebrows that look like they’re attempting to escape her face and run amok across the moors of England.

Rupert Grint.
Milky Grint. Bad at snorting coke, or good at giving blowjobs? You tell me.

Rupert Grint, by contrast, is being paid to smile in an advert for Sky.

That’s all the Grint they want. Thank you. You can leave now.

He’s not invited to do any acting – God forbid! They just wanted to borrow his head for 3 seconds so they could use it to sell things, like a misshapen orange billboard. The Milk Marketing Board pulled the same trick a couple of years ago, leading to a spate of upchucking women as Grint-besmattered busses trundled by. To this day, the term “Milky Grint” can churn the stomach of the hardiest woman. Show your lady-friends this photo, and slowly whisper “Milky Grint” to them. I bet they shudder and make an expression. I bet they do. In fact, I’m off down to Ladbroke’s now to place that very bet.

Yet despite this, Grint’s net worth in 2012 is £24 million. You’d have to work for a thousand years to get that much money, and who has the time?

I’ll tell you who has the time: Grint has the time. After all, his diary is looking pretty empty. I suspect it always did, even during the Potter years…

Grint’s diary, from the set of “Harry Potter and the Ocelot of Disappointment”:

Tuesday: Said “Bloody hell, Harry”. Got paid £3 million. Did double maths. Hated self.

In truth, it’s a small miracle that any of them grew up to become even a moderate actor: they were between 9 and 11 years old when they began their movie careers, plucked from obscurity because they looked less gap-toothed than most of their contemporaries. Americans are, as we know, more terrified of gap-toothed people than they are of 200 million assault rifles, and the Potter movies would definitely have failed if the lead actors had standard British teeth.

But the kids had good teeth. It’s just the rest of Grint which was substandard. And when they started out they just looked like Cabbage Patch versions of themselves, which must be weird for them to look at now. You think it’s embarrassing when your mum shows your new partner photos of you aged 11? Imagine if you had a whole movie series, and every girl you ever meet thinks she knows exactly who you are, and what you can do with your “wand”. Engorgio!

In retrospect, £24 million seems like reasonable compensation for what fate has done to Grint. He can stop being Weasley, but will always be Grint. He will always be awful and look like he knows it.

Mind you, for the first few movies none of them looked comfortable in their own skin. Who is, at the age of 13? Your skin is your enemy at exactly the moment you most need a friend, and fame and fortune are no protection against the ravages of youth. I watched Romeo + Juliet recently, and Leo’s face seems to be undergoing a meteor shower. I think he spent half his salary on concealer. He looks like he’s been coated in Polyfilla in a few scenes, which I’m sure pleases a lot of blokes who were negatively compared with DiCaprio in their teens. Every generation throws up a pretty boy for the girls to idolise, and all the boys hate whoever it is. Right now it’s Beiber. Before that it was DiCaprio. My own nemesis was George Micheal.

In 1986 boys my age were considered cool and attractive if they wore a cross in one ear, strutted around in white jeans and cowboy boots, displayed several days of beard growth, and had bouffant hair with blonde highlights. Hard to believe people assumed it was the dress sense of a heterosexual man, but that’s what Gorgeous George wore, and he was very definitely a heterosexual man in 1986. He said so in Smash Hits, so it must be true.

My teenaged attempts at looking like George Michael weren't very successful.
My teenaged attempts at looking like George Michael weren’t very successful.

I don’t give a fuck about being fashionable now, as anybody who knows me will definitely confirm. But I can remember how ostracised I felt back then for being unable to grow sufficient stubble or persuade my mum to let me get my ear pierced. I want to seek out Darren Gilmore, my college’s number one George Michael lookalike, show him a photo of Wham! and shout “I told you so” into his unrealistically handsome face. Except by now his face is probably like mine: gradually sliding down his skull like a slow-motion avalanche. I can’t really blame him for being fooled by Wham! I was as fooled as anybody else, I just had my ambitions stymied by my mum and some terrible NHS glasses.

More than quarter of a century later, and my mum is still pissing on my chips. My Christmas will be polite, with only moderate consumption of wine, absolutely no spanking paddles or handcuffs; and then bed before midnight on my second-best lumpy mattress.

Thank you Jesus, you absolute twat!

I thought Pentecost was bad (I received the Gift of the Holy Spirit, but I don’t have the receipt, so can’t take it back and swap it for a cardigan). But Christmas is going to be a wash-out. So Jesus, I’m sorry to break the news, but your parties are always shit and I’m not coming to any more of them. I’ve given up on a rowdy Christmas, and all I can say is: roll on New Year. Because believe me, I’m definitely going to roll on someone at New Year.

Brace yourself dear.