7 x 7 x 7 x 7 challenge, damn you.

I’m a lover, not a fighter.

And while I’m quoting classic songs, I’d also like to say that I may be a lover, but I ain’t no dancer.

I live in Manchester, literally the greatest city in the history of the world (or at least, the greatest city called Manchester in the history of the world. Sorry Manchester, New Hampshire, you just don’t cut the mustard). If Manchester has a flaw, it’s the weather. Today it’s gloomy, rainy, and the sky looks like a grey and ancient dishcloth, or Morrissey’s soul. Or as we call it in Manchester, a normal Sunday.

So to cheer myself up I was about to watch Das Boot, a 3.5 hour long, claustrophobic 1981 German submarine movie, with subtitles, in which (spoiler alert) everyone dies at the end. Although I am – as I mentioned at the beginning – a lover and not a fighter, right now I feel a certain growly resentment towards Natalie, because I was just about to cheer up my Sunday when she callously flattered me in her blog, and then set me a challenge.

I can resist almost any challenge, being preternaturally unambitious and idle, but I can’t resist a compliment from a pretty lady; so here I am, ignoring one of the great depressing German movies (and believe me, there’s a lot of competition) and doing this:

1) 7 Blogs I enjoy reading:

  1. It would be perverse not to mention All Sweetness and Life, which makes me laugh more than it really should given that the girl who writes it, @katy_red, has made frustrating flirtation her life’s work. She is 49% carrot and 51% stick, a ratio which means I’m never going to get her, will forever wonder what she tastes like, and will always have a smacked rump. Sadly for my physical prowess, that’s where the equine metaphors end.
  2. Scarlett Wonderland is admirable and annoying, because it constantly reminds me that girls like Jen are incredibly mature and smart by the time they’re 22. When I was 22 I was, by the miracle of XY chromosomes, also 7, and remained 7 for many, many years. Even today I’m essentially a 16 year old boy, trapped in the crumbling husk of a man’s body.
  3. Girl on the net is probably known to you already, and if it isn’t you’ll be glad you followed this link. She’s a girl. And she’s on the net. But be warned, she says and does things that will make you want to touch your nether-regions, and then question your moral centre for doing so. She’s very rarely safe for work, unless you work as a porn star.
  4. At the time of writing Single and Fabulous is absent and lamented. I think she’s taken it offline to cope with a private matter, and as a private person I won’t probe any deeper. If/when it returns, I suggest you go and find it. It’s a lovely blog: funny, smart and blisteringly honest to the extent that it makes you wonder how a girl can reveal so much and still seem immune to life’s vicissitudes. She’s from Leeds. They’re gnarly round there.
  5. Sam Salandar is relatively new to the blogosphere, but she writes long, rambling and entertaining posts about her frankly startling sexual adventures and predilictions. It’s fun, even if you’re a mouse-like and vanilla little thing. Think of it as peeking over the fence into your neighbour’s hot-tub-swingers-party. You might not have an invitation, but you definitely want to know what they’re getting up to, if only to tut to your bland, beige wife about it and secretly long for such a vivid existence.
  6. It’s cheating, and I feel bad for doing it, because I’m a contributor. But my fellow contributor would kill me if I didn’t mention Honey and Cream.
  7. I’m genetically incapable of coping with more than about 4 people in my life at any time, and the same seems to be true of blogs. I shall mention 1ndierock, which I also follow, but it seems a bit circular to send you back to the blog you probably found this from. But just in case you didn’t find me via Natalie, try her. She’s good. I didn’t mean that to sound so pimpy.

2) 7 Questions set by my tagger:

  • If you could only eat one meat for the rest of your life, what would it be?

In 1810 the British Navy was fighting Napoleon’s navy all over the world, and men would be at sea for months at a time, living on the crappy salt-beef that has since been carefully rebranded as “corned beef” (a “corn” being the lump of salt used to cure the meat. Think of that next time you reach for some Fray Bentos – the name, incidentally, is taken from the Uruguayan port of Fray Bentos, from where the world’s cheapest beef is exported).

Anyway, back then the rule on Royal Navy ships was to have a “Banyon day” once a week. On Banyon day, no meat was consumed. It was known back then that eating meat every day is bad for you, so they didn’t do it – they ate bread and fruit and cabbage, and shat like a waterfall the following morning.

I try to do the same: I’m not a veggie, but I try to avoid eating too much meat, and have at least 2-3 days a week without. So I could give up meat if required. But in the meantime, I’d probably stick with lamb. It’s just utterly delicious.

Supplementary lamb fact: Oliver Cromwell and his Puritans didn’t like people to enjoy anything except prayer, so they made it illegal to eat lamb unless it was accompanied with mint-sauce to ruin the taste. And that’s why we eat lamb with mint. It was supposed to be awful, and is only really palatable by the addition of a lot of sugar. Now you know!

  • What is your favourite book?

The funniest book in the world is The Bible, but for all the wrong reasons. Don’t bother reading it: it’s all bullshit, there’s a hell of a lot of begetting but no actual sex scenes, and even the Whore of Babylon is a sad disappointment.

For the all right reasons, the next funniest book is Catch 22, which you should read immediately. Turn off your computer, go to Waterstones, buy it, and begin reading before you’re even out of the Arndale Centre. You’ll walk into a lot of people, and might get on the wrong bus home, but you’ll thank me later. It’s not like anything else.

  • What is your ideal holiday? Relaxing beach or action/adventure?

Cuba was super. I stayed in a nature reserve less than a mile from 3 of the 10 best beaches in the world, relaxed for a week, and then went to Havana for a few days – an amazing city. It’s what the world would be like without the pernicious influence of American commercialism. And I drank a lot of rum, but you kinda have to. It’s used instead of currency over there. I’d go back to Cuba any time. Brilliant people, brilliant place, music everywhere.

I liked The Maldives, very pretty, but it was dull after a few days. Tiny island, and unless you’re happy to just sit and look at the horizon in baking sun, there’s not much to do.

  • Favourite alcoholic drink?

I got a bit of a poorly in my kidney, and had to wave it goodbye. So my drinking days are over, not that I was ever much of a drinker. I like Glenfiddich and Talisker Scotch whisky, but have to avoid it most of the time. I cry a lot.

  • Favourite band or musician?

I like most music if it’s made with passion and integrity. Everything from gentle stuff like Ray LaMontagne, Belle and Sebastian and Fiona Apple, through to avant garde Bowie, Sigur Ros, Cake, Queens of the Stone Age and NIN. But it’s nearly 30 years since I first heard Pink Floyd, and I can still listen to them every week and am always moved. So it has to be them. Hey, I’m in my 40s, I’m allowed to like dad-rock!

  • Top 3 favourite songs?

It doesn’t matter. They’ll be different again tomorrow. Pick any three!

  • If you had to only sleep with one person for the rest of your life, who would it be?

She knows. You don’t need to.

3) 7 Things about myself:

  1. I worked in a bar in 1990, and next door was a rehearsal studio. One day a couple of musicians got chatting to me, and mentioned they needed a new drummer. I play drums, so offered to try out. We played a few Beatles standards, it worked out OK, but I didn’t think anything would become of them – I’d played with a hundred similar student bands, and most of them had singers who didn’t seem like a violent primate, whereas this band did. So I packed it in. A year later they were Oasis.
  2. I had cancer, but got better. I’ve got a 12 inch surgical scar across my belly. It really does change your life: it makes it better, because you value it more. Try to value your life. It’s a brilliant thing. That’s the only wisdom I can offer.
  3. I was at school with Mick Hucknall, and he was a tosser.
  4. I’ve never seen Coronation Street or Emerdale, or anything you could call a soap opera. No, I tell a lie: I once turned on BBC1 to watch whatever was on after EastEnders, and saw the last 2 minutes. A furious, wheezy man with a head like a radish was ordering a crying woman to “get dahn them stairs, you slaaaag”. As I understand it, that’s pretty much every episode.
  5. Before the beard, I looked so similar to one of the members of Barenaked Ladies that I got asked for autographs at a gig – even though the singer was on the stage at the time. Explain that.
  6. I find intelligence much more attractive than breasts. And I really like breasts, so that’s saying something.
  7. In my head, my voice is barely Mancunian at all. In reality, it appears it is.

4) 7 Questions for my victims:

  1. Have you ever committed an act of vandalism, and if so, what was it?
  2. What’s the biggest animal you could knock over with a single punch?
  3. Explain how you think they put smooth chocolate on Maltesers – there’s no flat bit where it stood while it dried, and they must put it on wet – so how do they do it? Think about it, and describe the mechanism you reckon they use.
  4. What would you do for a living if you didn’t do whatever you do now?
  5. The first man who ever milked a cow: what do you reckon he thought he was doing?
  6. Would you rather be the person who wrote a great movie, directed it, or starred in it? And why?
  7. What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?