Horse sense

This week Channel 4 showed a terrific documentary about Emily Wilding Davison, the suffragette who hurled herself under the king’s horse 100 years ago.

Wilding was an educated woman, a teacher, but had been driven by the hopelessness of her situation to take terrible risks. She joined the suffrage movement, and used peaceful protest to gain a voice; but the power of the state pushed back hard against the suffrage movement with intimidation, propaganda, violence, and a tsunami of negative media coverage.

Peaceful protest achieved nothing, but the suffragettes knew they had right on their side, and raised the game: they chained themselves to railings in protest, but before being cut free the police beat and sexually assaulted the women. The suffragettes went on hunger strike, and were so brutally force-fed by security officials that many of them suffered digestive and psychological problems for their entire lives.

And eventually they reached the conclusion that you can’t make a moral appeal to those with power, because those with power don’t have morals. So they decided to hit the elite where it hurt: in their pockets. If material things were all that the elite cared for, the suffragettes would strike there. They started a campaign of destruction, and in one year committed arson to the value of £40 million.

Even then the elite gave no ground. In fact, the thing that actually got the vote for women was the First World War, when women had to work in factories and farms to replace the men who died. Women got the vote by gaining economic relevance. Moral pressure built before the war, and the war created an economic imperative. That’s what led us to today, when under the law there is equality for all citizens, regardless gender, race or sexuality.

Or is there?

On the face of it there’s no group we can point to and say “they’re oppressed” in quite the same way. It’s pretty easy to spot and define a woman, and easy to legislate against inequality for a race. But there remains a whole invisible swathe of society which is, every day, disenfranchised and robbed of hope by the engines of power, just as much as women were in 1913.

Emily Davison was driven to an extreme act by a number of things. She was educated, a teacher, but unable to earn a living. She had been arrested, and in that age it meant you could never get a job again. She was powerless in a society which was governed entirely by an elite gentry, with the worst social mobility in Europe. She could never afford a home. She could never afford to marry. She could never break free of the bonds holding her down. And there was a vast, glaringly obvious gulf between the tiny group with money and power, and people like her.

Without a job, without hope, without power, without any means to change her circumstances, she had nothing left to lose.

Honestly: doesn’t she sound like 20 million ordinary people in Britain today?

I don’t believe Emily Davison meant to die. Evidence suggests she was trying to pin a “Votes for Women” banner to the king’s horse and badly misjudged it, killing herself and risking the life of the innocent jockey and horse. By the time she stepped onto the track at Epsom she was, by today’s standards, an extremist. She, along with hundreds of other suffragettes, had crossed the barrier from peaceful protest to something more direct so often that they no longer had any compunction about taking drastic, dangerous, destructive actions.

Don’t assume I’m comparing her to the brutal, horrific, utterly unconscionable murder of Lee Rigby, the soldier murdered on a London street by lunatics with cleavers. I’m not. What I am saying is this: after years of peaceful protest and petitions, suffragettes decided that asking, begging and demanding change wasn’t getting them anywhere. They decided to start striking at property. They committed millions of pounds worth of arson attacks, usually against targets they believed to be representative of (or owned by) the elite that was robbing them of hope.

In the Channel 4 film, Claire Balding suggested that once you’ve taken that step into direct action, it’s increasingly easy to do it. Once you’ve seen a factory burned down in the name of what’s morally just, it’s hard to forget it and return to normal. Emily Davison saw arson many times, and probably committed it too. Having crossed that line so often, she had no problem taking direct action.

I think Balding hit on something there. She’s right. I worry that it’s only a matter of time before somebody decides that The One Percent™ simply aren’t listening to 38 Degrees or Change.org or the Government’s own e-petitions website.

It’s only a matter of time before there is direct action by somebody the media can’t label as “them”. Somebody who isn’t “other”. Somebody who isn’t “radicalised” by an outside agent.

It will be somebody like the young white guy who lives next door to you; the guy with £20,000 of university debt, living in his parents’ spare room at the age of 30, with no job, driven into slave-labour by government ideology, ridiculed and reviled by the press, his health auctioned off, his future leased to Monsanto and his town centre hollowed out by Amazon. He protested peacefully against Iraq and was ignored. He’s petitioned against the NHS being sold off, and was ignored. He’s tried doing things the way government wants him to, and has been screwed over, fucked up, reviled and ignored. He’s online and he’s smart and he’s politically aware with a very small p indeed; and knows that corporations are part of the feral capitalism that’s evading tax and ruining his nation’s economy.

So one day he smashes a Starbuck’s window. A small act. But he’s crossed a line.

He knows that his elected representatives are too busy acting like Dave Hartnett, lining their pockets rather than taking care of the public. So the next week he goes out and vandalises a tax office.

Somebody else reads about it on Twitter, and decides that he too will take direct action. And another, and another. A thousand Starbucks windows are smashed. Somebody will go one further, and set fire to the Tesco that gutted his town, took his job, and has not a scintilla of social responsibility.

The media will react as the media does: there will be moral panic and, as a result, there will be mass publicity for direct action, and a week later somebody else will decide that they are also bone-tired of being treated like Untermenschen. They’ll realise Amazon’s HQ contains a hell of a lot of paper, and they’ll burn it to the ground.

And once this line is crossed, we’re in real trouble. Because there won’t be visible protestors chaining themselves to railings in Trafalgar Square, waiting for the riot squad. Instead there will be ten million invisible men and women sat at home making independent decisions to strike back. Yes, there will be arrests. But there were arrests in 1913 too, and it didn’t stop suffragettes from continuing: they had no other outlet, and the line had been crossed.

There will be no “leadership” telling people to destroy, to burn, to strike out at the forces that belittle and impoverish them. Instead there will be educated, debt-burdened, futureless individuals researching tax evasion and inequality and the evisceration of worker’s rights; and then making their own decisions about what to smash.

These people won’t be planning it online, they’ll just be reading the news. No amount of snooping will spot patterns or identify ringleaders, because there won’t be any ringleaders. There won’t be imams radicalising people. They won’t have different coloured skin. They won’t live on council estates. The people who take these actions will be anyone with too much education and too little hope. Completely independently, they’ll see that the world is fucked up, and that now there’s a way to lash out.

I worry. I really do. Because global governments are playing a very dangerous game in their race to the bottom. They’re ignoring the plight of those at the sharp end of neocapitalism, just as the government of Henry Campbell-Bannerman ignored the plight of women. In 1913 the press was tightly controlled, there was no internet, and still there was £40 million of arson attacks. And in 1913 it was comparatively easy defuse the situation with a single law: give women the vote.

But today there is no single piece of legislation that could disarm the ticking time-bomb we’re all sat on. Nobody from the mainstream political establishment is even discussing the crisis growing right under their feet. They’re blind to it because it’s not sticking up and waving signs: it’s 99% of the world’s population quietly seething at home. Anybody with a brain and a laptop can quickly find out how badly they’re being screwed over, and how deaf the elites are to their cries.

It’s genuinely frightening. I worry. I really do.

It seems to me that governments are playing fast and loose with the fabric of society. By protecting the elite and the status quo, governments are endangering the elites and the status quo in ways that are hard to predict, hard to control, and hard to put back in the box.

Hard, that is, unless you know the story of Emily Davison.

High maintenance? I won’t fiddle with your knobs.

Thanks to Baggage Girl for asking the question: “Is high maintenance off-putting in a girl?”

When I was at school my friends and I would occasionally sneak out at lunchtime, buy a pie, and go to one of their homes for a cup of tea.

Well, I say “buy a pie”, but the truth is that my school had a tradition which might be unique: the meat and potato pie sandwich.

Is there are more gruesome description in the whole of gastronomy than non-specific “meat”? Even ignoring the horrors disguised by that blandishment, the meat and potato pie sandwich was a monstrosity. You bought a microwaved Holland’s pie, sprinkled Beef Monster Munch on top of it, drizzled it with brown sauce, and stuck the whole thing into an oven-bottom muffin. It was about 5 inches thick, and at least 3 inches of that was fat.

Well, the blood had been simply racing through our arteries, we had to take measures to slow it down.

One one occasion we scarfed down our heart-attack butty, and went to a friend’s house to watch the only Australian soap opera shown back then: The Flying Doctors. It was phantasmagorically weird: everybody was orange, the furniture was yellow, and the interiors of the aeroplanes appeared to be made out of Papiermâché and twice the size of the exterior. People wore far too many hats considering it was 1985, and hats had died out 30 years previously in the rest of the world. And it moved even slower than our blood after the pie sandwich. In fact, the scenery seemed to move more than the plot did.

The first time I saw it, it featured the following priceless dialogue.

Ocker child: Aw daad, can I go to the ball in long traaazers?

Ocker dad: Yer too yang son, yer too yang.

Ocker child: Aw daaaaad, can I? Can I?

Ocker dad: No son, yer too yang. Yer just too yang.

A month later I saw it again, and the same conversation was still going on. By the time the ball happened, I’m sure the child was asking his dad if he could go on his walking frame. Maybe my sense of humour is a bit Royal Tenenbaums, but I found the “stately” pace and non-plot incredibly funny.

Having said that, I don’t think I’m a natural soap opera fan. The Flying Doctors might not be the greatest example of a soap, but even the (supposedly) good ones make me want to pull my bottom lip over my face and suffocate on my own gums. It’s the “drama”. The endless, endless “drama”.

I should explain that there’s a difference between drama and “drama”. The former appears in quality programme such as The Wire, Mad Men or The Sopranos. Drama, without quote marks, indicates actual characters, realistic behaviour, and a sense that it’s telling you something important about the way we live today.

Whereas “drama” is just a lot of noise. It’s weddings on Christmas day. It’s transsexual farmers falling off the roof onto their own ex-wife, who should have known better than to be there, because the whole thing was previewed in the Daily Mirror. It’s a man with a head like a boiled sweet wheezing his way through a dalliance with homosexuality, and then “getting better” in time to marry his own long-lost sister, while negotiating for the purchase of the newsagent under which he buried his grandmother’s rapist after toppling a bookcase on him during one of Manchester’s many earthquakes and plane crashes.

It’s gibberish. It fills up your life with bullshit, which is religion’s job thank you very much. And I don’t want a life full of bullshit. I don’t like it. I don’t like it on my TV, and I certainly don’t like it in my life.

And that’s why I’m not a fan of high maintenance people. They’re like living with a soap opera. There’s so much “drama”, and it is, to quote the Bard, a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

I have a friend who loves high maintenance girls, and actively seeks out people who “generate sparks”. He likes it because it means they bang heads all the time, and constantly have scraps, and slam doors, and squabble, and live like they’re in a particularly ratings-chasing episode of EastEnders. He says it’s good because eventually they make up and have passionate, angry sex.

He’s been divorced 3 times. He hasn’t learned yet.

Me, I can drum up some passionate, angry sex without all the passion and anger. In fact, if there’s too much passion and anger outside of the bedroom, I just feel tired and a bit headachey in the bedroom, and I’d rather just go to sleep, thank you.

And if you are high maintenance, don’t expect somebody else to fix you.  The human body is what’s called a “homeostatic system”. This means that it attempts to revert to its proper state when you tinker with it. Cuts mend. Bruises heal.

If you have too much sugar, your body will try to gather it up, turn it into a soft brown soup, and try to make it slither down the back of your leg before you get to the toilet. If you rub caffeine-enhanced creams onto your face to fight off the sag, your body will hoover up that caffeine and throw it away so it can restore the natural chemical balance, and you will have wasted your money on more of Laboratoire Garnier’s exciting made-up science. (In fact as far as I know, caffeine can’t be ingested via the skin anyway, so you really are wasting your money).

Any attempt to change the chemical constituents of your body will be resisted. Because, as the name implies, a homeostatic system is static. It wants to remain as nature intended.

And it’s the same with your personality. If you need maintaining, don’t expect an outside agent to do it for you. Happiness can’t be found in another person, it can only be reflected. I can come along and twiddle with your knobs (so to speak), and improve your mood – but only temporarily. You’ll return to your own mood unless you make an effort to change it yourself. And that’s not easy, but is always worth the effort.

For a while I thought I had once managed to change. Like a lot of people I was pretty depressed during my teens, but one day I woke up, realised I was really annoying myself, and decided not to be sad any more. And that was it. I was totally cured.

For a long time I thought that was how to fix depression: just decide not to be depressed. But I was naive, and having lived with a sufferer I know now that depression is a lot more complex. My determination not to be sad probably coincided with my hormones balancing out, and my “just say no” theory is a load of blather.

But I earnestly believe you can change yourself from a high maintenance person. You just have to stop thinking about yourself so much, and think about somebody else instead. You can do this with a little practice, I’m sure of it. And when you do, you’ll be happier about yourself, and will find it easier to meet somebody who is happy with you.

If I care about you, and you care about me, that’s everyone covered, everyone loved, and nobody needs maintaining any more. I’m not Gandhi, but I think that’s a pretty good philosophy for life.

Fantasy and reality

There’s a support group called Women Against Rape.

Without wanting to make light of it, is that really necessary? Is there a counter-group called Women For Rape?

There have been a raft of news stories about rape in the last few weeks, and today Twitter seems to be trending #replacebandnameswithrape, which I’m sure is supposed to be funny, but which frankly isn’t.

Let’s get a few things straight: rape isn’t a sexual crime, it’s a violent one. The use of the word “sexual” puts it in a category with stockings and dirty weekends, and it doesn’t belong in that category at all. Rape is violence. It’s a strong person overpowering and assaulting a weaker one. It’s not sexy. Any fucking halfwit who uses the “she was dressed like a slut” argument needs a long hard conversation with himself, and if that doesn’t work he can pop round to my place and I’ll cut his dick off. The girl’s clothing or alcohol content is no excuse. There is no excuse. It’s a fucking abomination.

You never hear people saying “by wearing that short skirt and drinking an imperial gallon of Tropical Reef she was just begging to be stabbed/shot/strangled”. No jury would hear that argument; no lawyer could make it. Why is rape considered the exception? Why are victims of rape often blamed for bringing it on themselves? I think it’s abhorrent.

But I don’t like the assertion (made by a few radical feminists) that all men are rapists. For one thing, we’re clearly not. We have the potential to be rapists, but only in as much as fertiliser has the potential to be a bomb: it takes a sick mind and broken personality to go that extra mile and actually do it.

My other problem with “all men are rapists” is that the corollary is “all women are victims”. And that’s clearly not true. Most women I know are extraordinarily tough. Pop down the gym: women outnumber men 4 to 1, and they don’t do that because they’re feeble. They do it because they’re physically and mentally determined.

Sure, an average guy can beat an average girl at an arm-wrestle, but that’s a brief burst of power, which is what we’re designed to do. Try doing it for 30 minutes, and the woman will win every time. An average girl can work longer, harder, smarter, pop to the gym, and then go home and clean her flat too.

The average guy gets home to his squalid bedsit, kicks the pizza boxes out of the way until he can reach a beer, and then crawls into his bed and rots in the fart-sack, pulling his pud and blowing zombies away on his Xbox. Ask him to get up and clean the place, and assuming his latest wanking-and-murdering spree haven’t reduced his level of communication to a set of animalistic grunts, he’ll simply insist that cleaning is a woman’s job.

Which is just his admission that physically, women are generally one up on men. I’m not trying to flatter women, because all this stuff is really fucking irritating. But I have to be honest: by comparison most men are pathetic, including me.

But if you want a good example of a pathetic man, look at a rapist, or somebody who attempts to excuse it. There is no excuse, and I speak with authority, because I was once encouraged to rape somebody, so I know how easy it is not to do it.

Let me explain before you put me on a register!

I recently had a conversation with somebody about sexual history. Every “how to have a date” advice column tells you not to talk about this. Don’t mention that you’ve boinked 417 women, because it makes your new partner feel like an insignificant notch on a highly infectious bedpost. Or if you’ve only slept with 2 women, don’t mention that either, because you’re 41 for Christ’s sake: 2 sexual partners is less than the average priest (although in my defence both of my sexual partners consented, and both had pubic hair, which is more than you can say for the conquests of most clergymen).

All those rules about dating make sense. Meet in public. Have an escape route planned. Don’t cry, or drink 12 pints of mead, or forget your shoes, or own up to needing to have a baby right fucking now.

But sometimes relationships are just weird, and you end up doing all those things you’re warned not to do. You have conversations about commitment that are supposed to make normal people run a mile. You dig deep into your humiliating past for the things that are meant to be hidden forever, attach fairy-lights to them, and wave them around for all to see. You admit to your all failings and weaknesses, and show off what psychiatrists would call “complex personal problems”.

In short, you do nothing to hide the crazy.

And sometimes, like it or not, that includes a revealing a bit of sexual history, which happened recently. Neither of us could remember exact numbers, and it seemed ungallant to start counting on my fingers at that very moment. But later, bored and alone, I did a quick flip through the Rolodex in my brain, and remembered something I’d blocked out: rapey woman.

I had a very brief fling with rapey woman about 12-15 years ago. It wasn’t anything major, and barely lasted 3 weeks, but it disturbed me, because as soon as we got to the fabled third date, and sex was put into the equation, she begged me to rape her.

Now I enjoy a bit vigorous sex, and all of the “hold me down and do me hard” stuff is definitely my idea of fun. But this girl was waaaay past that. We’re not talking about playful bedroom mischief, we’re talking about an absolutely accurate simulcrum of a rape. She liked it to feel completely real. I never did it, because just her description of what she was after freaked the shit out of me; she asked me to surprise her as she walked to her car, drag her into an alley at knifepoint, and do a perfectly accurate simulation of a rape.

At knifepoint.

I know rape is a pretty common fantasy for some women, even if they tend to imagine it being done by George Clooney, and he hugs her afterwards. And I get that, I really do: it’s a small, limited extension of the “hold me down” thing. But there’s a world of difference between a bit of slightly pervy, highly consensual roleplaying, and wielding a knife in an alley. And it’s a difference I couldn’t come to terms with.

And nor should anybody. I doubt this blog will become essential reading for any rapists, would-be-rapists, rape-apologists or moral philosophers. And it’s not exactly full of jokes, so I doubt it’ll get the usual 27 visits that my hilarious blogs about alcohol poisonings get. But if you’re a guy and haven’t yet worked out the difference between a dirty fantasy with your adventurous girlfriend, and a violent assault on a stranger in a footballer’s hotel room, you need to seek professional help.

I’ll be back with jokes next time. But #replacebandnameswithrape has knocked the humour out of me for a while.

Improving politics

Politics is rubbish.

Nobody likes it. Even people who are obsessed with it – like me – don’t really like it. We just like being made to feel angry, smug or superior.

Almost everyone else is bored, disgusted, suspicious or utterly disenfranchised by the whole sorry mess.

But I have an 8-point plan to make it better. See if you agree.

1: If you break more than 10% of your manifesto pledges, a general election is automatically called.

Sometimes promises need to be broken for entirely unavoidable and unpredictable reasons – wars, natural disasters, etc. But 10% gives you some leeway. Break more promises than that, and a new election is called – you may be kicked out.

2: Pay MP’s a lot more.

My brother is an absolute arse, and a mid-level manager in a moderately sized publishing business. But he’s paid £50,000 a year more than George Osborne, who has responsibility for raising and spending hundreds of billions of pounds in our name.

If we want good people to be in charge – clever, talented people – we have to pay them enough to do it. Otherwise all we’ll get is power-crazed imbeciles, who are easy to corrupt because they don’t earn very much; or feckless, independently-wealthy buffoons who have too much money, too much sense of entitlement, and not enough brain or chin. I blame the parents, who are also cousins.

Double their salaries. We’ll get better people to do the job.

3: Give MP’s and Lords an actual job to do.

Did you know that MP’s and Lords are the only civil servants to have no job description? Literally none. Once elected (or ennobled), they don’t have to do anything at all, and many don’t.

Some of them think their job is to attend MP’s surgeries, some think it’s to be in the House of Commons voting all day. Which is fine, at least it’s active. But many of them think their job is gardening, managing their stocks and shares, and occasionally opening local shopping centres.

Even active, qualified, intelligent MP’s fail us. Micheal (now Lord) Heseltine has sat in the Lords since 2001, and only made his first speech in March 2012. He earns £300 a day, has a wine allowance, can claim expenses of up to £155,000 per year, and pays zero tax. And he did nothing at all for 11 years.

Benefit scroungers? Physician, heal thyself.

We need to tell them what their responsibility is, and sack them if they don’t do the job.

4: State funding of political parties.

Politics is for sale right now. It’s not illegal, but it’s very wrong.

So instead, every year we should spend £1 per year from each UK citizen – dirt cheap. That’s £583,000 per month to split between political parties.

Each month, we hold an official opinion poll (they happen all the time anyway, so it costs nothing extra).

If the Tories get 35% of the vote, they get 35% of the money for that month. Next month they may get 27%, or 41%. Their income depends on their popularity – it’s an incentive to do things that people actually want!

It also means small parties can survive – if the Greens get 5% in the opinion poll, they get 5% of the cash. At the moment they get almost nothing because who would give to a party with almost no chance of influencing policy?

It’s a fair system, and it avoids corruption. No party (or individual) can buy their way into power by having deeper wallets. And no other donations or spending will be allowed, absolutely none. No more corruption.

5: Ban politicians from having a second job.

Most MP’s have more than one job. What, running the country isn’t keeping you busy?

I think they should have one job, and do it.

And cabinet ministers should be unable to take any job in a business that employs more than, say, 50 people for 5 years after leaving office. That way they can’t be retrospectively bribed (i.e. “just change this policy for us, and we’ll give you a nice directorship and a £1m pay packet the day you leave government”).

If they’re all so smart, they should be able to make a good living in a small business, or start their own. But no more conveyor belt from Downing St to Wall St.

Yes, Tony Blair, I’m looking at you!

6: More votes for people who know what the hell they’re talking about.

This will be controversial, but I think it makes sense. I’ve known people who want to vote for a party because they like the leader’s hair. No idea about the politics, or what that leader will do to the country. Don’t know. Don’t care.

I still want those people to have a vote, but I want people who do know and care to have more of a vote.

So before polling day everyone has to answer 10 multiple choice questions as part of their voting slip. Simple stuff, like “what’s the foreign secretary called”. If you get 100%, your vote scores 100. If you get 10% your vote scores 10.

It’s fair. If you don’t take an interest in how your country is run, why should you be able to contradict the votes of people who do? And if you don’t like having a low-scoring vote, watch Newsnight!

7: Local citizen observers.

I’d like to see an independent observer from each constituency, whose job it is to sit in on meetings with their constituency MP. It’ll be like jury duty. The observer would be trained and advised by a judge or senior civil servant, and would then be independently responsible for watching what’s done in our name, and reporting it to the media if the MP is being an utter shit.

If the MP is meeting lobbyists – business, charity, or union – the observer can make sure it’s all above-board, and no special favours are being requested or offered.

Observers should only be allowed to serve one term, maybe a year. Any longer and they risk becoming institutionalised or corrupted, just like the MP’s are.

8: Specialist MP’s.

Any idiot can stand for parliament, and they do. Many of them get elected, and end up running (for example) the NHS without knowing what a tonsil is.

I want MP’s to remain political. But we need experts too. So I’d like to see at least 1/3 of MP’s having to have a specific skill or trade. Doctor. Engineer. Scientist. Teacher. Not more lawyers and economists, it’s that sort of Surrey-landowner crap that has got us into this state. I’m not blaming the current government, this has been going on for 100 years. But it means we don’t have anybody in power – or even close to power – who actually knows what’s involved in setting up a manufacturing business, or running a hospital.

Of course we’ll still need diplomats and lawyers and economists. But we’ve got to find a way to push for a broader range of real-world skills within parliament, or the whole economy will continue to be slanted towards the stuff those 600 MP’s know about – and frankly, all most of them know is asset-stripping. Sell stuff the don’t own, create giant monopolies which hoover up tax money and provide a worse service (Virgin trains being a prime example).

All of this would be more expensive. But you get what you pay for. Our politics currently costs us nothing, and what have we got? Worthless politicians!

Letter to a Lord

I wrote to every Liberal peer, asking them to stop the progress of the NHS bill. I got a form reply from Lord Thomas, which is too long to appear here – write to him at THOMASM@parliament.uk and I’m sure he’ll send you the same message. In short, the last government were bad, the NHS is going to be fine, the media are lying, and private suppliers are lovely and cuddly.

So I have written the following to him:

Dear Lord Thomas,

Thank you for your reply, but you seem to be missing a few vital points:

  1.  Just because the last government did things wrong, does not mean you have the right to do even worse things. Blaming Labour is a terrible, feeble argument, and you know it.
  2. You claim that the central pillars of the NHS will be safe. But we – the British people – don’t want pillars: we want the full structure. When the wind blows, a few pillars aren’t going to help. And for all of us, at some stage the wind will blow. I’m sure that doesn’t affect a man with Your Lordship’s deep pockets, but it affects the rest of us.
  3. You can’t blame the media, and assume that the electorate is too stupid to read the bill or understand the issue. Whitewashing us will not do. We know what this bill means, and we DO NOT WANT IT.
  4. The NHS does not belong to you. It belongs to me. It belongs to my mother, and my neighbours. It belongs to the people of Britain. And we do not want this. We didn’t vote for it, because it appeared in NO manifesto and does not appear in the Coalition Agreement. It’s anti-democratic.
  5. And finally, it’s asset-stripping. If a private supplier wishes to offer services in this country, they may do so. No law prevents it. So why do you have to give them – free of charge – the assets and skills of the NHS, built up at vast expense over many generations? If they want to have those assets, make them pay for it. That’s what a competitive marketplace is supposed to do. But don’t give away our assets for nothing, and call it capitalism. It’s theft, sir! And you’re not just sealing money – think of the lives already donated to the NHS. Think of the people (like me) who have risked it all to take part in drug trials to help the NHS to cure the next generation. I am risking my life right now to participate in a trial of a new cancer treatment, and I am NOT doing it so a private supplier can make a quick buck. I’m doing it because it’s the right thing for my country, and for the next generation.

You, sir, have NO RIGHT to take away the NHS. And to offer such a mealy-mouthed excuse is, frankly, shameful.

I hope you will read this message and look into your conscience for the right thing to do.

Sincerely

Russell Jones

Being in a relationship is fucking great

Unless you’re one of the 7 people in the UK who saw it (and I know 4 of them), you’ve never heard of Arrested Development.

And that means you won’t know what the hell I’m talking about when I say any of the following:

  • I’ve made a huge mistake
  • I was the world’s first Analrapist
  • It’s a shemalé – I love it!

All of those things are incredibly funny jokes, but you don’t get any of them. Why? Because you’re on the outside. And being single is being permanently on the outside. You never get to learn the in-jokes. You’re permanently watching Keeping Up Appearances, and everybody else knows you’re an idiot.

Being in a relationship means you can get deeper. You can find out the truth about people. Maybe it’s not a truth you like, and it took you 5 years to discover that, and now you feel bitter that you wasted that time. But maybe it’s a wonderful truth, and being that deep means you’re warmer and safer and more comfortable than you’ve ever been before.

Isn’t it worth giving it a try? Isn’t it worth going that deep, and finding out if there’s something wonderful?

Isn’t it worth waking, and it’s early, and warm, and bright. And in my arms she lies, still, relaxed, pressed against me so closely that nothing is between us. She’s fast asleep, breathing softly, and yeah, she’s snoring a little, but God that’s nice. We’re naked, but not sexual. We’re just two soft, warm animals, clinging to each other through the night. But not from terror, not from fear, just from the ultimate comfort of knowing there isn’t any space between us.

She has long, wild hair, and it’s been pulled around her neck so I could lie behind and hold her close without it tickling my nose. She knew I liked that. She knew I liked my mouth against her naked shoulder, and our legs in a tangle. But here’s what makes it incredible: she didn’t have to wake to sweep her hair away. She knew it in her sleep. Is there anything more loving? Is there anything that speaks more perfectly of our oneness?

And of course, it’s reality. It’s not some romantic, passionate fantasy, full of movies and drinks and restaurants and sex. She knows what face I pull when I’m twisting my inflexible body so I can trim my toenails. I know her breasts aren’t all that perky really, because I’ve seen her sitting around in her sloppy clothes in the evening, braless and comfortable. She knows how furry my back is, because she’s scratched it for me when it itches, and has picked ingrowing hairs out of it for me. I know what colour her crap knickers are, the ones she likes, and she can’t bring herself to throw away even thought they’ve faded to thousand-wash beige, and lie limp and tattered on the radiator.

I’m not a ladies man, but yes, I’ve dated girls. I’ve had laughs, gone back to their place, had fabulous, original, clumsy sex, and cuddled up all night. But I’ve never known that girl’s favourite Womble, or whether she’s a bit weird about beans touching fried eggs. And she’s never discovered that I cry at Cyrano de Bergerac, or that for an atheist who hates Lloyd-Webber, I have an unexpected fondness for Jesus Christ Superstar. There’s always an element of pretence when you’re in the dating game. You don’t reveal that weird stuff. It’s like being on a constant job interview, showing your best side. But if you only show one side, you might as well be 2-dimensional.

And that’s why being in a relationship is fucking great: it’s in 3D. OK, the colours aren’t as bright as 2D Technicolor, and occasionally it gives you a headache. But it has depth, and you can move through it and get a fuller, richer experience. You can put your guard down in ways you never dream of when you’re on the dating game.

If you’re single, you are one person. Sometimes you meet another person, and you do some elementary maths: one plus one becomes two.

But in a relationship it’s safe to admit that you’re shit at maths, and never liked it, and need help with your tax return.

Because in a good, functioning relationship, maths breaks down anyway.

One plus one equals one. And being one is perfection.

Being single is fucking great

Monday isn’t the worst day: that’s Tuesday, without a doubt.

On Monday you can spend some time reminiscing about your weekend, and your boss is still too hung-over to make you do anything substantial (especially if, like me, you happen to be your own boss).

Wednesday is half-way to the finish line. In America they call it “hump day”, because you’re over the hump and into the downhill stretch. It’s pretty good, lots to feel happy about.

On Thursday you can console yourself with the thought that it’s Friday tomorrow. And by Friday you’ve done it – you’ve made it through another week, and party time is upon us.

But Tuesdays mean nothing. They’re the only day of the week with no redeeming features.

And being in a relationship is like being stuck in a perpetual Tuesday. You’re endlessly in the middle of things, there’s no end in sight. And after a while you realise that “hump day” is permanently tomorrow, tomorrow never seems to come… and neither do you any more!

Even if it’s a good Tuesday, and the sun is shining, and you’re going to take the day off and go to the zoo, at the back of your mind you know that tomorrow will be Tuesday again, and each Tuesday will be greyer and slower and duller than the last.

But being single? Being single is like a permanent Friday night. On Friday night I’m my own man, and answer to nobody. The world is my oyster, or lobster, or cuttlefish, or any other crustacean I fancy. I have a choice of crustaceans. In fact, I’m in lamellibranch heaven!

Nobody tells me what to do, or pecks at my head to find out why I haven’t done what they told me to do last time. If I want to be lazy, nobody forces me to get up and go out. If I want to be busy, nobody tells me to stay home and do the ironing. Being single is freedom.

It’s freedom to do things but it’s also freedom from things. From her choice of TV, her choice of dinner, her choice of music, her friends, her mess. And most of all it’s freedom from her blithering, meaningless babble about the time someone you never met said something you don’t care about to somebody else you never met.

I’m not having a go at girls here – I’m sure men are just as bad, or worse. Ladies, do you really want to hear about the football, or the carburetor, or what kind of machine guns they used in Band of Brothers? No, you don’t! But men want to talk about it (when they want to talk at all), and being in a relationship means we each have a permanent sounding board that isn’t allowed to walk away and talk to somebody more interesting instead. But giddy Jesus, don’t you want to?

Being single makes you happier. It makes you more hopeful. It makes you more adventurous and positive. It makes you more sociable, because the alternative is to be a solitary hermit, and nobody wants that. What we all want is to be a single person who meets interesting people and has sex with them. So we change, unwittingly, into better, happier, sexier, thinner people.

Thinner? Yes, being single makes you thinner. Well, it certainly doesn’t make you fat, but being in a relationship does: it’s called “the stone of contentment”, and it’s the weight people put on when they stop running after people to fuck. If she (or he, or they) are sat at the other end of the sofa, and don’t really care what you look like any more, you stop trying. Being single makes a lot of positive changes to your physique.

In fact, it changes many things. Your body, your mind, and your entire nervous system. Do you know what the most sensitive part of the body is while masturbating? It’s the ears: you’re always listening for the sound of somebody approaching. But not me. I can stuff my ears with cotton wool and wrap my head in a duvet before I “drop trou”. In fact, I think I will, right now, just because I can. Back in a moment.

OK, I’m back. That was fun, and nobody is judging me except for people on the internet, and don’t even pretend you haven’t thought about clicking away from this blog to look at some porn. Don’t even.

(Oh, and the cat saw me too. OK, I admit, it was a bit weird that he watched me; and I don’t really know if he understands what I just did, but he always looks disappointed in me, even when I’m feeding him fresh tuna. So I’m not reading too much into that baleful expression.)

But while we’re on the subject of sex – which we were before I got onto voyeuristic felines – isn’t sex in a relationship absolutely awful! I don’t mean at the beginning, or in the first couple of years. To start with it’s brilliant, and then it gets even better when you stop pretending to be sensitive and kind, and just tear each others’ clothes off, spit on each other, and rut like otters.

But before too long everything goes wrong, and not just with her. You’re bored. She’s bored. It’s the same every single time. Kiss. Squeeze. Feel. Mount. Dismount. Sleep. Sex is supposed to be the most thrilling thing in the world. If you attach electrodes to a rat’s brain and give it an “orgasm” button, it’ll keep pressing until it starves to death. Animals demand sex, and we should want it all the time.

But we don’t. And why? Because you bore each other to death. In a relationship, what should be a romantic night of passion (or at least a raw and dirty fuck with somebody who knows how you like it) becomes little more than a chore, or a desperate act to invigorate your flagging feelings or – more often than we care to admit – to help you to get to sleep. You might as well get out of bed and start decorating the kitchen.

And I know this might be controversial, but I’m gonna say it anyway: men have to perform. We have to actually do things. We can’t rely on a little KY and a patient expression, we have to actually be excited or nothing happens. And then who gets the blame? We do! You don’t point at us and allocate blame directly; instead we have the “don’t I excite you any more?” conversation, in which there is only one answer I can give, and that answer is a lie:

“Of course you excite me [you don’t], it’s just that I’ve had a long day [a long day dreaming about more interesting sex with people I haven’t seen naked over a million times]. Let’s do it properly tomorrow night [after I’ve spent the day looking at porn so I’ve got recent memories to help me along]”

Cynical? Fucking right it’s cynical, but it’s true!

I don’t want to live there. I don’t want to live in that dull, dreary, grey, sexless place, just waiting around until one of us dies, and hoping my hip still works when that moment arrives. Instead, I want to live in Singledonia, a land of opportunity, just like America. Sure, not all the opportunities pan out, but keep on panning and you’ll strike gold. Often in small worthless lumps, but still bright and shiny, and still exciting when you get it. And even if it turns out to be fools gold and worth less than nothing, you’ve still had that brief, intense thrill; and you have the pleasure of knowing there’s another thrill floating down the river towards you. Put on your waders and climb back in!

But being in a relationship is like living in Greece: the only sensible solution is to get out of the place before it drags everyone down.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating a series of one-night stands here. Far from it. There is little in life that’s more fun that dating someone a few times, learning about each other’s bodies, and getting better and better and the sexytimes. I love that. I love holding her afterwards, and I love making her laugh, and being made to laugh, and long, lazy Sunday mornings rolling around in bed with nothing to think about but how good her skin feels. Every day is “hump day”, and you never seem to go downhill.

And that’s why being single is fucking great. It’s a chance to discover and experience that thrill, over and over again. I’m trying to do it honestly, and without hurting anybody. I don’t date multiple people at once, but I do tell everyone up-front what I’m about.

And it’s not about Tuesday; it’s about Friday night.