Saturday, 30 July 2011

Ramblings: Tell it to the Hand

I'm ranting. I've got nothing against Americans at all. I quite like them, to be honest. They've written some of my favourite books and sang some of my favourite songs. I just like being British and like our language. If I was French, I wouldn't speak Belgian, so I'm sticking to English.

I was horrified this week to read a piece in The Independent where a man described his wife as being "pissed". He meant angry and not inebriated. How odd and confusing. When did pissed start meaning angry? I also saw an advert on a bus for Subway saying "Do the Math!" Eek. It's maths. It always has been and always will be. I felt a cold chill.

It's not just the Americanism we've adopted which drive me crazy (24/7 kills me), it's the faddy and lazy phrases people over use for a period of time. They're funny for a minute or so and then are hideously irritating. My rule is: what would Noel say? By that, I mean Noel Coward not Edmonds. If I met Mr Edmonds he'd say "Please don't stab me." as I ran at him with a knife for crimes against good taste. If it wouldn't crop up in a Noel Coward piece it's probably not funny and not appropriate.
My current hate list is this:
  • Putting .com after things e.g. It's not funny or clever.
  • Saying "Back in the day." It makes you sound like a cheesy local radio disc jockey.
  • "Wine o'clock" was maybe funny the first time it was said or typed but it isn't now, honestly.
  • "Five items or less" on a checkout. It's "fewer", the same as it's "different from" not "different to/than"
  • LOL/PMSL/ROFL. Really? You're not really doing that at all are you? So please, don't type it. It's silly. What ever happened to "tee-hee" or "ha ha ha".
  • Text message speach and abreviations. I hate this. I can't stand "ya" for you, especially.
  • "Man flu". Lazy and sexist stereotyping. I had severe flu and everyone kept asking if I had man flu. I had actual flu, thanks and was in bed for a week sweating and suffering. Cheers for belittling it.
I know this sounds pedantic and picky and I'm sure I say things incorrectly or overuse phrases that annoy others too but I am the man who won't sing along to a song if it's grammatically correct. I have to adapt the lyrics to exclude the word "aint" or any of those nasty double negatives. Eurgh.

So in summary, desist please. Period.

Poems: Things

This poem is dedicated to anyone who's ever experienced insomnia


Things by Fleur Adcock

There are worse things than having behaved foolishly in public.
There are worse things than these miniature betrayals,
committed or endured or suspected; there are worse things
than not being able to sleep for thinking about them.
It is 5 a.m. All the worse things come stalking in
and stand icily about the bed looking worse and worse
and worse.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Ramblings: The Games People Play

I don't understand sport at all. It's a complete mystery to me. I'm already dreading all the dullness that will accompany the impending Olympics. I'm bewildered by the amount of excitement sports generate in people when they watch it, not to mention the violence and aggression. You never see police in riot gear outside theatres or libraries. Personally, I can't follow the plot of a sports match and always find the characterisation weak. The sets are pretty dull too. As for playing sport, I'll certainly never understand that one. That is truly insane. If you're that bored try reading a good book. Libraries are full of them. They're good for you too.

My parents disliked football. I think they thought it was common. They were avid cricket viewers and occasionally entertained tennis on the television. Cricket seemed to me to be a bizarre exercise in boredom. Lots of men stood round in a field for ages, occasionally one of them ran a little bit and the score made no sense. The very noise of it irritated me and if it was on the television I'd be in another room.

Age seven I decided I wanted to join the scouts. This was purely because one of my friends went and I liked the sound of making cocoa, getting a cooking badge and learning how to perform acts of arson using only twigs. My mum got me the full uniform, she believes in being properly attired. The first week we were made to go to church which disgruntled me. The second week we were made to play football which horrified me. I'd never seen a football match or attempted to play the game and quickly became an object of ridicule. The scout master was incredulous that a boy of that age didn't know how to play football and ridiculed me in front of the other boy. In retrospect, what's more incredulous is that grown men want to dress like oversized schoolboys and hang about with pre-pubescent boys in their spare time. I was very affronted by this incident and refused to go back to the scouts. My mother and I entered one of our battles of wills.

"I've paid for that woggle, you're going!" I didn't go back, a rare victory and a return to reading and playing "Single Mum" with Whiskey the cat.

I always hated running about. It seemed so undignified and unnecessary. I also hate being shouted at, having whistles blown at me and getting dirty or sweaty. There's no call for it in this day and age. Secondary school came as a terrible shock when I realised that we had to do two hours a week of Physical Education. So began the misery and my first encounters with the man I still to this day hate more than any other person I've met. I shall call him Mr Fiend (not dissimilar to his real name), the sports teacher.

I was a skinny child with as yet undiagnosed terrible eyesight. I have one eye which is long sighted and needs a bottle bottomed lens and another which is almost normal. I was (and still am) very uncoordinated and sports presented a problem. I was also timid, nervous and hated pain. My naturally reaction on seeing a solid leather cricket ball hurtling towards my face or genitals at high velocity is to run in the other direction. Likewise, a big boy charging at my shins with a wooden hockey stick presents a similar desire to flee. I think this is called common sense.

Mr Fiend must have been in his late twenties and was a big hulk of a man. His inane toothy smile and dead eyes spoke of a man of little intelligence and his lack of pants under a nylon tracksuit spoke of a man who had no idea how to dress or behave around children. In short, he was a walking cliché: a sadistic P.E. teacher. I think they have a special fast track program for just this type of man and they become sports teachers or psychopaths, often both. He wasn't impressed by a delicate 11 year old boy who weighed less than one of his thighs.

I decided to be enthusiastic and try hard, initially. It didn't work. I couldn't kick a football, hold a racquet properly or enter a rugby scrum, but I tried. Sports lessons became a weekly torture and I would get worked up and agitated as they loomed over me. I would begin to tremble and fret as they came nearer. For one year we had double sport on a Monday morning and I would try everything to get out of it. Sunday nights would be miserable and hateful as I felt the bowling ball growing in my stomach.

Initially, Mr Fiend tolerated me and this was in part due to my ability to run. I'm built for running, apparently, but I choose not to. I was superb at cross country running but hated it with a passion. I think that running away from boys at school shouting "Gaylord" taught me speed and endurance. The problems began when Mr Fiend suggested that I represent the school at long distance running. I naturally laughed and said no way. I had more interesting things to fill my time. He resented this and his brief tolerance of me stopped from then on in. I became known as "Poofter" from this point onwards.

He decided it would be fun to critique my performance at sport from therein. I was pulled aside at the end of each feeble attempt at sport and made to stand in front of the class.

"What was that all about Poofter? Were you even present today? You're a waste of space."

He had a good vocabulary though. He also knew the following names for me: big girl's blouse, shirtlifter, woofter and poof. He used these names at every opportunity. Initially I felt humiliated and shamed. The other boys weren't too keen to have me on their teams either and I was always the last to be picked, which gave me an obtuse pride. I was chosen after the very fat boy with asthma and psoriasis. This acceptance of the bullying didn't last and I was a plucky if nervous little thing. I managed about a year of putting up with the insults. My school reports were all A or B scores apart from a blot by Sport where I got an A for effort and an E for attainment. This soon changed along with my attitude and my discovery of dumb insolence. I quickly attained an E for effort. I was very proud.

I decided to fight back the only ways I knew how: deceit and passive aggression. I managed to skip at least a quarter of the lessons by either feigning illness or simply hiding somewhere. I was good at deceit. One trick I had was to get my mum to write a note in April saying I had severe and crippling hay fever. It would read
"Dear Mr Fiend, Please excuse my son from Physical Education classes until the Winter as he cannot go outside due to his severe and crippling hay fever." I dictated these letters and she was glad to oblige for a quieter life and a lot less tears and tantrums from me. I got to sit in a room and polish trophies (until his back was turned and I read my books in peace). This plan fell through on rainy days when the horrors of badminton, indoor volley ball and basketball befell me. I had a scheme for badminton and volley ball. We all had to sit on a bench and move along one place at the end of each game. My trick was to just run round back to the end of the bench and never actually play. That ball really hurt my hands and I could no sooner hit a shuttle cock, with my eyesight and coordination, than I could do a handstand. I also began doing the opposite of what was expected of me at all times. If the ball came near me I'd walk fast the other way, I never ran. It's undignified. If everyone ran one way I'd stroll the other way.

Mr Fiend wasn't happy. I fondly recall his bright red face shouting insults at me as he stood impotent with rage. I was both terrified of him and full of gleeful hatred. If he hated me anyway then let me make it easier: I could make him really hate me with a passion. He did. The insults flowed. I remember one basket ball game when I wasn't quick enough to flee the ball. It struck me on the shoulder and I gave the loudest "Tsk!" that I could muster and glared at it archly. He was a little bit cross. He began to take me aside and speak to me alone after the lessons. Obviously he still shouted at me in front of the class first.

"What's wrong with you, you freak? Were you not bounced enough on your dad's knees? Are you some kind of retard?" The "bouncing" thing was something he often mentioned. I think he read a child psychology book once or was read it by someone.

"You were terrible as usual. Would you rather go and do country dancing with the girls or a bit of embroidery?" This was said with a glance at the other boys and a pause for the laughter which didn't come.

"Oh yes please, Sir! That sounds like fun!" I said smirking. The boys laughed this time. I was funnier.

The teachers had a period of working to rule and striking. Everyone went on strike, it was the eighties. It's what people did. They all refused to write comments on our school reports one year. Mr Fiend made a decision to break the strike, especially for me. I was touched.

"C has shown a complete lack of effort and a bad attitude. He is physically feeble and weak and has absolutely no stamina. He avoids all physical contact and is a disruptive influence on the class." Nice. This sat amongst my glowing A's and B's. I decided to embrace this report and see it as a positive. My parents didn't care about this blot on my records. It was only a mindless, pointless subject anyway, according to my often sensible dad.

My lucky break came on an icy February morning aged 13. We were made to go outside in our skimpy nylon clothes to play football. I wasn't looking forward to an hour of embarrassment, discomfort and humiliation again. I was standing with my arms folded.

"You! Unfold your arms now! You're not a fishwife off Coronation Street." He was witty too. I didn't unfold my arms. I looked up with a tilted glance (I learnt this off Princess Di and the women from The Human League) and glared at him. He glared back, seething. He began to turn pink as he lost control of himself. He hurled the frozen football at my face from 4 feet away and I didn't have time to move fast enough. The impact was agony and my eyes smarted with the pain. I wasn't about to cry in front of him so I walked off. Stumbling over the pitch in my football kit I ignored the frantic shouts for me to return and the warnings as to how much trouble I was in.

It was a long walk to my house and I cried all the way, shivering in the cold, my studs clacking a rhythm on the pavement. My mother emerged from her stupor when she saw the mess I was in and the bruise appearing on my face and set about calling the head teacher. I spent the whole evening in my bedroom, lying on my bed crying, unable even to concentrate on "To the Manor Born", a favourite program of mine.

The meeting with the head teacher was daunting but went well. I got over my initial fear once I realised that my facial bruise gave me the winning hand. Mr Fiend's pallid sweaty face told me straight away that I was in charge. I never played sports again. Embarrassingly two other teachers were friends of the fiend. The pock marked History teacher and the drunken French teacher both saw fit to mention the "running off" incident in their classes that day, quite inappropriately. I was mortified. Mr Fiend wasn't suspended or even told off to my knowledge. There was no apology. We accepted this. It was the 1980's after all. It was a prime result for me though. No more sport, this was something I'd only dreamt of, previously. I had an extra two hours a week to read and do homework. I still had to face Mr Fiend weekly and he'd glare as he sat me in the foyer of the sports hall. I'd glare back but we entered an entente cordiale. We kept our hatred of each other to ourselves. He didn't have to teach the surly boy with no talent for sport. I could read a book. We were all winners.

To this day I've never been in a gym or shopped in a sports shop, never seen a sports match either live or on television and never exercised at all. It all makes me shudder. I don't intend to start doing any of these things either. You can keep them. I even hate the noise of sport in the background and the hideous sportswear people wear makes me want to vomit. I'm lucky in that I'm naturally thin and quite toned but when I start to get fat I'll simply eat less and walk more.

I did see Mr Fiend a few years later when I had left school and was working in a shop. He came to the checkout and on spotting me, greeted me warmly, appearing to have the memory of a goldfish. I looked away, pretending not to have any idea who he was and rang up the sale. He left, looking puzzled. I carried on working.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Ramblings: Meat is Murder

I said I'd work my way through the list of questions posed in my post "The C Word" and as I'm a man of my word I'll tell you why I don't eat meat.

This may shock you but I'm not very interested in food. It bores me. Eating can be a total pain. It interrupts what you're doing and means you have to cook which in turn means that your nice clean kitchen gets all grubby which is no good at all. Ovens are great places to keep books. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a nice meal out and if you want to cook for me then that's fine and dandy but if it was a choice between food or books or cigarettes then the food would always lose. I tend to watch TV whilst I eat. I turn on the TV, start to eat and the minute the meal ends, I turn it back off. It stops me having to think about it. I can happily eat the same food every day too without getting too bored. It's like scratching an itch.

A friend once told me that she lay in bed and dreamt of food. She said that her first thought on waking was "What can I eat today?" Bizarre. I hate the feeling when you over eat. That sluggish torpor and the feeling of being full to the neck is not my idea of fun. It's a torture.

I don't really like cooking much. It's tedious. As for baking, they sell cakes in shops. Why waste your time? You could be reading a good book.

During my career as a nurse, food has been the one thing that has consistently made me heave and retch. I can cope with excrement, urine, vomit and phlegm but show me a bowl of congealed Weetabix or a lump of porridge stuck to an old lady's cardigan and I'll run a mile.

As a child I hated to eat. I hated meat, salad and vegetables. Unluckily for me, I had parents who were as snobbish as Margot and Jerry Leadbetter but with the horticultural skills of Tom and Barbara Good (from the 1970s sitcom "The Good Life", if you don't recognise the allusion). My parents had a huge allotment and grew huge quantities of fresh vegetables which we would have to eat all year round. They sowed, picked, blanched and froze and we had to help. They also loved to cook much more than I hated to eat. I compromised a little and would eat peas and carrots and the occasional runner bean. This wasn't enough of a compromise and I spent many hours sitting in a chair, not allowed to leave the table or lay down my cutlery until I ate one Brussel sprout or a sprig of broccoli. I was stubborn but my mum was the mistress of stubborn. Meal times were a tense battle which I usually lost.

We had to eat at the table as a family every night, which I hated. I secretly thought I was probably adopted anyway, so why did I have to spend time with these people? Meal times were often the subject of tense discussions about things too.

I devised a few tricks. Firstly: the dog. He was my food ally and was a canine dustbin. He'd eat anything. I'd try and lure him into position under the table and artfully flick half my dinner into his waiting jaw. He suffered a lot of wind due to his varied diet. Secondly: the swallowing trick. With enough gravy or sauce applied liberally I soon mastered the technique of swallowing most foods. I worked up from peas and eventually was at the point where I could swallow a sprout without it touching my tongue. I still hate sprouts. They were invented by Satan. Thirdly: the pocket game. With a tissue laid on my lap, I would secrete food under the table and stuff it into my pocket, consigning it to a watery grave down the toilet as soon as the meal ended.

I ate so little that eventually I was allowed to have a side plate instead of a dinner plate and no one worried about it. I wasn't anorexic. I just didn't like eating much. I expect if it had been any later in time than the 70s and 80s I'd have been put into therapy.

I did like sweets. I'd line up a pile of dolly mixtures and play my favourite game. This was called "Mummy" and involved scoffing a load of sweets which represented my pills. I'd pop them one by one as I held aloft a little glass of dandelion and burdock and a candy cigarette and feel grown up. I would inhale deeply and sigh and pop another "pill" with a swig of my "sherry".

It wasn't too much of a leap for a teenage food hater to become a vegetarian. A love of "The Smiths" gave me a fantastic idea. Not eating meat was cool and trendy and would annoy my parents to the highest degree. Every teenager's dream, I think. I recall a Christmas dinner as I smugly nibbled a cheese and onion quiche, aged 14, whilst my parents looked on and frowned. I soon got bored of it, though and was back eating meat.

As I got older, I started to enjoy food more. On leaving home and moving in with my older drunk of a boyfriend, I experienced real poverty for a time. We often had no money at all. I can't think where it went but I think the tills of various pubs and off licenses were ringing out a merry tune. I had a priority list: cigarettes came top. As long as I had cigarettes I could live on Happy Shopper biscuits and bread.

I made a terrible mistake in 2004. I was watching TV (a rare event) and flicked through the channels onto a program on BBC2 about abattoirs. It was repulsive. I cringed as I watched but couldn't turn it off. The next few days I found eating meat a weird experience. I couldn't get it out of my mind that it was a corpse I was eating. I felt sick. It rolled around my mouth, sticking there and I couldn't swallow. I gave up meat. My partner was disgruntled. It meant mealtimes were trickier but we got into a routine. It wasn't high moral principles that stopped me eating meat but pure over thinking and subsequent disgust.

I had a brief lapse in 2007 when me and and my partner split up and I was temporarily living with my best friend. It was alcohol related and involved a plate of chicken nuggets which I fell face first into. There's no meat in a chicken nugget though, really, so it's all OK.

Ramblings: My Name is Tallulah

You can't beat an old fashioned high camp bitch and Tallulah Bankhead was one of the wildest, most original and best. She's sadly mostly forgotten nowadays. How can you not love a crazed bisexual woman who slept with hundreds of people, smoked 100 cigarettes a day (and even employed an assistant to wake her on the hour in the night with a lit cigarette at the ready) and drank bourbon and gin like it was water? She was also renowned for her great wit. I've quoted a few examples below.

"If I had to live my life again, I'd make the same mistakes, only sooner."

"It's the good girls who keep diaries; the bad girls never have the time."

"My heart is as pure as the driven slush."

 "They used to photograph Shirley Temple through gauze. They should photograph me through linoleum."

"Cocaine isn't habit forming. I should know, I've been using it for years."

 "I've tried several varieties of sex. The conventional position makes me claustrophobic and the others give me either stiff neck or lockjaw."


 Her last coherent words reportedly were "Codeine... bourbon."

 Tallulah went to Midnight Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City one Christmas Eve. Tallulah was already hideously drunk, so when the Bishop proceeded down the aisle in his finest vestments swinging a censer full of burning incense, through very bleary eyes, Tallulah took one look at him and shouted "Darling, your dress is divine, but your purse is on fire!!"

Here's a very camp website all about Tallulah:

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Ramblings: Grecian 2002

I'm conscious that the ramblings on my blog don't always paint the men I've met in a very positive light. Hopefully this will redress the balance and I'll write about the time a man saved my life.

The majority of my adult life has been spent in relationships. I met my second partner in 2000 and on the whole we were happy together until our incompatibilities and circumstances drove us apart and we eventually split up in 2007. I haven't always spent my life going on dates from Hell. 

In June 2002 I decided I couldn't think of any birthday presents I wanted and my partner suggested he put some money towards a cheap holiday abroad. We trudged off to the travel agents and found a really cheap deal to Greece. The flights were at terrible times, we needed to get to Birmingham airport and the resort and accommodation were "allocation on arrival". All we knew is that we were going to Crete and it was cheap and three stars, which sounded good. I packed a load of paperbacks, my "Rough Guide to Greece" and was looking forward to a relaxing week of tavernas and sauntering about whitewashed Greek villages. I'd recently recovered from a bout of depression which had left me still feeling fragile and in fear of the bad days returning.

We arrived in Crete in the middle of the night and my heart sank a little when the coach dropped us in Malia, the clubbing capital of the island. We walked down the main street, which was full of drunken teenagers lurching about, and found our hotel. We were unimpressed. The hotel was over a bar and we had to shout for the elderly man at reception to hear us over the thudding bass of the music. The room looked like a depiction of a post-apocalyptic dream. There were cheap metal shutters over the patio doors, the balcony rail was constructed out of wire and string and the bathroom was very strangely laid out. The shower was actually over the toilet. I never figured that one out. The walls were made of plasterboard and were vibrating with the music from the bar. During the brief pauses in the music you could hear the couple in the next room snoring. I stepped out onto the balcony and the heat was oppressive. The view was unimpressive: a strip of bars with plastic sheeting and neon signs, people vomiting in the street and a tiny beach where people went to have sex. We managed an hour or so of fitful sleep and then went down to see the rep.

The rep was about 20 and very tanned with one of those cheese grater voices that suggest you've smoked your way through a hell of lot of Park Drives and had one or two late nights on the lash. His companion was a younger boy, who was hangover-grey beneath a tan and was intermittently running off to retch into a flowerpot. We were lucky in that we were first to get there (thanks to the alarm on my phone) and by the time we left with an upgraded hotel for an extra £50, there was a queue of disgruntled people, including two young women who were sobbing.

The new hotel was almost perfect. It was in the whitewashed Old Town. The room was airy with oversized dark wood furniture, white cotton sheets and cool floor tiles. Worryingly, it was a club 18-30 hotel. We were 31 and 35. Our room overlooked the pool where all the banana smuggling, wet t-shirt, "crazy" DJ activities took place. Classy. Some of the boys were cute though, which pleased my partner. He was quite happy to sit on the balcony in his sunglasses pretending to read. I read a lot (I may have occasionally ogled the odd particularly fine specimen, I'm not divulging). Sleeping at night would have been nice, though.

Malia Old Town was everything I'd hoped our holiday destination would be. I loved having a good peer into the open doors of the little white houses and nosing at the little old ladies in black sitting in their lace-decked lairs. I loved the town square with its promenading women and strutting boys. There was Jasmine growing everywhere and loads of cheap tavernas selling traditional Greek food. We even saw a Greek wedding at the Orthodox Church which looked lavish. Oddly, no one from the hotel seemed to venture here. I liked the fact that the place seemed so primitive and old fashioned. I was especially impressed by the butcher chopping meat with a cleaver whilst holding a smouldering cigarette in his mouth and swigging neat vodka from a bottle on the counter. The "bar street" was always packed with people from noon onwards, eating egg and chips on sweaty plastic chairs and squinting through merciless hangovers as they sampled hair of the dog.

We decided not to be snobbish about the whole thing and went for a few nights out in the bars. We both liked a drink. It was relentless. The "P.R." people on the bar fronts would stoop to anything to try and get you in to their bars, including man handling. They'd grab at you, block your path and shout to you. I hate being called "mate" at the best of times. I struck on the idea of feigning deafness and we soon found that walking along doing fake sign language to each other deterred even the most eager youth from trying their hand at getting your custom.

We settled in a bar and I must admit that a few vodkas made me feel better disposed. We got talking to a couple of sisters from London who were as horrified as I was at how rough the whole place was. It was like watching an anthropological experiment and good to find we weren't the only ones who weren't off our faces on cocktails, humping things randomly.

I think the alcohol helped as before long we tagged onto a bar crawl which was hilarious. I vaguely recall dancing on a bar counter and deciding to break dance to Run DMC. My electric boogaloo was second to none but those grazes from doing "the turtle" took some healing.

After a few days we were a bit restless as neither of us were good at sunbathing, my partner always ended up red and I ended up irritable. We hired a Smart car and took off for the mountains. I'd found an entry in my "Rough Guide" which described a fantastic monastery with a walled garden where the welcoming monks would let you look around the walled gardens and their underground chapel. We threw jeans onto the back seat, to change into for propriety's sake, and headed up the mountain. To say that the journey up was hairy is an understatement. Smart cars are not made for 45 degree inclines. Going down was easier (after the monks failed to respond to us hammering on the door) and the incline was useful as we had only a few fumes of petrol left and we had to take the brakes off and coast down.

We had a relaxing lunch and drove by Spinalonga, the leper colony described in the novel called "The Island" by Victoria Hislop. I saw a funny little sign leading to a cliff side walk and decided it would be good to follow this. It was a narrow path on the edge of a ravine with a rickety rail. We walked along, tentatively, for about a mile until we came to a cave. Entering the cave we spotted another cave ahead, oddly lit by a flickering light. We were both a bit startled to see a glass coffin with a skeleton inside and the walk back to the car was much quicker.

We decided to go to the beach. I'm not a beach lover. The sea is a bit scary and who wants sand in their crevices? It was a bit hot for a delicate English flower like me too. I hadn't remembered the rep on the coach telling us that the sea was dodgy there, as there were tidal undercurrents, but who listens to reps?

We went in the sea and walked out up to our chests. I splashed about a bit, swimming like a sickly dog, as ever. I'm not a good swimmer but there were no red flags and (perhaps more worryingly) no lifeguards. It was all fine and dandy until after about 5 minutes swimming I noticed that the perspective had changed. The beach had moved by a quarter of a mile. I tried to stand but the sea bed had gone too. Swimming back wasn't easy as the current was against me and before long both the beach and my partner were a good half mile away. The sea was getting choppy and I could feel myself being dragged out further. I was thrown about and buffeted and waves went over my head and I went under a couple of times as it dawned on me that I was about to drown. It's been theorised that drowning is a pleasant way to die but I'm not convinced. This was scary. I tried to tread water and had a quick think about whether it was worth staying alive (it was) and then felt myself go under again as huge wave hit my face.

Naturally, I didn't drown. My partner spotted me and swam out. Being 6 foot 2, broad and a better swimming he managed to drag me back in with ease.
"Fucking hell! How bloody embarrassing. Do you think anyone saw me?" I said, coughing up water.
He gave me on one of his looks and reminded me that dignity wasn't the main issue here.
"You're like David Hasselhoff!". He wasn't amused again but he had chosen to wear red shorts. It was like a particularly naff scene off Baywatch.
I staggered to where my clothes were, collapsed onto a towel and began fumbling around.
"What are you looking for?"
"A cigarette!" I spluttered and began dragging on a Marlboro Light. At this point he sat back down, resigned to his fate, being on holiday with a twat.

I forced myself to go swimming again the next day and was very flippant about the whole thing. It wasn't until a few months later that I woke up gasping from the first of many drowning dreams that I realised I'd almost died. I've not been in the sea since.

The point of this tale is to explain that I don't think all the men I've met are bad. Some are long suffering and save you from drowning. The relationships don't always work out in the end and neither of you is ever perfect but at least you stay alive.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Ramblings: Heroine Addiction

My family were a reading family. We didn't talk to each other a lot but we all read. Evenings would find us all ensconced in our separate corners of the suburban semi we lived in, buried in our books. My parents would be sitting in the lounge whilst the dog slept, listening to background music with my dad in his armchair reading a gory thriller, my mum on the settee reading a blockbuster. My brother would be on his bed reading a fantasy novel and listening to Metallica whilst I'd be sat in an armchair in my tiny box bedroom ploughing my way through a pile of thrillers.

 I started reading at an early age and have vivid memories of excitedly going to the children's library section with my mum to get out a new Dr Seuss book, aged about 3. I had a bedroom full of books and loved reading all about Milly Molly Mandy, The Famous Five and the world of Narnia. On holiday we'd all sit in the evenings with our books, which was a perfect way to keep ourselves entertained and not have to interact too much, unless it was to talk about what we were reading.

 I've always had a low boredom threshold and found television very passive and uninvolving. I like to read as I find it a complete distraction. If I'm reading the outside world recedes completely and I relax. It's probably the only time I do relax. I'm the only person ever, I think, to have been treated by a physio for a reading injury. The sporty physio was incredulous that I had a bed neck from spending hours curled up in a ball over a novel. I've always been "indoorsy" rather than "out-doorsy".

 I wasn't especially happy as a teenager and found school a bit traumatic and essentially very boring. I spent most of my time in lessons watching the clock ticking painfully slowly till the bell rang. I was also a bit lonely and isolated (see Welcome to the Dolls' house) and just wanted to meet a nice boy like myself. I spent most of my teenage years wanting to grow up faster so I could escape the monotony and the feeling of not being my own person. I later coped with this by necking lots of alcohol and smoking loads of John Player Specials, but initially I became hooked on heroines. I read my way through school at an alarming and ravenous rate. I also found it was an amazing way to get inside someone else's mind. The inner lives of people's imaginations set out on paper fascinated me.

 I walked to the library in Littleover once or twice a week. I'd also go to the school library every day and borrow books. I was on first name terms with the stern middle aged librarian with the cardigan over her shoulders. I quickly worked my way through shelves of novels. My favourite lesson of the week was one led by a slightly tipsy English teacher who always smelt faintly of whiskey. She'd tell us to sit and read for an hour whilst she patrolled the room and squinted hazily out of the window. Finally, a lesson which didn't bore the pants off me. I could read in peace for an hour with only the teacher's occasional hiccup to bother me.

 If I could get away from people, I'd slope off at lunchtime and sit in the library reading an Agatha Christie. I graduated through Dr Seuss, Enid Blyton and C.S. Lewis to Judy Blume and Robert Cormier, via Agatha Christie and Ruth Rendell to Dickens and the Brontes. I later worked my way through E.M. Forster, Felice Picano, Christopher Isherwood and Edmund White in an attempt to find out what being gay was all about.

 I'd get home from school, greet Whiskey (the cat who looked like Hitler) and retire to my bedroom. During my early teens I read every book by Agatha Christie and had reached a point where I felt my detection skills were worthy of a career in the police force. If only there were more locked room mysteries in the region, I'd have had a different career. I'd get home and breathlessly open a new book and read away. I'd have a reluctant break for dinner, where reading was banned and conversation expected, then back to my bedroom for the second half of the book. I once got into major trouble with my parents when I was caught reading "A Taste of Honey" covertly during an especially dull wedding service. I hate the fact I can't read on a moving vehicle without getting queasy. Car journeys always felt like wasted reading time.

 By the time I left home, I had hundreds of books which all travelled with me from run down flats, to cheap rented houses. By my mid twenties they were threatening to take over the house and I had to part with a thousand or more books. I fetishised books and still do, loving their texture and smell. Had there been a house fire I'd have grabbed my books before waking my boyfriend (mind you, he was a bit of a twat). They always represented a shelf full of memories and were almost friends. The natural choice of career was one to do with books, but I messed that up by running off with an older man and jacking in my studies but that's a whole other story.

 In 2004, I went temporarily blind in one eye which was horrific and scary. I still managed to read by means of a lot of squinting and using a ruler under the words and thankfully my sight was back in a month. My ex partners were often horrified by how much of our luggage allowance I took up on holiday with books. How can you go away for a week without at least 7 paperback books? I think a Kindle may be the answer to that one.

 I still read voraciously. I get through, on average, two books a week. I'm definitely hooked on heroines and heroes. You can keep the television. I can cope without Noel Edmonds, Alan Sugar and relentless reality dramas. Just don't confiscate my library card.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Poems: One Art

Another poem that I love. Not quite Pam Ayres standard but it's got me through a few tricky patches.

One Art

by Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster,

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three beloved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

-- Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) a disaster.

Ramblings: Interruptions

I'm not sure if everyone will have guessed why I called the blog "Boy, Interrupted" so let me explain. It's after one of my favourite films, "Girl, Interrupted" from 1999 starring the fantastic Winona Ryder. There was a sheer feat of brilliance here in the casting. They cast mad actresses in a film about mad people and it worked a treat. You can't get much crazier than Angelina Jolie, Winona and the late Brittany Murphy. They played deranged with a touch of genius. It's a moving film but is also quite uplifting and funny in parts too.

I've always been drawn to the darker side of life, especially when it's depicted in art, films or books. As Chekov said "'All happy families are alike. Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way'. Happiness is a bit dull to watch. It's so samey. Madness and despair are much more interesting to watch, unless it's your own in the mirror. Some of my best friends, well most of my friends, tend towards a little light madness now and then. I've had the odd "interruption" in my life too, from time to time.

Ramblings: The Kitler

One of my earliest memories is the arrival of Whiskey, the cat. It was 1974 and I was three years old. Me and my brother, Steven, were watching television in the lounge when the door swung open to reveal the imposing figure of my father (he was short but I was shorter, aged three) returning from his allotment. He and my mum had a large allotment and grew all their own produce, a complete nightmare for a vegetable hating child. He had a twinkle in his eye behind his heavy 70's glasses and he pulled back the oversized lapel of his sheepskin coat. A tiny head appeared from his pocket. It was a black and white face with a flicked hairstyle and a Hitler moustache. It was my first sight of Whiskey, the original cat who looked like Hitler. A beautiful friendship began.

Whiskey was drafted in to deal with a mouse problem and luckily, unlike Hitler, he didn't only kill Jewish, disabled or gay mice. He was indiscriminate. He just liked, to kill, maim or injure. Our boxer dog, Benny, would have testified to that. He was ruled with a rod of iron.

Whiskey was a very grumpy cat right from kittenhood. He didn't like people at all, except for me. The nicer people were to Whiskey the more disgruntled he was. He hated to be stroked, wouldn't be picked up and would never sit on anyone's lap. Oddly he formed a bond with an impish three year old who liked to pick him up by the feet, throw him over his shoulder and cart him around the house. Whiskey was often to be seen draped around my neck like a stole, looking slightly peeved at the indignity of it all but tolerating it nonetheless. Things got worse for him.

One of my favourite games of the 1970s was "single mum". My teddy, Snowdrop, had her own family allowance book for her son, Timothy and was a member of the Gingerbread Club for one parent families. Whiskey became my bastard love child. I was the single mum. I improvised a push chair out of a children's wheelbarrow and he'd patiently sit still with his rattle as I pushed him round to the post office to claim his benefits.

As I got older I developed an enquiring mind and decided to conduct experiments on the cat. Nothing too sinister, I just wanted to test the theory that a cat always lands on his feet. I constructed a set up whereby I'd sneak up on Whiskey, grab him by his feet and drop him from a variety of heights, back first, onto a settee cushion. I recorded the measurements on a chart. He didn't seem to like this and I had to leave a gap of a few days between each attempt. He could move fast at times. I was often to be found sporting bandages to my hands and arms. I loved a bandage.

Another favourite game of ours was "Mousetrap". I loved the game, especially the bit at the end where the little cage fell on the mice. I nominated Whiskey as chief mouse and attached a piece of string to a laundry basket and the pursuit would begin. He always forgave me.

He vented his spleen on Benny. Being a boxer dog, Benny had the standard issue protruding scrotal sack which bounced along as he walked. This was a very tempting target for a Nazi cat. Whiskey would hide in the shrubbery and pounce on the offending ball bag, often drawing blood and always occasioning a loud yelp and a rapid scuttle away. Benny was, quite rightly, in awe of the power of the furry Fuhrer. When Whiskey was feeling a little more kind he would wash Benny's ears. With one paw on his snout, he'd hold down the poor dog and lick his ears clean. If he was feeling especially kind he'd lick the dog's testicles for him too. Benny didn't seem to mind.

Come bed time Whiskey would follow me up to bed and lie on my bed. He'd brace his back against the wall and try as hard as he could to push me out of the way. The bed was rightfully his. Given that there were a lot of synthetic fibres about at this time, I often slipped towards the edge of the bed.

During the late 70's Whiskey was hit by a Mini Cooper outside our house. There was an almighty shriek and a screech. Me and my Dad ran out to see tufts of fur floating in the air and an ashen faced driver looking shocked. There was no cat to be seen. He'd run for it. One week later he still hadn't returned.

"I think he's dead, son." My Dad said, with his usual tact. I was devastated. Another week passed and I still wasn't getting used to the cat shaped gap on my bed.

"He's definitely dead, son. He'll have crawled off somewhere to die. Sorry."

A few days later there was a scratching at the door and standing on three good legs and one twisted one, was Whiskey. We carted him off to the vets. He'd broken one of his back legs and it had reset itself. Whiskey was alive and kicking and not deterred by a twisted leg. To be honest, what better accessory for a sinister embittered cat than a mysterious limp?

Whiskey lived till he was about 16. He finally succumbed to renal failure and developed a series of nasty boils all over his face and neck. He was covered in pustules. We bundled him up into a blanket, like a mummified skittle and wrestled him into Fifi, my Mum's Fiat 500. His claws of power were restrained and just his head poked out of the top of the blanket. He let out a loud keening "Seig Meow" which almost deafened us and he kept this up all the way to the vets. As we stopped at some traffic lights Whiskey exploded. My Mum turned to me with a look of horror. There was pussy cat pus covering her face and her spectacles. I swear he had a look of satisfaction on his face. If a cat could have laughed he would have done. We sold the car not long after that, after a dousing with Zoflora. The smell was permanent but could be masked for an unsuspecting buyer.

As a testament to Whiskey, I posted a picture of him on He very quickly rose to number 3 in the Kitler parade. The Kitler community is very competitive though and he soon dropped out of the top ten and inferior Hitler look-alikes took his place in the charts due to tactical voting. He's currently hovering at number 56, which smacks of injustice to me. The cads. Some of those cats are more like Stalin, Tom Selleck or the leather clad one from the Village People. I'm sure he was the most Hitler like cat that ever lived. If he had had thumbs he would have been busily making lampshades out of Semitic mice. Long live Whiskey the original and best cat that looked like Hitler.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Poems: Bloody Men

I love Wendy Cope. She's a national treasure and an inspired and funny poet. I was lucky enough to see her speak last year and to have a brief chat with her as she signed some books for me. This poem makes me laugh but not as much as Clare Pollard's tribute to it.

Bloody men by Wendy Cope
Bloody men are like bloody buses -
You wait for about a year
And as soon as one approaches your stop
Two or three others appear.
You look at them flashing their indicators,
Offering you a ride.
You're trying to read the destination,
You haven't much time to decide.
If you make a mistake, there is no turning back.
Jump off, and you'll stand there and gaze
While the cars and the taxis and lorries go by
And the minutes, the hours, the days.

(after Wendy Cope)
Bloody men are like bloody cigarettes–
A habit you swear to crack,
Then you find you’ve snuck out of the office
To suck one off round the back

Ramblings: Welcome to the Dolls’ House

I mentioned in my post called "The C Word" that there are a series of questions people often ask me. In the spirit of over sharing (which I may have invented) I'll answer another one. When did I realise I realise I was gay and have I ever slept with a girl?

 I suppose I always knew I was a bit different from most of the other boys at school. I was the only boy who had a dolls' house. I was the only one who when asked what he wanted to be when he grew up answered "Wonder Woman" and I think I was the only boy in Primary School who had a desperate urge to sit on the afro clad guitar playing teacher's lap. He had lovely denim flares.

This wasn't a source of joy to me and being different wasn't easy in an inner city junior school. If there's one sure fire way to gain disapproval from your parents it's to ask for a Girl's World for Christmas. I had a lot of untouched Meccano, Hornby and Scalextric. If there's one way to gain disapproval from your peers aged 6 it's to be completely crap at football and to want to spend all the playtimes with the girls playing shops. I thought maybe there had been a mistake and I should have been a girl and that perhaps one day I'd wake up female. I soon came to realise that actually, I had no desire to be a girl and wanted to keep my boy bits and couldn't be doing with all that palaver that girls have to put up with like make up and hair. I just wanted to be a boy who didn't have to put up with all the palaver that boys have to put up with e.g. understanding cricket, being able to fight and kissing girls.

 When I started at senior school it became more evident. The proximity of older children bought it home that I was indeed very different. They soon managed to point out that I was indeed a "poof" and I was glad to have a name for it. Poof was only one of the many names I soon learnt applied to me. Luckily for me there were 4 of us and I had 3 other gay companions in the class to keep me company. There's safety in numbers when there's missiles. I proved quite popular among some of the girls and had a coterie of female friends who would act as body guards.

 I remember one memorable occasion when aged 14 a boy called me "Gaylord" and tried to trip me over. My stern female friend punched him in the face whilst I swiped at him effetely with my bag. He didn't try it again.

 Once the hormones kicked in I realised I was indeed gay and fancied men with a mad yearning. I really wanted a boyfriend but the idea seemed remote. Although there were 3 other gay lads in my class I didn't fancy them at all. Damn those minority statistics!

 I got offered sex aged 13 by a straight boy in my class. He was very spoilt and had a Walkman and everything so I loved to spend time with him. He also had two things which attracted me very much: easy access to booze and cigarettes. We used to sit in the bushes on the park smoking until we vomited and sipping whiskey, also till we vomited. It was mighty fine. One day the subject turned to masturbation and he initiated a conversation about how much he liked to play with his penis. I was a little shocked. I was a prudish boy. He then went on to ponder on how nice it would be if there was someone who'd play with your cock for you and boldly suggested I might like to have a go and if I liked it might I consider putting it in my mouth. I was horrified and grabbing a handful of his ciggies and a couple of miniatures of whiskey, I legged it home. I later regretted this. He was quite hot and never spoke to me again. Missed chances and no more free cigarettes.

I did decide to investigate gay "porn". I took a deep breath and thanks to me being a tall 15 year old, managed to purchase a gay magazine from a newsagent in the market hall, called "Him!". It being the 1980s, it was barely porn. You'd probably get saucier pictures in Woman's Weekly these days. It featured lots of men standing naked with their flaccid penises on show. Very daring. I rememebr feeling mortified buying it and dying inside a little when the imposing woman in the shop sucked her teeth in disapproval and looked me up and down.

Gay became a hot subject in the 1980s thanks to the gender bending antics of Boy George and others and the emergence of a handful of openly gay pop stars. Mrs Thatcher bought the subject into the open too but not in a good way. Section 28 did no one any favours. I crammed in as much knowledge of what it was all about by clocking as many gay films and books as I could. I sneaked gay novels out of the library and watched a few gay films covertly by shuffling into the cinema, underage. I listened to Bronski Beat, Soft Cell and Erasure in secret on my cheap Sanyo imitation Walkman. I loved reading Edmund White, Felice Picano and Armistead Maupin. I avidly watched "Prick Up Your Ears", "My Beautiful Launderette" and "Maurice". I learnt a lot. I studied "gay" instead of the things like geography and history which seemed so dull in comparison. I quickly began to realise it was all quite normal really, in spite of what my parents, a few of the less progressive of the teachers and some of the boys at school said.

I told my friends I was gay when I was about 15 and to be honest, apart from the hideous sport lessons (more of that later), school life was pretty bearable. I didn't tell my parents till I was 17. I think they may have guessed though. Maybe the dolls' house had given them a warning shot.

As for the second part of the question (have you ever slept with a girl?), I'll tell you a little story. Aged 28 and in a bit of turmoil over whether to take the bold step of leaving my partner of 12 years, I stupidly suspended my cynicism and went to see a fortune teller. She was grim, totally hapless. Towards the end of a very embarrassing hour as she stumbled over a lot of "cold readings" and got everything wrong, she made the final mistake.
"I know you're gay, love but have you ever slept with a girl? I'm sorry for asking but there's a dead baby hovering over your shoulder and I think it might be yours."
"It's not mine." I replied. "Tell it to piss off."
She gave up on me at that point and I left.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Poems: For the World Weary

I always thought poetry was inaccesible and not for me. School book readings of Hardy and Donne put me off and I didn't really get into poetry again till my mid thirties. I thought I'd share a poem that I think almost everyone can relate to by the fantastic Orange prize winning novelist, Helen Dunmore.

When You've Got by Helen Dunmore

When you’ve got the plan of your life
matched to the time it will take
but you just want to press SHIFT / BREAK
and print over and over
this is not what I was after
this is not what I was after.

When you’ve finally stripped out the house
with its iron-cold fireplace,
its mouldings, its mortgage,
its single-skin walls
but you want to write in the plaster
“This is not what I was after.”

When you’ve got the rainbow-clad baby
in his state-of-the-art pushchair
but he arches his back at you
and pulps his Activity Centre
and you just want to whisper
“This is not what I was after.”

When the vacuum seethes and whines in the lounge
and the waste-disposal unit blows,
when tenners settle in your account
like snow hitting a stove,
when you get a chat from your spouse
about marriage and personal growth,
when a wino comes to sleep in your porch
on your Citizen’s Charter
and you know a hostel’s opening soon
but your headache’s closer
and you really just want to torch
the bundle of rags and newspaper
and you’ll say to the newspaper
“This is not what we were after,
this is not what we were after.”

From ‘101 Poems That Could Save Your Life’, D. Goodwin (ed), 2003.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Ramblings: The Lady with the Lump

This could be a tricky one: how to write a positive post about being a nurse? I'm willing to give it a go. I've read the policy at work about posting on social networking and I'm not going to breach it by talking about individual issues with patients or my employer as I actually quite like my job and wouldn't really want to lose it. So here goes...

I became a nurse totally by accident. I originally planned to go to University to study English Literature (or polytechnic, if I'm brutally honest, as I'd had to drop an A level after months of sick time with glandular fever aged 16) but I flunked my remaining two A levels by making the mature and sensible decision aged 17 to knock about with a much older man and not do any studying. Bang went the ideas in my head of a literary career in journalism or publishing. In reality I'd have been teaching English in a inner City comprehensive by now and dodging missiles and shouts of "Hey Mr Poofter!"

I ended up leaving home at age 17 and by 18 was living in a seedy bedsit with a 41 year old alcoholic and working in a Woolworth's toy shop. There were benefits to this job (I got paid, had a free electric blue sweatshirt and stole a lot of Pic n' Mix) but it bored me senseless and by age 20 I was as miserable as sin. I tried going to night classes to re-sit my A Levels but couldn't summon up the enthusiasm.

Living with my ex was always a bit hairy and he had a violent temper and was more often out of work than in. His erratic nature and problem drinking meant he'd fly off the handle at anything and walk out on good jobs and then eventually use his charm to get another good job and lose that too in time. It was a perpetual cycle and we often only had my modest shop assistant's income and I needed cigarettes, alcohol, books and food (in that order). I didn't feel I could live on a grant as I needed to support us both, so my ideas of going to Uni seemed very remote. I know the obvious question is why I didn't just leave him but that's a whole other story (which I may well share later). So I had a re-think.

I went to the local career's office in 1992 and was thinking about social work or probation work and the woman steered me towards nursing. I contemplated the idea but decided it was madness. I'm rubbish with my hands, impatient and don't like the general public much. Why would I want to be a nurse? I didn't even like Casualty on TV and was quite squeamish. Hmmm....the training looked quite light academically and you got paid! The salary was almost what I was paid at Woolworths and I thought it would be good to fulfil a stereotype and be a gay male nurse. It's what's expected. I don't like hair, arranging flowers or flying so that's the other gay jobs out.

After mulling the idea over for about two minutes, I did my usual thing and applied impulsively with not much thought and forgot about it. I got a letter a few weeks later inviting me for an interview, got in on a drop out place and started three weeks later. I didn't even have time to think about it.

I totally loved my training from the outset apart from the dull bits in college and the 9 weeks spent in the operating theatres (I couldn't get excited about standing up all day and opening the odd packet). I loved being on the wards and couldn't get over the intense connection you can get with people when you nurse them in severe illness or dire straits. I found the job funny (I have hundreds of anecdotes about comical things people have said which amuse me) but not in a cruel way. There's a certain black humour in medicine and nursing which is necessary, I think, but never sadistic or disrespectful.

I always liked the mayhem and the satisfaction in bringing order to chaos. There's nothing more satisfying than making someone more comfortable and even if you can't make the person better you can make them feel better, even if it's only in the tiniest way. Giving a little old man a shave and a nice wash and having him look better after a feverish night is a genuine pleasure. In nursing no two jobs are ever the same and my butterfly mind was instantly attracted by the stimulation of a job where no two days are ever the same and the time flies by every day (except when you're opening packets and standing around in scrubs).

I've also loved all my jobs from working on general medicine and oncology as a staff nurse through to my time on gastroenterology and hepatology as a charge nurse and ward manager to my present job as a palliative care nurse specialist. I'm not sure these jobs have always loved me back in the same way. Getting my degree in (mostly) my spare time wasn't such fun either but I did it and it was worth it.

There's something about the camaraderie amongst nurses too. There's nothing like an arduous night shift to bond you with your colleagues. It's not easy to remain aloof with each other after a grisly cardiac arrest or a nasty exsanguination. Some of my best friends are current or ex colleagues which is fantastic.

Naturally there are negative sides to any job and I must admit that there are a lot of things I've seen in the past 18 years that I wish I hadn't. Nursing is a high stress job and I certainly haven't come through unscathed and I could have done without having quite so much lobbed at me during my days on hepatology but you take the rough with the smooth. Naturally, we should be treated better, paid more etc. I'm not going to comment on all that now as this is a post about the positive side to nursing.

I sometimes think (pointlessly, as you can't change the past), if I'd have been happier had I gone to Uni and studied English Literature and never become a nurse. I'm not sure I would really. For all the frustrations, aggravations and abuse I think that even if I'd known what I know now aged 20, I'd still go back and do my training again.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Ramblings: The C Word

There tend to be questions that I often get asked which amuse me and being the person who invented over-sharing I may answer a few on here.
The commonest questions are:
1) When did you know you were gay?
2) Why don't you eat meat?
3) Why don't you drink alcohol? Sometimes followed by...Oh, are you an alcoholic then?
4) Why do you hate Christmas so much?
5) Doesn't your job depress you?

I've decided to address the one I get the most stick over. No. being gay but Christmas. Apparently it's not allowed to dislike it and to not celebrate makes you mean and grumpy. There's even special words for it like Scrooge and Grinch (I hate you Dr Seuss and Charlie Dickens for that). I'm not mean but am a bit grumpy at times. It's kind of odd that in a country peopled predominantly with atheists and agnostics we get so hung up over a Christian festival.

One question I'd ask is what's in Christmas for me? I'm a childless atheist, who doesn't like over eating, am not too struck on the whole family togetherness thing, I don't drink or eat chocolate and I don't like shiny sparkly things. I work as a nurse, so time off and having a holiday doesn't come into it. As for presents, I have a lot of stuff already and call me ungrateful but the whole I'd rather choose my own stuff. That's not to say I haven't received some great presents over the years but generally, I know my own tastes a lot better than you. Personally I'd rather you buy me a present spontaneously and not just because it's December and someone else's birthday. The whole present thing is rampant consumerism gone mad with a lot of debt being accrued for essentially worthless stuff. I think the term greed-fest may be a better term for Christmas as a lot of it now seems to be about avarice.

Christmas decorations? I love my house, it's clean and uncluttered. I don't want festoons and tinsel. Yuck.  Christmas meals out? Don't even get me started on the crap they mass produce and peddle in December. Christmas songs? Come on...Slade, Wham and Wizzard? They were always shit. We don't need them reviving annually.

I think people assume I've had a lot of bad Christmas experiences but that's not the case. The time my gran had her leg chopped off on Boxing Day wasn't the best but hey ho... The time I had flu, the time my ex partner,  and I decided we'd spend a final Christmas Day together as we were about to split up (was I on crack at the time) and he got pissed and smacked me one with the tree wasn't so hot either but we live and learn. At least the fairy lights were off or it could have been nasty. I did get dumped by a bloke I'd been seeing for 4 months at 6pm on Christmas Eve in 2009 but hey ho...turned out he wasn't quite the gentleman he'd been purporting to be and although his timing was bad, in the long run he was certainly no loss.

My main beef with the whole thing is why I can't make the choice to avoid it. From the first cards appearing in the shops in August to the saturation of all media and being the main subject of conversation everywhere, it's unavoidable. I've tried, believe me. Sadder still is the people who are lonely, sick, bereaved etc who are having all that fake stuff about how everyone else is having a fantastic time rubbed in their faces. Try being a nurse at Christmas. If your parent or partner is ill then it magnifies your misery.

I actually gave up smoking one year for 9 months and started again on Boxing Day one year as it was driving me so excuse, I know. That was a mad thing to do.

I will confess to two things I like about it...The Waitresses singing Christmas Wrapping and the Tim Burton film, The Nightmare Before Christmas but even so, I'll be turning off my tv and radio, avoiding shops and restaurants and spending no money at all. Last year I took the oppurtunity to spend two days catching up on chores and reading in bed. It was bliss. I'll be the one in January going on jaunts with all the cash I've saved avoiding the tackiness whilst you lot wonder why you bothered with it all again and what that was all about.

(Disclaimer: anyone calling me the Grinch can go fuck themselves)