Monday, 28 May 2012

Poems: How to Get on in Society

I am endlessly amused by social class. It's what makes Britain great. I love amusing petty snobbery, bizarre rules that make no sense and can never be understood and creaky old traditions. I especially love the Nancy Mitford rules of what is U or Non-U. Nancy wrote a guide explaining which words were utterly unacceptable and gauche and should never be used in Upper Class circles. Apparently, saying "toilet" is pretty much akin to saying the C word in some quarters of society. Marvellous. Paul found me this funny poem which mentions the worst word you could say: serviette. I shudder at the thought.

How to Get on in Society

by John Betjeman

Phone for the fish knives, Norman
As cook is a little unnerved;
You kiddies have crumpled the serviettes
And I must have things daintily served.

Are the requisites all in the toilet?
The frills round the cutlets can wait
Till the girl has replenished the cruets
And switched on the logs in the grate.

It's ever so close in the lounge dear,
But the vestibule's comfy for tea
And Howard is riding on horseback
So do come and take some with me

Now here is a fork for your pastries
And do use the couch for your feet;
I know that I wanted to ask you-
Is trifle sufficient for sweet?

Milk and then just as it comes dear?
I'm afraid the preserve's full of stones;
Beg pardon, I'm soiling the doileys
With afternoon tea-cakes and scones.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Ramblings: ...and the Living is Easy

It’s officially Summer here in England. It’s been moderately warm for two days after a long period of heavy rain. I’ve downgraded my duvet, sneezed a lot and had a few sticky areas. Every year I forget that I get hay fever until the first sneezing fit.

I always imagine that summer will bring out topless toned studs and beautiful people but sadly it doesn’t. The only topless men wandering around are generally puny chav boys from the local council estate who walk around in nylon tracksuits with their concave white chests and odd coloured nipples on show.

The joys of public transport are suddenly less pronounced. I’m not sure quite how people can smell so bad after two days of heat but somehow they manage it. There are some hideous sights too. Rolls of back fat break free from too-tight tops, yellow gnarled toe nails inch towards the sunlight from grubby sandals and lurid colours abound. Livid sunburn makes my eyes want to shout “Ouch!” There are many people who are better hidden behind bulky coats.

There are good things too, of course. People seem happier, the city looks a bit less dreary and indolence is celebrated. I can freely lounge on the sofa with not a twinge of guilt. It’s too hot to move so reading a book is the only option.

I didn’t relish summertime too much as a child. It meant swollen eyes, a runny nose and a general encouragement to leave my books behind and venture outside and do things. None of these things seemed good. I burn just thinking about the sun. I had ridiculously fair skin and white hair and once ended up hospitalised for a week with sun burn and blisters. I used to get terrible headaches when we went on interminable family fishing trips on hot days and I hated wearing the cap my mother presented me with. This was probably because, coupled with my emaciated frame and pale skin, it made me look I was on chemotherapy and I noted the pitying glances that I received.

I cope with summer now that I’m an adult. Like most British people I like to complain about the weather. It’s our national hobby. I see it for what it is though, now. It’s a transient season that passes all too quickly as life revs up faster and faster the older I get. I try to enjoy it.

Poems: Atlas

I came across this poem the other day when it was mentioned in a novel I was reading. Absolutely love it. It appeals to my unconventional sense of romance.


by U.A. Fanthorpe

There is a kind of love called maintenance
Which stores the WD40 and knows when to use it
Which checks the insurance, and doesn’t forget
The milkman; which remembers to plant bulbs;
Which answers letters; which knows the way
The money goes; which deals with dentists
And Road Fund Tax and meeting trains,
And postcards to the lonely; which upholds
The permanently rickety elaborate
Structures of living, which is Atlas.
And maintenance is the sensible side of love,
Which knows what time and weather are doing
To my brickwork; insulates my faulty wiring;
Laughs at my dryrotten jokes; remembers
My need for gloss and grouting; which keeps
My suspect edifice upright in air,
As Atlas did the sky.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Ramblings: Laughter Track

I’ve long had the capacity to make myself laugh and although some may see it as a sign of madness, I see it as an amazing bonus that brightens up the dreariest of days.

Random words amuse me. I can be sitting on the bus and think of a word such as “flange” or “petard” maybe and a little smile crosses my face. There’s so much to see around you that will just lift your spirits. One glimpse of the name of the international haulage company, Norbert Desstrangle and I’m more than happy. That must be the best name ever. Surely that’s only been painted onto the side of lorries to make us all happy? It can’t be a real name.

I have those days when amusing things take my fancy. There are days when everywhere I look I see the most hilarious teeth. Over bleached white full sets of perfect teeth make me want to giggle at their hideous absurdity. I especially love those teeth that make the bearer of them look like a vicar from a 1970s sit-com or like they’re breaking in a set of dentures for a horse. I absolutely love a set of protruding teeth. As for an orange fake tan or a lady mullet: I’m uncontrollable if I see a bad one.

Young people make me laugh. I love their youthful swagger and their absurd clothing trends. I love to see them limping through snow and ice in inappropriate grimy canvas shoes, trying manfully to keep their trousers from falling from pre-buttock level to ankle level. I love a crazy hairstyle too. Those young boys who have dramatically swept over partings glued into place, looking like trainee talent show singing contestants, always amuse me. Goths make me laugh with their ultra serious posturing which must be so hard to maintain.

Posh people make me titter. I love a snooty lady who lunches with her ridiculous garb and dismissive attitudes. Old people make me laugh with their crotchety ways and their multiple layers of clothing. Really rough women make me laugh with their bad dye jobs and scraped back hair. Everyone makes me laugh.

I often got asked to leave classes at school because of uncontrolled giggling. Friends took advantage of my tendency to be unable to stop laughing and would pass me notes, flash comical pictures at me or whisper one word. It didn’t take much. My parents’ anger always made me laugh and often earned me extra punishment. People who are angry make me roar with laughter. I don’t know if it’s a nervous reaction or just the fact that they look so ridiculous. Public occasions make me chortle. I’ve tittered my way through prize giving speeches, weddings, funerals, lectures, plays and job interviews.

The fact that Michael Jackson existed makes me howl. Who could have made that one up? Too ridiculous for words. The eighties make me laugh. How could that hideous decade of bad taste ever have existed? Songs make me laugh. I cry with laughter at “Up, Up and Away in My Beautiful Balloon”. The name Englebert Humperdinck makes me laugh as does the fact that Princess Anne belonged to his fan club, the Humperdinckers. Princess Anne makes me laugh. I only have to think of her wedding photos to raise a smile.

I know it’s cruel to laugh at others but all I can say is that I take my greatest amusement in myself. I never laugh so much as at my own mishaps. I laugh when I get on escalators the wrong way, stumble up steps, make malapropisms or spoonerisms. I laugh at my own image in shop windows. My own face amuses me endlessly. I have such a comical nose. I’m not elitist about who I laugh at in the slightest.

Ask me on a black day though. If my mood is bad and I’m wearing my brown tinted spectacles then it’s quite the opposite. I’ll tell you about the tragedy and pain I see in everything. Fortunately today isn’t one of those days. I’ll embrace the fact that today is a laughing day. If you hear an annoying tittering in the background it’s probably me.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Ramblings: Links You'll Like

One thing that really helped me when I was experiencing depression was gaining information. I’ve always been a person who likes to know stuff and I stand by the saying “Knowledge is power” I know the internet is a scary place and that not all the stuff contained here is reliable when it comes to factual accuracy so I though I’d post a few links which I’ve found useful. I also advocate learning as much as you can about what’s wrong and what’s available to help (if you’re well enough to do that). I hate the thought of people being in the dark about what’s out there and suffering in silence.

1) This is a great website written by a bloke from New Zealand who’s a filmmaker, journalist and songwriter and happens to have experienced bipolar. He writes very eloquently about mental health issues and is very informative with a slant towards issues which particularly affect gay and bisexual men and the site is updated regularly and carefully. He’s also got a razor sharp wit.

2) This website is packed with information about mental health disorders and also links to a telephone and email helpline which can be invaluable for anyone in crisis. They run some great campaigns too and feature forums and blogs (including a blog post by me!) too.

3) This relatively new website was founded by the amazing Ruby Wax. I love the fact that Ruby has taken on the concept of knowledge being power to such an extent. She’s now making major inroads into serious academic study and promotes her knowledge through her performances and through this brilliant website. If you get to see her show “Losing It” then do. It’s fantastic. Her work in promoting the cause of mental health is inspiring. This site has got so much stuff on offer including forums, blogs, information pages and regularly updated articles (oh and a blog post by me!)

4) One of the original and best websites which is packed with information and links. Mind run some superb campaigns too and I’m all for fighting the corner when it comes to mental health issues (oh and there’s a blog post by me!)

5) love this campaign site which advocates ending mental health discrimination by talking more about mental health (it doesn’t contain a blog post by me yet but I’m working on it)

One of the most useful things for me when I was severely ill was to be in contact with other people who understood what was happening too. Mental illness is horrific at times and can be very isolating and terrifying. I met some inspirational people over the internet via sites like Blackdogtribe, who helped me enormously.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Ramblings:The Olympic Shames

I have to say it. I am less than thrilled at the prospect of the Olympic Games. I struggle to understand most sport and what the appeal of either playing it or (even more mysteriously) watching it is. I can never follow the storyline, the characterisation is dull and it’s often done outdoors in a draft. There are so many weird mysteries: why listen to sport on the radio? Isn’t it a very visual thing? Why do people get all jingoistic and over excited? What’s with all the sudden bursts of over blown nationalism?

I’ve always hated sport. I hate the drone of the crowd with its menacing undertones of future violence and aggression. I hate the incomprehensible rules. I can’t even stand to be in a bar or room where sport is playing. If I’m in a taxi where the driver has sport on the radio I have to grit my teeth as the sound of it puts them on edge.

So the Olympics? I love men’s gymnastics and diving as much as the next slightly perverted gay man but apart from the prospect of men in trunks I fail to see the point of it all. I’m not sure why I’m supposed to care if a burly Finnish woman can throw a spear further than a burly Russian woman. I don’t care and can’t understand the relevance of it all. Is it that important in 21st century society who can run the fastest? We have cars and stuff. The trains aren’t bad either and you can read when you’re on them.

I totally hate Lycra. 0.001% of the population look good in Lycra. The TV schedules will be stuffed to the rafters with tedious hours of people standing about, running for a few minutes and all the time a man will waffle on abut inconsequential crap. The streets of London will be a no go area and I for one won’t be planning any theatre or gallery trips this summer. I’ll steer well clear.

And the sponsors of the Olympics? Sweet and fast food manufacturers. It’s about as appropriate as Gary Glitter endorsing a new nursery or Rose West extolling family values. As for the Olympics, there's something so dated about it all. It makes me think of the 1970s.

Thank goodness I have such a good collection of books. I can hopefully avoid it all. Well, I could avoid it if it wasn’t already being mentioned every 30 seconds on every form of media. Oh well. Perhaps I’ll hold my own mini-Olympics at home. Anyone up for taking me on in the Benson and Hedges world smoking fume off? How about the Cluedo Championship? If all else fails I can at least hope for a high ranking in the Yahtzee event.