I know I’m jumping into this debate a bit late, but last week it was announced that the city of culture for 2017 would be Hull. I lived there for a couple of years towards the end of the 20th century, and I refute the usual sneering from Brian Sewell types who claim that there is no culture outside of London, because they can’t be arsed to buy a railcard.
Hull is a strange place which keeps itself to itself. It is not the life and soul of the party, but while London, is telling anecdotes loudly in the middle of the room, Liverpool is getting a bit emotional in the kitchen and Manchester is making a giant bong in the bathroom (Birmingham hasn’t even been invited), Hull will be quietly hugging their pint and wishing they’d stayed at home.
I’m surprised Hull even went in for the title. It’s not like them to draw attention to themselves. Not shy or timid, it’s just that Hull doesn’t really care what the rest of the country thinks about them. They don’t need the approbation of other cities; they’re not ‘joiners’.
Hull has lots of things about it which make it unique; cream phone boxes; chip salt; the second most bombed city in the blitz; the impressive Humber Bridge, but tends not to go on about stuff like this. Not like Milton Keynes, give them a couple of cement cows and they’ll never let you forget about it. Hull doesn’t even bother pointing out that everyone’s getting its name wrong (Kingston upon Hull).
It’s the adopted home of Phillip Larkin, Stevie Smith was born there as was J Arthur Rank. They have the Hull Truck, The Beautiful South/Housemartins/Fat Boy Slim. Hullensians William Wilberforce abolished slavery and Amy Johnson flew the world.
This isn’t to say that the city is misunderstood, and is actually a playground of artists and poets. It is undeniably as rough as hell too. When I got the bus from the station, the next stop along was for the bus to Bransholme. The queue was half Crimewatch, half X Factor and all chav. Jeremy Kyle could save a fortune in researchers simply by hijacking the no 10 when he’s running low on material. There’s a month worth of shows in every one.
When I was there, there were some, probably apocryphal, stories about a spate of hammer attacks by locals on students. Perhaps their use of tools could be considered an evolutionary development, but probably not. Admittedly I was a student some time ago, but living in Hull then you did feel like something could kick off at any moment. Not in the ‘air of excitement’ sense, moreover that was part of everyday life, your bike gets nicked, your mate gets beaten up, it happens, nothing to make a fuss about. You quickly stop worrying about it.
Owing to its geography Hull is at the end of the line, and it can really feel like that sometimes, especially when you’re hit with the smell of the chocolate factory. You’d have thought a chocolate factory would smell sweet, but it doesn’t. It’s an acrid smell, like the burning hair of an oompa loompa.
Larkin said about Hull, ‘It is a little on the edge of things.’ and it is this stand-offishness which makes me look forward to it being the city of culture 2017. I can imagine Hull inviting visitors, to their museums, tourist attractions and festivals, and when the year is done, saying ‘You can all fuck off now.’ and quietly closing the door.
Yesterday I prised a dead rat from the chicken coop. Not ‘prized’. I did not go round showing everyone, saying, “Check out my great dead rat, how cool is this?”
No sadly, by ‘prised’ I mean pulled at its little legs and wiggled its limp body until it came unstuck from the position in which it had expired, wedged in the hole it had gnawed in the floor of the coop.
It was a fairly delicate operation as I really didn’t want to up the gross out factor by ripping off its back legs with overzealous pulling, so I was taking my time and trying to think of other things.
I did actually feel quite sorry for the greedy little bastard, whose gluttony meant that the hole he had created before he feasted on chicken feed, was not sufficient for him to squeeze his fat little belly through on the return trip. Trapped, he was doomed to accept his fate, probably contemplating how he really shouldn’t have gone back for thirds.
I’m pretty sure that’s how I’m going to go. Maybe not that exact scenario (not ruling it out mind), but some variation on the Elvis death theme, killed by my own gluttony. I predict I’ll probably take a fatal tumble reaching for the biscuit tin, or possibly go up in flames in a tragic vodka/fondue accident.
I’m pretty sure I’ll only have myself to blame. Bit like the rat situation. The fella’s only here because I decided it’d be lovely to have chickens. The rat would probably have been in the vicinity anyway, but it wouldn’t have died embedded in my chicken coup, thereby making it my problem to clear him away. Had he lived, he could have sued me. Probably would have, rats are notoriously litigious.
Meanwhile ratty was proving a bit hard to budge, giving me plenty of time to contemplate every meaning of the word ‘disgust’*.
Like how parenthood can temporarily numb your disgust sensors, making you capable of cleaning up another human being’s faeces/vomit/snot without a second thought.
This reminded me of a housemate who was disgusted by pretty much everything around her, she conveniently couldn’t face dirty dishes or hair in the plug hole. However her overactive gag reflex didn’t seem to stop her liberally providing blow jobs to any fella who bought her a bag of chips. When she eventually started working in an old people’s home, I was amazed that she didn’t have a problem bathing, changing and generally cleaning up after old bodies. But it seems that disgust can be a luxury one can dispense with when you just have to get on with it because no one else is going to do it for you (or you really want some chips).
Is disgust a luxury, like chocolates, or champagne? Possibly, but I’m not adapting my Christmas list accordingly. Nowadays I may not have time for disgust, but I’ll always make time for chocolates. I bet even facing death, if you’d have offered this rat a ‘wafer thin mint’, he’d have taken it, even knowing it would seal his fate. That’s how I ended up thinking about food whilst bagging up a rat’s corpse and slinging it in the bin. How gross is that?
*At first I misspelled it and mentally contemplated ‘discussed’ for a while, but I soon got back to disgust via R4’s Moral Maze, specifically Melanie Phillips
When Vicky Pryce, (50% of the most unlikeable couple in Britain along with ex Chris Huhne.) had her bag searched in prison they found £1450 in cash which she didn’t know was there. This isn’t money in her purse mind you. This was loose money rolling about her handbag. Apparently there was £100 worth of loose change alone, the rest made up by notes. Can you imagine how heavy that must have been?
Putting aside the sheer weight of the bag, how can you not know you have that much money? I almost always know exactly how much money I have in my bag because it’s almost always nothing. I tend to immediately spend any cash I have. It’s like I hate it, or I am living every day in a Brewster’s Millions reality, except in my case it’s Laville’s Tenner. My money tends to be virtual, which can be a pain when you get to a parking meter or one of those trollies which requires a pound deposit.
I’m not quite sure of the point of the trolly deposit. If you wanted a trolly, a pound seems like a more than reasonable price, even a bit of a bargain, especially as you also take the pound away with the trolly. I’m sure it could be extracted again with careful application of a big massive hammer. Win, win.
I digress. The Vicky Pryce thing made me wonder what’s in my handbag. I’ve done some research about types of handbag ownership, which took me minutes to make up so please show it the respect it deserves.
Basically there are three types of handbag owners.
Type A – The faithful. Has just one bag that they use for all occasions.
Type B – The serial monogamist. Has a few bags for different occasions, however the contents aren’t interchangeable except for a few crucial items, phone, purse, medication, signed photo of Rupert Graves.
Type C- Bag slut. Changes bag regularly, each time simply pouring the contents of old bag into the new one.
Then there are people who just have pockets because they are; a fella, don’t have small children or are ok with not being fully prepared at all times for a hostage situation.
I suspect that Vicky Pryce is type A. If she ever had poured her bag contents into another bag, she probably would have noticed the 20 minutes of raining cash.
I’m type B. I have a bag for the school run, one for shopping, one for ‘posh events’ and one general bag for when I give up and leave the house before I’ve managed to remember where I’m supposed to be going.
Two of these bags are plastic carriers and none have a workable zip.
I have long forgotten what’s in these bags so I’m going to empty them out in the hope of finding a monkey. Either £500 or an actual monkey – equally as unlikely, equally as welcome.
In various bags I have – A purse containing cards – no cash, 6 receipts, two hand creams, one lip balm, one lip gloss, one inhaler (blue), one packet of polos, a breath spray, a deodorant roll on, perfume, a tape measure, 8 antiseptic wipes, a broken watch, instructions for Transformer toy, pair of gloves and a pen.
What does this say me about me? Well I either am quite smelly, or have a fear of being perceived as smelly and I clearly can’t abide hand or lip dryness. Other than that it’s a bit of a disappointment really, I was expecting something a bit more indicative of my personality which would lead anyone who knows me would be able to identify as being a bag which obviously belongs to me. Like my passport perhaps.
It also seems worryingly sparse of the life essentials that I confidently assumed were in there, OK, I’ve got the anti-septic wipes, but I’m pretty sure they’re for swabbing zits rather than treating injury. There are probably several situations which I would not have walked into had I have known that my bag was so poorly stocked. Had I known that my bag didn’t ‘have my back’ at all, would I have been so bold? Not a single torch, Swiss army knife or first aid kit. Nothing which could double up as a weapon if need be. Christ there isn’t even a book in there. I’m not even adequately equipped for a simple waiting-for-a-bit scenario.
But wait, what’s that there winking at me amongst the receipts? It’s 50p I didn’t know I had. Success, this exercise was definitely worth it, even if I missed a few deadlines and now have to hoover the carpet.
To the shops.
The kids are getting on a bit now. I’m not sure I can sustain this staying-at-home stuff, before I’m required to do some actual housework.
Screaming ‘Don’t you oppress me you chauvinist bastard’ every time my husband asks if there’s any clean shirts, isn’t going to work for much longer. I think I’m going to have to either find joy in providing a clean, safe and happy home for my family or I’ll have to get a job.
So I’m on various employment websites when I am once again reminded of how unemployable I am. It seems like you take a career break and you break your career.*
I used to work for BBC News Online and in the six years since I left the BBC, the technology has moved on. I had a perilous grasp on what the hell I was doing at the time, I’d be totally in the woods if I went back now. Not that they’d even give me a job. Not unless they have a vacancy for: ‘Crazy woman required to wander around the building asking people where they keep all the tapes’.
I’ve not got any contacts to expand my copywriting business from its current client database of one (she’s delighted with me) and if I tried to take on more gardening work, I’d really have to invest in tools and medical supplies (90% of my work is thorn-based), which would bring my turn-over from ‘low’ to ‘pointless’. I might as well skip the gardening and lacerate my arms while burning fivers.
So what can I do? I hate to refer to that rather patronising job description of a housewife as, Chef, Cleaner, Taxi service, teacher, therapist etc. but it seems the only way to truly asses my skills at this point. What can I bring to the job market?
1) I can whistle through my teeth.- I haven’t yet worked out how I could apply this awesome talent, but the fact that not everyone can do it and that it is a skill which took time to acquire (I undertook an apprenticeship with a lad named Tony during a very dull rugby match), means that the market would certainly attach great worth to it. I need to think of practical applications. Touring’s out because I get sick on coaches, but perhaps a civic role like ‘town whistler’. I shall write to the government and suggest it.
2) Charity shopping – I do this quite a lot and it’d be good to make it into a full-time vocation. Maybe I could provide tips and advice on charity shopping for people who can’t afford to shop in regular shops but who can inexplicably afford to pay someone like me to advise them on how to save money. Unfortunately, my first advice would have to be to sack myself, so that might not be a sustainable business plan (ooh hark at me, getting all ‘Deborah Meadon’). Maybe making money isn’t the point. Charity shops are good for the environment, the community, poor people, students and people who need to cobble together fancy dress outfits at short notice. A team of professionals like me supporting this industry should really be state funded. Any government promising to encourage charity shopping in a practical level would be bound to win a landslide election on this single issue alone.
3) Phone sex. – This one is obvious. The kids are out of the house and I’m doing the housework, but I’m also earning a few bob at the same time. Dirty talk while cleaning the oven actually makes a lot of sense, ‘What are you wearing?’ – ‘Rubber Gloves and a layer of sweat’, ‘What are you doing?’ – ‘Sponging up Mr Muscle’. I’ll stop now as I don’t want to waste all my best material on you guys (call me), but you can see why this is genius. My only issue is whether many people phone sex chat lines during the hours of 9am- 3pm. Clearly it should be encouraged, the government should do something. Support working mums by giving tax relief to sex chat lines. Come on Cameron, get on board.
4) Humiliating myself at weddings (can be extended to other social gatherings). There are some of us who have an entirely justifiable fear that when we go to parties, we’ll do something embarrassing. That we’ll get horrendously drunk and behave inappropriately, fall over or just generally be ‘The Party Knobhead’. For a reasonable fee, I could provide a service which guarantees that I will be that person. My client can enjoy themselves, free from any guilt or inhibitions, safe in the knowledge that my drunkenness and load bawdy jokes will be far more offensive than anything they will do. I’ll start congas at funerals, try to get off with the vicar over the christening font, I only ever wear white at weddings and even Miley Cyrus considers my dance floor moves to be inappropriate. This is something I know I can do. I have plenty of experience and can provide multiple references. My lack of tact is exacerbated by major social events and it would be nice to turn that into a positive by helping others to look like less of a loser in comparison. It’s practically a charitable service I’d be providing and should probably be funded by the NHS or some other national provider, like the government.
These are just a few ideas off the top of my head and if I say so they are brilliant. I don’t know what I was worried about. I would clearly be an asset to any organisation. Look at my skills and experience for crying out loud. It’s going to be a doddle getting a job, and I’ll work for anyone- except the government obvs.
* Wow that’s a brilliant slogan. I should be a slogan writer, I don’t need experience, training or relevant qualifications. As I recall it’s what Darrin from Bewitched did, and I watched that loads. I’m pretty sure that’s all any reasonable employer would require.
My first mistake was picking up the NHS leaflet titled ‘Know your limits’. I was bored and waiting for the surgery and had forgotten to bring my book “Limits are for Pussys, Pass Me Another Cigar” by, erm… Hemmingway.
So it turns out I drink too much. Waaaay to much. I leapfrog all the first three zones of drinking behaviour in the leaflet – “Safe drinking”, “Excessive drinking” “Dangerous drinking”. I am in the category “Hey dude, leave some for everyone else”.
So I’m much more likely to get lots of cancer if the heart attacks don’t get me first, but let me ask you how many people die each year of boredom?
Well none, but the leaflet assures me I will die soon because it assumes that my drinking is a life-long behaviour, rather than just to get me through the years of small children and all the delightful challenges that brings.
One of the reasons I don’t want to stop drinking is because feel I’ve given up so much already. Fags, biscuits, drugs, unprotected sex, glue sniffing, tattooing in insanitary conditions. Admittedly I only really ever did the fags and the biscuits* but still, let me have a vice. Why can’t old people be naughty?
Whenever there’s a news story about middle-class binge drinkers getting trollied in their own homes every night, I can’t help thinking ‘So?’ These people aren’t drunk driving, smashing up town centres or having unprotected sex. They’re steadily seeing their way through a bottle of Shiraz while watching Newsnight. There may be a bit of shouting at the telly before they stagger off to bed, but that’s really the worst of it. Leave them to it I say.
May be this leaflet was a bit too close to the bone for me. It’s left me feeling guilty and depressed. Next time I’m at the doctors, I’ll read about something I can’t possibly get, like testicular cancer, that’ll cheer me up.
*I cannot really vouch for the cleanliness of Lil’s tattoo parlour in Leeds. Ok there was vomit on the floor, but as I recall it was my vomit, so it would be unfair to judge.
I really can’t handle not getting enough sleep. Most people get a bit tetchy, maybe have a headache, but pretty much shake it off until they can grab a nap.
Not me, If I don’t get my full 8 hours I am a shivering, sobbing, jerking wreck until I crawl, twitching, back into bed. I not too pretty either, unless ‘junkie panda’ is a look you aspire to.
It’s not often an issue. Sleeping is something I have always been good at. Sure, it’s not exactly a super-power, but it has come in handy during both my teenage and mother-of-young-children years.
I’ve never quite understood when people have said ‘I couldn’t get back to sleep’. Why couldn’t you? Were you operating heavy machinery? Were you in the middle of a meeting? Had you accidentally sprinkled broken glass all over the bedsheets? Even then, I would have probably gone back to sleep in a couple, if not all of those scenarios.
I can always go back to sleep, that’s my thing (again, not much of a thing, but still). I can even be a bit smug about it sometimes, maybe even saying to these ‘can’t get back to sleep’ types, that if they were tired enough they would sleep. Thus implying that they don’t even know what tired is if they can’t drop off during a film/journey/funeral.
*Side note* I take this patronising you haven’t suffered like I have tone quite a lot. See also: ‘Sure you’re a vegetarian now, but if you were hungry enough…’, ‘Sure, you don’t drink now, but if you had kids…’ and ‘Sure you’re laid out on the sofa with crippling back pain now, but if the remote was just out of reach and Hollyoaks came on…”
I’m not promising that I will actually get to my point, but I will at least try and head in that general direction by telling you that I am writing this at 4am in the morning. I can’t get back to sleep, but I refuse to become one of those people who give up in the face of insomnia and use the time to get something done (we all know writing this doesn’t count as doing something). Some people, who can’t sleep, get up and clean the oven or alphabetise their letters. That’s insane, the only thing worse than insomnia is housework. That’s basically like thinking I’ve been done for speeding, might as well do a bit of murdering as well or I’ve got a paper-cut so I might as well go the whole hog and wire my nipples to a car battery.
There is a small boy lying next to me soundly snoring in a nah-nah nah nah-nah way. He’s not what’s keeping me awake though. It’s rarely actual physical things that keep me awake (except for the times my belly has been so huge I could barely move, and also when I was pregnant). Nor is it big philosophical issues or emotional upset. It’s always some trivial nothingness that keeps me from my slumber. I can’t sleep because I’m thinking about whether I’ve got all the kids uniform ready for school. I have tried distracting myself by contemplating the existence of benign God in a inhuman and cruel world, but my mind always returns to whether I should go to Tesco or Morrisons this week.
So much for ‘Don’t keep drinking until you pass out’. Thanks expert medical advice. Not so clever now eh?
I already knew this of course, but now it is a matter of public record after an incident at school when he bit and kicked his best friend over a lego-related dispute.
Being a bit of a psycho isn’t all bad. Owing to their inability to emphasise or feel guilt, they tend to do well in business, politics, and customer service. They are often charming high-achievers, but on the down side they are incapable of love, can be violently egocentric and frequently cause quite a lot of embarrassment to their mothers.
I found this out when I called his victim’s mother to apologise, she just laughed at me.
“Don’t be silly, it could just have easily been my son attacking yours, might well be next week, it’s just kids, they all do it.”
I consider sharing with her my suspicious that my son is a psycho, but she seems to be taking it all quite light-heartedly, it may not be necessary to raise the darker possibility of personality disorders at this stage. After all, I don’t want her thinking her little boy is spending ‘carpet time’ sat next to mini-Ted Bundy. I decide to say nothing at this stage and see how it all pans out.
She’s very reassuring, telling me about a couple of terrible things her children have in the past and I join in with a couple of recollections of my own. Soon it’s the mother’s version of The Four Yorkshiremen sketch; My daughter bit a child on the cheek and drew blood. One of mine ripped all the buttons off the laptop, Yeah well my son scratched a teacher, etc. I’m just about to throw in the one about the time my middle son smashed the telly with a toy hammer, which is always good for a few gasps, but instead I think it may be best to bring the whole thing to a close before I say something silly like, ‘and my youngest is a psychopath’.
She doesn’t seem to want to call in the police, so best to draw a veil over the whole thing.
I wonder how long I’m going to have to feel responsible for the actions of my children. The accepted belief that the parents are to blame is one thing when the kid is four, but is Mrs Shipman still ringing around the families of victims apologising for naughty Harold’s behaviour? Was Hitler suffering from middle-child syndrome?
A few days on, and I’m not so sure youngest really is a psycho after all. He definitely feels remorse and guilt and he seems to understand the consequences of his actions (kick other kids hard enough and they take away your shoes). Probably all children behave like monsters sometimes, or at least that’s what I’ll be telling myself for a while. We’ve all learned something from this little incident, and I for one will never again mess with the kid’s lego.