Tag Archives: Life

Gallows Humour…

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In the final moments there was doubt. He steeled himself. Life had been a chore and Rachel wasn’t coming back. This wasn’t even a unique place to jump.

On the way down a tiny light came on: Exit.

Who would ever see such a thing unless in freefall?

‘Huh, that’s pretty fun…’

 

Written for: Twittering Tales

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Guff & Gubbins…

Imagine an embryo in a suit sitting at a desk in a cubicle disguised as an adult. Somehow it has made its way into central London on a grad scheme; the main responsibility of which appears to gravitate around the concept of making me feel old and decrepit. More pressingly (he) is now occupying the room that houses the cabinet in which my work shoes reside. I tap on the glass and open the door.

‘Hi, do you mind if I just get my shoes?’

All the blood drains from of his face. The transformation is quite dramatic. ‘Yes.’

‘You do mind?’

‘Yes I do…sorry.’

‘Oh…well I’ll jus-‘ The wall of stench hits me. He was been breaking wind – a lot. It’s a very tiny room and he clearly wasn’t expecting company. I am physically repelled and contain the outbreak with a hefty slam of the door.

Given a moment to think I realise that I probably should’ve handled that better – maybe acted as if there wasn’t a paint-stripping reek assaulting the inside of my throat and calmly returned later. I smile through the glass to show him that there are no hard feelings and that I shall retrieve the aforementioned footwear in due course. Shortly thereafter he scurries away.

4084833608a5daa7c93e65460d0af83b885b907724ee782c48b0b2c36307d596d5ad42c7Later I am returning from lunch when I see the lift doors closing. I make a dash for it and step inside. There is already someone within – the graduate! He seems mortified to be in a confined space with me. The lift takes an eternity to begin its accent, and we are only moving for a few seconds before a robot announces ‘Emergency call activated.’ The graduate steps forward. A red light is flashing in the space recently vacated by his ass-cheeks. He becomes flustered.

‘Don’t worry about it,’ I reassure. ‘It happens every other day. They should probably think about relocating the button. Someone’ll ring through in a minute and we’ll be on our way.’

…And then the stench hits me – worse then before! We are in an even smaller room. There is no escape. Embryo won’t look me in the eye. His suit looks highly flammable. He is taking a very great risk. This is too glorious an opportunity to pass up.
‘Seriously, there’s no point squeezing one out stealthily. I’m the only other person in here and I know it wasn’t me.’

‘What wasn’t you?’

Come on!’

‘How do I know it wasn’t you?’

What wasn’t me?’

‘…Whatever it is you’re talking about.’

‘How do you know? Cos it was you. If there was one other guy in here then there might be an element of mystery, but as there isn’t, there isn’t.’

Before we descend into a he-who-smelt-it-dealt-it territory a muffled, metallic sounding voice comes from the lift’s side panel. ‘Can I help you?’

‘Yeah, you can let me out of this dutch oven before I asphyxiate.’

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Life is Hyperbole

Many years ago when I first moved to Reading I lived in a shared house with three other twenty-something males. Three of us had relocated for work purposes. The fourth who, for reasons of anonymity we’ll call Dan (although coincidentally that also happens to be his real name) told us that he didn’t need to work on account of his parents’ acrimonious divorce and their subsequent attempts to out-spoil him. He sat at home most days drinking Stella, eating bucket loads of chicken wings that he bought from ‘Mr. Cod’ (virtually next door) and howling obscenities at the television.

One day we returned home to find him in a state of mortification. The gig was up. His parents were onto him. No further funds would be forthcoming. He was to do the unspeakable and find a job. After several failed attempts he got himself paid work as a security guard at the local shopping centre.

Less than a week after he started the job I discovered my two other housemates in the lounge laughing uncontrollably. Unable to speak one of them handed me a piece of paper. It appeared that Dan had not enjoyed his time as a security guard, but too ashamed to admit he couldn’t hack the work, had decided that his departure would be more palatable if the reason was a little more elaborate. As such he’d written a letter to the head of security posing as his sister and stated that he could no longer come to work as he’d been involved in a car crash and had, had one of his arms amputated.

My housemates’ mirth was not caused by the excuse, but rather the reply he’d received from the head of security – one of the finest works of literature I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Amongst it’s many well-crafted stanzas two sentences stand out: “We were even more concerned when he contacted your next of kin and discovered they were unaware of your accident. If you could get someone else to hold the phone against your ears perhaps you could call them (presuming you skill have ears)?” And “As your uniform was found in the locker we can only presume you were planning to leave anyway before this most tragic of events.”

I remember he was very angry that they hadn’t paid him, but could think of no legitimate way to complain.

Engaged in the black art of self-promotion as I am, I am constantly bewildered by the sheer volume of exaggeration and out an out lying that takes place in everyday life. I’m not talking about the adulterous / of-course-I-didn’t-burry-her-in-the-woods type exaggeration (i.e. things worth lying about). I’m talking about the little things, like describing a cappuccino as ‘awesome’ or any use of the term ‘LOL’ (surely a killable offence (if that’s not hypocrisy?)).

The latest bee in my bonnet (hyperbole: I don’t own a bonnet) is the emergence of companies that charge to generate fake comments / likes / views / re-tweets etc online. I’ll admit, when I first started promoting my music (Martin’s music) I did try one of them – paid the princely sum of £8, and 48-hours later one of my songs had been listened to 5000 times, but no one had liked it (I hadn’t paid for that) and none of the people were real. Their avatars had been lifted from other users and they had not really listened to my work. They were simply bots clicking on a link. Having decided that it wasn’t a virtuous thing to have done I deleted the song, re-uploaded it and by the end of that day it had been listed to 30 times and liked 8. I felt satisfied. This was an honest picture of the world. I had connected with 30 individuals and properly connected with 8 – Hardly setting the music industry alight, but a true reflection of reality.

I read an online article about a rapper who had over 100K Twitter / Sound cloud followers, all of whom were fake. It posed the question: How does he feel when he reads computer-generated comments that declare ‘You are a rock God’ and ‘Dope’? Or beholds the giant list of fans, none of whom have ever listened to a single note of the tunes he has so lovingly sampled from proper musicians (!) but who have cost him an arm and a leg to acquire?

It’s as if he has taken the Turing artificial intelligence test and the computer has failed him! And he isn’t even an isolated example. The practice is becoming widespread. Now, whenever I see a Facebook link with 20K likes I think: There’s a good chance that’s not real.

I went for lunch last week at a bar I hadn’t frequented in over a year. The place had been renovated. I struck up a conversation with the owner about the changes. Turns out that the previous owner woke up one morning ten months ago, rang the brewery and said ‘So, it’s like this – I’ve had enough – the keys are on the bar’ (click), and off he went, owing in access of fifty grand. No one had seen him since. That’s excited and not made-up.

Another thing that really happened was that I was sitting at a beachside café with an old school friend last weekend. I mentioned that one of my greatest regrets in life was my failure to corral a bunch of co-workers into getting drunk, attending a matinee show by Britain’s premium children’s entertainers ‘The Chuckle Brothers’ and heckling them. My friend replied:

‘Oh I met them once. Tried to get them to go drinking with me, but they declined – gave me a signed photo of the two of them sitting in a cockpit. I did however get annihilated (hyperbole) with a Tommy Cooper impersonator – Guy was phenomenal – Never broke character once!’

Rant over. Mother Teresa put it better than me: ‘Life’s a dream, realise it.’

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Inappropriate One-upmanship

Some monumentally bad planning from Channel 5 saw a recent documentary on Whitney Houston cut from a distraught looking Aretha Franklin to an advert for Wonga.com where an elderly puppet uttered the immortal words ‘She looks better in a body bag.’

Here’s why gaffs like this are essential for holding together the fabric of space and time…

On Christmas Day 2001 my father and I were standing at his mother’s grave having just laid a wreath. Dad was an intensely private person and, in the five years since her death, had never openly discussed his feelings about her. Now however the moment demanded that something be said. It was just the two of us. It was cold and silent. A statement of considerable poignancy was required, but nothing was forthcoming. I decided that he should be the one to voice it and resolved to wait him out. A minute passed, then five, then ten. Finally he spoke. These are the words that he chose:

‘You know, when I pop my clogs I want you to bury me in a luminous pink cardboard box. If pink isn’t available get me something equally garish, whatever you think will make the mourners feel most awkward.’

The intention was clear: this is too vast for either of us to fathom, so let’s go to the other extreme.

‘I can’t have people thinking we’re too stingy to buy a proper coffin,’ I replied in kind, ‘perhaps we could go for a halfway house and just paint you pink.’

‘Oh I wouldn’t worry about that. I only have two wishes in life – one is to spend your inheritance, and the other is to die leaving you all in debt.’

I decided to up the ante. ‘When I go I’d like to be liquidized and drank at the reception. I could ask my kids to mix in some Imodium so that I am literally a pain in everyone’s arse.’

Dad mulled over what I’d just said and a wry smile spread across his face.  ‘Actually scratch that. Load my cadaver into a catapult and fire it into the air. Wherever it lands I’d like to be left to rot.’

‘Or we could fit your body with animatronics and have someone remote control you to rise from the grave screaming ‘Rrrrrrraaaaaahhhhhhh.’

The conversation went through several more, increasingly inappropriate rounds of one-upmanship, after which we apologised to Grandma, bowed and left.

We lost my mother to cancer last year. This isn’t a cue for cyber-sympathy and I wouldn’t use a blog as a forum for sorrow. All I will say is this. My dad didn’t think he’d be up to doing the eulogy so, without really thinking it through, I offered to take his place. On the day of the funeral I breathed deeply, stood up and faced the large crowd that had come to pay their respects. The eulogy had been put together by the whole family. There were fond memories, achievements, extracts from letters and even some humour. After a shaky start I found a rhythm, and actually started to enjoy sharing all the wonderful stories, but midway through a profound sadness washed over me. As I was trying to compose myself a woman in the front row rose to her feet, set up a tripod and started taking photographs. As I looked at her in disbelief she mouthed the word ‘smile.’

Nothing so perfectly illustrates the hilarious absurdity of death (or life for that matter). Afterwards the same woman engaged me in a conversation that was more like top-trump-grief. ‘No one could ever be sadder about this than me,’ she informed. Over her shoulder I saw an old school friend making the international symbol for fancy a pint? (which in my opinion is the only genuinely helpful thing a person can say to someone when they’ve lost a loved one). ‘Congratulations,’ I replied, ‘you’re the winner!’ She seemed pleased with her triumph, so that’s good. A few days later she emailed me some photos of the coffin with the subject header ‘Hope these help.’ There was a great cathersises in pressing delete so, in a way, they did. Dad told me that I should have replied with ‘Not well at the mo – here’s a picture of my poo.’ Maybe it was an opportunity wasted, but it didn’t seem suitable at the time, and I’m sure her heart was in the right place. Anyway, we dined out on it for weeks.

So, I’m sad to see Whitney go, but Channel 5 have made me feel that life’s gonna tick on just fine, and I thank them for that.

And finally…

I once had the misfortune of working with a highly unpleasant misogynist called ‘Scoffer’ – a combination of his surname ‘Scoffield’ and the eating habits that had resulted in him becoming almost perfectly spherical. When in his late forties he suffered an epic fatal heart-attack (which presumably was the objective of eating six meals a day) a number of the psychologically abused women spread a rumour round the office that a vending machine had fallen on him.

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