Posts Tagged ‘writer


A talking vibrator – every shade of wrong in the sex toy rainbow

One Valentine’s Day, a friend of mine was given a ‘Talk To Me’ vibrator by a paramour keen to demonstrate his sexual liberation. As all ladies are aware, nothing says: “I love you” like being palmed off with a piece of plastic and then being expected to go away and make it work ourselves. You might as well just give us a dustpan and brush or a washing up brush and be done with it.

The vibrator had a heart-shaped controller with record and play facilities meaning it could be pre-programmed with a message that would play at seminal (so the wrong word) moments to “heighten the excitement”. Or cause you to make an ultimately very shaming phone call to the police, one of the two.

For those without any imagination whatsoever, the vibrator’s manufacturers made the following suggestions for appropriate phrases you could record for your loved one, such as “I love you baby” or “ooh honey, you look so hot”.

More terrifying than childbirth

More terrifying than childbirth

However, as figures reveal that most women buy their own vibrators, there’s more than an outside possibility that the only voice you could persuade to leave racy messages on a sex toy is your own, and when I last checked, leaving yourself dirty voicemail was as socially acceptable as wearing a hollowed-out baby seal as a hat.

I suppose, though, that for authenticity’s sake, you could record yourself saying out loud the things you might be thinking if you were with a flesh and blood partner: “have you put the bins out?” or “did I remember to tell you that your mother called? She’s checked herself into rehab again”.

Or maybe you could record your favourite celebrity from the television. Noel Edmonds on Deal or No Deal, perhaps (cockney rhyming slang joke: “It’s the banker!”) or maybe the music from CrimeWatch to perk yourself up a bit.

You could try and teach yourself a foreign language. Or remind yourself to pick up the dry cleaning – we women are adept at multi-tasking, I see no reason why we can’t make our orgasms really WORK for us.

By the way, the message left for my friend (and yes, it was a friend. Or was it a friend of a friend? Or was it a dream? I must move away from the photocopier) got somewhat lost in translation.

Rather muffled while in use, she thought it said: “I’d love a cup of tea” when in fact it said something about loving her cu…I’ll leave it there. I have young children and every time I curse a fairy dies. Or something.


Competition: Give me your tips on how to be utterly and completely miserable and win a prize!

Today is officially the most depressing day of the year – you probably haven’t noticed, because as far as all of us who don’t have birthdays in January are concerned, the entire month is packed with a grim succession of unrelentingly depressing, bleak days during which our only entertainment is limited to wringing out our shirts when they become overly-sodden with bitter tears.

I have long thought that there is a compelling argument for us all to go into hibernation on January 1 and not come out until Pancake Day. And, incidentally, that Pancake Day should be moved to June.

I see no way that today can be my most depressing day of the year – for a start, I’m not at work, secondly I’m not planning to leave the house all day, thirdly I just found £5 in a coat I haven’t worn for months. In fact the most depressing thing about today might well be the realisation that my worst day of the year is yet to come.

It might be tomorrow. It might be the next day. Considering my company is downsizing in March, it might be backdated until Spring.

If only misery could be scheduled into your diary for when you’ve got enough spare time to wallow in self-pity, rather than it biting you on the arse when you’ve got a million and one other things to do. Just what is our preoccupation with being happy all the time, anyway? Surely one cannot truly appreciate the sun without having experienced the rain?

With this cheery, positive thought in mind, I’m thinking of planning a truly terrible day so that when genuinely miserable things do happen, they’ll seem like a walk in the park by comparison.

If you’re keen to follow suit (and why wouldn’t you be? Who doesn’t enjoy a hell of their own making? What do you mean you didn’t spend half your teenage years in a darkened bedroom listening to The Cure and writing poetry?) I’ve compiled a handy, cut-out-and-keep fast-track guide to guaranteed desolation. I know: I spoil you lot.

1) Go into a mobile phone shop and ask for something really simple, like a mobile phone. Set the timer on your watch and observe as an hour of your life drains away while a teenager called Glenn drones on about contracts, talk-time, ‘free’ text messages which you pay through the nose for and then, inexplicably, gives you £15 of your own money back as ‘cashback’ when he could have just deducted £15 off the bill in the first place. Leave with a phone which cost you three times more than you intended to pay.

2) Take your children shopping to the supermarket. Enter into as many pointless rows about what you will and won’t buy as possible.
Try and include the phrase: “I don’t care what (insert name of child’s friend) x’s mother lets them eat” regularly. Leave in a cloud of shame as your offspring sob pitifully – and loudly – at the lack of Dairylea Lunchables and/or 2ft Lindt chocolate Easter bunnies in your trolley.

3) Decide that today is the day that you will get on top of your finances and sort out all that paperwork you’ve been avoiding for months. Read through all your old bank statements, circling all the purchases you made which were an utter waste of money and which brought you only spiritual hollowness and financial penury. Realise that you have spent £514 at Thresher in six weeks. Realise that your car insurance direct debit has mysteriously disappeared and that you have been driving illegally for the past nine months. Realise that your financial future involves queuing up at soup kitchens and carrying your bed in an Asda carrier bag. Spill tea over several vital documents. Go back to Thresher.

4) Clean the oven. Make sure you start less than 30 minutes before you have to go out and that you wear something white.

5) Try and get a cat in a cat basket. You may want to pick your day to be truly miserable on the basis of when you next need to take your cat to the vet. If you don’t have a cat, borrow the least friendly one you can find. For full effect, ensure that you forget to lock the cat flap and that you are wearing something flimsy and sleeveless as you attempt to force a formidably large cat into a formidably small basket.

6) Google all the hobbies, pastimes and vices which make your life worth living and realise that everything you do is killing you, in a really horrific way. Do not allow yourself the luxury of marvelling that you’ve made it to your grand old age without succumbing to heart disease/cancer or a whole host of stress-related illnesses – they’re in the post.

All together now, stop being so bloody chirpy and join me in a mission to reclaim misery for ourselves. And there’s a prize* for whoever comes up with their own top tips for being utterly desolate – put the meths down, wipe away the tears and leave me your comments.

* Terms and conditions apply and will be made up on the spot by me when I find a winner.


footage of the Hudson River crash – the fact that there isn’t any is probably a bigger story

Chesley B Sullenberger III – such a good name, his family chose it three times.

Mr Sullenberger heroically managed to land the Airbus he was captaining into the River Hudson saving the lives of 155 people, although he did fly into a flock of geese in the first place, so the sainthood’s on ice until we ascertain whether or not the geese were part of a suicide flock intent on ascending to heaven to claim their 72 virgins.

Incredible as those pictures of the passengers standing on the wings of the aircraft waiting to be rescued were, we all have to admit that it would have been far more incredible to actually watch footage of the plane descending into the river. I can’t remember the last major disaster which wasn’t captured by someone on their mobile phone – I’ve almost got to the point where I don’t believe something has actually happened until I watch it unfold on a poor quality piece of video narrated by someone shouting ‘oh my GOD!’ over and over again.

I thought 9/11 illustrated to us just how many people spend time aimlessly videoing the sky on the off-chance that something unbelievable might happen. Not yesterday afternoon, though, clearly. Not on a busy stretch of water a stone’s throw from the Statue of Liberty, one of the most photographed and videoed landmarks IN THE WORLD.

There’s nothing for it, Mr Sullenberger is just going to have to do it again. This time while we’re actually watching.


My implant hell, or how I spent £7,000 in the name of vanity*

Finally, the wait is over.

After two and a half years of monthly dental treatment, financed by the sale of three kidneys (one each from me and the kids) and a second mortgage, my teeth are now complete.

I now have Tom Cruise’s stature AND his smile, and now must only find myself a Hollywood wife, a Nazi costume and an unshakeable belief that an galactic overlord came to earth 75 million years ago and infected us all with alien juice to complete the metamorphosis.

Despite my anally-retentive dental routine, three years ago I realised that something was rotten in the state of Denmark, namely a tooth towards the back of my mouth which throbbed so insistently that in some ways it became a surrogate wristwatch, marking out the seconds, minutes and hours in which I could neither sleep, eat or speak.

I knew my infected tooth needed immediate attention, but just to make sure my self-diagnosis was correct, I waited another six months to be on the safe side – there’s no point rushing into these things.

By the time I crawled to the dentist, my drug habit dwarfed Pete Doherty’s and my tooth had taken on a life of its own; one that involved causing me as much agony as possible – a bit like Dire Straits’ Brothers in Arms album stuck on repeat.

Having finally been forced by those around me to go to the dentist and undergone an appointment where I had ignobly burst into tears and had to be sent home to calm down like an over-emotional schoolgirl, I was finally treated and felt the true glory of a life without pain – right up until the moment I paid the bill.

From then on, it was downhill all the way. My calcium-leeching children had sucked all the goodness from my bones in the womb, leaving practically every tooth as precariously wobbly and unreliable as Britney Spears beside the punch bowl at a playschool barbecue.

The dentist broke it to me gently (at first with pliers and then with a bandsaw) and told me that to sort out my teeth I was going to have to have numerous treatments over several years which would include deep root canal, bone regeneration, surgery, extraction, antibiotics and implants.

I was so shocked that I didn’t even ask why I needed breast surgery. It seemed like the least of my worries.

My plan to have the troublesome tooth treated and then skulk away to my lair, tail between legs and floss between teeth until a check-up that I’d agreed to attend without any real intention of ever doing so, evaporated to dust.

Suddenly, I was spending more time with my dentist than I did with my friends and loved ones, which was a blessing in disguise for my friends and loved ones, because for quite some time, all I could bang on about was my teeth.

In a bid to bring my mouth up to 21st century standards, or even 18th century standards, I have spent around £7,000, with £4,000 of that spent on just four teeth (two implants, two porcelain veneers) – muggers from now on will ignore my wallet (emptied by dentists) and head straight for my gnashers.

I may be in debt for the rest of my life, but at least I can eat an apple. If it’s mashed up. And eaten through a straw.

I think the highlight of my treatment was the removal of an infected tooth without anaesthetic (you can’t anaesthetise infected tissue, as I found out after I’d been strapped to Sweeney Todd’s chair and watched him swallow the key to the door) in a scene reminiscent of the kind of back-street dentistry which went on in Dickens’ day. All that was missing was a match girl freezing to death in the corner and a rat the size of a Jack Russell looking on dispassionately as I stoically bore the pain in the only way I knew how; by screaming like a toddler in a shoe shop.

But it hasn’t all been bad. Very often it’s been bloody awful.

Along the way there’s been blood, sweat, tears, laughter (albeit ironic laughter when my dentist asked me if I was planning any holidays and I told him that I thought this year I’d stick to just paying for his instead) pain, infections and financial ruin. Mainly just the tears, the blood and the bankruptcy, to be honest, but to focus on the positive, I now have enough titanium rods in my mouth to audition for a role as a villain in James Bond.

With hindsight, I am glad that I had the work done and I’m sure that when they’re old enough for me to explain the situation to them, the children will understand why Christmas stopped for them in 2005.

Look on the bright side, I’ll tell them. I had my teeth done on the NHS – if I’d gone private you wouldn’t have any vital organs left.

* Maybe I should have qualified – when I said ‘implants’ I meant teeth, not tits. Sorry if I mislead you. I’m not sorry. But you knew that.


Slow cooked beef with pearl barley, leeks and a jus of bitter tears

This recipe comes to you straight from the mad scientist’s laboratory and has been tentatively tested on human subjects. As I write, they’re all still alive, at least I think they are, I’m the first one up.

Slow cooked beef


Some beef from Aldi – cut off the really gristly bits and feed to cat
Some pearl barley – pre-cooked for ten minutes to avoid costly dental bills
Various unidentified green things from the bottom of the fridge – I used leeks, peppers, mushrooms, mini sweetcorn and some ancient garlic
A stock cube
A tin of minestrone soup
Bitter tears (optional)

1)    Wake up extra early so that you can prepare the ingredients for the slow-cooked meal you plan to serve tonight.
2)    Marvel at the fact that a ‘time-saving’ dish can take so bloody long to prepare.
3)    Take beef out of fridge and cut into bite-size chunks. Freak out when blood from beef packet leaks over pyjamas, squeal like schoolgirl, sponge most of blood off chest and carry on.
4)    Chop up vegetables and fry until al dente.
5)    Become increasingly resentful that you are slaving over a hob full of bubbling saucepans when you could be drinking tea and watching breakfast television.
6)    Fend off complaints from family that house smells like soup kitchen. Reassure them that tonight, it will all be worth it. Attempt to inject at least 10 times more feeling into this assurance than you would normally.
7)    Throw all ingredients into slow cooker.
8)    Realise you have lost the instructions for the cooker and decide to guess (a) what temperature to set the cooker to (b) how long to cook the meal for.
9)    Repeat the phrase: ‘DO NOT TOUCH THE SLOW COOKER, IT IS HOT’ at least 93 times during the day.
10)    Forget slow cooker is hot, burn self while trying to lever the last few slices of bread out of the bread bin. Dress wound.
11)    Eight hours after stove-slaving, serve up what could euphemistically be described as ‘peasant fayre’. Partner says: ‘this is new territory. You can’t blame me if I hate it and don’t eat it’.
12)    Before anyone gets the chance to sneer, package leftovers into tub and put in freezer to serve to family on a day when they have pissed you off more than normal.
13)    Quickly leave house on ‘errand’ to avoid post-meal analysis.

While everyone else ate pastoral mulch, I made myself a vegetarian sausage casserole which was delicious and took around seven hours and 15 minutes less time to make than the above.


Offered: one kidney. Slightly wizened, a bit temperamental, vintage condition

I have been chewing my lip due to worry (and something to do that’s free and simple) and now resemble a heroin addict from those information films from the 1980s. I think this is a fitting way to see in 2009, by this time next year I may also be thin enough from the enforced gruel eating to actually star in one for real.

By rights, my worry lines should now be as deep as a freshly-ploughed field, but my stock of snake oil anti-ageing moisturisers remains fairly high, so I’m staving off the worst effects of eating badly, indulging in unhelpful vices and generally taking as much care of my appearance as a coma victim. By the time I run out of that lot, there’s always the polyfiller supplies in the shed to tide me over.

Having scanned the internet for money-making opportunities, I have decided that if all else fails, I shall sell a kidney. Having two is very 2008 and, after all, one should recycle as much as possible.

Only problem is that only one of my kidneys works properly, and I’m loathe to give up the good one. Perhaps I could offer the wizened one (which looks very much like something you’d find withering at the back of the fridge) at a knock-down rate. There’s a credit crunch on, you know, people are desperate.

(On this note, I am remembering that film where someone has a hand transplant and the new set of digits take on a life of their own and start murdering people and so forth. Would my kidney force its new owner to write for newspapers and magazines or expect he or she to get up at 3.45am every morning to go to the toilet, like it does me, do you think?)


new year’s eve sucks the big one

Oh how I hate New Year Eve. Partying by rote, enforced merriment, queues of up to six hours at any given bar – it’s like Christmas, but without magic, presents, a nice meal or good TV.

There are two ways to look at New Year. One is to think of it as a time full of promise, when you can realise your dreams and plan for the future. The other is to use it as a springboard for further misery when you realise just how little you have achieved in the past 12 months and that, on top of everything else, you’re celebrating entering the very worst month of the year, January. January, as everyone knows, is God’s revenge for Christmas, a month made up of endless Mondays. Everything is bleak – the weather, your finances, your mood – and the biggest event you’ve got to look forward to is Pancake Day. Frankly, when you’re counting down the days to a batter-based festival, things are pretty bad.

As newspapers roll out their reviews of 2008 and predictions for 2009, in the spirit of reflection, I offer you the highs and lows of the past year. Low-heavy, as usual:

Things I did not do in 2008:

1)    Write an internationally-acclaimed sitcom
2)    Write an internationally-acclaimed book
3)    Get to grips with the rubbish in the loft
4)    Get to grips with either the front or back garden
5)    Hoover my car on a weekly basis
6)    Write in my son’s school contact book every day
7)    Write in my daughter’s school contact book every day
8)    Get one of those police checks so I can occasionally swan into school on trip days like ‘proper mums’ do
9)    Come to any form of amicable agreement with my neighbours over a wall issue
10)    Lose my excess weight
11)    Kiss goodbye to my many, expensive, unhealthy and unhelpful vices
12)    Curb my charity shop and eBay habits
13)    Stop collecting plates from the 1950s – I would now need to have 278 people to dinner to justify their existence
14)    Managed to persuade my children to put their dirty washing in the linen basket
15)    Stop feeling bitter about my lot
16)    Find a toilet seat that actually fits the toilet

What I did do in 2008:

1)    Won a writing award
2)    At least started trying to solve the neighbour issue
3)    Almost wrote off my car
4)    Dropped my mobile phone in flood water
5)    Dropped another mobile phone in the playground and smashed the screen
6)    Wrote a script with a BBC3 comedian which I still haven’t sent off (or really finished)
7)    Went from Waitrose to Farmfoods in one easy step

Surely, SURELY, 2009 will be better. My horoscope in the Observer says that I’ll have to work hard to persuade people in authority to listen to my ideas over the next 12 months. It said nothing about having to offer sailors saucy cuddles for pennies to make ends meet, though, so there is some hope.


How to scare the family shitless by getting out the Crock Pot or The Day I Started Actually Cooking

I was an annoying child, an over-achiever and all-round teacher’s pet who spent all my high school lunchtimes doing extra-curricular activities and begging staff to let me take my O levels early. That I had any friends whatsoever was a miracle, and that I am earning such a pittance in my 30s considering the vast stash of qualifications I amassed in a few short years of being a total lick-arse is a continuing tragedy.

Although I was very academic, some would say pathologically academic, my Achille’s heel was mathematics. Numbers are, and have always been, a foreign concept to me. I understand that people are able to solve quadratic equations, my problem is coming to terms with why they might want to. Being single-minded and desperate to go and greet the golden intelligentsia I assumed would be waiting for me at university (a misconception which was swept away during fresher’s week), I persevered until I finally passed the GCSE maths qualification I needed to do my degree. I was lucky – the year I re-sat my maths exam was the advent of GCSEs and I swear they lowered the bar to massage pass rate statistics for the Government. I say this without political agenda – it’s just that I was really, really shit at maths.

A lasting legacy of my number blindness is that figures bore me so much that I have never really paid any attention to my pay packet. As long as I’ve got enough to make it through a month (a theory I test by going to the cash machine until it won’t give me any more money) it doesn’t bother me how much I earn or how it leaks from my account.

All that has to change. As my company prepares to shed staff to become even more productive (no comment), I need to start thinking more about what I earn, what I spend and how I spend it. Goodbye daily Innocent smoothie. Goodbye sandwich bar. Goodbye lunchtime trips to H&M. Goodbye ready meals.

At least I’ve got the last category licked – I’ve got a new slow cooker.

One of my friends, who generally buys me something decadent and useless for Christmas (which is what I genuinely want, rather than something bloody dull and USEFUL), asked if there was anything I’d like and, knowing that financial destitution could be round the corner, I asked for a slow cooker. After fending off several incredulous text messages along the ‘are you joking?’ lines, she finally accepted that I really did want a slow cooker and went off to buy one.

It now sits in my front room, oppressively reminding me of a future of stews, casseroles and, er, slow cooked things which my family will undoubtedly learn to dread the second they arrive home at night to see the red ‘on’ button glowing on the crock pot.

To this end, today I bought lots of cheap vegetables and meat cuts, some pearl barley and some stock. The experimentation starts tomorrow, the pleas for decent, recognisable food to be put back on the agenda probably starts tomorrow night.


The best things in life aren’t free. Unless your expectations are really, really low

It’s often said that the best things in life are free.

This is all very well, but in my experience, some of the best things in life are really bloody expensive and some of the free things in life are really, really shit. You have to put these things into context: a fantastic sunset on a winter’s evening may be beautiful if you’re watching it from the patio doors of your second home on the North Norfolk coast, but slightly less magical if you’re seeing it from your piss-soaked sleeping bag on the 10th floor of a multi-storey car park where you’ve bedded down for the night. Although that’s not to say that the homeless can’t appreciate a good sunset – God knows I don’t want to offend any of that lot, especially the ones with past convictions for violence.

Here are 10 things which are really good which aren’t free:

1)    Houses
2)    Cars
3)    Trinkets
4)    Baubles
5)    High maintenance younger partners
6)    Anti-ageing products
7)    Holidays
8)    A second car
9)    A second house
10)    Flights into space on Virgin Galactic

And here are 10 things that are really good that ARE free:

1)    A smile from one of your loving children
2)    A thank-you from one of your loving children. Even once would be nice
3)    A compliment from a stranger (preferably before they kidnap you and lock you in the boot of their car)
4)    Nose-picking
5)    Spot squeezing
6)    Indulging in a spot of character assassination with a really bitter friend
7)    Having a wee when you’ve had to hold on for ages
8)    Watching a teenager fall over in the street
9)    Thinking up a really great new insult
10)    Coming out of Waitrose and realising that there are several items that have fallen under your Bags for Life that you didn’t pay for. Not that I am condoning theft, or anything.

Being skinter will undoubtedly make me a better person. I will think more about the money I spend, waste less and save for the things I really want. Do I want to be a better person, though, or would I rather just be a worse person that can still afford Clinique Moisture Surge?


Free to a good home: the tired old rubbish I can’t be bothered to take to the tip

Before financial penury beckoned and I could afford to benevolent, Freecycle was primarily a service I used to off-load the tired old shit I had hanging around the house which was gathering dust. Or, rather, the tired old shit I had hanging round the house that even I could not longer justify the existence of. It saved me a trip to the charity shop or the tip and simultaneously made me feel like a kindly lady of the manor when I handed over a bin bag full of books, an unwanted miniature sewing machine or a dismantled high-rise bed (I didn’t mention the teeth marks on the rails – they were made by my daughter when she was very young, but if they chose to think that I was some kind of reckless sexual adventurer in a single bed, so be it).

Befitting my status as an all-round benefactor to the poor, I found it helped if I created elaborate back stories for the people coming to collect my rubbish, many of which involved them having Tiny Tim type characters gently fading away on a dank mattress back at the slum, drink problems, gambling addictions and a long-term benefit fraud habit.

In reality, most people I met through Freecycle were posher than me, and probably lived in solid gold castles with Champagne moats having raised a fortune at car boot sales selling other people’s tired old shit.

These days, thanks to the credit crunchm it’s time to start accepting that people will soon start making up back stories about me when I finally pull my finger out of my arse and start applying for things which could really come in handy and which I can no longer afford. It would probably help if I actually read the message postings more than once a month instead of half-heartedly logging into Yahoo! infrequently in the hope that someone has an excess stash of Crème de la Mer they need to offload in a hurry. Today, I logged in to find 1,592 messages in my inbox. The crème de la crème (not Mer, although plenty of Merde) of that list I publish below, so you know what the good denizens of Norwich have to offer the wider world. Well, the wider world in terms of a five mile radius of the city centre, at least.

WANTED: Crinoline petticoat hoops.

OFFERED: Two freestanding ex-bakery shop display cabinets. One chilled, one ambient [presumably these would be suitable for a Hard House or a Garage]

TAKEN: Five cabbages

WANTED: Items for role play [I have seen this Freecycler. The mind boggles]

RE-OFFERED: Windchime Waterfall CD [bearing in mind that I managed to get rid of an ugly, broken lamp on Freecycle, this stands as proof that no-one, even the desperate and down-at-heel wants to listen to bloody windchimes or waterfalls on CD]

WANTED: Star Wars biscuit cutters [I didn’t know they existed. But now I want some too]

OFFERED: Lightbulbs (used)

OFFERED: The Struggle for Existence by Weber [a cheery tome I remember from my degree studies, a real page turner for the suicidal]

WANTED: My Family Christmas specials on DVD [surely a wind-up? In comparison, watching the Test Card would be positively stimulating. And funnier]

TAKEN: Drum kit [one set of neighbours rejoicing, another set about to be given an unwelcome New Year present that may well lead to bloodshed)

On the plus side, at least someone has taken those cursed crinoline petticoat hoops away giving me room for five cabbages and some used lightbulbs. And however bad things are, at least I’m not miserable AND listening to windchimes and fucking waterfalls.

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