In the light of the disco ball

“Come on, it’s fun!”

Listen, I’ll be the judge of what’s fun and what’s rigid sigmoidoscopy. And don’t think I can’t see the hidden message behind your eyes. You only want me to join in with this farce because you’re picturing me wheeling about the room like an epileptic in a ball pool.

I’m truly sorry but I’m going to have to do something I swore I’d never do. Hell has frozen over, water is running uphill and yes, that’s a flock of pigs up there. I’m going to quote Phil Collins.

I can’t dance.

And Eddy Grant: I don’t wanna dance. I have all the natural rhythm of a vomiting teenager on the Nemesis Inferno, but you already know that don’t you? That’s why you’re imploring me to gyrate comically while being stared at by angry young men with their top buttons done up and no socks, worried my mysterious new shapes are going to dazzle that one woman they’re all trying to impress who looks like Ronnie O’Sullivan.

At various points in a young, then less young, then fuck-me-was-there-that-much-grey-up-there-yesterday man’s life he’ll be faced with the nightmarish prospect of dancing. Sure, women can squirm about however they want and still earn the approving gaze of prospective paramours in your standard low-rent mating ritual. But men trying to dance consistently reminds us of a herd of lolloping wildebeest praying not to be the one picked off by hyenas cackling with hilarity beside the dancefloor. Do hyenas hunt wildebeest? In that bloody metaphor they do.

It starts with the school disco. I can still see the look of disappointment on Catherine Powell’s face as she watched me jerk awkwardly to Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport, back when the world was a far more innocent place. I knew at that moment my chances of marrying Catherine were but a speck of dust on a pinhead and my tiny little eight-year-old cock would have to remain nestled up against Luke’s lightsaber in its Star Wars pants for now, though of course we called them willies before Rolf got sent down.

Secondary school: further disgrace, compounded by the fashion sense of a retarded Scouser. It’s not my fault there was a brief period when shellsuits were in vogue though it’s probably my fault mine was turquoise. The whoosh of the material might have drowned out the gales of mirth but I didn’t need a sign language expert to recognise pointing and laughing as I twitched preposterously to New Kids on the Block or Technotronic.

By university I’d realised dancing was for buffoons. Obviously that can’t stop people thirsty for tears of humiliation suggesting a ‘nightclub’ in ‘Coventry’ as the ideal place for a man from southern England to finally become a man of the world. “Come on!” they said. “Come on!” they said again, more menacingly. So into the fray I allowed myself to be peer pressured and away to casualty they all went with sides split wide open. A face of embarrassed rage looks so much funnier in the light of the disco ball.

Only at 20, 21 did I establish that taking a drink with you onto the dancefloor is a cunning defence against utter ignominy. Sadly, feigning aloofness with a barely perceptible shuffle to Eminem’s latest act of aural cruelty marks you out as an enemy of fun, and that in itself entertains your friends (enemies) just as much. What precisely it is about dancing that turns a normal, judicious man into a self-conscious sack of shame I don’t know. I do know the next person who tries to make me dance will earn the type of abuse that would get you disappeared in most African countries.

As with everything a hypocrite says, there’s a caveat. I can mosh. Jumping up and down on the spot to music of genuine quality is a pleasure that makes me misty-eyed as it fades into the memory, though even today with enough cider in me I’ll occasionally show terrified infants how it’s done. If moshing was a sport I would be UK champion in the 100kg class, rebounding off innocents like lumps of iron in the early universe, which is apt given compared to your average young rock fan I’m large and impressive like a planet.

But these days the most dancing I face is at weddings. The odds of people with names like Lisa and Lee slipping Slipknot into their playlist are remote. It’s Come on Eileen and Sweet motherfucking Caroline and a City-to-win-the-league chance they’ll be loving angels instead for their first dance. Can’t we call it the last dance? I’d have a lot more time for weddings if that dance signified the final time a man has to sway ludicrously and pretend to be loving it, before a lifetime of leaning up against the bar graciously turning down invites to jive with the mere flick of his ring finger: sorry, I’m married, I don’t have to dance ever again.

You’re not getting away with it that easy my boy. Though picturing myself as an old man is like picturing anyone born this year seeing a single flake of snow during their lifetime, if I get there they’ll still have me wheeling myself onto the dancefloor for one last hurraaaaaahahahahahahaha. I’ll still hate it with a passion belying my angina and I’ll have to bring a half-full bag of piss with me but that’s all right – I exist for your gratification, so please ignore my protests of genuine discomfort. That new move I’m trying out, thrashing about on the floor, I call it ‘the coronary’.

There’s no hiding from it; even when you die your body twitches and spasms like it wants waking up before you go-go. I’m resigned to there being further instances of this exasperating fiasco no matter that I really don’t need to bet how good I look on the bloody dancefloor.

Just a few notes, though. I reserve the right to refuse to shout ‘OI’ in the first verse of the proper version of I’m a Believer. If I hear the slightest hint of a decent beat I will leap up and down for a full four minutes and welcome the horrified stares with devil horns aloft and my eyes filled with ROCK. If it’s dancing you want from me it’s the full monkey boy you’ll get, so prepare yourself for bruised shins, eyes out and whiplash.

Come on, it’s fun!

Cumbernauld and Shipley

A couple of weeks ago I was on a British Airways flight to Italy. These days this involves a ‘short haul economy dining’ experience lovingly crafted by Marks & Spencer. Gone are the days of infinite free mini wines on the way to tipping a man in a gimp suit into a canal in some desolate European burgh. It’s now £2.30 for a ‘Twinings English Breakfast tea 12oz’ on the nation’s flagship carrier and oh how proud they make us all.

On this flight was a man with a desperate thirst for £1.80 worth of bottled water. You can only pay by card these days, ever since airlines realised that without the weight of a bag of pound coins you can fit an extra seat on each wing, so this man handed over his plastic.

“Would you like a receipt?”

“Yes please.”

Continue reading Cumbernauld and Shipley

The afterwank

When I was young, back when this was all fields, I vowed that I would never be one of those people who stopped caring about things.

Old people would tell us we really couldn’t change a damn thing, but we knew our generation was different. We walked down streets wearing wristbands that said ‘Make Poverty History’ and just knew we’d save the world. All we needed was a few people richer than us to give up their money first, then we’d maybe start chipping in too, once the student loans were paid off and we’d had a nice holiday and a couple of kids, and obviously they’ll need money for a house and to be honest these people should probably be helping themselves before they come to us for handouts but the point is we cared.

Old people just gave up, but we’d never do that. And I can honestly say I have the same politics as I did in 2005. I don’t squint warily at brown people and my investment portfolio stretches no further than the two cans of Guinness I left unswallowed in the fridge last night. I want more than anything to leave, but the last thing I want is to Leave.

And yet, with the tragic inevitability of the toast landing jam-side-down, the old people were right.

Continue reading The afterwank

Death by Playmobil

I passed my driving test 23 years ago. I started driving so long ago, Arsene Wenger was in charge of a Japanese team with a name like an Austrian mountain troll and Henri Paul was still alive. I miss Henri. We all do.

I’m neither good at driving nor bad at it; I’ve never won a race and I’ve never knocked two people off a tandem. Generally speaking I can sit behind the wheel of a car and know, with a reasonable degree of confidence, how to make it move forwards, backwards and side to side. But I do have one question.

What the fuck is the handbrake doing down there?

Continue reading Death by Playmobil


You know that sinking feeling you get when you bump into an old friend you haven’t seen for years? You go for coffee, a beer, something stronger. You reminisce about the old times and compare notes on the new – what’s that, Paul? Married now? Kids, is it? Four of the fuckers? Why, of course I’d love to see photos of them!

At least in the old days, this farcical pretence of interest in the progeny of others would only last for the time it takes to brandish a couple of beat-up Polaroids from their wallet or purse; now, the wonders of modern technology mean that Paul or Janet or whoever the fuck can bash you over the head with a slideshow of their sprogs until hell freezes over.

Continue reading Pomp

Stay frosty

War is hell. Women and children are under terrible threat and nobody’s doing a damn thing about it. Politicians seem powerless to stop it and outrage is everywhere.

Even those far from the front lines have their routines badly disrupted. But this is no ordinary conflict. This enemy is different – insidious, targeting the weakest in society, culling the sick and the old like a less cuddly Shipman. It’s an unwinnable war against a truly evil adversary.

Yeah, it’s a bit nippy out.

Continue reading Stay frosty

Maximum AI

Well that’s it then. It’s all over.

Plato. Lincoln. Einstein. Parks. Tendulkar. Churchill and Pryor. Schindler. Tubman. Wilberforce, Hendrix and Peel. Johnson and Jonson. Fleming. Pankhurst. Dec.

These names and so many more light up the sky like Sana’a at dusk. The history of humanity is a tale of triumph against the odds. But every good thing must come to an end, and that end is upon us.

Someone has actually built a T-800.

Continue reading Maximum AI

No Way Fam

It’s often tempting to peer back into the mists and wonder what our ancestors would make of us now.

I wonder what Agincourt’s Henry V would have made of the British Army’s bold new ‘Belonging’ campaign, where it’s made clear the forces are happy to take on even the spongiest cupcake because literally anyone can be a human shield in the age of equality. “What if I get emotional?” asks one potential recruit in the ad campaign. “The king received an axe blow to the head, which knocked off a piece of the crown that formed part of his helmet”, says Wikipedia. Score draw.

Back then it was turnip for dinner. Now it’s ‘elevated toast’, and you have to take a picture of it or it’s not really there. Back then, frostbite was a blessing as it took the edge off the gangrene. Now, the NHS is bankrupted by people taking colds to A&E. Back then, grooming involved the local hag hacking your locks off with the same rusty knife she used to bone poor Uncle Jacob when the typhoid finally won out over the dysentery.

Now, people inject animal fat into their lips.

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Witty but woebegone

If 2016 was the year of celebrity deaths, 2017 was surely the annum of celebrity downfalls.

Sparked by the toppling of one of Hollywood’s most prolific alleged sex pests Harvey Weinstein, an entire balustrade of power-wielding, pussy-grabbing men has come tumbling down in recent months; Kevin Spacey, Louis CK and Brett Ratner head up a very lengthy list. Of course, the most powerful man on the planet has had many a finger pointed in his orange direction, but so far, to no avail…as has another wormy, smarmy, self-obsessed star.

Continue reading Witty but woebegone