Tag Archives: Britain

From Westminster to Wetherspoons

All week out here in Hanoi there’s been a storm brewing. God himself tore the sky asunder, bringing his omniscient cock down to bear on the Vietnamese capital and opening up a stream of holy piss the likes of which haven’t been seen since the time of Noah. Turns out the vicar’s daughter hadn’t been prudent enough to heed the warnings of senior Tory party reptiles and there will be no ark for her when the floodwaters start rising.

And rise they shall. We’re a little more than a week on from the election, and for all the tooth and nail gibbering that took place during that sordid chunk of history, there emerged no victor.

My predictions failed me. The Liberal Democrats were hung by the gonads from meat-hooks while students hurled rotten fruit and used tampons. That detestable invertebrate Nick Clegg lost Sheffield Hallam to Labour for the first time in over 100 years, slinking off with big watery puppy eyes. Dark times indeed for the centre-ground of politics, but the failure of the Glib Dems is no doubt indicative of the times we live in; madness begets madness and Tim Farron’s mild-mannered attempt to offer sanity was drowned out in the calamity and cacophony of a battleground for which he was not properly equipped. Farron too, lacked the guts to fight a campaign and now he goes snivelling back to lobbying on behalf of the Church, leaving the Liberal Democrats as impotent as eunuchs until Vince Cable steps up his game.

The list of casualties goes on, with the next head to be mounted on the mantelpiece of No. 10 belonging to former UKIP leader Paul Nuttall. Spare a thought for Paul. A truly reckless excuse for a politician, his failed abortion of a political career has tunnelled back into the dirt. From Westminster to Wetherspoons. There will be few tears shed for Paul’s demise and nor should there be. The town drunkard was a fraudulent charlatan, a snake-oil salesman and a blithering moron of such epic proportions, it’s some sort of anti-miracle that he survived this long.

But the press remain hungry for meat and only a prime cut will do. Theresa May was savaged by even the Murdoch owned papers, who turned on her like a leper in paradise. The Sun and Daily Mail ran a better campaign against Corbyn than May could have ever mustered herself, but in the end this vitriol did not translate into votes. Her career is as dead as her eyes, yet she limps on, dripping blood, forked tongue hissing violently at anyone she passes.

From day one she’d had all the support possible: the papers, the polls and even the public, but post-election that hereditary smugness transmogrified her face into a haunted lump of waxen dried fruit. But her talons are dug deep into the democratic hog and she has no plans to relinquish her death-grip, even enlisting the Neolithic troglodytes of the DUP – summoning them via time machine into the foul year 2017 to ensure the survival of her reign.

It will not be enough. A fire in a tower block is all it took to expose the hastily erected façade. Soon May will go quietly into that good night of politics the same way that Cameron did and while Dave has switched smoothly back into the meanest yuppie ever to roam the earth, Old Tessa will be lucky to run a village fete when they chase her out of town. All that remains to be seen is whether she runs weeping back to the wheat fields or if the reptilian Tory party will slide its barbed cock so far into her softer regions that she chokes to death on her own minced offal.

Somehow, Labour succeeded in pulling off some maniacal supernatural experiment where the embalmed remains of Jeremy Corbyn were reanimated and sent forth into battle like a withered Furby hooked up to the mains. Coming across as more human than a startled banshee caught in the headlights of youth in revolt probably wasn’t that hard and I suspect Corbyn was living off a diet of Viagra and espressos throughout the campaign, but it was still a better comeback than Jesus given the polls two months ago.

I expected Corbyn to be taken out back and shot. May was going to beat him like a drum and skull-fuck the Labour party into a shallow, unmarked grave. The whole left-wing was to be tied to a rocket by the genitals and fired off into a black hole, never to be spoken of again. For Labour, it’s difficult to see this as the defeat that it was. Yes, objectively speaking they lost, but they have shown there’s a real appetite for Tory scalps these days. Tom Watson has taken to wearing a necklace of ears and even Diane Abbot has one of Paul Dacre’s testicles for an egg-cup.

The good ship Blighty has sailed deep into uncharted territory and if our sinking prison isle is to survive, we need a better captain. With some new fresh hell rising out of the depths every day now, it is unclear exactly how the gaping chasm of a wound on our nation can be healed back to unity.

I suspect history will treat this current crop of Tories like the vultures they are – even the Nazis thought they had God on their side. I have never been one for hope, but it remains possible that the Time of the Bastards is coming to an end and some new hideous mutant hellspawn will be unleashed upon a screaming British public, but perhaps not. Big time politics is a strange game with few rules and only the most debauched and cannibalistic survive.

Before the typhoon strikes

Quietly churning away like my stomach at the sight of Amber Rudd tongue-punching Theresa May’s fartbox live on TV, the wheels of democracy have lurched us to the barren cliff edge of election day.

Diane Abbott has jumped off the cliff ahead of Labour Party schedule and is now wallowing in the strange purgatorial realm of ‘illness’ – one that reeks of a sick note from your mum that gets you out of being rugby tackled by the head boy in PE. Only the head boy is now a semi-sentient, permanently concussed farmhand and yet he retains a better grasp on politics than Abbott, which is almost a shame.

The haunted stuffed owl that currently shuffles through No. 10 like a somnambulist, waking in terror at every question fired off by a reporter, somehow still lives, although not in the traditional human sense. Whatever voodoo keeps May alive clearly didn’t work for Abbott. At least she went with a whimper rather than a bang; people are on edge this week and sudden movements make everyone queasy. Continue reading Before the typhoon strikes

The shifty librarian

I’ve actually quite enjoyed this election campaign.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve not lost my fucking mind. I haven’t been glued to leaders’ debates and party election broadcasts, desperate for a fix of election smack to see me through to the next Andrew Neil interview. I’ve quite enjoyed this one because it’s the first time in my adult life I’ve treated it with the same level of interest and respect owed to a hair-pulling girl fight at a Bolton comprehensive.

Continue reading The shifty librarian

Strength and stability

This month sees the seven-year anniversary of the Tories’ ascension to Downing Street.

Seven is considered to be a magic number by many. Seven days of the week, seven colours in the rainbow, seven continents and seven seas on this great green-and-blue Earth. Seven Samurai, seven books in the Harry Potter series and seven fucking psychopaths.

Seven might be a magical number to some, but it certainly hasn’t proved magical for the majority of Britons over the last seven years, and it’s apparently not quite magical enough for Theresa May, who has decided to reach for five more years in the Prime Ministerial hot seat.

Continue reading Strength and stability

When cattle played darts

Don’t spend Saturday nights in, that’s the lesson. Go out, make yourself insensible on Disaronno, bang your head on something and wake up with an empty wallet and a sore arse on Monday morning ready for another five days of absurd life-wasting, but for Christ’s sake don’t stay in.

Because if you stay in, you’ll end up watching a programme called Can’t Touch This. Here’s the premise: scattered about an assault course made largely of foam is a collection of circular panels with hands stamped on them. As you navigate the swinging punch bags and garish stackable blocks, your goal is to touch as many of these hand panels as you can – each one wins you a specific prize – while also attempting to get through the course in as quick a time as possible to qualify for additional rounds.

People fall over a lot and make themselves look ridiculous. This in itself is not a problem; seeing someone fall over is one of life’s genuine treats. No, it’s not what Can’t Touch This is that bothers me – it’s what it’s not. It’s not Total Wipeout.

What we have here is a prime example of why the BBC must be lauded and protected by all British citizens, with the type of ferocity usually associated with a mob outside the house of a man whose name is spelt similarly to that of a paedophile. If you’ve ever recycled a single Coke can, walked a few extra yards rather than use the disabled parking bay, held open the door for a stranger or in any way exhibited a modicum of fellowship with the people alongside you on Earth, you must defend the BBC from circling vultures and use Can’t Touch This as Exhibit A to back you up.

Total Wipeout was the same show, but off its tits. Idiots would gurn a brief USP at a sceptical presenter before charging off around a monstrous assault course where they could fully expect to hurt themselves. They would slip and crash into unnecessarily hard obstacles, fall headfirst into pits, be spun into sickening dizziness by fiendishly rotating machines and be shoved by unexpectedly movable scenery as they tried to negotiate a ledge beside a mud bath. It’s a wonder there were no blades involved.

Many moving obstacles were clearly not random – the people behind the scenery, in easily the best TV job they will ever have, waiting for the optimal moment to jam a massive boxing glove into the face of a hapless 19-stone middle-aged man. The show’s crowning glory was a series of giant red inflatable balls over which a contestant would attempt to run. They would usually make it to the second, be pinged face first into the third before spinning wildly off into a swimming pool below in a state of panic, bewilderment and the odd dislocated vertebra. I could watch this scene for countless hours and haven’t laughed so hard since Compo went down the hill in Howard’s cast iron bath.

Total Wipeout was cancelled a year or two ago, but the touchpaper had been lit: people wanted to see cretins colliding with things and making that ‘oof’ noise that always sounds so satisfying when coming out of someone else. But Total Wipeout was filmed outdoors, in Argentina, and the BBC has to make ‘efficiencies’.

Thus was born Can’t Touch This. It’s filmed indoors, probably in Birmingham. The first ‘obstacle’ involves being thrown by a pneumatic chair into a container of foam cuboids, from which the contestant must get out, which proved tricky for the big-boned Jo from Hartlepool. Next we have a travelator, against whose direction they must run – if you don’t judge it right, you’ll fall into a tub of cold water! After that there are some blocks to stack up to reach a suspended prize-hand – careful, it’s a bit unstable, don’t fall off onto that safety mat!

The show’s answer to the big red balls is a tipping pole vault, which they must cling to in order to reach the other side of a 3-metre divide. The platform on the other side is so high there’s no chance they’ll make it – no-one does – but as they slide hopelessly down there’s a chance the men might split a testicle. Oof!

While Total Wipeout was presented by an engagingly mischievous Irish woman, Can’t Touch This is fronted by a curiously wizened Zoe Ball, who appears on the verge of tears throughout. The prizes hark back to the golden age of television, when cattle played darts – an exercise bike, a weekend in Berlin and what seemed to be a mandatory food mixer that you had to claim in order to stop the clock. The final contestant had the chance to win a car if she touched it, but they suspended it from the roof and flung her at it some distance beneath so there’d be no fear of the Director General being hauled before a committee to explain why the corporation’s throwing Nissans at the poor in a time of austerity.

If you’re one of those people who thinks the BBC overreaches and should be cut back, let me lay out your alternative reality. The Night Manager is now a fly-on-the-wall at Skipton Travelodge narrated by Matthew Wright. The One Show is now just its hateful theme tune played over and over for 30 minutes, one, one, one, one, ooooh, yeah. Davidson and Virgo have taken over at Pointless. Happy Valley is set in Taunton and stars Su Pollard. Panorama investigates the Welsh steel industry every single week. Noel Edmonds is Doctor Who.

Obviously, the BBC is imperfect. Citizen Khan somehow remains on our screens, and straight after Can’t Touch This I saw a trailer for a new Michael McIntyre ‘comedy’ vehicle that had me flexing my trigger finger. It can probably save money, by focusing less on the financial well-being of Dermot O’Leary and Clare Balding and by spending zero on sporting rights. ITV, the perfect three-letter response to anyone bemoaning the BBC, is shit anyway so sport might as well go on that.

But I would pay the licence fee many times over to spend an hour each Saturday night watching berks being hurled around a terrifying South American Krypton Factor, and not grimly stacking oversized footstools in a warehouse in the Midlands in a bid to snag a 3D printer. The BBC is not some awful throwback to a time of state ownership that we’ve outgrown, but the last best hope to demonstrate that if we all chip into something without complaint we can reap benefits many times what we deserve. For what it does for the British people on a daily basis we should be tipping the contents of our bank accounts into wheelbarrows and carting it round to W1A personally.

And that’s without even mentioning its glorious radio output. The BBC has been a vital part of our lives for decades and there’s not one person in this country who would deny it’s produced some wonderful shared memories. The more we let opportunistic dickheads like the current Culture Secretary bleat and whine that it’s outdated – on the bloody BBC itself most of the time – the closer we move to Nicholas Lyndhurst as Sherlock, Derek Griffiths as Luther and the 10 o’clock news read by the bald one off Masterchef.

Can’t Touch This? Leave it the fuck alone more like.

To mourn a mischief that is past and gone

“To mourn a mischief that is past and gone is the next way to draw new mischief on.”

With this line from Othello, William Shakespeare’s prescience knew no bounds. From the moment the great playwright died, four centuries ago this year, he has been lauded through continual reproduction of his work and countless volumes of professorial study. He has successfully installed himself as the finest writer of the English language in the minds of most right-thinking people. He is mourned in the sense that we can hope for no-one of such astounding talent to grace life’s stage again.

And he was, and continues to be, a fucking mischief.

It’s of no small horror to certain people I know that I think it’s high time Shakespeare’s back catalogue was packaged up and sent to landfill alongside every second of footage of the Mighty Boosh and all those boxes of Lostprophets CDs. Shakespeare’s work is so omnipresent it forces worthwhile art to the margins, despite being more wearisome than a party political broadcast read by Melvyn Bragg. If a day goes by where you haven’t heard the name Shakespeare mentioned at some point then, well, you died yesterday, sorry about that.

Not a week goes by, not a week, without some fool declaring they’ve found a new way to present Shakespeare’s plays to an audience who cannot, physically cannot, have avoided being subjected to a good number of them at various points in their life, whether they were willing recipients of this drippy tedium or not. Two days ago a fine British actor, Ian McKellan, known for his willingness to take on unlikely roles, was on the television to promote his new project. A mad new series of sci-fi epics where a brave resistance fights alien invaders who’ve arrived to judge humanity for its crimes against the universe? A kaleidoscopic children’s fantasy set in a world where black, white and grey have been banned and a council of rainbow unicorns hands out lollipops that taste like dreams?

Not quite – he’ll be starring alongside Judi Dench in ‘Shakespeare Live’. I don’t know what that is, but it’ll be presented by David Tennant, who said this: “We have opera, we have ballet, we have hip-hop – all celebrating Shakespeare and what he’s done for our cultural heritage.” Oh, wonderful, wonderful. Let there be no area of British culture left uncontaminated by dickheads in frilly tights.

The principal issue I have with Shakespeare is that we, 400 years later, don’t get to decide whether his work’s any good; it’s been decided for us over many a previous generation, and to err is to spit on our ancestors. Perhaps Shakespeare was the finest playwright in England when he was alive, I don’t know, but once he’d died he began to be feted as the nation’s greatest, against which all other playwrights must be compared. As the decades and centuries wore on, there can be no doubt whatsoever that other writers will have made plays, had careers, that on an objective level will have been the match of William Shakespeare’s, but we’ll have heard nothing about them given they’ll have been drowned out by the ovine howling of lovers of such seizure-inducing comedy as The Merry Wives of Windsor. Without it we’d never have had Birds of a Feather, you know.

Given it’s a safe assumption that every last one of Shakespeare’s plays is being performed somewhere in the world today, it could be argued that the man’s work is a crutch for those who’ve run out of ideas. Can’t get your new play off the ground? Dust down that tatty copy of As You Like It and start readying your Rosalind. Desperate to penetrate the public consciousness before your prostate heaves and the donepezil takes over? There’s nothing like a run through Julius Caesar to stoke the fires one final time. Spaffed the last of your cash on an ill-judged, self-financed remake of Police Academy: Mission to Moscow? Fuck it, let’s Macbeth.

Of course the man himself is hardly to blame for all this; presumably he died as oblivious to the column inches his deeds would generate as that chap off the television with the mad hair who stuck his cock in all those kids. Maybe Shakespeare didn’t even write the plays himself. Just think, you may be unwittingly infatuated with a cipher while the true genius remains unlauded and unknown. Know what that makes you? A Belieber.

Perhaps if the obsession with Shakespeare would serve to ‘draw new mischief on’, he wouldn’t be such an irritant. I’ve no doubt there are some tremendous playwrights around today, yet no writer alive can hope to smash through Shakespeare’s glass ceiling. We have reached the point where it would undermine the fabric of humanity to admit Shakespeare wasn’t the finest writer since God. Any playwright refusing to acknowledge that Shakespeare will reign for eternity will have their next show tomatoed to extinction by a booing mob of English literature students desperate to reaffirm that it’s all right to call Jews money-grabbing bastards so long as you wear a silly hat and pretend to be Italian.

Yes, the Shakespearean horror bestowed on me as a schoolboy was The Merchant of Venice. Though it failed to teach me all people with big noses are evil, it did succeed in demonstrating that popularity doesn’t necessarily equate to quality. This play is a classic, we were told. Why, I asked. I didn’t hear the answer if there was one, given I’d been ordered up the corridor for a caning. Just because everyone says it’s great, doesn’t make it great. I think Mr Blobby was at number one at the time, cracking my point into an open goal for me.

Declaring you’re not a fan of Shakespeare is sacrilege on a par with saying Prince Harry is a spawny rich bastard playing at soldiers rather than a ‘good bloke’, or you always thought Des Lynam was shit on Match of the Day. Views of this type are met with the full force of the British subconscious that doesn’t know why it’s obsessed with a long-dead courtesan from Warwickshire but knows it will flay the first fucker to disparage him.

But how about we agree to give the old boy a rest for a while? You can have your 400-year celebration, but after the imminent Shakespearaganza let’s agree not to talk about the man or his work for, say, 18 months. Scholars will unearth great non-Shakespeare works until-now suppressed by the intolerable weight of the First Folio, new playwrights and new styles will emerge from the long shadow of the Bard, and I can once again do the Saturday crossword without tripping up on the final clue: Secret Moorish lover of Tamora in Titus Andronicus, in no way intended to portray dark-skinned people as untrustworthy and evil (5).

That it should come to this. True is it that we have seen better days. Do you think I am easier to be played on than a pipe?

Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
Ding-dong.
Hark! now I hear them,
ding-dong,
bell.

End.

Lost to the grape

The day begins with a feeling of minor dread akin to realising you’ve left the freezer door open overnight and melted your fish fingers. A mild sickness appears in the back of the throat, your body stating in no uncertain terms that it may allow you to get a little toothpaste in your mouth but if you attempt porridge you’re asking for it. Your mind refuses to output sensible instruction as you fail to get pants on like an adult and almost headfirst yourself through the window. It’s the type of stodgy malady only a lack of alcohol the previous night can bring on.

Hangovers are diabolical and can leave an Iron Man veteran curled up foetally on his bathroom floor, but the hollow feeling of a fresh morning following a night of sobriety holds its own terrors. Despite this, and some evidence to the contrary, it’s a feeling I experience most days of the week.

I’m not an alcoholic in any meaningful sense of the word, and coming from a family packed with them I should know. I have an uncle, two aunts and a cousin humbly asking Him to remove their shortcomings in a room of shame-faced strangers. At a large family event some years ago one of these, in her mid-forties, was found floundering in a ditch outside the venue, attempting to use her cash card to withdraw money from a hedge. Livened up the wedding, at least. Pity it was mine.

I have a raft of alcoholic drinks in my house – an actual raft, in case England’s northern barbarians send down their army of unwanted waters – but I probably crack one open once every couple of months. Alcohol often goes past its use-by date at my place, leading to the forlorn sight of a man sorrowfully tipping away can after can of Guinness that was once God’s gift to drinkers but now tastes like caustic soda laced with brie.

I drink in company, anywhere but home, to have a laugh, get drunk and forget the future. I don’t drink because I like it – I tolerate it in order to lose my wits. I don’t drink because it relaxes me of an evening – that’s what tea is for. I am the classic binge drinker, as are many of my countrymen and women. It’s frequently gruesome, destructive, frightening, pugnacious and vile, and more often than not great fun.

Today, one of our nation’s august health authorities has elected to inform us that even the tiniest sip of grog will do your body harm, and a man’s weekly upper limit should be somewhere in the region of seven pints. Good luck explaining to an Englishman after seven pints on a Monday night that he’s had enough for the week, particularly if you’re not within easy reach of one of the country’s two remaining A&Es.

Even to those with a forehead like Steven Gerrard it must be abundantly plain that alcohol is a poison to the human body, and can be nothing but bad for you. Advice to make us do less of it is akin to telling us not to take naps on train tracks or point binoculars at the sun. But unlike a number of vocal critics fouling the airwaves this morning, I don’t object to such guidance being issued by civil servants with curiously large budgets, because this guidance is plainly not aimed at me.

I object with unimaginable vehemence to anyone telling me how much I should and shouldn’t drink, because life is going to kill me one day no matter how many bulbs of garlic I hang up to ward off the inevitable. I’ve lately been suffering a bout of horrific hangovers that have made me seriously question my intake – and that’s fine, because I’m choosing to take on board the facts of my blistering skin and ripped throat, and react accordingly. You don’t need to tell me I should drink less, because my body tells me itself by upwardly ejecting much of what I put in it through the wrong hole with great force.

Yet official advice on how much you should drink, in that ideal world none of us will ever experience, is surely as harmless as the Green Cross Code. Remember that? Stopped you getting killed when you were a child? Maybe if the red man at the traffic lights had been a bottle instead I might have been sufficiently conditioned to avoid my likely fate of a waiting list for a nasty brown organ I won’t abide on my plate much less have implanted in me when someone else is done with it.

The advice given by health bodies is so plainly obvious to the most ardent of simpletons it seems almost designed to let us ignore it. Eating raw meat could kill you. Well bugger me, that’s a turn up. Don’t try to retrieve your Frisbee from an electricity station unless you want a million British school children to laugh at you in the advert they make about it. Don’t inflate the life raft until you’ve exited the aircraft, though plane safety info is singularly worthless given you’ll be splattered across the plains long before you have the chance to hunt about beneath your seat for a life jacket that probably isn’t there.

Still, objecting to such advice is quite daft. The people behind such guidelines clearly do it because we’re a country with one of the biggest intakes of booze per head on the planet, and to not point out there are downsides to it would be to miss the opportunity to give a few people jobs. It’s bad for you. Yes we know. Here’s a few quid, treat yourself to a Smirnoff.

Don’t complain that alcohol may give you one of those grim diseases that eat you up over the course of many months, like arse cancer or gout, but it’s good for your heart in moderation. Advice like this is hardly aimed at people who sip at a nice glass of red with their tenderloin and smile contentedly that Mr Merlot has helped them cheat death for yet another day. If you’re using alcohol to try to keep your heart healthy you’re probably not reading the label properly.

If you drink a bottle of wine a night and think it’s good for you, you were lost to the grape long ago and good luck on your voyage to the bottom of the vineyard. If you think you’re fine because you have five days a week completely juice-free, you might not live forever if the other two days are spent crawling through sick down Cardiff high street with your skirt up over your head, one shoe in your left hand and the other in The Prince of Wales.

You might not live forever even if you spend seven days a week off the sauce, every week of your dwindling life, because that’s the game I’m afraid. It ends. Don’t fume at the guidelines explaining how to delay the certain, just accept they’re another way of saying “You’re going to get hit by a bus, but it doesn’t have to be the next one you see.”

Let us applaud these new directives in the true spirit of a nation minded to listen politely before making their own bloody minds up, consequences be damned. And drink up, because before last orders in the great pub of life we might as well go out singing and shouting and glassing each other in the true tradition of a country floating on ale.

Chef’s special

Vegetarians are lunatics; I think we can all agree on that. Somehow, the ever-reducing number of guilt-free pleasures available to the western consumer do still include a meat-laden meal, prepared to perfection and presented in such style it makes you glad you were able to dismiss that definition of ‘pearl barley’ you had to look up the other week as the ravings of a madman.

Oh but hang on – you’ve been led astray. Your mind has wandered off to a land of cattle shaped like deliciously tender and well-seasoned steaks, done to within a split-second of perfection with juices emerging lazily to blend with your mashed polenta. You’re picturing succulent pieces of chicken reclining in a polpette di pollo, laced with garlic and flat-leafed parsley and sprinkled with parmesan as though Edesia herself has blessed your majestic banquet. Roman goddess of food. Thank you Jimmy Wales.

That’s not real meat. That’s middle-class meat. Your imagination is filled with images of unreal meals cooked by that fat-tongued clown Jamie Oliver and no-one else ever because what the fuck is he on about, really?

Meat is the rotting flesh of dead animals, industrially reared and slaughtered, hacked up and transported incalculable distances so we can get fat on suffering and murder and call it ‘natural’. Meat is meant to be frightening, and if it doesn’t scare you you probably deserve the same fate as that sheep they made in a lab, named and marvelled at for a few weeks before beginning to look at differently, with eyes saying “That bit’s the shoulder, that bit’s the shank.”

Meat must be feared. That’s where kebabs come in. Don’t look at me like that.

There are people in the world who think kebabs are the sole preserve of the drunkard who’s given up all hope of a future without diabetes. At times it’s hard to fault that line of thought, and yet at 12.35am on a Wednesday, some hours before Wednesday becomes a serious and terrifying reality, there’s nothing more life-affirming than a hairy man regarding you balefully as you step across his threshold slurring “large doner please mate”. Witness him glide across the dubious linoleum towards the object of your terrible desire, sharpening his infernal weaponry and slicing through so many mashed-together ex-creatures in one swipe it’d make that arsehole who arrowed Cecil the Lion quake with fear.

Kebabs are a gift to Britain from a culture that has realised we’re fucked beyond imagination and only food that makes you genuinely ashamed can stave off the doom. But here, too, some will be thinking: “Actually he has a point. I had a lovely schwarma wrapped in a toasted tortilla from the new artisan Turkish on the High Street last week. They infuse it with herbs and they won’t give out the recipe for their garlic sauce, and believe me I’ve asked. It’s that good, I even had it sober once.”

You’re what’s wrong with the world, do you know that? You think Waitrose is fine for day-to-day items, but oh that new patisserie, they make the most wonderful cinnamon tea cakes. You regularly claim you prefer the feel of a ‘real book’ while never buying anything on your Amazon wish list unless it drops under a quid. You probably think Jeremy Clarkson was treated shabbily by the BBC. You’re the reason there’s such a thing as a ‘gastropub’.

What you imagine to be a kebab is nothing of the sort, but just as with dartboards, jukeboxes and faded pub carpets swimming in beer, our heritage is being lost in a blur of upward mobility. Genuine kebab shops of the type the past two generations have worshipped as temples of post-pub salvation are being replaced by places that are safe, non-threatening and, worst of all, clean.

This is summed up by the slow death of the pita bread. There’s a reason I go to Eddie’s by Kings Cross station – they serve me stacks of dirty meat, wrecked salad and ring-stinging chili sauce on Poundland-quality pita bread, and some minutes in the bread’s soaked through with more fat than the beach at Benidorm. This, I must stress, is a marvellous thing.

But we are being invaded by ‘wraps’. It’s impossible to describe the disappointment of a ‘wrap’, with meat that seems pre-chewed, sauce you can’t see and therefore can’t be sure isn’t “chef’s special”, and the culinary equivalent of a sheet of A4 holding it all together. There’s half as much food than in a proper kebab – and worse, the bit missing is the hangover-prevention ingredient that most of us have bought it for in the first place, that glorious pita that will gum you up like putty.

I demand that at least one aspect of my life be allowed to continue unmolested by the drive to make everything family-friendly to maximise revenue. Pubs that I can tolerate are disappearing as irascible landlords are replaced by apron-wielding ‘managers’. I feel increasingly uncertain in newsagents since energy drinks and devices for ‘vaping’ replaced Panini stickers and a proper top shelf. Even easyJet isn’t the comedy bunfight it once was, with reserved seating and fake tan no longer mandatory among staff of both genders. I think they’re allowed to fly to Monaco now and I don’t understand.

We, the standard bearers of a country that would have as much point as Switzerland without our ability to hold our ale, are hungry. Wraps will not do, damn it. Find some other way to describe whatever pitiful muck your people masquerade as kebabs, and a way to serve it that doesn’t involve me wandering into a place with an elephant leg on a sign outside and emerging with tears streaming down my face as a once-great nation allows itself to be emasculated by the rampant hordes of people who know what the holy Christ ‘chia seeds’ are.

Some things in life should be confusing, alarming and not for everyone, like animated porn. Kebabs are not yours, they’re ours. We will have sodden pita bread, and chili sauce of unknown provenance from a silver container, not a bottle. We will continue to say yes to chillies to look like proper kebab eaters then covertly throw them in the street for the rat whose brother we’re probably munching on right now. We embrace botulism like a comfort blanket.

We know our dinner will kill us, and you’d better let it. You wouldn’t like Eddie when he’s angry.

Just to survive

You only have to walk into any UK pub to overhear a conversation bashing benefits these days. It’s something that splits opinion all over the country. With the growing trend in what media experts are dubbing ‘poverty porn’, it seems as though people on the breadline are being made out to be the lowest of the low, the dregs of society, the absolute worst human beings you could possibly encounter. And that generalisation annoys the fucking hell out of me.

Sure, there are some people who are living on benefits because they either don’t know or don’t care about what happens in their lives, and they genuinely think that the best way to live is to effectively steal money from people who’ve worked seven days a week for the whole of their lives. Don’t get me wrong; I think people like that are absolute idiots – because they give the rest of those on benefits an incredibly bad name. But that isn’t the full story.

You see somebody who isn’t working. What do you think of them? If you’re anything like the majority of judgmental shitheads in the country, you’ll immediately jump to the conclusion that they’re lazy scroungers who are good for nothing. But have you stopped to consider the fact that they might actually have a disability? You might not be able to see what this is, it may not be obvious to you, but there’s every chance that it’s there. They may spend the whole of their lives in pain, waiting until they are able to take their next dose of medication to ease their symptoms a tiny bit, without even having the positivity to hope that things could get better.

They might crave normality in their lives, and might spend every waking hour wishing they were able to get up and go to work, but knowing that they may never be able to. Instead they have to rely on other people – which might lower their self esteem even more, and will never be able to “contribute to society” in the same way that some people believe every human being should be forced to – no matter whether they’re physically able to or not.

You should also be aware of the actual statistics with regards to benefits claimants and the proportion of money that the government has to spend on them. The way it’s portrayed in the media, you would be forgiven for thinking that most benefits payments are given to the jobless, but this isn’t often the case. A lot goes towards the state pension, which is for people who have worked their whole lives and paid more than their fair share into the economy. So, do you seriously think that they should be made to hand back their pension and go off to work? I don’t think so!

And then there’s that lovely group of middle-class earners who take ‘child benefit’, because it’s their right to do so. They don’t need it but they take it anyway. And they’re often the ones moaning longest and loudest about scroungers. Lovely folk.

So, before you sit in the pub, talking shit about what you “believe” or what you think you “know” about the economy, benefits, and the way things work, just remember that really, you probably don’t understand even half of the full story. And, by tarring everyone with the same brush, you’re probably ruining the lives of people who need these benefits just to survive day by day.

You never know – you might be reliant on “the system” at some point yourself.

A delicious two years

I’m not scared to admit that I am afraid of obesity. The health complications, the isolation, the social rejection. I have been a ‘fat girl’, and it sucks. It scares the hell out of me.

I have to live in this body for the rest of my life. I can’t have collapsed arches, collapsed veins, and diabetes and high blood pressure brought on by weight. I have a family bent towards excessive weight gain, especially in the waist, hip, and thigh areas. I see what it does to their knees, their hips and, most importantly, their self-esteem.

When it comes to weight gain, we as a society are not kind. I want to be able to run around with my kids when I have them and do what a woman my age should be expected to do, without complaint. I want to be happy in my own skin.

And I was. Very happy. I was a stone cold fox…until we moved to the UK. A slow creep started two years ago and I’ve gained a stone since. I’m 5 foot 7 with a medium build; I started out at the mid 140’s and now I’m at 158 pounds, and it feels fucking disgusting.

Plato said, “Think of the human body as a ship. It should not be overloaded.” And my ship is listing to port side. I’m fat and I have to shift this shit before it fucking takes over. I have to lose weight because if I don’t it’s too slippery of a slope for me to not roll all the way down.

Fear and panic is what helped me lose weight the first time and it’s what kept the weight off. But that’s gone away now. In fact, once I got married I can honestly say I stopped weighing myself. Not that I didn’t care about how I looked, but I was so happy and comfortable, I felt so loved, that the scales just didn’t figure into things any more. I didn’t need to be one number or another to feel comfortable in my skin. And it’s not just me – when I met my husband he had a washboard stomach, very nice arm/calf muscles, and could lift me up with no more effort than a mother cat with a baby kitten. No more.

The UK is a minefield of pub culture, grey meat encased in wet pastry, weather that makes you cry, and really tasty ale. It’s just we two; we have no children, no mortgage, no car payments. No car, in fact, just a Vespa. We walk a lot, but we have nothing to spend our money on but ourselves and we work long hours and have little time to do that. So, we started to eat. We’ve been munching a path through London’s gastronomic multiverse. It has been a delicious two years. It’s hard to say goodbye.

We started doing a weight challenge. It sounds stupid, I know. But what’s also stupid is that I can no longer fit into the Levis I bought just last year. I used to wear my husband’s dress shirts around the house of evenings after he’d taken them off and now I can’t – too much back fat. He looks like he has a bicycle tire around his middle and the pile of pants he’s had to throw to the back of the closet is growing.

So we made an agreement to get back to our pre-UK poundage. I make healthy dinners; my husband’s in charge of healthy breakfasts. His plan of “small sustainable goals” is a novelty for me – crash diets that produce results in short order are more my thing. But this seems to be working. It’s not easy for me to choose oatmeal over croissant or lentil soup over Chicken Tikka Masala, but we’re doing it.

We have made weight loss our bitch. There will be a few extra treats left on the UK’s shelves for the rest of you to hoover up. Sorry about that.