Tag Archives: death

A time before E.ON

Channel 4, home of Posh Pawn, My Big Fat Diet Show (?) and Three Wives One Husband, where three women shit onto a bloke watching the rugby. The other night I accidentally landed on Channel 4 when whatever I was watching on catch-up ran out, and made the fatal error of not hammering desperately at every button within reach.

It was a programme about the royal family, I think. At any rate there was lots of Diana in it and she died. There were clips of plebs exhibiting mass grief outside a palace they weren’t allowed in. A huge, blatantly hard man shuddered as his beetroot-red face leaked onto the pitbull tattooed on the bingo wing of the ‘woman’ consoling him.

Where is he now, I wonder? How does he remember that day? Nobly, one suspects, with gnarled fists brandished if his manliness is ever questioned. But the TV doesn’t lie, matey. No matter how many fat people it exploits while promising Baked-Off strudels are good for you, Channel 4 doesn’t lie. You bawled like a smacked infant at the death of a rich woman you didn’t know, who’d have treated you like a 17th-century peasant with a large red X on his door had she met you, and we all saw it.

Continue reading A time before E.ON

Glenn Miller’s diabolical saxophone

A couple of weeks ago I found myself in a castle on a mountain, reading a text message from my brother.

The news from eastern Spain wasn’t good. My grandfather had been hauling around his prostate cancer for a decade without significant discomfort. But it had spread, to his liver, pancreas, spleen, pelvis, soul, spare bedroom, both rear wheels of his mobility scooter and a tailor who made him a suit in 1995. He was, so said the text message, quite fucked.

And so it proved. One of the best people I’ve known was dead within a week, having held out long enough to be allowed home from hospital to see the cat I now fully expect to be held to account for his murder. I will see you hang, Mimi.

The upshot of this was a funeral.

Continue reading Glenn Miller’s diabolical saxophone

Veganuary

A good many people will take the dawn of a new calendar year as a signal from some higher power to kneel at the altar of self-deprivation, pledging themselves to some puritanical amoeba-like existence in the blind hope that it will preserve their oh-so-precious bodies for a meagre few more years of life.

Meanwhile, I’m doing my level best to do all the drinking and meat-eating for them in a bid to maintain the rapidity of the universe’s collapse. This tired charade of human life has really gone on for far too long as it is; the pretence of sustainability in a world moulded by greed is as laughable as a pig on an ice rink – which would be perfectly hilarious if it weren’t a perfect metaphor for human progress. Whilst I’m loathe to dance as this grim cavalcade nears its end, I see no reason to delay that end.

I’m interminably incensed by the holier than thou horseshit that spews forth every time someone proudly proclaims that they’ve kicked a habit that they deem detrimental to their pointless existence. The only things that punctuate the grim monotony of life are those rare exotic substances that for a brief, fleeting moment rescue you from the seeping septic tank of the world and help launch you into the realm of sheer self-indulgent bliss. That might sound like an advert for pro-biotic yoghurt and other affordable placebos, but it stands as a defence for those life-shortening sweeteners that make the world we’ve crafted a bearable one.

Smoking that first cigarette after work, I’m almost inclined to believe there could be a god, such are the restorative powers of all that some seek to deny themselves during the bleakest month of the year. The prospect of Dry January or Veganuary – take a moment here to reflect upon the kind of world we live in where that is a legitimate term for the first month of the year – is so unceasingly dull it merely serves to stretch our tedious existence out for longer than necessary, which to me feels like a lose-lose deal.

Especially at a time like January! With such gibbering gumption do people decry the old follies of alcoholism and any other earthly pleasure that can be given up for a month in the pursuit of moral superiority. At this time of year there can be no greater need for the home-comforts of mind-numbing alcohol, tobacco and all the other vices through which we sustain ourselves amidst the madness of meal deals, fun-running and zero-hour contracts.

People always blather out of their gaping word-holes about how much they think this year will be full of positivity and change and progress and other buzzwords that middle-managers in PR firms bandy around when trying to flog a new form of hair-gunk or when David Cameron’s trying to bomb someone. Why? How in god’s tit did you reach that conclusion you fucking genius? Maybe these are the same people who believe in horoscopes, yoga, juice diets or sharing Britain First memes. Never mind Mystic Meg, these twats have been listening to Denial Deidre and Bullshit Barbara.

We inhabit a planet that rejects us, a world desperately retching like someone regretting a suicidal overdose. A world where everyone’s a salesman flogging themselves as a brand in a disparaging fire sale of our collective sanity. A world where style finally drove an ice-pick of idiocy through the skull of substance. A world we paradoxically wish to save and yet are pre-programmed to consume – how, here, can there possibly be something so flagrantly deluded as hope?

We’ve unwittingly been sold our own values back to us; whether we wanted to cut out red meat for quixotic desires or for the self-absorbed pursuit of health, beauty and all the other hypocrisies that humans beings are capable of, it doesn’t matter. We believe that by consuming a product, or not consuming a product, we have performed an act of free will, whereas in reality the values we try to exude, the ones that we feel define us and our conscious decisions as human beings who matter, are merely defined in relation to our consumption or rejection of some marketing executive’s wet dream.

Whether we buy into the wet dream or the dream of free will and rebellion through a month or even a lifetime of eating nothing but damp cardboard, we’re still buying in. And it costs us more than a loaf of artisan pumpkin-seed gluten-free bread.

The pious holy-rollers of the sustainability camp are merely prolonging a life that cannot possibly meet the unrealistically high expectations that their values set upon themselves. Abstaining from drinking or going vegan or vegetarian on the grounds of some moral bent somewhat misses the point, ecologically speaking – will these same people avoid combustion engines, mass produced electronic goods and anything that uses processed packaging?

Due to the ubiquitous nature of the aforementioned evils, such an absolutist morality is only serving to prolong human existence in a far from perfect world. The “every little helps” notion is quaint and commendable in some abstract sense, but I’d much rather these self-sacrificing Mormon-esque types get busy dying along with the rest of us. We live in a cesspool and you brought a mop of morality? There’s no undoing the damage and there’s really not a great deal to cry about or save, so let’s just snap the neck of the world rather than strangle it slowly. Let every cigarette, every drink, every sirloin steak be just another pillow in the greatest smother party the world will never see!

Whether we were designed or found such a pugnacious form by accident is irrelevant – we are all cursed with the same in-built desire to persevere irrespective of the consequences. At this stage denying yourself those deadly small joys is merely obeying that programming. Self-flagellation is just masturbation without the mess, whereas self-destruction is a noble act in a world of narcissistic self-belief. And it’s probably the only mercy we’re capable of collectively granting to all the other life that inhabits this planet.

Cavalcade of trite

When I die – which, given the state of my stress levels, may be sooner than you think – if anyone describes me in terms of my family relationships (“daughter, niece, girlfriend, wife”), or my job, or some banal string of characteristics that people think sound nice, I will be furious. I won’t of course, I’ll be dead and completely oblivious to everything, but I want you to know that you’ll have started the process of whitewashing my memory.

Let me tell a story about my uncle’s funeral – wait, I’m going somewhere with this. Dead at 65 from lymphoma, the eulogy given by the random minister assigned by the crematorium was a travesty. Nothing about his hopes, dreams, loves, hates; anything that made him who he was. His only natural child died young and that didn’t get a mention, but there was time to list every single fucking street he’d ever lived in. This isn’t the minister’s fault, he could only work with what was given to him by the family. And afterwards people were speaking to each other in hushed tones about what a lovely service it had been. Except it was a terrible service, with barely any indication of who the human being in the box had been.

And so: Paris. There’s a Twitter account, @ParisVictims, tweeting short bits of information about the people who died on 13 November. I’m struggling to find anything on there that’s not bland or platitudinous. “Friend, brother, son” reads one. “Daughter, sister” reads another. Well, yes. We all tend to be at least one of these things. One man is described as “efficient”. Shit the bed. This guy has died, horribly. Is this the best that can be said about him? What about his desires, his achievements, his plans for the future? If you want to show the world what has been cruelly cut down, please try and do the dead the honour of representing them properly.

This is largely the fault of social media, where being first is considered better than being thorough. @ParisVictims is the Twitter version of a Mashable project which is clearly scouring news sources and people’s social media accounts to gather tiny snippets of information to share with the world. But, to me, this isn’t respect. It’s rubbernecking. After 9/11, the New York Times went out and did a proper obituary for everyone who died. It took a while, but you get a real sense of who they were as people.

Are we happy with this cavalcade of trite? I think we must be. Because ‘we’ tweet and Facebook ‘RIP’ as a reflex when someone dies, even though RIP belongs to a time when we all believed in an afterlife, a hell and a resurrection. It’s now such a reflex that it’s meaningless, just a way of showing to the world that you care. Even if you don’t.

Appearance is all; you can get torn to shreds for not wearing a poppy, even if you think it’s appalling that a charity has to exist at all to take care of those who the government has sent off to die and be injured; even if you’d happily pay more taxes to replace the Royal British Legion with proper, state-funded care; even if you went on that Stop the War march before Iraq that changed absolutely nothing and you feel sick at the thought of the carnage that happened ‘in your name’. Wear the poppy, change your Facebook profile to a Tricolor; otherwise how will people know you care? Other than, maybe, a genuine, thoughtful statement?

Or even better, say nothing at all instead of something shallow and stupid.

Under threat of castration

Against the odds, the better judgement of society and the collective will of my financial captors, I’ve survived another birthday.

The main event itself proved to be a rather hellish, godless experience in which I came to realise how far behind in the great race of life I’ve wilfully fallen. For my 24th birthday I acquired the body of a malnourished teenager with the face of Dorian Gray’s portrait glued on to the top bit that scientists refer to as the head. My facial hair is scoffed at by unnaturally haughty unborn foetuses as they stroke their mutton chops and eat out of tubes.

Meanwhile the sole of my shoe flaps in the wind, I’ve had to put crucifixes on the door to keep the bank at bay and then plaster Nun-porn all over the front door to ward off the Christian sales reps. The majority of household pets eat better than I do and my job is as stimulating as a mild static shock to a phantom limb. This has been my shambolic attempt at ageing and it feels as though the world has been trying to kill me for 24 years, yet I’m still trying to bite the invisible hand that feeds.

This same invisible hand reaches up your sphincter and ass-hooks you out of bed in the morning. It’s the invisible hand that sits you down and coerces you into forcing out a shit at a time when you’d rather be unconscious and horizontal. It’s this same invisible hand that dresses you like a well-groomed performing guppy each day, before the cage comes down for another round of gainful employment.

When you’re younger this hand has less influence and is easier to resist, thanks to that voracious appetite for life that later seems reserved for puppies and charity muggers. That energetic passion that seems to dwell in tiny humans before they establish how futile their life will become is what allowed us to stray the path and escape the clutches of the invisible hand. The hand wants you to go to school and wash after every visit to the little boys’ room, but the hand’s desires are overcome by the single-minded determination to scoop the mushy stool from the toilet bowl and hurl it at girls (who are decidedly yucky) and teachers (who are mere pawns for the hand) in an event that will later see you dubbed a coprophiliac by a state-appointed psychologist.

But as the elastin and collagen starts to sag and decay under the weight of our accumulated years, the hand becomes more potent, more ruthless and exponentially more domineering. In many ways life is like a very glitchy video game, with the first 10 to 14 years being the equivalent of the crap tutorial level where everything is spoon-fed to you to avoid premature expiration or a home visit from social services. Years later the hand decides to abort you from the comfortable womb of higher education, you’re flushed out into the sewage of the real world and all that was pure, beautiful and true in life suddenly reveals itself to have been a fleeting wet dream, but instead of a sticky wad of gunk in your bed sheets, it’s a crippling anchor of debt, a total loss of purpose and the promise of unending drudgery that you wake up to.

It is here at your most educated and vulnerable that the hand grabs you by the scrotum and pulls you this way and that until, under threat of castration, you hop aboard the unicycle and play your role in the tired old carnival of life. From this testicular stranglehold it can control your every move; before you know it you’re caring about spreadsheets, working at home in the evenings to get that big presentation just right or laughing at the jokes made by the other inmates in your workplace.

A colleague recently confessed to me that he was only at work for the money. I was baffled because I could think of no other coherent rationale for turning up every day. I don’t spend 10 hours a day inside a colossal phallic obelisk in the middle of a diseased London haggling on the phone with people who say with all sincerity “let’s do brunch” out of a chronic addiction to the company of gutless buffoons. There’s no part of my soul that yearns to be crowned with a plastic microphone headset, nor do key performance indicators induce a Ron Jeremy-worthy erection and there’s not a thing about synergistic management solutions that I even want to understand. This is all the hand’s doing.

The hand stretches out a big dumb smile on my face to mask the crushing despair that settles in every time I’m reminded that Made in Chelsea is produced in a country that possesses nuclear weapons. When you want to stand up on your desk and kick the monitor into the face of the person opposite for being such a callous money-grubbing consumer-whore, or enter into mortal combat with middle management personnel, you don’t – the hand keeps you seated, reminding you of the powerful urge to eat some time this month. It reminds you of the bills, the rent, the need for further employment beyond this particular moment of disgusted fury. And what’s worse, it paints this exercise in restraint as sanity.

Like a general of an army of one, you sit enraged in the cage to which the hand holds the key forever out of reach, and survey the battle; sustained losses on all fronts. The hand pushes you past all those dreams, ambitions and things that you once deemed important in order to further its own twisted goals, which seemingly involve reducing humanity, the world’s deadliest predator, into a collection of cash-worshipping, screen-fed mega-monkeys.

So it goes on beyond the workplace and out into the vast belching, scoffing void of life. Before you know it you’re drooling over an IKEA catalogue, perusing the turtle-neck rack in GAP in a bid to emulate notoriously celebrated child-enslaver Steve Jobs or getting an early night for the sake of a village fete cake stall that you offered to run in aid of a religious charity. The hand will push you down the aisle, will tickle your bum during the procreation that allows the minibus of life to chug on and ultimately lays you to rest atop your queen-size deathbed in your moderately priced home with the southern-facing garden and double garage.

It may occur to you at this point that you’re unsure exactly how you got here or how you ever exerted so little control in your own life, and now too in death. But by then it’ll be too late and your grieving loved ones will be greeted with the stench of shit when your bowels empty as you pass from this world.

The hand wins in the end, no matter how many fingers you think you’re chewing on.

A brief play among the stardust

Talking about death goes beyond taboo. Taboo is admitting that you’d really like to have sex with your cousin, which is unlikely to result in four-eyed children and the 500-year rule of a medieval European despotic monarchy, but you still probably wouldn’t admit it to your aunt.

Talking about death is like admitting you want to fist your best mate’s grandmother before your own mum licks your arm like it’s a strawberry Magnum. Even attempt to bring death up in conversation – particularly talking about the death of someone in that conversation – and you’ll be met with the briefest of horrified glances and the swiftest possible change of topic.

To claim you accept your own mortality is all right, but only because nobody believes you. But suggest that you’ve confronted the Absurd, realised the suicide option isn’t philosophically sound but understand that there’s no way out but six foot downwards, and that you’re fine with that, and your friends will immediately assume you’re not having a great time in your job or some other such plainly pointless concern. It’s as though the only healthy way to live is to assume you can look up ‘immortality’ in the dictionary and see ‘about 75-80 years, depending on lifestyle and gender’ beneath.

Much better to confront and understand what’s coming, to realise that someone dying isn’t the end of the world – just the end of their world. The grief you feel is a combination of selfishly knowing you’re not going to get to experience their presence again and realising you might well be next, should that bus happen to leave the garage two seconds later and force itself through your body as you’re staring mindlessly at your smartphone while crossing.

My sorrow at the death of Christopher Lee is both of those things. I won’t get to see him grandly rage in any more movies or hear him howl on metal records, and I feel cheated. His demise also reminds me about death itself, though in the case of a man of 93 it more reminds me of the mortality of the man I hold dearest in my life, my 88-year-old grandfather. When he dies I’ll be devastated, and yet there’s no more natural thing that could happen, not one. And I’ve never asked the man, but maybe he’s had enough anyway.

It’s different when people you don’t personally know turn up their toes – it tends more towards selfishness on your own part. When John Peel died it wrecked me for a while, but presumably only because I’d no longer get to hear him putting on the wrong record. I never met him. The fact that he’s dead means he’s unaffected on a day-to-day basis by, well, anything. His death was, is, all about me.

Another of my favourite old men is the actor George Cole, now 90. He’ll go at some point, unless he’s learned how to buy and sell time itself, as Arthur Daley would have. The nation will mourn David Attenborough, and rightly so. We’ll all be told to cry when Queen Liz keels over, though unless it leads to revolution I’m not sure why it affects the layman. Old people die. Young people die sometimes too. Everyone dies and everybody always has.

The sooner we realise its all about us the sooner we can talk about death rationally, calmly, making serious preparations in good time and, as a by product, putting an end to the ‘right to die’ debate. Reclaim our own deaths and we’ll all be more comfortable with our lives. Stop denying the only ultimate truth we’ll ever know and we can come to terms with how temporary all of this is. It’s also the quickest route to putting an end to religion, which of course exists solely because humanity fears death. Ironically, the easiest way to put an end to ISIS might be to add Beyond Good and Evil to the school curriculum.

I have a portrait of Christopher Lee on my bedroom wall, in full Dracula regalia with red eyes and smoke swirling about him. It’s the first thing I see when I get out of bed. Tomorrow I’ll look at it and nod appreciatively at a man who can no longer nod back. It’ll remind me that everything has to end and nothing means anything. And then I’ll get on with the day, individuals across the world will die all day long and Christopher Lee will be as oblivious to my existence as he ever was.

It all amounts to a brief play among the stardust. And that should be enough.

Ticking the Bundy box

When psychos attack, why the hell do they choose schools? What have those innocent kids done to deserve bullets?

Especially in America, where there’s the KKK for fuck’s sake. At least having a go at them would be a challenge. Although saying that, if you substitute KKK for USA, then the line between what is or is not an act of terrorism becomes kind of blurry, real fucking fast.

Nonetheless, I am neither advocating nor calling for anything that radical. My point is that if humans insist on meddling with the process of evolutionary selection, could they not do it only on subsections of humanity that carry throwback genes to our darker and more primitive past?

It does seem like a group can get away with being little more than a fascist militia as long as they have a flag, officially state the target(s) of their vitriol, lack the ability to move with the social inclusion of the modern times or simply admit to their own stupidity. Just look at Mosley’s black shirts. Oh to have been a fly on the wall during one of their meetings.

“What ho old chap! There’s a new craze sweeping across Europe don’t you know? [Well, I say new, but in truth it was a tried and tested methodology – see the Ethiopian Holocaust.] They’re gassing people in ovens so as to heal the ailing economy of the Fatherland.”

“Gassing? Ovens? I thought that was for getting rid of disabled babies?”

“Ah yes, but the Nazis have used their engineering nous to ratchet things up a notch! It’s going to give their economy a decent chance of surviving on the new stock markets, which will begin at the close of play of this war”.

It should be noted that there are many large industries and organisations which promote bigotry, xenophobia and hate. But there’s a limit to how many arseholes you can write about simultaneously, before your hands start to smell like shit.

Surely if we’re going to try and fix these kinds of problem, better education is the key. How much longer must we be ruled with/by ignorance? These outbreaks of anger which cause so much sorrow and pain, should be seen as symptomatic of a much larger problem. If the people are given the chance, they will more often than not do the right thing. And yet the killings continue. Is that such a surprise when you consider that the personality of a psychopath is the same whether you kill six people or run a multinational corporation? I guess it makes it easier to see how such negativity is fostered within our societies. I think it would be fair to postulate that if you fell into the latter category (CEO), you’re more than likely ticking the Ted Bundy box as well.

Not that any one society or country is immune to this madness. Whilst I can admit to my fair share of high school anger and the enveloping shroud of darkness that ignited it. I would never dream of directing any of that towards my schoolmates or teachers. Attacking schools is not the way forward! Did you know that Jewish schools in London are attacked [ I appreciate what constitutes an attack may take in a broad spectrum of actions] on an almost daily basis?

It’s especially galling when you consider some people struggle with the concept that following a religion is not another name for being a radicalised member of some splinter cell. I actually knew a kid, he and his brother had converted to a religion during the last two years of school. A year or so later, I happened to be watching the news (insidious propaganda) and there was a story about said brothers, the youngest of whom had been killed during some sort of firefight in the desert.

Well, I guess that just about brings us full circle. Shoot cunts not kids.

Counting cadavers

It can’t be easy being Nigel Farage. I could end it there I suppose, to a round of applause and sage nodding from whoever read that sentence, but I honestly find myself feeling sorry for the jowly twat from time to time.

Not when he was photographed in the wreckage of that plane, of course. It’s possible I’ve never laughed more than when I saw that photo of him seemingly in tears, surrounded by wings, fins, fuselage and whatever diabolical banner he’d been dragging along behind the aircraft. But when a man is forced to defend the reduction of money spent on sea patrols stopping migrants popping over from Libya, while faced with hundreds of bobbing corpses gently nudging the walls of Valetta, you do wonder what he thinks as he peers at his rubbery face in the mirror before bed at night. “Oh no, I’m really evil” must be up there I’d have thought.

Nevertheless poor Nigel must stick to his guns amid the carnage in the Mediterranean, while the rest of us are able to stare in horror at the condition we’ve allowed the human race to get to that leads to people so desperate to get to Europe they’ll gladly accept the risk of terrifying wet death. One of the survivors said he was heading for Austria. Even the reporter sounded confused.

And yet as I watched the rolling news on the day of the biggest recent tragedy, horror turned to anger at one of the lines I read across the bottom of the screen: “800 feared dead, including 250 women”.

Well, fuck. I hadn’t planned to care about these 800 people when I thought they were all men, but now you’ve told me well over a quarter had a vagina I’m straight on the line to my MP demanding action; ideally action involving the immediate execution of 250 men – doesn’t matter who they are, a few Welsh choirs maybe – to redress the balance.

I’m no feminist, and many feminists would probably view me as unreconstructed scum. I joke about women down the pub with mates, though no more than anyone else and certainly no more than that shrieking gaggle of drunken harpies over there is joking about us. I often call women ‘birds’, not to their face, and occasionally call one ‘love’, to her face. Yet I’ve never been slapped by a woman, they don’t seem to view me as anything other than a normal man and as far as I know I treat women with the same respect I do men outside of a spot of light-hearted buggering about.

All of that would send various feminists into a tailspin I have no doubt. I don’t care. And the reason I don’t care is that there are so many far, far worse things people do to women that we – men and women – should be working together to put an end to. Rape is used as a weapon of war, incredibly. Men in certain parts of the world view women as property, or think that a woman out on her own at night, or out with a male friend she’s not related to, is somehow fair game or asking for it (‘it’ in that case stretching all the way up to brutal murder). Women are killed by their own families for ‘dishonouring’ them. Levels of pay equality between men and women are atrocious. Women are routinely persecuted by various religions that command countless millions, billions even, of followers around the world. All of this is outrageous beyond measure.

Nevertheless, the notion that women are inherently more important than men to the extent that they consistently warrant a unique mention in death tolls is infuriating. Can you promise me that the men on that boat were in some way less vital than the women? I doubt their families would agree, if the poor sods are ever identified. Can there be any logical justification for ‘including 250 women’?

To some extent I understand it when children get a separate mention. I don’t share the same obsession with kids that some do; not in the Watkins sense, but in that ‘won’t someone think of the children’ way that some people have. It seems to be a huge thing for some people, parents and weirdos mostly, but we can let that pass.

And when a ship’s going down, and the men are expected to stand aside for the ‘women and children first’, I get that too. Men are expected to exhibit some degree of gallantry or chivalry and die first, probably because it was their kind who built a shoddy vessel or left the bow doors open having got pissed in the Boar’s Head an hour before leaving the jetty.

But when it comes to telling me how many people have perished in the latest atrocity, tragedy or natural disaster I really don’t find myself hoping beyond hope that every victim has a cock. It’s bewildering that there’s someone in a news room asking the question, “But how many women died?” And how many Mongolians? How many blondes? How many people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome? They’ll be hoping for a small figure for that last one. It’s amazing that the people counting cadavers evidently separate them into two categories based on the chromosomes they possess.

People are people and they die all the time. It’s sad when it happens. Still, corpses are lifeless hulks of meat that we burn to make space for a replacement, and nothing more. Regardless of how men are all bastards and we’re the ones who’ve created the dreadful world we all fearfully step into each morning, praying none of the many terrors we’ll face are awful enough to end us, it’s not more sad when a woman dies than when a man does.

And though it will entertain me long into the afternoon wondering what my first question would have been had Nigel Farage died in that plane crash, I’m damn sure it wouldn’t have been: “But how is his wife?”

Before she went west

An old acquaintance from college, now a Facebook friend, she and I have found we have more things in common than we thought over the years.

We lived on the same floor of the all girls dormitory and I don’t remember much about those days where she is concerned, except that at the time I was very much in the throes of a militant feminism/piercing/tattoo/anti-establishment phase without knowing what most of that meant. As long as I could shock my parents and get free drinks once I got down off my soapbox, that was what I cared about most deep down.

On the other hand, Jane, not her real name, was probably the nicest and yet most boring person I knew on our floor. Well maybe not the most boring but she was plenty dull in my eyes. She was quiet and unassuming, studied a lot, had conservative opinions about all things in general, and wore clothes that made her look like an LL Bean catalogue model. I can’t imagine what she must have thought of me.

We both graduated. I joined the Peace Corps and was the Taylor Swift of relationships.  She got married young and had three children. I eventually married for keeps at 33 and relocated soon after the wedding to live in London. She now lives a somewhat comfortable life, I imagine, as a suburban housewife outside of a major city. She Zumbas while sharing tips on Crock Pot recipes and where best to buy your children’s back-to-school clothes. I volunteer at a soup kitchen and am on a first name basis with most of the staff of our local pub.

I discovered when I was dating my husband that she and I shared an acquaintanceship with a third party who I would get together with in social situations. Naturally, we became friends on Facebook.

This morning I got a Facebook message; a group message that detailed the findings of the genetic testing Jane had had done a few months ago. This test was for the BRCA gene. The breast cancer gene. Jane has it.

She has a 57-87 percent chance of developing breast cancer in her lifetime. Oh, and a 24-54 percent chance of developing ovarian cancer. Since this is genetic, it shouldn’t surprise you to know that Jane’s mother died of breast cancer while Jane was still in her twenties.

Jane now has three children under 8 years of age and she is considering going in for a double mastectomy and a possible partial hysterectomy. She doesn’t want to wait, she says. She’s seen where that road leads, she walked it with her mother, and she doesn’t want to even point her toes in that direction. And I don’t blame her.

Jane is a realist. These surgeries will lower her risk of cancer in those areas to a less than the 2-8 percent chance of occurrence. And she refuses to use words like ‘survivor’, refuses to say someone ‘won’ their battle against this disease. Jane knows that by using those terms to define those who manage to live in spite of cancer invading their bodies, we are unconsciously putting those who don’t make it in the sub category of ‘victim’ and ‘loser’. Jane knows that cancer just…is.

She’s willing to face the pain of surgery and recovery now while she’s still healthy and in control, rather than wait to be invaded and dominated by a mass of incontinent cells that carve her life into pieces as she lives it. If she goes through with it, it will be like Herodotus’ legend of the Amazonian warriors who would solder off their left breasts to make themselves better adept at archery. Like the delicate woman in the Stephen Crane novel, ‘The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky’; she takes an axe and chops off the hired man’s infected finger rather than have it turn gangrenous and kill him even though before she went west she’d never even used a pocketknife to cut a shoelace.

Jane knows her enemy. She knows it’s only a matter of time before it comes for her. She recognises its face, its ways, its strategies. She is going out to meet it rather than wait, huddled and afraid, for it to find her.

This is a different kind of courage than what we are used to seeing or reading about in cancer sufferers. When we think of cancer we see it in our minds eye the way it is portrayed in the media. It is a bald woman, skinny, pale. It is a man hooked up to a breathing apparatus, wearing a hospital gown and an ID bracelet. It is a child lying wasted in a bed surrounded by stuffed toys, a scar on the side of his head from where his brain tumour was removed.

Cancer imbues its victims with a quiet dignity, a stalwart, dreamy acceptance of the vagaries of life…that’s what the commercials make it look like. This is a lot of bullshit and both Jane and I know it. The reality is that a diagnosis of cancer is not the automatic catalyst for someone showing their inner saintliness. Cancer comes with screaming and swearing and raging. It comes with vomit and diarrhoea and blood. Cancer comes with sweating and shivering and crying. It comes with incredible, agonizing, stabbing, shooting, throbbing, pulsating pain. Cancer makes people delirious, demented, and depressed. And until you get it you won’t know which ‘you’ you will be. I guarantee you will be lucky to be someone for whom quiet reconciliation is your go-to persona.

Save it for Newsnight

It’s a special kind of privilege that allows you to announce that your most hated aspect of modern society is something genuinely trivial. I am aware of this and of the air of twattishness that it confers upon me and, frankly, I don’t care.

Not caring is what got me in this position in the first place. It is an excellent position to be in and I hope people join me in it. For the record, by choosing to not be annoyed by homophobia, sexism, racism and the rest of the gamut of hate, I am not saying that they aren’t shit things. They are shit, all of them, and you won’t hear me saying otherwise. It’s just that they’re huge problems and, frankly, I don’t have much faith in my ability to do anything about them.

I’m generally of the opinion that if you ignore differences they’ll probably stop being issues and as an example I am a shit feminist for precisely this reason. I’d rather we stopped empowering women in particular and started just generally being evenly tolerant and fair to all people, both twats and people with them, because it has the same result and means I don’t have to burn any bras, which are expensive and necessary.

Anyway, the end result of this even-handed apathy is that I have a lot of hate-time left over for unimportant stuff. Anyone who likes a good argument will tell you that it is far more enjoyable to debate this pointless shit than, say, the effect of discrepancies between the recycling policies of neighbouring councils on overall waste targets. Save it for Newsnight. If you’re anything like me you’ll have realised this at school, when the thought finally occurred that the day of the exam is not the day to worry about the exam, and that a handed-in essay is very literally out of your hands – don’t worry about things you can’t change, basically, when there’s some day-to-day stuff out there that’s really annoying.

So: my bête noire, my chief bugbear, the bane of my existence. I will illustrate it with an exchange typical of the sort that pisses me off:

‘Friend’: My dog just died.
Me: Oh, I’m sorry.
‘Friend’: Don’t be, not your fault.

There. Do you see? He deserves a dead dog. The dog probably died of exasperation. My ‘Friend’ has interpreted my ‘Oh, I’m sorry’ as an expression of guilt rather than sympathy, and is telling me that he’s aware that I’m not directly to blame for the demise of his pet.

Think about this – as far as the friend is apparently concerned, I have admitted that I murdered his canine. He dismisses this instantly, and says so. Who does that? Who has so much of a persecution complex and so little in the way of a brain-mouth barrier that he doesn’t rethink what I’d just said, consider that he’s aware that little Rex died of cancer and not at my hands, and accept what is obviously an attempt at compassion?

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t give a shit about his dog. I’ve never met it and I don’t like them and anyway I made it up for this example. But is it not blindingly obvious that I’m not taking the fall here? Social convention says I express some kind of sympathetic bullshit at that point in the conversation. It says I don’t ask what gruesome end was involved, don’t consider whether or not ‘Friend’ is actually a bit of a knob and deserving of comfort at all, and just mutter three very comprehensible words that means my end of the conversation is kept up and we can move on to less depressing things.

The struggle is real, and the problem is rife. Listen for it, don’t do it yourself, and smile politely at those who fob your grief off in the same way. Moreover, accept your platitude with good grace and I’ll have one less entry on my hitlist. You being less of a twat means I’ll eventually get around to being motivated to be annoyed about genocide. Sort it out. You’ll be sorry if you don’t, and this time there’ll actually be blame involved.