All posts by Laz

The peacock element

Change is largely considered a good thing. It means progress. Moving forward, changing for the better. As we become wiser and more knowledgeable we can use this to build a better future, a better world. From a personal to a global level as time draws on, if we gain nothing else we gain a better understanding of ourselves and the world around us.

Rarely is it a short journey, and worthwhile change will often not be reached until many a tangential pathway has been taken. And at no point is the stilted progress of mankind more candidly displayed than by the slew of dating shows that can be picked up any time of day on any one of the 48,000 channels we now have access to.

There’s Dating in the Dark; a self-explanatory title whereby the daters meet and conduct all their subsequent dates in a pitch-black room. The show allows the contestants to demonstrate their lack of vanity and superficiality. Regrettably this goes straight out of the blacked-out window when they introduce themselves and give their professions. “Glamour model”, “professional body-builder”, “face double for Angelina Jolie / Bradley Cooper” (delete as appropriate; to be both would just be greedy) seem to feature heavily.

The final nail in the coffin is the ‘reveal’. After getting to know one another in the dark they get the chance to see each other in the light before deciding whether to take things further. It’s a strange and wordless affair and their reactions to each other are hidden, so they are at least spared the grimaces and dry retching when the light reveals their partner to be a person of average appearance rather than the shirt-rippingly ripped / lusty and busty (delete as appropriate) humdinger of a Hollywood heartbreaker they had conjured up in their minds. It’s a very moving scene.

Then there’s Dinner Date, which claims to unite people through their love of good food. The first cull takes place on the basis of the menus provided by the five men or women who are willing to invite a complete stranger (plus film crew) into their homes. The menus are very rarely about the food as the seduction process begins by the inclusion of things like “Racy raspberry cheesecake, served dripping with my silky cream”.

As with all these things, as the notoriety of the show grows, so the menus get more brazen. It can’t be long before “Spread ‘em steamed dim sum”, “I will sleep with you ice-cream” or “Bend me over banoffee pie” makes an appearance. Once whittled down to the three most appetising menus, the picker gets to have dinner with each person before deciding on their favourite and taking them out, to a restaurant no less. Needless to say it’s not often the person who shows the greatest culinary accomplishments who gets picked.

But the grand-daddy of them all sits very loud and leeringly proud in the prime-time Saturday night slot on one of the TV channels that existed back when there was only four of them to choose from. Take Me Out unapologetically trades on modern society’s obsession with all things appearance. It’s honest though. There’s no attempt to disguise it.

Round one: a human male is delivered down a Perspex tube to the music of his choice, before parading himself up and down in front of 30 clapping, baying women. The music stops for him to give his name and city of residence. This is followed by the cacophony of droning power-down sounds as the 30 women demonstrate their disinterest by turning the lights on their podium off.

Round two: the male cuts a lonely figure as he has two minutes in which to demonstrate some special skill (usually done topless) to the sound of hands slamming down on the lights-off switch.

Round three: a video short in which the male’s friends, colleagues, parents or siblings out him as a shallow egomaniac who will no doubt transform from a sleazy arsehole to a decent, modest gent if only he could find The Right Girl.

Should any lights still be on at the end of round three, our male protagonist is rewarded with free rein to strut around the studio turning off the lights of any women who made it past the casting director despite not looking like she’s just walked off the set of Hollyoaks. Down to the final two, he picks his favourite and the new couple are jetted off to a budget Ibiza-style location for their date.

There hasn’t been much change and progress on the dating show scene over the years. The sleaze factor has shot up; it’s less about coupling up and more about copulating nowadays. The amount of fake tan per episode would probably fill several Olympic-sized swimming pools – and that’s just for the menfolk – but the peacock element remains the same. It’s a reminder that no matter how many social media accounts we might be signed up to, and no matter how artistic we can be with a filter on our camera phone, we’re not so far removed from our animal brethren as we preen, pose, shriek and holler our way into a mating situation.

We just have the benefit of being able to televise it. And watch it. And laugh.

Now that’s progress.

A brave move for a lad they call Del Boy

I remember it just like it was yesterday. I think I’ll remember it for the rest of my life. I may have only just come around from the shock of it, but I can still say I’m glad I was there, I’m glad I saw it.

Did you see it too? Have you been watching The Apprentice recently? The moment was so seismic I swear I saw my TV levitating while every spoon in my flat was bending or some other such supernatural analogy. It was that never before seen footage of a candidate on the show displaying the lesser-known behaviour of humility in the boardroom.

Lindsay – my new hero and mentor – after titting up a pointless and wanky sales task found herself in the boardroom on the losing side of the blame game. We’ve seen this before, and we know what to expect. We were waiting for her to fling herself around the room, wildly passing blame onto anyone and everyone, egomaniacally washing herself of any responsibility and making desperate claims about how brilliant she is and how many businesses she’s successfully made a few quid from, which usually boils down to a few bits sold on eBay and/or a small enterprise set up as part of AS-Level Business coursework.

But she didn’t. Cheeks ever so slightly aflame and eyes showing just a tiny hint of moisture, she did something unthinkable and just took the blame. Not only did she take the blame for failing in that particular task, but she went on to explain how she just wasn’t the right fit for the process. Of course you’re not the right fit, Lindsay! You’ve got a fucking heart you poor dear!

Sitting to her right, someone who is absolutely the right fit for the process – in other words, a total twat – went from getting ready to push her under the train to extending an arm of sympathy. A brave move for a lad they call Del Boy. You’d think he would be too afraid of catching humanity to actually touch someone who had the foolishness to admit to what he’d perceive as ‘weakness’.

Across the table, poor old Lord Sugar, with the look of a dried apricot that’s been rolling around in the fluff under the sofa for a good while, was just baffled.

For the merest moment, as I sat on my sofa with every muscle in my body tightening, I thought to myself “fucking hell, she might actually win this”. How could she not? Having shown honesty, integrity and self-awareness, she was a stand out. So she’s no salesperson, but is that really what it takes to be an entrepreneurial success?

Well yes, it probably is, and it sure as hell matters when you’re trying to go into business with Lord Al. With the confused look of a tortoise that’s just had a load of fag ash dumped on its head he did what he had to do. More gently than he perhaps would have done otherwise, he put our Linds out of her misery fairly quickly.

Up and away she went with well-deserved dignity, leaving behind a boardroom full of sharks who were too busy thinking about who to scapegoat next to dwell too much on the brief display of human decency they had witnessed.

It comes from the French word apprendre; to learn. An apprentice is one who learns or is learning. It’s why people get away with paying them pennies in the real world, because they supposedly have no skills that are valuable enough to warrant payment. What they get is the knowledge of one more experienced than them so that they can go out into the world and make a living.

Not so the cast of The Apprentice. They know it all already, though they’ll occasionally pepper their self-promoting windbagging with a few words of flattery about Lord Alan. Essentially they want to be as loaded as him and they want to know how the fuck he did it; that’s basically the learning they’re interested in.

One thing no one needs to tell them is there are very few ways in this world to become that rich without having a fairly loose attitude towards the feelings of others. I’m not saying everyone who is rich got there by being mean, but there are elements of it. Whether it’s by smashing the little guys, or taking a pay cheque for something that doesn’t fit with your morals just because there are several zeroes before the decimal point, you can get rich, but it’s unlikely to be the result of being nice.

Go forth and conquer it all, Lindsay. You don’t need to learn anything from Lord Alan or Del Boy or even Karen and Nick. You’re a hands down decent person which may mean you’ll never be stinking rich, but your position as The Nicest One on The Apprentice will doubtless be safe for many, many more series to come.

Leaving enough people alive for the sequel

I walked into my local Sainsbury’s yesterday to be met with a display of cartoon ghosts, fake cobwebs and posters saying things like “enter…if you dare”. Although not particularly noteworthy in itself, this had been put up where the baskets normally are, which meant I had to walk a bit further to get one. As well as creating a minor diversion, it was also a mallet-over-the-head way of telling me that Halloween is on its way.

It’s been on its way for a while. Since the start of the month there have been violent, gruesome nods to its imminent arrival. Even if your supermarket hasn’t replaced its entrance and basket storage area with the ubiquitous pumpkin face or witches’ hats, you’ll know it’s coming because of the rise in trailers and posters for horror films. The one I’ve seen most of is Annabelle. I gather from the trailers it’s about a doll, which is probably possessed, which is highly likely to infiltrate an otherwise happy family, which will kill some arbitrary characters before maybe killing someone in the family but leaving enough people alive for the sequel. Except apparently it’s a prequel so there’s already a sequel. I guess they’ll just keep spinning it off, sequel and prequelling it until it’s as dead as the spirit that possessed Annabelle.

Perhaps it’s not like that at all. Perhaps it’s a really well thought out plot with a new and clever approach to the tired haunted-killer doll routine. Maybe someone’s taken the horror genre and tried something different. A bit like Saw, which as a standalone film was pretty good, and because it had the audacity to be pretty good and do well at the box office it got franchised to death. I don’t know how many sequels got made in the end. I think I watched up until four and that was as much as I could bear. They’re probably still making them as we speak. It’s a simple enough format once you’ve gone past the point of giving a shit whether it makes any sense; elaborate death scenes, wheel out that creepy puppet at some point and reference that dead or dying bloke from the first one. Bosh; Saw film in a nutshell.

I’m sure there are legions of Saw fans who would see me strung up in some messy death-machine game against a ticking clock before correcting my brutal generalisation of their very favourite torture porn series, so I’ll have a pop at Hostel while they’re making their way over here. Although I like to watch a film that challenges me and gives me something to think about, I draw the line at watching something that makes me feel like being sick in my hands, which is what Hostel did. I felt revisiting such emotions would be unnecessary so I didn’t bother watching Hostel Part II. I found my limit after watching a straight to DVD movie called Rest Stop. At that point I felt I’d seen enough hacked up torsos and limbs. The sound of my own retching was starting to drown out the dialogue, superfluous though it was, and that was the end of torture porn for me.

That’s not to say I don’t like or won’t watch a good horror film. I like a scare as much as the next person. And sometimes that scare will come from something you really don’t expect to be that bad. For me it was Jeepers Creepers. Yeah, that’s right. A shit monster film. Even if you felt the shit monster ruined the film, you can’t deny the first hour was a pretty impressive build-up of suspense and scares. It did what a good horror film should do; you couldn’t take your eyes off the screen because you were in such a nervous state of anticipation of what the fuck was going on. Not like Saw II-XXXVI, and Hostel I & II and Rest Stop where you had to turn your eyes away from the screen lest you bring up your popcorn. Cinema snacks are bloody expensive, they’re not something you want to waste.


Halloween is actually a legitimate thing. Well, in so much that it’s based on an ancient pagan tradition of celebrating the dead, so it really depends how much stock you put in paganism and/or tradition. It’s celebrated around the world and in some countries for more than one day. In countries like ours and the States it’s become a festival of getting dressed up and trying to mug sugary treats off your neighbours, and if that’s how you choose to celebrate it then you’re free to do so. Because we’re fortunate enough to live in countries where we are ultimately free to do as we please.

Whether you spend it covered in fake blood in a bar you’ve had to buy a ticket for to listen to Thriller on a loop, or you spend it in a cinema watching nubile young things get their clothes ripped off and their throats ripped out, spare a thought for those of us less adapted to such celebrations. Spare a thought for those of us not organised enough to buy a ticket, and not arsed enough to buy a costume, and those of us who lack the cast-iron stomach required for the current rash of film releases.

We’ll just be sat at home quietly counting down the days to Guy Fawkes’ Night. At least it’s at the start of the month so we don’t have to wait very long. So, penny for the Guy, anyone?

I’m paid to be here

I know I’m probably still drunk because I start the day by putting a winky face in an email to a trader. It’s an improvement on what I was thinking of writing which was “Who gives a shit, you uptight wanker?” Instead I made a sweetly self-deprecating comment about the team I work in and how we’re really just snivelling little wretches compared to the big boys (and girls) on the front line raking in the masses of wealth, whacked the winky face at the end of it to assure him I’m non-threatening and away it went.

It’s had quite a journey, the wink. It’s gone from being a smooth yet wordless come on, through to a warning sign of a sleazy pervert and in cinema it provided the pivotal plot twist in iRobot. Nowadays we bandy winks around like nobody’s business in texts, emails to friends, and emails to professional people at work who we hate. It’s become a prolific part of the way we communicate. If you send something a bit tongue in cheek without the required wink at the end of it, you might just sound like an arsehole.

My decision not to go with something along the lines of “People are dying mate, I couldn’t give two hoots about why this error came up in the first place, just pull your fist out of your arse and fix it” was based on the plain and simple fact that I’m paid to be here.

Like so many people who find themselves working in the recklessly overpaid industry of finance, I am in it for the money. The things I really like doing which are – in no particular order – laughing, writing, drinking, chatting, watching films and trying to be nice to people, are piteously underpaid. So until I can sustain a living by doing any of the above, I’m stuck with it. I do not, I hasten to add, underestimate the fact that the industry I so despise and the job I feel draining the very life out of me is handsomely paid. Loads of people hate their job and get paid fuck all for the privilege. But let’s conveniently sideline that fact because this isn’t about them, it’s about me.

Running concurrently with the issue that lead to the drunken winky face incident was the news that a report that should have been sent wasn’t. I took the necessary steps to rectify the issue, but at no point did I feel sad, angry, hurt or worried about the outcome. A more senior colleague did care and I could sense him prickling behind me while I sat there blithely dismissing his requests about what follow-up action had occurred with the words “I sent an email, I’ll show you in a minute”, while I turned around to finish the article I was reading about the Mitford sisters to find out who the hell they were and why one of them being dead was newsworthy.

When something goes awry at work I ask myself a very simple question: “Did anybody die?” It’s a pretty solid litmus test for how you should react. There are plenty of jobs in the world where people dying is a very real outcome of someone making a mistake. Mine is not one of them.

If the answer is no then I’ll ask myself: “Has anybody been seriously hurt? Do they require medical attention?” Short of falling off a chair, getting a paper cut or walking into a glass door there’s very little in the way of danger in my immediate surroundings so invariably the answer to both of these is also no. With the facts established and with no person or persons in any real, perceived or imminent danger, I limit my reaction to that of perfunctory action. I will do what needs to be done, but there will be no tears shed or recriminations or sleepless nights, because I just don’t care.

There’s a lot to be said for taking pride in what you do and I don’t begrudge anyone that; I applaud it. Just because I have significant dissatisfaction in my lot because it is so entirely contra to my values and beliefs doesn’t mean everyone who does a job that doesn’t involve saving lives, or helping the less fortunate, should drag themselves around in a tortured cloud of misery. We’re all at the mercy of our capitalist existences and require some form of income to sustain ourselves. First World Problems abound, but bills must be paid, nights out must be had, and holidays provide a soothing balm to the tiresome ache of life for the rest of the year.

If you have found something that sustains you financially, intellectually and emotionally, regardless of where it sits on the spectrum of worthy to self-serving careers, then wallow in your smugness; you’ve earned it.

But just try to be self-aware. Try to be realistic. Try not to care too much about something that matters not at all in the wider world. Get some perspective. Be grateful for the money rolling in and out of your account like a healthy turn of the tide every month.

And if something does go wrong, do what you can to fix it and then just chill the fuck out. Unless somebody dies or is very badly hurt, in the grand scheme of things it really doesn’t matter you overpaid, self-unaware fuckwit ;-)

The great big burger in the sky

Burnt toast, considering all it really represents is a bit of an inconvenience at the start of the day, gets a pretty bad rap on the health pages. It was once believed the smell of it could indicate you’re about to have a stroke, and now they’ve decided it can give you cancer.

Now not only do you have to do that ridiculous dance of frantically waving a tea-towel at the smoke alarm to shut it up while the cremated remains sheepishly peer over the edge of the toaster when you’re already running late, but you can also start worrying about whether your breakfast could lead to your last gasping breaths in a decade or two. Scrape the burnt bits off at your peril. You’ll still probably inhale the carcinogens.

Everything at one time or another has been linked to causing cancer. Anyone who grew up in the 80s will remember microwaves coming into our homes and our mums being convinced we would all end up riddled with tumours. Grew up in the 90s or 00s? Mobile phones. They were definitely passing radioactive material direct to our brains through our ear canals. It’s a miracle we’re not all walking around with phone-shaped tumours hanging off our faces.

I was once told cheese wrapped in clingfilm could give you cancer. I mean fucking hell, cheese wrapped in clingfilm? Who funded that research? Worst of all I still believe it a tiny bit and will often find my hand hovering over the clingfilm, unsure whether to take the risk, until I eventually conclude the best course of action is just to eat the rest of the cheese. Potential health disaster risk eliminated.

If the 90s are to be believed, it’s only a matter of time before every single beef-eating Brit comes down with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. By feeding our cows bits of other dead cows in the 80s, we sent them mad, which infected their meat, which we and the other cows were mindlessly ingesting. In their relentless pursuit of commercial gain, beef farmers turned a blind eye to the fact cows do not have cannibalistic tendencies. I’m pretty sure if someone made a similar assumption about me, I too would go mad. But how on earth did it come about?

Farmer A: “Seems a hell of a waste to just throw all these bones, spinal cords and innards away.”
Farmer B: “Doesn’t it just.”
Farmer A: “We could mash it all up and feed it to the next batch?”
Famer B: stunned silence
Farmer A: “Well if it’s good enough for schoolchildren…”
Farmer B: “When you put it like that…”

…and now we’re all going to go mad and die. I believe they estimated the incubation period to be something like 30 years, so we can expect the mad cow disease time-bomb to go off any time now, because surely the press coverage at the time couldn’t have been a wild exaggeration of the very small possibility that we were all eating infected beef.

I’m reasonably confident I’m not going to die from CJD. Sure, the idea of farmers creating a culinary disaster-piece from the otherwise worthless remains of cattle to sell on as feed doesn’t sit well with me. The poor fuckers just wanted some lush, green grass before going off to the great big burger in the sky, and you fed them a horror story, so shame on you. Shame on us for consuming the meat you produced, since eating red meat has also been linked to causing cancer.

Medical research is a wonderful thing. It gives us the gift of knowing how not to pollute our bodies and to give ourselves the best chance of living a long and healthy life, if we so choose. And then the press gets hold of it, distorts it, tells us we’re all going to die and creates a nation of paranoid germ-phobes. Bird flu didn’t kill us, swine flu didn’t kill us. I know they both killed a few people, and I’m genuinely sorry about that, but did either of them justify coverage at quite such a hysterical level?

The press is right; we are all going to die. We can do as much as we like to mitigate that, but it will happen, and there’ll always be a health-scare story to shit us up along the way. Like the majority of people, I would prefer not to go out at the hands of something lingering and painful, but I’m fucked if I’m going to spend the entire time I’m here, be it long or short, trying to adhere to every single piece of health advice that’s printed.

And if this is being read out at my funeral after I’ve been snuffed out by the long ago planted strains of CJD, then ha! I knew the smoking wouldn’t get me! If it’s happened the other way round then ha! I knew 80s school dinners wouldn’t get me!

If it was the burnt toast or the cheese, well fuck me, I can honestly say I didn’t see that coming.

Cats and dogs dressed up like cakes

There’s so much shit going on in the world it can be hard to stay on top of it all. I am concerned about the shit stuff, like the wars and famines and so on, but I can’t spend all day every day reading about it. I have to find something more light-hearted to drag me through the endless minutes of what can feel like an interminable day at work.

This regularly leads me to stories about animals. I can spend hours looking at pictures of cats and dogs dressed up like cakes, or other animals, or in people-uniforms. I know the animal isn’t complicit in the decision to wear fancy dress, so I do know on some level it’s a bit cruel. It’s a moral conflict I regularly choose to ignore, going in favour of kittens in cardies and dogs in clown outfits over finding out any more about the Islamic State and whether or not Cameron and Obama are going to get all up in their faces or not.

When the animal pictures run out, more often than I care to admit I find myself immersed in stories about the moderately well-known as I traverse the countless pages of crap that are slowly unpicking the very fabric of society: the celebrity gossip pages. I know this is wrong on just about every level. People are being blown up for no good reason, children are dying of hunger, innocent people are suffering day in, day out. The world is going to shit and, instead of reading about it so I can at least make that last sentence sound in some way informed, I’m reading about Paul Ross.

It’s been quite a turnaround for one of daytime TV’s faves; he’s been having a bit of the other behind his wife’s back and getting off his tits on Meow Meow the whole time.

I’m not a drug user. Not in a smug “my body is a temple” way, because I can and do imbibe my weekly allowance of alcohol units several times over, several times a week. I’ve had the occasional flirtation with some chemicals but it has never appealed to me enough to make it a regular thing. It’s expensive and the days of suicidal thoughts that followed my rare indulgences have proven enough of a deterrent to keep me on a straight and narrow, albeit slightly wobbly, binge-drinking path.

Although my experience with drugs is limited, I’m fairly certain of one thing, and this is where I think Paul has got more than a little bit confused; drugs don’t turn you gay.

If I wanted some Meow Meow I would have no idea where to get it from. I would have no idea how to take it (snort it? smoke it? eat it? shove it up my arse?) and I would have no idea what to expect, side-effects wise. However, if street drugs came with labels, I very much doubt they would come with something like this: “Warning: may cause episodes of sodomy and long-term homosexual relationships”.

You cheated on your wife, Paul. And of all the fucking unpleasant things you can do to someone that doesn’t involve causing them actual physical harm, that’s pretty high on the list. The fact you cheated on her with a man really is neither here nor there, so trying to blame the homosexual nature of your infidelity on the drugs is just pointless.

It’s the shaky, pointy finger of blame that comes out every time. I’ve used it myself. Alcohol has been cited as the reason for most of my misdemeanours. Most recently at a wedding when a classic 80s Madonna song came on and a friend and I apparently launched into the kind of synchronised dancing that looked like we’d been practising a routine for weeks. The quantities of white wine we had knocked back had imbued us with such appalling confidence and our uninhibited minds became as one. It was because we were drunk, Paul. Never in a sober moment have we managed or even attempted to recreate a pop video.

But it was done and dusted in a night, Paul. Sure, we’re both embarrassed and wish it hadn’t happened. We don’t want people thinking that as women in our thirties we’re going home and choreographing moves to pop songs and then Skyping each other to practice. But in the end no-one got really hurt.

The clear difference is this: none of my drunken mishaps have lasted for 14 months. Because if you’re doing something for 14 months, there is at least a hint of autonomy going on, whether you’re prepared to admit it or not.

I don’t doubt it would take an enormous amount of bravery to come out. Daytime TV doesn’t strike me as the kind of place to nurture and coddle an individual wrestling with some heavy-duty emotions. The viewing public want their presenters straight and married, and the world remains a homophobic place. I don’t envy you, Paul, but for fuck’s sake take responsibility for what you’ve done.

Being gay isn’t a crime. Well, it is in some repulsively narrow-minded countries, but it’s not here, thank Christ. Be gay or be straight; be whoever you are, which can sometimes be the hardest thing. Just don’t be a cunt to someone who trusts you and then blame it on some party drug.

If only I was as concerned with world affairs as I am with Paul Ross. Ah screw it. I’ll stick with the cats in costumes from now on.

A picture of Trigger

We haven’t had a team meeting at work for months now. The gratitude I feel for this is matched only by the gratitude I feel for the fact my siblings and I lacked sufficient imagination to come up with a good enough idea, therefore never got around to writing an appealing enough letter, and were subsequently never successful in our bid to appear on Jim’ll Fix It.

We threw all sorts of ideas around, such was our desire to get on telly. I don’t remember many of them, but I know someone suggested we should ask to dress up as clowns and throw custard pies at each other. The thinking behind that one was to aim low enough to make it nice and easy for Jim to Fix It for us, thus maximising the chance we had of making it on to the show.

Not for the first time, I thank God for our collective familial apathy.

The last team meeting came at a time when our already small department was being hacked to pieces under the guise of improving efficiency. Rancidly overpaid consultants forced us to explain every detail of every pointless task we undertake, and in return we were given patronising snippets of training. The best – and by best I mean the most awkward and vomit-inducingly cringey – was on Excel.

Our consultant opened with a picture of Trigger from Only Fools and Horses and asked, with what I assume was meant to be a wry grin rather than looking as if he was having a stroke, “Does anybody know who this is?” It was a clear attempt to connect with the plebs before blowing their minds with a pivot table and a vlookup.

I dare say he didn’t know the answer to his own question and had only included it in his training material after reading a study on how to communicate with the intellectually inferior. Fuck knows how he went on to link the picture to his subject matter. My brain will have refused to absorb anything beyond that desperate and patronising opener.

Cut forward a few weeks and a meeting was called to bring together the decimated and devastated team, for us to take stock of what had gone on before and what was ahead. Weeks of watching our life-wasting jobs being picked into tiny parts, and then put into graphs and PowerPoint presentations had crushed even those of us who already knew we’re wasting every minute we spend under this strip-lighting, so we shuffled into the meeting room defeated.

It was too hot and too small so we were crammed in together like the terrible punchline to a “How many uninterested adults can you fit around a tiny table in a phone-box sized room to waste another hour of their lives?” joke.

Until this point I’d tried to mask my utter hatred of my job and industry with a tissue-thin veil of professionalism, but on this occasion I was hung over, the glass room was getting hotter and my poker-straight hair was starting to curl in the rising temperature. With every gruelling minute I had slumped lower and lower in my chair until I was almost under the table.

Across this city and the world, meetings are run and overrun by one or two droning voices. They always make up the minority of people in the room, but control the majority by raising point after pointless fucking point. On this occasion, the droning voice punctuated each point by addressing me “I’m sorry I know you don’t want to be in here”.

Who knows what gave it away. Maybe it was the rolling of the eyes, or the mournful cries each time she uttered “Can we also discuss…”, but she was quite right. I’d rather have been dangling from a bamboo, precariously balanced across the top of a live volcano than spent any longer in that room.

The laws of decency state that if you intend to detain someone in a room for a meeting of any longer than one hour, you forewarn them, or you at least provide some sustenance. Since the time spent in there will be completely wasted you might as well get a biscuit or two out of it because, sure as shit, it will be the most productive thing you do in that time.

So when we broke through the one hour mark, in a sweltering and biscuit-free zone, and I heard her say “While we’re all here let’s also…” I punctuated it with my own “Oh for fuck’s sake”, and dropped my head into my hands. It wasn’t enough to stop her so I held on for maybe a few more seconds out of politeness before standing up, announcing “that’s enough” and walking out, to the sound of her speed-talking her way through her final, worthless monologue and a few chairs scraping across the floor as the remaining poor bastards followed me out.

Since then the call for meetings has fallen silent. Maybe this was a direct result of my behaviour, or maybe it was the silent fall of a blanket of apathy across what remains of the team. Either way, it’s worth remembering apathy kept me and my family out of harm’s way as children, so perhaps it’s not such a bad thing after all.

A little bit of crack to take the edge off

It seems hard to believe that anything that went on in the 80s could possibly beat life as it is today. The streets smelled of dog shit and cigarettes, and children were wearing highly flammable and toxic materials that saw many a garishly-dressed young’un burst into flames just from walking by a 40watt bulb. We were restricted to four channels and usually only one TV with a broken remote per household. And a computer? No chance.

Yet here we are in the 10s where dog shit and cigarettes are outlawed, fashion no longer dictates that children should wear fluorescent crepe-paper tracksuits and we have more channels than we know what to do with. Computers are everywhere; in every room in our homes, at work, in our cars and in our pockets. At any given moment you are never more than an arm’s length away from computerised technology. It’s a marvel, but it comes at a price.

The price we pay for the pleasure of having all knowledge – some of it powerful, some of it pointless – at our fingertips is the gargantuan rise of Facebook. Never before have we known so much about people we barely know, and every generation that follows will never fully understand discretion and privacy.

It was a long time coming, but I knew I had to get off it. I tried cutting down at first. But that’s just like a junkie trying to get clean by keeping a stash of gear under their bed, just in case they need it. I removed the app from my phone, but I had my login and all my notifications still on the go, and do you know what happens when you’ve got an active Facebook account but don’t log in? It fucking stalks you.

Like a creepy dealer loitering outside your house and knocking on your door once in a while to check if you want a little bit of crack to take the edge off your withdrawal symptoms, every few days you’ll get an email from the bloody thing trying to entice you back. It’s a pretty lame effort of enticement, of course, things like “see what <insert name of person you worked with 8 years ago> has been up to”, “here’s what you missed! <insert pictures of people’s dinner from the latest news feed>”. Hardly the grade A gear your dealer might rope you back in with, but it keeps the dull curiosity alive in the background.

If Facebook is the dealer then being able to spy on other people’s pretend happiness is the crack. And it’s not that I resent their success and happiness. There is the undeniable urge to compare your own circumstances, shitty or otherwise, to the lives people choose to portray and it’s easy to become resentful of what you don’t have, but more than that I just don’t think posting the few seconds of pleasure we truly get in our lives is really necessary. Does having five people you used to work with “like” a picture of your face really make your face any more likable? Will tagging yourself and your mates in your local pub give your night out that extra zing it might otherwise lack?

As leaving the account dormant just encourages it to harass you, I decided I had to do the only thing that I knew would make it shut up and leave me alone: I deactivated it. And that was six months ago. It was blissful. You don’t realise the head-rattling racket that thing makes when you’ve got it on every device you own. You regain some peace and equilibrium that’s been absent since you began living your life through that website.

Not once have I looked back on my decision to depart with anything other than self-congratulatory pride. I haven’t missed those long, lonely hours spent grimly scrolling through the newsfeed. I haven’t missed that gut-churning feeling of dread following a night out when you reach for your phone, crusty tears dried around your eyes, as you’re bombarded with images of your sweat-drenched, ruddy face gurning into someone’s camera, every picture tagged so distant relatives will be able to see just how inappropriately you’re living your life.

I do believe in progress and I do believe in choice. The fact we have progressed far enough technologically to give people the choice to share every bit of their lives and to engage with people from across the world at the touch of a screen is something else. Something we never could have dreamed of 30 years ago when our noses were pressed against the screen on the hulking great box in the corner of our living rooms.

I still have a choice to make: I can entirely disengage with the online community by removing my account completely, following the arbitrarily painstaking process they’ve come up with to put people off from doing so, or I have to accept that progress has brought us to a place where our actions, words, geographical locations and drunken misdemeanours can and will be uploaded at any given moment.

Until that point, I may well be at home wearing a vintage piece of bin-bag inspired sportswear and walking perilously close to a naked flame. But the beauty is no one will have to know about it.

Intellect, drive and productivity

We’re the same, you and I, and not just because we’re both on that one way journey into the eternal darkness. We’re bound together by the soul-crushing, life-destroying need to cram our achievements, personalities, ambitions and desires into two perfectly formatted yet eye-catching pages of lies.

No matter how hard I try, and I can assure you I gave up trying long ago, my CV reads as an excruciatingly boring and unimportant list of jobs sewn together with cringing attempts to make me sound like a professional, confident and competent person. Trouble is, in so doing it also makes me sound like a complete arsehole.

Read yours right now, if you can bear to. I start retching and getting stomach cramps when I so much as click on the filename. I haven’t touched a printed copy of it for years and I’m pretty sure my hands would catch fire if I did. Read someone else’s too, preferably someone you like or at least care about.

Done it? Do you still like yourself and the other person? Unlikely. It’ll probably take a few weeks for that to wear off, so avoid them and your own reflection for at least a fortnight and stay away from sharp objects.

In my long-since-abandoned quest to write the perfect CV I discovered one simple fact: it doesn’t exist. It’s as mythical as the Holy fucking Grail. If you believe you have the perfect CV then you are most definitely wrong, and you are most definitely the same pompous wanker your CV makes you out to be.

Like so many of life’s shit, shit aspects, this all began at school: the personal statement. The pressure placed upon us to knock up 300 words of ground-breaking and original self-promotion to make our UCAS application shine brighter than any other was almost intolerable. They rammed the importance of getting it right so far home, I became convinced they had rigged up my house with IEDs and would let them rip if they identified even one stray word they considered waffle.

And so yet another generation of exaggerated and often fictional achievements was born, each one more gut-achingly arrogant than the last.

Wouldn’t life be so much better for every single person if we collectively decided to just be honest? People would then get to know who they were actually going to be working with, rather than a turbo-extreme version of them. Jobseekers would have half a chance of getting matched to a job that actually suited them. All up it would make the job market fairer.

And therein lies the fatal flaw; the job market isn’t fair. It’s a shallow place biased towards those who can make their mundane existence sound like they’re packing the kind of intellect, drive and productivity to make an entire Cambridge college shudder.

The last time I attempted to do my CV without going into anaphylactic shock, I employed the help of a friend who’d spent some time on the receiving end of job applications. I completely submitted to her will, as another piece of conflicting advice on how best to do it would have resulted in me going a bit Michael Douglas Falling Down. Word for word I put together the CV she advised. The result? An interview.

What got me this interview was the extremely creative inclusion of things I neither know nor care about. What got me this interview was two pages that sounded like they were describing a cunt of significant proportions. Within minutes of sitting down it was clear. They knew it and I knew it and the bright red face and stuttering didn’t help; I just wasn’t the cunt they were hoping for.

In a way I felt sorry for them. I could have saved us all the pain and humiliation we experienced that day if I’d just been honest from the start.

So I’ve decided to put a CV together that is completely truthful. Who knows whether or not I’ll send it out, but at least I’ll be able to read it without hyperventilating and feeling like my eyes are going to explode in my head.

This is a call to arms and I’m going to launch the first attack: I work because I have to, and so do you. That’s the truth. Stop expecting me to dress it up with fake enthusiasm and stop believing people whose only talent is to exaggerate their own brilliance. They’re just the same as you and me. Their only true gift is being able to make waffle sound less shit.

True sacrifice

A holiday abroad does so much more than just give your body and mind a well-earned break. You find yourself thinking about the more important things in life, rather than fixating on how quickly people will work out it was you who fucked up their macro, or hiding in the toilets for two hours fretting about whether or not the person you sit next to saw you slagging them off on instant messenger.

You probably take yourself off to a much poorer country for a beach holiday, because you want your money to go as far as possible. You might go somewhere in Asia. Sure, the flights will cost you a pretty penny, but you’ll struggle to spend more than the cost of a Pret salad on most three-course meals, so you can square it away in your mind. And once you’re there buying cocktails for the same price as a packet of Hubba Bubba, your body starts to relax and your mind starts to find that peace and calm you’ve been searching for in the months since your last sojourn.

All the while you’re in a bubble, cut-off from reality with no idea what’s going on at home. So imagine the horrifying, falling sensation that overcomes you when you return to London and read the biggest story of the past fortnight.

All the benefits of every single four quid, hour-long relaxing massage I had undergone were reversed when I got home and read – and believe me I am still ashen-faced with shock as I write this  – about the Back to the Future Secret Cinema catastrophe.

For the blissfully ignorant, let me fill you in. The biggest immersive cinema event in the history of big, immersive cinema events was called off with – oh god I think I’m going to be sick again – merely hours’ notice. Some people were actually on their way to the event when they found out. Some people had taken time off work to attend it. Everyone had put their money and their faith into the belief that they would get to watch an 80s classic in dress-up, with some real life actors thesping about the place, whilst also being able to get bollocksed in the process.

One account I read, in amongst so many harrowing details of devastation and loss, was written by someone I consider a modern day Joan of Arc. Not only had she arrived early, but someone she was meeting there had almost boarded their train to meet her. Suffice to say she was distraught, but showed supreme strength and dignity in not allowing her companion to make a wasted journey. That’s true friendship. That’s true sacrifice.

And of course there’s a backlash.

Supposedly they’re a pampered bunch of spoilt film nerds with too much money, an unhealthy obsession with mediocre 80s cinema and an unfulfilled need to raid the dressing up box, harking back to a repressed and lonely childhood.

Or are they just serious, hard-working people, with realistic expectations that, when they’ve paid over the odds for organised fun, have meticulously selected something to wear that says “I’m wacky, but I also like to get things right *points and winks*” and have arranged their diary accordingly, they will be able to embark on their organised fun in a punctual and efficient manner?

Well you show me the father of four selling tat on an Asian beach for pennies who wouldn’t sympathise with these poor sods. Do you honestly expect me to believe that a family of six living in a shack who sell their ancient, healing and holistic massages for less than the cost of a bag of Butterkist wouldn’t break down on hearing about Secret Cinema’s recent atrocity?

Just because they don’t have money doesn’t mean they don’t have feelings.

All I can hope now is whatever has brought about this disaster is resolved by the end of August, in time for the date on my ticket. Or I’ll be shaking like Michael J Fox and weeping into my three quid, hand woven, silk pashmina.