Why Talk About Something Else? by Paul Featherstone

The recent revelations surrounding the suicide attempts of Stephen Fry and Paris Jackson have once again raised the issue of mental health in the public spotlight. However, in the case of the young Jackson, rather than the even-handed approach that would have been dealt out to any normal 15 year-old, coming to terms with the untimely death of their father, it was, with a crushing inevitability, splashed across the front of every tabloid. The headlines positively dripped with glee that, even though the main source had perished, the Jackson family show rolled on, just when it seemed the children may end it with their party-pooping normality.

I then read with abject horror, as Fry revealed on Twitter that he had been doorstepped by a journalist, the day after revealing on a radio show of his own attempt to take his life in 2012.

Fry’s long battle with depression is well documented, and whilst it is not entirely un-newsworthy that one of Britain’s most loved entertainers had attempted to end their life, where is the line? Is it acceptable to seek someone out, and then aggressively question them in the street about the most personal of matters. More importantly? What does that say about our continuing attitude to mental health in this country?

The suicide of Gary Speed, the Wales football manager, hit me hard on the day it was announced. He wasn’t my favourite footballer of all time. I wasn’t a die-hard Bolton, Newcastle or Leeds fan. In fact, he was merely a promising football manager to me, who was starting to turn around the incredibly poor fortunes of his national team.

What resonated was the fact he had seemed so happy and normal, with a life to behold from the outside looking in, complete with a Wife and family. Everybody in football who spoke of him, had never known he had any problems that would indicate he would ever take such action.

You see that was me. For a long period of my life, from my teens to my mid-twenties, I was outwardly happy and inwardly being crushed by bouts of depression. Rather foolishly, like Speed, I rarely opened up to anyone about it, and if I did, just brushed it off the next day, almost out of some kind of mis-guided shame. I’m much happier now, heavily due to my life with my fiancee and those I care about around me, but if I wasn’t, would I open up about it? I doubt it.

For me, mental health is just that. The brain is an organ that operates vast functions, beyond the compare of any in our body. One of those is the well-being of our inner consciousness, and sometimes that can go wrong – the organ is not as healthy as it might be. Sometimes for a short period of time, sometimes for a whole life or as in my case, it was on and off for several years.

So why not mention it? Why suffer for such an long time, in relative solitude? If the illness is surely one of genetics, being that the mind is not firing quite right beyond my own control, why shield it from view? If anything else in your body stops working correctly beyond your control, should you really feel ashamed? Would a Paralympian be ashamed that their limb did not work to it’s full capacity? If asked about it, why should I want to talk about something else?

Yet millions of other people in the world feel the need to suffer alone, without the help needed for their mind, and that quite often is down to society’s attitude to mental health. It’s relatively easy to sit and type these things from the comfort blanket of a keyboard, but I couldn’t verbalise them. The vast majority of that comes from that British embarrassment in admitting that you can’t or couldn’t cope with things but also, if you do open up, what would people think? How many of us have dismissed someone with depression, or given them a wide berth because they are “mental?”

That sometimes extends from fear of the different, but also people have the natural cynicism that the person is making it up “for attention”, but what if the person wants that attention to just be able to open up?

Undoubtedly many people reading this piece will have pointed and sniggered at high profile people such as Kerry Katona, Paul Gascoigne and Britney Spears, as they suffered various mental health issues in the spotlight, but would we react the same if that was our father or sister? Of course we wouldn’t.

The same can be said towards the public attitude to anyone suffering dementia. How often have you avoided or got annoyed at a confused old man, when if it was your grandfather or father, you would help him find his way home or what he needed in the shop?

So, the sufferer puts up the public show that all is fine, when internally it couldn’t be further from the truth. I was always the life and soul of a party, burying myself in drink before going home to face the fact that the drinking had only made matters worse. Sometimes, I would drink too much and the act would drop, then the next day it would be forgotten or pinned on too many ales. All once again, down to that shame attached.

So there needs to be huge work in our society to remove the stigma attached to this. I feel uncomfortable typing this right now, I will do even more so when it posted. There pulse is a little faster and the breathing a little shorter, yet all I am doing is talking about a part of my life that is now (thankfully) over.

There is so much work going on for sections of our society such as those who are disabled, or suffering from cancer, or any other health issue, to shout out and not be ashamed of what they are going through, but there is still so far to go with regards to mental health.

Yes, Stephen Fry and Paris Jackson should be afforded the privacy to deal with their own issues in their own time and with the people they wish too, but should they feel the need to hide from prying eyes what they chose to do in attempting suicide? No, because once in a while someone will check in that they are okay, and lend them an ear to talk things through.

The most foolish of things to do is to lock it all away and suffer it alone. Society needs to be in a position to allow and encourage them, and others, to open up about what is going on inside their heads, when they feel comfortable to.

Splashing it across a front page and treating it as something alien, will only cause that teenager at home going through the same thing, to clam up and put on the old, familiar show.

It’s not that alien, it’s incredibly human, and it’s going on in so many places you wouldn’t think.

 

Paul FeatherstonePaul Featherstone is 31 years old and lives in Hull. Most people call him “Fev.” He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of football and music and uses the word “c*nt” far too much in everyday conversation. He spends a lot of his time blagging his way into celebrity parties. He is to be commended for once meeting Jo Whiley and refraining from beating her to death with a big stick. You can read more of his vitirolic comments on http://twitter.com/FevTheRevoff

The You Tube Tour by Martyn Taylor

‘YouTube’ is an amazing medium. The facts and figures are even more amazing. They look much more interesting when formatted into a jazzy diagram, so here they are.

youtube-facts-figures-by-techwelkin

Some of the stats in the picture are a little out dated now (We all know that ‘Gangnam Style’ by ‘Psy’ is now the most viewed YouTube clip currently (HORRIFICALLY)) It is simply to show you how gargantuan the site is now.

Most of the time, people visit YouTube to quickly watch a video clip of panda sneezing, or a dog talking, or maybe to look at a fish with a hair style like Elvis Presley. I think this is a crime. There is so much information on the website, that if you come away from a YouTube session having not learned something new, it is surely a session wasted.

I used to use YouTube purely for nostalgic reasons. I would type in a request for ‘top 10 Premier League goals’ or an episode of Men Behaving Badly, watch them then go on what I can a ‘YouTube Tour’. A ‘YouTube Tour’ is when you click on the suggestions list down the side, and keep on doing so until you end up watching something totally unrelated to the original video you requested. The other night I ended up watching a clip of Lex Luger body slamming Yokozuna in 1993, and I cant even remember what I was watching at the beginning.

Astonishingly, Lex Luger admitted dabbling in steroids. Just dabbling though. He definitely wasn't eating bowls of them for breakfast.

Astonishingly, Lex Luger admitted dabbling in steroids. Just dabbling though. He definitely wasn’t eating bowls of them for breakfast. Oh no.

On a recent ‘YouTube Tour’ I was watching a clip from Russell Brand’s controversial documentary about drug addiction from a couple of years ago. This led me to a clip from Newsnight where Mr Brand (on a promotional tour for the documentary) got himself into a debate with a vile man by the name of Peter Hitchens. Basically Peter Hitchens is a journalist for the Mail On Sunday and has very strong opinions. He took an instant dislike to Russell Brand, and his documentary, and did his best to shoot him down. Russell called him a ‘silly willy man’ or something ludicrous like that and made fun of him, which was all very amusing.

The next stop on my Tour was a revelation, and has opened my eyes as to how powerful a man’s opinion can be. I was led to a clip of Peter Hitchens’ brother, Christopher Hitchens. If like me you had never heard of Christopher Hitchens, he is an English journalist who spent the last 30 odd years of his career on American T.V and radio, leading debates on such subjects as religion, politics, racism, sexuality and Darwinism.

I was not going to bother watching the clip because of my dislike of his brother, Peter, but I thought “what the fuck” and watched a quick clip of an argument that he was having with a white supremacist about, you guessed it, racism. To my surprise, the man was not only strongly opinionated, but also had charisma and a certain charm (unlike his brother.)

I think even Cliff Richard would look cool with a cigarette.

This is Christopher Hitchens. He was smarter than you.

I was hooked!

I spent not only that night, but many nights since watching as many clips of him debating that I could get my hands on.

His political views were that of a left wing socialist, and he describes his religious beliefs as a ‘Antitheist’ (Which is similar to an ‘Atheist’ but with a twist, Google it). These two strong beliefs led him to be put into many debates with Religious fanatics, the KKK, Right wing politicians, and at one point, found himself in a three-way debate with Salman Rushdie and rapper Mos Def (Very strange indeed.)

Many of his debates regularly followed this pattern:-

:-Ask question to opposition or guest

:-Listen to the reply with a smug look on his face

:-Take a breath

:-Then shoot the mother fuckers down!

He was in many ways a mean man, and he put his argument across in a similar to the way that Brian Clough would belittle many a interviewer in the past. He would tell the opposition why he thought their opinion was wrong (which when he was debating religion, he revelled in it), told you his views on his subject, then sat back and watched the person sink into their seats to their death!

Christopher Hitchens made him to be disliked, but it was this contemptuous attitude to his fellow debaters that drew me to him. Don’t get me wrong, if, in the unlikely event that I happened to ever meet the man, no doubt, I would of enjoyed nothing more than to pulverize him into oblivion, but in his medium, he was a god. (He wouldn’t like that description I feel.)

After a few nights intently watching the man on YouTube. I decided to ‘Google’ the man, to learn a little more about him, and see what he’s up to nowadays.

To my horror, his description on Wikipedia read: ‘Christopher Eric Hitchens was a British-American author and journalist.’

Did you see it? the emphasis being on the word ‘WAS’. The man is dead!

He died in 2011 from Hereditary Oesophageal Cancer (no doubt, not helped by his lifelong chain smoking and alcohol abuse) I was strangely taken aback by this this news. I had only just found the man and now he was gone.

Christopher was asked by a religious nutter towards the end of his life if he would accept the wonderful offer of religion, to save his soul.

“Wouldn’t you like to go to heaven and meet Shakespeare for example” the bible-basher asked.

Christopher’s reply went something like this: (not word for word, but pretty close)

“I can meet him, he is immortal in in the works that he has left behind. If you have read those, surely meeting the author would be a disappointment”

This response is kind of ironic for me really, because, as I had only just discovered Christopher Hitchens, and lost him in the space of a fortnight. He is immortal in the works that he has left behind……. And on YouTube!

Here is a link to Hitchens at his finest:

http://tinyurl.com/l7o728r

 

mart questionsMartyn Taylor is a 31 year-old father of three and lives in Hull. His pastimes include watching 80s action films over and over again and and debating the all-time Premiership XI with Mr Miles. His knowledge of American sitcoms of the 90s stands second to none. He once walked into a men’s public lavatory absent-mindedly singing the theme tune from Two And A Half Men. You can find him on http://www.twitter.com/shirleysblower but he never tweets, so just follow him on here.

Life Is Like A Box Of Chocolates…. By Martyn Taylor

Surely a remake would feature him shaking hands with a CGI Princess Diana...

Perhaps a sequel would feature him shaking hands with a CGI Princess Diana…

WARNING! SPOILER ALERT! Do not carry on reading if you are planning on watching ‘Forrest Gump’ any time soon, are a fan of ‘Forrest Gump,’ or are a fan of happy endings in general.

If you’re wondering what I’m alluding to, this is it. Forrest Gump had H.I.V. Here’s why.
Let me start this off by giving you a brief summary of the film ‘Forrest Gump’ so that you can see my point at the end.

‘Forrest Gump’ is the story of a man called Forrest Gump (played by Tom Hanks) He was born with a small I.Q, but a large generous heart. He grew up in a town called Greenbow, which is in Alabama. On his first day of school he meets a girl called Jenny (played later by Robin Wright.) The film tells the tales of the lives of these two characters running in parallel with each other. Once they leave school they only meet again on a few occasions. Forrest goes through his life accidentally experiencing and influencing some of the most important men in America. He taught Elvis to swing his hips, influenced John Lennon to write ‘Imagine’ and also accidentally unearthed the ‘Watergate’ scandal that caused Richard Nixon to resign as President. The problem was that he was too stupid to realize the significance of his actions. Forrest becomes rich and famous by, becoming a college football (not soccer) star, fighting in Vietnam, receiving the ‘Congressional Medal of Honour,’ representing the U.S.A in China on the table tennis team, owning a highly successful shrimp boat fishing company and for running across America coast-to-coast several times.

Jenny, on the other hand, lived a much more difficult life. Struggling to settle down, she got caught posing topless while at college, spent time as a ‘singing’ stripper, Experimented in several types of drugs (marijuana, L.S.D, cocaine and heroin among others.) Jenny also has many relationships with many men throughout the film, some are abusive, over-powering and they almost certainly get her hooked on drugs.

After college Forrest and Jenny only meet again a total of four times.

On the third occasion that they meet, Jenny goes to the house that Forrest lives in to stay with him for a while. On the night before she leaves she climbs through his window and makes love with him (as a goodbye gift or as way of thanks, I don’t know.)
Later on in the film Forrest receives a letter from Jenny asking him to come and see her where she is living now. When Forrest arrives at the apartment where Jenny is living a babysitter arrives with Jenny’s son. She proceeds to tell Forrest that he is called Forrest Jr and he is the father from their one night stand together. Jenny also informs Forrest that she is sick and is in fact dying from a mystery virus that the doctors could not diagnose.

Jenny and Forrest move back together to Greenbow where they get married. Jenny dies soon after from the previously mentioned mystery virus. THE END.

Its all very sad, but we are left with the thought that Forrest and Forrest Jr live happily ever after. I am here to burst that bubble now!

Jenny told Forrest that she had a mystery undiagnosed virus. I believe that Jenny had in fact caught H.I.V. As this part of the film was set in the early 80’s, A.I.D’s had only just been discovered and H.I.V was unknown. She may have caught it during her time in the 70’s experimenting with heroin, possibly sharing needles, or she may have caught it from having unprotected sex during this time.

 

To be fair, I can't imagine this bloke would pass an STD test either...

To be fair, I can’t imagine this bloke would pass an STD test either…

Jenny then had unprotected sex with Forrest on the night when Forrest Jr was conceived. She must have passed the virus on to Forrest that night, and during child birth, as the virus was unknown, she most certainly infected Forrest Jr with H.I.V at this time.
Unfortunately for all you romantics out there who thought that Forrest and Forrest Jr lived happily ever after, I’m afraid not. They more than likely suffered a similar fate as Jenny, it was probably a painful death for the pair of them soon after the film had ended.

mart questionsMartyn Taylor is a 31 year-old father of three and lives in Hull. His pastimes include watching 80s action films over and over again and and debating the all-time Premiership XI with Mr Miles. His knowledge of American sitcoms of the 90s stands second to none. He once walked into a men’s public lavatory absent-mindedly singing the theme tune from Two And A Half Men. You can find him on http://www.twitter.com/shirleysblower but he never tweets, so just follow him on here.

A Lesson In Power Of A Common Superhero by Paul Featherstone

Football is quite clearly the national past time of the British. Every weekend hundreds of thousands of people pour into stadiums, to watch their heroes decked in the colours of their chosen team. Sons mingle with fathers, mothers get rare time with their whole family that their partner or children won’t complain about, friends forget their troubles for a few hours.

People do this, not just because of their love for the sport, nor their wonder at the tension and joy played out on the pitch, but also because, like every major event, they trust that they will be kept safe, along with all of these people that they attend it with. That trust is such a small, but hugely important thing. We as a society, build almost everything on trust. Without it, we would all stay inside, lock our doors and never venture for anything but sustenance. Quite often, that trust is placed on the men and women of the emergency services and that when called upon, they will be there to protect and help us, even if it means giving their own lives in the process.

Imagine leaving for a football match, excited at the theatre the day promised, but it being routine enough to be like any other? You don’t say you love your mother. You maybe don’t see your wife because she is at work, because it’s safe in your mind. You trust you will be home to do any number of all those things again. You trust someone to take care of you when you get to the game. You’re so busy living, death is not ever a thought.

96 people never came home on that exciting, but ultimately routine day of April 15th, 1989. We now know the truth of course, that the trust they placed in someone, somewhere to keep them safe at the game, was not rewarded with their lives.

The astonishing mistakes that led to their deaths, were only exacerbated by the impending lies and smears that firmly pointed the blame at the innocent dead. Their fellow fans were branded “animalistic” – The Sun newspaper effectively compared them to war criminals. Accused of urinating on police officers, picking pockets of victims and beating those trying to save lives.

I’ve never known the pain of someone I care about dying in such a manner and nor do I either wish to. I’m truly lucky to be able to make that statement, as are most people. It would shatter all of our existences.

To then find the strength to fight back against those slurs, to even be able to get up and make a cup of tea every morning, is a feat that is difficult to surpass.To have to do that for 24 years, is torturous. Yet, the phrase “Justice For The 96” is one that every football fan, and those beyond the sport, are aware of. That is down to the campaigning families of those 96 dead people.

It is a beautiful life lesson, borne out of horror- that if you scream and shout loud enough,and if you don’t back down in the face of adversity, the truth will out. You will win.

That is not always the case of course. It is frightening how the power of the establishments in this world, can silence and destroy the will of the many. However, a victory of this magnitude stirs the soul and should provide fortitude, for anyone who faces anything of this sickening manner ever again.

Bravery, true bravery, is very rarely shown. This was not running into a fire to save someone, in the knowledge that death was what really awaited behind those flames. Yet, it required the same courage of a super human level. Every year, people flock to the cinema to look at those qualities exhibited on a silver screen, but if we look hard enough, it can be in our own world, waiting to inspire us.

The superheroes we need to protect us from evil, are sometimes waiting in the wings, with just their voice for a power. Every single one of those who campaigned should pass into folklore, because their actions should be the inspiration that ensures no football pitch should ever be cloaked in wreaths ever again. To use a football analogy, this was a wondrous victory, snatched from the most unforgiving jaws of defeat.

Whatever your teams colour, whatever your allegiance, if you ever meet anyone of those people who secured it, treat them like the superhero they are.

Paul FeatherstonePaul Featherstone is 31 years old and lives in Hull. Most people call him “Fev.” He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of football and music and uses the word “c*nt” far too much in everyday conversation. He spends a lot of his time blagging his way into celebrity parties. He is to be commended for once meeting Jo Whiley and refraining from beating her to death with a big stick. You can read more of his vitirolic comments on http://twitter.com/FevTheRevoff

 

The Tattoo Ban by Gill Hoffs

After twelve loooong years, it looks like the tattoo ban has been lifted. My husband has suggested we get paired tattoos (wait – don’t stick your fingers down your throat just yet!) of a cat and a mouse with a brick, and I’ve yipped like a Yorkshire terrier in heat and accepted.

So the tattoo ban. Allow me to explain. I got my first tattoo in my mid-teens when I was still at a posh school ‘For Young Ladies’ (nb – I’m now neither), and my twelfth at 22. At the almost-middle-age of 34 I still miss the endorphin glow that comes with the bzzzzzzzzzzzzzt of the inking machine pulling at my skin and the instant feel-good factor of a permanent, positive change to the sack of meat my mind lives in. But when I got #12, my then-best-friend-now-husband did me a deal: he’d help me pay for it if #12 was it. Well, I agreed, sure, why not?, thinking it was unlikely that we’d still be friends in a couple of years (let alone married with a kid and a cat) and I could go without further body modification for the few months or years we remained friends. I’ve never been great at relationships or human-to-human stuff so I didn’t see this agreement affecting future tat plans. But bugger me, we got together, said ‘I do’ and that meant I didn’t, wouldn’t, couldn’t go back on my word and get someone to sink some more ink.

Twelve might sound like quite a lot, even for a chunk like me. But it’s not as if my tattoos are big and scary – I never saved up enough for that. Most of them are no bigger than the palm of my son’s hand. There’re a lot of them, though, and they’re generally quite badly done. There’s the rat above my belly button with a squinty tail, the shark on my chest with anatomically incorrect fins and oddly shaped bubbles, the pentagram with wiggly lines (I spent ages getting the angles perfect and the lines straight with a ruler and compass at the back of my chemistry class – and it was all for nought), and the most lurid, garish, ugly flower fairy in the known universe. Cicely M. Barker would see no magic in this inking. It’s a psychedelic vomit splash of a fairy. Just as well it’s on my back so I don’t see it.

Actually, unless I’m wearing something very low cut (rare) or having some kind of medical examination (equally rare) you wouldn’t know any of them were there unless you came swimming with me or I told you. That’s so I don’t have to wear long sleeves or polo necks when I get interviewed for jobs. Or pancake make-up which apparently doesn’t smell or taste nearly as good as it sounds.

My favourite is probably my dog’s name, emblazoned in a bright green scroll across the top of my arm, but more because of who she was than any artistic merit it could claim. I had many others picked out for my back, arse, hips and upper arms, including Calvin & Hobbes (and some snowmen), the ISBN and barcode for my first book, some cartoons from the early 1900s, and my favourite saying ‘Better to light a candle than curse the dark’. But, till this weekend, all seemed lost.

I don’t know what changed or why, but we’ve agreed that in a few months’ time we’ll get Krazy Kat and Ignatz (an old comic strip penned by George Herriman) tattoos for our 9th wedding anniversary. For those of you who haven’t heard of them, Krazy is a dreamy cat besotted with a brick-throwing mouse called Ignatz. The plan is for me to get Krazy mooning about on my upper arm, and my other half to get Ignatz (and brick) on his. We’ve got 5 months to go over 31 years of comic strips and choose The One, find a tattoo artist we trust, and save up for it. We’re taking our time and Doin’ It Right.

Unlike Cicely M. Barker, Mr Herriman can rest easy in his grave.

hoffsGill Hoffs lives with her family and Coraline Cat in a horribly messy house in Warrington. Find her on facebook or as @gillhoffs on twitter, email her a dirty joke at gillhoffs@hotmail.co.uk, or leave a clean comment at http://gillhoffs.wordpress.com/ ‘Wild: a collection’, her word-mixture of sea creatures, regret, and murder, is out now from Pure Slush. Get it here.
Gill’s often-sad sometimes-grisly nonfiction book about the Victorian Titanic will be published in January 2014 by Pen & Sword. Feel free to send her chocolate.

This Women’s Work (part 2)…. By Vicky Taylor

mart and vicky

10:30 AM – Martyn rolled in at 10 o’clock last night pissed up. So as punishment I woke him up him up early so we can go shopping, Ha Ha! He told me he was only going out for 2 or 3 pints and he came home steaming! Why is he putting them sunglasses on? He looks daft, and besides, its not even sunny.

10:35 AM – Thank god we’re nearly there, the car stinks of stale booze, maybe I should’ve driven. The kids, sensing Mart’s tender head, have started to take advantage and are playing up. The traffic lights are changing so I’ll have a chance to calm them down. Hang on, he’s going for it. WOOH! that was close, too close when the kids are in the car. I give him my ‘Calm the fuck down’ look and he has the nerve to have a go at me!

10:40 AM – At least we’re here at Sainsbury’s now. Why is he parking all the way over here when there are all them spaces near the store? Oh yeah, someone opened their car door onto his last week and left a mucky mark. This better not be a permanent habit. I tell him if it rains I better not get wet. He strolls off pretending not to hear me. Wanker!

10:45 AM – Mart gets the trolley and gives it to me. I head straight to get some veg for dinner tomorrow. I turn around to ask Mart to get some spuds, where the hell is he and where are the boys? I bet they are looking at the shitty X-box games. Oh well, I’ll get the veg myself and make that twat cook it tomorrow.

10:50 AM – Oh good they’re back. Just in time for me to show him the meat he’s gonna be cooking tomorrow. I tell him he is cooking it but he seems distracted. Then I realise what has his attention. Walking towards us is a trampy looking woman in a skimpy outfit. Mart’s jaw nearly hits the ground. Could he stare any harder at her? He looks like a puppy dog with his tongue hanging out, perv!

10:57 AM – Martyn throws 3 cans of lentil soup in the trolley, who the hell eats that shit? I ask him if we need some beans. He looks at me like I’m thick, but he was the one cooking beans on toast at 11 o’clock last night while pissed. He tosses two cans in sarcastically, I ignore him and walk on.

11:03 AM – Martyn is letting the kids run riot down the sweet aisle. They all grab hands full of sweets to eat at movie night tonight. Marts been bugging me to get him ‘The Karate Kid’ to watch with the boys. He is happy I got it from town the other day. He thinks I bought the original version, but I got the remake that the boys wanted with Jackie Chan in.

11:12 AM – Is he really getting more beer? Didn’t he drink enough last night? What’s he doing now? him and the boys are fighting, I knew I shouldn’t have got a kung-fu movie. People are starting to stare, how embarrassing!

11:16 AM – Mart grabs a drink off the shelf and only bloody opens it and starts guzzling it down! He sputters something, puts the lid on and puts it in the basket. I work here, the last thing I need is to be arrested for shop lifting again.

11:18 AM – Gracie is pestering Martyn for something. Mart picks her up and starts throwing her around. I tell him she has just had a full bottle of milk in the car. My warnings fall on deaf ears. He carries on and she spews on the floor. Mart just looks at it and walks off. I can’t leave it so I clean it up.

11:27 AM – Mart tells the kids to sit down while he packs, I load the grub onto the belt. I do it all tidy so its easy to pack away. What, just what is he doing? Could he mash that loaf of bread up any more? Slob!

11:31 AM – I pay for the shopping, with Mart’s debit card of course (which will be a nice surprise for him later). I get the kids together and head out. Great, its pissing it down! I warned him. he runs with the trolley hollering something back. Just then, BEEEEEPPPP! A car nearly hits him. Ha Ha! He should’ve parked closer!

Get Martyn’s take on this trip to Sainsbury’s here.

This Man’s Day (part 2)… By Martyn Taylor

mart and vicky

10:30 AM – Why do I do this to myself? Its bad enough having to go shopping on a Saturday morning, but to make things worse, I’m nursing a hangover after 8 pints in the pub last night. Vicky seems in a mood as well, I’ve no idea why. I’m not about to ask her why either, she’ll bite my head off. Christ! That sun’s bright, its like needles in my retinas, better put my shades on.

10:35 AM – Nearly there now, just this set of lights to make it through and we’re there. The kids are starting to play up in the back, which is doing my hangover no favours. Hang on, the lights have changed to amber. Fuck it! I’m going for it. Made it. Vic gives me a look. I tell her if she doesn’t like it she can drive home.

10:40 AM – At the car park now. Some twat dinked my door when I was here last week, so I’m gonna park at the back where nobody ever parks. Its a 2 minute walk to the Sainsbury’s but its worth it to keep my car safe. Vicky goes on about how the weather is going to change later, but I ain’t listening.

10:45 AM – I get the trolley and we make our way into the shop. Vic takes the trolley and goes down for some veg. Me and the boys go down the magazine aisle for a flick through the mags.

10:50 AM – We catch up to the wife, she’s picking some meat for Sunday dinner, she tells me we’re having pork. I hear her but my attention is drawn down the aisle. A cracking looking bird is walking towards us. I play it cool and catch a glimpse out of the corner of my eye. She has brown hair, a short skirt and a tight white top. The chill of the fridge has made her nips stand up a wee bit. Its funny how much you can pick up in a glance.

10:57 AM – Down the tinned food aisle I throw a few cans of soup in. Vic asks if we need any beans. How the hell do I know? She cooks the god damn dinners. I toss a couple in and look at her as if to say ‘Is that enough?’ She just rolls her eyes and walks off.

11:03 AM – Down the sweet aisle the boys and Gracie run off to choose some goodies for our DVD night tonight. Vic said we could watch ‘The Karate Kid’ which I’ve been nagging to watch because its one of my favourites from the 80’s.

11:12 AM – I throw a 6 pack in the trolley while down the beer aisle. They boys are playing up ahead, I’ll show them who the real karate kid is. I run up to Lewis and deliver a Mawashi-Geri-Tudan to his head (just playing of course). Then me and Harrison recreate the famous ‘crane-kick finisher’ from ‘The Karate Kid’. Vicky shows her displeasure with a ‘TUT’

11:16 AM – I’m thirsty, so I grab a Lucozade off the shelf and have a swig, ‘That’s better’ I say as I put it in the trolley. Vicky gives me daggers, I tell her to chill out as I’m going to pay for it.

11:18 AM – Gracie is nattering for a biscuit, so I scoop her up and twirl her around ballroom dancing style. She seems happy so I carry on. I maybe went a bit too far with it as she has done a little bit of throw-up on the floor. ‘Whoops’ I say as Vic cleans it up with a baby wipe.

11:27 AM – At the till the kids sit on a bench as I take charge of the packing. My hangover is really kicking in now so my usual tidy packing turns into chaos as I rush to get the grub into the bags.

11:31 AM – Vicky pays for the shopping, which is nice of her. We make our way out, and its only started to bloody spit. I run off with the trolley towards the back of the car park shouting ‘Don’t forget you’re driving.’ I over-run the path and a car nearly knocks me over. Fuck! I wish I’d’ve parked closer now.

See this shopping trip through Vicky’s eyes here.

Paradise (A Story Of Shambolic Failure) Part 1 by Allen Miles

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In many ways, it is dealing with one’s psychological problems in front of people. They say that everyone who gets on stage does so to confront, or suppress, some mental dichotomy. For my own part, I am a natural show-off but I have absolutely no confidence. I hate the way I look yet I spend most of my life posing. I can play the guitar to an adequate level but I don’t like to do it in front of people in case they think I’m shite. When we did our first gig on the 14th of September 2004 at The Haworth Arms in Hull, I told exactly no-one, because I didn’t want anyone to turn up. The line-up that would take the stage that night had been together for seven weeks. It was idiotic to do a reasonably big venue so early. I expected a few stragglers from work that Andy had told, and the crowd that the headlining acts would bring in. I was absolutely terrified even to get on stage in front of those people, even though it’s so much easier to perform in front of strangers. As it turned out Danny had told Jamie, Jamie told Cousin Devvers, and Cousin Devvers told everyone. Eventually about forty people that I knew were in the audience on top of the fifty or sixty already there. Petrifying.

I had been at work that day, washing pots, making lasagne and frying chips. Everyone knew we were doing a show, yet until a week or so earlier, no-one had given a toss. They had made their derogatory remarks and told us that we were deluding ourselves. Until this one new girl who looked like an alien supermodel with her cheekbones and eyes and personality managed to whip everyone into line and demanded that they march down to the Haworth. At about four o’clock that afternoon, they all man-handled me into the corner of the prep area with their questions. Are you nervous? What if you forget your words? What outfit are you wearing? Yeah, that really helped.

What outfit are you wearing? It hadn’t even crossed my mind. I got home from work at about six o’clock. I ran up to my room and pressed play on the video (I didn’t have a DVD player in 2004) in the hope that whatever was in there would distract me. It was the tour video of Suede’s Dog Man Star album. Anderson wore a fitted white shirt and tight black trousers. It looked pretty cool. I had the same in my wardrobe. I put them on. I’d been drinking heavily for the previous three or four months, so my hair was short, as it always is when I’m on a bender, as if on some sub-conscious level the neatness of the appearance would mask the excessive behaviour. I looked okay. It would do. I hadn’t eaten all day in an attempt to prevent any on-stage stomach problems and I’d drank nothing but coffee. I threw my guitar into its bag and wandered out into the drizzle to wait for my cab.

When I arrived at the Haworth the nerves really started to overwhelm me, especially when I saw so many people I knew filing through the doors from my vantage point at the top of the stairs. Shindig were headlining, it was their show and we practiced in their studio. I can’t remember who was on second, then there we were, at the bottom of the poster, no logo yet, just SAL PARADISE in bold capital letters. We did the soundcheck, which when it becomes part of the routine turns into the most boring experience anyone can go through. That night however, it was just something else that caused my heart-rate to fluctuate. We did a verse and chorus of Hate and Regret. It struck me that I could hear my voice coming back at me from the other end of the room. It was a decent P.A. I picked up my pint of Tetley’s, and wandered over to the emergency exit door, which was open. I stood on the fire escape and lit a cigarette. Then another. And another….

The stage fright had now become all-consuming and desperate. Only one experience in my life could equate to it and that was from when I was about eight years old. My father had taken me for my first swimming lesson and I was absolutely petrified of the water. I did not want to go in that swimming pool. I stood there practically wrestling with my dad at the side of the pool while the rest of the class and the instructor looked on, slack-jawed. Eventually he got me changed and took me home. I can’t swim to this day. And that night at the Haworth was the same. I did not want to go on that stage. I was stood on that fire escape shaking as I chain smoked. But why? This was not running across no-mans-land in the First World War. It was not the fire fighters running into the Twin Towers on 9/11. It was a 22 year old kid snarling a few punk songs at a crowd of about eighty people who, in two hours time, would be too pissed to remember whether we’d been any good or not anyway. I’d seen Phil Wilson do it God knows how many times. Matt Edible too. And they did it by themselves. Solo. Without the band to fall back on. My Dickie’s satchel was at my feet. I knelt down and pulled the setlist out that I’d so lovingly typed up the night before.

HATE AND REGRET
FLAMING RAYMOND
I CAN SEE A BOY
SPASTIC ROMANTIC
INTROVERT

And then, at the bottom of the page, I’d handwritten a quote, in that pretentious, wish I was in The Manic Street Preachers-way that I would do on every single setlist we ever had.

“I’m looking to open people’s eyes. I’ll fail, but in the process I’ll get self-satisfaction. And a minority, a strong minority, will listen.” Scott Walker

Your head is full of magic when you’re that age.

As I contemplated ringing the bar from my mobile to tell them in an Irish accent that I’d planted a bomb, Berry stuck his head round the fire door, drumsticks in hand.

“You ready?” he said. I suppose it was now or never.

I tried my best to swagger over to the stage, but it probably looked like I was walking to a bus stop. I looked at Andrew, who had already strapped his bass on. I looked into his eyes. It had been our idea. Just me and him, from the start. Leigh’s guitar was red. Danny’s was blue. Here we were. I closed my eyes, held the mic for dear life and counted 1-2-3-4. A screaming cacophony emanated from behind me and I didn’t open my eyes for the next twenty-five minutes. It seemed like thirty seconds.

We came offstage to good applause. Even some cheers from the work lot. I wasn’t shaking anymore. I bought a pint and a shot while the rhythm section had their first ever traditional after-show hug. We dropped our gear off at Danny’s brother’s house round the corner and walked to Piper to get lashed. We stood there, all five of us, euphoric after putting on our first ever show. It felt good.

Little did we know that it felt as good as it ever would.

profile b and wAllen Miles is 31 years old and lives in Hull. He is married and has a 23 month-old daughter whose favourite band are The Ramones. He is a staunch supporter of Sheffield Wednesday FC and drinks far too much wine. He spends most of his spare time watching old football videos on youtube and watching 1940s film noir. He is the author of 18 Days, which is widely recognized to be the best book ever written by anyone ever. It is available here. http://tinyurl.com/8d2pysx

The Reality of Fiction by Sarah Stratton

What is literary fiction? What exactly is it, and how would you describe it to someone, if you had to? Maybe ‘it’s stuff that isn’t true’ or ‘it’s about things that are imagined/made up by someone’. Although some fiction includes a certain amount of ‘truth’ (for example it’s true that New York exists, and it is featured in many an excellent story of fiction, from Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye to Auster’s City of Glass) it refrains from being true in so far as it hasn’t actually happened, and it is indeed made up by someone. But I don’t think that captures the whole idea of what fiction is, or the way that we actually experience fiction. That feeling you get when you’re engrossed in a book, when you feel moved or affected by what you’ve read – almost like you feel more alive – is that not what fiction is all about? A truly existential experience that speaks to a part of you that you almost find difficult to identify or describe. I’d be tempted to say that THAT is what fiction is.

Ok. So, what is…well, THAT?
I had a lecturer at Uni who was absolutely incredible, one of those inspirational characters who you have massive respect for (and envy towards): a French guy called Dr Daniel Mariau. He taught a few of my modules, mainly in third year, and must have been in his late 60s – definitely past your typical retirement age. One of his modules, ‘Metaphysical Fiction: The Labyrinth of Existence’, is definitely one of the periods in my life that has had the biggest impact on me and my perspective. We studied George Bataille’s Story of the Eye (if you like lots of teen sex, perversion, blasphemy and pissing on things then look no further), Jean-Paul Sartre’s Nausea (what better way to understand boredom and existential angst than to make the reader experience them during the reading process) and the aforementioned City of Glass by Paul Auster (a mystery about language, identity and existential crisis based on the tale of a religious fanatic who locked his son in a room as an experiment).

Dr Mariau also introduced me to a selection of work by Jorge Luis Borges, an award-winning Argentine writer and poet who is widely revered as the master of surrealism and metaphysical fiction. Although he wrote many short stories (if you want to read any, I recommend his best-known collection entitled Fictions), there is one in particular that masterfully illuminates the nature of fiction and the relationship it has with reality, and that is a story called The South.

The basic narrative is that Dahlmann, an Argentine man who is fiercely proud of his cultural heritage, wounds his head on an open window and develops septicaemia which results in him being admitted to a sanatorium in a hallucinatory fever. The story then describes how he quickly recovers, leaves the sanatorium and travels to his family’s ranch on a train, stopping in a small town for a drink where he is challenged to a knife duel by local gauchos. The story ends with him stepping out into the street with his knife, a nod to the ‘machismo’ culture in which Argentine identity was nostalgically rooted, without the reader finding out whether he survived the encounter. However, throughout the story Borges alludes to the dreamlike qualities of the protagonist’s experiences after leaving the sanatorium, and it is ultimately implied that he may have never left at all and may instead be hallucinating before dying from his septicaemia.

‘Imagination, I should say, is made of memory and oblivion. It is a kind of blending of the two things’ Borges once said. After studying his work and other similar fiction, I understand the oblivion he refers to. It is a metaphysical dimension that is created by the author, and in the story of The South it is similarly created by Dahlmann within his feverish hallucinations, but to such a degree that it appears to the reader as the ‘reality’ of Dahlmann’s story. He doesn’t wake up ‘and it was all a dream’, in fact the ending of the story is irrelevant – it doesn’t matter which way he died, what Borges was representing was the fact that fiction (whether literary, hallucinatory or even in dreams) represents meaning to the subject in the same way that meaning is represented to them by reality.

The creation of fiction replicates the way in which we relate to the world through symbols and meaning, and that’s not to say that life is a dream. Not at all. It just means that reality is just as impossible as fiction in terms of it being an ‘ideal’. If you were asked to describe the difference between reality and a dream, I honestly think it would be almost impossible, but that is exactly what makes fiction, and also reality, so liberating and perplexing. Fiction appropriates reality, mirrors it, and we enjoy getting lost in it, each of us to differing degrees. Some people are happy with a quick story in Take a Break magazine, others play on games consoles, some experience hallucinations as symptoms of mental health issues, and others take hallucinatory drugs (at this point I would also like to recommend The Teachings of Don Juan by Carlos Castaneda – the descriptions of his hallucinations are fascinating).

At the moment I’m half way through The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby. He was a journalist who experienced a massive stroke, fell into a coma and awoke a month later fully cognate but only able to move one of his eyelids, a condition called Locked-in Syndrome. He used a partner assisted scanning system, where someone would read out ordered letters of the alphabet until he blinked on the letter he wanted to spell words, eventually transcribing the full book. He passed away a few days after it was published. But the book is not only about his condition. Incredibly it is about the way he uses his powerful imagination to experience joys and pleasures: ‘There is so much to do. You can wander off in space or in time, set out for Tierra del Fuego or for King Midas’s court…You can sit down to a meal at any hour, with no fuss or ceremony. If it’s a restaurant, no need to call ahead…The boeuf bourguignon is tender…the apricot pie possesses just the requisite tartness.’

Reality is definitely not the ideal. Far from it. But access to imagination and fiction can almost soothe the anguish, angst and boredom that often seem to be an inherent part of ‘reality’. Bauby’s metaphor of his imagination as a butterfly, within the diving bell which symbolised his disability, is such a poignant one that it has the power to inspire, comfort and enrich a person’s life, even in the most dire of circumstances, as it did for Bauby himself.

The only thing I consider to be more important than this freedom is talking to other people about it. Whether it’s a formal lecture on Feminism, Sexual Difference and the Ethical Gesture Towards the Other, or simply alcohol-fuelled musings on what happens at the end of The Sopranos, just try to share it with as many people as you can as often as you can, because the reality of fiction is one we shouldn’t ignore.

 

sarah sSarah is what she is not, and is not what she is. She also likes cats and other animals an awful lot and doesn’t think the word ‘girl’ is sexist. Sarah is happily married to her best friend and finds herself laughing a lot of the time thanks to her husband and very wonderful friends.

This Women’s Work…. By Mrs Vicky Taylor

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5:40 AM – Arrhh! That frigging alarm’s going off. I wish Martyn would hurry up and turn it off. Oh no, he’s getting back into bed. He’d better not try it on! I’ve got 2 more hours in bed yet, I’m at work tonight and I ain’t getting woken up for a 5 minute bonk! I’ll just pretend to be asleep. He’s kissing my neck and stroking my back (which is nice) but I ain’t moving. The alarm goes off again, he must have ‘snoozed’ it. This brings an end to my massage. Martyn goes downstairs and I can finally go back to sleep.

6:30 AM – I am once again awoken by Martyn. Could he make any more noise? Pots and pans clatter all over the place, I hear the toilet door lock. I bet he’s on bloody Facebook while sat on the toilet, he’s obsessed.

7:00 AM – I hear Martyn go out the door with a bang which wakes the boys up. No sooner than they’re up they start arguing and fighting. I get up to stop the fracas. I might as well stay up now. Martyn is lucky, he gets to spend all day with his workmates at work. I bet they spend all day laughing and joking, talking about football and slagging off women. Oh no! Martyn has left skid marks up the back of the toilet pan, the mucky git!

7:30 AM – The boys are arguing again, this time about who has the last of their favourite cereal. Their shouting has woken up Gracie. She screams for attention “MUMMY! MUMMY!” she yells. I’m sure Martyn thinks that his cereal bowl will wash itself as he’s left it for me to do again!

10:00 AM – I’ve done the morning chores, vacuuming, polishing, washing-up and I’ve just loaded up the second batch of laundry of the day. I’ve just got time for a quick cuppa before I go to the shops. Martyn is more than likely having a break about now, swapping stories about what they all got up to at the weekend.

12:30 PM – 1:30 PM -The boys are home from school for their dinners. Gracie was just nodding off for her afternoon nap, The boys wake her up with their bickering, she’ll never get back to sleep now. I was hoping to watch the early showings of ‘Neighbours’ and ‘Home and Away’ while she was asleep, now I’ll have to wait until its repeated at tea time. A quick salad for me, I have to rush because Gracie is crabby now. I bet Martyn’s having a greasy burger for his dinner, the greedy bugger!

4:45 PM – Martyn will be home soon, I’d better get tea started, he’ll be expecting something nice to eat. Oh no! What’s that? Gracie has spilled nail polish all over the couch. I need to clean it up before Martyn sees it. I haven’t got time to do a nice tea now. Martyn always tells me how much he likes beans on toast, he’ll be happy with that tonight.

6:00 PM – Finally I can catch ‘Home and Away’ and ‘Neighbours’. Martyn’s even been helpful by doing the pots as I’m at work soon.

7:00 PM -Off to work I go. 4 boring hours there after looking after the house all day. Oh, and I’m on the tills tonight, great! 4 hours of listening to moaning customer’s problems and complaints. I bet Martyn spends all night watching football and playing on the X-box with the kids, the lazy bugger . Even Gracie will be ready for bed with no fuss tonight because she missed her nap this afternoon.

11:30 PM -The end of the day and I’m home. I can tell Martyn has been asleep, nothing’s been done and he hasn’t even dried the pots, which when I point this out to him, he storms off to bed. Shame really, we might’ve had sex tonight!

See how the day went for Martyn here.