Martyn Taylor Is In The Sitting Room

Mr Allen Miles suggested to me after his recent successful stint in the Sitting on the Swings ‘Sitting Room,’ that I should have a visit there as well to exorcise some of my demons. Unlike Mr Miles who could have many visits to the Sitting Room due to his distain for people, I myself will be frequenting this deepest, darkest of places just the once. So here are my five bad vibes that I would like to submit to our version of ‘Room 101.’ In no particular order.

1. Nostalgia being a let down.

Our heads are full of many wonderful memories from our childhoods. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than a trip down memory lane.

YouTube is a particularly good place to go and have a look for little snippets from your early years. On a recent visit to the memory bank, I organised it for me and my 2 boys to watch a Thundercats marathon. I had received the DVD box set as a gift one Christmas and had been harping on at my kids about how great is was. Because of my obvious excitement, my boys were also hyped to see them. We watched 2 or 3 episodes, and to my disappointment they were not interested!

To be honest, I couldn’t blame them, it was not as I remembered. The feeling I had reminded of the time my Dad had tried to get me to watch episodes of Stingray and Thunderbirds in my childhood. I wasn’t interested in seeing this ancient trash. Did he feel the same disappointment that I felt as an adult, during our Thundercats marathon?

Other memories that have left a sour taste in my mouth in recent years are:

The Sega Megadrive classic, ToeJam and Earl.

The albums of Oasis.

Pot Noodles.

The lesson learned here folks, keep your memories where they are best remembered….. in your heads!

2. Peer Pressure from The Spelling Police.

I, like many people over the last 15 years or so, have grown more and more attached to my laptop and mobile phone. Modern lingo and text abbreviations have crept into peoples everyday vocab. Me? I’m no different. I’ll slip a ‘B4’ or a ‘cos’ into a message when in a rush. Is it laziness or convenience? That is for you to decide. Recently, a new force has arrived on Facebook. ‘The Spelling Police.’

"You want a semi-colon there, not a comma you fucking idiot!"

“You want a semi-colon there, not a comma you fucking idiot!”

These people really are a snobby and pompous sort, whose sole purpose in life is to trawl the internet, hunting out people’s spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. Once they spot an error, they feel the need to point it out smugly to the person, via a comment, to humiliate the person. This recently happened to me when I incorrectly spelled ‘Quiet.’ I typed ‘Quite’ (silly me) in my haste. I was publicly flogged and humiliated on my Timeline by a certain busy body (you know who you are.) I now feel the need to spellcheck my texts, blogs, tweets and status updates to avoid future mockery from these spelling Nazis!

3. My Self-conscious Mind.

Them Spelling Police bastards have got me rattled! I’m quite a self-conscious person, and I do worry what people think about me. So not only do I spell check like crazy when I text, E-mail, or write to certain people to make them think that I am not a total retard, I have now started to make intentional mistakes when texting other people that don’t really give a fuck about grammar. This is so that when they read my message I do not come across as a bit of a ponce! Will this make people like me more or less? I doubt it! but it makes me feel better about myself. So please can I leave this part of my brain in ‘The Sitting Room’ just to give me peace of mind?

4. Judgemental people who watch soaps.

I am a gamer. I get a lot of stick off friends, family and work colleagues for this fact. There is no more awkward moment than when you feel you have known a work mate long enough to ask them the question. “So, are you a gamer?” If the answer is ‘yes’, great, a new on line buddy. If it is ‘no’, ridicule and mockery soon follow. As you sink into your seat in shame, the conversation soon turns to soaps. “Did you see ‘Eastenders’ last night Martyn?”

Can Kat Slater do this?

Can Kat Slater do this?

 

How dare they! How bloody dare they mock me for playing X-box, when they sit down with their wives or partners to watch this utter, utter shite! At least when I go on-line to play my games, I can interact with the environment and change the outcome of the game with the controller. People laugh at me for playing games, but I laugh back at them when they plonk their arses in front of the T.V and are force-fed whatever cack is happening in Weatherfield, Walford or Emmerdale. I used to like soaps when they were produced for the purpose of family entertainment. Now, the script-writers seem to be trying to out do each other to come up with misery for their much loved characters. Truly gruesome!

5. People’s lack of adventure (on the internet)

I recently wrote a blog about how great it is to come across something new on the internet (You can read it here.) I came across a man who I had never heard of before, and because of my interest in him I spent many an hour learning something new. I see people on Facebook, moaning about how boring their lives are, and how there isn’t any thing to do. The internet is out there people, use it. Don’t just go on Facebook. Get online and learn something new. I suppose if I leave the unadventurous people in ‘The Sitting Room’ they would never be able to get out to learn something new. Could we hook up an internet feed for them in there to get online please?

 

 

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.

Allen Miles Is In The Sitting Room

Before you read the following coruscating diatribe, I’d like to point out that, even though I’ve written over 2000 words here, I could’ve written over 10,000. I actually just wanted to write about Coldplay and Piers Morgan, but my doctor told me that it would not be good for my blood pressure. Other near misses included Self-Service checkouts, pubs that encourage family dining on Sundays, Jonathan Ross, Bohemian Rhapsody (its nonsense, before you complain. Utter nonsense.) and Donnie Darko. So here you go, to quote the magnificent John Lydon: “Anger is an energy.”

1. Beyonce Knowles.

I hate Jessie J. I utterly loathe her and all she stands for and given half a chance I would drop her, Fargo-style, into a wood-chipper and feed her pulverized carcass to stray animals in the inner cities. But in five years time, no-one will remember her, because she is that worthless, and in ten years time she will be dead, having been spat out the bottom of the porn industry with a needle in her arm. Beyonce, however, is genuinely revered by a lot of people. I am absolutely mystified by this, as it seems to me that she is the most disingenuous, hypocritical “artist” in history.

This is what the suffragettes fought for.

This is what the suffragettes fought for.

She is supposed to encourage feminism, being an “independent woman,” and writes songs about not being objectified by men. If she looked like Susan Boyle, or even someone average-looking like Polly Harvey or Lauryn Hill, she’d have sold about fifteen records. Her songs have now taken the place of Aretha Franklin’s R.E.S.P.E.C.T. and Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive as the songs that are played loudly in cars by lonely women who pretend they don’t even want a boyfriend and paint themselves orange on a night out. That Destiny’s Child song “Independent Woman.” For crying out loud. I actually think that proper feminists would feel offended or at the very least patronised upon hearing it. Someone needs to sit down with Beyonce and explain to her that, in 2013, and actually, for quite some time before that, it is in fact commonplace for women to have their own jobs, own dwellings, and not be reliant on men to fund them. It is their right, and there is no real need to show off about it.

And “All The Single Ladies.” Yeah! Beyonce leads the charge of all those single ladies all together, all the single ladies, all the single ladies… Yeah! Only… you’re not single are you Beyonce? You’re married to a man who for much of the millennium has been one of the most powerful men in music, and whose often openly misogynistic songs should really be the polar opposite of everything that Ms Knowles claims to stand for. One can only imagine the scenes around the Carter household when he’s practicing his raps for a forthcoming tour.

Beyonce: Shawn darling, I was wondering if I could suggest a few changes to your lyrics?

Jay-Z: (Looks up with absolute distain)

Beyonce: I was wondering if instead of “bitch,” you could say “I got 99 problems but an Independent Woman ain’t one?”

Jay-Z: No.

Beyonce: Ok, well maybe rather than using the word “Ho,” perhaps you could say “Make a mill’ off a sorry Single Lady, then sit back and peep my scenario.”

Jay-Z: No

Beyonce: Ok… Erm…

Jay-Z: Go and make me a sandwich.

Beyonce: Yes, dear.

Piss off Beyonce. Just piss off.

2. Any Customer Service Facility For A U.K-based Company.

Four years ago, I went to Newcastle for my stag do. Quite late on, we added an extra member to the party, therefore we required an extra room at the hotel, or an extra bed in one of our rooms. I can’t remember which hotel chain we were booked with, but it was a major one, possibly the Ibis. I approached the girl at the reception desk and explained the situation and the following conversation took place.

Me: So would you be able to do us another room for tonight please?

Receptionist: I don’t know.

Me: Well…

Receptionist: I don’t know if we’ve got any available.

Me: Well, would you be able to find out for us please?

Receptionist: I can’t do it from here. You’ll have to ring the booking office in Leicester, the direct line is over there. (Indicates red phone in some sort of booth.)

Me: But I want a room in this hotel, can’t you just tell us if there’s one available? Haven’t you got it on your computer?

Receptionist: No, you have to ring the booking line or do it online.

At this point my friends and I look with complete bewilderment at each other and walk over to the booking line. I pick up the phone and get put through to a man who was evidently speaking verbatim from a script, and had a very loose grip on the English language.

Me: Hello, I’d like to book a room at your Newcastle branch for tonight please.

Imbecile: Yes at Newcastle, Uk?

Me: Yes please.

Imbecile: What is your address please?

Me: Why?

Imbecile: What is your address please?

With a vein throbbing in my temple, I proceeded to give this man my address, and card number, as I was told I couldn’t pay over the counter. This took quite some time, as the guy certainly wasn’t from Leicester. Eventually, after a spate of bleeding from my eyeballs, I walked back over to the desk.

Me: Right, I have reserved a room over the phone. My name is Miles.

Receptionist: Miles, Miles, Miles…. yes, here you are Sir, you’re in Room 104.

She then proceeded to gesture to her right to Room 104, which was about FIFTEEN FUCKING FEET FROM THE RECEPTION DESK!!! SHE COULD SEE THE ROOM FROM WHERE SHE WAS STOOD!! THIS IS THE SAME REASON THAT MY GAS BILL IS IN ARREARS, THAT CAPITAL ONE SEND ME SNOTTY LETTERS AND MY HOUSE HAD PRACTICALLY FALLEN DOWN BEFORE THE INSURERS PULLED THEIR FINGERS OUT OF THEIR ARSES AND PAID OUT FOR THE REPAIRS. BECAUSE EVERYONE WHO WORKS BEHIND A SCREEN WITH A HEADSET ON IS, WITHOUT EXCEPTION, A COMPLETE FUCKING MORON!!!

3. Abbreviations.

As used in the first instance by Sixth Form College tutors. English Lit, English Lang, or for those of you who did the combined course, Lang-Lit. These people did not give a fuck how they butchered this wonderful language of ours. One of them even used to refer to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice as Pride and Pred. For God’s sake, it’s a terrible book in the first place don’t make it worse.

The latest one is “App.” Which is an abbreviation of Application, if you didn’t know, which brings me on to the latest form of abbreviations, fucking text speak. I realised that this was becoming a genuine threat to society when my father, bless him, attempted to use this cool new language and texted me the phrase “DAT’S GREA8T,” presumably trying to say “That’s great.” And failing catastrophically.

My mate Robbie Lawson has repeatedly attempted to tell me that stylistic progressions such as text language can be traced back through the ages and are neccessary for language to develop, but I repeatedly dismiss his arguments as “shite.” I can’t bear to see our mother tongue reduced to a minimal dirge of consonants and numbers. I will not, therefore, LOL, nor will I ROFL, or even PMSL, due to the fact that I am far too upset that the language that I have spent thirty-one years studying and attempting to master has become yet another tool that the world is using to fuck me over.

4. People With Trendy Opinions About Music

I’m going to have to divide this into a few sub-catagories…

A) Liking Things Ironically: Popular among students and arty types are things such as buying The Best Of Steps because “It’s so bad it’s good.” No its not, its shite. Easy Lover by Phil Collins is not a “chooooon,” its shite. And so on…

B) Proclaiming Stars Who Have Clearly Lost It “Legends.” For example, when people see footage of popular singers way past their prime and still proclaim them “cool.” Tom Jones, Barry White, James Brown and 70’s Elvis are/were all preposterous figures and should be openly ridiculed for not packing it in when they had their last shred of dignity left.

Brown: I feel like being a Sex Machine. Every Woman He Meets: I'm calling the police.

Brown: I feel like being a Sex Machine.
Every Woman He Meets: I’m calling the police.

C) Wearing T-Shirts Of Bands You Have No Knowledge Of In The Hope It Will Give You Credibility: Especially Ramones T-Shirts. For further reference I’ll relay the following conversation my friend Dunham once had in Welly.

18 Year-old Kid in Rolling Stones T-Shirt: Alright mate can I buy a cig off you?

Dunham: I’ll give you this cigarette for nothing if you can name five Rolling Stones songs.

Kid: Erm… Satisfaction… Brown Sugar…. erm… oh just let me buy a cig!

Dunham: Fuck Off.

D) Declaring Bands “Shit” Who Clearly Aren’t:
It does not make you the next Jo Whiley to loudly tell everybody that popular bands are “soooooo overrated.” It’s perfectly alright to say that U2, REM, Oasis, Bruce Springsteen or The Beatles aren’t your cup of tea, but to say that they were crap is clearly idiocy and your opinion is utterly worthless. Actually, it probably does make you the next Jo Whiley, she’s a fucking mental defective as well.

E) “Guilty Pleasures:”
Apparently the least credible artist that I’m a fan of is Robbie Williams. I do not feel guilty about this at all; he’s a brilliant showman, a great singer and a completely overlooked lyricist who has made some brilliant records and put on some fantastic concerts. I will argue that he is great, in a completely unashamed way, until I slip off the hook. If you feel guilty about enjoying the likes of Crowded House or Simply Red, imagine how guilty you’ll feel in a few years time when you’re stealing small change from your social worker. Prat.

5. Everything To Do With The Writing Industry

I’ll be honest, my book didn’t sell very many copies. But that’s fine, I didn’t expect it to; it’s bleak and disturbing and it was never going to appeal to the “holiday reader” market. However, I did sign a publishing deal with a real publishing house and it was judged my somebody other than myself to be worthy of public consumption. That entitles me to call myself a writer, right? WRONG. I work for the NHS in an operating theatre, I will never call myself a writer until I earn a living wage from writing, which will probably never happen. Yet I have met, through multiple writers’ sites on Facebook and Twitter, so many people who are so utterly deluded about the way they perceive themselves and their contribution to the literary world that I’m not sure I can do for much longer.

Still available folks...

Still available folks…

My friend and mentor Darren recently told me a story, as he shook his head with incredulity over a pint, of an author who will remain nameless who has proclaimed loudly on many forums that his book is being made into a Hollywood movie that is commanding a $30 million budget. This is a complete lie, in order to provoke interest. Pathetic. When 18 Days was first released, I tentatively sent an extremely polite message to several people who claimed to be writers on their Facebook pages that I’d been put in touch with through the writer’s groups, explaining that I’d just had my first book published and I was a bit of a rookie at this game, and asking for advice on how to about getting a bit of publicity. The response I got from about 90% of the messages I’d sent was “I don’t know, I’ve never been published.”

I read an interview a bit back in The Observer Review segment about an author whose name I can’t remember, but who made a big performance about making sure everyone knew that he did his writing in an abandoned tube carriage. Why did he feel the need to hammer this fact home? To appear quirky, in order to sell books was it? I bought his book for my Kindle out of curiosity and deleted it after twenty pages. It was awful.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve met lots of great people through writing, if only online. Gill Hoffs and Vic Watson have both written for this site and are fantastic people. Darren Sant and Nick Quantrill have taken time out of their lives to sit with me and explain why I should carry on writing when I throw my silly tantrums (like this one,) and many others have interviewed me, given me fantastic reviews and helped me get a bit of exposure for my work. The rest of them though, are largely self-righteous frauds with gargantuan egos. I’ve seen their likes down Princes Ave, sat in Pave in the middle of the day with their laptops out, loudly shouting into their mobiles “I’m just working on my novel,” as they glance out of the corner of their eye to make sure that everyone can hear them.

So in closing, sod the writing industry, it’s full of scum.

Burnt my fucking bridges there, haven’t I?

 

profile b and wAllen Miles is 31 years old and lives in Hull. He is married and has a 2 year-old daughter who is into Queens Of The Stone Age. 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. It is available here. http://tinyurl.com/8d2pysx

Paradise (A Story Of Shambolic Failure) Part 2 by Allen Miles

sp

The euphoria didn’t last long. But the enthusiasm did. And the enthusiasm overtook any form of common sense. We agreed to loads of terrible gigs, gigs that we shouldn’t have even contemplated doing. Our third live performance as a group was a Battle Of The Bands at Polar Bear down Spring Bank, and two of the billed four bands had pulled out, so it was us and Blind Frog Ernie, a mediocre post-grunge outfit who had been together years and were pretty tight, and were friends with the promoter, who was also the judge. Obviously we had absolutely no chance of winning but we really were shite that night, Danny buggered up the intro to Introvert and I forgot the words to Flaming Raymond, Leanne had a barney with the soundman because the mix was terrible and the crowd certainly thinned during our set. I was almost in tears when we came off. When you’re playing a show and you know that you’re on it that night, when you sound good, feel completely confident on stage, and the crowd are into it, there is no better feeling in the world. When you know that you’re performing terribly, everything is going wrong and you just want to pack up and go home, it is one of the most disheartening and humiliating experiences you can put yourself through. We didn’t play another gig for six weeks after the Polar Bear debacle.

sals 2005

One night much later into our lifespan we played at The Tap and Spile, with Frank’s Right Hand Trouser. Why the hell they decided to put bands on at Tap was totally beyond me. We went on in front of about forty regulars, of whom thirty-five would have been over sixty, out for a quiet pint of mild and a smoke of their pipes on a Sunday night. I’d made my eyes up and Andrew was in the midst of his “hat phase.” We tore through a ferocious set and when we came off half an hour later there were about three people left in the pub.

wurr bass

A place we played far more times than we should have was a venue called The White Room. I have never been to such a place in my life, before or since. For those of you who have never played in a band before, when you first get going you’re expected to play what is known in the trade as “the toilet circuit,” which is basically shithole venues where you have to kick things to make them work and it would be commonplace for someone to be openly urinating against the wall outside. The most well-known toilet circuit venue in Hull is The Adelphi, which is a complete dump but is beloved by all due to its intimate atmosphere, excellent sound quality and the owner’s propensity for putting acts on that are outside any sort of “scene.” The White Room, on the other hand, was like the end of the world.

One day I'll tell my grandkids I played there. Yeah.

One day I’ll tell my grandkids I played there. Yeah.

It was about half a mile past Spiders down Cleveland Street in Hull, and there no other human dwellings for miles. No shops, no houses, no other pubs. The only place where people would congregate were the building sites dotted round and about, and the only people who would casually drink in The White Room, or The Full Measure as it used to be called, were the site-labourers who would pop in for a pint or two after their shifts. The owner was a six foot six Geordie lunatic who wore leather capes and had tried to set the place up as a warm-up venue for all the metal-heads who would go to Spiders on a Saturday night, and he would try and plug it as a music venue for the rest of the week. The problem was, The White Room was in no way, shape or form a music venue. There was an enormous load-bearing pillar directly in front of the middle of the stage for a start, which meant that 90% of the pub couldn’t actually see the acts, the drums had to be stuffed in a corner and there was very little room for the rest of the band, particularly if you were a five-piece, which at the time we were.

west

The White Room’s one saving grace was Mark Chatterton, a genuinely nice guy who did the mixing, and although he was on a bit of a hiding to nothing, he managed to get a pretty good sound out of us whenever we played there. We ended up rehearsing at his rooms for all of our many comeback/last ever gigs and I always thoroughly enjoy his company. He couldn’t save the stigma I’ve since attached to that venue though. I remember so many utterly abject moments that made us come really close to packing it in, there at The White Room.

The first time we played there we were absolutely terrible, and I was so demoralised by our performance that I threw my first prima-donna tantrum and stamped off-stage before the end of the last song. That was only our second gig though, so it could be taken as a learning curve.

There was the time we played and my dad offered to drive me and Leigh down there with our equipment in his transit, and as we pulled up to the Musician’s Entrance, which was actually a fire-door with the bolt smashed off it, I wished I’d got a taxi instead. I remember the single lowest point of my entire showbiz career, one night there in front of about fifteen people. We finished a song, got a few claps and, in the lull I heard the following discourse from two blokes at the bar.

“You see the singer there?”

“Yeah.”

“That’s where the dartboard used to be.”

There was the show just before we did our first out of town gig, we were all really gee’d up for the occasion and we needed a good performance to set us up for it. We were going to try a couple of new songs and gauge the crowd’s reaction to see if they were worth chucking in the set for the Leeds gig. Sadly the “crowd,” as we went on stage, was from front-to-back, as follows.

Dave Stothard (The chef from mine and Andrew’s work)

Cousin Devvers

Luke Lowery (mate of mine from work)

What a waste of fucking time.

In closing, the last White Room story is possibly the most ridiculous. It was our fourth show, the first since our hiatus after the Polar Bear fiasco. We’d rehearsed hard and had two new songs written, and although there weren’t many people there I had invited some who had turned up. After soundcheck the owner, I can’t remember his name for the life of me, said to me:

“You’re getting paid tonight. Ten per cent of the bar.”

I was quite chuffed at this news and shot back over to my band mates to tell them. As of tonight we are professional musicians! I immediately seized my printed setlist from my bag and scrawled the now customary pretentious quote underneath it.

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

“When we are victorious I think we shall use gold for the purpose of building public lavatories.” – V.I.Lenin

When we came offstage after our best performance since our debut at Haworth, the massive Geordie handed me an envelope. Our first payment as professional musicians. I opened it.

Six quid.

Not six quid each, six quid.

One pound twenty each.

You can read part one of this article here.

profile b and wAllen Miles is 31 years old and lives in Hull. He is married and has a 2 year-old daughter who is into Queens Of The Stone Age. 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. It is available here. http://tinyurl.com/8d2pysx

Shitnesses by Gill Hoffs

So I’m sitting with my laptop on the sofa, writing pitches to magazines, with Millionaire Matchmaker on in the background (I’m fascinated by Rachel’s colourful hair, but I digress). Picture this scene of domestic bliss, if you will. There’s a fat bastard of a woodpigeon on the birdfeeder at the window, Coraline Cat is curled by my side, and I’m LOVING working from home. I don’t even have to wear socks, you guys!

Then the doorbell goes.

Is it the postman with a parcel of chocolate? (It happens!)
Is it someone with flowers? (That happens too!)
Or maybe, just maybe, Paul Rudd’s tracked me down. (Never going to happen, but still…)
No.
No, it’s nothing fun, or boring, or wild.
It’s … Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Even in 2013, Jesus can answer all your questions. Via a call centre in Delhi.

Even in 2013, Jesus can answer all your questions. Via a call centre in Delhi.

I am an atheist. A shy, tongue-tied, softly spoken atheist. This cannot end well.
They’re polite, with earnest eyes and the dejected air that comes with repeated rejections. The kind of vibe that when I see it in bars and cafes screams “Don’t sit near me for I will latch on to you forever and EXPECT INTERACTION AND NOT JUST PLACATORY NODDING!” I have no wish to be disrespectful to them, but FFS, this is my home! This is where I get to eat cereals in my pyjamas for my lunch, watch crap TV, and write my guts out, not a place where I should be quizzed on my beliefs – facebook’s quizzical “What’s on your mind?” is as much of an interrogation as I can handle on any given day.
Since I’ve got my bra off, and I’m quite buxom (so you can tell what’s happening on the underwear front without the need for a squeeze), I poke just my head out from behind the front door.
“If this is something religious, sorry, I’m not interested. We’re all atheists here. Have a nice day.”
“Oh … can I ask why?”
I blink. The ‘not interested’ bit should do, surely? But despite my fondness for rude jokes, I’ve been raised to be polite, and the potential guilt of shutting the door without answering would leave me cringing for the rest of the day.
“I just … am. It makes sense.”
The lady of the pair steps forward a little, eyes wide, really seeking to engage. I. Cannot. Look. Away.
It’s as compelling and awkward and hellish as walking in on your mum wanking off one of your friends who turns out to be REALLY hung.
(DISCLAIMER: this has NEVER happened to me. I’m a writer, I make shit up. But not this encounter with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, unfortunately.)
“Well, why? Why that and not something else? Let me just ask you, what do you believe in, then?”
Wait, what? If I had the voice for it, I’d start belting out R Kelly’s ‘I Believe I Can Flyyyyyyyyyyy’, but I don’t and I don’t.
“Er, truth … and science.”
“Well then, can I ask this, where do you think we come from?”
I’m SOOOO tempted to talk about time-loops and sprinkle my speech with pseudo-physics and mini-quotes from ‘The Big Bang Theory’ about quarks (which are not, in this instance, cheese or the sound a chicken makes when it orgasms – I presume), but feel it would be cruel.
“Where we come from? Sperm and eggs.”
She tries to ask me something else, claiming she just wants to understand me (join the queue, love), but I’m getting a crick in the neck and I’ve had enough.
“Sorry, I have to get back to work, have a nice day.”
“Oh! Oh, alright…”
“Goodbye.”
And the door is now SHUT, my posture is back to normal, and I can return to my cat, my cereal, my work, and my sofa – and Millionaire Matchmaker.

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.

Generation Terrorists (A Glam Symphony In Two Parts) by Allen Miles

“You are pure, you are snow,
We are the useless sluts that they mould,
Rock n’ roll is our epiphany,
Culture, alienation, boredom and despair.”

Little Baby Nothing, Manic Street Preachers

Myself and Mr Potter occasionally get misty-eyed at work after talking with furrowed brows about how we are struggling to pay bills, and hark back to our youth, how we had the greatest job in the world and how life was so easy because our heads were full of magic, we had a decent amount of money to burn and we could do as we pleased. The only three things we spent our wages on were music, clothes and going out. We bought different clothes, listened to different music and went to different clubs, but Mike and I both acknowledge now that those were the glory days. Nothing has touched them since.

Ms McCartney has written her requiem to the glorious days of our late teens. And, in much the same way that Mr Taylor and his wife have given their separate takes on the same story, I’m now going give my take on the glorious year that was 1999.

She’s right. She knows she’s right because she was there. It was all about the music, all about the looks and all about the invincibilty. It was a time when independent shops still flourished on high streets, David Beckham was known for playing football and Johnny Vaughan was seen as the future of television. The 18 year-old Allen Miles? I wouldn’t like to meet him. He’s got an appalling attitude, treats women like shite and for some reason people call him Ally. He looks like a girl and doesn’t seem to get hangovers. He’s frightened of nothing and thinks he’s going to rule the world. What a dick. No, I wouldn’t like to meet him, but it was a hell of a lot of fun to be him.

This photo was actually taken a year or so later but we still look pretty.

This photo was actually taken a year or so later but we still look pretty.

Unlike Lyndsay, I never rebelled at school. Although I was a gobby little sod I was quite bookish and nerdy and should have been a prime target for the tracksuit-clad, cider-drinking bullies of my year but I was a decent football player so I was sort-of in with their crowd at the same time. You can’t show the merest trace of flamboyance if you’re friends with those sort of people. The summer we left school would be remembered for the shambolic parties at Woody’s where women never turned up and the never-ending afternoons during which Martyn and I would come up with the name of this website. I spent most of my time listening to Oasis and The Stone Roses, brilliant bands but neither with any real image to get excited about, and my other two most played albums were Stanley Road by Paul Weller, and Everything Must Go by The Manic Street Preachers, which I loved, but didn’t know much about. The Manics were in the press a lot that summer, due to having had their first number one single, and a one night an BBC Up Close documentary about them was due to air. I’d watched the previous week’s episode about Creation Records and thoroughly enjoyed it, so I flicked over to channel 2 and my life was completely changed.

Lyndsay

Lyndsay

Richey

Richey

Having been used to seeing this band in kagouls and slack jeans, to see them in blouses and feathers and military gear and spray paint was jaw-dropping. I bought the rest of their back catalogue within a week; my perception of what music could be had completely changed. Music now had to have a bit of glamour, a band had to be more than just a band. Out went the Ocean Colour Scene, Weller and The Verve. In came The Clash, The Smiths, Placebo and Suede. I got my job at Castle Hill, which provided me with £50 a week and I was also running a racket at college selling pirated Playstation games so I had plenty of money to spend on CDs and clothes. I remember going to the Wyke Christmas Party at the age of 17, me in my Manics T-Shirt that I’d bought when I’d seen them the previous week, watching all the orange Jennifer Aniston wannabes boogying to Another Level and the Spice Girls, thinking, “I don’t want to be here, these aren’t my people.” Who were my people?

Unlike Ms McCartney, I never wanted a gang. I would quite happily be the outsider who everyone sees as a little bit strange and intense and not someone to talk to on a casual basis. I wasn’t one to desperately try and get in with the cool crowd who sat on the sofas in the common room at college when I could hang about in some far flung corner of the science wing with one or two of my grubby football mates instead. I’m not very good at making friends to this day, mainly because I’m a terrible inverted snob. But as it turned out, there were a few more terrible inverted snobs out there. At Spiders, and at Room.

My surrogate sister Sam Hopper had somehow seen some sort of potential in me, and wanted to drag me away from my grubby chav roots. And she had nagged and cajoled and, by the end, downright abused me into coming out with her crowd and I first went to Spiders in probably April 1999, I was 17 years old. I was wearing my Manics t-shirt, and a pair of jeans. I went down there with legendary Hull piss-artist Andrew “Beast” Hawkins, who is now a possibly-insane recluse and hasn’t been seen since 2008. I saw Sam and her crowd in the entrance and the first song I heard there was Kevin Carter. A vodka and coke was 55p. I wasn’t expected to drink lager and belch manfully. I’d be at home here.

That bottle of wine just seems to always be there doesnt it?

That bottle of wine just seems to always be there doesn’t it?

At first I’d go maybe once every three weeks. I enjoyed it but was pretty much hanging on for invites from other people. Also I’d taken to spending the odd Saturday night going on massive rambles around Hull with a charismatic and erudite gentleman I’d met at my new job who now calls himself Xavier Dwyer. He turned up on my doorstep one night, having only been introduced about a week earlier, and simply said “Fancy going for a walk?” These walks would become known as The Tours and are among the happiest times of my life. We would have utterly pointless debates such as “Which band were better The Who or The Clash?” or “Is Pablo Honey underrated?” He would furnish me with exotic items such as Radiohead bootlegs and a grainy video import of the then-still banned Clockwork Orange. We talked of one day forming our own band and taking over the world. We had a party at my house where we both smashed the guitars that we could barely play. We went to V99 to see the Manics, Suede and Placebo; I wore a Mecca shirt with the sleeves ripped off because I wanted to be Joe Strummer, Xavier wore a black balaclava because he wanted to be James Dean Bradfield. Glorious, ridiculous, unequivocally romantic memories.

As that monumental summer turned to autumn, I was going to Spiders every Saturday, and by this time I’d met Ms McCartney, Ms Spavin-Haigh, Arthur and unbeknownst to me then, the lanky ginger guy who would be my best man ten years later, Dr Dave Salmond. So this, along with my long-time birding and boozing partner Woody, was now my crowd. How unspeakably beautiful we looked! A year previously I had been a tracky-bottom-wearing grubboid who spent his weekends watching repeats of The Thin Blue Line on UK Gold, now I smeared my eyes in kohl, donned my shiny blue satin shirt and copped off with so many girls it was a disgrace. I had a playlist that by tradition I absolutely had to play before I left my bedroom at seven o’clock every Saturday night.

This Charming Man – The Smiths
Animal Nitrate – Suede
Going Underground – The Jam
Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me – U2
So Dead – Manic Street Preachers
White Riot, White Man In Hammersmith Palais, London’s Burning, I Fought The Law – The Clash

I never ever had a hangover, but I realise in hindsight that was because I didn’t drink very much. I could go out with thirty quid and come back with plenty of change. It wasn’t about the drinking, it was about the euphoria of being part of something, looking fantastic and feeling, as Lyndsay has already said, completely invincible. Fearless. We were in thrall to Richey and Brett and Brian Molko, and we all tried to impress each other by quoting Camus and Sartre, even though we wouldn’t read them for another five years. I would shamelessly plagarize any gimmick from whichever androgynous tortured genius I favoured that week; Brett’s single braid in his fringe from the Stay Together video, Johnny Marr’s polka-dot shirt, Nicky Wire’s white jeans… When a new lost photo from this era emerges myself and Mr Salmond more often than not find ourselves wincing at the pair of ponces that stood in our eighteen year old shoes. It was a different age though, and at the time we thought we were the cat’s pyjamas. And we were.

I do that, sometimes...

I do that, sometimes…

That December was the last month of it. I remember one day me and Xavier were both off work and we walked all the way into town from his house down Arram Grove to go record shopping. It was snowing and the grates down Beverly Road were spewing steam into the frozen air, a proper winter’s day. I bought a load of Suede vinyl and Manics memorabilia from Disc Discovery down Spring Bank and arranged to go to Room on the night. I walked round to Woody’s house with a Suede song called The Chemistry Between Us in my head, and I knew as I walked that these were the glory days. This was the peak of youth and these were the days that I would remember in years to come when I was old and bitter and sat typing at one in the morning. More than any other song, that one encapsulated what it was like to be young and pretty with a head full of colliding stars, and I’m not quite sure how it happened, but as 1999 became 2000, something was lost. After we got back from Cardiff the make-up and glitter went in the bin, and the gang mentality seemed to dissipate. We still went every Saturday but something had changed, like it was an obligation rather than for fun. The silks and satins would be replaced by Mecca jeans and Converse work shirts; I somehow acquired my first long-term girlfriend, and twenty disastrous months later I would find the Manics and Suede replaced by Nick Cave and Scott Walker, alone in a flat I couldn’t afford, an eviction notice nailed to my door, having drunk myself half to death as I waited for the next angel to come and rescue me.

Lyndsay writes of how important it is for any young people to feel they belong to something. I never wanted that. My memories of that period are defined by the feeling that I didn’t want to belong to anything. I wouldn’t join any club that would have me, as Groucho Marx once said. But for those eight or nine months in 1999, I genuinely believe that on a level of sheer euphoria it was as good as my life ever got. The three chaps I have spoken of in this piece; Dave, Xavier and Woody, remain, fourteen years later, my three best friends, and occasionally, we speak of those times as we down our warm pints of mild in a “food pub” or a “cafe bar” and sneer disapprovingly as we watch the trendy teenagers of the day sleep walk their way down the streets as they play with their smart phones and listen to their mp3 players. Me and Woody, in particular, often kid ourselves that it isn’t we who have got old, rather it is the clubs that have gone downhill. (“Now, Mr DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”) All four of us will have contretemps about how we dressed, whether we looked silly or looked cool, and whether it is ok to listen to Generation Terrorists when you’re thirty-one. One thing we always agree on though, and we’ve both used this word already; we were utterly invincible.

profile b and wAllen Miles is 31 years old and lives in Hull. He is married and has a 2 year-old daughter who is into Queens Of The Stone Age. 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. It is available here. http://tinyurl.com/8d2pysx

His Death Doesn’t Have To Be In Vain Dave… by Paul Featherstone

There’s an unspoken truth lingering out there.The world is at war. It isn’t all-encompassing- civilian men are not being called up by their country and sent to die in fields, you can go on a nice package holiday to most places in the world. However, it would be ignorant to turn a blind eye to the ongoing conflicts that pebble-dash the daily news. In fact, you may be able to go on a nice holiday, but avoid Egypt or Greece, because it’s going off round there. Oh, and don’t go on honeymoon to that island region, parts of it are lawless and you will be kidnapped by pirates.

That environment is not in keeping with that of a supposed peace time.Sure, the western world isn’t having to bare arms every five seconds (barring the States of course), but as you’re going through airport security to that carefully selected region, ask yourself this- “Is this peace time Europe?”.

Conspiracy theorists say this is down to taking our rights, it’s exactly what The Man wants. Don’t swallow that pill. It’s a placebo to distract you from the truth of the reality, that you’re probably not as safe as you think you are.

The point is, in a world like that, no nation can expect for the blood and horror to not spill onto their own streets, given time. No matter how virtuous that country or their actions may be, the darkness always closes in. Look at seemingly innocuous Norway and Anders Breivik. You can live in a lovely, leafy suburb where you don’t have to lock your doors, but that doesn’t mean kids aren’t being stabbed in Brixton, and that the rioting kids that stabbed them won’t come smash your windscreen one hot, summer evening.

If you live in a nation involved heavily in this apparent world conflict, the violence will reach your streets at some point. If that wasn’t an inevitability, council services would be ring-fenced and MI6 would bear the brunt of government cuts.

This isn’t scaremongering. I’m certainly not pointing the finger of blame of what happened in Woolwich on the soldiers who are in Iraq or Afghanistan, but if you are involved in military conflict you must expect an attempted retaliation. If the people you are fighting are not of a particular nation, and simply bombing targets doesn’t destroy them, then the question must be- how to stop yourself becoming a target, and how to stop those you fight recruiting more towards their cause?

There has to be a huge step-change towards something that resembles peace. Death, retaliation, death, retaliation, death is the current blueprint for the various sides of this “War On Terror”. Nuclear weapons were devised to end that blueprint on the battlefield. Mutual destruction was the deterrent, and yet mutual destruction is where we appear to be tucking and rolling to. Not destruction of buildings and lands, but of the fabric of our society.

I’m not being all tree-hugging, woolly hat hippy here (I think), but have you ever heard anyone talk about a need to end the situation, rather than “we will not be defeated”? I’m not asking anyone to sit down with terrorists either, but there has to be an analysis by western governments, of what drives these men to their actions. It isn’t always just warped religious rhetoric.

A quick glimpse at social networking sites, would have you believe that they are doing this because they hate us, “Our Boys”, and our way of life, but want to live here and continue getting their benefit cheques by using Voodoo. It’s tucked away, seen only by those you add and trust to say it in front of, but fabric of our society I spoke of, is slowly coming apart at the seams.

Races don’t trust each other, people make outlandish claims about “no whites” on cafe doors, people post thinly-veiled racist comments because “you can’t say anything these days without being called a racist”. Integration and interaction is a key part of our society, and if that falls apart, with the work that has been done over decades to bring us together wasted, then we have a huge problem, because that will feed the problems that lead to these horrific acts.

I spent three months working in London in 2012. I always talk about it, my friends wind me up that I do it too much, and I probably do, However, for someone from Hull, a predominantly white ethnic city, I fell in love. It upheld all that was great about integration and a mixed society. All the things the right-wing hate, I embraced. Being on a tube and not hearing a single English word or accent was fantastic. The ideas of nations, and the world being far-flung, became somewhat out-dated with the invention of the jet engine. We really are a global community now.

The problem comes, when you have all that opportunity and all that integration, then inequality on its doorstep. The males in Woolwich were black males, born in Britain, then radicalised in Islam. The riots in 2011, were a big warning to the city of London on how the disadvantaged of her were feeling. If you continue to breed a group of angry young men, with no apparent future and a huge grudge against the men in suits that deplore them, someone will take them under their wing and show them a path. If you’re lucky, that someone will be a community leader that will point them away from knife crime and towards education. If you’re unlucky, it will be towards taking definitive action against an innocent man walking the streets in a t-shirt, that becomes a target on his back.

A key point from the video of one of the men, hands bloodied, cleaver drawn, has perhaps been missed. He states- “Your government doesn’t care about you. Do you think David Cameron will be here when we start bussin’ (sic) our guns on the streets? Remove them”. Everyone I know is angry with government. Not just this one (although they are a key player), but the whole structure that allows them to fiddle expenses, increase their pay, cut our pay and start wars that people are against. That anger, if allowed to simmer too long, will boil over into something you don’t want it to.

Innocent people die on our streets as a result of terrorism due to a predominant factor- the actions of our governments. It is they that send these young men from the north to fight for us. People are angry that troops are criticised for their part in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, but I don’t think that’s it. I think people are just frustrated that these men are sent to die for what appears to be a senseless cause. The truly admirable trait of the armed services, is that they will serve their country without question. Those who want peace may hate that statement, but I don’t think there are that many maniacs in the army that sincerely love to kill, no matter how noble the cause.

So if we are to draw back from this brink, from this situation that sees communities looking to turn on one another, from killing that begets killing, from the terror of far-away lands becoming terror on our streets and from the young, disenfranchised of our nation being turned against it and its government, we must stop the global cycle of violence.

It’s the reverse of most problem solving tactics. Don’t start on the street level, start on the wider stage. Don’t give these men the tools to distort Islam for their murderous gains. Then you can begin to win hearts and minds in communities both here and on foreign shores.

Until the day that guns are laid down, unless for causes that are clearly defined or supported, and which don’t cause countless deaths of civilians, it will be difficult to stop these men trying to slay a young father, who is not even a cog in the huge wheel that bred his killers.

No hippy utopia, no sitting in a wigwam talking space and time, just step back from the killing, everyone. You will find, it becomes easier to appease your enemy when you aren’t killing their sons and daughters. That applies to all parties in this supposed war.

RIP Lee Rigby, and every human being killed in this tawdry conflict, that stains the history of our great planet.

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 Revolution Will Not Be Televised, But You Can “Like” It On Facebook by Allen Miles

Man: “I heard you quit your job?”

Isaac: “Yeah, a real self-destructive impulse. You know, I want
to write a book, so I, so I … Has anybody read that
Nazis are going to march in New Jersey, you know? I
read this in the newspaper, we should go down there, get
some guys together, you know, get some bricks and
baseball bats and really explain things to them.”

Man: “There was this devastating satirical piece on that on the op-ed
page of the Times. It is devastating.”

Isaac: “Well, well, a satirical piece in the Times is one thing, but
bricks and baseball bats really gets right to the
point.”

Woman: “Oh, but really biting satire is always better than physical
force.”

Isaac: “No, physical force is always better with nazis. Cos
it’s hard to satirize a guy with shiny boots.”

That is a quote from Woody Allen’s 1979 masterpiece Manhattan. It flies into my head every time I watch the news or Question Time or Newsnight or walk round Hull city centre. The people that run this country are not Nazis, they have learnt to disguise their racism, but they haven’t learnt to disguise their elitism, their horrific apathy towards the working-class, and their disgusting self-serving attitude.

These people are clearly utterly fucking clueless on how to run the country. They do not represent the people of England, rather they are simply rewarding the people who voted them in. The party is divided within itself, with all the inside talk of “grubby dealings,” “aggressive homosexuals” and “swivel-eyed loons,” and everyone is utterly terrified of Boris Johnson. I am thirty-one years-old and I work for the NHS. I have been part of the workforce since I was 16, and have spent only eight months out of work in all that time. And because of the feckless attitude of this bunch of bastards, I have never known an atmosphere at work to be as bad as it is now. We all know this government are aiming to disband the NHS as soon as they possibly can, as they will with every public sector if they stay in power, which they will, for three reasons. One – there are lots of working class tories who drive white vans and live in suburbs who made their prosperous livings under Blair and have now decided they are old enough to read the Daily Mail and want a government who will look after their money. You’ve seen these people. They are builders or plumbers with shaved heads. Their wives are horrific orange women who drive their only child 500 yards to school in an Range Rover then spend the rest of their day picking out which cafe-bars and tanning salons really define them as a person. Two -Ed Milliband is no-one’s idea of a Political leader, and frankly looks more like someone who would compere a Star Trek convention and most importantly; Three – for all the carping, for all the expletives howled at the screen every time you see Michael Gove’s fatuous flapping omelette of a face, for every wage slip you open and wonder why you seem to have less and less money to spare each month, deep down the fundamental problem is no-one gives a flying fuck.

This man is a despicable atrocity of a human being.

This man is a despicable atrocity of a human being.

The people who run this country have, in the past few years, used taxpayer’s money to bail out banks who have speculated and lost and put the country in mountains of debt. Their mistake, we foot the bill. They have made going to university almost impossible for people who don’t have rich mummies and daddies. They have, as I’ve said already, hacked and slashed at practically every public sector industry, they have presided over the Levinson enquiry and the expenses scandal, and they also had to deal with the information coming to light that their own party spent twenty three years covering the murders of ninety-six innocent people at Hillsborough. On top of all that they gave the possibly the most hated-Briton of all time a nigh-on state funeral. And what was the issue that you, the great British Public got most upset about in the past few years? That it will now cost you twenty pence to get your fucking pasty warmed up.

Is this country that fucking apathetic these days? Really? Why the hell aren’t people charging down Downing Street with Molotov cocktails and flaming staffs to put the shits up this party of real life Alan B’Stards? I’ll tell you why, because its much easier to read about John Terry banging Wayne Bridge’s missus, or tweet about which act was best on Britain’s Got Lethargy, or play your FUCKING CANDY CRUSH!

The good old USA may be the most ludicrous country in the history of civilisation but when the American intelligentsia had enough of George W Bush’s monstrous regime they did not muck about. Prominent left-wing figures such as Seth McFarlane, Jesse Ventura and George Carlin all went berserk during public appearances about his idiotic policies; Andre 3000 and Bruce Springsteen were literally man-handling people into voting booths, and the most famous person in the world did this. Our response to any sort of political controversy is to wheel out Billy Bragg to 200 people in a civic hall, or watch George Galloway spit out one of his diatribes which no-one will take seriously because he once pretended to be a cat on Celebrity Big Brother. The Guardian, once the paper of choice for chest-beating radicals now offers a supplement in which you can find out how to perfectly cook a pheasant and where you can buy a cheese knife for less than £100. It will also furnish you with articles about authors who’s books are bought by imbeciles who idolize Phoebe out of Friends and think its acceptable to give wind-chimes as Christmas presents. They all live in the country you know, and do their writings in picturesque hollow trees while squirrels hop about. BOLLOCKS!!! In the 80s Kinnock and Scargill used to fall out of political debates actually physically brawling over disagreements in policy. Today the Labour party’s top-boys ponce out of there on their smart phones, smirk and show each other how some “wag” has posted a picture of Cameron on Facebook and written “‘Like’ if you think this man is a prick.” Excellent. That’s going to make all the fucking difference.

I've heard he's got a Return Of The Jedi duvet cover.

I’ve heard he’s got a Return Of The Jedi duvet cover.

Look around you. Look at the kids, look at the teenagers and look at the students. Where’s the next Joe Strummer or Jerry Dammers or Jimmy McGovern going to come from? No-one seems to be able to rouse themselves enough to realise that the country is on it’s arse. Socially this country is in the worst place it’s been for thirty years, and financially its worse than anytime since 1931. The NHS is going to die, teachers will soon be taking classes of forty-five kids and somehow, a very small group of men will be making a huge profit from all of it. On David Cameron’s front bench, there are fifteen men who went to the same school as him. Rebecca Brooks is a millionaire. Rupert Murdoch rules the world. Don’t worry about it though, don’t take action, just turn The Voice on and look at Jessie J scratch her yeast infection, or on the other side you can watch Michael McIntyre provide witty social discourse by running round in big circles on a stage. Also, think about voting for UKIP and play your Candy Crush. Someone’s going to start a campaign to change the “Great” in Great Britain to “Flaccid.” Don’t forget to ‘like’ it on Facebook.

profile b and wAllen Miles is 31 years old and lives in Hull. He is married and has a 23 month-old daughter who is into 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. It is available here. http://tinyurl.com/8d2pysx

Sexessive Behaviour by Kelly Brown

I hate sexism. It’s still a very real problem in society, one that needs to be dealt with head on. But if there’s one thing I hate more, it’s the people who claim EVERYTHING is sexism. You see them out there, picking everyone’s behaviour to bits like some kind of radioactive-hyper-feminists. It drives me mad. Everything is not sexism, and not all men are sexist. Some women are also sexist…probably more than you think.

I work with the public on a daily basis, I speak to an awful lot of people, from all different backgrounds. Most people are nice, some are indifferent, a few are arseholes. Of these unfortunate few (unfortunate for the rest of us, anyway) what you really need to remember is that these people are not arseholes because they are sexist, they are sexist because they are arseholes. Just as many women have the potential for acting like utter c*nts as the men do. Proportionally it’s a fairly even split.

Inverse sexism is often the worst, because nobody seems to see anything wrong with it. As an example I posted something on my facebook wall, detailing a situation that happens fairly frequently in my line of work. It goes something like this:

*man and woman walk into shop*
Woman: “I’ll take this please” (hands me bag/dress/t-shirt)
Me: (rings it through the till) “that’ll be £24.99 please”
Woman: *looks at man with big moony eyes*
Man: *sighs* *gets out wallet*

Eleven people liked that post (which is a lot for me). Ten of them were women. TEN. They’d missed the point entirely – I posted it because I was getting a bit annoyed, they just thought it was funny.
And THAT’S the point. Why is this deemed acceptable, even expected behaviour?
It manages to both put the woman in a position of power and dependency, while reinforcing the typical male stereotype as provider AND making him look the ‘under the thumb’ (another classic stereotype). Brilliant. Well done girls. Free stereotypes all round! Let’s all eat chocolate and giggle about how guys can’t empathise.
Joking aside though, this kind of thing sets a real double standard, and I for one silently despair every time I’m faced with it.

Accusing people (well, men. Obviously) of sexism all the time is very damaging too. Bias is very easily projected on to others if you are actively seeking it out. There is a major difference between mentioning that someone happens to be female, and acting negatively toward them BECAUSE they are female. Doesn’t everyone know this already? I know this. I am female. I know of at least one guy who became disheartened with his whole career after being accused of a sexist remark. That should never have happened, yet the atmosphere of distrust caused by these so-called ‘equal rights’ activists is such that if you happen to be male, everything you do will be subject to this kind of scrutiny. That doesn’t seem very equal to me.

Apparently Steven Moffat is a sexist because Amy can’t have kids (no…it’s the ONLY thing that could have caused her and Rory to split. They could have made him have the problems, I guess, but it would have been harder to work into the storyline, and I still don’t think he would ever have left her). I have never at any point felt degraded watching Doctor Who, but there are women out there that inexplicably do. Maybe he is a big misogynist in real life, but it doesn’t come across in the shows. Unless you look really, reeeally hard.

It’s all about intent. Holding a door open for someone is not sexist. It’s polite. I hold doors open for people all the time; sometimes I get thanked, sometimes I get ignored, but I’ve never once been accused of being sexist. Or racist. Or any other -ist. So why, when a guy does it, does that suddenly become a feminist issue?

I remember one incident with a male friend of mine, a fair few years back. We were walking back from somewhere after a night out, and I was lagging behind due to a wholly inappropriate choice of footwear. There was a bit of ribbing going on because of this, when some absolute stranger decided the best thing to do was to interfere with this interaction, and started berating my mate for ‘being sexist’ and ‘unchivalrous’. I tried to explain that I was, in fact, having fun, but he was having none of it. He was on leave from the army, he said, and believed that women should be treated with more courtesy. My mate’s response was to turn around, throw me over his shoulder, and carry on walking. The look on the guy’s face was priceless.

And isn’t that the crux of it? I don’t want be put on a pedestal. Do my male friends treat me differently because I’m a girl? Occasionally, yes. Because I am. They also treat me differently because they know what music I’m into, that I’m a big science nerd, and that I tend to overthink things a lot. Do they treat me negatively because of any of this? No.

Real prejudice exists in plenty of forms, and any unfounded prejudice is just plain wrong. But the idea that we are all perfectly equal is wrong too, or at best misguided. I’m probably not much like you…or him…or her. So why should we expect to be treated the same as everyone else? The true key to equality is to accept that everyone is different, we all have strengths and weaknesses, we are, each of us, unique and wonderful, and this diversity should be celebrated. The sooner we all look around and realise it, the sooner we can create a better, kinder world.

kellyKelly Brown is never-you-mind years old and lives in a different city every couple of years. Since her late teens she has changed her hair colour an astonishing fourty-seven times. She likes all things to do with space and spaceships and this was before Brian Cox got on the telly.

Why Everything Was Better Before (Part 1) by Allen Miles

For those of you who don’t know why our website is called Sitting On The Swings, myself and Mr Taylor were among a number of children who grew up on the Bricknell Avenue estate in Hull, and on the periphery of that estate is a small playground and playing field known unofficially as County Road Park. It would be the social hub of our pre-pubescent years and Martyn and I grew so attached to the place that at the end of our last year of high school and the summer of exams and decisions, we would drag ourselves there practically every day in the early afternoon and literally sit on the swings for hours, drinking Sunny Delight and talking about the previous night’s fare on the Paramount Channel, which we’d stayed up until four a.m. to watch. We did this because a) we were hopeless with women, b) we had absolutely no money and c) we had nowhere else to go. When I started this site up a few weeks ago I thought it would be a nice idea to use an actual photo of the swings themselves as the backdrop so I wandered down there one afternoon when I was off work during the week, camera phone in pocket, to take my pictures. I live quite a way from there these days and have no reason to pass the place in my usual routines and so I hadn’t seen it for quite some time. When I got there something seemed so wrong about the place. It was still recognizable from as I remembered it, but everything had been ever so slightly tweaked somehow. An iconic image from my childhood had been interfered with and it was disturbing, sterile and rather sinister, as if the Mona Lisa had been photoshopped.

I looked round trying to work out what changes had taken place, then decided that I ought to leave ( It was half two in the afternoon, I was wearing a long black coat and waving a camera around in a children’s playground; I probably didn’t look too savoury.) When I looked through the photos on my laptop upon returning home, I realised what it was: everything looked so much safer. Where once the surface under the swings had been merely concrete, now there was slabs of that horrible rubber tarmac stuff that gets ridiculously hot in the summer. Opposite the swings, if I remember correctly, there had once upon a time been a slide, which, even taking into account how the memory distorts these things, must have been a good seven or eight feet tall. This had gone, replaced by a small, chunky climbing frame type thing that stood no more than five feet off the ground at its highest point. A few weeks later, I was taking my daughter to see my mother so I took the long way round and once again walked through County Road Park. Looking around with scrutiny this time, I deduced that it was almost impossible for a child, or anyone for that matter, to hurt themselves in this place. And thinking deeper, I realised this was because if someone did get hurt here, the council would get sued, the newspapers would be involved, and Cherry Healey would have recorded a BBC Three documentary about it within days. Without wishing to sound like my father, it was so different in my day…

I first started going to County Road Park when I was about eight, nearly nine years old. The summer of 1990. The summer of Alex Kidd in Shinobi World, Spatz, The London Boys and Salvatore Schillaci. Barmy, balmy evenings. We would be allowed to go to the park minus parents. No-one was worried about paedophiles back then, as they were all working for the BBC. The whole aim of going on the swings was “trying to get level” which essentially meant you would build up so much momentum that the chains of the swing would be horizontal, parallel to the ground. It was dangerous and that was the thrill. We knew that if we fell off we would hit the concrete and break a leg, so we didn’t fall off. If we had have fallen off, our parents would have blamed us, told us off and hugged us while we tried not to cry. They wouldn’t have even dreamed of suing the council. Kids aren’t allowed to make mistakes anymore. They are not allowed to get hurt, they are not allowed to get mud on their knees, they are not allowed to learn common sense. If you got hurt, you would realise how you did it, and you wouldn’t do it again. For example, when I was nine years old, my best friend was a lad called Hiu Lam. One day he was running towards our classroom, which was a portakabin situated on a raised platform, accessed by a few large, flat concrete steps. He tripped up, fell onto the steps and scraped his face from forehead to chin. He had huge graze marks right across his features for about three weeks afterwards. Did his parents attempt to sue the school? No, of course they didn’t, they accepted that their son had had an accident at school, as so many kids do, and put some Savlon on his face. Hiu Lam himself would have learned not to run up the steps again. Today, if that had happened, some new-age interfering dick would have run to the local paper and started an online petition to have the entire school knocked down and rebuilt completely out of cotton wool and foam rubber. And probably would have succeeded.

Next to the park, there was the abandoned shell of a social club. We as kids disagreed whether it had been called Golden Quay or Rosie O’Grady’s (it had in fact been called both.) We played there regularly, and to be fair, in hindsight, it probably was quite a dangerous place. Certain areas of it were in total darkness, it stank, and it was always in danger of collapsing. We never told our parents that we played there, as we knew that we weren’t supposed to. One day, I was there in the middle of the afternoon with one of my friends; I can’t remember who but I think it may have been Stevie B, and in the centre of the open space which I now realise had probably been the dancefloor at one time, me and Stevie noticed some discarded hypodermic syringes. It was a terrifying sight for a couple of ten-year-old kids. We didn’t know why we were so shocked, we just knew that we didn’t like it. I remember it like it was yesterday; we didn’t speak, we just looked at each other and walked out into the daylight. We knew, we knew, that we couldn’t go back in there anymore. It was off limits. Kids are not stupid.

profile b and wAllen Miles is 31 years old and lives in Hull. He is married and has a 20 month-old daughter who is into 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 someone from Hull. It is available here. http://tinyurl.com/8d2pysx

 

McCain Oven Chips and The Decline Of The English Language by Allen Miles

Since I was a small child, the thing that I’ve been most interested in is the English language. I read avidly from infancy, I wrote obsessively as soon as I could pick up a pen and anyone who, in my opinion, was a master of my native tongue I would idolise. I don’t just mean authors either, I mean people like Barry Davies, who could describe a football match as if he was a poet giving a guided tour of the Louvre; Ian Hislop, who could craft his words into a rapier with which to skewer the egos of ludicrous Conservative politicians; and my all time absolute hero Peter Cook, who’s use of wordplay in his twelve part “Life In Pieces” sketch with Ludovic Kennedy is the most agile and quick-witted piece of comedic writing that we will ever see.

I personally have been a sports journalist, a lyricist, a poet, a blogger and an author. I have had work published in every field I’ve just mentioned. I have written intensely personal things to individual people that have made them happy and made them cry. Words, when used properly, can stir these emotions in people. I remember an occasion when I was about fifteen when my maths teacher Mrs Wattam had kept me behind after class because she’d been perturbed by my loud-mouthed teenage remark that I had no interest in figures. She sat me down and spoke to me like an adult and then showed me an unbelievably complicated piece of algebra which she wrote down and explained to me. Then she said “Don’t you think that’s great how it all fits together and works out so perfectly?” and I replied, with honesty, “No, I don’t find it interesting.” You see, with figures, you have ten digits that have limited values and can only be endlessly repeated in various combinations. With words, the possibilities are endless. With figures, the life you can aspire to is accountant, maths teacher, general nerd. With words, you can be a War Correspondent, Screen Writer, Music Journalist… Words are beautiful, romantic and emotional.

And somehow, recently, someone has got hold of words and turned them into something to be used to fuck us over.

My fellow S.O.T.S. blogger, Paul Featherstone, used a fantastic word in a recent e-mail to me: “hoodwinked.” Our mother tongue is being bastardised by immoral shits in the advertising game to hoodwink us into buying and/or doing things that we don’t need to.
When I was at the tender age of 16, a careers advisor told me that my calling in life was to be an advertising copywriter. Even then, that kid with all his naivety and colossal personality flaws rejected that pathway, due to having something called a soul. I did not want to turn into some self-righteous prick who wore driving gloves, clicked his fingers at waitresses and spoke to his girlfriend only to check whether she’d turned the dishwasher on, nor did I want to change my name to Marcus or Lance. If you have ever seen an episode of Mad Men, you’ll know that the USA has been a society that has revolved around advertising since the fifties. In England, we are not a society based around advertising, but we are becoming a society that is being manipulated by language.
Let me give you an example, the other day I bought a bag of McCain Oven chips. As I rarely eat oven chips these days, I consulted the cooking instructions, expecting to read something roughly like this:

1. Pre Heat Oven to 220 Celsius
2. Place chips evenly onto baking tray
3. Cook for 12-15 mins until golden brown.

Basic, shorthand instructions. Simple, clinical. A concise direction of how to cook these chips. But no, some advertising tools using their advertising tools had come up with:

1. Warm up your oven to 220 Celsius
2. Spread your chips in one layer on a baking tray
3. Pop them in the oven for 12-15 minutes until they’re all lovely and golden and brown
4. Enjoy!

Now, I’m sorry, but it seems to me that there is only one thing happening here: this bag of oven chips is trying to be my friend. There is no other possibility, given the words and phrases that this bag of frozen comestibles is uttering to me, probably in the voice of Caroline Quentin in one of her “attractive menopausal woman” roles. Warm is so much cosier a word than heat. Warm is what you get when you’re wearing a cardigan, or you’re in bed with a hot water bottle and some cocoa. Heat is what you find in the fiery cauldron of hell. Also, the repeated use of the word your. Your oven, your chips, your friend, your very own less-than-5%-fat soul mate. So vomit-inducingly personal. Then we have to “pop them in the oven!” Like when your dear old primary school teacher with her glasses on a string of beads used to say “Pop it on my desk.” After the 12-15 minutes, which presumably you’ve spent cuddled up on the couch watching Last Of The Summer Wine with your now slightly emptier bag of oven chips, they’ll be “all lovely and golden and brown.” Oooo… all lovely and golden and brown, words that make you feel like dear old grandma is wrapping a big woolly blanket round you while Grandad throws another log on the fire. Then, we’re told to “Enjoy!” With an exclamation mark. Can someone tell this bunch of pseudo-new age arseholes at McCain that no-one enjoys oven chips. We buy them because we are either too lazy or too fat to cook proper chips. And I wouldn’t even want to be friends with a bag of proper chips, let alone oven chips. So as far as I’m concerned, oven chips can knob off.

It seems to be mainly the food and drink industry which is most manipulative with their use of words. If you buy an Innocent smoothie, for example, where once a fruit drink would have been labelled something like “Apple and Blackcurrant,” the heartless bastards at Innocent, again conning you into thinking that they’re your little buddies, badge their equivalent product “Apples and Blackcurrants.” How does the plural make it sound somehow softer and nicer? Evidently it does, but how? How have these people somehow managed to slip our collective sub-consciousness this linguistic Rohypnol? Its all about tweaking perfectly standard phrases just that tiny bit to make us fall for their crappy product. I’ll give you another example that just crept up on me a few weeks ago.
Myself and most of the people who write for this site live in a city called Hull in East Yorkshire in England, and for those of you who’ve never been, it is not a thriving cosmopolitan metropolis like London or even Manchester, it is a dockside industrial community of about 230,000 people and the nearest major city is sixty miles away. Around the turn of the millenium, the local council embarked on a so-called re-generation project which wasn’t terribly successful, but one of the upshots of it was that a street on the edge of the city centre called Princes Avenue unexpectedly became very prosperous, and many local entrepreneurs opened a series of horrific things called cafe-bars. They are designed to make vacuous egotists feel important. Now, if you go into anyone of these establishments for your lunch, you can peruse the trendy chalk-board menu and you will notice, in fact you probably won’t notice because it’s done so subversively, that anything on the menu that is fried is referred to as being pan-fried. Why? I’ll tell you; its because the word fried on its own brings to mind images of grease, chip fat, cholesterol, clogged veins, heart-attacks, ugh its bad for you don’t eat it go jogging instead! But with pan-fried its:

“Pan-fried? They fry it in a pan? Jesus they know what they’re doing here don’t they? This is a classy place.”

Justin walks over to the bar to be served by Troy the barman, who is six foot five, shaven head/designer stubble, wearing a skin-tight black tee-shirt and has a tattoo of Che Guevara on his neck.

“Hi there bud, can I get the Pan-fried Fish Finger Sandwich and some homemade chips please?”

“Of course, sir”

“How many fish fingers do you get?”

“You get two sir.”

“Ok. How much is that?”

“Six pounds ninety-five, sir.”

“Six pounds ninety five?”

“Well, they are pan-fried, sir.”

“I suppose you’re right. While I’m at it, you know that out-of-date Polish lager that your governor bought off those Latvian sailors for twelve quid a barrel in the Green Bricks the other night?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well tell me its a wheat beer from the Czech Republic, serve me it in a vase and I’ll give you £4.10 a pint for it.”

“Ok, sir. I’ll bring your food over in about an hour and a half.”

“Thanks.”

Words are being twisted and corrupted by people who want you to buy things. You are a target market. Every word that you see on a billboard or tv screen is put there to make you try and spend your money. And I maybe naive and romantic, but words should not be used to make money. What of beauty, emotion and feeling? What of love, Mr McCain Oven Chips guy? What of love? People like you have caused the English language to suffer the most spectacular fall from grace in the history of the world.

Actually, the second worst.

As we all know, this was the worst.

profile b and wAllen Miles is 33 years old and lives in Hull. He is married and has a 3 year-old daughter who thinks she’s Elsa from Disney’s Frozen. 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 This Is How You Disappear, which is widely recognized to be the best book ever written. It is available here. http://tinyurl.com/disappear2014