Friday, 28 February 2014

The children of the biological revolution

Every time I board an overcrowded sardine tin, more commonly known as the tube, I am confronted with something of great concern.

To avoid committing the mortal sin of looking in the general direction of another human being, passengers spend the duration of their journey reading and re-reading various posters for anything from life insurance to charity campaigns urging commuters to donate their entire life savings to the welfare of orphaned guinea pigs with levels of interest generally reserved for the likes of 50 Shades of Grey.

And I follow suit.

London’s impersonality led to my latest bugbear, in the form of a poster which seems to crop up more than any other. Targeting single women reaching the end of their childbearing capabilities, the general gist is: “Biological clock ticking so loudly it has become to men what a whistle is to a dog? Fear not, let our clinic impregnate you with an illegitimate child.”

It would be cheaper for said women to drink 241 bottles of Blue WKD to oblivion down at their local Inferno or other such classy all-night cattle market, linger around on the dance floor at throwing out time and go home with whatever reprobate is lurking in the sidings desperate to dip his unprotected penis inside whatever gaping chasm presents itself.  

But I don’t suppose following in the footsteps of a typical Stoke-on-Trent teenager is strictly the soundest of advice to offer females due to expel their final egg at any given moment. Ill-educated teenagers have already contributed to an influx of just short of 400,000 children currently being used in a vast game of human ping-pong, tossed between the fostering population of the UK.

Single women, homosexual partnerships, even straight couples desperate to rescue one of the country’s more unfortunate children from a future of special brew and Jeremey Kyle, have battled with the authorities since records began.

And with figures for the bi-products of a post-club scuffle up an alleyway, leading to mothers who have no recollection of the conception and claiming to bear the second-coming insurmountable, the number of children soon to be taken into care should be of grave concern.

But having a phantom baby is fast becoming In-Vogue. Intelligent, caring, upstanding, financially sound women are opting to take the easier route of artificial insemination over attempting to convince the authorities to extract a child from a squalid existence and give them the chance for a better life that they deserve.

If children spiral into an identity meltdown when their adoptive parents have “the talk,” I cannot even begin to imagine the head-fucking impact that clinics advertising down in the depths of London’s underground network will have on the children of the future.

Friday, 3 January 2014

The 'life changing' world of modern day parenting

Over the festive break the less intelligent of the two offspring my parents gave life to declared, with an unfounded air of wisdom, that having children has made him better placed to pass judgement on practically everything.

“Until you’ve had children you don’t know what it’s like. It’s life changing and I know so much more about the world than people who don’t have children,” he said. 

In this one sweeping statement he categorised himself among an overcrowded pigeon hole jammed full of ill equipped human beings, including all the positive DNA fodder ever to grace the screens of Jeremy Kyle.

Delivering his beliefs with all the conviction that his status, as father of two, made him wholly capable of successfully fulfilling a top role for NASA, I can picture the interviews for future space expeditions now:

“I’m sorry Mr Jones, you seem to have excessive experience in our field but Wayne has a DNA certificate from the Jeremy Kyle show that states he IS the real dad.”

Like all socially superior siblings, I like an argument.

“I think it’s entirely egotistical to want to bring more children into existence, adding to an already overcrowded population when there are already so many unfortunate youngsters out there in need of a loving and supportive home.”

“I totally agree, I don’t think anyone should have more than two children and then if they want any more they can adopt,” he said, totally disagreeing.

Sadly my brother is just one example of a whole strain of new-aged delusional parents who are seemingly oblivious, until they make a baby, to a phenomenon that has been occurring since the beginning of time. That you’ll have to look after it.

We’ve all been born, it’s nothing special. And being part of the baby making process does not make you more worldly wise than the remaining childless population.

Brother Banks then went off on a tangent about the risks of adoption, mainly the possibility of raising an axe murderer in a war between nature and nurture, losing my parents and myself entirely.

My Christmas loathing father’s attention turned to the television: “Here here, I totally agree,” he shouted at Michael Caine’s outburst at Kermit the Frog.

Offering to do a trade-off, my class of 30 children with varying levels of autism, most with an inability to speak English and severe behavioural issues, for his two, for one day, he reiterated: “It’s totally different when you’ve got your own, you don’t know what it’s like. It’s much harder to look after two, you have them from first thing in the morning.”

My brother had offered to do the parenting the following morning, to let his wife have a well- deserved lie in. I went downstairs at 9.30am to discover two children and not an adult in sight.

“Where’s daddy?” I asked.

“He put Finding Nemo on and went back to bed, I went upstairs after him and asked him for some breakfast but he said he needed to get to the next level on Temple Run,” offered Jack.

“Please can I take my nappy off?” asked Issy, tugging at her urine drenched pyjamas.

I stand corrected.

Monday, 28 October 2013

“Loo roll AND flush? Not me, I just like to shit and go.”

Women everywhere will share in endless memories of agonising waits for unacceptable periods of time in pub WCs nationwide.

While one sole customer creates a pile-up of punters desperate to empty their bladders, her long-suffering peers attempt to solve an unfathomable enigma that has lingered in the air since pubs began: “what on earth do women do in the toilet?” But to no avail.

An elite minority taking an eternity to accomplish what should be a relatively rapid wee, wipe, flush and go regime is a universally problematic scenario amongst womankind. In fact the average female spends 15 years of her life pointlessly waiting for their turn on the pot. Yet this First World dilemma has fast become child’s play, paling into insignificance in the wake of a fresh phenomenon sweeping the nation.

A phenomenon that is fast becoming so profound it requires national redress.

A new strain of X chromosomes is brutally shitting and going in offices, homes, public amenities, even their own shared accommodations across the globe.

My extensive research* finds that statistically every workplace has at least one phantom shitter, depositing a monumental excrement in the pan, dropping the lid and disapparating in a puff of methane on a daily basis. Moments later an unwitting colleague will enter the cubicle, recoil in horror as they lift the lid and dash from the vicinity, pallid faced and fearful they will be flagged up as a potential culprit.

Destitute and desperate I visited an employment agency just over a year ago. The interview went well and work was as good as guaranteed with a handshake and a knowing smile.

But I made the mortal mistake of asking if I could use the toilet before my departure. Upon entry I was confronted with a lump of the brown stuff that defied the laws of science. How a human being could possibly have birthed something so colossal without causing fatal internal fissures plagues me to this day. 

Optimistic that someone would clock my rapid departure moments later, eliminating me from the suspect list, I darted from the cubicle for the street. Sadly there were no witnesses and all future correspondence on my part was met with a disgusted silence.

I hate to be the bearer of worse news yet to come, but there is never even a trace of toilet paper in sight.

The question, reader, on the tip of your revolted tongues, is ‘who are these people?’

Sadly we will never know. To appease the situation I leave you with this silver lining thought.

The female British workforce should thank whatever deity they choose to believe in that they don’t live on the orient.

Two words.

Squat toilet.

* Research conducted on five toilets and three conversations with friends.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

In a city that never speaks, why are some things still said?

Having lived in London on and off for almost four years now, I have encountered countless scenarios where some acknowledgement or support between city dwellers could have saved a whole host of inconvenience.

But then again the Big Smoke is filled with dead-behind the eye drones, resembling the setting of an apocalyptic massacre, both under and above ground. Don’t expect anything more than someone stepping on your ankles as they fall in line with zombie shufflers headed towards their 9 til whenever colleagues finally cease spouting bullshit in back-to-back meetings office jobs.

It’s understandable that buff young bankers will crush past old ladies struggling down the stairs with two or three suitcases. That a man stares vacantly at a cardigan as a commuter walks away after unwittingly dropping it. That no-one stops to assist a lady who’s stumbled over at the top of a flight of stairs, or the man who’s collapsed in the middle of the street. Or that no one thought to tell me when my rucksack was wide open, expensive electronical goods hanging precariously from it as I walked in front of them on a busy underground escalator.

It’s every man for himself.


However a few days ago, I did encounter a rare and good Samaritan in the city whose streets are paved with pedestrian rage. She approached as tube-dwellers spilled onto a busy crossing near my home.  

“Excuse me” she bellowed, tapping me on the shoulder, “your underskirt has pulled up at the back and your dress is see-through.”

Looking a little embarrassed, I thanked her as I pulled it down.

A nice gesture, considering most people would have looked the other way if I had a gun held to my head or was about to step out in front of a double-decker bus.

She could have said “you’re welcome” and left it there.  There was absolutely no logical reason for her to feel compelled to announce to all within earshot:

"You're wearing white knickers."

One word, beginning with "C."

Friday, 16 August 2013

You know, when you've been Helga'd

Being a northern lass in London may have an awful lot of perks, namely that it’s socially acceptable to befriend strangers in bars and engage with fellow commuters on the last tube home.

But sometimes this friendliness can lead to an inability to say no, with some horrific results.

If a man speaks to you in the street, he’s invariably destined for a future of institutionalisation. Eye contact should be avoided at all costs. Having made the mistake of ignoring my own advice on one too many occasions, I’ve found myself trapped in hour-long conversations before handing over my personal details and agreeing to drinks, meals, days out, meeting their parents.

The anorexic Bob Geldof, a 22-year-old boy who, unperturbed by the age-gap, repeatedly called me “fruity” spring to mind.

Not to mention Latvian Lance, who insisted on walking me the length of the city:

“What’s your name?”


“Oh, I am LANCE!! We have the same name.”

No Lance, we really don’t.

At times of financial strain I also seem to attract every single street fundraiser capital-wide.

Post Japan and job hunting on my first day back in London, I was approached by a gaggle of aptly named charity muggers.

The typical conversation:

“I have no job, and no income,”

“But it’s for charity.......”

At this point the majority of the population would walk away with, at most, an apologetic shrug. But not me, in a whirlwind of uncertainty I found myself signing my non-existent funds away to three charities before the clock had even struck midday. Internet banking is the silver lining in this unfortunate sequence of events.

Answering the door yesterday I was faced with a lovely young girl stealing bank-details for the blind. Despite explaining that I have no income until I start my new role in September, I’m now the proud owner of a badge thanking me for making monthly contributions to such a worthwhile cause.

Trawling around weekend street markets, I deliver my trademark promise;  “I’ll just nip to a cash machine” to the majority of vendors pushing stalls brimming with miscellaneous crap.

However today, the day before the first of our social group ties the knot, was the long overdue reality call that I needed in my quest for assertiveness.

Venturing out for a routine eyebrow thread, I find a place charging a very reasonable £2. It’s cash only so I nip off to a cash machine before returning.

At which point the sales pitch ensues:

“We make eyebrow same as hair colour for £7,”

“Mmm maybe next time, I’ve got a wedding tomorrow,” I reply, dubiously.

“I promise you like. You look nice for wedding.”

I can’t even use the cash machine line as we are both well aware that I’ve just been.

In usual Ellie-style I find my mouth going into autopilot and succumbing before what little surviving grey-matter I still possess can protest.

As she shreds mystery hairs from the crevices of my eyelids she enquires:

“Why your forehead so spotty?” 

Very diplomatic, and just the kind of sales pitch to ensure repeat custom when touting for trade in one of the allegedly ‘most competitive’ areas of the city.

When I eventually blink enough brow remnants from my eyeballs to re-focus, I’m met with a paintbrush-brandishing beautician and pot of very dark paste.

I get the same sense of impending doom as the occasion I asked for a “Rachel cut” at the age of 15 and was subsequently nicknamed: “Wig on a stick” and “Beavis” by my peers.

They were dark times. Yet not as dark as my eyebrows.

“You want see?” she asks – tipping me upright to view her handiwork in the mirror.

I now resemble Hey Arnold’s unrequited love, Helga. It looks like I fell asleep at a house-party and someone took a permanent marker to my forehead.

For those of you unfamiliar with this reference, it's not pretty:

With a brow line that would be laughed out of Liverpool, I was even ashamed to make a planned pit-stop into Lidyl en-route home, instead running for cover as fast as my foal-like pins could trot.

Not wanting to steal the bride’s limelight with my monumental brows, I plan on spending the evening thinking about what I have done in the shower.

With a pan-scrub. 

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Thin people have souls

Ever since exiting the puppy fat of toddlerhood, I have been plagued with a rapid metabolism and ability to have my cake and eat it without upping a couple of dress sizes.

Like so many others of a similar disposition, we are told all too often how “lucky” we are. 

Back in early 90’s Brit-Pop Britain, in a high-school way before skeletal-chic was in-vogue, having the physique and self-certainty of an embryonic foal was certainly nothing to feel “lucky” about.

With it came jibes from fuller bodied, busty girls whose sole purpose in life was to draw unwanted attention to their twig-like, pre-pubescent peers. 

Throughout life I have encountered an army of Russian dolls, as tall as they are wide, who think it’s perfectly acceptable to continuously offer patronising asides encouraging us to eat ourselves into obesity and join their clan.

Under the constant scrutiny of portly strangers, it’s never the average build that is desperate to up the UK obesity dynamic and produce a superior race that will, in due course, enter the realms of self-induced middle-aged incapacitation.

A few days ago, having already eaten two cakes and being genuinely full, I was ordered to eat another because I “needed it”. I was sorely tempted to suggest that the big massive fatty, and future diabetes-ridden amputee in question, should perhaps lay off the fucking cake because her gluttony is destined to have a detrimental effect on the already crumbling NHS and tax payers’ money. But I didn’t, because that would be frowned upon right?

Unfortunately offering health advice to people, who consume twice the recommended daily calorie intake on a regular basis and then kick up a fuss over their ‘basic human rights’ when they’re asked to pay double air-fares, isn’t socially acceptable.

But their ignoring the basic human rights of the people they wedge themselves in next to on long haul flights, their gargantuan forearms suffocating us to death like crash test dummies against an activated air-bag, while offering us a doughnut through pitiful eyes because “we need fattening up” is morally sound. 

Rant over.

Monday, 29 April 2013

There's no such word as nice? Unfortunately there is

SOME time ago I met up with a former newspaper rival and good friend. Following a whirlwind romance, premature declarations of undying love, move-in and the commitment of a dog, came the inevitable and far from amicable split.

“What went wrong?” I asked him.

“I just wanted to watch the football on a Sunday and she kept nagging me to go to a fucking flower market. The realisation came one morning when I came out of the bathroom and stood in dog shit and thought; 'I need to get the fuck out.'”

A long pause followed before he added; “Who the fuck goes to a flower market?”

More than a year later I discovered the answer to this question, which once burnt so deep into a grown man’s soul it marked the final shovel of earth thudding down on his coffin of circumstances.

Visiting Columbia Flower Market at the weekend was an experience which silently screamed a thousand truths. Engulfed in a swarm of dangerously high levels of human traffic, I was swept along amid a current of couples laden down with miscellaneous floral purchases wrapped in brown paper. Expressionless couples seeking to add colour to their mundane existences, laced with underlying hatred fuelled by a morning argument and an unwatched football match.

Initially I did think that perhaps a one-off trip to a flower market wasn’t exactly fair grounds for the termination of a live-in relationship. Yet as I forced my way through the crowds my friend’s wise words haunted every stride.

“Who the fuck goes to a flower market?”

It’s not the flower market but what the flower market signifies. Sullen-faced couples parading an array of colourful Sunday attires by way of compensation for their lacklustre lives.

These are the nice couples. The sort of people you visit for tea and cake and come away saying; “Wasn’t that a nice afternoon?”

The people who, on a Saturday evening, settle down in their separate chairs to watch Murder Mystery box-sets while she simultaneously knits to alleviate the chances of either admitting that they have fuck all left to say to each other.  

Non-descript, plain old nice.

But it isn’t arbitrary that entering the realms of couple-dom must mark the obliteration of prospective partner’s personalities and mass-sacrifice of any personal interests.

After sticking two fingers up to ‘nice’, my friend is now a prime example that you can have the best of both and he is an example I wish to follow.