A picture of teenage depression

PillsFor a number of reasons, this week has seen my hasty and unexpected return to the ‘Shire for a couple of days. As anyone who has ever spent more than ten minutes in my conversational company will know, there’s not a lot to do here. I’ve looked at Dad’s new lettuce patch, watched a high volume of crappy chick-flicks and had a weirdly spooky moment with my mum while the dog ate a tea towel. And that’s about as much as I could hope for, activity-wise.

So, in a move that was guaranteed to end well, I decided to dig out all the boxes of sentimental teenage stuff that I had accumulated over the years. Diaries, knick-knacks, letters, an astonishing number of decorative fans (why), and quite a lot of crap with meaning I can no longer recall. That sort of thing.

And it made me really, really sad (quelle surprise), because for the first time in my adult life I sat down and read – through my many diaries – a blow-by-blow account of the mental health issues I struggled with when I was younger; a bleak narrative that has been packed away for over ten years. It made for a depressing evening, and there wasn’t even any wine in the house.

The descent from sunny, upbeat and girlish diary entries in swirly handwriting to scrawled accounts of mood, medication and mental (in)stability is marked. From Mean Girls to Girl, Interrupted over the course of mere months. Eventually, I stopped writing anything of note and simply filled in the days with single, nonsensical words such as ‘another’, ‘still’ and ‘can’t’.

My residency at the bottom of the hole is foggy in my mind, such was the volume of chemicals I was prescribed, and such is, likely, my desire to repress it all. It was a very, very unhappy period, and one that has had a pronounced effect on my life since.

However.

While there is always a hangover from any period of mental distress – like a skidmark on the clean white pants of your future – one thing I’ve taken from the whole sorry affair is resilience. A dear friend of mine is currently going through cognitive behavioural therapy for her own issues, and she maintains that she’ll be a more well-adjusted person for it – even more so than she was before her problems took hold.

And I agree. In this life, the only person you can ever rely on is yourself, and if you can get yourself through a period of genuine, personal hell – when you can’t even trust your own damn brain to help you out – then you’ve seen life stripped-back to its disturbingly bleak core and have been given the wonderful gift of perspective.

Which is something I need right now, since I’m not having a very good year at all. In moments when I feel overwhelmed by the number of crappy cards I’ve been dealt it’s easy for me to lose sight of how different I am now to the girl in these diaries. Life is tough now, but at least it’s a life, which is something Diary Girl was barely hanging on to.

During those dark days I saw countless therapists and mental health professionals. Some were great. Some made me feel much worse. But one woman – whose name I regrettably can’t remember – encouraged me to express my feelings through drawing. I have all the artistic ability of a goat wielding a pencil so it wasn’t something that came easily to me, but I do remember it helped a considerable amount. Last night I found a pile of those drawings and felt quite shaken by them, such was the force of the memories they evoked. But I found them underneath a pile of love letters, travel tickets and photographs that illustrate my life since that time.

And I felt an overwhelming sense of perspective.

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Wildlife. In London.

During my first year at university I lived in student flats in a green and hilly part of Wales. One day, one of my flatmates – a girl from Birmingham – and I were leaning out of my bedroom window having a fag, and we spotted a rabbit frolicking around on the grass outside.

I remember thinking the most striking thing about the scene was that the blighter wasn’t riddled with myxomatosis. Coming from the countryside, you can’t really walk anywhere without tripping over poor little mites huddled in the middle of footpaths with their eyes all gooed up.

This girl, however, lost her shit. “OH MY GOD. Is that a real rabbit?” She was physically flapping at this point, and whipped out her phone to call her mum. “Mum, guess what? THERE’S A RABBIT OUTSIDE.” She put her hand over the receiver and whispered to me, “Do you think it could be somebody’s pet?”

And that’s when I realised that not everyone had the same nonchalant attitude towards wildlife as I did. It was quite eye-opening, really; I was living with people who had, quite literally, never seen a wild rabbit before. Anyway, I chalked it up to the great city / countryside divide, and thought nothing more of it.

Until I moved to London. When I moved to this sprawling concrete wonderland, I knew I’d miss the countryside a bit. What I do really miss is the backdrop of rolling green hills that had been a constant eye canvas throughout my moves around Wales, and even in Bristol. Now it’s just buildings, offices and fried chicken shops. But whatever. No-one moves to London for the scenery.

What I’m missing the most at the moment, though, is that in the countryside, you know what the fuck is going on with its wildlife.

People tend to think the countryside is some wild, untamed animal free-for-all. That there are just pigs and sheep milling around wherever they please. That rabbits are pouring out of the ground and every single household owns a chicken. But this is not the case at all.

Wildlife in the countryside is kept in check. Farm animals are accounted for, few people own chickens because they’re bastards and rabbits, badgers and foxes keep to their bloody selves. On the rare occasion a cow starts munching your hedge, you just run at it with a novelty umbrella and they stomp off to the corner of the field, ready to be taken for milking, or turned into burgers.

You know what’s what in the countryside.

NOT LIKE SODDING LONDON, THOUGH, where the amount of wildlife I’ve encountered in the last two-and-a-bit years is simply extraordinary.

First there were the rats, which I blogged about exasperatedly at the time. What started as the odd scratching noise in the kitchen (It’s just the house settling!) quickly turned into episodes involving housemates and I hysterically throwing spoons at them as they scuttled across the cooker. Thanks to the heroic efforts of my other half, we (we – thanks for nothing Wandsworth Council and every bloody pest control agency we called in thereafter) managed to catch the offending pair, unceremoniously turfing their huge furry brown bodies into the bin (as instructed by the authorities), and leaving their nest of babies, cosy and out of reach in the ceiling, to squeak and scramble for days, until one day the noises simply stopped. It was horrible.

Then, without rats to deter them, in came an army of mice. Mice, which are able to squeeze themselves through gaps smaller than their heads, fact fans. Many weekends spent shoving wire wool down every single gap in our Victorian terrace and substantial investments in traps and sound-frequency deterrents eventually put pay to the problem, but not before several ‘hilarious’ attempts at catching the strays that saw fit to scuttle into the lounge while we were watching TV. How many grown adults does it take it catch a mouse? Seven, apparently. Five to flap around impotently, two to actually do something, but the whole group to create enough noise and panic that the poor thing eventually just drops dead from fright.

Then there were the spiders. And I don’t mean spiders. I mean spiders. Huge spiders. Over the course of one month in September, we averaged one of these monsters every two days. You’d walk into the kitchen, take a cautious glance at the floor, then go to the sink or cupboard or whatever. When you turned around – BAM. There it was. Squat and hairy, from nowhere: phobia ninjas. Both of us eyeing the other, waiting to see who’d make the first move. I’d reach behind my back, slowly, grasping for a bowl, a saucepan, anything, but its thousands of repulsive eyes would gauge the movement and it’d scuttle towards me at alarming speed, sending me tearing out of the door screaming for my life. The September rains stopped, and they left. But I know they’ll be back.

Then – and throughout our tenancy – there are the birds. We’ve an enormous tree in our back garden (some folk say it’s the tallest in Tooting), home, initially, to a pair of wood pigeons that seemed to be constantly embroiled in a domestic. I don’t know what the problem was, or indeed, what kind of problems wood pigeons have, but every day the tree would shake and they’d squawk at each other furiously, turfing bits of twigs and fluff out of their abode, which they eventually left. Maybe they split up, maybe they needed a fresh start somewhere new? Who knows? What I do know is that the tree is now home to a pair of mentally-challenged magpies that don’t understand their size and insist on flying at the tree with comically-oversized sticks, and then being all surprised when physics doesn’t work out for them. As such, the garden is covered with bits of branch and wood, and it all looks a bit Blair Witch. Which is great.

And then, most recently – and the catalyst for this lengthy rant (sorry) – the foxes. The fucking foxes. Urban foxes are as much a London landmark as Big Ben, or drunk girls falling out of Infernos. They’re just standard. The norm. But they’re utterly fearless, and whereas in the countryside they’re likely to sprint away at the first sign of a human, here they’re more likely to pull a knife on you and take your wallet. They’re everywhere. And now they’re LIVING IN MY GARDEN.

I came back from a few days away to find a family of them had dug into the plant borders around the sides of the garden and had set up camp in a the mound of earth beneath the tree. And they’d dragged a load of crap in with them: half-empty cat food tins, crisp packets, a broken plant pot (?). And, as it’s illegal to harm them with traps or poison (not that I would want to hurt them), short of shouting ‘PLEASE LEAVE’ at them through the safety of the window there’s nothing I can do. So now they join the rodents and the spiders and the stupid idiotic birds in a gang land-style territory takeover.

At least they’re keeping the cats away, I suppose. Ah yes, then there’s the cats…

Sod off

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‘Oss’, or, how I’m kicking my problems in the face

You can call me Sensei, bitchIn a school PE class there are two types of child. The child that can climb the gym rope, and the one that can’t. I was, and always have been, decidedly in the latter camp, dreading any kind of scenario that requires physical exertion, co-ordination and the bravery to put myself in a position where I might fall and brain myself. A sickening proposition at the best of times, never mind in front of a group of sniggering, capable individuals and an exasperated teacher.

So it was with massive apprehension that I stood on a plastic blue gymnastics mat this evening and greeted the burly man who, for the next four weeks, will be teaching me – wait for it – martial arts.

Yes, you did indeed read that correctly. I, of cack-handed running fame, am doing martial arts. Of my own free will.

Ever since The Event I have, I’ll admit, been pretty unhappy. Coming to terms with what happened, the reactions (or lack of) from people I considered friends, the brewing anger and resentment I foster towards the incident, the knock-on effects all these months later… it’s all come to a critical point during the last few weeks where I’ve been in serious danger of losing the plot completely. I’ve done that before, and it’s not a road I care to tread down again.

I’ve found some relief in my three-times-a-week gym slog (I know, right? I go to the gym. Shut up), mainly in that for 45 minutes or whatever I’m focused solely on reps and distances, rather than how much I want to kill everybody, and it was there that I saw the advert for the class I went to tonight.

I really don’t know what possessed me to sign up. Let’s be clear, martial arts is literally the last thing most people would think I’d do. In fact, when I told my mate Becky about it her reaction was: “WOW. I genuinely did not expect you to say that. I thought you were going to go see a musical or something.” Which I think that tells you all you need to know about the parameters of my comfort zone.

But sign up I did. And after a punishing ‘warm up’ and ten forward rolls in a row (from which I still feel nauseous), it was time to kick the shit out of things. And it was BRILLIANT. All my rage and anger channelled safely into a jab pad, while screaming – at my instructor’s suggestion – a list of all the things I’m mad at. Turns out there’s a lot of things I’m mad at.

And, it turns out, I don’t totally suck at martial arts. I’ve got good balance and thrust, apparently, and good focus. So I’m on a bit of a high. I’ve found a healthy channel for all the bad feels, I’ve stuck two fingers up to my increasingly restricted comfort zone and I got a pat on the back from someone who told me ‘You’re doing well’. And that’s what I really wanted to hear.

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Hope is important

HopeThere are many kinds of hope. Active hope, quiet hope, false hope, hope you didn’t even know you had until something happens to make you question it. For example, I’d have hoped that Scottish rock band Idlewild (whose seminal debut album accounts for the title of this blog post) would have stayed true to their indie roots instead of subsequently releasing several albums of wishy washy pap, but here we are. It’s a hope I didn’t know I had until it was lost.

All of us are hopeful, whether we know it or not. Hopeful that we’re making the right choices in life, that we’ll be happy and content in the end, that nothing will come along to alter the finely tuned trajectories of our lives. It’s not a hope we tend to fixate on, nor even consider too frequently, but it’s there, nonetheless, nestled warmly in the corners of consciousness.

When that kind of quiet hope is fulfilled, it becomes joy. When it’s jeopardised, it becomes a fed-after-midnight gremlin popping out emotional nasties with yellow eyes and dangerous claws. Hope itself is overwhelmed by paranoia, desperation, anxiety, fear and anger, and without a metaphorical Billy Peltzer around to sort shit out, the whole damn city is soon enough overrun with the monsters, and hope hides, powerless, in an air vent.

This is why hope is important. Until all hope is gone (another musical reference there, but the less said about that one the better), these demons are kept at bay. You can see humankind’s propensity towards false hope, then. Lost hope means things have gone irrevocably wrong, so it’s easier to wrap glimmering threads of ‘maybe’ around your fingers than take the heavy shackles of reality around your wrists.

And the threat of these shackles exists everywhere that hope does. They are always just off-screen, waiting in the wings. “I hope I get this job” is, of course, quite different to “I hope my mother can beat this cancer again”, but without hope both scenarios create an undesirable reality. Unemployment, financial strain, low self-worth. Grief, sadness, depression. So we cling on to these tempting threads and not until the last one snaps out of our fingers do we entertain the unhappy gremlins that have been lurking in the backs of our minds. And where’s hope, then? Sitting in a sodding air vent.

So herein lies the problem. Hope is important. But it’s also a flight risk. We nestle down into its warm bosom and wait contentedly until it either comes good or does a runner, and in the case of the latter we’ve frequently spent so long curled up with our eyes closed that the sudden harsh glare of reality leaves us blindsided.

Rationally-speaking, then, the business of hoping can just make things much worse in the end (going back to the Gremlin’s reference which is somehow dominating this post, if Gizmo had just been left in Chinatown Billy and Kate would be in smooch city instead of trying to save the world from monsters). Ironically, as my mother so fondly says: “Expect nothing and you won’t be disappointed.” (EXPLAINS EVERYTHING, RIGHT?)

And yet despite all of this, despite the rationale against ‘pinning your hopes’, and the nauseating knowledge that unfounded hope brings distressing consequences, we do it nonetheless. Like tobacco for smokers, alcohol for drinkers and casinos for gamblers, hope can provide a short-term fix for an issue we just don’t know how to deal with.

And that, unfortunately, is why hope is important.

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Haters gonna hate, or, why I made THAT video

It’s now been over a month since The Event. My eye no longer resembles a plum, Himself is able to cope without pain medication, and while I still have a lump on my bonce and he’ll be hopping around on crutches for a good while yet, life is slowly returning to normal.

There’s been no word from the police, and I’m not surprised, really. Given the lack of CCTV footage from traffic deterrent cameras that don’t actually record anything and only a single two-weeks-later eFit to go on, the only way we’ll ever see that scumbag brought to justice is if he gets pulled in for a subsequent crime and has a DNA swab taken. Also probably unlikely.

In light of all that, some people have asked me why I made that video. Trolls, mainly. Trolls insinuating that the video was a waste of time, that I was looking for attention, that I was trying to get hits on my blog. Trolls that also helpfully pointed out that my room was too messy and that I could’ve washed my hair. Trolls that thought the whole thing was bloody hilarious, subsequently making parody videos of ‘me’ bawling my eyes out and pleading pathetically with the camera.

I am no stranger to trolls, and so I have taken little notice of their ignorant bleatings. However, it is perhaps pertinent to actually address why I did make that video, given the seemingly slim likelihood of it having any tangible consequence.

#1 Actually, it might have had a tangible consequence

Who’s to say that one of my Twitter followers – or one of their followers – wasn’t in the area that night and saw a dodgy looking man scurrying away from the scene of the crime, and could shed some light on his appearance, or the direction he was heading? Is it statistically unlikely? Yep. Is it impossible? No. Not even a little bit. Thanks to Twitter, people have been reunited with wedding rings lost down the side of mountains, for fuck’s sake. Why would I overlook this potential avenue of information, no matter how small? And of course  I put the video on my blog – from there it’s extremely easy to contact me, and that’s where the traffic already goes anyway. Social media!

#2 I’m not going cry about it

I made that video three days after the attack. The police were dragging their heels and Andy was still in hospital. I was alone, and I was angry. The kind of angry that courses through your veins and clouds your vision. The kind of angry that makes your chest swell and your breathing irregular. The kind of angry that consumes you, if you’re not careful.

I’m not the sort of person that sits in the corner and mopes about the shit hand that life deals, so I had to do something. And with my limited resources I made a video, which was not only shared thousands and thousands of times (thus increasing the chances of someone coming forward with information), but also kicked the local police into gear thanks to the press coverage it received. If my bruised mug hadn’t been slapped all over the local papers and news sites, I might well still be waiting for them to take a statement. By actively doing something I helped to shunt this thing along, and preserved my own sanity in the immediate aftermath of it all.

#3 So actually, yeah, I did want the attention

…because I wanted people to see what had happened, and to get angry about it – to get angry about the fact that they live in a society where people do this to each other, and to get angry about the fact that one young man’s life has been trashed because they live in a society where degenerates consistently get away with this shit. Feel sorry for me if you like, but I don’t want your pity. I want you to be angry with me.

Incidentally, I assure you that I’m less-than-happy about making my visual debut looking like an actual sack of crap. If I’d wanted attention in the traditional sense, dear Trolls, then perhaps I would’ve at least washed my hair – AS YOU SO HELPFULLY POINTED OUT.

#4 But it’s not even about me

Yep, I got punched in the face and it fucking hurt, but the video wasn’t about me being punched in the face. It was about everyone who has ever been punched in the face, or had their legs broken, or worse, and has had to deal with the indescribable frustrations that follow. It was my way of putting my hand up and saying ‘Yep, this has happened and it shouldn’t have. But I’m not going to be quiet, and I’m not going to be a victim. Let’s talk about this’.

And talk about it, people did. Even now – over a month later – I’m still getting kind emails and tweets from people that have picked up on the story. The majority are from people who have had similar experiences, or are equally frustrated with their seemingly impotent hopes for justice, and yes, it’s depressing; each case of assault is merely a drop in the ocean of crime. However, nearly every single person who has approached me with their own tale has said the same thing. “Thank you for making that video. It made me feel much stronger, and less like a victim.”

And that’s why I made that video.

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Please help me find my attacker

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In defence of smokers

So it’s Stoptober. National No Smoking Day, it seems, is not enough to fill smokers across the nation with self-loathing, misery and anger, and now we have an entire awareness month dedicated to highlighting the dangers of smoking, and urging those that do to just, y’know, quit already.

Smoking is nasty. It makes your clothes stink, your teeth yellow, your nails brittle and your wallet empty (but it does contribute £9.5 billion to the National Treasury – just sayin’!). There is not a single smoker alive that’s unaware of the dangers of smoking. Even those that have never been exposed to the scary ‘YOU’RE GONNA DIE’ campaigns know it – they can tell by the tightness in their chest when they wake up in the morning, or their shortness of breath climbing the stairs.

The smoking epidemic is not caused by a lack of understanding of its dangers, I promise you.

The reasons people start smoking are many and varied: peer pressure, curiosity, boredom… But I’ll tell you what, that first drag of a first-ever cigarette is the most horrendous thing in the world. Imagine every hangover you’ve ever had, packed into thirty seconds. And yet, people continue puffing away, despite the horrific feeling. And even when they’ve persevered for so long that it becomes pleasurable, they still experience that horrific feeling, albeit in a different form.

The feeling that they know they’re killing themselves, that they’re upsetting their loved ones and that they’re viewed as lepers by society. The feeling that they’re viewed as weak, stupid and ignorant. The feeling that they are utterly subservient to a tiny white stick which is genuinely ruining their lives, but are powerless to resist it.

But why? Just bung on a nicotine patch and grow some balls, right? Sure, for some people that works, and bloody good on ‘em, because beating nicotine addiction is harder than any non-smoker will ever know. But for most people, it goes way, way beyond simple chemical addiction.

For many people, smoking is a crutch. When life goes to balls, cigarettes are there to get you through. They offer a momentary respite from the hysterics of life, and make the smoker feel good, confident even – not in the act of smoking (glamorised in the ‘50s, for example), but in the calm and focus that the cigarette appears to bring.

For many people, smoking fills a void in their lives. In the same way that drink, drugs, sex and food can all be abused in order to cover cracks in the psyche, so too can cigarettes.

They are ‘friends’ that will never leave you, or let you down. They provide a warm, familiar embrace no matter what. They do, in part, define one’s identity; individuals that have smoked all their adult life may not know ‘who they are’ without them, or believe that they can’t cope without a cigarette to restore balance to their frantic, over-wrought minds.

And yet all the while, smokers are on the back foot, constantly slaving away to little white cancer sticks desperately trying to attain the mental balance that non-smokers already have, hating themselves more (even subconsciously) all the time for it.

I’m not trying to making smoking okay, because it isn’t. But there’s so much more to cigarette addiction that an ignorance of the health issues involved. And continually having that argument rammed home by non-smokers that have no idea of the factors at play makes smokers angry, defensive and stressed. And so the cycle continues.

* Note: I grew up hating my parents for being smokers, before becoming one myself in my late teens, so I’ve been on both sides of the fence.

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Your magic number, and how it affects your life

What’s your magic number? Don’t be shy, you can tell me. After all, the more openly and frankly we can discuss it the less taboo the topic, right? I’ll go first: mine was 63 the last time I checked. I never used to bother keeping track, to be honest, because I didn’t think it made much difference to who I am as a person. Apparently, though, that’s not the case, and the higher, the better.

I’m talking about Klout scores. Yep, those seemingly-meaningless Ks ‘awarded’ to your online personality on the basis of social influence.

I’ve just checked my Klout profile for the first time in some weeks to see a message telling me that a friend has given me ‘+K about IKEA’. It’s true, I have in my time waxed lyrical about the blue and yellow homeware Mecca, but usually only along the lines of ‘Yay, meatballs FTW’ or, most likely, ‘Lost in textiles. Send help.’ Do these banal musings give me any authorityon the subject of IKEA? Not even a little bit.

Except I don’t, really

Klout – of its own accord and with no input from human people – also thinks I’m influential on the following topics: Cairo, Heaven, Arkansas, Skype and Gilmore Girls. Three of those are places I’ve never been to (I’m not sure I’ve even ever said the word ‘Arkansas’), one is a piece of software that I’ve used twice in the last year and the last is one of the world’s stupidest TV shows which my housemates quite like and I’ve watched for the grand total of 12 minutes (there are SEVEN seasons of it, by the way). My references to these topics online are basically non-existent, yet according to Klout, I’m in the know.

So what, right? Isn’t Klout just more dotsam and netsam floating about the internet ether, taking up space and hoarding your details after you sign in once for a laugh, never to return? Alas, no. Your magic K score is set to play a bigger role in your life than you might think.

Take, for example, news that a Florida State University professor will be grading students based on their Klout scores. Or this piece from Marketing guru Kerry Gorgone, who says that employment discrimination based on Klout scores – while illegal – does actually happen. Or my own personal experience, where for weeks I tried to get in touch with an editor at a well-known lifestyle website to pitch an idea, and after contacting an existing contributor for some advice, was told that one of the main reasons she got the job was because of her Klout score?

At the time, my Klout score was a very average 56 (or thereabouts) – pretty standard for someone who spends a fair bit of time online ranting and raving in a fashion which is occasionally deemed amusing enough for a retweet. Now though, as I said earlier, my score is 63. This coincides, I imagine, with the increased number of followers I’ve acquired of late (hello, by the way); nearly 200 over the last two weeks. And how have I acquired said followers? Through witty observations? Groundbreaking political analysis? Compelling storytelling? Maybe, but it’s more likely down to the fact that I posted that bloody picture of a mysterious Clementine, which was subsequently retweeted 1,300 times and favourited by 350 people.

Thanks to Simon and the mystery Clementine, I now have a Klout score ‘worthy’ of academia and employment – aptitude, personality and skill set be damned.

I entirely understand that ours is an age of digital living, but if we’re judging one another’s merits on the basis of an arguably flawed and intangible social metric, we might as well give up trying to be good at anything in real life, because what will it matter if it’s not reflected in the special Ks that are going to form the basis of accomplishment in the future?

Perhaps I would be less irked by this, the zeitgeist’s latest mind-boggling offering, if I at least believed there was some semblance of reliability behind the number crunching. But until Klout concedes that I know sweet FA about Heaven and can contextualise my ‘influence’ with some kind of ‘She basically just got lucky with a viral pic!’ icon, I am not convinced.

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Simon and the Mystery Clementine

Yesterday evening, after a hard day at Carnival and in pursuit of some nourishment to stave off inevitable scurvy, I squirrelled into a multi-pack bag of clementines, purchased the day before at Sainsbury’s, Tooting.

As I absent-mindedly shuffled into the living room, I noticed that the fruit I had selected was particularly squishy. No huge cause for alarm, but on giving it a gentle shake, it jingled. Pretty sure fruit isn’t supposed to do that. On closer inspection, I noticed a very precise slice around its circumference:

With a gentle squeeze, the clementine’s peel popped open, revealing this:

And now I’m slap bang in the centre of one of the greatest fruit mysteries ever to befall Tooting. Who is Simon? What does he WANT? Why has he paid 40p for a clementine from a £1.50 multi-pack? Is he rich? IS THIS A TREASURE HUNT?

THE FACTS:

  • The multi-pack was purchased from Sainsbury’s, Tooting, on Sunday morning, for £1.50.
  • The bag had no obvious signs of having been tampered with.
  • The cut around the clementine was precise, and the fruit within had been removed cleanly. This is a man who knows fruit.
  • The skin had been gently resealed with what I guess is probably glue stick. HOWEVER, is it possible that the swift resealing following the fruit removal could be attributed to the skin’s natural bonding agents? Fruit experts?

My initial tweet has now been retweeted nearly 1,200 times (by far my most popular tweet ever – a damning indictment of the banality of my standard musings). Can we #FindSimon? I owe him, like, 7p, or something.

Also, a few Poirots on Twitter have called ‘fake’ because there’s a pen in the original picture. Far be it from me to question this insight but I’d say that the presence of a pen in the photograph is unlikely to have any bearing on its authenticity. Pens are, after all, everywhere. That, and the fact that our kitchen table is always covered in junk.

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On overdrafts

I am a freelance creative person living in London. In my parents’ eyes, I spend my days floating around huge airy offices with ergonomic furniture and ‘break out’ rooms, eating free pastries and putting important information into my top-of-the-range mobile phone. They imagine I am friends with an array of exotic personalities, and that in the evenings we swan around the capital’s fashionable party hotpots and talk about plans for the next big thing and have adventures and ride bikes by the Thames.

My folks live in a rural backwater where the (only recently installed) broadband is powered by mice in windmills, and therefore they have a skewed perception of life for young people in the swarming metropolis of this fair city. Which, of course, could not be further from the truth.

The reality for myself and many of my compadres is one of living hand to mouth, with plates of value pasta heaped with cheese in between. A far cry from the trendy bars of central London, we are more likely to frequent our questionable local pub, lament the extortionate prices and then get so smashed in despair that one of us puts a card behind the bar and wakes up to an impending month of famine.

We are not alone. The city is bursting with creative types – writers, artists, film makers – that subsist on an erratic income, every month paying through the nose for the privilege of living in a city that offers a faint glimmer of hope for career development. And those not lucky enough to have a foot in the door of an established company, or those that have long-since relinquished their chequebook for the Bank of Mum and Dad, have a very similar financial story. Probably not unlike this one, in fact, penned by a friend who – *gasp* – is not taking great pleasure in being in an unrelenting avalanche of debt. Go on, read it. It’s full of LOLs. And then come back here. I have wisdom to impart. I’ll concede it’s not the most ground-breaking advice, but it helped Becklaa a bit and maybe it’ll help you, too. HELPING!

I was sad to hear that her bank had offered her such appalling advice. No doubt the drone dishing it out has relayed the same FSA-approved speech to countless others, who have all gone home equally dejected and miserable.

In any case, I was pleased to be able to offer her a small nugget of overdraft-related insight, which, by her own admission, proved way more helpful than anything the bank said (although I didn’t say anything about her hair. BECK YOUR HAIR LOOKS GOOD BTW).

If you’re living out of your overdraft, it’s bloody hard work keeping up with what’s going in, what’s going out, how much money you have, and indeed have access to. You’re living in a world of negative numbers and the backwards crawl towards zero is a tough, miserable slog. Any feeling of accomplishment in making a payment towards the black quickly evaporates when your phone bill payment comes out, or you end up putting your card behind the bar because you drank yourself into an inane, grinning oblivion.

So, PRO TIP: open another account. Just a basic current account. No frills. NO OVERDRAFT. Just the most standard, non-singing, non-dancing account you can find. Put your wages or salary into that one every month, and move your direct debits and standing orders over too. In a sense, abandon your debt-ridden overdraft account, so that nothing – not one single bean – is coming out of it.

Now, in this new account,you have the benefit of seeing, in actual real positive numbers, how much money you have, and how much money you have at the end of the month, if any at all. It will at least afford you the opportunity to see what you’re actually spending, and how that makes a dent in your income, which might at least prompt a rethink about your spending habits.

From this new account, siphon off as much as you can spare into your old overdraft account. But that’s it. Put money in where you can, even if it’s just a fiver a month, and don’t take anything out. This way you have a much clearer and realistic picture of your debt, plus a framework for hitting debt-shifting targets. Instead of floating around in an intangible red sea of constantly escalating and declining numbers, you can see, at a glance, where you’re at with it, and – importantly – are able to potentially gauge a date for that happy moment when you’re out of your overdraft. It might be next year, it might be in ten years. Doesn’t matter. At least you’re in control of it.

And once you’ve cleared it, ring up your bank and tell them to close the account. Get CLOSURE on your debts. And if you’re with the same bank as my girl Becky, tell them to go fuck themselves, too.

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