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Archive for the ‘Prose’ Category

    

“I was an altar boy, a spokesperson for the Virgin Mary, I was a choir boy but then, at the age of 14, I discovered masturbation and all that went out the window.”    

Guillermo Del Toro, Oscar-nominated director of Pan’s Labyrinth.    

      

Pie shagging - crossing the line or innovative?

Ask a teenage boy what his plans are for this weekend and he will politely utter something about football, computer games, and perhaps – if hankering for cash – his homework. When replying, it is likely that his gaze will drift towards the floor, while he sweeps his left foot in a slow, circular motion; his voice may sound drained, his frame uncertain, the eyes hooded and the face bearing the gaunt, haunted look of a serial wrist-twister, a young recruit trying to manage his joyful shame and protect the dark arts of male adolescence from entering the public arena. Just like his father, grandfather and every other man in his family, he is at once the shareholder, director, bastion and patron of a time-honoured institution whose origins date back to the Victorian era, an equal opportunities employer that doesn’t care what you did during your gap year, won’t judge you for watching Fearne Cotton Meets Peaches Geldof and doesn’t require you to get dressed before seeking its counsel; I am, of course, talking about pornography.    

Me Tarzan, You Porn     

Changed a bit since my day

Porn as we know it is undergoing a radical change, with lewd content accessible at the click of a button through imaginatively named sites such as You Porn, Free Porn and Porn Hub. Combine this with the seemingly limitless potential for developing interactive technology, and it is clear that we are about to lose one of the key stages in male development: the purchase of a pornographic publication.    

Prior to the modern age of mass internet usage, tangible collections of porn were accumulated and stored safely at the back of a wardrobe, or –more comically – in a locked briefcase (more on this later). Despite being the ubiquitous face of shameful flesh-pressing, you wouldn’t find arty wank-fodder such as Playboy in these collections – no, this was the land of Knave, Razzle, the occasional Club International (if you had some of last week’s pocket money left over) and foreign publications accumulated from French exchange trips, publications that shunned political comment, art reviews and commercial endorsements in favour of cover-to-cover indecency, wildly imaginative ghost-writing and value for money; Ronseal porn, as I like to think of it.    

Top shelf, ten silver Lambert & Butler, a lighter and a bottle of Doctor Pepper please    

I would be lying if I said I remembered my first and only purchase of top-shelf literature as if it were yesterday, however the memory is fresh enough to paint a reasonably faithful picture.    

What will it be old chap?

The scene was a tawdry newsagents’ not far from my old school gates, the kind of ramshackle outfit you’d feel uncomfortable entering for a cartoon of semi-skimmed milk and a loaf of bread, and therefore perfect for underage purchases. I remember being on edge, pacing outside for several minutes, while my friend Barry (a porn veteran whose name I have changed to protect his identity) convinced me that the aged shopkeeper wouldn’t so much as flinch when conducting the exchange; however his words washed over me, my mind already analyzing the stigma of rejection. I remember my voice quivering as I asked for a copy of Razzle and a can of Iron-Bru, a crisp five-pound note glistening in my sweaty paw. To be fair to the bloke, he could have played up, stalling the transaction with banal questions designed to watch me squirm, but instead he acted as if I was any other punter, turning a blind eye to my boyish looks, and handing over the merchandise without delay. As I left clutching my sinful cargo, I felt confused. On the one hand, I was ashamed of being complicit in an illegal activity, while on the other, the sense of rapture about joining the elite club of porn owners could not be underestimated.    

An unlikely role model

On this sole foray into pornographic ownership, I had expected to be quizzed about my age but mercifully I was spared the humiliation of having to remember my fake date of birth. Barry, however, wasn’t one to take chances and went so far as to wear a wig when buying smokes, porn or booze. The wig itself was a ghastly mess of black synthetics, probably put together lovingly in an Asian sweatshop, complete with pointy sideburns – think the hairpiece lovechild of Noel Gallagher and Vernon Kay and you’re on the right track. When worn, the individual looked utterly ridiculous. Barry had offered it to me for my purchase, but the itching was too much, and my vanity wouldn’t allow it.    

Over the years that followed, my friends and I amassed a significant collection of varied porn, much of it first-hand purchases, with the remainder comprising cast away offerings found in parks, woods and other unexpected locations. To a female unversed in the murky underworld of male progression, the acquisition of scraps of boob found in public places will seem unfathomable, beastly and unhygienic, which of course it is. I can perhaps only rationalise it as an animal instinct, a pull of nature justifiable only inside the horn-riddled mind of a fledging stag.    

The collection was safely stored in a green A4 pouch, affectionately referred to as “The Folder”, and was a communal document, liberally passed between acquaintances, free of charge. Most of the time, however, The Folder could be found at one particular residence (the individual concerned affectionately referred to as the Porn Baron), safely hidden inside a briefcase, and protected by a numerical code – possibly the most extreme example of parental evasion I have ever come across. As the months went by, The Folder became malnourished; pages disappeared, and what had started as a prized bounty became a shambolic heap of loose sheets, including the adventures of a scantily clad lion tamer, and the summer picnic adventures of Sarah and Geoff. The Folder also endured its fair share of mockery with one friend, who had recently entered a relationship, deeming it surplus to requirements. It took less than a week for him to repent and put in a verbal request for its return. As recently as last year, my friend was clearing out his old bedroom when his girlfriend uncovered The Folder, hiding masterfully at the back of his wardrobe, undetected for countless years, yet ever a stoical presence, like the waiting wife of a serviceman.    

While I am able to look back on these times with a nostalgic fondness, today’s generation will have only web links and databases as memories, unaware of the adversity their elders had to overcome to enjoy a night’s self-abuse. I think it is time we stood up as a nation and took a stance: fuck global warming, the war on terror and the recession, they can wait. In the meantime, let’s get our kids back to where they belong – on the streets buying porn.    

Porn to the People:   

Every little helps...

 1. “Porn for Schools Vouchers” – an innovative spin on the successful supermarket sport in schools campaign. When shopping in the leading supermarkets, parents will be able to collect vouchers which schools can then exchange for porn. Weekly classes would be held where teachers and pupils would discuss the finer points of top-shelf entertainment, with compulsory homework including the purchase of a jazz mag.    

2. “Top Humps” – special print of the favourite card game, with each card bearing a front-page image of a timeless skin mag. Each card has points allocated in respect of price, number of boobs, creative writing, quality and number of pages.    

3. “Porn for Life” – removal of the current range of re-usable bags from circulation and replacement with highly provocative alternatives, including sexual imagery and slogans.    

4. “The Ass-prentice” – reality TV show hosted by Larry Flint, in which the country’s brightest young journalists compete against one another to land a top publishing job at Hustler magazine. Guest panelists Ron Jeremy and Jenna Jameson are on hand to offer Flint guidance as he eliminates participants on a weekly basis with his catchphrase, “You need stamina in this business, and you ain’t got it – You’re Tired.”

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Would you believe me if I said it was shaving foam?

Mrs. Gloop: [Augustus is covered in chocolate] Augustus, please don’t eat your fingers!

Augustus Gloop: [licks his fingers] But I taste so good!”

– Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl.    

Ah, little Augustus, synonymous with children’s love for chocolate. I can still remember sitting in the back of my mother’s car, driving past the local sweet shop, and announcing that when I was old enough to earn money I would spend it all on Mars bars and nothing else, except maybe the odd Bounty (a criminally underrated item of chocolate). As I child, I used to love chocolate, perhaps only marginally less than championship manager, table tennis and pornography. How times change (except for the devotion to table tennis, of course).

In my ascent towards thirty, chocolate no longer has the appeal it once did; chocolate has been replaced by real ale, darts and second-hand books. Sure, I’ll tuck into a Cadbury’s Double Decker every once in a while, but rarely more than twice a month which seems ludicrous compared to the lustful times of my youth. However, last Friday I relapsed and gobbled a Double Decker at lunch, followed by a Crunchie from the work vending machine during the afternoon. As I opened the wrapping for each bar, I found myself doing something unusual – I studied the consistency. The Double Decker: half biscuit at the bottom, nougat at the top; the Crunchie: pure honeycomb, no other constituents save for a tawdry layer of chocolate. OK nothing wrong, per se, with the established combinations, but it got me thinking – what defines a chocolate bar?

In the evening that followed, myself and a colleague discussed the issue at length over an Indian and several pints of Kingfisher, trying to identify the characteristics that distinguished a chocolate bar from, say, a chocolate biscuit or chocolate wafer. Sparks flew, fists were nearly thrown and the following were identified. Don’t let anyone tell you we don’t know how to party.

Size of the bar

To qualify as a chocolate bar, a rectangular size is essential. A Crème Egg will, of course, not cut it, although the recent Crème Egg bar will pass through security. Potential flies in ointment include a Toblerone with its knobbly pyramid top, but this is just a smoke screen as the object is clearly a rectangle. Other comestibles excluded from the club include Maltesers, Minstrels and M&M’s, which are best described as entry level chocolate, before the student moves onto the serious world of Bourborn, and Fruit and Nut.

Why will only a rectangle do? Well, consider the chocolates received at the end of an Indian meal: sugary, hint of orange, nasty taste in the mouth, proud gold trim wrapping, and always square – a chocolate every time, lacking as they do the phallic girth to qualify as a bar.

Another problem area is the recent introduction of “duel bars”, a shameless marketing rip-off aimed at duping the consumer into thinking they have two items of chocolate, when the combined duo is exactly the same size as an old-school single bar. In any event and while arguable whether one part of a duo bar would be considered a chocolate bar on its own terms, one has to consider the two as a whole, as that is the way they are sold – ergo, clearly a bar.

Content

Assuming the item delivers on size, the next stage is to review the substance. If the bar is encased with chocolate, the fat lady’s loosening her belt and ready to squeal; however, it at this point that problems arise.

Chocolate Biscuit – Take the example of a Club Bar – a staple morning break snack for children of a certain generation boasting a satisfying array of flavours including my personal favourites, orange and fruit (incidentally, type in ‘club biscuit flavours’ on Google and marvel at the level of description in some of the entries, one of which describes the current Club biscuit as “a shadow of its former self” with “the glamorous packaging, which lent itself to not one but two small origami dogs, now a cellophane sachet”). Despite formerly having a generous chocolate coating, the middle is pure biscuit and cannot be considered a chocolate bar.

Chocolate Wafer – Wafer bars are generally gash, the best example being the Blue Ribbon – the Lidle of childhood snacks; if you had one of those in your lunchbox, chances are you spent most of the week ravaged by hunger, applying Clearasil to your face and getting beaten up by the lockers. I remember my mum trying to sneak one into my bag on occasions and I told her in no uncertain terms to buy me a bag of Trios. The problem with the Blue Ribbon was both the feebleness of the wafer, which dissolved in the mouth without effort, and the shoddiness of the chocolate. While that’s not to say there aren’t one or two good wafer bars out there (Turnocks), they definitely aren’t chocolate bars.

The rule, then, comes down to the percentage of biscuit or wafer. Where the biscuit/wafer comprises 50% or more of the entire product, I would submit this to be a chocolate biscuit; for example, a Boost has always been known as a chocolate bar and if you tally up the weight of chocolate and caramel against pure biscuit, the level of biscuit probably falls below this threshold. A Kit-Kat is a little more controversial, but most likely a chocolate bar as the amount of wafer is minimal compared to the total amount of chocolate coverage, even with a Kit-Kat chunky.

As for Wagon Wheels, answers please on a postcard.

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Rab C Nesbitt

Yuz looking at mae ca' of tenants pal?

If the papers are to be believed, your working day presently consists of snogging a Tesco value bottle of whiskey, and contemplating going on the game to pay the lecky. If not, I reckon you’ve got another month, tops, before you’re showing your naked rump to a pensioner for a fiver. So perhaps I shouldn’t brag about the penthouse in Monaco that I’ve just bought. That would be cruel, and possibly a little fanciful bearing in mind my recent demotion to a four-day working week. But, you see, I’m learning to embrace the bad times. What other option is there? Besides, I don’t need money: as long as I’ve got some darts, a laptop and a few cans of cider I’m as happy as Rick Waller at a Mr Kipling open day.

However, I’ve become aware that my attitude is exceptional and that fear is prevalent. I even heard a rumour that bakeries were warning customers not to eat large sausage rolls in public because they were at a high risk of being stolen by starving children. Shocking.

To help you through these tough times, I’ve racked my brain for a few suggestions that might be of practical help:

1.    Trade in the other half

If you ditch your partner, I confidently predict that you will make significant savings. No more presents, no surprise gestures, no romantic nights at KFC and no more tacky Valentine’s day cards. It all adds up.

If that approach is too drastic, try downsizing. If your partner’s generously proportioned, try your hand at picking up a more slender model. In theory, you should save money on nights out, both at dinner (less appetite) and in a nightclub (more of a lightweight). I was going to suggest that you might also save on toothpaste, but that’s definitely controversial.

Warning – you may have to sacrifice attractiveness in pursuit of this objective, but the likelihood of this will vary from case to case.

2.    Buy short-sleeved shirts

I recently asked Clare whether she thought a short-sleeved shirt cost less than the traditional long-sleeved shirt. A fair question, I’m sure you will agree. In support of my case, unfailing logic: less material, therefore less cost. Clare, however, was not convinced despite my best arguments. Thanks to the delights of the internet, we didn’t have to wait long for an answer. A set of 3 long-sleeved shirts from Marks and Spencer: £19.50, a set of 3 short-sleeved shirts from Marks and Spencer: £18. So, there we are: a genuine money saving tip, although I should include an important caveat: short sleeved-shirts make you look like a tool.

3.    Buy Y fronts instead of boxers (gents only)

As for the principal – see 2, above.

Warning – added risk of chafing, and not flattering on a rotund gent.

4.    Have a baby (woman only, assuming no rapid medical advances)

The ultimate card in a game of recession top trumps. If you become pregnant, you won’t be made redundant and, by the time you return to work, it’s a fair bet that the economy will be in a healthier state than when you left.

Warning – in the long term, it’s true to say that having a child can be a costly business. On the plus side, you’ll have someone to eat Werther’s Original with during your old age, just like the adverts.

6.    Change your attitude

I have trouble taking serious people seriously. They worry me. Life is funny and perverse, how else can you reconcile the success of The Krankies. Once you’ve accepted this basic principal, you’ll feel liberated and won’t be bothered if you lose your job.

7.    Stroke a baby’s head

This will provoke a cosy sense of wellbeing, and you will momentarily forget about your troubles.

Warning – get consent from the parent before attempting this in public. Getting entered on the sex offenders register is NOT cool.

8.    Take up bowls

Lost your job and have too much time on your hands? Ever wanted to be a world champion? Surely no other sport (perhaps a little generous – you could smoke whilst playing it) could offer such a chance to Joe Public. If a19 year-old pikey from Torquay can be the English singles champion, surely we’ve all got a shout.

Warning – people might think you are a loser.

9.    Embrace comedy

Self-explanatory.

See this link for a classic couple of scenes from the Wedding Crashers http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7maf2xP1Rdg

And a bit of Flight of the Conchords for the uninitiated

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pPyuZ6ZTqmo

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Andy Fordham

"Before a match I like to relax with 25 bottles of Holsten Pils and 6 steak 'n kidney pies."

– Andy Fordham, 2004 BDO World Champion, writing on his myspace page in 2007.

My English teacher always advocated the use of a quote at the start of an essay; something succinct to give the reader a grasp of what was to follow without giving the game away. When this point was first made, I thought I could see a logic and spent hours with my heard buried in obscure reference and quotation books looking for a couple of pre-fabricated sentences to lift my paper into the higher echelons of respectability. However on cynical reflection and with a few more years on the clock, I can see that both I and my fellow classmates were being cruelly duped. The real reason for an opening quote is idleness; the fear of procrastinating over the structure of an opening sentence. The security of a guaranteed opener removes this cloud of concern, and allows the writer to waffle on for a few paragraphs, fooling the reader into thinking that what he or she is reading is the end result of a month’s hard graft.

A good example of the distracting opening quote can be found in Lunar Park by Brett Easton Ellis: a deliciously dark and surprisingly complex novel with Ellis the central character, battling against the breakdown of his marriage, his own celebrity and the troubled relationship with his deceased father. I cannot recommend it highly enough. The novel begins with Ellis reflecting on the art of the opening sentence or paragraph, fondly recalling the brevity of his one line start to Less Than Zero.

– “People are afraid to merge on freeways in Los Angeles” – and lamenting the overly complicated openings of his subsequent works. For example, American Psycho beings with:

“Abandon all hope ye who enter here is scrawled in blood red lettering on the side of the Chemical Bank near the corner of Eleventh and First and is in print large enough to be seen from the backseat of the cab as it lurches forward in the traffic leaving Wall Street and just as Timothy Price notices the words a bus pulls up, the advertisement for Les Miserables on its side blocking his view, but Price who is with Pierce & Pierce and twenty-six doesn’t seem to care because he tells the driver he will give him five dollars to turn up the radio, “Be My Baby” on WYNN, and the driver, black, not American, does so.”

For Lunar Park, Ellis knowingly mocks the process by making the opening sentence a quote from Lunar Park:

“You do an awfully good impression of yourself.”

This is the first line of Lunar Park and in its brevity and simplicity it was supposed to be a return to form, an echo, of the opening line from my debut novel, Less Than Zero.”

What this has to do with darts is anyone’s guess, but I’ve successfully killed five hundred words by adlibbing an Andy Fordham quote, and I’ve remembered how much I like Brett Easton Ellis’ work, so I’m pretty happy.

Andy Fordham’s quote from 2007 will appeal to the darts cynics who dismiss the endeavours of Phil “The Power” Taylor and his contemporaries as a pub pastime, and the colleague who – without any evidence – asserted last week that darts is incapable of being classified as a sport.

History

It is well known that during the growth of darts from the 60s to the 80s, heavy drinking (not to mention smoking) was a stable fixture at the oche. Think Jockey Wilson, with his jack-o-lantern grin bereft of teeth, lurching himself at the board with a fag dangling from his mouth, bolting pints in between throws; this was accepted practice, but darts has cleaned up its act to become one of Sky Sports’ ace cards. Pints of bitter have been replaced by half pints of water, and smoking was cut out long before the national smoking ban was introduced. The British Darts Organisation (BDO), whose annual championship is shown on BBC, has been replaced by the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC), the premier darts organisation with tournaments and league games shown weekly on Sky Sports – it’s big business, but is it a sport?

Definition of a Sport

If you scour Wikipedia and the seemingly bottomless pit of online dictionaries, you will uncover a host of suggested meanings. Most cite the need for there to be a physical exertion, but the line – it must be said – is blurred.

Golf – for example – is widely credited as a sport, but why? Can it be said that a pre-requisite to playing the game is the requirement of physical prowess, or a toned physique? True, Tiger Woods is an admirable physical specimen, but there are others on the circuit – Colin Montgomery, for example – who carry a few additional pounds and still make it to the top. Therefore, as a general rule, fitness is not a necessity in professional golf. Looking back at my school days, I recall golf being played by the more rotund pupils who weren’t able to make their mark at rugby, football, tennis e.t.c. that is to say, it was a back up sport for those unable to partake successfully in the more rigorous pursuits. Those same pupils would often be found playing cricket, which – were it not for the fast bowling aspect – could be deemed to fall short on the physical exertion test.

It has been said that if you can smoke while doing it, then it will not be a sport. Applying this mantra, the following would be excluded from the definition of sport without controversy: golf, curling, polo, snooker and – it must be said – darts. More controversially, I would submit that the following can be enjoyed while smoking: rowing, weight lifting, table tennis, skiing, running, horse racing, cycling and most other forms of athletics.

Skill

In fact, athletics takes the argument forward. My appreciation of sport involves the recognition of skill and talent. It goes without saying that successful participants in major sports – Roger Federer, Lionel Messi, Daniel Carter – possess these attributes in abundance, with superb hand eye coordination being the shared feature. Tiger Woods, too, is a genius in his field and no sensible individual could argue against top golfers possessing a wide array of unique skills.

On the other hand, the majority of athletic events involve no talent. Take the 100 metres, for example, where the nation as one celebrated Usain Bolt’s Olympic feats, having failed to notice that all he did was run in a straight line. True, he did it faster than anyone else in the world but where is the talent? Yes, there is an incredible amount of hard work, allied with God-given physical attributes, but there is no skill there. The same can be said for cycling and swimming. Athletics is best thought of as a collection of playground pastimes: jumping, hopping, running e.t.c.

However – just to show how fine the dividing line – it must be said that hurdling must be considered separately from running, if only for the fact that an appreciation of timing is needed, but I do not consider the level of skill required enough to make it a sport.

Then there are a few wildcards. Take surfing, largely considered a leisurely pastime, but on closer inspection it is surely one of the most difficult sports to master, for top surfers not only extol an extreme amount of physical exertion, they boast a wide array of skills, from balance to timing.

Darts

The parallels with golf and snooker are clear: these are events requiring an extraordinary amount of precision, an appreciation of distance and time. Head to youtube and watch Phil Taylor and Raymond Van Barneveld rattle in 9 dart legs of 501 (throws of 180, 180 and 141) and try and have a go yourself. It will never happen. My personal highlight of recently throwing a 15 dart leg (100, 180, 26, 140 and 55) was the exception rather than the norm, whereas the top players boast 100 plus point averages with anything greater than a 15 dart leg considered poor darts on the PDC circuit.

As a contrast, try running in a straight line and you will be able to do it, and the more you do it the faster you will become. With darts, however, it is not a case of more practice making you better; many will be barred from reaching a higher level because they do not intuitively understand the mechanics of the throw, much like the mechanics of a golf swing or stroke of a snooker cue, and so will be unable to master it.

Conclusion

It seems to me that the litmus test for sport comes down to the following:

1.    Does the activity involve a degree of continuous physical commitment; and

2.    Does the activity require a unique skill or skills.

The criteria are, I think, fair allowing darts and (just about) snooker to the sporting table while excluding chess and other mind based games. However, it does have a failing, with sex, gardening and circus events arguably becoming sports; I say arguably, as there must be added a competitive element which would eliminate these particular “activities” from the sporting calendar, unless a world humping championship becomes accepted international sport.

Simon Barnes – the multi-award-winning chief sportswriter at The Times – has previously described Phil Taylor as the equal of Tiger Woods and any other sporting world champion, but alas this remains the opinion of the informed, rather than the opinion of the public and it is time that such attitudes should change. I would, in fact, be inclined to go a stage further and put Phil Taylor amongst other modern artists: Cormac McCarthy, JM Coetzee, Will Oldham, Neil Young and David Lynch – to name but a few – capable of excelling in their respective fields in such a way that leaves you happy to be given the opportunity to be observe or listen to their works.

Anyway, that’s me done. I’ll leave you with a link to a leg of darts between Phil Taylor and James “The Machine” Wade (one of my favourite players, incidentally) which is a fine example of two professionals at the peak of their powers. Just think: Chris Hoy got knighted for cycling in a straight line. And he sounds like a Chinese sexual position. Unbelievable.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ex9yRn0oOzg&feature=related

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