Memoirs: A football try-out

A Football Try-Out.

At the tender age of 9, full of beans and Heinz Spaghetti Hoops, I was bundled into the car and taken down to my first ever football training session. I loved the idea of football. I particularly loved the idea of slotting goals with pace and trickery in the mould of Michael Owen. Owen was a saintly figure in my mind, thoroughly doing it for the more vertically challenged of men, which I myself was destined to become. Michael stuck his stubby middle finger up to the sporting archetype of the tall Adonis, darting about at alarming speeds for a little white man.

So much was I ensnared by Michael Owen’s talents that – presumably after a particularly good IT lesson – I would even go home and create a PowerPoint presentation about how great a player he was. The PowerPoint would only ever be presented to myself. Children are strange creatures. With Custom Animations and Word Art aplenty, this faux pro-Owen conference merely delayed my crushing realisation that Michael Owen is, in fact, a total arse. Today, videos of him bullying a 13-year-old goalkeeper are readily available for all to see on YouTube. Each time he slots it past the poor child, every fibre of his being is filled with pure ecstasy, thus further swelling that big head of his. So much so, fellow responsible adult in the video, Neville Southall, feels compelled to say, “Well done… he’s thirteen”, to which Owen responds, “Game, set and match Owen!” The PowerPoint seems even sillier now. ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WqOxNspUPyE ).

Back to the golden child and my football try-out. Inspired by Michael Owen (the big phony) and transported by my dad, I turned up to the AstroTurf of Bemerton Heath Harlequins with eyes aglow and a tummy full of nerves. My palms were sweaty, knees weak and my arms were heavy. My sweater was stained with mom’s Heinz spaghetti already, though this was nothing to do with nerves nor football.

I’d probably score a hat trick, I supposed. Chat to the other boys, I thought, but not too much. They’re your competition. Do your skills, but not too much. You’re not that good (you actually are wicked but they haven’t seen you on the playground at lunchtime). Perhaps most importantly, show interest in actually playing football. That way, the coach will know how keen you are to compete in Salisbury’s special Badger League, home to the local area’s brightest young talents.

There was, however, something much more exciting going on. Way on up-high, a canopy of floodlights was beaming down onto the AstroTurf. Clustered into individual nests of four lights apiece, the resulting effect was that every young would-be Owen’s shadow was elongated and multiplied into quadruplets. Pivoting around a central point, the shadows transformed and bent when I cantered around gawping at the ground. This prancing about the sandy turf allowed me to make my own shadow puppet show and, like that, the plug was pulled. My attentions were entirely drained – away from football – towards AstroTurf choreography. Towards twirls and jumps and skids, towards pirouettes and spins. Towards a bit of Michael Jackson crotch-thrusting. With every move, a new contortion was projected onto the turf, with the immediacy required to waylay any child’s feeble capacity for concentration. This was shadow art of the highest order, and I was having a bloody whale of a time.

“RORY”,

I heard, bellowed from the side-lines. It was my father, no doubt impressed by the routine. I trotted over.

“If you wanted to dance, I’d have taken you to ballet class with your sister, mate. Why are you just jumping around on your own over there? Go and play football!”

Pfffffftt. Sure thing, Dad. He obviously just didn’t get it. I got it.

Time went by, the seasons changed; Michael Owen went to Real Madrid, and would later crash down to Newcastle and eventually Stoke. I spent 5 long years plying my trade in the Badger League.

Remarks: The Three Lions

A Reading of World Cup Fever.

Cometh men, women and children for the capitulation of our nation and its sporting crusade.

I speak, of course, about the island whose journeying countrymen sully the shores of every World Cup host nation, using chairs as artillery and doorways as pissers in a mist of sporting hoodlumery. These pilgrims will endeavour to wrestle England to its rightful place at the top of the football food chain, paying homage to Harry Maguire’s oversized skull and its ‘no nonsense’ heroics.

During the tournament, our chests bust wide with the pride we feel for our boys, buoyed by the lost love we hold for an ancient crest of arms, which sees us united by three African mammals sewn onto our sun-starved torsos. The national bond reaches fever pitch in the semi-final, when Kieran Trippier caresses a free kick into the top corner with all the grace of Pirlo in his latter, beardier days. Just like that, the boy from Bury secures himself a lifetime of free pints at any pub within our shores. (He probably doesn’t drink much). Beers are thrown everywhere, while new brotherhoods are forged nationwide in sticky circumstances. The same moist conditions prevail from Souf’ampton to Scunforp. Hell, even Swindon’s popping off.

But in these beery conditions, the atmosphere swings between passion and rage. The boys had better win…

Croatia can’t get the ball to Modrić, and so the game descends into a veritable creaming by Gareth and his lovely waistcoat. Unsurprisingly, the English finish their creaming prematurely at around the 68th minute, as if scripted. This comes as Perišić cunningly masquerades as someone who isn’t a very good winger by wearing the number 4 shirt. His breach of number protocol bears fruit, as he hammers home a pesky goal and England falls to its knees, its ego disintegrating before its eyes.

In a tragicomic dénouement, it’s the least stylish man in Croatian football who scores the winning goal and soils the reputation of everything English. The culprit is Mario Mandžukić, who – modelling the chosen hair of Year 9 boys circa 2009 – looks a lot like the guy selling cheap cocaine to tourists outside every central European nightclub ever. Just add a tight Armani t-shirt and black studded belt to complete the look. Imagine him shouting at you when you don’t buy. He’d probably kick you like he kicked that football into our goal, really bloody hard. And so, his soiling complete, he smears a big footballing skid mark on our swans, our pubs, Shakespeare, and our Crown Jewels.

Yet flip back to the ‘United’ Kingdom, and there’s a very real problem at hand. According to the latest statistics, Domestic Abuse rates increase by 38% whenever England lose. Serving as a reality check, perhaps it’s time to stop viewing football as a space of conflict that rips us apart, but rather as a shared space that brings us together. It’s nice to see your country at the top level of football, but not to the detriment of people’s lives domestically. When it comes to English football, perhaps Mario Mandžukić should be the least of our worries.

Remarks: Music

Mine’s a Kronenbourg, mate.

 If, during your adolescence, Original Pirate Material played a role in the genesis of your musical palette, then you will have become adept at revelling in the mundane. Mundane is the domain, as you learn to value the snug, pleasant shiteness of everyday Britain.

With The Streets, it really is a lovely comfort for us to listen to an average bloke who extols the virtues of the greasy spoon and the triumphs of eating “plenty of scrambled eggs and plenty of fried tomatuh”. A guy who, confined to his greasy Brummy ends, worries about the right time to text his “bird” back, rather than rapping about Xanax and pretending that he’s been sleeping with your wife in some Gucci flip-flops. All he requires from his disciples is that they lock down their aerials, which would be pretty easy, should he one day provide them with a frequency.

In any boozer, the introductory skit from Who Got the Funk might ring through the beerdraggled backdrop of your mind, as Mike Skinner’s voice (½ gravel geezer, ½ gentle eunuch) tells the barman “Mine’s a Kronenbourg, mate.” It could be the guitar riff, but this simple phrase has a certain nonchalance, an essence of ‘geez’ that sticks in your head. It’s a boyish charm capable of convincing any young man that Kronenbourg is his favourite budget beer.

Sling yer hook, Stella. Fack off, Fosters. Mine’s a Kronenbourg. The beer that rules the nether zone between cheapskate lager and a quality pint. Sort of like Mike Skinner. Better than Carling, but maybe in the same league as Carlsberg. More geez than the average bloke, but still not the sort of Buckfast maniac who’d glass you outside Gala Bingo. The brand’s image gains appeal ten-fold when you think of Mike Skinner, distinguished pub alumnus and famed fry-up muncher. It’s enough to giddy the sheltered youth of Britain when they stop to ponder the organic shenanigans he lived through with said beer in his hand. He’s at once mundane and uplifting, like an acceptable weed poking through the cracks of soggy suburban pavement.

So you’re out with your mates, but you’re also out with Mike and his Kronies tonight. They run the Kronenbourg zone that’s within everyone’s grasp. Geezers can probably relate to his anecdotes, while kids from lavender-candled country homes can fetishize his grubby authenticity. It’s a tidy little endorsement.

Next time you’re at the pub, choose a Kronenbourg, mate – just for Mike. And get that aerial locked down.

 

Remarks: Male Grooming

The Lynx Effect.

Head to the “male grooming” aisle in Boots. Grab the mattest, blackest bottle of body wash on the shelf. Click in the lid and apply pressure, sneaking a dribbling peek at its insides. Viscous black matter lugs through the small opening. Now check the bottle. Anthony Joshua’s bulging, beefy physique, in monochrome silhouette. The suspicious treacle oozes into your fingers, as all of big AJ’s charm and success comes out to befriend your body. The word “YOU” anchors the image. Woah, this is “Limited Edition”?! Amazing.

An uneasy contradiction – called the Lynx effect – hangs awkwardly. The word “YOU” finds itself placed, rather despairingly, next to a photo of someone who definitely isn’t you. In fact he’s better than you. He’s Watford’s favourite bad boy-turned national icon. He’s 6 foot 5 and 113 kilograms of prime British beef. You reassess yourself. What are you, then? 68, maybe 69 kilograms? Generously round your height up to 5 foot 9 and you’re still far from prime beef.

He’s got a better face than yours. He’s biffed and banged better men than you on his way to the top, attaining success that you’ll never comprehend. Yet he’s had less opportunity than you. After further consideration, you might be a complete fuck up.

He steps coolly into the public sphere of the TV ‘chat show’, teeth ablaze with that whitest white, celebrity-grade smile, indulging every cheeky jibe made by Graham Norton. But don’t expect explicit arrogance. Far from the throwaway, thuggish rhetoric spouted by Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather et al., everything that comes from his mouth is so modest, so contrived, so sincere. The raw physical stature and non-verbal nonchalance of the man is the only tell-tale source of arrogance. AJ can afford to be understated when the average chump has to stand on his tippy toes and shout to be heard. The key to success according to Anthony Joshua?

“Just stay humble, man.”

Perfect. I’ll have to stay bloody humble in that case. Work on my skills of false modesty. And keep buying limited edition Anthony Joshua Lynx products. Probably should try and grow an extra foot and put on about fifty kilos of muscle as well. Bleach my teeth. Start wearing my retainers at night again. Floss. And finish my degree. He’d also say to never forget where you come from. It’s alright for him to say, coming from ‘London’, albeit Zone 7. It’s just not that cool to come from Wiltshire… please, let us forget about it. Let us forget about Swindon.

Whoever clocked that the key to marketing is the commodification of the ‘individual’ was a fucking genius… Find a male role model. Roll him out for your homoerotically-nuanced campaign as he lathers your body treacle on his torso, and watch the red mist gather as floods of furious virgins storm Boots. They’re here to buy your bodywash on their pilgrimage to the land of big biceps and gyal – the land of Anthony Joshua. You aren’t exempt from this farce – Anthony Joshua’s just a bloody nice guy. Handsome lad as well. You’ll take two bottles.

Memoirs: A ‘How To’ in Door-to-door

Door-to-door for Dummies

You’re 18 years old and living in Australia with one of your best mates. The stench rising from his feet is nothing less than woeful. The foot sweat, coaxed out by the sticky southern sun, has successfully embedded itself in the woven nylon of his Nike Blazers. His rejection of socks really is more than a hindrance. It’s a source of tension. The odour, entirely unpalatable, diffuses into every nook and cranny of your hostel room each morning and evening. And it’s all because he likes to let his feet ‘breathe’. Breathing: an interesting concept for feet if you’re not wearing flip flops, or ‘thongs’ as they call them in Australia. The bloody maniacs. Thankfully, it’s only the two of you who are exposed to this most malevolent of stinks every day.

After some of your finest millennial brown-nosing via email, the pair of you have finally blown the bloody doors off and landed the dream job. You’ve been given access to the inner sanctum of Australia itself. Finally, you’re door-to-door salesmen for one of the largest energy providers in the state of South Australia.

Following a fifteen-minute interview with an unkempt Briton named John, you’re officially ready to rip Australian energy a new one. Primed and ready to perform, you’re both baffled when you see that John, who looks like Austin Powers without the panache, seems to be married to a beautiful woman, whom you both agree he “doesn’t deserve”. He must have money or something. But not as much money as you’ll have after a few naughty sales

Every morning at work starts the same. An angry and sexually-charged Scottish lady named CJ scrawls motivational clichés onto a whiteboard in front of an exceptionally bland group of young people, who happen to be the sales team. It feels like being locked in a room of potatoes who’ve been dressed up in funny uniform and sent out to make money. One-by-one you go around in the big, misshapen circle of spuds and recite your ‘sales pitch’ for about half an hour until you’re given the all clear by CJ.

CJ, the marvellous woman who, while the dust settles in the pleasant afternoon, sends you all a motivational text. This text will generally say something along the lines of “KNOCK DOORS AND MAKE THOSE KNUCKLES BLEED”. There’s also your personal favourite, “RAPE AND PILLAGE! SELL SELL SELL!!!” Naturally, this second one really helps you get into the zone when you’re knocking on the doors of housewives with young families: “Hello there I’m Rory, I’m out on a fucking massive pillage of the local area! Excuse the blood on my knuckles”, etc.  Tell me that isn’t a guaranteed sale.

You’ve got to be a pretty weird guy to be good at this job. The foundation of success in this role is not leaving people’s homes when they ask you to. Knocking on the doors of people who automatically hate you is a pretty tragic process. What’s worse still is actually clinching that sale to make it all worthwhile.

As a normal person who can adequately decode non-verbal communication, when someone’s body language is telling you to fuck off and get off their property, your instinct tells you to do just that. But here, you become a quasi-autistic douchebag.

The friendliest of people, going above and beyond to be polite to the adolescent on their doorstep, might say:

“I’m very happy with my energy, thanks though!”

Well it serves them right for trying to be nice. This is your cue to become a petulant child:

“Well you can’t actually be happy with your energy as such – energy’s all the same, you should just be paying less. Can you please tell me exactly what you mean when you say you’re “happy” with your energy?”

You’re taught to do this, and it doesn’t feel great. If you do miraculously manage to get someone interested in your shitty offer – usually someone old and confused – sealing the deal is another game entirely. You’re invited into a charming old lady’s house. Shamanizing your inner brown-noser, you spout appeasing balderdash about Midsummer Murders for half an hour, slowly grooming your aged victim into the nightmare of slightly cheaper energy tariffs. Only to find that her daughter holds power of attorney, a legal cockblock which goes over your sweaty little head, scuppering the legality of any sale. You regret the Midsummer Murders chat.

Another time you’re ushered sheepishly into the home of a middle-eastern family. Leading you in is the 20-something daughter whose scowling dad doesn’t speak a word of English. Negotiations are positive in the hallway. So positive, in fact, that you’re shepherded to the floor of the living room to rest your arse beside the monolingual man. He seems keen enough on allowing you to spout your translated sales pitch. It’s important to mention that all verbal communication is, of course, mediated through the daughter. Meaning that reactions are both delayed and difficult to interpret.

As you place your weary behinds next to your two prospective clients, you both remove your shoes, gladly following etiquette. The malicious stench of your mate’s putrid feet snakes aggressively out to greet you, choking every orifice in the vicinity. This is, in fact, the only moment that doesn’t require third-party translation. Instead of following etiquette, you may as well have done a ‘dirty protest’ in the doorway. The man’s nostrils bunch, flaring as his eyes widen and redden with an appalled rage, settling on the soggy feet, the obvious source of the smell. This is followed by a series of shouts in Arabic, before you find yourselves being bundled out the house with a great deal of gusto. The stench will most likely linger for several days. It might’ve even snuck into the floorboards.

So, don’t bother letting your feet ‘breathe’ at work; suffocate them. They have horrible breath.

Memoirs: A Near-Death Experience

Boys and their bananas

 If you have a proclivity for showing off to your mates, you may want to think carefully about your next party trick.

If you’re going to attempt the classic ‘deepthroat an 8-inch banana to prove you don’t have a gag reflex’ trick, the balmy backdrop of Annecy’s mountains and lakes should be a prerequisite to ensure your audience’s shock and delight in equal measure.

Everyone nurtures hidden talents. Some people are double-jointed, blessed with heightened flexibility. Others flick through Rubik’s cubes trouble-free, endowed with uncanny dweebism and mental capacity. Some people can run annoyingly fast. The upper echelons of society, however, are adept at fruit-stuffing.

This trick – with all its murky homoerotic nuances – has brought me a very small modicum of attention and admiration over the years, mostly from other spotty teenage boys. As a natural, God-given talent, this is not something I feel the need to practise often. Which has meant that I’ve fallen gravely out of touch with my target audience and what they want to see in 2017. I find it’s an ‘if and when’ kind of skill that adds a bit of shock value and a lot of disappointment to specific social situations.

A true artist knows when to put the paintbrush down. I should’ve known when to put the banana down. After a first, routine submersion in my oesophagus went to plan, several of my friends requested I did it again so they could see it. Already soddened from my saliva, the walls of the proud banana lost all their strength ahead of the second plunge. Meaning that when I went to smugly pull the banana back out of my mouth, I was pretty fucking alarmed to find that 7 of the 8 inches remained tightly trapped inside my gullet. At which point I’m told that my eyes widened with genuine fear, as I probed deep into my throat to grab and retrieve the rest of the evil ‘nana. This took a few seconds, which was long enough to make me reevaluate my most polarising of school bus tricks that was so very loved and hated in equal measure.

Lots of people had to stop eating their sandwiches because they were so appalled by what they’d seen. I sat there, sort of shell-shocked, developing my own strange PTSD, imagining what it would have been like for my parents to hear that their beloved first-born had died deepthroating a banana in the French Alps.

I had to get out of the banana game, so I’m on sabbatical, assessing my options ahead of making my next move. There’s actually never been much money in it. So I think I might get my degree before committing either way. Watch this space.

Memoirs: Captain Potwash

Volume 2: Meet my Life-coach

At the epicentre of culinary excellence, you’re always going to be surrounded by inspirational figures. None more inspirational than Steve.

It’s hard to express in words exactly what role Steve fulfils for those around him. Manager, life coach, kitchen sensei… these are but a few inadequate words that spring to mind.

Short and stout, at about 5”7, Steve scours Salisbury high street for the tightest ‘spray-on’ jeans he can find. Expertly, he takes the edge off his outfit with a classic, clean pair of white pumps – the type children stomp around in sulkily during primary school PE. But Steve carries this look in such a sexy way that it makes him irresistible to the female gender.

If it wasn’t for his hairline’s betrayal of this otherwise youthful exterior, you might think the KD Butherspoon kitchen sensei was around 25 years old. As a matter of fact, as this hairline and other markers of wear and tear indicate, he’s around 35. Or probably older. He also has two children, who rarely get a mention. You feel he’d probably sooner dunk your wincing face in the deep fat fryer than share anything of real emotional substance with you. It’s strictly fanny and football in the office… “Standard”.

This ‘30-something with kids’ status is a reality that he masks by bathing every inch of his pasty body in Paco Rabanne’s notorious ‘1 Million’. I happen to have very fond memories of this aftershave which date from around year 10, when I was 15. The overpowering sweetness of the perfume, combined with the fact that it’s packaged in a fake bar of gold supposedly worth ‘1 million’ (no currency specified), makes it irresistible to any pre-pubescent young man. And, obviously, Steve.

Watching him make barbecued chicken toasties in one hand while expertly readjusting his crotch with the other, I asked Steve what he had been up to at the weekend, foreseeing rather a grimly predictable response to do with fanny and football. This is, however, why I’m not the kitchen sensei, and why Steve is such a great guy. It was time for him to thrust his latest, most precious pearl of wisdom unto me, with or without my consent…

It all started with a bet. He placed one – I didn’t grasp what kind of a bet it was, but football’s Steve’s gift that keeps on giving. The footie winnings snowballed to the big league: a fat, festering sum of 1000; (I can gladly confirm that this time we’re definitely referring to a thousand Great British Pounds).

Dizzied by the colossal wake of his hefty winnings, Steve took his “missus” out for dinner at a local restaurant. Then, as is customary, she went for a piss. Unshackled by societal pressures of etiquette and politeness, Steve connected with his inner feelings of being a bit “fucking bored and horny”, so slapped £50 on the table and fled the restaurant to pillage everything untoward that Salisbury nightlife has to offer.

Following a perfect storm of booze, MDMA and – we can only assume – the music of Darren Styles, our lacklustre lothario charmed his way into the bed of a young lady named Wendy, who I’m told lives locally. As always, Steve spoke of how he did an excellent job of having sex with her, which was utterly fantastic to hear… Though he wasn’t overly complimentary of Wendy herself. But then again, Steve has exceptionally high standards – Wendy was actually very lucky to make the cut. I always have to remind myself of that.

All great men must eventually fall… Caesar’s dictatorship ended when he was stabbed in the back. Steve’s sweaty Saturday night dictatorship came crumbling down on Sunday when his mind turned to his recently ex ‘missus’ and, we hope, his two kids.

If there’s one thing we should all learn from this anecdote, it’s the virtues of pragmatism. Rather than wallowing in stress and self-pity, Lord Steve went out and spunked the remainder of his winnings on a new, “top of the range, 42-inch flat screen TV”. Then, the next day, he told me this story. What a fucking privilege.

If I manage to juggle all of life’s pressures and pretend to be 19 when I’m actually nearly 40, have sex with a lady called Wendy and come out with a new TV, I’ll be delighted. Well done mate. We’re all so happy for you. ❤

Memoirs: Captain Potwash

Volume 1: Haute Cuisine

It’s your lucky day. You’ve just been awarded the prestigious position of ‘kitchen assistant’ at one of the UK’s most exclusive gastro-pubs, let’s call it KD Butherspoon. You suspect the competition was fierce, yet your exceptional skills and guile paved your way through the rigorous application process of a 20-minute interview. You’ve been blessed with a zero-hour contract with the possibility of up to 50 hours a week. And at £7.80 an hour… well, I’ll let you do the maths. You’re living your dream. You have more bloody money than bloody sense.

 

As you walk in for your induction, the tension is palpable. With the weight of the whole KD Butherspoon corporation on your shoulders, you are the chosen one. You’re the man to prise the torch from the cold, dead hands of the ‘old guard’ and carry it towards a more enlightened era of gastro-pubbery. You are Captain Potwash.

 

The first thing that hits you about your new career is the wealth of knowledge you’ll have to acquire if you’re to fill this gaping void adequately. With such a wide range of cuisine available from a fully seasonal menu, every single dish has a specific time requirement in the microwave. Failure to cook the food for the correct amount of time can result in the delivery of sub-standard – and, heaven forbid, even average food. But get it right and you’ll be serving a slap-up meal to rival any of the nation’s most coveted chefs. Slop a frozen chicken korma in for 3:33 (3 minutes thirty-three seconds to those unfamiliar with industry jargon) and you’ll be serving up one of the silkiest and most authentic curries this side of the Indian subcontinent. All this just in time for Thursday night’s revered ‘Curry Club’. Food doesn’t get more exclusive!

 

Rubbing shoulders with some of the greatest food-handlers in the galaxy makes you realise just how wrong you were about the very fundamentals of cooking. How do you poach an egg? If you’ve been faffing about with pots, pans and boiling water, you need to get a grip. The 21st century poached egg comes pre-poached, wrapped in airtight plastic for optimal freshness. Titillate the egg for the 30 seconds in the microwave until it pops and spits, then place atop a comfy bed of salmon and cold bagel, garnished with fresh rocket. Serve within 1 minute of the order coming in and move on to your next ticket. Smear any food residue on the front of your apron.

 

Any genuine Captain Potwash follows a precise formula in every strain of the cooking process. A decadent side salad must have four slices of cucumber and four of tomato. Nothing more, nothing less. Authentic nachos must have jalapeños on the guacamole, but by no means on any other part of the plate. Certainly not on the sour cream. You want people to enjoy their food, not feel overwhelmed by too much flavour. Deviation from said formulae will result in a verbal warning barked from a Polish co-worker, the masterchef to whom you are the humble understudy.

 

With an average of 7 minutes between an order being placed and food being served, any kitchen assistant must juggle the art of food assembly with impeccable haste and urgency. Failure to do so will result in some friendly motivation from a co-worker, who will gently tease you for being a “fucking pedał”, which translates as “faggot” in English. This team dynamic is enough to uphold standards and maintain the kitchen as a well-oiled machine of winners.

 

And so too, of course, you must clean the kitchen after its closure. This is much like waxing down a much-loved Aston Martin after a weekend of ragging it round the Dordogne. Get your head right into those grease-bins and give them a good, hard scrub. Inside and out. Splatter the grease on your face. Exfoliate with grit. Replenish said bins with fresh bags and wait for the nightly kitchen inspection from your duty manager. Repeat this process twice for your duty manager until the bins are deemed clean enough for more shit to be splattered in them tomorrow.

 

Cycle home in the early hours with your head held high. You’re on a learning curve.

An Open Letter

A letter to bikers

 

I’d like to address this open letter to anyone who owns and/or rides an excessively loud motorbike.

 

Oftentimes, when I’m pottering about a public space and taking in the sights, I wish the ambiance could be punctuated by an enormous, rattling motorbike exhaust. I like that exhaust so damn deep and gargly that it gets right up in my throat through my ear drums. That “fuck off if you don’t like it” brand of engine that really turns heads. In the same vein as those that drive ‘modified’ Subaru Imprezas with crude holes smashed through the exhaust pipe, these guys succeed in drawing my uncompromised attention as they pass.

 

My favourite’s when bikers rag it through residential areas at night, just to let you know that they’re there. Otherwise it can be quite a worrying time, night-time. You can’t see any bikers, because it’s dark. So it’s reassuring to know that they’re safe, and most of all that their bikes are still exceptionally loud. We’ve all had nights that start so promisingly turn out to be ruined by a lack of motorbike noises. This is always a real relief for me.

 

It sums up all the problems I have with today’s society that not every single person in the world has a loud motorbike. The streets could be alive with sweet, madrigal motor harmony, 24/7; a global gargle, if you will. And with these God-awful politicians in charge, you can bet we’ll get no closer to this utopian ideal. Bloody philanderers.

 

So, if you do have a Harley Davidson, or Kawasaki Ninja, or any loud adult’s bike toy, please rev it right up close to my fucking ear drum, as loud as you possibly can. Especially in quiet, tender moments, because I fucking love it. I love to have your mid-life crisis non-consensually thrusted upon me and my loved ones.

 

Thanks so very much,

 

$icK PuP.

Remarks: Wrestling

WWE + WWBS? (What would Barthes say?!)

Roland Barthes wrote about the fascinating “spectacle of excess” that wrestling brought to the world in the 1950s. He’d surely be happy that he isn’t alive to witness the vertiginous rise of WWE, in all its flabby falseness and commercial trickery.

 

This year, WWE held their 33rd annual ‘Wrestlemania’ event, now a coveted pay-per-view show, which I understand is a massive deal to many children and – rather more bafflingly – certain adults around the world. It makes so much sense that young children – so weak in mental perception and yet so strong in imagination – love to watch burly American men bash each other with plastic chairs and exchange potato punches for a couple of hours. Household names like Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, with his painfully indiscriminate stance on accepting acting roles, are undeniably awe-inspiring figures, well beyond the reams of physical normality. This is, of course, especially breath-taking for a young boy in his ‘World’s Top Snorer’ football-themed jammies. Certain characters manage to cross over into the public eye in other ways. None more than John Cena, a man who’s been the subject of many a good meme, which somewhat excuses his WWE ventures. You’re excused, John.

 

But back to the young boy in his football jammies who loves wrestling. This makes sense. But what makes less sense is a world in which adults live for these flaccid ‘wrestling’ displays. According to Forbes, Wrestlemania has generated over $1 billion in economic value over the last decade. That is, by all accounts, a veritable shit-tonne of money, which vastly surpasses the amassed sum of little boys’ pocket money around the world.

 

Narratives sell, and I suppose watching enormous men bash each other in front of 125,000 spectators does indeed embody a certain American-ness. This is surely what Barthes was alluding to when he spoke of a “grandiloquence which must have been that of ancient theatres.” He was talking about one big, swollen orgy of sagging man-flesh, plastic chairs and scantily-clad female hostesses. US citizens have the right to bear arms and body-slam – it’s written in the declaration.

 

A friend of mine once recalled going to watch a live WWE show in Wembley Stadium, in London. He said that one of the wrestlers got pretend ran-over by a pretend car. It’s at this point when I instinctively want to chastise any adult who’s taken with such tomfoolery. But then I’m reminded that, to think like this, is to completely misunderstand the draw of Wrestlemania. As Barthes surmised, “Wrestling is not a sport, it is a spectacle.” Upon reflection, any billion-dollar sports franchise that promotes characters like ‘Scotty 2 Hotty’ – a yellow lycra-clad, bucket hat-wearing fuckboy, is just that – it’s a spectacle. A silly, highly lucrative spectacle. Barthes often helps to make sense of contemporary conundrums, despite much of his work being written in the 1950s. That great brain is what made him such a good guy.