Friday, January 27, 2006

i've got more in common with a goldfish than you might think

"Your problem," said the Protestant (obviously not his real name) to
me this weekend, "your problem is that you have a two-second attention
span." He's right, of course, and the fact that he was trying to tell
me a long and extremely complicated story to do with Northern Irish
politics affords me no excuse.

For years, I've been trying to make the best of my total inability to
concentrate. I like to pretend to myself I have a quicksilver
intellect, quickly making connections and skipping on polymathically
to the next topic. Unfortunately, it's more the case that I'm just
totally unable to concentrate on anything for more than, I'd say, five
and a half minutes.

As you can imagine, this makes life very difficult. Now, we've all
heard evolutionary biologists tell us woman are genetically programmed
to be able to concentrate on more than one thing at once, whereas men
pour everything into one activity and become metaphorically deaf to
everything else (or, in the case of my dad watching television,
literally deaf to everything else, up to and including a smoke alarm)
. I can see that this is very useful when you have a baby, and it's
vitally important you don't get so wrapped up in Deal Or No Deal that
you are blissfully unaware that your pride and joy is bawling its
little lungs out in a cesspool. And has colic.

But until that time, it's just bloody annoying. And I'm hardly being
helped by today's media, who pander to my blink and you'll miss it
attention span by feeding me all my information and entertainment in
tasty, bite-sized pieces. I got an email yesterday offering to send me
the Guardian web site front page to my inbox every day, as if the
massive effort of scrolling down the web page itself might overload my
three remaining neurons.

A friend of mine is in the middle of reading War and Peace. I've got
to face up to the fact I'm never going to read that, just like I'm
sure deep down I'm never going to sit through Citizen Kane or
Battleship Potemkin, or any silent film. God, that makes me feel guilty. I haven't been to the cinema for months. Going to remedy that by seeing A Cock And Bull Story tomorrow. But that's only because I'm never going to be arsed to read Tristram Shandy. Argh...

My butterfly intellect has other secret repercussions, too. During my
English degree I very quickly realised I didn't have the dedication to
plough through any novelist's complete works, and a fair selection of
criticism, and write an essay, all in the space of a week. So I
focused on poets, and letter writers, and journalists. I realised,
reading Alexander Pope in the second year, that my ideal author would
exclusively write epigrams. That way, I could be a world expert after
about two hours.

Sadly, to the best of my knowledge no such author exists. e e cummings
is pretty pithy, I suppose, but I don't know what to do when it comes
to prose. I've been using my literary dilettantism to justify buying
short story collections - Tibor Fischer's Don't Read This Book If
You're Stupid and lots of Borges - and ploughing through the
collected journalism of The Hitch.

Anyway, I'm typing this while watching a very good Horizon documentary about intelligent design. So I, er, better give that my full attention...

Friday, January 20, 2006

Friday, I'm (not) in love

I don't want somebody to love me/just give me sex whenever I want it/Cause all I ask for is instant pleasure/Instant pleasure, Instant pleasure...

Thank you, Rufus Wainwright, for illustrating the point of today's post, which is about the last taboo. No, not anal sex - as The Hitch points out to the left, it's rubbish - but (gasp with horror at my bravery) enjoying being single.

I know. What happened? I watched Bridget Jones, I thought about being eaten by alsatians; I read End of the Affair, Romeo and Juliet, and the bloody English Patient, for chrissakes; I've compulsively watched Sex and The City and thought about the awfulness of churning through flaky men, trying to find Mr Right, to the accompaniment of the ever-louder ticking of my biological clock. And yet - I'm really rather liking being toute seule.

The reason it's taboo, surely, is that all my reasons are selfish. I don't want to get hurt (which is itself selfish, I suppose) but more than that, I can't be bothered. I like having my bed to myself; doing what I want, when I want; having weekends where I spend the days on the sofa watching Cracker, and the evenings with my friends; it's a hell of a lot cheaper (I always go for poor blokes, and am a soft touch) and I now exude the granite-like emotional stability of, say, Gordon Brown.

Of course there are downsides, soppy ones mostly, like lazy mornings in bed, and the pleasant surprises a relationship throws up from time to time. I suppose I should miss 'having someone to lean on' who is 'always on my side', but my friends pick up the slack quite nicely on that one, and cause less argments to boot.

The only drawback that really bothers me now is ridiculous, really: I feel like I'm letting the side down. I'm in my twenties, living in London, I'm neurotic and over-educated, I enjoy trashy romantic comedies and my friends have started getting married. Why am I happy being single? There must be something wrong with me.

Anyway, some of you may have heard about the "manbargo" I imposed last year, which expires in February. Well, I'm renewing it for another three months - maybe I can flush all this exuberant independence out of my system, and become a normal twentysomething woman again.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

PURE HELL. Or not.

Now, I'm sure you're aware of how much I love London. I love love LOVE
it. But sometimes i feel that it doesn't return my affections, that it
wants me to be unhappy. Its agents, usually are the staff and
passengers of the Tube.

This weekend, there was another tube strike, which I have to say - the
Evening Standard's "PURE HELL" headline notwithstanding - seemed a bit
of a washout. Then I read the LU press release. It said that the
reason the RMT staff were striking was that they would not accept the
new rota deal for - get this - a 35-hour week, and a whopping 52 days'
holiday. Shurely shome mistake? 52 days? That's nearly two bloody
months! My sympathy for the oppressed masses of tube workers has never been lower, especially given the fare rises which came in on January
2. The whole thing makes me feel like a pub bore, shrouded in
nostalgia, holding forth to anyone who will listen (this is you):
"When I first came to London, a zone 1 single was £1.70.... "

As if to confirm that the Tube is an agent of Satan, I witnessed
something disgusting last week. A man got on at Bermondsey station,
with a large and splenetic-looking dog. It reminded me of Bill Sykes'
dog in Oliver! - mean, calculating, smelly. For several minutes I
sniggered behind my book as its overgrown claws meant it had no
purchase on the slippery train floor. But karma was about to jump up
and bite me on the ass (although the dog, thankfully, stopped just
short of that). Before I knew it, the man had decided to sit down a
seat away from me. How unpleasant, I thought, to have the dog sniffing
round my ankles.

But no! He encouraged the dog to jump right on up and have a seat. it
can't have been any happier with this arrangement than with skidding
round, because it fidgeted for several minutes, before starting - I
swear with an insouciant look at me first - to lick its balls, slowly
and deliberately. As is obligatory with medium-sized dogs, they were
huge - massively out of proportion with its scrawny frame- and yet so
very much in contact with a seat on which an unsuspecting human bottom
would be sitting mere minutes later.

Again; not a real post. But I've been reading some very interesting books - try being a girl and reading a book subtitled "The Failures of Feminism" if you want male attention in public - so I will be airing my fatuous opinions on them very soon.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Sub standard.

I apologise for not posting, and have decided to clear up any rumours
which may, or may not, have been flying round - taking my inspiration
from none other than Charles Kennedy, and his dignified announcement
that -shock! - he may have had one whisky too many.
Now, now, once you have taken a moment to register this mindboggling
and, crucially, BRAND NEW piece of information, let's proceed to my
excuse for being a bit under-par of late.

The date: Christmas Day. The scene: my eldest sister's house. The
weapon: the nostrils of my middle nephew, the charming yet undeniably
snotty D, aged two and a half. Ah yes, having long ago been
established in family mythology as 'good with children', it seemed
that I had been appointed Person In Charge of Making Sure Three
Children Didn't Injure Themselves Or Eat the Baubles. Not an easy job,
when D's high spirits could be more uncharitably interpreted as ADD,
eldest nephew J, aged nearly 3, is cleverer than I am and O, at three
months old, can't bear to be put down. Or cuddled sitting down. And
weighs as much as, say, a generously-proportioned Christmas turkey
(something his mother, weirdly, drew attention too, saying in a
cutesy-baby-voice, "Ooo, you're sooo chubby-wubby, maybe we should put
yoooo in the oven!" before catching my expression of horror).

Anyway, one of thess miniature spawn of Satan, sorry, Little Angels,
sneezed all over my food, and my money's on D. Obviously, my Christmas
indulgence, combined with the diet of half of Michelle McManus (before
going on You Are What You Eat) and avoiding fresh air and exercise
since leaving school, has left me with the immune system of a newborn
rat. So of course I caught D's cold. In fact, I saw the cold, and
raised it sinusitis.

Still, there are consolations - despite having all the symptoms
described on NHS direct, I haven't yet got any of the complications,
which include the ever-charming "brain abcesses" - and it sounds so
much more impressive in conversation. So for now, I am living a
hermit-like life, leaving the house only to go to work, and with no
other entertainment than guessing what colour my mucus will turn next
(why does no-one else want to play that game with me?)

On that note, I'm off to the canteen. Not that I can taste anything,
of course. Normal service will be resumed once I regain use of all
five senses, and stop sleeping eleven hours a night....