Monday, 14 December 2015

Fear and Loathing at the School Xmas Play

The annual schools Christmas play… something that strikes terror and joy into parents lives in equal measure.  They are never dull in my experience and always good for a few bar stories at a later date.  My all-time favourite was from when I was 10 and two angels had a full on punch up on stage during the song ‘Little Donkey’.  Blood was spilt, teachers panicked and parents laughed, people in my town still speak of that Christmas play in hushed tones.

This year I had not one but two school plays to attends, one for each of my two children.  The first was my sons I’d been looking forward to it as he rarely got to attend a school play let alone be in it until recently due to some caveman type attitudes where I live in some schools towards kids on the autistic spectrum.  But alas I was hit by a rare but mega migraine on the way there…. So I never made it into the hall to see him sing tunes from the musical Oliver.

Now my daughters… there was no way I was going to miss that one as well.  So I wrapped myself up, looked after myself…and I even drank very little to ensure all went according to plan.  Drinking less over the festive period isn't easy, it seems events conspire to make you want to drink more, or failing that free drinks are provided that often its rather hard to say no to. (Especially those little green and blue ones!)

With the tickets booked and after being hammered for raffles tickets at a most exorbitant price, in we all trooped into the school hall.  Complete with hand painted backdrop obviously done not by children but by an adult on too much mescaline.  Things didn’t start well….

The whole play was one of those ones where a school buys  / rents the entire thing costumes, music script etc from a place then puts it on.  The trouble is it all hinges on the background tape with the music and songs working and being queued up correctly. Something you maybe unsurprised to learn wasn’t done.   So after the poor kid who was tasked with the opening spiel about the middle eastern couple looking for somewhere to stay to have a baby and ending up in a fucking stable, spoke his lines perfectly only for absolutely nothing to happen.  This poor lad stood there like a plank of wood terrified that now everyone was looking at him and he had nothing to say and had no idea what to do.  The panic on his face created a suspense that drew in the whole room.

A quick glance to the other side of the room saw a group of teachers frantically trying to get the CD player to work (only to not notice that they had the damn thing stuck on pause).  I wasn’t completely surprised to notice one of the teaching assistants that was there helping out was someone who myself and my other half had bumped into only two nights previously drunk out of her mind in a nightclub. But as I’d agreed to say nothing, I stuck to that deal so her identity remains classified for now. Just as the little lad was about to burst into tears with the stress of not being able to stop every fucker in the room staring at him like it was his fault. The music started mid song and out sang every child.  Some sang the wrong lines in the wrong place, somewhere out of key but it was such a relief that I swear I felt a pressure change in the room.

I’ll spare you the script as I’ve no doubt even the most stupid already have heard a version of it.  A middle eastern couple try to find somewhere to stay, she’s highly visibly pregnant (with what they say is the son of god…not a line I’d use to try and get a room ...but that’s just me).   Everyone tells this strange couple to fuck the fuckidy fuck off and make them sleep in a stable with a load of filthy fucking animals.  Something they are then supposed to be glad about. In fact the story treats it like this is an amazing act of charity when it reality it’s all a bit seedy.  Somehow a field full of guys allegedly ‘looking after sheep’ hear about this pregnant woman and walk off to find this small venerable child.  One of these guys may nor may not have been Jimmy Saville and one may or may not have been Bill Crosby.  Then up trot some mystic types that obviously are recruiting for a cult with some dodgy gifts that would make most people rather worried if they were reduced to giving birth in a stable full of horse shit.

They usually cut out the bit about a king murdering a shit load of babies out and cut the play just before that bit as it could put a bit of a dampener on the whole festive spirit.

The school had recently had an infestation of head lice, what I found interesting is that although no parents admitted to their child having them there had been a sudden surge in men with newly shaven heads accompanied by wives or girlfriends with slicked back hair. As my eyes wandered around the room I started overhearing the usual parents who were not impressed that their little Johnny (who quite obviously was the next big thing in acting) only got to say three words.  Then I heard the ones bitching about why their favourite Christmas songs weren't in the play.  But some highlights stick out more than others.

oOne child, a blonde girl had been dressed like a huge silver star.  A baby in the audience with its mother (I assume it was its mother but it could have easily have been a very stupid person baby napping a small child) took one look at this huge silver star with blonde hair, bare flat feet and huge hands and screamed blue fucking murder!  It was convinced that this Silver Star person had come to eat its soul and obviously wanted to get the hell out of Dodge City ASAP.   So queue lots of chair scraping as the mother (or was it??) took the poor terrified child out into the corridor and no doubt gave it a damn good talking to.

The second was the child I shall nickname ‘thumbs’ as he spent the entire time he was on stage (a not inconsiderable time  as it happens) with one thumb aloft like a bastard child of the Fonz and the logo form the Fallout computer games.

Just when everyone thought it was all thankfully over, then occurred the highly of it all, when one of the little darlings dressed as a villager decided that what the audience really needed at exactly that point was to see his fucking awesome Spiderman boxer shorts!  God damn it he would make sure that no one missed out on that opportunity!  So he then proceeded to lift his villagers costume up above his head and flash the entire audience for 5 whole minutes with no adult intervention.  The screams of ‘weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!’ may have been a bit off putting to some I imagine.

So there goes a cautionary tail of why school Christmas plays are never boring and why its always worth doing your best to attend for the sake of your child, certainly, but also for the sake of all the awesome bar stories you will then have for the coming nights out over the festive period.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Things I learned while dressed as a nun by Tony X Stanton

It’d been 3 very long hard days, 72 hours of constant stress and looking after my two kids while my girlfriend was away.  While she’d went away for a reunion for an old place she worked twenty odd years ago I was looking forward to a reunion with both my sanity and of course her.  I’d counted down the days, the hours and the minutes until she finally came home.  She’d said as she appreciated my having to pull three solo days with the kids while she was away I could pop out on Halloween.
But it came with a catch…
Well more of a dare really, she dared me to go out that evening with a costume she’d bought on her way home.  The costume was that of a nun.  To be quite honest I had no problem going out for a drink dressed as a nun…or a Mexican dancing girl or a lama for that matter.  I needed a break, and not being exactly a stranger to ‘showing off’. I agreed.  But it wasn’t what I expected at all.  What I figured would happen would there would be lots of other people in fancy dress, mine would be a novelty for all of about ten seconds then it’d be a new sort of normal until I went home.
But here are some of the things I learned from being dressed as a nun for a single evening.

Hands! Hands Everywhere!

Rule one of being dressed as nun is whatever you do, don’t bend over.  I dropped one of my coins at the bar and when bending to pick it up I suddenly felt four distinct male hands on my arse.  The weird thing is all of these four blokes knew I was a bloke dressed as a nun.  Not one could have mistaken me for a real woman or a real nun.  So there motivations seemed a bit odd as there was definitely a sexual motivation, all four were as far as I am aware just normal heterosexual piss heads of the same variety you’d find in any pub or bar in England.  But this mystery soon cleared when…

Suddenly people tell you all their sexual fantasies.

Yep, this was another one that caught me by surprise.  It seems that the very sight of someone in a nun’s habit brings out the need to share their deepest darkest sexual deviancies.  So suddenly it was like I was a priest at a confessional!  Unsolicited information was now shared where a number of blokes mentioned that they ‘had a thing for nuns’.  Yeah. Ok I can sort of relate to that.  But for a small number the very chance to touch someone when they are dressed as a nun and not get arrested for it seemed to be too much to handle.

Wimples are very comfortable.

I thought that wearing this bloody penguin outfit would have been a bit chilly, and the wimple would make me sweat and set off my psoriasis.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  It’s actually fairly functional I found.  I didn’t sweat very much, hardly at all in fact which was amazing considering that it was a very warm pub environment full of people.  The robes part of it actually let air circulate pretty well. So even though I had my jeans and a T shirt underneath (So no, I didn’t have stocking and suspenders on under it before you ask) I felt exactly the right temperature.

In fact the only thing that drove me clinically nuts was the lack of pockets. Now I know that Nuns as a general rule aren’t allowed possessions, which they are supposed to have nothing that they’d need to put in pockets.  But common sense would dictate that not all orders can be like this; maybe they’d find something and need to keep ahold of it until it could be handed back to its owner? Either way having to pull this damn thing up to get either the money out of my pocket to pay for a drink or to check my phone was pissing me off.   Yes I could have taken the whole load of gear off and stuck it behind the bar to collect the next morning.  I could have got rid of it, or even took it off and change only just before I got back home.  But where is the fun in that.

It was an experience, and I was rather worried when halfway through the night I started to notice myself checking that the headdress was lying correctly.  So when I got home many photos later and took it off I was glad to see the end of ‘Sister Mary of the immaculate Pint glass’.  I think next time I have to dress up in fancy dress…it may be something a bit more normal.

Friday, 25 September 2015

The Bad Influence by Tony X Stanton

I remember my mother sitting me down on plenty of occasions when I was about 5 or 6 years old and warning me about other kids who were a ‘bad influence’ and could encourage me to get into trouble.  She was and remains a singular woman and most times she was right, although on subject she couldn't be more wrong.  I didn't have to worry about people being  a bad influence on me, because I was the bad influence.  To be fair, this didn’t really kick in until my teens, when I seemed to go from sweet little kid to total fucking lunatic overnight.

I’ve always tried in life to do the right thing, most times I’ve managed it but sometimes I either haven't or I’ve went down a different path.  I sometimes see myself as a toxic individual who has a nasty case of ‘it seemed  a good idea at the time’. I’m usually the guy who when everyone is ready to go home after a night out convinces everyone to have just one more… one more drink, one more bar, one more song.  It’s always ‘one more’.  But never in an alcoholic way, simply as I hate the whole idea of things ending or winding up.  The very idea of ‘an end’ is uncomfortable to me, once I am on a roll, be it work or play I have a tendency to keep going until there is no option but to stop due to tiredness, lack of resources or inclination.

I’m an extremist by nature. I remember when I was about 4 years old a friend of mine and I wanted to climb / walk up a wall like batman did in the old TV series.  So I came up with the idea of waxing some string to strengthen it and use that.  I clearly remember the afternoons it took with wax candles covering this string and trying to get it ready.  When the day finally came, a fantastic sunny day, and we tied the string not to the top of somewhere small as my friend Andrew insisted (he was 2 1/2 years older than me) but at the top of the highest bloody wall I could find in the entire housing estate. After Andrew tying what seemed like  hundred knots in the string around a railing, it was decided that we’d start from the bottom, of a 20 foot wall with a sheer drop onto concrete.  (See kids! This is why you listen to your parents!)  we did our best to climb the string, Andrew declaring it wasn't strong enough, but me? I knew different. I was convinced of such and would prove it.  So I kept on climbing, getting halfway up when I started hearing a horrible stretching sound, somehow the waxed string held and I reached the top and felt like king of the universe. I was Batman goddamn it!

I managed to get Andrew caught up in my enthusiasm, and I declared to this much older boy that it was rather hard climbing up, so maybe we should climb downwards instead.  Of course it was Andrew's turn next.  He didn't want to do it (probably as he had at least some semblance of common sense, even when caught up in the moment.) But I insisted, a deal was a deal and he had to do it.  I’ve always had that horrible ability to cajole people into doing stupid things I want them to do, or to help me in doing the crazy things I want to.  So Andrew started climbing down...the waxed string did not hold and he fell 20 feet onto concrete.  He broke his arm, something somehow I managed to keep from my parents who to this day don't know why the kid I used to play with suddenly had an arm in a plaster cast.  His mother for whatever reason thought it best not to mention this to my mam.  He walked around for what seemed like forever with that plaster cast and never once would mention or discuss ‘the Batman incident’ again.

But that wasn't the end of me encouraging him to do crazy shit.  In fact just a couple of months before we moved away when I was 5  and never saw him again something else happened.  My mother used to let him take me to the cinema on a Saturday morning. It was much simpler times when kids could walk the streets without fear of paedophiles, muggers etc.  we used to queue up and watch really old black and white films from the 20’s and 30s which for some reason the local cinema used to put on for us kids.  The queue was always long and we always would chat away about whatever the latest ‘thing’ was while we waited. This one time (the last time I was allowed to visit said cinema in fact for reasons that shall become very obvious), I decided that we should see how hard we could punch an old glass window on the cinema and not break it.  Hey! Don't judge me! I was 5 for god's sakes!

I was informed by Andrew that this could be a very bad idea, but I managed to talk him around with how cool it would look to the other kids queuing up and how it was the sort of thing Batman and Robin would do. That was all the damn convincing he needed.  So we started punching this small glass window. taking turns we punched this dirty glass window each one punching harder than the next.  Getting more and more worked up about it, until Andrew (at my prompting as the queue was moving) punched far harder.  His hand went through the glass and seemed to cut his hand to ribbons. I still remember the blood running down the dirty shards of broken glass washing it with his blood.  I felt like running as I KNEW this was my fault, but I didn't because he was my best friend and he was badly hurt. I stayed put even though I knew it would have consequences.  rather unsurprisingly the noise of both breaking glass and screaming kids drew some attention from the people in the cinema, police were called Andrew it turned out wasn't as badly cut as everyone had thought  due to it being a hot day.  I tried to explain it was all my idea, to take the fall I should have done.   But as I was aged 5 and he was 7 ½ years old they didn't believe me or him.  So Andrew took the fall for it and we were both given lifetime bans from that cinema.  Andrew’s mother stopped him playing with me after that, although he still visited when he could escape right up till I moved away. I shudder to think what would have occurred if I had stayed there, the way I kept ramping things up could never have ended well.

As I grew older I kept that side of me in check, it scared me and I could never get the thought of the blood running down the window out of my head. I knew I’d fucked up and as a result it fucked me up a bit.  But once I hit my late teens all bets were off and if there was a crazy idea you can bet your arse I’d be behind it, if there was something crazy to do it’d usually be my idea.  (Usually by making others believe they’d thought it up all by themselves), But as a rule I was the bad influence encouraging others to do things.  I was the secret bad egg, the rotten apple in a fake apple skin.

Around this time I was best mates with a guy I’ll simply call R as he now has a rather nice job, a family and friends who have no idea how much of a fucking nutcase me and him used to be.  R had ‘issues’ and hadn't had an easy life up till he moved into my home town.  It was a case of two people just clicking together and working as friends immediately.  He was also one of the few people I’d met who could be just as much of a bad influence as I.  I however knew he had a bit of a pyromaniac tendency, something once afternoon I decided to encourage.  Every sunday afternoon we’d walk around a long walk near my home town called the ‘Derwent Walk’. It was miles long and lined with trees and bushes either side and when the sun was shining as it was on this day it was glorious.  

There was never anyone about apart from the occasional jogger or bloke walking his dog, so we could play our music on his ghetto blaster at full volume.  The mix tape for Sunday's usually consisting of Alice Cooper’s ‘Raise your Fist and Yell’ album and some Rush tunes.  I remember mentioning to R as we both lit a cigarette that it’d be fun to see if one of the bushes would light on fire.  So after checking there was no one there...R set fire to a small branch.  However in the hot dry weather the brush went up like a bomb with flames 6 feet tall within seconds.  Before I could stop him R lit another bush...and another...then another!   Before we knew it a 100 meter section of the derwent walk was an inferno of burning bushes with not a single sighting of god in any of them anywhere.  Suddenly the reality of the situation kicked in. Oh Fuck! We’d just set the place on fire! We were fucked!  We were going to fucking jail for this!

So we ran…. not along the Derwent Walk itself but off one side…. through muddy fields (me losing a shoe in the process, something which was interesting to try and find an excuse for to my parents later that day).  We ended up behind bushes about ½ mile away the sound of fire engines filling the air with faint voices of the fire crew.  Eventually we calmed down and decided never to speak of it again… it made the local papers and it was put down to vandals.   On a positive note though, after that R’s pyromaniac streak vanished!  Never again did he set light to things like that, so it cured him.

Once again that put rest to any crazy ideas I’d have for a while…  Although as I got older the ‘it seemed a good idea at the time’ thing reared its head from occasionally until it got louder and louder.  So my tip is this: If you ever meet me and I convince you of an awesome idea to do something crazy, say no. Make an excuse because as a general rule it hasn't really worked out too well for others.

When the real fun began was when in my late 30’s I met up with 2 other people just like myself. But that is a story for another day.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

“Minus Money / Broke” by Tony X Stanton

“Minus Money” by Tony X Stanton

I walked along with my son, the sun beating down on my head, somewhat of a rare occurance in my home town.  It often seemed to me that the little town of Consett not far from Durham in england was quite similar to the Adams family house in that it seemed to have a perpetual cloud hanging over it.  But on this rare (some may even say freak) occasion the day was clear as a mountain spring and a warm sun beat down.  The sort of day that you wake up to and it makes you feel alive.  I however didn’t feel happy or even in the same galaxy as happy, due to a strange combination of circumstance, bad luck and some epic miscalculations of my own I was flat broke.

In a previous article I covered how I went to Montreal (in canada for those with the geography knowledge of a dead hamster), to spend a year working and experiencing a different culture at the same time.  But all did not go according to plan.  when I was informed that someone back home had a serious health problem the very last place I wanted to be was stuck the other side of the damn planet.  I couldn’t think, let alone work.  I needed to get back home ASAP, yesterday if possible.  In one way I am thankful that the firm I was working for were prepared to let me leave early only 3 months into my contract.   However what I wasn’t aware of was the fact that as such I’d be liable for all expenses incurred to relocate me to montreal by them, and not just the current month, but three further months of the rent on the apartment I was renting.

So after they had deducted what they claimed I should owe them (even though it was for compassionate reasons), it meant working the last month and a half for nothing.  Did i mention that this was on one of the summer blockbusters?  It seems karma wasn’t kind to the film.  So when my girlfriend came over to help me move all my crap back to england I wasn’t just broke. I had minus money.  The very idea of having less than zero is a very bizarre one when you think about it.  If I have £100 and spend £80 of it I have £20 left, However if you spend £150 then you have minus £50.  So I wasn’t just broke, I was less than broke into a mirror universe where suddenly every single penny seemed to be worth double its value.

Money I used to piss up against a wall on a friday or saturday night suddenly would be enough to have kept me for weeks. Not just my current decisions but every single one I had made came back to haunt me with a vengeance.  In fact they still do every single day.  All the times I had thousands in my wallet and wasted most of it as I ‘could afford it easily’ are now the stuff of my darkest nightmares.  Logically I know there is no way I could have ever known what was going to occur, logically I was in the clear. However emotionally and psychologically I wasn't.  I’m no stranger to either failure or great achievements, however this time every single decision I had ever made had sparked off an endless stream of ‘could haves’, ‘Should Haves’ and ‘Might have beens’.

Suddenly everything feels like my fault, even things that patently are not and cannot be. This is the curse of being so broke your into theoretical minuses.  Every single time you pass a mirror you don't see yourself, you see an abject failure of a human being you couldn't stop this all from happening. So I avoid looking in mirrors now, the one in our bedroom has an old t shirt over it in fact.  I tell my girlfriend that’s due to it being rather sweaty and needing to dry off a bit before going in the wash. But the reality is it’s often painful to look at myself.

So while walking around town to bum a cup of coffee from my parents in the cafe that day with 50p in my pocket, in fact in my whole world the universe saw fit to make that less.

“Dad! I need a wee!” said my son.  Young lads of his age often need a piss, it’s sort of part of their makeup, they eat their own weight in food, grow too fast and piss their own weight each day.  In a normal world, a world without theoretical minus money this isn’t a problem. But in town the only public toilet is in the Bus Station, a collection of various people at the bottom of life some of whom are actually trying to get a bus.  The thing is..the toilet costs 20p.  For virtually every other person 20p is nothing, it's not worth even thinking about. However when your entire world consists of 50p suddenly it feels like someone is about to repossess your house. Sure, I could have snuck him around a corner in a backstreet and he could have taken a piss for nothing there, but that is not the behaviour of a dad, that is not the behaviour of someone I want my son to have fond memories of when he is an old man.  So I put my hand in my pocket and pulled out the change, all I had in the world. Three Ten pences and a single Twenty pence piece and I handed the twenty pence to him.

No doubt someone is wondering why I don't just go and claim some sort of dole money?  The simple answer is that as I left my job of my own accord, albeit for very very good reasons that certainly come under the heading of ‘compassionate’, I can't and wouldn't get a single god damned penny. All I would get is my stamp put on and that is not worth being harassed and made to feel like even more of a failure than I feel deep inside every single day.  So my days are spent at the moment trying to work out with my girlfriend how to keep my kids eating and provided for, looking after my son who is a 24 hour a day job on his own and trying not to go nuts and run round with a  rocket launcher and 46 pipe bombs in the centre of town.

I’ve been on the bottom before when I was far younger and spent 6 months living on the streets in a cardboard box. So I know exactly what poor and having nothing feels like, although in this case it’s worse as I’m not just poor, I have minus money.  The most heartbreaking moment for me was when my kids came back from my parents and decided that they would give daddy some pocket money.  Toa child the solution is simple, if your down because you have no money, then you simply give that person money and they they’ll be happy.  It was the one time I almost cried.

But here’s the kicker I’ve learned from being less than flat broke.  People you often think of as friends run like the wind, fair-weather friends indeed.  People who you have lent money to on many occasions find reasons not to pay it back.  People try to take advantage of you every single hour of the day.  I ended up having to write a book on slimming for the princely sum of £20 just to be able to afford food one week.  Others suddenly see you as a guy that it used to cost a fair bit of money to hire, think they can get the same work for nothing or very close to it. I may be financially in a subterranean vault, but I am no ones mug.  Some seem quite perturbed by this fact that I won't work for nothing or do anything for such low fees again.  It never crosses their mind that one day the tables may be turned, maybe they won't but do they really want to take that risk?  The old adage of ‘be nice to people on the3 way up as you’ll sure as hell meet them on the way down’ is very very accurate.

But I don't want charity, I don’t need your or anyone else's money. I don’t need a break, I’ve had plenty of them in my life.  I just feel like I need life to stop shitting on me long enough to find a way out.  Every idea of a way out, I can promise you I have already thought of.  My skillset on paper should be a license to print money.  I’m a  3D artist, have worked on triple A hollywood films, I’ve worked for the biggest computer games company in the world as a senior artist, I’ve lectured all over the world (usually at a loss to pass on my skills to others), I play about 16 different instruments, I compose classical music, electronic music and just about every other type of music, I’m an experienced programmer, I’ve been writing nand published since the age of 14, I’m a painter, I’ve been a world record holding escape artist and much more… But none of that means a thing any more. 20 plus years of it and I have less than nothing to show expect a pretty nice demo reel, a mind full of awesome stories and the memory of the times when I had something and felt like something other than a failure. 

These days I have about 15 mins a day to do my emails, the rest of the time is taken up just trying to survive. I cannot give up any ‘surviving time’ on a speculative venture that may or may not make money.  When you have nothing everything is a risk with very great consequences, if you pay one penny more for something than you need to then your fucked.  Maybe I should put all my articles and other experiences into a book and self publish it? It’d be one helluva read as I’ve not had the most normal of lives.  But right now it’s going to be a fight to keep from drowning and to keep positive enough to keep putting one foot in front of another.  But I’ll keep fighting because I’m a big believer in Karma and although my depression is biting hard right now, one day it’ll ease and then karma will look after me.  So don’t count me out just yet, there is still a little fight and a fair few good ideas left in the old dog yet.  The great magnet looks after its own.

“Dont mistake my kindness for weakness. I am kind to everyone, But when someone is unkind to me,weak is not what you're going to remember about me”

Alphonse Capone

Friday, 11 September 2015

Confidence and Aggression

I sat watching the remains of the late night Thursday crowd in the bar, their drinking pace slowed down by now so much so all it was missing was the theme tune to the film chariots of fire in the background. The testosterone filled air over at one end of the bar late in the evening only could mean one of two things. Either there would be a short fight involving lots of pushing or one half of the couple who owned the place would sort it before it came to that stage.

It ended as the latter much to the chagrin of many of the punters in need of some evening entertainment. It's a scene repeated around the world in various forms. The outcomes are always the same. Either someone wins or no one wins. Occasionally someone ends up in hospital or dead. Whichever way you look at it, it can get messy.

Why do some males feel the need to assert their masculinity? How does it often get to the point where physical violence is the best solution? Maybe it’s down to the lack of confidence that many males feel in an increasingly demasculinized world plays a part. Could it be the lack of heavy industry and a world devoid of 'men's men' has contributed to a state of lack of confidence on their masculinity? Has it now become the state that some men missing confidence brought to their lives by ‘doing a hard days graft for a hard day’s pay’ feel the need to overcompensate?

I have noticed over the most truly confident of men rarely bite with overly aggressive types and never end up fighting. Simply put they have nothing to prove to anyone and are far more prone to simply ‘letting it ride’ that others would punctuate with a swift bottle to the face. After the whole 1990’s ‘girl power’ and ‘ladette’ culture, some men were left feeling that maybe they weren’t the strongest sex after all, maybe they’d been misled all this time by women who just let them think they were in control when really they were little more than puppets. That can have a profound effect on a generation!

In my travels to many different places and cultures I also see a disparity sometimes where you would expect a hard drinking down to earth culture in a rough area to have endless fights, only to find there are hardly any. Then other times you are in a supposedly civilized and ‘upper class’ area or place only to find anyone daring to not look at their own shoes finds themselves son the other side of one of a vast cornucopia of meat heads and knuckle draggers. So maybe the upper classes are not as different as they’d like everyone to believe? (Something most people have worked out long ago, but they seem to have totally bypassed.)
But is the solution to bring back hard work and give men confidence to behave like 1970’s caricatures of what men used to be like? I don’t think so, I’d prefer to think it’s all part of an evolutionary process where the male mind is finally starting to leave behind its knuckle dragging ways and push aside violence and aggression when it’s no longer need. It’s rare to come across a bloke these days that fight son a weekend for ‘fun and relaxation’. In that regard the film ‘Fight Club’ wasn’t that far from the truth. Back when I was in my 20’s and further back than that it wasn’t unusual for blokes to have a fist fight on a weekend to ‘unwind’ after a hard weeks graft.

But it’s also entirely possible that I’m talking total bollocks and making a prime mistake of using too small sample size to enable me to gain any true meaning and simply reflecting my own biases. A true man isn’t judged by whom he can beat up, but by smaller and often more important things like the ability to stick to his word, to protect those who are unable to protect themselves and to help out where he can. Besides which, how many noses you’ve broken isn’t really something that you can put on your CV at any point in your life unless you’re a mixed martial arts champion or a boxer. …and I for one am far too old for either of those professions.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Fear and Loathing of Intolerance - Part 3 Racism

If I look at you reading this now what do I see?  Do i judge you by who you are (or to be more accurate the face you show the world) or do I judge you by vastly generalizing about things like your sex, your sexual inclination or your religion?  So far we’ve covered those and shown I hope how illogical they are.  But by a carpet mile the most widespread intolerance is that where we judge people based only on the colour of their skin.  As I’ve mentioned before my skin through whatever accident of birth assigns us to the parents we have, mean I am white… any paler and I’d be mistaken for a corpse.  But I had the good luck to be born to parents who were not racist, weren't particularly sexist, weren't homophobic and I spent from the ages of 6months old to 5 living in Leeds.  (Which is a large city in Yorkshire in England).

One of the things about Leeds that coloured me for the rest of my life is it was a multicultural melting pot.  I got used to seeing different colours of skin, different religions and the fact that you cannot and should not generalise.  Simple mathematics dictate that at some future point the idea of skin colour will disappear as we all mix together over the coming millennia.  There will be no black, no white, just people.  

Lets try a little mental exercise to show how stupid racism is.

Let's assume that skin colour doesn't exist for the moment. If people started to judge each other and say for example people with no wisdom teeth were stupid, prone to violence and obviously must be less highly evolved what would your reaction be?  If small groups of white sheeted  pointy hood wearing idiots started burning crosses outside of the houses of people with no wisdom teeth what would you say then?  No doubt people with wisdom teeth would congregate themselves into areas that those with wisdom teeth would basically turn into ghettos over time. Suddenly  you’d hear people saying on news interviews “well we all know crime is far higher among the wisdom toothless hordes, so our prejudice is with good reason”.

Suddenly you might even see police officers shooting far more of these wisdom toothless people… some may even think it would be a form of extermination.   The media may even be horrified at it all...but nothing would change it would only get progressively worse.

...all because some people were born without wisdom teeth.  So how is that any different to skin colour?  We no longer live in an isolated world where the idea of seeing someone from a very different culture, religion or skin colour is unusual.  We see people very different to ourselves all the time.   Is ginger hair any different really than dark skin?  That fact that some people get to save on suntan lotion in hot weather is really no different to people who may have for example a larger than usual lung capacity.  

If you victimize a group of people eventually they will stick together for protection, this will then be used as yet another excuse why they are ‘bad’.   So regardless of the colour of your god damned skin, if you're an asshat I am going to tell you you're an asshat. Not based on skin colour...but based on the fact that you actually are a terrific asshat.    Some people are idiots, some people are evil motherfuckers… skin colour plays no part in that.  if you removed the skin from everyone right now could you tell the difference?  What would you judge by? Body language? Accent?

I often hear how people being proud of their race is fine if you're not white.  Do you know why I think this is? Its because every single time a movement of white people being proud of being white it gets taken over by idiots wanting to exterminate people, or march them into death camps.  To take away any money or rights they have.  THAT is why white people do not need movements like that. We already have white privilege, white skin isn't going to give you a greater chance of getting shot or stopped by the police.  Imagine if you had to have a talk to your kids when they got old enough to go out on their own with friends about why it’d be a good idea not to wear a hoodie...or to not look directly in the eye of a police officer in case they shot them for no god damned good reason.

So the colour of a person's skin should never be used to judge them, and certainly not to judge them badly.  Maybe we should start judging people by what type of person they are instead of if they need to buy suntan oil on a summers day.  That seems to be a rather silly way to judge what sort of person someone is.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Fear and Loathing of Intolerance - Part 2: Homophobia

Every single person reading this has a perversion of one type or another.  So whether you're male or female; straight bi gender or gay there always at least one thing that will really turn you on sexually.  So every single human on planet earth deviates from ‘the norm’ in one way or another, thus making us all perverted in one way shape or form.  As I’m a straight guy I’m going to approach this from that point of view. So is you are a straight male you may find tits the size of barrage balloons turn you on, maybe it's some S&M; possible you have a thing for bottoms or you prefer your women with shaved lady gardens. (One guy I know has a thing about long wavy hair).  The point of this all being that no matter how hard we all try to portray ourselves as ‘normal’ sexually, the bottom line is there is no normal.  Normal only exists as a default imaginary state.  We all have at least one thing that sets us apart that turns us on and excites us in the bedroom..or the shower...or on top of a car , or behind the nearest bus shelter.  This is also why I find it so odd that homophobia exists at all.  I have a trope that I’ve trotted out so many times in conversation that if I had an English pound for every time I’d be a very rich man.  

That trope is that I have no interest whatsoever what you do in your bedroom.  I don't care if you tie up your other half and then invite the entire English rugby team in for a go… that's your business and as long as it's legal and nobody's getting hurt and all parties agree what the hell interest should it be to me or anyone else. It is no ones business (or it shouldn't be) apart form your own and your partner / partners.  I know a fair few people that fall outside of the ‘straight’ area of the sexual spectrum, some I’m related to, some have been work mates and  some are damn good friends.  They are not lesser people because they prefer something else in the bedroom.  

They are god damn human beings just like us!  Heterosexual males often have a rather confusing logical standpoint on people who are gay.  Women from the People's Republic of Lesbania are deemed as fine and often the focus or more than a few porn movies that many straight guys love.  Although to be fair this is often is as far from reality as straight male on female porn is.  But people are allowed their fantasies and they can inspire us out of sexual boredom.  A seemingly large percentage of straight men have a penchant for anal sex, or so information would have us believe and that seems on the increase.  Its deemed fine by the vast majority of people to stick a cock up a woman's ‘back door’ but should you dare to want to stick it up a blokes backside all hell breaks loose!  Suddenly a stream of insulting terms and names spring forth  to describe such people. (Just as a heads up I shall not be using this article as a thinly veiled cover to use any of these terms.)  

How does this make any logical sense?  So lets get this straight…. Its deemed ok to be turned on by a woman’s arse, it's deemed ok to do it doggy style, it’s deemed ok by most it seems to indulge in anal sex, it's deemed fine to watch videos of two women at it, but it is not deemed fine to do the same said things with another man, or to watch videos of two men….  It seems that there is a fine line between acceptable sexual preference and ‘you are an evil dirty pervert!’  I’m sorry but that makes no sense.  There are a whole host of things that on a sexual level don't turn me on, but I don't go and fucking vilify people who may like them.  Would anyone support an attitude where doing it doggy style was illegal or ‘evil’?  Is it do so very different?

Why is it that homophobia inspires some to truly terrible violent acts? Not all of it can be put down to religious intolerance or people trying  to distract others from their own sexuality.  Where does this violent urge to hurt others simply because they want to stick Mr Floppy into a different sort of hole come from?  How much of it is learned behavior from our families growing up and our peers?

There are a great many things I find offensive, I do not however go hunting out people who do these things and giving them a good kicking.  I believe in live and let live, you like the stuff you like and I like the stuff I like.  As I mentioned in the last article, the human being doesn't like people who are different and stick out from the crowd.  So in the same way that people of other religions or races can (and often are) the subject of all sorts of discrimination those that dare to fall into a smaller sexual preference group become targets through no fault of their own.

Homosexuality is often treated like its a disease to be cured, or something you can catch if you hang around people who are anything other than straight.  If this were truly the case the sheer amount of gay people I have mixed with over the course of my life would have had some effect on me surely?  Some sort of documentary effect would have occurred you’d think. However not once have I been tempted to stick Mr Floppy in a blokes backside.  My interior decor skills have remained as terrible and unchanged as ever and my fashion senses the same as it was when I was 18. (Terrible) 

So no, homosexuality isn't catching any more than eating spaghetti is catching by hanging around places that sell pasta.  Maybe it’s just more than a wee bit unhealthy to take an in depth interest in what someone does in the bedroom and in what way they do it.  I wouldn't go up to a mate and ask which position he screwed his girlfriend in last night and then kick the almighty crap out of him if he had dared to do it in anything other than the missionary possition.  So why should I be so intolerant towards someone who simply prefers the same sex as themselves?  The bottom line is the hole itself is unimportant, surely if two people get together and it makes them both happy (even if it's only for a single night) and both parties are in agreement who the hell am I to judge?

The greatest tragedy to me is those people unlucky enough to have been born in the wrong body.  Its something I simply can't process how that must feel living a life in a body that always feels wrong.  The gender reassignment surgery is incredibly painful and not something anyone would go through just for shits and giggles or as a ‘lifestyle choice’.  Anyone who is prepared to go through something like that just to feel as normal as others do gets my god damned respect!  

We have to be careful once again not to generalize about sexuality and not see it as something that is a black or white, good or bad thing.  But of course we also have bisexuals who find both sexes attractive.  Does that make them more ‘normal’ or acceptable to those judgmental arseholes who go around victimizing gay people?  What's the points scale on this?  Is it plus 90 points of being gay, plus 30 points for being bisexual and minus 20 points if you're a lesbian?  Who works out what's acceptable and what's not?   

But of course people who have sexuality other than straight often have a very hard time of it, imagine if you could never bring a partner home to meet your parents for fear both you and your partner would get a good kicking or thrown out of the house.  Imagine if just because you like a blow job or a 69 you could end up homeless.   Imagine if a little light bondage could end up with you getting knifed in a back alley. Pick your perversion...we all have one. Would any of that be fair? How would it make you feel?

But I have a theory, one I hope is correct in the long term and it all hinges around the internet.  The invention of the internet was a massive moment for mankind.  The elephant in the room is it HAS changed the human race, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. As suddenly everyone can in theory  have listen to what WE HAVE TO GOD DAMNED SAY!  Back when I was in my early teens the idea of a bloke doing anal on a woman was a rare thing and had a fair bit of stigma attached to it.  But judging by recent trends in porn movie production this has now changed as we have been exposed to more and more alternative sexual things.  So in a similar way, what are often termed ‘fringe’ sexual interests such as spanking, bondage etc have seen a massive surge as well.  Why? 

Well maybe as for the first time in human history the internet gives the option of coming across all sorts of things that maybe you didn't even know you were interested in.  Even if you aren't interested in them, it makes us more tolerant of other people's sexual interests.  So I think in time, the same will happen slowly to homosexuality and transgender, it will simply become more and more acceptable.  I’d like to think as a species we are too evolved for tiny unimportant things to get in the way of us all.  Homosexuality isn't catching, being around homosexuals won't corrupt your kids or yourself.  So what are we really afraid of?

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Fear and Loathing of Intolerance - Part One – Religion

I came to an astounding realisation at a very young age.  The human race is a bunch of absolute screaming dicks.  We judge people based on the most spurious of reasons.  It can be the colour of their skin, the religion they follow, the sex they find attractive or even just being a bit different or odd.  So this is the first in a series of articles where I want to examine why as a species we behave like a bunch of judgemental dickwads in various ways.  Intolerance is all around us and it makes us weaker as world.  The core message in this series is the fact that you cannot and should not fight intolerance with even more intolerance and hatred. So I’m going to start with religious intolerance and more specifically the demonization that I see going on all over the world. 

It may seem odd that although I don’t follow any specific religion, I am a boring straight Caucasian male I feel the need to write this series of articles.  In fact if my skin was any whiter I’d be fucking transparent.  But yet again I’ve always been cursed with thinking deeply about things.  It never made sense to me to believe in something just because everyone else did or because I was told to.  As a child in my early teens I went to a catholic school, where you were told to simply ‘believe, don’t question...’ That just didn’t add up to me, why were we not allowed to ask questions to test the veracity of the whole bible story? Were they hiding something? Were there some dark parts we were too young to know?  

So I did something very few teenagers in my home town ever did.... I read the bible to see what I thought of it.  Then it occurred to me that maybe other religions may have a better point of view or make more sense.   So I read the Torah, the Koran (an English translation of it), some Hindu texts and so it went on and on.  It was my secret,  because let’s face it... when your 16-20 years old none of your mates are going to be too impressed with the fact you’re reading ‘religion’ for fun.  Let alone other religions.

That’s why victimising someone or generalising a person or group of people just based on somewhat spurious reasons makes no god damned sense to me.  It’s an unfortunate fact that human beings hate anything or anyone that’s different.  Anyone who sticks out and doesn’t move with the majority or follow the crowd is always in for a tough time.  But if we judge others by the cover they come in then we risk not knowing that the book itself may be rather interesting.  So in the same way as the different kids always had a far tougher time when at school, we often single out those we deem to be different.

At the moment the current religious group getting hammered as ‘evil’ are Muslims.  So whether its due to sometimes dressing a little different to the majority in the west.  Or the fact that middle eastern languages sound so different to the sounds within western ones, it means that right now a demon is needed to blame and tag they’re it!  The media portrays them as barely human hot heads that seemingly have a penchant for world domination and cutting people’s heads off (with a side order of blowing shit up.)  But they aren’t the first religious group to be vilified based on religion, and they certainly won’t be the last if history is in any way a judge about the future.  They are just one of the most recent in a long line of creating a group to blame for problems that we perceive cannot possibly be our fault.

But generalisation is the mother of all fuck ups.  Would you judge Christians as a whole on the actions of beliefs of the KKK?  Would you think these pointy hat wearing motherfuckers are representative of all Christians?  How about the Westboro Baptist Church?  If that sounds too crazy how about the Salvation Army whose local arm near me has a building with the phrase  ‘To cleanse the world with blood and fire!’ carved onto it in 2 foot tall letters above the damn door? Can you imagine if a mosque had that carved above the damn door? It’d be a major news story all over the western world!   So in a similar way that the aforementioned lunatics are not representative of all Christian religions (or even the west itself), all Muslims are not evil.  That’s a tiny percentage.

Sometimes if you flip the things being portrayed from one bunch of religious extremists to another you find a lot of similarities.  Catholicism has often declared throughout the centuries that there is only ‘one true god’ and waged religious wars on unbelievers, it has also had at times in its past a small minority of nutters who managed to create all kinds of evil in the name of religion.  Let me tell you how I see the whole thing.  Every race creed or colour has more than its own fair share of nutcases and whack jobs who are using any excuse they can to raise some hell.  I’m lucky enough to have met and talked to people from all sorts of religions, and 99% are normal people just like you and me.  Some may be religious in a sort of loose way the same as many Christians who may only visit a church once in a blue moon but ‘try to live a good life’.  Some may be very religious and try to follow what they believe to be the word of god as best they can. So why do we feel the need to have a bogey man to blame for what sometimes is due as a direct result of actions by leaders who have acted in our name? 

The west often tries its level best to bring ‘civilisation to the savage hordes’ in the same way it did back in history.  It’s a constant within our society, the need to feel better than someone else. Part of a nationalistic need to be enlightened enough to bring our lovely warm capitalism to them and make them civilised. (But not TOO civilised or they may end up richer than us!)  I’ve actually heard normally sane and regular people use phrases such as ‘those heathens need to be wiped out, they can’t be trusted to not cause shit.’  You know that’s been tried before, it’s called genocide and as a general rule it hasn’t worked out too fucking well in the past.  Anyone who thinks wiping out an entire race or religion just because they feel threatened has bigger issues than whatever religion someone follows or god they pray to.  That’s using it as just as much of an excuse as radicals and fundamentalists of all religions have done in the past.

All extremists regardless of their flavour of religion will warp and twist a book or text to best fit their goals.  They need a reason that will seem to make sense to some so they can do all the damn killing and violence that they like.  That way they can always say it’s in some god’s name.  It’d be far more refreshing if these types just admitted it’s all just a cover story and what they really want to do is raise some hell and kill as many people as they can. 

Another favourite argument is why don’t Muslims do more to stop these extremists?  Well let me answer that with a question: When was the last time you tried to stop the KKK or the Westboro Baptist church? (...and no... posting something on line or writing an article does not count!)  Have you ever taken direct action to stop them?  The vast majority have not...

If all religions had never existed as of tomorrow morning, you would still have these exact same people doing the exact same things with just another excuse used to verify to both themselves and others that they aren’t evil really... just following orders (regardless of whether they think those orders come from a god or somewhere else.  How many schizophrenics have claimed they only wiped out a family because a voice in the TV made them?  Is that any different really?  It doesn't really matter where someone thinks the message they follow comes from, whether it be from a god, a religious book, the fucking TV, or the Teletubbies, people will always find a way to justify their evil.

So how do we stop these people?  Do we bomb the shit out of them and try to bring ‘civilisation to the heathens’ again? Because that hasn’t really worked out too well in history.  People who are different cultures to yourself are not somehow less than you.  To think that will only lessen the person you are.  But yes there are those such as ISIS that want to kill and use a warped version of their religion to do so.  Do we fight intolerance with even more intolerance?  Intolerance we back up with bombs and drones and all sorts of other weapons no western power wants to admit they use?  Against often countries that have  This is the equivalent to a 16 year old kid stamping on a 5 year old kids sand castle.  No we don’t fight the likes of ISIS with even more intolerance backed with nasty weapons, ironically you fight them by showing tolerance and letting them become the Westboro Baptist church of Islam. So don’t worry, nutcases of any religion always burn themselves out once they have to do the boring things like create a working infrastructure of hospitals, roads, schools, income tax etc.  Without these no country is sustainable and so logically ISIS will burn itself out as most people have worked out. But alas those that make the weapons would far rather we all keep fighting and shooting and bombing each other so they keep diving into huge vats of money like Scrooge McDuck. 

So what god someone follows is of no consequence, I feel they should be able to follow whatever god they like without persecution.  If someone wants to pray to Mickey mouse they should be able to, what anyone else things is immaterial.  If someone gets something positive out of something and it isn’t harming anyone else why are we so bothered?  So no one should ever have to live in fear of intolerance that forces them to live grouped up in ghettos to protect themselves.  Wherever you have intolerance towards a group they inevitably band together for protection and support.  If you were in their position would you honestly say you would do anything different if you had a gauntlet such as that to wade through every single day of your life?  Or would you one day decide it’d all be far easier and less stressful to be around others similar to yourself who are also being persecuted?

Always put yourself into the other person’s shoes and ask yourself how you would behave and react if you were in their position.  Would you go in all high and mighty and ‘raise some hell and show those nutcases who’s boss’ or would you like 99.9% of people simply roll over, try to ignore the crazies and get on with your life as best you could?  Chances are the media would be simply telling you to roll over and take it like a good little boy.

But let’s not forget many of these crazies are crazies that we have created, or at the very least our leaders have.  Back in the gulf war we rounded a shit load of people up and stuck them in a huge camp (one of many) most without trial and many were innocent it was later found of ANY wrongdoing.  These places them basically became a terrorist version of Harvard or Oxford University.  The innocents, angry as all hell and being locked away with a bunch of fucking violent lunatics became desensitised and learned how to ‘fight back’ from these very same crazy bastards.  

Fast forward to Gulf War 2 (the with even bigger explosions!), and the west hires these very same people at a rate of $300 a day to fight and do all the nasty shit we don’t want to admit to doing.  Then magically we are told ‘hey guys! Iraq is sorted now...we can all fuck off home!’  Only it wasn’t.... it really wasn’t.  We handed over control to the new government and they then stopped paying these guys their $300 a day.  Now after a good few years living like fucking kings they missed the lifestyle that money brought them.  So when what was eventually ISIS went to them and said ’hey guys we’ll hire you...but only for $200 a day’ they jumped at the chance.  Half don’t even know who they are fighting for or even that it differs from their reasons of simply making us pay for shutting them in a camp with a bunch of fucking crazy bastards.  Simply put we helped to create a problem and exacerbate an existing one through a combination of bad foreign policy, corrupt politicians taking back-handers from the military industrial complex and even in some cases, just some downright evil stuff. 

Can you say if you lived in Iraq and a bunch of guys broke into your house with guns, raped your wife and daughters, killed your sons then slammed you into a prison full of mad bastards who want to kill everyone that it wouldn't leave you damaged? That one day you wouldn't turn around and simply not be able to take any more and turn to the dark side?  There’s never been a side in any war yet that has not committed war crimes, if you think otherwise your fooling yourself. It’s time that we realised this isn’t about religion, that’s just an excuse. Don’t blame the innocents for those who just need a thing that makes them not appear to be the psychotic fuckers they really are who could twist any book, even Barbie goes to Toyland, into a reason to wipe people out.  Never generalise ... anyone who says ‘All [insert object of irrational hatred here] is [insert insult] is a bloody fool.  That’s offensive to us all as human beings; we should all be allowed to be proud of who we are. No matter what that may mean.  But we fear that which we can’t or don’t understand, so maybe the key is to try and understand others better.  Maybe then we’ll find that those we fear aren't so very different to us after all.

Monday, 15 June 2015

The Bisexual Generation by Tony X Stanton

I remember my 1st day as a single man once more finally living in a place of my own very well.  The night is somewhat more hazy… I had split with my ‘wife’ amicably enough and were still friends, but after 10 plus years under virtual house arrest and dissuaded from going to any pubs, bars, nightclubs or places of entertainment that contained alcohol, it was time to once again enter the mouth of hell that was a weekend in my home town of Consett.

Consett is a unique place, an ex industrial town in the middle of nowhere populated entirely by those that people from other places consider mad or a bit odd.  There is very little normal in my home town, Consett doesn’t ‘do’ normal very well in fact… and certainly not on a weekend night out.  So I left my freezing cold house that seemed to soak up any heating I put on meaning it was often warmer outside than in my actual house.  It seemed like a good alternative to freezing, so on with some clean jeans,a t shirt and my denim jacket and off I went… once more into the breach dear friends!

But the town had changed! This was NOT allowed in any way whatsoever! My visions of my home town on a weekend were now a decade old, and while I recognised a few faces for back then there were lots of new people most about 20 years younger than me.  Now a I do believe that age is just a number and you are as young or old as you feel, I made friends with a lot of these guys and lasses aged about 20 in Consett.  They seemed to appreciate an older face who was just as mad as they were, liked to go out, dance like a lunatic and not treat them like they were still kids.  As  such I gained the somewhat dodgy sounding nickname ‘Uncle Tony’.

Over most of 2014 whenever I was in town (which was most weekends) I’d spend time trying to find out what made this generation ‘tick’.  But I soon realised that something very unique had happened in the little hobbit like world of Consett.  This generation were very, very different indeed, unique maybe.  

At least 80% of both males and females no longer viewed sexuality as a set thing, but saw it more ‘variable’.  So as such it was perfectly acceptable for a guy to have had either a boyfriend at some point, or even occasionally still have one night stands with a guy, and then the following weekend have similar sexual encounters with females.  Back when I was thier age, homosexuality was frowned upon (not surprising really with it being an old steel town full of ‘mens men’.)  You were either gay or you were straight, you were not allowed to switch your pieces mid game!  While I’ve always been of the opinion that its no god damned business of mine who someone fucks or what they get upto in the bedroom, back of a car or top of the roof of the local Tesco's, This did surprise me.  So being an inquiring mind, I had to find out how this change had occurred in obviously less than a decade.

My key to this strange puzzle lay in Luke, a 20 year old outgoing guy who was popular with everyone, everyone seemed to know him and he was one of the few to actively label himself as a bisexual.  So through him eventually I became friends with a whole extended group of young people.  I soon began to realise after listening to the stories, the gossip and admissions that this was not just simply a case of young people experimenting.  No, this was a whole new sort of sexual revolution, all be it one that was in its very early stages.  There was no case of any of them doing it for shock value, or lying about it.  It simply ‘was’ and as such was accepted by 99% of that age group.  

This was such a paradigm shift from when I was their age, when the national front nazi types roamed the streets on the look out for anyone with anything but the most deathly pale skin colour or any ‘puffs, homos or gay boys’.  Everyone of my age had either seen and witnessed, or had someone they know given a good going over with the boots by them.  So men were men, boys would be boys, and sheep were nervous.

So after many months researching the whole thing while drinking copious amounts of alcohol, discovering the new drinks of choice for a new generation (and as previously mentioned even once being so drunk I fell into a 3 foot deep water filled hole in the ground in the middle of a field at 3am), I came up with my working theory.

Each generation finds new ways to rebel against their parents, this is an accepted fact.  So as their parents were of my generation and as such had been coloured by both their experiences growing up and those around them rejecting anything ‘gay’, it started a unwitting trend.  If this is combined with the fact that what some call ‘the loony left’, saying we should accept everyone no matter what and the increasing demasculinization of men since the mid 1980’s and you had a perfect storm.

So on a purely subconscious level I believe those 20 year olds had grown up perfectly accepting of just about any difference.  Different coloured skin? No problemo… we all bleed the same colour!  Different religion?  “I don't really see that as an issue”.  So they have as a result the most open sexuality of any group I have ever encountered in my travels.  But what does this mean for the upcoming generation? Will they also rebel against their parents and end up just like mine was? Or will they find even newer and what may right now seem to be stranger ways to ‘buck the system’.  Only time will truly tell.  But its worth keeping an eye on that small town in the north east of England in the middle of nowhere to find out.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Fear and Loathing in Heathrow

It had been a long day at the end of a perfect week.  After a month and a half living and working on my own in Montreal 3500 miles from home my girlfriend Louise had came over for a week long visit.  Well, I say perfect… it wasn't really perfect as I still had to go to work during the day. But that worked out rather well as the poor woman was jet-lagged into orbit and mornings weren't exactly her forte while she visited me.  Which left her with just the afternoons to fill.  Not being a ‘girly’ girl, she didn't fill her days with shopping, but with walking around places I’d recommended and seeing stuff. Occasionally even doing my housework in the apartment. (She is a goddess among women!)

We’d had enough time after I finished work each day to go and do things that any couple would do in such a situation.  We went to fancy restaurants, not so fancy restaurants and even got her to sample ‘Poutine’.  Now Poutine is a rather revolting sounding concoction that against all known culinary  laws actually tastes like angels having sex with your tongue. A combination of chips (fries to those not of the English persuasion), gravy and cheese curds.  Now the idea of cheese curds’ sounded like an awful way to ruin a chips and gravy meal to me, but then after a month of avoiding trying the damn stuff, and being harangued by every Canadian I knew I finally gave in.I was expecting to get as much enjoyment as biting off my own testicles… However it tasted wonderful, even when I reminded myself I was eating cheese curds mixed in gravy and chips.

But the week passed all too fast one night was spent going to a polish restaurant I’d never been into in the french quarter of Montreal. (The idea of a french speaking region such as montreal having a ‘french quarter’ seemed odd.  It was almost as weird as if Liverpool had an ‘English quarter’.)  The meal was wonderful, the company even better but with every bite we both felt the thread that held us together in Montreal drawing thinner and thinner as the time got ever closer to the time we’d both have to head back to England.  Where after a few days to see my kids and my parents I’d leave her in my home town and travel once more back to Montreal...alone.

The flight was in the evening at the end of a day I ended up having to take off ill from work due to nearly poisoning us both with reheated pulled pork.  Now I'm not an amazing cook, but I rarely poison anyone, either on purpose or otherwise. But as I’d been asked to stay back at work far later than usual, we’d ended up missing our reservation at a very fancy restaurant and as a result the pulled pork left over from the previous evening was reheated...after a day in which my fridge battled the crazy Montreal heat.  A battle I can tell you from the resulting food poisoning it lost in a most spectacular way.  I’ll spare you the gory details… but suffice to say by the time we got to the airport that evening neither of us was on the top of our game and had been awake a fairly long time already. A rather important fact that will come into play later.

So we got on our first of two flights, from Montreal Trudeau airport to London Heathrow.  So by the time we reached Heathrow at the end of a 7 hour flight, at the end of an already very long day we felt terrible.  Even more so as we’d been unable to sleep on the flight due to having a man mountain in the seat next to me with overly large and pointy elbows and knees snoring loudly like two buffalo have kinky sex.

By the time we disembarked into terminal five of London Heathrow airport (a terribly sterile place with all the character of a blank wall.) Neither of us were in a good place.  The sleep deprivation of being awake more than 30 hours on top of food poisoning left us both tripping balls in a zombie haze in the middle of one of the busiest airports in the world with 3-4 hours to kill.  Although having to go through heathrow terminal five on acid would have been preferable. It would have been far more fun.

So after arriving and making an executive decision to go outside so I could have a smoke, the fresh air hit us both like a bomb next to the bizarre water jet sculpture thing. We headed back inside.  Two chain smoked cigarettes were enough to recharge my nicotineless body.  I no longer wanted to kill every man woman, child and small furry animal I came into contact with but we would have to go through Heathrow customs….

If you've ever been through customs at Heathrow airport you’ll know that while the people there are pleasant enough, they take the security side rather seriously and do not racially profile people.  So if you turn up looking like a ninja post box you have just as much chance of them pulling you to one side as if you were dressed in a cliché bowler hat and suit and have skin as white as the driven snow.  ‘White privilege’ means nothing there as you snake round in a seemingly endless line back and forth until you hit the terror that is Heathrow customs.

Normally I always get pulled at customs, once for having a fold up walking stick that apparently resembled a gun, then the time where a bag of camera gear containing a LED light apparently looked like a bomb, then the hilarious time my then 3 year old daughter had slipped a plasticine ‘man’ into my hand luggage next to my watch. (That was all kinds of fun as it seems plasticine looks like C4 plastic explosive under the scanner. and  as such I now think UK airports must have a detailed map of my rectal area!)  But maybe it’s just as my passport photo makes me look like Carlos the fucking jackal.  Or it could just be my epic legendary bad luck.

But this time I sailed through without a care in the world, but Louise however...her they pulled…. It turned out as she and I were both in a barely human haze she had forgot a bottle of water in her hand luggage that sent the customs people in a panic in case it was some sort of liquid explosive.It strangely enough never crossed their minds that maybe as they sold bottles exactly like that not 400 feet away that maybe, just maybe it was a forgotten bottle. So after waiting what felt like several lifetimes finally they let her proceed, minus said bottle of ‘highly dangerous’ mineral spa water.

Everything was swimming and my vision distorted at this point onwards with flashing balls of light in multiple colours, not all of them possible.  Things made little sense, neither of us could process simple things such as words, and I'm sure I saw 4 people dressed as Hawaiian elvises at one point. Although that may or may not have actually occurred.  One question I do have is what is the proper word for multiple Elvises? is it Elvi? Evises? or simple Elvis as in Sheep are multiple of Sheep?  Are we supposed to capitalise or not? These are questions my brain needs answers to!

Caffeine!! we needed coffee, fucking huge buckets of the stuff as thick as tar, that’d certainly help wouldn't it?  So we decamped to a small coffee place in the middle of terminal five, which by theat moment started feeling like we were the only humans in a zombie apocalypse.We weaved our way in what I’m pretty sure was not either a straight line, or a normal way to the of us ordered the drinks...I can't remember who. I just remember being so tired I couldn't see straight.. feeling like ten ton of death and putting one foot in front of the other being a major mental challenge. It was then that the blurred shape behind the counter asked his or her’s most heinous question:

“Would you like anything to eat with that?”

I looked at the blur, trying to focus...I panicked...I looked at Louise, who after a very long pause to think...uttered “I don’t know!”

The blur behind the counter was obviously used to such casualties as us and wasn't phased.  As we sat down with our drinks trying to keep failing miserably and having to be prodded forcibly to stay awake, it was time to go for our second flight.  The problem being our legs were not listening to our brains. Our minds were screaming at our limbs to move, however our legs had packed up and moved to a small jamaican island.  They were on holiday god dammit and they weren't taking any calls right now.

After deciding that our legs no longer taking orders was a particularly bad thing at that moment in time, I came to the conclusion that jabbing a pen into my leg as hard as I could may help wake the fuckers up and start taking calls again from the brain department.  The leg department were not happy at this, and forced me to stand up rather forcibly.  Pulling Louise to her feet we staggered our way past a multi coloured horde of travellers, the bright floaty spots of lights in front of my vision had turned into a barbershop pole of stripes at this point.  Words no longer formed in our minds, just the predictable 1...2...1...2… of slowly staggering to the departures for the 2nd flight.

They let us on the light, I'm not sure why.  I think I may have passed out on the plane, I honestly don't remember any of it until arriving in Newcastle airport.  FINALLY WE WERE HOME!! but fate had yet more time to toy with us…. While waiting for our cases in the baggage area… the belt took this exact moment to fuck up.  It spent ¾ of an hour dribbling out one single case, then stopping for another few minutes before another case feebly dribbled out onto the baggage area.  After much heckling and shouting down the ramp to the poor person below, several lifetimes later our cases arrived.

I can't remember the conversation on the way back to my flat  just that my parents and brother had turned up to give us a lift.  We got back to the flat and in my infinite wisdom I decided that a maximum of 3 hours sleep were needed if we were to go out for a drink at my local that evening.  However Louise's phone died, no alarm went off and we rolled into the Turf at 10.45pm.  The single photo from that night shows the two of us looking stoned off our boxes with tiredness with a wide eyed mad gleam.  

But it was all worth it when it was time for my sons birthday party on the Sunday. He was 10, and a tenth birthday is a big deal for a kid!  That's why I had to come matter what.  That's why even though I only sat down twice in the 4 days I was back and was equally as exhausted when I landed back in Montreal was worth it.  

I got the cab to my apartment, and as soon as I opened the door the smell of Louise's deodorant was there, her previous bottle of water on the kitchen counter.  It was then I knew that I was truly alone until the next time either she came over, or I headed back.  If I had any energy left I’d have cried, but I had none.  There was nothing left to give, either to myself or for others until I had slept.  Then would come the darkness, the time when no ‘next visit’ was yet planned.  The time when the black dog would be constantly scratching at the door.  That old black dog does a lot of scratching at the door of late… but I’m used to him, he only occasionally gets in these days.  Sometimes you learn the best way to keep the darkness at bay is to admit that it is there.  Depression is funny like that, it can smell your fear.