Friday, 29 July 2011

How to be mature

The idea of maturity, as in being a mature adult, is a highly dubious one, especially when it implies giving things up or toning things down.

If behaving in a certain way makes you feel good or adds to your enjoyment of life, why should it have to be toned down? So other people feel more "comfortable"? So you don't look "ridiculous"? Phooey. Don't listen to such mean-minded nonsense.

And what are we supposed to rein in or do away with anyway?

Mature adults, it seems, should have "normal" hobbies i.e. ones that other people can understand, like gardening or knitting. No eccentric interests like collecting pepper grinders or making the Taj Mahal out of matchsticks.

You should never be too enthusiastic or gushing about anything, as it's "childish". Your appreciation should always be restrained and thoughtful, suggesting some subtle dimension of pleasure (whatever that might be).

You shouldn't wear clothes that are too flamboyant or eye-catching. No bright colours, no miniskirts, no budgie-smugglers, nothing too tight or too scanty. You should blend in with your surroundings and dress "modestly".

You should always be polite and inoffensive. Keep a lid on those controversial opinions about Bible-bashers or baby-boomers or drunken louts. Maintain a neutral atmosphere, however artificial and strained.

But why should we always suppress our natural tastes and responses in the name of being "mature"? Which means what exactly? Responsible? Sensible? Well-behaved? We can be all those things without turning ourselves into strait-laced old farts.

Maturity? Bah, humbug.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

A long time dead

I'm amazed someone can be declared dead and then spend 25 years with a new identity without anyone smelling a rat. But that's what a Chicago man managed to do.

Forty year old Arthur Jones vanished in May 1979 after being sacked as a commodities broker and struggling to pay off tens of thousands of dollars in gambling and other debts.

In 1986 he was pronounced dead, and his wife and children collected about $47,000 in benefits. They claim to have never heard from him since.

But Mr Jones, now 72, was tracked down last week in a Las Vegas bookmakers, where it seems he worked for a decade. He had been living with his girlfriend for 22 years. He was arrested and charged with crimes including fraud, burglary and identity theft.

He reportedly bought a fake identity for $800 under the name Joseph Richard Sandelli and has used it ever since. He was only found out after someone got suspicious about his Social Security number.

Apart from the sheer ruthlessness of abandoning his wife and children without a word and leaving them in a colossal financial mess (or so it's claimed), I wonder how on earth he avoided detection for so long. You'd have thought there would be something fishy about his new ID or his account of his life that would have raised a few doubts pretty quickly.

I guess it shows how easily we trust other people. We believe what they tell us - their name, their personal details, their life history. Why should we disbelieve them unless there's some obvious sign they're lying?

But it must have taken an astonishing acting ability. He must have adopted his new alias so completely, so seamlessly, that he never betrayed himself, never gave any clue he had a second identity. His wife and children, his previous job, his huge debts, all securely buried in a corner of his mind and never ever revealed. What perfect self-discipline!

When you think how hard it is to keep a secret, and how easily we blurt something out when we're not totally vigilant, or we're drunk, or we're under pressure, his impregnable silence is impressive.

PS: A further thought. Did he not love his wife and children? So how could he bear to leave them and never see them again? Wouldn't he have felt a terrible sense of loss and emptiness?

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Out of sight

I don't look at my body very much. Only the bits I have to pay close attention to like my teeth and face and hair. The rest I hardly notice for months on end.

All sorts of changes may have occurred without my knowing. Huge clumps of body hair. Mysterious lumps. Odd rashes. I really wouldn't know. I just assume everything stays much the same from one month to the next.

I think I'd notice if I grew a pair of breasts or my boy bits disappeared but otherwise I'm blissfully ignorant. As long as my body is fit and healthy and doesn't look hideous or ridiculous, it's of little concern to me.

Women are very different and tend to pay huge attention to every minute detail of their body. They notice the slightest change immediately. Have my hips got bigger? Have my arms got hairier? How wrinkly are my elbows?

That's because their bodies are expected to be perfect, while men's are allowed to be as flawed as you like. Beer bellies, thickets of chest hair, man boobs, dangly bits, bulging bits, none of it matters unless you're an aspiring model or rent boy.

What's more, unlike a woman, who's expected to wear clothes that emphasise her body, I can wear clothes that completely hide my body so the imperfections are known to nobody but me.

And unlike a lot of men, I don't compare myself to male models and find myself lacking. I couldn't care less how thin or muscular or hair-free or handsome they are, I'm quite happy with my body and its unique one-offness. So I shall continue to ignore it as much as possible.

Botox? Waxing? Shapewear? Thanks but no thanks.

My God, Amy Winehouse dead at 27. What an utterly tragic waste of talent and life.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Not me, guv

The persistent rumours that I have been routinely hacking into the mobile phones of other bloggers to unearth spicy and salacious material for blog posts are totally untrue. Everything you are reading has been obtained by strictly legal and ethical means.

Further rumours that I have used a string of private detectives to monitor the personal lives and sexual liaisons of other bloggers are also untrue. I have done nothing more than peep through their windows late at night.

Claims that large quantities of emails, voicemails and other hacked material are stored in a safe under the floor of the Wendy House are simply malicious and libellous and my lawyers will shortly be contacting those responsible.

I have repeated many times that even if there is such illegal material in circulation, I know absolutely nothing about it. As chairman and chief executive of a megalithic global corporation employing millions of halfwits, I cannot possibly know what any of those halfwits are up to at any given time.

However, informal investigations by my staff suggest that the team of night cleaners employed by Nickhereandnow, led by Mrs Hermione Quickwipe, have been seen in the offices at unusual times and have been leaving the premises with suspicious packages and bulging holdalls. We have taken the precaution of sacking the entire team.

While reiterating that I am totally innocent of any wrongdoing, I apologise unreservedly and from the bottom of my heart to all those who feel their personal privacy has been invaded and their careers wrecked by unnecessary revelations of saucy six-in-a-bed bondage romps in Billericay.

I feel deeply humbled and chastened by the scandalous activities reportedly carried out in the obscure nooks and corners of my sprawling empire, which severely tarnish the once glittering reputation of this fearless and intrepid blogging colossus. I shall leave no stone unturned and no cliché untouched until my good name has been restored and my membership of the Playboy Club reinstated.

God bless you all.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Hacked off

Getting a divorce can be a pretty nasty business. But not many wives tie their estranged husband to a bed, cut off his penis and put it in the garbage disposal.

When paramedics arrived at Catherine Kieu Becker's house in Garden Grove near Los Angeles, they found her husband still tied up and bleeding profusely from his groin.

They retrieved parts of his severed penis from the garbage disposal but it's not known if surgeons were able to reattach it.

Why Ms Becker resorted to such a horrific measure is anyone's guess (she is reported to have said only "he deserved it"). The couple were married in December 2009 and had recently sought a divorce.

Her husband has vigorously denied he was bedding other women but all sorts of rumours are flying.

I can't imagine how any woman could do something so drastic (and probably irreversible), something that presumably will ruin the man's life, however badly he had mistreated her or impugned her sexuality.

What can she possibly gain from it except his burning hatred and the sort of media notoriety most of us would run a mile from?

Was she for some reason trying to render him incapable of seducing or bedding another woman because of some appalling experience he had put her through (or supposedly put her through)?

Ironically, if she is found guilty of the six charges against her and jailed indefinitely, she also will never again have a normal sex life. Nor will she be able to hack off any more penises.

Penectomy note: She isn't the first of course. Lorena Bobbit sliced off her husband John's penis in 1993, and a Bangladeshi woman, Monju Begum, cut off a neighbour's penis because of persistent harassment in May this year.

Pic: an unflattering police mugshot of Catherine Kieu Becker

Monday, 11 July 2011

Mixed motives

I have very mixed feelings when I'm watching one of those frank and gritty documentaries about the people who get shat on by society - families coping with squalid housing or loan sharks or chronic unemployment.

Am I someone with a social conscience, keeping in touch with what's happening outside my cosy middle-class cocoon? Or am I just a gawping voyeur, drinking in the sordid details of other people's miserable lives that I can do little to change?

I asked myself this when I was watching a particularly grim TV programme about tenants being conned and abused by ruthless landlords who let their homes disintegrate, jacked up the rent or evicted them overnight.

I wondered why I was continuing to watch a parade of humiliated and distraught people when I was already very familiar with the problems they were talking about, problems that have been going on for decades. What more would the programme tell me apart from how thoroughly wretched the victims were?

It's glaringly obvious that many people are struggling to survive and have decent lives. Why was I conspiring with journalists to make a pointless spectacle of their private anguish?

Apart from the voyeuristic element, there's the feeling of helplessness such programmes create. Naturally I want to relieve the suffering of these downtrodden people, but what can I actually do about it? As a solitary powerless individual, virtually nothing, so I'm left feeling inadequate and irrelevant in the face of overwhelming need.

Alternatively, I'm prompted yet again to rage against the incompetence of politicians who allow these injustices to go on year after year while they themselves enjoy decent lives in comfortable homes. And what does that rage achieve except to raise my blood pressure and remind me of other people's smugness? Nothing.

Is my ambivalence about these programmes just squeamish over-sensitivity? Or am I right to be dubious about such muck-raking journalism?

Friday, 1 July 2011


I don't have that many friends, which seems like a major failing when most people seem to have dozens and dozens. I'd like to have a few more. On the other hand, I'm such a scatterbrain that if I did have so many friends my life would be total chaos.

I'd be in the wrong place at the wrong time on the wrong day, probably with the wrong person. If I remembered I was meant to be meeting someone. And if I could remember who I was meeting. Was it Sophie or Maxine?

Having finally met up with Sophie, I would then only be half-listening because I would be thinking of another friend I was due to be meeting. Was she the one who was pregnant, had broken up with her boyfriend and bought a ruinously expensive flat or had I mixed her up with Lotte again?

Then Sophie would be asking me what I would do if I were in her place and because I'd only been half-listening I would be totally in the dark so I'd have to confess I was miles away and ask her to run through the problem again. And try to pay closer attention this time as she scowled venomously at me.

Meanwhile Maxine, who I'd accidentally double-booked and had been waiting for me in Caffé Nero for the last 57 minutes, would be trying to ring me but I hardly ever use my mobile phone so she'd be getting no reply and cursing me so viciously a waiter would be discreetly asking her to keep her voice down as she was disturbing the other customers.

Then I'd remember I promised Lotte (or was it Polly) that I'd help her look for a new car as her old one had died on the M1. So I'd ring her up and she'd say she wasn't going out today as her hair looked like a gorse bush but did I think she was mad to spend £150 on a new Fossil handbag and I'd say I can't talk now because I'm with Sophie and I'll ring her back and she gives a long-suffering sigh and I feel guilty but I ring off anyway and find a furious text from Maxine.

And the rest of the day just gets worse.

Blogging is a bit erratic at the moment as Jenny and I are going to Liverpool for a few days with our friend Kath from Melbourne. You'll just have to be patient....