Wednesday 24 December 2014

A bit cut up

Spurned lovers consumed with anger and jealousy often retaliate in amazingly extreme ways. It's not enough to vent their feelings, they sometimes resort to physical destruction on a grand scale.

Fifty nine year old Philip Gamble was so enraged at his wife of 38 years leaving him for another man that he broke into her flat and cut up all her clothes and furnishings, causing around £5,000 worth of damage.

He cut out the crotches of her bikinis, sliced the back of all her tops, slashed her trousers and cut the zips out of her boots. He sliced curtains and poured bleach on them, damaged a mattress and duvet, and turned off the fridge-freezer.

Then just for good measure he replaced all the slashed clothes neatly in wardrobes and cupboards as if nothing had happened. It was only when Jean Gamble took some clothes out of a wardrobe that she noticed the damage.

In court on Monday he was given a three months' suspended sentence for what the judge described as "silliness".

I think if I were Jean Gamble I would have seen it as a lot more than silliness. Deeply distressing and misogynistic violence, more like. It must have simply confirmed her decision to leave him.

So what would I do, I wonder, if Jenny walked out on me after 33 years to shack up with Mr Much-More-Appealing? Would I just wallow in private agony or do something more dramatic? Would I respect her decision and wish her well or go on a wild rampage and destroy her most precious possessions?

I like to think I would take the news in a civilised way - lick my wounds, drown my sorrows in chocolates and wine and start looking for someone else. But who knows how unhinged I might get over the wreck of such a long relationship? Who knows what crazy emotions might take over? I'm not sure I could guarantee decency and understanding.

Hell hath no fury like a lover scorned.

Saturday 20 December 2014

The wrong sort of pie

That's quite enough of all the intro-spective burblings. So now for something completely different. The wacky world of pie-eating champion-ships and the young lad on work experience who made a fatal blunder.

The Annual World Pie-Eating Championships in Wigan - now in their 22nd year - were reaching another gripping finale as the competitors chomped and chewed their way through the traditional meat and potato pie.

The winner - Barry Rigby, 37, from Wigan, a warehouse supervisor and part-time fitness instructor - was very pleased with himself for scoffing his pie in a lightning speed of 42.6 seconds.

But his moment of glory was short-lived when the contest was declared null and void because the pies were too big. Instead of being the required 12 centimetres across and 3½ centimetres deep, they were found to be twice the size.

The work-experience guy had mixed up his orders and delivered the 24 competition pies to a divorce party instead of the pie-eating contest.

It's not reported how Barry reacted to the devastating news. Did he take it philosophically, shrugging his shoulders and saying it was just one of those things? Or was he apoplectic with rage, smashing the furniture and vowing never to eat another meat and potato pie? We can only guess.

Tony Callaghan, owner of the contest venue Harry's Bar, says "Everyone took it in their stride and demonstrated the professionalism of pie-eating at this level." I suspect that was tongue in cheek - or even savoury pie in cheek.

Don't laugh. The world of competitive pie-eating is very serious. Very serious indeed. Last year pie-lovers from as far as Australia flocked to Wigan in the hope of taking home the coveted crown. Aspiring pie-eating champions spend the whole year whittling down their chewing times to a record-breaking minimum.

If you think you could do better than them - it's just pie in the sky.

Wednesday 17 December 2014

Where there's a will....

People have often told me I have a lot of willpower - which I guess also means self-discipline. They're quite right. When I'm determined on something, I don't let minor obstacles stand in my way.

I'm not put off by strong emotions, or sudden impulses, or other people's nay-saying. I don't find excuses for not doing anything. I don't procrastinate. If I've made up my mind to do something, then I do it.

I'll go into work even if I'm feeling poorly, if there's a job that needs to be done.

I'll tackle something difficult despite all my neurotic fears and anxieties and doubts.

I'll plod through all those tedious job applications even if I'd rather be listening to Joni Mitchell.

I'll be polite and courteous to someone, even if their behaviour makes me want to strangle them.

I'll look at every room in that huge art gallery, despite my weary eyes and weary legs.

I'll get to the top of that mountain, however beautiful the view from halfway up.

Maybe sometimes my willpower gets the better of me and overpowers sensible thoughts and valid emotions. Maybe sometimes I'm set on doing something that doesn't need doing, just to prove that I can do it and not seem feeble or pathetic.

But it does mean I do things others wouldn't feel up to. It means I've tried my hardest to achieve something, and I won't later regret copping out. It means I've done what I wanted to do and not succumbed to other people's head-shaking.

I would never have been to Australia three times if I'd given in to my loathing of sleepless and mind-numbing long-haul flights. But I was determined to get there, and what an experience it was.

Grinning and bearing it can sometimes be amazingly rewarding.

PS: On reflection, I think this post is nonsense. By willpower and self-discipline, all I really mean is determination. In other words, if I'm determined to do something (for whatever reason), then I'll do it. I'm just complicating something very simple.

Thursday 11 December 2014

Shrinking violet

Carla Bruni may have a compulsive need to exhibit herself and be in the public eye, but I'm the exact opposite. I crave anonymity and invisibility and avoid public scrutiny wherever possible.

I know that if I come to other people's attention, sooner or later they'll be judging me and maybe finding me wanting. Simply by noticing me, they make me self-conscious, self-doubting and abruptly shy. Even being publicly thanked for something is mildly embarrassing.

I'd hate to have a job where I'm regularly exposed to large numbers of people, or even worse to have to make speeches or presentations to them. I'd hate to be a celebrity or someone suddenly thrust into the limelight by some newsworthy event.

But it's not fashionable, not "normal" to be so reticent. It's supposed to be natural to want attention, to want an audience, to want others to recognise you and appreciate you. We all love someone who's the "life and soul of the party". Or do we?

Some people (like Carla Bruni) don't feel they really exist unless others are acknowledging them and referring to them. Without that constant attention, they feel incomplete, insubstantial, vestigial.

I have no doubt at all that I exist. To me, my identity is as solid as a rock. I don't need others to convince me of the fact, or to turn me into flesh and blood. I see no need to display myself to the rest of the world. What I see in the mirror is good enough for me.

Saturday 6 December 2014

Way out of line

I don't think I could be "normal" if I tried. My thoughts and feelings are so way out of line with what passes as "normal", I'm reconciled to the idea that I'm thoroughly eccentric. Or at the very least "different".

I feel profoundly sad about things other people don't even notice. I feel totally unmoved by what utterly enrages them. I get absurdly anxious about supposedly routine events. I adore things that others find incomprehensible.

I've never wanted children, or wanted to live in the suburbs, or wanted a high-flying job, or wanted two weeks on a beach at Torremolinos.

I feel really peculiar wearing a suit and tie, or reading a mass-market tabloid. I haven't eaten meat for nearly 40 years. I hate fizzy drinks, instant coffee and beer. Fashions in clothing totally pass me by.

I've always been a socialist, even when half the population was besotted with Mrs Thatcher and socialists were seen as "the lunatic fringe", "the reds under the bed" and "the enemy within". I was abnormal with bells on.

Of course "normal" is impossible to define anyway. It means different things to different people,and every survey of "normal" behaviour comes up with a different formula. It's one of those nebulous ideas that keeps slithering out of your grasp like a bar of soap.

So I think I'll just carry on as usual, even if it makes other people feel uncomfortable. Or bemused. Or censorious. Better that than running round in circles chasing an ever-moving target. As Popeye said, I yam what I yam.

Wednesday 3 December 2014

Dear Santa

Dear Santa

I hope you are well. I hope that your new diet is working and that Alcoholics Anonymous is keeping you off the booze.

Gosh, there are so many things I want for Christmas, I don't know where to start. Here are some of them anyway:

1) A perfect memory that actually remembers everything. Like the plots of books and TV dramas. Like people's names. Like whichever shop it was that had that brilliant potato peeler.

2) Super-fast legs so I can forget the car and walk the seven miles to work in ten minutes.

3) A maximum body-weight setting so that however much chocolate cake, trifle and ice cream I eat, I don't gain an ounce.

4) Fluency in several languages so I can read all those great books that have never been translated into English.

5) A female body for a month so I can wear all those fabulous clothes I can only drool over as a bloke.

6) A totally adjustable body temperature, so I'm always comfortable however cold or hot the climate, and I don't need central heating or air conditioning.

7) Telepathy, so I know whether someone is telling the truth or lying non-stop. Or whether they're just pretending to like me.

8) Infinite empathy. However extreme a person's emotions, I can understand them instantly. I can feel exactly what they're feeling.

9) The gift of the gab. Whoever the person, whatever their situation, I always have something to say, and it's always what they want to hear.

10) A magic wand that will melt all the pain in other people's hearts.

I think that's enough to be going on with. Don't worry if there's one or two you can't manage. I know you must be awfully busy!

I hope Mrs Claus has recovered from the flu and that the elves aren't dabbling with the crack cocaine again.

Big hugs, Nick

PS: You're my favourite person ever in all the world!