GUEST POST: A Ballad for the Good Times.

Since I’ve been posting my ongoing ascent into sanity post-breakup, I’ve had some lovely/intense feedback from people in the same boat.

Honestly. I write the breakup posts so I can laugh at myself and make light of it, but I’m surprised to say my cockles have been truly warmed by the response they’ve had so far. So, massively, thank you.  As a special treat, here’s a piece by a Guest Writer, who wishes to remain anonymous (what am I, a helpline?)

Here you go. Enjoy.

by Anonymous

The more you play a record, the more it changes. Think about it; every time you listen to a piece of vinyl, you’re slowly hearing it physically disintegrate as the needle scratches over the disc. And when you hear a song enough times, its original meaning slowly gets lost, like a never-ending telephone game. You put yourself into it, and it takes on whatever form you want it to have.

“Every day I’m digging a hole. I’ll probably climb out when I’m ready but the climbing is slow…” Mac McCaughan ‘Real Darkness’

I’m currently two weeks into a breakup. We’re still living together – for the time being – but we’ve managed to subconsciously engineer a Sliding Doors type scenario where, when one of us is in, the other’s out most of the time. It’s not great for sorting out logistical stuff like…y’know…when we’re going to actually move out, but it’s not a bad way to help process things. Like the fact I’m no longer with the person I’ve been with for five years, and leaving the city I’ve lived in for eight.

In the first few days, all I could bring myself to listen to was the odd song here and there – nothing with too much meaning or significance, just something to fill my ears. Mainly, though, I was catching  up on podcasts. Shows like Comedy Bang Bang and Spontaneanation With Paul F. Tompkins were perfect – improvised, ephemeral and, most importantly, fucking funny. They passed the time, but in the best way possible.

All through that time, though, the prospect of actually finding some music I could bring myself to listen to was the hardest thing. I tried record shopping a couple days after, but all I could think was “Whatever I buy is going to define me for the next however-many-weeks.” Too loaded, too much, too soon. It didn’t take too long to settle on lyrically-ambiguous nineties indie rock – my bread and butter; the messy sprawl of bands like Built to Spill and Guided By Voices filled the void without saying too much. But it didn’t take long before I wanted an actual message to latch on to.

In the end, I realised I wanted something new – something that didn’t already come loaded with its own baggage or associations. Something that I could make my own, on my own.

Two profiles:

Blur
My favourite band in the world on-and-off for about the last twenty years. Graham Coxon remains the one person I would most like to be for a day, given the chance. 13, the 1999 album written in the wake of Damon’s split from Justine Frischmann, has been daring me to listen to it for the last fortnight. I have not given in.
Go-to album: The Great Escape – Blur’s 1994 was so busy, I don’t understand where Damon found the time to get into heroin and fall into severe depression before writing this. TGE is the most artificially-happy sounding album ever made – glossy, shiny and almost offensively under the influence of Prozac. Can’t think why I thought it would help, but it kinda does.

Superchunk
I stacked up my Superchunk records by the stereo when I was craving meaninglessness, forgetting just how perceptive and reassuring Mac McCaughan’s lyrics can be. For the uninitiated – imagine an American equivalent of the Wedding Present, but with a little less scorn. Playing Foolish – written and recorded in 1994, in the throes of Superchunk’s lead singer and bassist breaking up – provided some much needed catharsis the other night.
Go-to album: Here’s to Shutting Up – after nearly fifteen years of relentless recording and touring, Shutting Up was the last album Superchunk would make for nine years. You can tell. Almost every song is about anonymous travel, long-distance relationships (the lyrics to ‘Phone Sex’ may be some of the most crushing ever penned) and reassessing why to even bother anymore. It sounds almost deliriously tired. Comfortingly so.

But that’s not really what I want to talk about.

“This is a ballad for the good times…” Blur ‘Battery in Your Leg’

All of this is a long way of saying that the two records that I know I’ll forever associate with…whatever this is are The Magic Whip by Blur, and Non-Believers by Mac McCaughan. For all my questing for something totally new to soundtrack these past weeks, it’s telling that what I’ve resorted to most is new records by people I’ve loved for years.

Oddly, they’re polar opposites, when you think about it. The Magic Whip, Blur’s first full album as a quartet in sixteen years, is shiny, hyper-produced, and rooted in one specific place – Hong Kong. Non-Believers is Mac’s first solo album under his own name, after over 25 years in Superchunk; it’s lo-fi, home-recorded, and casts a misty eye back on his teenage years growing up in the mid-eighties.

I have never been to Hong Kong. I wasn’t even alive in the mid-eighties. So what is it about these records that I’ve been so drawn to? Well, remember eight hours ago when you were reading that first paragraph? It’s that.

Both records are impossibly specific, but I’ve managed to put myself into them in my own selfish way. A song like ‘Lonesome Street’ is the only real London song on The Magic Whip, and it’s one I’ve held very dear since I first heard it. I may never need to take “the 5:14 to East Grinstead” when I go back home (I sure hope I don’t), but when Damon sings “you’ll have to go on the underground to get things done here,” it reminds me that I can forge a new future in an old place. That you can go home again.

And just hearing Graham and Damon singing together again – on ‘Lonesome Street’, the drifting melody Coxon props up behind the stately chorus of ‘Pyongyang’ – there’s hope there. If those two crazy kids can patch things up and get along, anyone can.

As for Non-Believers, there’s not much separating it from I Hate Music, the most recent Superchunk album. Although it’s a pretty romantic record, it never sounds patronising – at least not to me at this moment in time. There’s a very specific comfort to the album, and nostalgia abounds. The whole record is built on vintage synths, crudely-programmed drum machines and oh-so-eighties guitar sounds. Every time I listen to it, I hear different parts of my record collection – oh, there’s The Clean, there’s New Order, there’s ‘Sound and Vision’ – almost to the point where it becomes a game. It makes sense that the more I listen to it, the more distant it will get from itself –“faded,” as Mac sings on ‘Barely There’, “like this road trip photo from 1989.”

The two songs I keep returning to on Non-Believers appeal to both sides of my brain. It may be as much of a “you-and-me-girl-against-the-world” song as ‘Born to Run’, but ‘Only Do’ still gives me a boost when I feel myself slipping. When Mac sings “You can sit around here on the couch with the rest of this lot,” I feel caught out and embarrassed, but it’s a shame which lifts when the chorus rolls around – “There is no try – there is only do.”

And ‘Real Darkness’…well, that’s the other side of the coin. As drifting and airborne as the Cocteau Twins at their best, it’s also the most perfectly-realised lyric about depression and that I can think of right now. You know when you were an annoying teenager, and you’d pull out specific parts of your favourite songs to let the world know that really it was ALL ABOUT YOU? You know, like I have been…uh…all through this essay? I don’t think ‘Real Darkness’ is like that. It hits home because it’s vague. It’s not self-centred – it’s realistic.

“Now family, friends and strangers,” McCaughan sings in the bridge, “will lift your chin and go…”

Here, Mac’s voice leaps a beautiful, breathy octave – “’Smile, kid, smile’ until you know.”

He pauses. “Until you know…”

Another pause. Then the chorus. Three notes, two words: “Real darkness, real darkness, real darkness.”

If it had come out thirty years ago, this would have soundtracked a John Hughes scene, in which Molly Ringwald pined over some boy. It would have been the part of that imaginary movie.

“I believe that music in the long run can straighten out most things…” Saint Etienne ‘Finisterre’

Sometimes I feel like I’m too old to let music affect me this way; like this is the kind of thing I should have left behind when I started doing my own laundry and wearing shirts to work. But that’s how breakups are. You start from scratch – by force or by choice – and rebuild yourself from the ground up. You’re a teenager again, and everything’s to play for.

It’s been a long time since I’ve inhabited albums like I’ve lived inside The Magic Whip and Non-Believers. Eventually, I know I’ll leave these records behind, like I did with the music that defined me as a teenager. But I’m excited for a few years down the line, when I’ll dig these albums out of an even bigger stack than is currently waiting to be boxed up in my front room, and remember the uncertainty and promise of the weeks behind and the months ahead. I’m looking forward to looking back.

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Mundane Poldark Erotica

You’ve at least heard of Poldark by now, even if you haven’t seen it. It’s a TV series (apparently a remake) about a very sexy man in Cornwall. He has a mine and he marries a woman and he sulks 80% of the time but sometimes you see his gentle soft side and you know that he’s only so angry because he knows the pain of love and needs the touch of a good woman (me) to heal his wounded soul. I’m not sure what else happens. I’ll be honest, I’m not watching it for the plot.

My friend Luke, a smut-peddler, has been writing these little erotic vignettes about Poldark for me. Initially they were just mini daydreams about Poldark catching me raiding the fridge and telling me to come back to bed so we could eat cheddar off each other – then Luke and I realised that the more mundane the activity, the bigger the challenge to turn it into a little nugget of erotic gold. They’ve turned into a bit of A Thing and Luke now has a tumblr, Mundane Erotica, which is basically Poldark doing household tasks in a loin-stirringly sexy way. Here’s a taster – I guarantee you it’s the future of porn.

Prompt: Poldark grating some cheese

“Poldark examines his sandwich. Insufficient cheese.

He fights down to urge to punch someone, instead heading to the fridge. The cool neon light bathes his bare torso in the pale glow of hunger, about to be sated. He reaches for the mature cheddar, prising open the seal with tough, calloused fingers.

He grabs a plate, holding it above his crotch. He slowly drags the soft dairy over his rock-hard abs, shaving off thin strips with the perfection that is his body. Eventually, he has enough. He dusts it over his sandwich and returns to the bedroom.”

Prompt: Poldark meets an owl

“Poldark sits in the woods, alone and shirtless. He hears a hooting.
Haunting, majestic. Beautiful. He watches a barn owl swoop down, ending the life of some small woodland creature with swift and graceful brutality.

He appreciates nature – savage, untamed, yet majestic. It reminds him of…him. He adjusts his trousers, and the creature turns its head, 180 degrees. Watching him, seductively swallowing the still-wriggling mouse. Even mother nature wants a piece of Poldark, it seems.

He obliges.”

Prompt: Poldark goes to MacDonalds

“Poldark examined his surroundings. Harsh lighting, gaudy, faded neon. Customers and staff alike stood in a cold, dead-eyed trance. The strangely compelling smell of sythnetic food washed over his sharp senses. He approaches the counter, and requests a meal.

Before he can finish, his raw sexual magnetism overpowers the server. She rips her top apart, exposing herself to him. “Take me Poldark!” she screams. He sighs. Poldark can’t go anywhere.”

Prompt: Poldark does his tax return

“Poldark sits in the dark, cursing the king, tax collectors, and this infernal personal calculator. He re-reads a paragraph on deductibles and personal expenses for the fifth time, the words quickly lost in a fog of incomprehension and frustration. He slams a manly fist into the wall, not even wincing. The sweat of fury coats his handsome brow, and he turns on his heel.

Spread out on the table, wide open, are his tax returns. His pure frustration boils over, and man’s baser nature takes him over. He gives the tax return a look so smouldering it leaves a scorch mark on the corner, the rapid rustle of air sounding like an excited grasp. He tears off his shirt, preparing to do his taxes like they’ve never been done before.”

Prompt: Poldark unblocks the sink

“Poldark knelt before the sink, manly sweat condensing on his brow. The pipes were clogged. Still. He’d poured a bottle of some kind of cleaner down there, though the bald man on the bottle did not fill him with hope. He growled to himself in frustration. Perhaps he’d just have to do this the old fashioned way.

He hunted down the plunger, brandishing it triumphantly. He turned on the sink, imminent triumph gleaming in his eye. The sink sat there, shiny and coquettishly impassive. It gurgled. He poured the last dregs of the cleaning fluid out, watching the liquid circle the plughole. The sink gurgled again.

He moved in for the kill. The sink creaked as he affixed the plunger, and with all his might, pushed it down. He heard something shift, could feel it, ever so slightly. He thrust the plunger down again, felt the shift, and grinned. He soon fell into a rhythm, pumping with all his might. He was getting close now, he knew it!

With one final shove, he drove the handle down to the hit. The pressure forced the blockage in the sink loose, and the buildup gurgled away down the drain. Poldark wiped a hand over his sweaty brow, exhausted after some pipes well-cleaned. He wanted a cigarette.”

Prompt: Poldark as a weatherman

“Poldark stood on the clifftop, the salty sea air whipping his raven-dark locks about. His cameraman waved his hand – a little to the left. Poldark obliged. In ten minutes, they’d be live on air.The producers had been lairy about letting Poldark do a live report from the scene, but eventually he’d persuaded them into it. He adjusted his anorak, the tight material clinging to his sculpted body in the wind, rivulets of water running between the muscles that were now so starkly defined. The cameraman blushed and adjusted himself. Poldark didn’t mind.
He looked out behind him, the dark sea chopped and swirled, as gigantic waves crashed against the cliff-face far beneath him. He couldn’t help but smile a little. The freak storms that had been ravaging Cornwall were due to strike again tonight, and Poldark wanted a front-row seat. He hit the camera with a smouldering look, dazzling the monitor with his pearly whites, striking a stark contrast to the sky behind him which billowed with the ominous promise of impending thunder.

The camera rolled. Poldark began his report, turning to look over his shoulder and gesture at the roiling sea and sky beneath him. At this instant, Mother Nature struck her decisive blow. A thunderbolt struck from above, hitting Poldark dead on. The cameraman gasped, and so did the rest of England.

Not even the fury of nature could bring itself to harm Poldark. The cornish Baldr stood erect and defiant as his clothes were vapourized, the ashes carried away by a dervish zephyr. He winked at the camera and the nation went weak at the knees, the cameraman’s gasp of shock-cum-delight accompanying an outward zoom of the camera. Poldark’s bare body filled TV screens around the land as he stood proudly on the clifftop, dark hair surrounding his face like the halo of a particularly wicked angel.

He was Poldark. This had been the weather at Ten O’clock.”

Prompt: Poldark buys some shoes

“Poldark wandered his way though the bustling market. His boots were starting to give out, all the hard riding he did on a regular basis playing merry hell with the leather. This was going to be his second pair this year alone, the thought of which filled him with a sullen fury as he stalked the rows, seeking the cobbler.

He eventually found what he sought, ducking into a small dark set of rooms that smelled of musk and leather. The cobbler, a tall man with a glorious mustache eyed him up. “Boots?” he asked.

“Boots.” replied Poldark. The man nodded simply, and Poldark took a seat. The man grunted, eyeing Poldark’s obscenely tight jhodpurs and shooting him a sly grin. Then he went back to making Poldark some shoes, because they lived in a capitalist economy where money is exchanged for goods and services. Like shoes.

The cobbler finished his boots, and pulled off Poldark’s old ones with the look of lingering desire that Poldark was, by now, accustomed to. He’d considered buying less bulgetastic jhodpurs, but had decided against it. As the cobbler pulled the tight, shiny new boots up Poldark’s muscular calves, he prepared to pay the man.”

And, my personal favourite…

“Poldark lies in his bath of chocolate milk, the rich brown liquid lapping coolly against his tanned, weatherbeaten skin. He is alone – though in his heart, he is always alone.

His piercing eyes scan the page. The Feminine Mystique. This simple, slim tome – it was more than he expected. More than he bargained for. Waves of empathy crash against the hard stone walls of his heart.

Their runoff – a single tear – flows languidly down his scarred cheek before dropping, alone, into the sweet milky bath.”

On Dead Squirrels

I don’t specifically remember what sparked my interest in taxidermy. A long fascination with ghouls, ghosts, skeletons and ET perhaps; or maybe it was my abject failure at triple science GCSE at school, where I convinced Miss Celentano for an entire year that I was a mastermind of physics by copying Lucy’s work on solenoids. All I achieved was long-sightedness and a deep appreciation of multiple-choice exam questions. More likely, I think it was all those trips to the London museums my parents took me on.

The animals in those museums looked so good to touch. The Horniman, in particular, houses a gigantic walrus brought back from the arctic in the Victoria era. Taxidermists at the time had no clue what a walrus was meant to look like and so, presumably confused by the sheer amount of stretchy, wrinkly skin, stuffed the walrus to bursting. The walrus looked ten years younger. I didn’t particularly care about the lifespan of the animal, or the eating habits, or any of the facts printed next to the glass cases. I just used to want to pick up the snarling, stuffed foxes just to see what the fur felt like; push my fingers against the teeth to see how sharp they were. I wanted to hold a bear’s paw, stroke a lion’s mane, and balance a squirrel on my shoulder and wander around Tesco attracting impressed glances. “There she goes”, they’d exclaim in aisle three, “the squirrel whisperer.” If I got through the aisles fast enough, they wouldn’t notice the glassy-eyed stare of the thoroughly immobile animal stapled to my jumper. I still have these fantasies sometimes.

The appeal of taxidermy is how tactile it is. You’re not generally allowed to touch wild animals and yet, when they’re dead, it’s somehow ok. With this unsavoury reassurance in mind – I can’t write anything more on it without beginning to sound like Ed Gein – I booked myself my first ever taxidermy lesson.

The mice were on special offer. They were all lined up, white and furry and frozen, on a glass table. Our tutor was an upsettingly handsome man with an intense gaze and an even more intense beard, and he explained to us in a low Yorkshire accent, as we made the first incision from breastbone to tail, that he was a men’s fashion designer. He was most proud of a jacket he’d made with two foxes leaping over the shoulders, and he showed us a photo of the jacket on his iPad. It was very impressive, like a kind of vermin lumbar support.

Skinning a mouse is very much like skinning a chipolata with smaller chipolatas attached to it. Manoeuvring a thin, stretchy membrane up and over tiny arms and legs is no mean feat, and god forbid you get overenthusiastic and pierce its little bag of guts. Often our tutor would tell us to just pick up some scissors and snip away the base of the tail, the ankles and the wrists – all of which feels like a cop-out, like John Singer Sargent changing the brightness and contrast of Whistler’s Mother on Photoshop. Once the body is free you dunk the skin into cold soapy water, wring it out like a flannel, and pin it to a board for drying.

At this point, the cute bit of taxidermy finally comes in. Loathe to share the snapshots of entrails falling onto the lino cutting board like spilled soup, most trendy young taxidermists like to portray the process as being like a book club or a knitting circle. Using wood wool, wire and thread, we made little mannequins of the bodies of our freshly skinned mice and set the hairdryer on the skins, the tail whipping and flailing, the legs furiously windmilling – I’m always reminded of the Wuthering Heights dance on fast forward. Then you shovel Borax into the skin, position your mannequin inside of it, pad it out a bit and sew it up.

Inevitably, with its rigidly outstretched legs, the little mouse looks only slightly less dead than it was when you started. That’s when hours and hours of positioning come into play – do you want it to look realistic, holding a piece of cheese or standing up on its hind legs? Or do you, as many seem to, prefer a mouse in a cardboard top hat and ill-fitting doll clothes?

Personally, I don’t like the anthropomorphised taxidermy that was all the rage in the Victoria era. A guinea pig squashed into Barbie’s wedding dress seems somehow undignified, its tiny eyes imploring you to leave it a shred of rodent masculinity. One taxidermy enthusiast sells a whole range of rats dressed up as Walter White, Mr Spock, and Beyonce amongst others. I figure if you’re going to do that, you might as well make it really niche: have rabbits dressed as Mary Wollstonecraft and Germaine Greer, a mole as Van Gogh. You could even have a squirrel dressed as Ed Gein.

I continue to practice taxidermy in the relative comfort of my flat, to the complete disgust and abject horror of Ed. Some days are better than others, and I have learned that, even if you accidentally decapitate a blackbird, you can still keep its feet and turn it into ghoulish jewellery that absolutely nobody wants to buy. Next on the project list is Pierre the Gerbil, the beloved pet of a friend; a chicken killed by my aunt’s dog (she wants to give the mounted chicken back by way of apology); and a squirrel I bought on Ebay for a fiver. Dreams do come true.

The Slerby Dump.

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Remember how a little while ago I wrote a blog on not letting roller derby get you down, because it’s just a game, etc?

Print it out, set fire to it. Let us never speak of it again.

I’m in the middle of a horrible roller derby slump. I feel like I’ve peaked, having skated for eighteen months. I love jamming most of all but in the past few months every time I’ve been knocked off and bridged back, or I didn’t get lead, or been sent to the box, I question my resolve and my ability. I watch other jammers jump apexes and inspire cheers and hoots from the bench, and I see our team get stronger and stronger with every game they win, and yes I’m happy and excited. Roller derby is not a game for individuals, you must play as a team. But god damn, it feels as if I’m actually getting worse. My ego hurts.

I felt completely invincible a few months ago, when I considered myself a strong, reliable jammer. If we were stuck I knew I could always rack a few points up. Perhaps it’s because we’re playing bigger, stronger teams than we ever have before, but these days I feel like the spare dick at a wedding.

“So-and-so is going to be an amazing power-jammer”, “Miss Thing is quickly becoming one of our top skaters”, and so on. It is pathetic to feel envious of people you love and yet I do. Every jam I’m not picked for gives me this cold, vinegary feeling in my gut; like I’ve swallowed a huge pickled onion. An onion pickled in piss. And others have told me, and I have told myself, that this is a phase. Everyone goes through the derby slump – it’s like puberty again, because you go off for a mini-weep in the toilets a lot and get bad skin and compare yourself to your friends. Every tiny nit-pick about your own performance blooms into a full-grown insecurity it becomes impossible to ignore. But it’s just a phase.

I whinged to my coach recently that I felt like I was getting worse in training. He explained that I was looking at it wrong – I wasn’t getting worse, the team was getting better. Our walls were becoming impenetrable, and as a skater who has jammed a lot for my team in the past year, this was really exciting. That helped a lot – I realised that, yes, I’d been putting in a LOT of work, but I wasn’t the only one. It was a nice big slice of perspective.

But – and this is important – the work-rate of others does not depreciate your own. The biggest thing to realise when you are caught in the swamp of uncertainty is that telling yourself that you suck doesn’t help. When you are ill, you either take medicine that helps you to feel better, or you just suck it up and ride it out.

When you are in the derby slump, your medicine is your own kindness.

Watching my team-mates glide through a pack, the tiny voice in my head (which for some reason sounds like Brittany Murphy) says ‘I’m useless, everyone knows I’m a shit jammer, I’m faking it’, and – one of my own personal favourites – ‘I’m riding on the coat-tails of being good in Fresh Meat and now I’m playing it for real and I’m not ready.’

Brittany Murphy is chatting nonsense and here’s why. Say you’ve got a cold. Do you stand outside in winter in a wet jumper rubbing shit all over yourself? No, because that’s insane. It’ll also make your cold worse. If your self-doubt is a cold, then fuelling your self-doubt with Brittany Murphy’s smack-talk about being a failure is exactly like rubbing shit all over yourself. You don’t get rid of a cold by adding to it and you don’t get better at roller derby by telling yourself you suck.

Instead of comparing myself to other skaters, and pulling out my own eyelashes wishing for the strength of ten Mighty Mighty Bashes, I’m trying very hard to remember that no two skaters are ever the same. Everyone has their good points and bad points. Some are great at juking, others at jumping – some are very strong and some are very brainy. You might not be the strongest or the fastest or the best at throwing hits but you know you serve a purpose somehow – you just have to keep working and find out what it is. To everyone else, it’s obvious. You wouldn’t be there otherwise.

Feeling like you’re shit at something you’re passionate about is horrible. But as long as you’re still doing it, and you keep trying to push your way through that seemingly impenetrable wall of I’m-not-good-enough though it might take weeks and months, you cannot say that you have failed. And you’ll climb out of the derby slump, realise that while you were freaking out about being rubbish you’d actually been getting kind of great, and eventually you’ll wonder what the hell you were worried about to begin with. And we’ll all live happily ever after. The end!

The Interesting Thing about Feminazis…

…Is that they don’t exist.

I was working in the pub and chatting to the chef and he goes:

“What do you think about feminazis?”

Having never been asked that question in real life, and assuming he was somewhat joking, I said “I like them, I think they’re good.”

Mateyboy responds: “Oh yes. Nothing like a bit of reverse sexism masquerading as equality.”

Feminazis do not exist. No, honestly. They don’t. The two very, very simple reasons for this are:

1. Nazis believed in the systematic oppression execution of millions of people based on the idea that some races, sexualities, and abilities were inferior to others. Feminists seek freedom from oppression at the hands of a society which values men above women.

2. Women under a patriarchal society do not have the power to reverse the discrimination they suffer, and have it be truly effective or institutionalised. For this reason, women cannot be really sexist, and reverse sexism is not a thing.

I’m not really into censorship but I will make an exception for this. Do you see how the term ‘feminazi’ is not only inaccurate, but offensive? It really is that simple.

You have hardline feminists and less hardline feminists. You have people who believe – like Martin Luther King did – that freedom cannot be given by the oppressor, it must be taken by the oppressed. You have people who believe that the goal of feminism has changed with the evolution of society, and that whereas pretty dresses and shaved legs and lipstick were once the uniform handed out to us by the patriarchy, we have reclaimed them as our own. There are women who want the right not to find a nice husband, settle down and have three kids, free of judgement – there are women who want the right to have exactly those things, free of judgement.

But debates about shaving and makeup and pink are boring – cutesy topics which, I think, detract from the gristly stuff which people don’t like talking about. Let’s do feminazis.

Personally, I’ve never seen eye to eye with the kind of feminism (tumblr users call it liberal feminism) which is fun and friendly and, to all intents and purposes, a slightly more political version of The Babysitters’ Club. I don’t think feminism should have a cuddly side – it should be fierce and strong. A force to be reckoned with – something that the patriarchy fears. It doesn’t matter if a man sides with feminism, or calls himself a pro-feminist – he shouldn’t get a medal for it any more than someone proclaiming that they’re not a racist should.

“I believe women deserve respect!”

Congratulations, you’re not a scumbag. Have a cookie.

The nervous bloke’s idea of a feminazi, from what I can tell, is a woman who would prefer a matriarchy (or ‘gynecocracy’ which is much cooler) over a patriarchy. Instead of equality, she wants supremacy over men. The word ‘feminazi’ was made ~a thing~ by sentient ballsack/radio host Rush Limbaugh, whose other great works include such phrases as “take that bone out of your nose and call me back” (said to a female African American caller). But having done five minutes of research, which is almost as much as I did for my dissertation, I’ve discovered that the idea of a gynecocracy/matriarchy/whatever is not as clean cut as that. There are lots of different theories about it. Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote Herland, a novel about three men stumbling across a feminist utopia and reacting to it in different ways; a friendly looking ‘neopagan’ lady going by the moniker ‘Starhawk’ reckons the difference is that: “patriarchy is held to be about power over others while matriarchy is held to be about power from within […] a utopia where women are leading societies but are doing so with the consent of men.” A writer named Cynthia Eller  “feminists … [have] the understanding that female dominance is better for society—and better for men—than the present world order”. All crazy, dangerous ideas.

But that’s just it – the idea of being governed by women, however fantastical it may seem, is the Rush-Limbaugh-quoting man’s worst nightmare – despite the fact that women don’t get a say in the reality, which is being almost unanimously governed by men, with little to no consent. Obviously, whipping out your Gilman, Eller or Starhawk (or even Andrea Dworkin, who advocated women having their own country) in response to your feelings on ‘Feminazism’ is a boring and stupid thing to do. Wanking over your reading list is pointless when it comes to conflict. So instead of trying to convince you that ‘Feminazis’ are not a thing with an impressive list of names, here’s a simpler exercise.

Imagine a world where the roles are reversed, and feminist autocracy is in place. Men hold a meagre 1% of the world’s wealth. They are terrorised and abused in countries all over the world. They are targeted by extreme feminist groups for wanting the right to an education. At work, they earn less than a woman doing the same job. They are expected to put a family before a career. They are objectified and spread naked in magazines and television for the amusement of women. 1 in 5 men have experienced sexual violence at the hands of women from the age of 16.

That, apparently, is the aim of a ‘feminazi’. Despite the fact that all of the above happens to women under the patriarchy. When it happens to women, it’s just the way things are. When it happens to men, it’s feminazism. Men who accuse women of ‘feminazism’ are terrified of being treated the way they treat women, even if that would, THEORETICALLY, level the playing field. Feminazism: where the idea of men being in our position is so horrifying that it equates with the discrimination of the Jews in Nazi Germany.

Anyway, this is all just navel-gazing, thankfully! Guys – and specifically guys – I wouldn’t worry. As long as you’re dead set on the idea of Brad Pitt stripping down to his pants once in a blue moon being ‘objectification of men’, and as long as you accuse women who want to discuss women’s issues without the input of men as being ‘reverse sexism’, your stupid ugly regime isn’t going anywhere.

Anyway whatever here’s a gif of Lily Rabe.

Thankyoubye!

Ah wish ah knew how to quit you

Today I’m quitting drinking. And smoking. 

I woke up twenty minutes ago full of remorse and regret and with the age old lie “I’m never drinking again” pounding around my stupid head like a basketball. Of course it’s not the first time this has happened. It happens pretty much every single time I go out and end up with a bastard headache.

Today, though, marks the beginning of something new. Not least because it’s half past eight and I’m already writing something, which hasn’t happened in a long while.  I’m excited! I can’t wait to not smoke or drink, even though I’m already doing it. It’s a really weird feeling. Obviously it will be hard as hell – I work in two pubs and pretty much everybody I know smokes and looks incredibly cool doing it. Everyone has a good drunk story. This is what’s going to suck:

1. My family are big drinkers.

My folks drink pretty much every night of the week, even if it’s just a glass of wine with dinner. It sounds pretty innocuous, but put it into a different context – for example, going to a bar every day and having a glass of wine – it suddenly sounds a bit sad. My dad quit smoking about ten years ago, maybe more, and to his eternal credit he hasn’t had so much as a puff of a cigarette since. There was that one time on New Years’ Eve he got high (with a little help from my mum’s friends) and decided to eat everything in the house in sandwich form. I can forgive him that.

My mum quit smoking for a long time and now she smokes again. This is awful. She and my brother have constant bitch-fights over it. She drinks more than my dad too and gets drunk fairly easily. Cue more bitch-fights. What we’re learning here, kids, is that booze and fags are bones of contention.

2. Working in a pub.

Sweet lord. This is going to be so hard. The phrase “do you want a fag break” (because you don’t get a break unless you smoke in pubs, generally), the nice heated beer garden, the clusters of cool flannel-shirted Brighton girls with their fringes and dark lipstick all sucking away on liquorice roll-ups. Ironically, though, I never really drink while working in a pub. Alcohol is stupid expensive and it only takes one gang of drunk Jack Wills enthusiasts with twenty pound notes in their sweaty little fists shouting “SAGRES PLEASE. ACTUALLY MAKE IT EIGHT” to make you renounce beer forever.

3. I am really shit at drinking.

I’m a chronic puker. I mean it. If I don’t end up vomiting first thing the next morning I’ll be hopelessly paranoid until I’ve purged my guts manually. I’m squinty and shouty after two pints. A recent night out culminated in me sitting on the toilet eating pasta out of a tupperware trying not to cry. I’m a mess.

I dread waking up after a night out because I know I’ll spend the whole morning, sometimes the whole day, on edge with the taste of ash and fermentation clinging to my tongue and just waiting to puke.

I actually just went for a quick vom now. It was fizzy and tasted faintly of Orchard Pig.

4. Roller derby

Roller derby is bad for your health. After working our arses off and putting on a sweat you could drown a small child in, a bunch of us will go and have a cigarette afterwards. Why? Why do we do this? It’s the stupidest thing we could do. All that delicious exercise and clean air and cardio and we ruin it by huddling around outside like a gang of smoky penguins immediately after. Also don’t believe the myths: derby girls can’t drink. They vomit into their own hair, cry on the bus home and make out with inanimate objects. Big tough badasses.

So there’s that. And the afterparties. I’m not quitting roller derby, that would be pointless – but I am going to run a country mile if someone offers me a cigarette. You can hold me to that.

5. Sugar.

I’ve been watching my sugar intake recently (I have a lot of spare time) and have been trying to cut out all refined and processed sugar from my diet. I was knackered all the time, my skin wasn’t great and I was getting awful headaches – cutting down on sugar made a massive difference. I’ve done pretty well considering I started in Easter (impeccable timing) and am well on my way to being a totally sugar-free self-righteous prick.

Obviously, though, there’s a titload of sugar in most alcohol. I was very careful the other day, sipping demurely on gin, soda water and fresh lime, and then fucked it all up by sucking down three pints of Orchard Pig (my new nemesis. I don’t even like cider.) Hence a huge sugar crash today, which really isn’t helping my hangover.

 

I’ve just noticed that over the course of five headings I’ve gone from ‘things that will be difficult about quitting’ to ‘very good reasons to quit’. That’s a good sign, surely. Mainly I want to challenge myself and prove that I can do it. Also I’ve written a blog post about it so it will be really embarrassing if I relapse.

Things that will make it easier, I imagine, will be removing myself from situations where I’m tempted to do either of those things. Ultimately though it’s up to me and no-one else to stop saying “can I nick a cigarette” and replace it with “THAT’S MY PURSE I DON’T KNOW YOU.” As a trendy youngster in Brighton, smoking and drinking are culturally significant. I hate that. So it’s time to stop.

Wish me luck!

Exciting News!

**Exciting news!**

I’m thrilled to announce that my lovely little rodents are available to order!

missmouse

Mice, like the sleeping beauty above, are my usual beasties – but if mice aren’t your thing I’m happy and able to taxidermise rats, hamsters, guinea pigs and anything else cute and cuddly 🙂

You also don’t have to have your furry friend curled up asleep… maybe you want a rollerskating hamster or a guitar-wielding gerbil! Drop me a message with an idea of what you’re after, and I’ll make something especially for you 🙂  because I’m still gaining experience my work is very reasonably priced – so don’t be shy!

You can also rest assured that my taxidermy is completely cruelty free, and I thoroughly check that all of my animals are ethically and responsibly sourced from the reptile food industry. These little beasts have led happy and healthy lives, and are in better condition than any animal you’ll find in a supermarket.

Thanks!!

Lily ❤

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