A Gentleman’s Quip

The man came to install a new washing machine; a washing/dryer combination designed to give the ultimate mixture of washing and drying. It was white and shiny like a freshly laid egg, only it was cuboid-shaped rather than spherical, and contained no delicious yoke.

I opened the door in my dressing gown, a floral print smoking jacket affair, and the man looked disgusted. I think he was some sort of mad working-class nutter, and as such unfamiliar with my gentleman of leisure lifestyle. I could tell that through his thinly veiled disdain he was actually tempted by the soft silken texture of my extravagant robe. I offered him a stroke of my forearm, or maybe a sniff of my lapel, but he declined. I could tell his interest was piqued, but I imagine he didn’t want to be mistaken for some kind of nancy-boy, which is the worst sort of insult among washing machine installers, especially ones from the streets.

I offered him a cup of tea while he hauled the machine through to the kitchen. He accepted and I took a mug out from the cupboard and put it on the kitchen counter, which is where I choose to make my teas. Reaching back into the cupboard however I discovered that we were out of tea bags; this realisation hit me like a realisation. At first I didn’t know what to do to rectify the situation; I had offered the man a cup of tea and I was worried that if I confessed we were out of tea bags it would look like I was playing a cruel joke on this naïve young man.

I had a brilliant idea: I remembered that the phrase “tea-bagging” was also a bawdy double entendre, meaning an erotic sexual performance in which a man lowers his testes on to his lover’s face. I saw an opportunity for a hilarious prank, which if taken in good humour would definitely ensure best friend status between me and this lowly laundry-based serviceman.

I unzipped my trousers, removed my scrotum and testes and placed them inside the mug. I was careful not to allow my penis to follow them inside the mug’s gaping aperture, because that would not have been funny. I turned around to face the man with the mug in my hand, planning to say “here’s your teabag” with a wry smile on my face, but I faltered, nervous about such outrageous joviality, and what I actually said was “I’ve put my balls in this cup.”

I paused for laughter. So did he, which was polite but unnecessary. We paused together for about a minute, staring at each other. My testicles started to shrivel up and retreat inside my body, meaning they were no longer inside the mug, making my raunchy joke abruptly unfunny and, I feared, inappropriate.

He retreated from the kitchen, leaving the washing machine stranded in the middle of the room and me looking dejected with my scrotum hanging tentatively above a mug. He ran out of the house, jumped in his van and drove away at a blistering pace, leaving me to contemplate my shame. I looked down at the mug and noticed it was the mug I bought at the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, and concluded that his objection and silent departure must have been a result of his disdain for Spanish art. If only I had taken the time to find a less offensive mug to put my joke into.

That happened six months ago now, and the washing machine is still in the middle of the kitchen, reminding me of my blunder. Whenever I see it I feel just like that isolated machine: totally out of order. Sometimes I stand on it late at night, contemplating my failure. Occasionally I wail, banging the drum of the machine slowly yet forcefully to punctuate my despair. I haven’t washed a garment of clothing since that incident, and nobody drops by to hear me scream.

Halloween, 1998

It was Halloween, 1998, and my wife’s waters had just broken. At first I thought she had just pissed herself, and I laughed, poking fun at her incontinence, but when she started groaning and clutching her engorged stomach shouting “I’m having contractions you awful twat” I remembered she was pregnant.

The Autumnal moon shone brightly upon the tarmac; it’s luminescence illuminating my path as I drove Linda to the hospital in my Peugeot two-hundred and six.

When I arrived at the maternity ward I was shocked to discover the strict adherence of the NHS to fancy dress. Doctors, nurses and all miscellaneous staff were clothed in the gruesome attire of the scariest festive season. There were zombies, headless horsemen and Frankensteinian monsters rushing about the ward, going about their business under the light of handheld torches. Cobwebs stretched from wall to wall and flaming pumpkins sat on desks.

Some of the hospital staff had even dressed up as doctors and nurses, which I thought somewhat a cop out. At least the nurses had tailored their clothes into a more revealing form in order to make it an actual costume.

I thought it all a little inappropriate, but I didn’t want to ruin anyone’s fun. After all, at my work they had just started implementing casual Fridays, meaning we were allowed to wear knitted or otherwise outrageously patterned ties.

A nurse dressed like a post-apocalyptic Florence Nightingale helped my wife in to a wheelchair with skulls on it and took us through to our designated medieval birthing chamber.

The room was dark and lit by candlelight. The hospital bed had been transformed into a kind of sacrificial stone slab. As I helped Linda on to the slab I was assured that it worked in much the same way as a normal bed, and that the sacrificial element was purely decorative. She lay down complaining, as women often do, of severe back pain.

The doctor was made up to look like the Grim Reaper, wearing a full black hooded cloak and complete with a fully-functioning scythe. His latex gloves were black with bones on, so that it looked like his hand was all bony like a real skeleton; of course I could tell the difference.

My wife felt slightly uncomfortable about the concept of her first-born child being born directly into the hands of the harbinger of death. I tried to explain that the doctor was just wearing a simple costume, and was not actually a reaper of souls, but this only made matters worse.

Her anger was broken by the knockings of an infant upon her cervix. Placing her legs in the cast-iron stirrups she commenced the long and arduous miracle of child-birth.

Eventually her vaginal muscles succeeded in producing my son. The doctor cut the umbilical cord with his scythe and handed the child to a nurse dressed like a sexually promiscuous kitten; I felt slightly aroused as she wiped the placenta from my son’s forehead.

The floor then opened up beneath us and a flaming staircase manifested itself, offering passageway into the ninth circle of hell. The doctor took our child and carried him down into the infinite abyss, while Linda screamed and tried to free herself of her stirrups. I laughed and patted her sweaty head, assuring her that our first-born child was not really being condemned to eternal damnation, and that it was just a quirky party piece made from elaborate decoration and highly sophisticated mechanics.

That was over fifteen years ago now, and the midwife still hasn’t given us back our son. I’ve been to a number of Halloween parties since that evening, but all of them have fallen short of the dedication and ability of the staff of St. Mary’s hospital. I go back there every Halloween, hoping to see my teenage son arise from a decorative crypt or papier-mâché graveyard. One day they will bring him back to us, but until then we wait, carving his face into pumpkins and poking his name into cobwebs.

One Woman’s Struggle with Seeded Fruit

It all started on a white leather sofa in Sarah’s living room. There was a selection of cheeses and a gathering of olives, both green and black, cradled in a glass bowl on a Perspex coffee table. She offered me an olive, or maybe a cuboid of feta, and I politely declined.

Sarah started to yap ceaselessly about her new house. I found it difficult to listen to her, not just because she was a terrific dullard, but also because I was distracted by the radiant glow of the olives that I had previously rejected. Now I wanted one. Just one semi-spherical nugget of black Italian joy would have been enough, but I had already refused Sarah’s offer, and I didn’t want to gather a reputation for capriciousness.

Thankfully I am infamously resourceful when it comes to acquiring Mediterranean appetisers, and I interrupted Sarah to ask her about Noel Edmunds’ autobiography, which she promptly left the living room to fetch. In her absence I cheekily popped an olive in my mouth and molested it with my tongue. I bit down on the perfectly smooth fruit and was surprised to find a hard stone at its centre. I was not used to eating olives with their central stones intact, but then Sarah has always been rather modern.

I looked around for somewhere to discard the stone, but Sarah’s minimalist-chic interior design provided neither nook nor cranny for me to deposit my seed, and so I kept it in my mouth and held it underneath my tongue.

Sarah re-entered the living room carrying “What’s the Deal with Deal or no Deal?” and stroking Noel Edmunds’ bearded face. I smiled politely as she started to read an extract about Noel’s recent failure to pay his TV licensing fee and the resultant court summons. I tongued the olive’s stone behind my fixed grin.

Sarah had been reading for fifteen minutes when my boyfriend Mark rolled out from under the sofa. Then a number of friends and family members emerged from various locations around the room. My parents unraveled themselves from the curtains, my little sister climbed out of a decorative piano and my best friend Julie rappelled down from the light fitting. The word “surprise” rang out from their mouths in unison; indeed it was.

Before I had a chance to express my confusion Mark was down on one knee with a ring in his hand. The last time Mark had a ring in his hand I couldn’t walk for a week. I was a little bit uncomfortable about accepting his proposal with the stone of a black olive in my mouth – it seemed like some kind of obscure snub – but I loved Mark and I was overcome with joy. I threw my arms around his neck and thought about how best to deposit the stone, but it was impossible to do so gracefully while everyone was watching me. I kissed him timidly, being careful to shelter the stone from his wandering tongue.

Things started to escalate at a blistering pace. One of the walls of Sarah’s living room was lifted into the air to reveal a chapel. Yet more of my friends and family were sitting in the chapel’s pews and a vicar was waiting patiently at the altar. Mark wanted me to marry him immediately; it was an idea he had conceived after watching a video on YouTube. Sarah and Julie strapped me into a perfectly-fitting white wedding dress and my father grabbed my arm and led me down the aisle. I was dying to get rid of the stone in my mouth but the attention of my friends and family was inescapable.

The vicar sped through the formalities and dived straight in to the meat of the marriage ceremony. I was slightly hesitant but it was clear Mark had put in a titanic amount of organisational effort into the day and I didn’t want to ruin his plans. When I used to imagine my wedding day I didn’t envisage making such a lifelong commitment with the stone of a soft Italian fruit between my teeth, but I suppose nobody is fully prepared for the gritty reality of matrimony. I said yes and kissed him with reticence.

Once legally wed we were hastily transported to an extravagant reception, where we ate lunch and listened to the speeches. It was difficult to eat my food around the unforgiving hardness of the stone. I hardly said a word to anyone, being so self-conscious of the remnant of olive in my mouth.

At various intervals I tried to get rid of the stone by sneaking off to the toilet on the premise of urinary release. The problem was, every time I went into a stall to urinate Mark followed me in and emptied his bladder through the V-shaped gap between my open legs, as is the ceremonial tradition in Slough. In Japan they call this activity “Ming Shui,” which is Japanese.

The more that time passed with this lie between my teeth the more significant it became. If someone discovered my hidden truth after all this time I would never be forgiven. There were no olives served during the meal, which was an oversight on Mark’s behalf, so the natural assumption would have been that I had deliberately entered into matrimony with the core of an olive in my mouth as an allegorical symbol of betrayal; in traditional Slough culture this represents the harbouring of another man’s seed and invalidates the marriage ceremony if discovered.

In the evening Mark and I went home and christened the marriage bed. I couldn’t refuse his lascivious advances on our wedding night, even if I was far too distracted by the stone to feel remotely aroused.

I started to perform fellatio on Mark; as I am wont to do. I tried desperately to shield the stone away from contact with his penis, using my tongue as a barrier. I found this difficult, despite all the practice I’d had during the day at maneuvering my tongue. Troubled by a lapse in concentration, the stone slipped out from under my tongue and was forced into the urethral opening of Mark’s manhood. The pressure down his sensitive urethra instigated a sudden and violent orgasm. Unfortunately the stone was firmly lodged in his penis and wasn’t moved by ejaculatory pressure.

I heard a deafening pop and opened my eyes to see that Mark had exploded. The shrapnel from his mangled body coated the walls and ceiling and the bed was covered in blood. The stone from the olive lay in the centre of the mess, and eventually over time a beautiful olive tree grew in Mark’s place.

Stalking Katie Hopkins: A Foray into the Mind of a Reactionary Fetishist

I first started stalking Katie Hopkins when I saw her getting out of a cab on Portobello Road. She was wearing a striped shirt and a black, knee-length skirt like she wore on The Apprentice and she had a look on her face that suggested she had just had some disagreeable banter with the cab driver, who was working class and probably some sort of cockney nut-job.

I saw something in her eyes – it was the powerfully erotic combination of metropolitan independence and self-conscious bigotry; it drove me wild and completely overpowered my natural sense of restraint. I felt compelled to follow her home and my heart led my body like a dog on a leash.

It was not difficult to go unnoticed; I put on my official Big Issue salesman’s jacket, which I carry around with me at all times in preparation for such a situation, and I hounded her all the way down the vacant street, begging for spare change and morsels of bread. I got the impression she was too busy mentally composing another outrageous opinion that would get on Holly Willoughby’s tits. I wish I could get on Katie Hopkins’ tits.

When we arrived at her house she went inside while I took refuge in a nearby bush. I wish I could take refuge in Katie Hopkins’ nearby bush. I watched her through her kitchen window while she prepared Duck a l’Orange with the help of her husband, who to be perfectly honest looked like a bit of a twat. There’s no way he loves her financially lucrative brand of media-friendly outrage as much as I do.

Since that first day I have never been more than fifty feet away from Katie Hopkins, except when I have to go to the supermarket to stock up on food and lubricant. I follow her all around London and watch her lady of leisure lifestyle with a voyeuristic relish; I follow her down the aisles of organic delicatessens and through the archways of Michelin-starred Haute cuisine restaurants; I follow her into her on Wednesdays where she pretends to work; I sit beneath her desk and watch her feet dance along to Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde and struggle to muffle my delight.

The strangest thing about the whole situation is that I am not alone. Katie Hopkins’ front garden is full of people like me, watching her through a multitude of windows while dressed in the garb of traditional 19th century Victorian street urchins, Glaswegian heroin addicts and Venezuelan slum boys. More and more stalkers arrive every day. We’ve constructed row upon row of makeshift shacks, using corrugated iron and the remnants of cardboard boxes, like in the shanty towns of Rio de Janeiro. Desire has thrown us into the cold, poverty-stricken depths of Katie Hopkins’ front garden, but our love keeps us warm at night. We all live out there together; there’s a real community atmosphere at work, and we bond over our confused sexual desires, debating the root of our obscure fetishes.

I think it’s the grace and charm with which she generates nationwide media outrage that stimulates a sort of super-sexual frisson for myself and the other two or three dozen stalkers that she unwittingly hosts in her shrubbery. Many beautiful women have spewed forth reactionary right-wing bile from the gaping bliss betwixt their perfect teeth: Anne Widdecombe, Jan Moir and even the late great succubus of misplaced political sincerity Margaret Thatcher, deceased but existing ceaselessly in her erotic legacy, but none have worn the robes of the icy-hearted hate preacher with the same degree of joie de vivre as Katie Hopkins.

I’ve given up everything to be here. I’ve quit my job and I haven’t seen my wife or my children for six weeks. Part of me wishes I could overcome my twisted fetish for right-wing celebrities, but if the eradication of my politically problematic perversions results in the death of my love for Katie Hopkins, then that’s a price I’m just not willing to pay.

The Willful Incomprehension of Signs and Advertisements or: How my Heart was Broken by a Perspective Trickster

I was at Paddington train station the other day and I saw an advertisement that piqued my interest. The advertisement read: “Child Neglect. Two words that just don’t go together,” but there was a man standing in front of it and his body was covering the words “two” and “don’t,” leaving me with the message: “Child Neglect. Words that just go together.” The message’s true meaning was hidden, and from there the humour was derived. I laughed loudly and pointed at the sign, which undoubtedly looked rather insensitive to those people who were looking at the advertisement from another angle, such is the Machiavellian nature of perspective.

If only there could be more men opportunistically positioned in front of advertisements in order to subvert their intended message; then life would be an almost intolerably funny series of humorous occurrences. Such an endless barrage of mirth would run comedic rings around the best Monty Python sketches, the humour deriving from real life observations rather than high-flown surrealist hijinks.

Then I looked around the station and I saw a man in front of a sign for “Urger King.” Imagine that; a king that urges people to do things. You go into Urger King and a king, an actual monarch, tries to convince you to go vegetarian or set up a direct debit at Cancer Research. How could they market that as a financially viable product? That would be ridiculous, and I laughed loudly and obnoxiously and the people around me, who from their spacial position could only read the words “Burger King,” probably assumed that I found the concept of processed beef inherently amusing. Or that I had some sort of hilarious disability.

Then I looked around the station again and I saw a man standing in front of a sign reading “Donald’s.” What does that mean? Is it a shop that only sells items that have belonged to men named Donald? They would have lots of pens that used to belong to Donald Trump, and a hat that used to belong to Donald Trump, and a ball of string that used to belong to Donald Trump, and various other items belonging to all the other Donalds. How could such an obviously doomed business plan generate enough revenue to pay for the rent at one of Britain’s busiest train stations? Ridiculous. Utterly ridiculous. So I pointed and I laughed and there was a girl sitting next to me who heard my laughter, and at first she wasn’t sure what I was laughing at, but then she looked up and saw the sign and she too started laughing hysterically.

We both laughed together for a full fifteen minutes. I tentatively reached over and held her hand. We smiled at each other.

“That’s brilliant,” I said. “It’s so funny when advertisements are obscured in such a way to change their meanings.”

“I agree,” she said. “I mean, ‘onald’s?’ Imagine that, a shop selling items that belong to people called Onald.”

And my heart dropped. It turns out that from her perspectival viewpoint that sign carried a different, much less funny, meaning. Onald isn’t even a real name. This girl obviously had an appalling sense of humour, and I told her so, right to her face because I’m a big boy, and it caused an awfully icy atmosphere.

Then the man in front of the MacDonald’s sign, who had been standing about two metres away from us all this time, started to speak to me:

“I fooled you,” he said. “I deliberately positioned myself so that I could manipulate the meaning of this MacDonald’s sign in two different ways in order to momentarily raise your hopes, making you think you had found your soul-mate based on your perfectly compatible senses of humour, but actually you were just sitting next to an idiot. I hope you have learned your lesson about deriving humour from perspective.”

A tear fell from my eye. The girl next to me cleaned her ear with her little fingernail, sniffed it and ate it.

“Will I ever be able to feel love again?” I asked.

“You can’t feel love,” he said, “it’s an abstract concept, not a physical substance that can be touched; you can only experience it.”

And with that he flew away.

Exposed: Rural Holland’s Disappointing Windmill Density

A few weeks ago I cycled around Holland. Before the pedants start being pedantic, I am aware that Holland is a region of the Netherlands and these two place names are not synonymous (thanks QI) – I cycled around the region of the Netherlands specifically referred to as Holland, so there.

On the ferry ride home I successfully managed to smuggle a small ceramic windmill out of the country. I am aware of border security’s no-nonsense attitude towards gaudy tourist tat, and I did my best to conceal the windmill by wrapping it in paper and placing it discreetly in my bag, rather than wearing it on a piece of string around my neck as I would have preferred.

The windmill was brought into the country for my mother, who has an obsessive interest in miniature ceramic structures. Some say she is a ceramoholic and her addiction to ceramic buildings borders on the dangerous and self-destructive, and doctors have advised her to move on to a clay-based substitute as soon as possible, but my mother maintains she can stop collecting these tiny souvenirs any time she wants to.

I purchased the windmill because windmills are universally known to be an iconic feature of the Dutch countryside, but having seen rural Holland for myself I am not convinced that the country’s windmill density is high enough for it to be considered their thing.

There were definitely a few windmills hanging around; don’t misunderstand me, I’m not claiming the country is devoid of windmills and they are propagating an obscure lie about their cultural features, just that the country’s windmill population is too sparse for them to claim the windmill as a national symbol.

Let me put it another way: imagine you are a lonely British windmill, probably living in somewhere like Hull, where the windmill population is notoriously low and your role there is more as a kind of National Trust tourist attraction rather than a fully functioning windmill. You hardly do any winding or milling; you just stand there by yourself, stationed between an overpriced organic whole foods shop and a café that specialises in delicious cream teas. When a westerly wind blows you can smell the lovely scent of fresh fruit and warm bread, but when the wind changes direction you get a whiff of elderly women covered in jam. You cry out in despair but nobody can hear you, because the only language you can speak is windmill and you live in Britain, where the people are infamous for their lack of interest in foreign languages.

Saddened and frustrated, you decide to move to Holland in order to assuage your loneliness. “Windmills are their thing,” you say to yourself in your native windmill tongue, “there will be other windmills all over the place.”

And then you arrive in Holland and settle yourself down around the outskirts of Utrecht, only to find yourself disappointed by the density of windmills in the surrounding area. Sure, you see one or two windmills, milling about, usually on your way to work or in line at the Post Office, but there still are not enough of them and you find yourself leading a considerably solitary life without the comfort of any windmill-based company.

“So what does it matter?” I hear you ask. “Let the Dutch lie about their windmills. They’re not doing any harm.” In response I would like to remind you about a certain Mr Adolf Hitler, who in 1933 tried to claim the windmill as the symbol of the Nazi party. In fact his party originally wore red armbands with an encircled image of a black windmill. Eventually the four blades of the windmill were later adapted into the shape of a swastika because Hitler saw one on a skinhead’s skin head and thought it looked cool, but it was the cruel, unforgiving values of the windmill that inspired Hitler’s politics.

It’s clear from this historical example that the appropriation of windmills is the first rung on the ladder to fascism, so let’s all boycott Holland until the tulip-sniffing potheads agree to take on a more geographically common piece of outdated machinery as a national symbol.