Review: Courtship

Courtship has rules: you have to declare it first, the UN needs to ratify it, and once you’re in it you shouldn’t use cluster bombs or landmines, because they might blow the limbs off innocent children. For some people, courtship is a walk in the park, even if it’s taking place in a bleak, icy wasteland where the only thing relieving the monotony is a crevasse in the ice into which you could fall at any moment. For others, courtship feels like a bleak, icy wasteland, pocked with crevasses into which either party might fall at any moment, even if actually all you’re doing is walking in the park, or having a pint in your local. Who am I, to explain the differences between these two groups? If I believed in God, which I do sometimes, I’d say he was spiteful and mean and this was his idea of a joke, cf Cain and Abel, Sodom and Gomorrah, etc. (There is so much evidence for the Spiteful God theory that I suspect that theology is a self-perpetuating industry, like lightbulb sales, deliberately designed to avoid the obvious solution.)

Courtship sprang up around the same time as Alexander Graham Bell invented the phone. The first sentence spoken over the phone was, “Mr Watson, come here, I want to see you.” Since then, nothing has changed among the monkeys, except that, metaphorically, Mr Watson and Mr Alexander Graham Bell are now engaging in a torrid relationship via text message. Now the most important detail to remember while courting someone is that you must never, under any circumstances, phone them, as this will make them think you’re overly keen and some kind of bunnyboiler. As long as you remember this, you’ll have a full and happy life – no relationships, perhaps, but a full and happy life.

Like relationships, courtships tend to be full of holes and kept buoyant only by hope. A successful courtship will eventually see the two (or more) participants boarding the HMS Relation, and sailing off into the sunset until the iceberg of death or boredom abruptly shipwrecks them. Meanwhile, unsuccessful courters wave from the docks, amid much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Never mind, kids! With the appropriate Security Council resolution, you too might board the ship one day.

Courtship: Alexander Graham Bell's wife was deaf. 7 out of 10.

Review: Dinner parties

There is a difference between eating some food with some people, and meanwhile getting drunk, which is good, and having a dinner party, which is bad. I'm not sure exactly what the difference is, but I'd know it if I saw it.

The worst thing about dinner parties is the way people make orgasm noises to show their appreciation of the food, instead of just eating it. Makes me sick. I feel similarly about people who make loud, protracted orgasm noises during orgasm: they are trying far too hard, and the proof of this is that no one screams and wails like that when they are having quality time on their own with their right hand.

That isn’t actually the worst thing about dinner parties, though: I was being over-hasty, back there when I said that. The absolute worst thing is the mini-industry that has sprung up around the dinner party, with cookery schools and cooking holidays in Tuscany and bizarre foodstuffs like hazelnut oil and smoked pigeon, all of which exist purely for the purpose of impressing guests at dinner parties. If you are going to eat very expensive food, it should be in a hedonistic and mad way – perhaps taking off your clothes first and smearing sauce on your skin, that would be good – but actually dinner parties are very Blairite and Protestant.

I have been to a few dinner parties, even though I’m far too young for it, and they were terrible in principle even if they weren’t actually all that terrible. Normally, faced by a social situation I find morally reprehensible, I courageously drink a lot of wine very fast, which is unhelpful when there are a couple domestically abusing each other at the next table in a bar, but fine at dinner parties, where really the best thing to do is get dead drunk and then pass out under the table.

Dinner parties: Stop playing with your food, just eat it like a normal human being. 3 out of 10.


Review: Comments

Harry Hutton (the kind of man who, one day, with sufficient hormonal assistance, I hope to grow up to be) no longer allows comments on his blog. I’ve nicked the subject of this review from Hungbunny, which is artistically criminal, but that’s how the internet works: a big chamber of bollocks, floating around in the ether, rolling and bumping into each other and creating long chains of bollocks. Strange to think that, in the event of nuclear holocaust and the violent death of the human race, our bullshit will live on, circling cyberspace, waiting for the next intelligent species to develop the technology to re-access Hotmail.

This is not the point though. The point is: it’s quite impressive, isn’t it, to demand that no one comments on your blog. Very Marlene Dietrich. I hardly ever commented on Harry Hutton's blog anyway, because everyone there was always either exchanging facts about South American politics or talking about sleeping with underage prostitutes in Bangkok. I'm shamefully uninformed about one of these topics, and the other one makes me feel slightly nauseous, but you have to guess which is which.

I like getting comments, even the one from Rob ages ago about frigging muffs or something. My love of comments remained unshaken even when Hungbunny had a fit of paranoia a few weeks ago and accused me of deleting his comments. I think there should be a comments function on everything, including novels and strangers on the bus. You could write on people’s foreheads what you thought of them, and it wouldn’t even be hurtful because they wouldn’t be able to read it.

Comments: Maybe Harry Hutton is playing hard to get. 7 out of 10.

Review: Futility

Many of us work at the rockface of futility, chipping away at it day after day and then sticking the chips back on. Futility is now a major British industry, with an annual turnover of £3 billion.

It seems to me that…

Ah, what’s the point.

Futility: The engine behind several major technological advances. 3G mobiles, anyone? 2 out of 10.


Review: Envy

Envy is a terrible thing. I know this because I’ve been going to hot yoga. After hot yoga, there are naked showers. And in the naked showers, there are women with beautifully landscaped pubic hair, like a small garden, and manicured toenails. We make polite conversation, us naked women, but you can tell people are distracted, secretly wondering, “Are her nipples better than mine?”

Envy is a speciality of egotists and narcissists – a single weak spot that highlights the vastness of the rest of the ego, like a sliver of moon. “Why do you have that thing,” says envy, in its nasty Rupert Everett voice, “when I want it and don't have it? Do you think you deserve it? Do you think you're better than me?” The envier’s view of the world is even more spectacularly irrigated with power and injustice than the paranoid’s. To the envious, there is a beauty pie, and an intelligence pie, and a success pie, and anyone doing particularly well for themselves is taking more than their fair share and should be punished, or at the very least become fat - morally, metaphysically fat.

Being a naturally envious person is like being naturally competitive, in the sense that it’s not a good idea to combine either character trait with laziness and incompetence. If I could be bothered to moisturise, diet, wax and pluck at the rate recommended by women’s magazines, I would be sleek and hairless as a seal all year round, and people would riot every time I took off my underwear. City centres would be laid waste. Government officials would visit and, shielding their eyes, would beg me to put my clothes back on. I would envy myself. I would implode, in a shower of beautiful limbs and bits of flesh.

Envy: Avoid it like the emotional Black Death it is. 1 out of 10

Review: Germans

I met some German architects on Saturday. They were brilliant. We are planning to write a musical about a German architect who falls in love with an Indian girl, also an architect. Their mutual passion for Gothic towers is a catalyst for their love. But she is promised to another. It will be semi-autobiographical, and there will be a scene where someone bursts into a church (possibly a Hindu temple) to interrupt a wedding.

Well, this was nothing but drunken chat. But I’m full of a new respect for Germans. I lived with two German women, many years ago, and they were terrible. I was terrible too at the time – I was 18 and deranged by ballet – so it’s hard to see where the blame lies. Still, it’s time to let bygones be bygones. Let’s forgive the poor benighted Germans for all those complex issues surrounding the washing up and the cleaning rota. Let’s extend the hand of friendship, nation unto nation, and say as one: “I’m sorry me and my friends got drunk on absinthe in the living room when you were trying to sleep. Let’s write a musical and take it to Broadway, where the Americans live.”

Once you open your heart to the Germans, they can delight you with their use of the past continuous, eg: “David Haselhoff was being number one in the charts when the Berlin Wall fell, with a song that was being called Looking for Freedom.” They can tell you tales from a country in which the 80s were a time of political drama and transformation, rather than of political comedy and leggings.

Germans: Surprisingly excellent. 9 out of 10.


Review: O2

Everyone knows that it’s humanity versus the mobile phone networks, but no one’s prepared to put their MoD where their mouth is and declare all-out war. I could respect a government that effected regime change in the dark and faraway country of the O2 boardroom, international law be damned. The public could really get behind that kind of illegal war.

O2 has taken to charging me sums of money that it has plucked out of thin air and disconnecting my phone at random, for the hell of it. Rather than link my charges to my calls, they employ shamanic soothsayers to go deep into the forest, drop acid, and emerge days later, hands aloft, crying, “Eskimo’s bill is £120.87!” What am I going to do about it? They’ve got my figurative balls in a vice: I’m an addict. I get twitchy if I can’t check my voicemail. I send text messages of such breathtaking inconsequentiality that they’re almost profound, eg: Hi! I'm on the bus. Just saw two pigeons having sex.

In my hour-long phone calls to O2, I’ve adopted the worst kind of relationship tactics: bursting into tears, threatening to leave, making spiteful little comments about how things were when we first met. All this is only occasionally effective: more often, the harassed call centre monkey explains, sounding affronted, that it’s not their fault. Whose fault is it? God’s? Should I treat my phone company like a powerful deity, cringing under its whimsical natural disasters and cravenly grateful for its occasional acts of munificence? Oh, wait, I already do.

O2: The devil is among us, but he’s going to have to put you on hold for a moment. 1 out of 10.


Review: Illness

Illness is caused by tiny microbes that live in the air and are full of malice and spite. Other causes of illness include staying out till all hours or putting on your coat indoors so you don’t feel the benefit when you go outside.

I always look forward to illness, imagining it as a rose-tinted paradise in which I’ll lie in bed, clear-skinned and glowing, while well-wishers bring me grapes, magazines and cups of tea. The real thing is disappointingly painful and boring, but that’s exactly the kind of selfish and feckless behaviour I've come to expect from reality.

I spent most of the weekend languishing in bed, too ill to do anything but watch romantic comedies, eat soup and dream mad, Nurofen-addled dreams of boiling Ethan Hawke to make stock. At this rate, if my ibuprofen dependency continues unchecked, I run the risk of turning into a poor man’s Pete Doherty.

My favourite onscreen depiction of illness is Jennifer Lopez’s aneurysm during childbirth in Jersey Girl. Her perfectly coiffed head tilts back, her eyes roll up, and she’s dead, leaving Ben Affleck to bring up his daughter with only his chin and Liv Tyler for company. Lopez has set the Beautiful Corpse bar higher. I too want to die in full make-up, if I have to die at all, which I am still uneasy about.

Illness: Not all I’d hoped for, but lucrative for pharmaceutical companies. 2 out of 10.