One drunken night

A recent tweet invited people to describe the most drunk they’d ever been in six words. This is sort of a response to that, except that I’m going to use many more words and this story didn’t happen to me. However, the subject cannot (and would not) tell this story themselves, for reasons that will become clear.

Some time late in ’95 or ’96, no idea which, I got an invitation from a friend, Sarah, to go and visit her for the weekend in Glasgow. She also invited a mutual friend, Clair, from Newcastle. Clair didn’t fancy driving from Newcastle to Glasgow by herself and was between boyfriends, so she in turn invited her new housemate, Phil.

I say Phil, but this was more than 20 years ago, I only met the guy this once and I’m terrible with names at the best of times, so quite possibly he wasn’t called Phil at all. Also, I should possibly change his name, but there’s a good chance I already have.

On their journey Northwards Phil and Claire got to find out things. She, for example, discovered that he was a staunch Catholic and he discovered that Sarah, and most of her circle of friends, were lesbians. This revelation came as they sailed over the Scottish border and he genuinely asked Clair to stop the car, so that he could get out and walk back to Newcastle, rather than having to spend a weekend with the sinful.

Clair refused and the pair of them turned up at the Glasgow flat, where Phil spent the afternoon avoiding talking to anyone or touching anything, in case lesbianism was contagious. Around 5 we piled into the kitchen for a communal effort at cooking dinner, and also started drinking.

Over the next 4 hours more people drifted in, and more beer was sunk down. A decision was made that we needed to hit the town. Between the start of cooking and the decision to go out Phil had been drinking with the determination of a papist who suspects that if sapphism is the disease then alcohol is the cure, and offered only token resistance to being bundled into a taxi (still armed with a tinnie tincture).

Thus myself, Phil, Clair and around half-a-dozen ladies-who-munch arrived in central Glasgow and democratically decided to hit the gay bars.

Where Phil had the time of his life. He danced, he chatted, he flirted, he loved it. He was the absolute life and soul of several other people’s parties.

Around midnight me and one of the girls decided that we needed pizza rather than more drink, so headed off. We agreed to take Phil with us, as he was by now very, very drunk and in serious danger of doing someone he was going to regret. A walk, a wait in the pizza shop and another taxi ride later we realised it would also have been a good idea to take a key to the flat.

As it was a ground floor flat we skirted around it to see if any windows had been left ajar, without any success. Phil, however, reckoned that he could make one ajar. He gripped the bottom of the portion of Sarah’s bedroom window, which opened outwards, and give it a sudden, full-strength, tug. CRACK! A hairline fracture split the pane from top to bottom, but the window remained shut. We resigned ourselves to having to wait outside for the main party to return. Fortunately, because of our time in the pizza shop and that spent being drunkenly inept cat-burglars, it was only about a half-hour wait. We got into the warmth of the flat, shared pizza, drank more and, at some point, passed out.

The next morning, during the inevitable hungover tidy-up, somebody mentioned the broken window.

“Did a window get broken last night?” asked Phil.

“Yes,” he was told, “you broke it.”

“Did I?”

“Yes, when we were trying to get back in.”

He looked genuinely puzzled. “Did we go out last night?”

We cross-examined him, but he honestly seemed to have no idea that we’d ever left the flat the previous night. He didn’t know that, for one night only, he’d been the most beautiful (and most drunken) butterfly on the Glasgow gay-scene. Perhaps he never knew, because we certainly weren’t going to tell him, but he was Queen for a night.

Postscript

I wasn’t going to write this story up, but the sudden and tragic death of Dolores O’Riordan brought it up again. I’m not a great listener to music, but I remember that it was Sarah who introduced me to The Cranberries. She was a very dear friend of mine, and thinking about this story and her made me realise that it’s been 20 years since I saw her.

It’s 2018. So many things are shite. But that moment remains frozen in time. Sarah is my best friend. The party never ends. Phil rocks the gay scene. Delores provides the soundtrack.

I can’t revisit that moment, except by sharing it with you.

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Afterwards

You drunk the wine and now you must pay the price. There is a headache, there is a headache on top of the headache, and it’s got a headache of its own. All you want is to sit still and let the headaches fight it out, until there’s only the alpha-headache for you to deal with, but you can’t. You can’t because there is stuff to be done.

So much stuff.

Things were broken, damaged and disarranged. While you were enjoying the heady wine they seemed like trivial things. There would always be wine, there would never be morning, all problems would be resolved.

Now there is no more wine, only morning. The problems have not been resolved. Everywhere you look there is ruin. “Traitor” has been carved into your antique writing-desk. That’s there forever now. No amount of polishing is going to remove that. Ornaments and knickknacks have been smashed to pieces. Strange how saddening that is. They’d been around so long that you’d really stopped noticing them, but they were yours and now you suddenly appreciate how much nicer they made living here.

No time to mourn, though, everything has to be sorted out quickly. There’s a deadline looming. It’s like that time you threw a teenage party the night before your parents were due back from holiday. Christ, what were you thinking?

Oh god! What has someone done on the TV? The filthy animal!

No time to dwell on it. It’s time for the Marigolds and the sturdy bin-bag. Just stuff things in, no time to worry about whether what you’re hastily discarding is repairable or valuable, you just have to clean up.

God, this would be a lot easier if you didn’t keep remembering all of the crap that the wine made you say last night. Did you really make those plans? Was everyone as drunk as you? Are they really going to expect you to do those things?

Fuck! That Lancaster House speech! What were you thinking?

Block it out. Stuff things into bin-bags with extra force. Just throw everything away, you can always say you’ve de-cluttered, de-toxed, gone back to basics…minimalist. Yeah, you can make that sound like a choice, rather than just an outcome.

Right, there’s no way that room is ever going to be the same again. Perhaps you could just close the door on it and pretend it was never there. Hey, that might work for that bedroom as well. Sure, the house will be smaller, but you might be able to manage the bits that you live in.

That really was one hell of a party, but this is 2018, the year of the hangover.

Theresa-May-Campaigns-On-The-Conservative-Battle-Bus

Notifications from the Dead

My first one arrived this morning, “Dawn Brown and 2 others have their birthdays today. Help them have a great time”. Facebook doesn’t know that Dawn’s time ended on April 3rd this year; her life is gone, her remains interred, yet still her social media profile lives on, sailing like a ghost ship through the ether.

How we deal with the electronic personas of those who’ve passed on presents us with social, ethical and legal questions for the years to come, but for the time being at least Facebook will continue to remind us of those who are no more.

And one day there’ll be notifications for us.

Most of us live lives that will afford us no statuary or monuments when we die, we will leave behind no canon of work to immortalise us, we will not be as much as a footnote in the history books of the future, but our social media presence will remain. What we say, how we say it, what we like, what we share will be out there, perhaps forever. Day by day, post by post, click by click, we build our own mausoleums.

If these notifications remind us of anything then let them remind us that what we say on-line may be the prism through which those we care about now, and those that come after them, view us. The good as well as the evil that we do shall live after us, and each of us decides upon the proportion.

Maybe start by remembering that a reminder of a dead friend’s birthday is a reminder to treasure people while we have them, and behave a little more kindly towards them while we can. While we’re here we have choices to make, let these notification from the dead be a reminder to make them well.

Dawn

Happy birthday, Dawn. RIP.

Who will tell? (A Play)

WHO WILL TELL?

A(NOTHER) PLAY BY EXCELPOPE

INT.  A MEETING ROOM, LATE AFTERNOON.

THERESA MAY, BORIS JOHNSON, DAVID DAVIS, MICHAEL GOVE AND LIAM FOX SIT AROUND THE TABLE, WHICH IS LITTERED WITH PAPERS, WATER GLASSES, COFFEE JUGS.

THEY SIT IN SILENCE. A CLOCK TICKS IN THE BACKGROUND.

DAVIS SURREPTITIOUSLY LOOKS AT HIS WATCH.

A FEW SECONDS PASS

GOVE TAKES A SIP OF HIS COFFEE AND THEN MAKES A FACE, IT’S OBVIOUSLY COLD.

A FEW MORE SECONDS TICK BY

JOHNSON FLAPS HIS LIPS WITH HIS FINGERS.

FOX STIFLES A YAWN

ANOTHER FEW SECONDS OF SILENCE.

MAY: We’re going to have to tell them we can’t do it.

DAVIS: Steady on, perhaps we should think about it a bit longer. It’s only 5 o’clock.

MAY: We’ve been thinking about this since last June. It’s hard to believe another half-an-hour is going to crack it.

JOHNSON: We can’t tell them we can’t do Brexit! They’ll string us up from the bloody lampposts.

DAVIS: Exactly. We need to think of something…even if we’re here until six.

JOHNSON: Actually, I’ve got theatre tickets for this evening.

FOX: Oh, anything good?

JOHNSON: Punch and Judy.

MAY: Gentlemen! We need a border with the Republic of Ireland that is impenetrable to some people and invisible to others. We need to keep planes in the air and lorries off the M20. We need to comply with EU standards, while being completely free to make up our own. We need replacements for the European agencies that are leaving and the thousands of references to them in UK laws, which need to stay. We need to come up with dozens of new trade deals, in 16 months, that are better than the ones that took years and we need to finally, once and for all, get rid of that sodding Human Rights Act because, god help me, I am getting something out of all of this!

They all sit in silence, looking downcast.

MAY: So, can we do it?

JOHNSON, FOX, GOVE AND DAVIS [TOGETHER]: No.

MAY: Then we have to tell them we can’t do it.

JOHNSON: That’s awfully brave of you, old girl.

MAY: If I do it you’ll back me, won’t you?

JOHNSON: Um

DAVIS: Er

FOX: Well…

GOVE: I’ll be right behind you, Prime Minister.

MAY puts her head in her hands.

MAY: Oh god, you’re going to push me out if I do it.

GOVE: Look, it’s a foreign issue. Clearly a job for the Foreign Secretary.

JOHNSON: Et two, Bruté!

DAVIS: I agree with him. FO matter, through and through.

JOHNSON: Really? Isn’t there a whole department for exiting the EU?

DAVIS: Shit.

JOHNSON: Look, Theresa’s going to have to sack whichever of us says we can’t do it, but if we can’t do it then you’re going to lose your job anyway, so you might as well step up to the block…er, plate.

DAVIS: But if we’re not leaving then we don’t need him either [he points at Fox] and he’s done the square-root of FA since the vote, anyway, so he should announce it.

FOX: Would you really sack me for saying we can’t do it, PM?

MAY [NODDING, SADLY]: I’d have to, Liam. I can’t have that sort of insubordination from a cabinet member.

FOX: But if I said we can’t do it, then you sacked me, wouldn’t that make it look like you still thought we could do it?

JOHNSON: He’s got a point, old girl. If it doesn’t come from you then it looks like it’s not official. Ball very much back in your court.

MAY: It can’t be me. I’m a remainer. If I do it then the frothers will think it was personal. We’ll have Farage in Number 10 inside a year. It has to come from a leaver.

JOHNSON: You’re right. How about Michael? He had a lot to say about how great leaving was going to be.

GOVE: No, I can’t be sacked. There’s so much to do at the environment.

JOHNSON: David or Liam can do the environment. Rumour is they’ll be looking for new jobs.

GOVE: They can’t replace me. I was the face of ‘Clean for the Queen’, people trust me with the environment.

DAVIS: The only thing the British people trust about you is that you’ve got the face they’d most like to punch.

FOX: We could announce it together. A joint press conference. It’s always good to have your friends around you.

DAVIS: Can we get pizza?

FOX: At the press conference?

DAVIS: No, now.

GOVE: Every meeting we’ve been in for the last week you’ve asked about food. You’re obsessed.

DAVIS: I haven’t been eating well at home, I [mumbles]

FOX: What?

JOHNSON: He said he renegotiated his gas supply. You’ve been cut off haven’t you, old boy?

DAVIS nods.

MAY puts her head back into her hands.

MAY: Oh god.

FOX: Look, if we do a press conference perhaps we could get Jacob up there with us. Give us some credibility with the young voters.

DAVIS: Not a bad idea. You’ll have to speak to him, Boris.

JOHNSON: Why me?

DAVIS: He only speaks in Latin now.

MAY: Jacob’s never going to get involved in this. If one of you lot doesn’t replace me then it will be him.

JOHNSON: It might not be. It might be Amber.

MAY: Amber? She’s one jump-scare in Murder, she wrote away from losing her seat.

DAVIS: Well, even if it’s Jacob, he’s still going to end up where we are. He won’t believe Brexit’s possible for very long.

MAY: Are you sure? He still believes in a literal virgin birth.

JOHNSON: That’s the very opposite of our situation. The virgin birth is where we got something good without anybody getting f…

MAY: BORIS! Boris, this isn’t helping.

DAVIS: Look, this is a bit off-the-wall, but we could say that what with our narrow majority, and all, that this needs a co-ordinated effort. Propose a national government. Get Jeremy and his mob on-board with this.

There is silence.

MAY: David [pause] How do you imagine that’s going to help?

DAVIS: Well…misery loves company.

MAY: I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been miserable enough to welcome Jeremy’s company, and hard to imagine that, even if I did, it would make me less miserable.

FOX: Jeremy’s out, then?

GOVE: Wait a minute! Brexit is going to cause a lot of medical problems, isn’t it? Funding for the NHS, radiation stuff for cancer, medical research, and so on…and there’s more than one Jeremy.

MAY: Michael, are you suggesting that we give this job to Jeremy Hunt?

GOVE: Jeremy has my full support.

MAY: Excellent. Can somebody get the health secretary on the phone, please? So many people are going to love his promotion to Secretary of State for Exiting Brexit, aren’t they?

GOVE, FOX, JOHNSON, DAVIS [TOGETHER]: Yes, Prime Minister.

PLAY FULL-TIME WHISTLE

 

Common ground

Donald Trump’s recent flip-flopping on whether to allow the importation of elephant hunting trophies into the US has led to people taking to Twitter to put forward the economic case for hunting as an aid to preservation.

helmer hunting

The argument goes like this:

  1. If elephant hunting is allowed then people will come to hunt elephants
  2. This brings money into local economies
  3. It’s therefore in the interest of locals to preserve the supply of elephants

This seems pretty straightforward and irrefutable. Nobody wants to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs (unless it would look really good mounted on your wall). Where it comes unstuck – the argument, not the goose-head on your wall – is with an economic theory called the tragedy of the commons.

As a named theory the tragedy of the commons has been around since the 1830s, but it’s essentially a re-writing of a principle that is familiar to non-economists; left to their own devices people are dicks. When there is a shared resource people act in their own self-interest, even if doing so will harm the long-term interests of the group as a whole.

It happens on a large-scale – such as the, seemingly inexhaustible, supply of North Atlantic cod, which we fished almost to be point of extinction – and it happens on a small-scale; we’ve all worked in an office where a little perk has been removed or regulated, because some people take the piss.

As the old joke has it, when something is needed by everyone, and could be done by anyone, most of the time it’s done by no-one.

Helmer himself shows exactly how this works. On literally the same page of his Twitter timeline as the quoted tweet above he retweets the message at the top of this image:

roger tl

Here he’s RTing someone who’s arguing that because we’re not the major contributor to oceanic plastic waste – the oceans being, of course, a huge shared resource – we shouldn’t be doing what we can to help solve the problem.

This is the tragedy of the commons writ large. This is the individual rationalisation that the problem isn’t with me, it’s with all those other bastards who are much worse. This is the logic that would, one day, lead to somebody whose wallet is far fuller than their soul pointing their gun at the last wild elephant and telling themselves, as they pull the trigger, that they’re no worse than the thousands who did the same thing before them.

Yeah, they don’t call it the tragedy of the commons for nothing.

Activate Steals! Fire photon torpedoes!

I write because I enjoy doing it, and because it genuinely makes me happy when people like what I write. Because it’s not my living I’m not massively precious about what I write. Everybody who’s ever asked me if they can use my work has been told that they can. I don’t even mind when, occasionally, it turns up on Facebook, stripped of attributions; it’s nice to know that something I wrote is still making people smile, and Facebook friends (who’ve been putting up with my wittering a lot longer than most of you) often ask, “Is this one of yours?”.

The week before last, however, something different happened, somebody straight-up stole something I’d written. On the day where it looked like the government might release readacted Brexit impact statements I wrote and tweeted this:

brexit impact statement

It’s a fairly obvious joke – many other tweeters had similar ideas – and it’s not exactly subtle. All I did was type up a Word document with a load of swear words in and then draw black rectangles over them in MS-Paint (yes, really), but that’s my version of that joke.

Three hours after my tweet, this tweet appeared…

If you follow the link you’ll see that they’ve posted the image that I created. The image of the document that I wrote. And they added it to a tweet that heavily implies it was their work.

They’re not some new-to-Twitter run-of-the-mill user looking for a few retweets either, they’re a verified account, with 16.5k followers (nearly 3 times my count), claiming to represent young Conservatives in the UK. Yet they couldn’t just retweet or quote tweet me, or ask my permission to reuse my material, or even credit me in their post.

Who’d have thought that Conservatives would behave like that, eh?

Still, I didn’t write this blog to complain about them. I wrote it to say how wonderful it was to see so many of the replies to their tweet from people complaining that they’d stolen it from me. My most sincere thanks to each and every one of you who took the time to chide them, it was lovely and really touched me.

I may never have earned a penny from my writing, but it has earned me the most wonderful Twitter followers I could ever wish for.

Spannergate IV: Drip-feeding clues

Since the dawn of human history man has stared into the night sky and asked, “Who is Brian Spanner?”

brian stars
The eternal question, pictured yesterday

Now, at last, I believe we have enough evidence to finally come up with an answer.

Let’s look at the facts. Firstly, it is self-evident that the SNP are a strong, progressive party who only have Scotland’s best interests at heart. It’s also a fact that, dog-food vendors bamboozling them with  Imperialist maths aside, independence is the only path that a true Scot would support.

Yet Brian not only supports the union, but is often critical of the SNP! To be ignorant on one of these subjects may be written off to a simple error, probably borne of a sub-standard English education, but to be wrong on both of them surely suggests something more sinister at play.

We’ve also known for some time that “Brian” is a composite of the work of many different writers. This could, doubtless, be proved with basic forensic textual analysis, but there’s no need for that, because we have the word of no less an auspicious and erudite figure than John Nicolson himself, writing in The National (the newspaper that dares to tell the truth) last August.

nicolson on spanner

Naturally, with typical Scottish egalitarianism, we have always been drawn to imagine this group as being one of equals, working towards a common goal. However, there is just as much evidence to support the theory that they are a hierarchical team, working to the dictates of a single malevolent figure.

Then we add in to the mix the shocking new revelations that Brian has been able to take photographs from inside the SNP conference and this…

nicolson on spanner

 

Obviously no right-thinking person would ever read Spanner’s tweets, let alone re-read them, so this will have to be assumed to be true.

When one thinks of a figure who loves the hated union, hates the loved SNP, can afford a team of writers and is not a man then one naturally thinks of moderately well-know children’s author Josephine Rowling.

The case against Rowling is strong – she has supported the union, publicly disagreed with people – even though they were SNP MPs or MSPs (!), lives in Scotland despite there being documented evidence that she’s English, and she’s known to communicate with, and even defend, Spanner on Twitter.

However, Spanner is best known as a misogynist. Part of misogyny is treating women as sexual objects and Rowling, who is married and suspected to have children, doesn’t seem to lean in that direction. Unlike this powerful, pro-Union, anti-SNP figure…

davidson anderson

When you think about it all of the pieces of the jigsaw fit together like a well-played game of chess. Davidson IS pro-union, she IS anti-SNP, she PROBABLY DOES have a team of staff working for her, she HAS powerful political connections who’d MOST LIKELY be able to smuggle her into the SNP’s secret conference, she’s CLEARLY misogynistic, she’d OBVIOUSLY know a lot of the journalists, celebrities and associated hangers-on with whom “Brian” regularly chats, and she makes NO SECRET of being a Tory…god, she even seems proud of it!

Think of the value that the Spanner account would have to her. She’d be able to spread pernicious facts about the SNP, safe from behind her cloak of anonymity. She could openly communicate with and rally enemies of Scotland. If she wished to she could even look at twitter accounts offering pornographic services – and can it just be a coincidence that so many of “Brian’s” tweets have been liked by accounts offering links to explicit sexual chat?

The icing on the cake is looking at how many people follow both Ruth and Brian. Why would they be following the same person twice, unless they knew that “Brian” was saying all the things that Ruth couldn’t, because of politic? It’s this final little detail that makes the case water-tight.

Finally then we can, with 100% certainty, be the first to reveal to the world a true photo of the infamous “Brian Spanner” troll.

ruth davidson

Gosh, “he” doesn’t look happy about it, does he?