This Week I Killed Someone. Sort Of. In A Way.

You know when you watch a film or TV show and you see the main character screaming and panicking as some sort of harrowing scene plays out in front of you? You exhale a judgmental puff of air from your nose and confidently exclaim, “That would never be me that. The most important thing to do is to remain calm and level headed. Most people don’t have the capacity to be like that.” This is often met with whoever you’re sat with calling you a prick while they watch you stick another handful of popcorn in your gob. Well, this week I was involved in a situation that once again revealed to the world just what a nervous ball of mess up I am.

You see, it was a Saturday night and I was relaxing on the couch when I heard the door go. This was strange in itself as we’re not the most sociable couple in the world. So unsociable I am, I employ a technique when an unexpected knock of the door happens. That technique is as follows – I don’t move, wait for whoever it it to get tired of knocking and then I enjoy them fucking off.

On this occasion this did not happen, so I reluctantly made my way to interact with another human being.

Upon opening the door, I am in an instant thrown into a state of panic, as in front of me I see an ambulance and a paramedic.

The paramedic quietly, and professionally, steps forward, “Is Melissa in?”

With my breathing slowly spiralling out of control I shut the front door behind me and grab him by the shoulder, shouting a a little bit too loudly, “Is it her Dad? IT’S HER DAD ISN’T IT?!”

Taken aback by the man screaming in his face, he attempts to respond, but before I allow him to speak again, I continue, “Oh god! He has heart issues. How am I going to tell her?!”

In my troubled head, this paramedic is here to tell me that my girlfriend’s father has passed away. A man who in recent years has had a couple of heart attacks finally beaten by the very thing that keeps him alive. At this point, I have my hands on my head and am pacing back and forward, just uttering frightened grief ridden phrases. The paramedic then stops me, reaches into his pocket and pulls out a purse that my girlfriend lost last week on a night out in town.

In a matter of seconds, I’ve gone from a man about to tell his girlfriend that her Dad has passed to feeling like a fucking idiot. My adrenaline being as it was, I don’t exactly remember how the rest of our conversation panned out, but within moments he was gone and I was stood in my front yard sweating profusely and holding my girlfriend’s lost purse.

What an idiot.

I’ve always been this way. I remember once when I was about fourteen, we were playing a game of cricket in the street. It must have been around the time when the England cricket team won The Ashes, because usually there is no chance you’d find me wasting my time playing such an awful game.

Anyway, I was batting and as the delivery came in, I swung back.

THWUCK!

The ball, however, didn’t fly off as I had hoped. It just slowly hit the wall and pathetically rolled back towards the direction in which it had come from. Then, surrounded by a defending silence, all I heard was the shrieking cry of some annoying little kid who had previously been trying to ruin our game. I had only gone and accidentally hit him full force in the head.

I froze.

He ran off.

Moments later his man mountain of a Dad came bursting down the street.

“WHICH LITTLE PRICK HAS JUST CAVED MY LADS HEAD IN WITH A CRICKET BAT?!”

I was petrified. But uncharacteristically I found the courage to step up.

“It was me, sir. I didn’t mean it though, guvnor. He ran behind me. I’m awfully sorry, I am.”

Despite sounding like some Victorian street urchin I had stood my ground. The Dad had been told and had accepted that I wasn’t at fault. He dragged his knuckles back to where he came from.

That had told him.

“Go on then. Next bowl.” I asserted smugly.

Noting happened. Oh. Sorry. Except it did. My siblings and friends pointed out that I had rather embarrassingly pissed my pants. A streak of newly fresh urine making my crotch it’s new home. Like an embarrassed skunk that applies a similar defence mechanism, I walked slowly with my cricket bat and into the house. The smell of piss wafting in the back wind and my days playing that awful game coming to an abrupt end.

I don’t know why I react like this. Psychologically you could link it to growing up around a father who used fear as a way of making sure we behaved? Perhaps being a product of a childhood divorce who grew to panic whenever someone raised their voice?

It could be a myriad of things in my environment that has moulded me into an exhausted, fear induced neurotic moron. Or it could be that I’m just a massive shithouse.

I’m Learning a New Language. AREN’T I BETTER THAN YOU?!

Despite life being meaningless and the overwhelming fact that we’re living on a dying planet, I’ve recently found myself in one of those periods in which for some random reason, I’ve been trying to self improve. This has mainly taken the form of me embracing the challenge of learning a new language. Well, I say, ‘learning a new language’, but all I’ve really done is download the Duolingo app and spent my breaks in work weirdly mouthing such completely necessary sentences as, “the dog eats rice” and “the rhinoceros has a horn.” Undoubtedly, these are sexual euphemisms that are only spoken in foreign climates by bored business men. In fact, if I’m ever abroad and hear someone utter a sentence about a ‘rhinoceros having a horn’, I’m sprinting to the nearest airport. Pronto.

Admittedly, I am still at the really early stages of using Duolingo so I don’t want to judge it too harshly, but the lessons are full of similar bizarre impractical sentences about ‘giraffes reading newspapers’ and ‘socks not speaking English’. I did initially wonder if I had accidentally chosen a setting in the app that was specifically for people with brain injuries. But no, that’s just how they do things in crazy old Duolingo world.

Now you might be thinking, “which language have you taken upon yourself to master, Paul?” Perhaps it’s a language of a country that you one day hope to live in? Maybe a country that you visit on a regular basis? On both of these assumptions you’d be incorrect. I simply went to my old friend Google and asked, “what is the easiest language for an English speaker to learn?” A couple of articles later and I am now a student of Dutch. My inherent laziness not stretching to the next five hundred articles explaining that it’s pretty much a waste of time because almost everyone in the Netherlands speaks English.

Brilliant.

Upon receiving this knowledge you would assume that I stopped learning Dutch and found a more practical language to learn? Again, you’d be painfully incorrect. You see, whoever designed the Duolingo app ingeniously designed a streak system which once started makes it incredibly difficult to abandon. In fact, I’m currently on an impressive forty one day streak and now spend most of my days worrying about losing it. I can only imagine what my streak anxiety will look like if I one day make it to a significant three or even four digit number.

As I mentioned earlier though, I have been forced to sneak off on a number of occasions to a quiet area in work in order to fit my practice in. A couple of weeks back now, I found myself alone in the changing rooms with my headphones in and repeating back in English the sentences that were flashing in front of me. In hindsight, I was definitely doing that thing people do when they have headphones in and began shouting back the sentences at a volume that was inappropriate even at a football match, nevermind a workplace. Anyway, there I was screaming back in a mixture of English and Dutch when this sentence appeared, “Ik ben een vrouw. ” I confidently highered my speaking voice and bellowed repeatedly the English translation, “I AM A WOMAN, I AM A WOMAN, I AM A WOMAN.” Then out of nowhere, I felt a presence watching over me. Out the corner of my eye I could now see the shining bald head of the security guard slowly making its way around a corner. As our eyes met he dashed away, clearly thinking he had discovered a bearded employee who was in the courageous first steps of a gender transition.

I’m trying to better myself and there I was becoming a talking point at that man’s evening meal with his family.

Anyway, I must admit, I’m now five weeks down the line and my motivation is beginning to seriously wane. In the first week I downloaded the app I was averaging about thirty five minutes per day testing my new skills out and reading over Dutch newspapers. However, like most of my fads I’m decreasingly spending less and less time on it and before I know it I’ll be back to being a little Englander who slowly open mouths sentences to far superior people when ordering beers on a city break.

Does anyone know the Dutch for, ‘stop being an ignorant lazy fuck?’

Knock Knock? Who’s There? Oh Only An Alpha Male Who Does Alpha Male Shit.

I recently became a man. And by ‘become a man’, I don’t mean that I lost my virginity. No, that happened MONTHS ago. I did, however, do something much more impressive than that – I knocked at my next door neighbour’s house and asked them to turn down their music.

It all started about three weeks ago when out of nowhere a blast of noise suddenly made its way into our living room and drowned out the audio to ‘George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces.’ There are very few things in life that make me lose my temper, but when I struggle to hear the reasons why a middle aged man from Skegness would want to sell his house and live in a converted van, it’s safe to say that I lose my shit. And please, when I say a ‘blast of noise’, I can’t stress how loud it was. It was ridiculous. We were essentially now at a party we had not been invited to or had the intention of being at. We were hostages to what appeared to be eastern European dance music. A genre that doesn’t speak to me.

The next three hours were hell. If any innocent by passer was to walk past our two houses they would hear a mix of Lithuanian dubstep and a man at the end of his tether screaming sanctimonious sentences like, “It’s not the noise I’m most offended by, it’s the SELFISHNESS!” Now despite the obvious internal breakdown that was happening in our sacred space, we decided not to knock, because…

“This is the first time it has happened and it probably won’t happen again…..”

Oh how we now laugh at our young naïve selves.

A mere two days later at ‘Rock and Roll Mansions’, myself and my girlfriend were watching a documentary titled, ’10 Reasons Why The Titanic Sank’ when again the music struck. This time, if anything, it was louder. Instantly, I jumped off the sofa and in as much as an alpha male in Marvel pyjama bottoms and an oversized hoody bought by his mother in a charity shop can look like an alpha male, I screamed, “That’s it, I’m knocking!” My girlfriend, reeling from this clearly out of character move by me, responded simply and tragically with two words, “What? You?” I could have easily been offended by this obvious insult at my masculinity, but she was right. As a child of divorce I do my utmost to avoid confrontation. What may appear to outsiders as cowardice is really a 10 year old boy trapped in a 30 year old man screaming, “STOP SHOUTING AT MUMMY!”

Anyway, after momentarily debating wheter I should send my girlfriend around, I found myself bravely walking up their path and knocking on their door like a proper adult male should. A few moments after my attempt at an intimidating knock a small boy answered. I took a deep breath and with my deepest voice asked if I could possibly speak to his parents? He just looked through me. Not a single word left his mouth. In fairness, he was probably wondering why someone who was only slightly taller than him and in superhero pyjamas had been sent around by his parents to do an adult task.

After a few moments of awkward contemplation I saw a figure approaching from behind him. Walking towards me was a man who looked like he could play a villain in a James Bond film. He was the type of guy who wears vests just so he can show off his tattoos – tattoos he probably gets to commemorate every neighbour he murders for asking him to turn down his music. Now I’d love to say that I was just as confident talking to this human as I was mere seconds before when I was confronting a child. But I wasn’t. All of a sudden my voice broke and what should have been an assertive statement sounded like every awkward encounter a teenage boy has when speaking to his friend’s parents.

“If you, will you, the music. I mean, it’s great, but loud. I just, you know, music and that.”

Pathetic. I had gone to bits and turned into a blabbering wreck. The obvious neighbour murdering man looked back at me and in his stereotypical Eastern European accent replied, “Yes. Will do. Sorry mate.” The bastard. How dare he politely converse with me and sincerely apologise?! I wanted my moment and he had stolen it from me. Now I had to go back and pretend to my girlfriend that I’d had to threaten him and throw a punch or two. Not only was this man incredibly selfish with his music choices but he had turned me into a liar. Unforgivable.

Moments later I was back on my sofa and balls deep into that documentary about The Titanic. I had done it. I felt a wave of adrenaline wash over me. This was my equivalent to jumping out of a plane while simultaneously snorting cocaine and roaring, “I’M NEVER GOING TO DIE BABYYYY!”

I mean, despite this, I do have to admit that since then, the music has returned and I’ve now ran out of excuses not to knock again. But I will always have that night and if it does get any worse I can always order a converted van off that bloke from Skegness.





It’s Time I Admitted Something…

I’ve harboured a secret for at least a decade.

My feet are smaller than I actually tell people they are.

Now I understand that you might think that this is quite a dramatic sentence to open with for something so incredibly tame. You probably thought that I was going to reveal that I have a liking for nipple clamps or I secretly enjoy sniffing people on public transport. But no. It’s my feet. My miniscule feet. However, the fact that I lie about something as insignificant and pathetic as the size of my feet is the reason I feel I need to get it off my chest.

You see, size six is the smallest size of footwear for adult males and anything under that is considered appropriate for children, so since about the age of 18 that’s the size of shoe I have decided to wear. It’s been a constant source of embarrassment whenever it’s been brought up in conversation and on a regular basis I’ve refused to honestly answer that I am in fact a size five. The reluctance to answer honestly probably comes from the usual mocking that I receive whenever I lie about my shoe size.

It’s usually quite an aggressive confrontation and the conversation usually follows a little like this…

“Size 6. Oooh. You know what they say about a man with small feet…”

“Yes. Yes I do Sharon. But I also know what they say about the link between three ‘Greggs’ sausage rolls on your dinner break and type 2 diabetes, but some opinions are best kept to themselves you intrusive bitch.”

I have lost count of the amount of times I’ve found myself awkwardly arguing with a stranger/acquaintance about the implied size of my penis.

Anyway, it’s safe to say that I try to avoid the topic at all costs and up until recently my denial was so successful that I had even forgotten my true shoe size. And by forgotten, I mean dementia level forgetfulness. It had completely, categorically vanished from memory and as far as I was concerned, I was a size six. However, as often is the case with denial, it can only last so long before it comes back to haunt you and my haunting happened a couple of years ago when buying a suit for a friends wedding.

I was 28 at the time and like all 28 year old men I had decided to go suit shopping with my Mum. Surprisingly, the suit purchasing went swimmingly and we were done and dusted within one hour. It was upon attempting to buy some formal shoes to match that I encountered my problem. We spent a total of about three hours stumbling from shoe store to shoe store as I was forcibly marched down the catwalk of shame in shoes that were so clearly too big for me. As the third hour creeped into the fourth and fatigue was getting the better of me, I genuinely questioned whether it would be acceptable to just turn up barefoot to a wedding like some sort of hippy Hobbit. I was now at breaking point and it was at this stage that my Mother took control and ordered me to visit a store she knew would be perfect for me. 

I reluctantly entered the shop and instantly the shop assistant asked if I needed any help. My Mum obviously did all the talking because after all I was only 28. Before I knew it, I was sat down with my shoes off and a shop assistant with hands as cold as ice had my foot in her hand. Things had taken a turn for the worse.

My foot was now in some sort of metal contraption and the woman with the cold hands looked through me and offered some words up to my mother.

“Size 5 he is.”

Confused at what was happening, I mouthed the sentence, “I’m an actual adult in the middle of a mortgage application.”

My mother, ignoring my obvious breakdown, asked the lady if she had anything in the back that would be suitable for me.

The lady with the cold hands nodded in approval and vanished.

As she went to fetch the shoes, I looked at the wall behind me and noticed a massive sign. The massive sign simply read, “BACK TO SCHOOL RANGE.” To either side of me were two boys who could be no more than the age of twelve, and like me, because I had only just turned 28, they too were also accompanied by their mothers and were getting their feet measured in similar contraptions to the one my foot was in mere moments ago.

It was at this point that I remembered my life was a lie and I was the owner of a pair of child-like feet. I had hit rock bottom.

Now I’m sure we’ve all felt humiliated at some point in our lives. No biggie. But being humiliated in the childrens section of a shoe store surrounded by flashing Spiderman trainers and a shop assistant who clearly thinks you’ve brought your mother along because she must be getting some sort of carers allowance adds an extra sting to it all.

I was mortified.

After what appeared to be a lifetime, the cold handed lady came out with two pairs. A pair that would do, and unbelievably, a pair of fucking Velcro ones. VELCRO!  I politely declined the Velcro pair, asked my mother to tie my laces and left as quickly as I could.

A couple of years have passed since this traumatic day, but if it has taught me anything, it has taught me to be comfortable with who I am.

And who I am is a man with size 5.5 feet!*

*Still working on it.

I Do Not Have Short Man Syndrome And I Will Kill Anyone Who Says I Do.

There are three words in the English Language that rile me up like no other. Those words are, ‘Short Man Syndrome.’ I am a man of about 5’4.  I am short. Petite. Tiny. There’s no getting around that fact. Every nickname I’ve ever had has been shaped around my lack of height. I would be mocked mercilessly whenever a ‘Stuart Little’ film would come out. But it’s something I’m mostly OK with. It’s not like I was born tall and suddenly shrunk as I grew older. A sort of Benjamin Button where by the time I’m 80 I’m living in someone’s coat pocket. It’s my experience of life. I’ve known no different.

However, there are a few things that have annoyed me.

Growing up (DO NOT MAKE A JOKE WITHOUT MY PERMISSION) I was the short kid. I was the kid who was forever being told I wasn’t the age I was. I’d turn up to an event, ‘Strictly For 10 Year Olds And Above’ and be told by an adult that I’d never met before that I wasn’t 10. I couldn’t be. I just didn’t look it. So while my friends were allowed into this exclusive event, I would be left sitting on one end of a seesaw, while a 6 year old stared blankly back at me from the other end, looking like my world had ended.  This was a regular occurrence and up until about 14 I often found myself having existential crises on seesaws.

At festivals I just see the back of heads. That’s it. At Eminem, I saw the back of heads. At Arctic Monkeys, I saw the back of heads. At Green Day, I saw the back of heads. In my experience, festivals are just standing in mud staring at the back of someone’s head while some moron pisses into a plastic cup. Often, without my permission, I’m put on someone’s shoulders and like some sort of religious sacrifice, I suddenly have people staring at me as I uncomfortably dance along to a song I can barely hear.

As an adult, people have routinely picked me up. Strangers on night outs have literally picked me up and carried me across the dancefloor. It’s hard to look cool in a nightclub, when like a petulant child, you begin kicking your legs and slapping a stranger’s sweaty bald head, shouting, “LET ME DOWN THIS INSTANT.”

These are a few things that have annoyed me over the years, but without doubt, the biggest irritation of mine is a relatively new one. From my early 20’s onwards, whenever I have shown any emotion that could be considered negative, someone will inevitably roll their eyes and utter, “Short man syndrome.” I mean, how dare I be angry or frustrated like any other normal healthy functioning human being? It must be because I struggle to reach the top shelf in my fucking supermarket. It’s the only logical explanation. As a short man, I couldn’t possibly get annoyed for any other reason than the fact that I was never good at basketball. Damn those blasted hoop dreams of mine.

Tomorrow I could find my girlfriend in bed with another man and launch myself at him with a hatred I didn’t know was possible. Foaming at the mouth I would throw my fists at him and within seconds my lack of height would surely be brought into question. I’d find myself being chastised by a stranger in my bedroom while he was busy putting back on his underwear.

Me: You little bastard. I’ll kill you….

Cheating Man: Woah little man. Calm yourself down. Talk about short man syndrome.

Me: What do you…

Cheating Man: You should really see someone about that temper of yours, little fella.

Now, I am fully aware that getting angry at being accused of having short man syndrome is counter productive. It’s like me writing a blog complaining about putting on weight while simultaneously fisting chocolate cakes into my mouth. But it’s something that annoys me and as a human being I’m going to fucking express myself.

I will however end this blog with a warning. If anyone dares to comment. If anyone has the gall to even mention my height, I will fight you.*

*That is if you don’t put your hand on my head and make me pointlessly swing at you.

I HAVE VERY SHORT ARMS.

Call Centre Blues.

I work in a call centre. If you don’t know what a call centre is, it’s basically a building where working class people go to hate themselves. It’s a cathedral of self-hate where one bows down at the god of bad decisions praying for mercy. It’s an arena of employment where in the first five minutes of a shift, you’re called a ‘useless twat’ by Janet from Glasgow because her anti-wrinkle cream hasn’t arrived in time. You bite your tongue due to the fact that you need food and shelter to sustain your own bleak existence, but your inner voice has just attacked Janet from Glasgow with such violence that if you said it out loudly you would surely be arrested. “WELL FUCK YOU JANET. I HOPE YOUR WRINKLED BODY IS FOUND IN A DITCH.” And all this before most people have had their morning orange juice.

A typical day sort of goes like this:

9:00 AM: Clock in.

9:01 AM – 4:59 PM: Regret life choices. Eat sad sandwich. Weep in bathroom.

5:00 PM: Clock out.

As you can imagine, I hate it and I’m trying to escape. Every day I wake up and in the optimism of those morning hours, I tell myself that this will be the day I finally set myself free of those call centre chains. I excitedly rush to my laptop to find what new adventure I can ride on this game we call capitalism. But then it strikes. That old familiar feeling of insecurity. The lack of self confidence that prevents me from actually applying for anything. I don’t know where it comes from. But it’s there. Just waiting for me to scroll down the list of opportunities that could grant me freedom.

I could literally see a job position that would look like this:

“Breathing: Looking for an experienced breather to simply breath all day.”

Suddenly I’m hovering above the role, my cursor waiting for me to make the next move, when I begin questioning my ability to breath.

“Is breathing one of my strong skills?”

“Do I need more experience breathing?”

“Perhaps I get some more breathing skills by volunteering at the weekends?!”

I then regress into this sorry excuse of man who finds himself making excuses why I don’t have the balls to apply for an entry level position and why working in a call centre isn’t quite that bad. Disguising my lack of confidence with a little moustache and pretending it’s just my ego not being content with being employed.

Perhaps working in a call centre isn’t all that bad. I mean, I have a roof over my head and I’m paid more than minimum wage, but on a deeper level, it’s unfulfilling, it’s monotonous. Humans are creative animals. We want to explore our minds. We want to share ideas. We don’t want to sit down and stare at a computer screen for eight hours repeating the same task over and over again. It’s unnatural and creates unhappiness. Just look at chimps in zoos. They lack so much stimulation that they throw their own shit at us. I don’t want to throw my shit at anyone.

Well, except maybe Janet from Glasgow.

FUCK YOU JANET FROM GLASGOW.