Archive for it’s very simple really

Seven Mildly Annoying Things People Say

Nothing is certain except death and taxes

As current UK events are illustrating, taxes are far from inevitable provided you have enough money. And my friend ciphergoth has his doubts about death too.

You know what’s certain? That the future child of David Mitchell and Victoria Coren will rule us all using the power of wit. And we won’t even mind.

Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels

Definitely untrue. Garlic roast potatoes taste better than anything feels. So, depending on taste, do hot sugared doughnuts, halloumi, Batternberg cake, crème brulee, bakewell tart, lemon pudding, chocolate fudge cake with ice cream, potato dauphoinoise, calzone, spinach and ricotta tortellini, pepperoni pizza, and egg fried rice. And that’s just off the top of my head.

I do have photos of actual cooked garlic roast potatoes, but I just liked this one.

If Goths want to look different, why do they all dress the same as each other?

Said by people who think that a) they’re the first person ever to think of this and b) they have provided a devastating knockback to Goths everywhere. What they have in fact done is got confused about what ‘different’ means. People in defined subcultures tend to want to dress differently to the mainstream. They are largely ok with other people in their subculture looking similar to them. In fact, it’s kind of what a subculture is about. I have never seen a goth enter a club and cry ‘I must leave again! Fifty other people are also wearing a black corset, black skirt and New Rocks!’

Goths are also not vampires. Despite this photo.

Twitter is just people talking about what they had for lunch

The traditional media seems to be stuck on this idea, as do people who don’t use Twitter. But the important thing about Twitter is that you basically only ever see what you want to see. If you don’t like someone constantly listing sandwich ingredients in order of size, cost and yumminess, just stop following them.

Personally, I’m capable of taking a mild interest in what my friends eat, but in any case my Twitter feed is mostly full of all kinds of other things: political statements, one-liners, news, links to amusing pictures, music and tiny short stories to list a few. Yours can be too.

Be true to yourself, and thou canst not be false to any man

Even leaving aside the origin of this phrase – the pompous Polonius in Hamlet – it is provably untrue. It’s entirely possible to be true to yourself and also false to others. If you were listing a skillset for a criminal psychopath, for example, two of the top items would be ‘Really good at being true to themselves’ and ‘Excellent at lying to other people’.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing

Sometimes a little knowledge is exactly the amount of knowledge you want. In Trivial Pursuit, for example, I find that my ability to name exactly one cricket player or city in Peru is a definite advantage. Too much knowledge leads to choice paralysis, indecision, despair about the world and ultimately death. Apart from that last one.

Online friends aren’t real friends

You know, there’s no actual reason why a friendship can’t be sustained via writing rather than face-to-face. Plenty of Victorians did it with letters. Yes, an online friend might not be what they seem or might have ulterior motives: this is also true of in-person friends.

It’s quite likely that to my daughter’s generation, this issue won’t even parse. I didn’t use email till I was eighteen, and even I don’t see online and offline as binary opposites but as part of a continuum: FaceBook is as valid a place to say hello to someone as the pub is, and a lot easier to get to.

This complaint, incidentally, often seems to shade into ‘online friends aren’t real people’. I can assure you they almost always are, and will be until robots finally reach the stage where they can fool us into thinking they’re human, at which point we’ll have bigger problems than any social media can provide.


Admittedly, the killer humanoid robots in our future will probably not look like this.


Merry Christmas, Fatty! and other festive conversations

The National Obesity Forum has suggested that Christmas is the perfect time to tell loved ones that they’re overweight and to suggest remedies for this. This is an excellent idea, of course. People who are fat are often completely unaware of this fact, because the general public are obviously far too polite to shout insults at them in the street. It is also very important to say things like “Have you tried eating less and exercising more?” because that will be the first time they’ve ever heard these ideas.

Since open season has now been declared on making unprovoked personal criticisms, allow me to suggest some further conversational gambits designed to make the festivities go with a bang. (The bang in question being the sound of your front door slamming behind your guests as they leave, never to return.)

“You smoke!”

This will be a huge surprise to people. When alerted to the fact that there is a lit cigarette in their hand, they may well jump back as if discovering a live snake between their fingers. At this point you may want to follow up your initial announcement by telling them that smoking is bad for them. Chances are they will never have heard of this fact, and will be wildly grateful for the information. Earn bonus points by snatching the cigarette from them, throwing it to the floor, and stamping on it while screaming “You are going to die! You are going to die!”

“You’re drinking a glass of wine while pregnant!”

Pregnant women are notoriously stupid and unable to make any choices for themselves. As such, it’s a good idea to give them a full rundown, every time you see them, of all the ways in which they can damage their future baby. Most importantly, make sure you insist on the fact that drinking one glass of wine on Christmas Day could result in them giving birth to the Antichrist. They’ll thank you for it eventually.

“You’re very shy, aren’t you?”

Shy people love being told this: it really boosts their confidence, especially if said in front of a lot of people. For extra usefulness, try telling them to dance, do a funny walk or wear an amusing hat, and mocking them if they refuse. Nothing makes a Christmas party go with more of a swing than the sight of extremely embarrassed people who just want to be left alone.

If none of the above opportunities presents itself, don’t give up: there will always be someone with funny ears or a stammer, or who’s a bit short. A handy tip is to stare at glossy magazines till you’ve memorised what people are supposed to look like, and then judge everyone you meet against this criteria.

Merry Christmas!

Don't forget to leave a Slimfast and a Weight Watcher's leaflet out for Santa!


Ten Totally True Things About Bisexuality

1. If you take one straight person and one gay person, add them together and divide them in half, you will get two slightly bewildered bisexuals.

2. Bisexuals are almost, but not entirely, invisible. They are easier to see at night, since they have a faint purple glow. The female of the species is a darker shade of purple and is therefore easier to see. All bisexuals show up in photos, provided they are holding a pint of cider at the time.

3. Scratch a bisexual man and you get a gay man. However, scratch a gay man and you get a bisexual man, so it’s probably better not to scratch anyone if you can help it.

4. When bisexuals get married they must include the word “ostrich” somewhere in their vows, or they will lose their powers.

5. All bisexuals can fly, but they don’t, out of consideration for the environment.

6. The initiation ceremony for bisexuality is too complicated to explain, and is therefore known as the TOCOTOX. It can involve vegan cheese, the scent of gardenias, and a pencil.

7. If you squeeze a bisexual correctly they will emit a rainbow-flavoured fluid known colloquially as “bisexijuice”. One drop will cure the common cold. Three drops will send you back in time to a point just before you took the three drops.

8. Bisexuality can be caught like flu. Signs of infection include a sudden desire to wear purple and the inability to make decisions without consulting a minimum of eleven close friends.

9. If you play 80s pop music near a bisexual they are legally obliged to dance to it. If they don’t, you are entitled to conduct a citizen’s arrest.

10. Bisexuals dissolve in lemonade and are therefore scared of all fizzy drinks. Do not use this against them, it’s cruel.


Bonus fact: any building covered in a giant purple ribbon is secretly bisexual.


By sheer coincidence, my novel is also funny and also has bisexuals in it.


Looting the Beanstalk

I’ve been out of the UK this week, so have been following the UK riots online. Of course, now that they seem to be dying down, this has mainly meant skimming various theories about who’s to blame for it all. Those trying to work out why this happened – as opposed to those who just want the still-twitching entrails of the rioters strung up like fairy lights across the shops they destroyed – have come up with a multitude of culprits, some rather more believable than others.

Clearly, however, there can only be one right answer to the issue of why people riot, loot and destroy, because it’s well known that explanations for complicated events are always simple, single and satisfactory. And luckily, being geographically distanced from it all, I have the necessary perspective to state categorically what this particular answer answer is. It’s Jack and the Beanstalk.

Let me come clean. I am a bad parent. This week, I read my baby daughter a story in which a young boy who has no money breaks into a stranger’s house, steals from him, and destroys access to his property when he attempts to retrieve his goods. And this boy is the hero of the story! Watching my baby’s chubby fingers lovingly trace the outline of stolen gold coins, I suddenly realised the truth. Jack and the Beanstalk is a story about looting; and it’s regularly read to children everywhere. So is Goldilocks, another story in which the protagonist commits the offence of breaking and entering. Not to mention Alice in Wonderland, who takes food and drink wherever she goes without worrying about who they might belong to, and Peter Pan, who climbs through a window with his accomplice Tinkerbell and ramsacks a child’s bedroom. And we surely don’t need to mention Robin Hood and Brer Rabbit. Children are literally learning to steal  from their mother’s knee. In this case, my knee. My evil, evil knee.

So if people are blaming Grand Theft Auto, they’re not looking far enough back. I submit that Jack and the Beanstalk and its ilk are responsible for the current state of society, and I call for all copies of these stories to be burned and our folk memories of them to be erased from our heads.

Oh wait, we can’t do that yet. Never mind.