Archive for things that did not actually happen

Only Two Months Till The World Ends Again

After last year’s excitement when Harold Camping prophesised the Rapture not once but twice - and then fell mysteriously silent, perhaps because he’d been Raptured, perhaps because he was very embarrassed, who can say? – this year’s big end-times news has been the alleged prophecy, from the ancient Mayans, that the world will end in December 2012.

In fact, there never seems to have been any such prophecy, but that’s OK, because there is another end-times contender of much more recent provenence, with very specific ideas about the way 2012 is going to unfold. Ronald Weinland, leader of the generically-titled Church of God, is very clear that “Jesus Christ is returning as King of kings on May 27th of this year”. But first there will be global religious war and economic chaos and – um, more stuff like that, I haven’t read the whole of the 250-page .pdf that goes into proper detail

I am impressed, though, by his statement early on regarding the various people who have previously predicted the world’s end: “Obviously, those who made such pronouncements were weirdos, crackpots and unsound religious zealots”. Good to know that he’s not any of those things.

Weinland is being taken seriously by some but mostly he’s regarded even by other evangelical groups as a false prophet. Not that he cares, presumably, because it’s more fun to be the only one making a prediction – you get to sound persecuted, and you get all the glory if it comes true. Well, assuming you’re one of the few people who survive the whole thing. How embarrassing would it be to prophesy the coming of Jesus and then fail to make the grade when he turns up?

So what of the timeline of events? Well, the book has this to say:

The soon-coming time of trouble and devastation is so great that God says there has never been a time like it during man’s 6,000 year period on this earth. This great physical tribulation will last for three and a half years. Then, on the very last day, the greatest destruction of all will come upon mankind – thereby ending World War III. On that day, God Himself will bring judgment, death and destruction upon this world. On this same day, Jesus Christ, the prophesied Messiah, will return with 144,000 resurrected members of the Family of God – the Kingdom of God – to reign over this earth! A new world order, with a single world government, will begin ruling on the earth.

This is interesting for at least two reasons. Firstly, what he’s describing, as he makes clear here, is the last three and a half years. So since 2008 we’ve been having a worse time of it than any period in the last 6,000 years, apparently. Worse than the Dark Ages. Worse than the Spanish Inquisition. Worse than any of these events. I’m not saying the last 3.5 years have consisted entirely of sunshine, kittens and the tinkling laughter of small children, but in terms of overall human history, calling it the greatest period of trouble and destruction ever is definitely way overstating the case.

The other interesting thing is the use of the phrase ‘new world order with a single world government’. A lot of conspiracy sites talk about the New World Order and single global government, but all the other ones are against those things. Ronald Weinland, on the other hand, is using those phrases to describe the upcoming reign of God. So either Weinland is an unwitting tool of Satan, which of course is what the false-prophet sites are basically claiming - or, intriguingly the leader of the shadowy, homocidal and arguably reptilian New World Order, as described in every other internet conspiracy site, is actually the Messiah. Which would make so terrific a plot for a novel that I think I’m going to end this blog post here and start writing it immediately. After all, I’ve only got a couple of months.


The Dilemma Habit

[This was the original, and totally different, version of my Huffington Post Halloween article, Eight Legs No Soul.]

I love working out the answer to imaginary dilemmas. I know you only really get them in thrillers, but you can never be sure when life will imitate art. So it’s best to be prepared for the day when a masked man will break into your home and demand you choose between undergoing a bizarre torture and sacrificing the lives of your family. Otherwise you might be taken unawares and just stare at him going “What? Why? What’s in this for you? Don’t you just want to steal my TV?”

So, in a spirit of mental preparation, I have spent some time pondering the issue of whether I would I spend a day trapped in a coffin with spiders in order to save my children from being murdered. Well, yes, I would. (Parental love has a lot to answer for.)

But would I do it in order to save my partner from being murdered? Sure, although I’d need absolute proof, in writing, that he would definitely die if I didn’t do it and definitely wouldn’t if I did.

Down one notch: would I do it in order to save my partner from being beaten up? Well.. maybe. How severe would the beating be, exactly? He’s robust, he’d probably recover from most things. And anyway, maybe he’d volunteer to be beaten up in order to save me from being trapped in a coffin, in which case I think I’d accept his sacrifice (reluctantly but definitely). I’d stock up on Savlon and bandages, of course, and be prepared for a lifetime of guilt, but I’d probably cope.

Would I do it to save a friend from being murdered? Not a close friend, a friendly acquaintance, one of the people I see once a year or so and follow on Facebook but I probably couldn’t tell you the names of their children and/or pets, or what they do for a living. Um… well, I suppose so. I wouldn’t want it on my conscience that I’d got someone killed because I wouldn’t spend a day doing something that wasn’t actually going to cause me damage. But I might suggest some form of financial compensation at that point, because while saving people from death is obviously very motivating, so is money. And I’d probably need some therapy to recover from that cosy spider-infested darkness.

I think the above may potentially be the basis for some kind of reality game show, by the way. Not one I’d willingly take part in, but then there aren’t any reality TV shows I’d willingly take part in.

Now I’ve thought about reality TV shows, I find myself wondering if I’d take part in a reality TV show in order to save my children from being mildly inconvenienced in some way. Maybe… Oh, damn it, I’ve fallen into the Dilemma Habit. This happens when you start turning every situation into a moral exercise. Would you drink gone-off milk in order to avoid a day of data entry at work? (No, for the record. Old milk makes me feel sick and I quite like data entry.) Would you walk a mile in uncomfortable shoes if it meant a stranger in Australia recovered from her kidney stone? (Sure.) Would you strip to your underwear in a tube train so that your sister-in-law would pass her accountancy exams? (Um…) Would you dye your hair an unflattering colour if it ensured that a colleague’s dad’s cat didn’t go blind? (What?)

After a while, you start to regret spending all this time and energy on decisions you’ll probably never have to make. You begin to yearn for some strange and interesting circumstances to arise that will force you to use your now finely calibrated sense of ethics. Perhaps what we need is a Dilemmas Agency. You pay them a retainer, and every now and then, they turn up on your doorstep or desk and make you choose between things. Not things involving death, obviously. Just small choices. And then, after you’ve opted for your next-door-neighbour to be shouted at by religious fundamentalists so you don’t have to hold a spider for three minutes, you realise that it’s the small choices that show you who you really are. But at least you didn’t have to hold a spider. God, I hate spiders.


Rapture 2: This Time It’s Fluffy

First published at the Huffington Post

Back in the spring, you may remember, a man called Harold Camping informed the world that the Rapture was going to take place on May 21st. The Rapture according to Camping would consist of one day in which all true Christians would be raised up to Heaven, and then a six-month period during which the rest of us would suffer in the ruins of a fiery Earth. (I wrote a blog post at the time called You May Experience A Burning Sensation, in which I speculated that God’s reason for the six months of fire was that he had some really big sausages to toast. Probably lost me a few brownie points in Heaven.)

Anyway, as you may also remember, the Rapture didn’t happen. But as is the way of self-styled prophets, Camping is undaunted: his website explains that Christ did come to earth on May 21st – spiritually, of course, not visibly or publically or anything, that would be silly – and the Rapture period began then. It will climax, by which I mean actually be noticeable, on October 21st with the actual carrying-people-up-to-heaven part.

So far, so good. Well, no, not good, but it’s impossible not to admire a man with such ability to bounce back from disappointment. I mean, seriously, Camping should write a self-help book. (Carry on, Camping? Camping in Heaven? The potential titles are endless.) Or if he doesn’t have time for that before Friday, he could write an inspirational song. It could be called Don’t Stop Believing In Camping.

However! Reading through his announcement, I noticed that Camping has softened quite considerably since May. The original prediction has been startlingly revised. To quote:

“We have also learned that God is still teaching that God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked and will not punish the wicked beyond what is called for in Deuteronomy 25.”

Good news. Because I looked up Deuteronomy 25 and it doesn’t say anything about fire, or the world perishing, or any of that. It says the loser in a dispute can be beaten – ok, not ideal, but we’ll adjust – and it also has a few other laws which are frankly bizarre, but presumably aren’t going to come up that often. I’m thinking of this one:

“If two men fight together, and the wife of one draws near to rescue her husband from the hand of the one attacking him, and puts out her hand and seizes him by the genitals, then you shall cut off her hand.”

and this one:

“You shall not have in your bag differing weights, a heavy and a light.”

I don’t know about you, but I can probably manage to avoid those two sitations.

So basically, the prediction now is 1. All true believers will be taken to heaven (but you won’t know if you are one till it happenes) and 2. Everyone else gets to stay as they were, except for obeying a random handful of archaic rules. No problem.

There is one more thing, though. I would like to alert Mr Camping to a potential issue he may need to be aware of. Has he heard of Project Blue Beam?

Project Blue Beam – of which you have probably also not heard, unless you like the odder corners of the internet or have read my book, in which it features – is a fascinating (if you’re me) offshoot of Rapture theory. It holds that the New World Order is designing a false Rapture using special hologram-based technology. The purpose of which would be to make true Christians believe the Rapture has happened and they’ve been left behind, thus causing mass outbreaks of panic and atheism, which are of course what the New World Order likes best.

This would be such a great – if cruel – practical joke that I almost wish someone was designing it, but to the best of my knowledge they aren’t. However, that doesn’t stop these people believing it. Or these people. Or these people. Oh yes, there is a corner of the web that is forever Blue Beam.

I was going to write a paragraph that started “So, why are people so keen to believe these things?” but really, there’s no mystery at all about it. It is blindingly, face-meltingly obvious that we all want to feel that we’re being paid attention to and that we’re special. This can manifest itself in becoming an actor, in writing a blog, in getting drunk and smashing things up, or in devoting your life to the idea that a huge, powerful and secret organisation is so obsessed with breaking you that it will create elaborate and wildly expensive schemes in order to destroy your faith in yourself. In fact, that could loosely describe so many movie plots that it’s hardly surprising the idea is spilling over into real life.

Best of all, the fact that there is no evidence for it doesn’t matter at all because a) obviously a secret all-powerful group would be good at hiding its tracks, and b) it hasn’t happened yet. All in all, it’s the perfect conspiracy theory in many ways.

So: if Friday comes and you see the people around you slowly ascending into the air, don’t panic. It’s always possible they may be holograms.


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.


About a post I didn’t write and a post I did

I wrote a post. It was about the recently-released film I Don’t Know How She Does It (based on the Allison Pearson novel). It was called “Does having it all mean dropping the ball?” and it used the film as a jumping-off point to talk about the media’s demonisation of working mothers, the media’s demonisation of non-working mothers unless they’re middle class, and why the concept of “having it all” could most accurately be described by imagining someone trying to juggle whilst playing American football in front of a audience throwing custard at her.

And the thing is, I am in theory the perfect target audience for I Don’t Know How She Does It. I’m a middle-class white woman who is balancing children, a partner and a job, much like the main character (except without a nanny, a high-flying career or a posh city townhouse. Boo). On top of that, I enjoyed the book on which the film is based, and I’m a Sex and the City fan so having Sarah Jessica Parker starring is not a turn-off.

So am I going to see it? No.

Partly because I’ve just read some of the reviews (summary: meh).
Partly because I’d be jumping up and down in my seat waving my hand in the air, going “I know how she does it! Using lots of money and privilege!” And partly for the same reason I predict the film is not going to do well in cinemas: the women it’s aimed at don’t have time to go to see films about busy life-juggling women because, not unexpectedly, they’re too busy juggling their lives. Maybe it’ll do well on DVD. I don’t really care.

And that’s the thing. I don’t really care. Over the weekend I have read, without particularly trying to, about half a dozen articles by white middle-class women which use the film as a jumping-off point to talk about the issues it raises. Some of the articles were good. But now I am suffering from I Don’t Know How She Does It fatigue. I am bored by my own lifestyle. So I decided that instead of adding to the words written about it all, I would pretend that all these articles were about the other big film of the week, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. This is far better, because Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is apparently brilliant and I do plan to see it (even if I don’t technically have time).

This train of thought led me to another post, which I have written. However, I’m not posting it here yet, because – much to my surprise and gratification – I am now also blogging for the Huffington Post. I shall be copying my posts for them to my site here (as I have with my first post last week) but when I write posts for them I’ll put them there first. So! A post related to the above will appear soon – tomorrow, I hope, but I don’t have control over that bit – and I’ll update then with the link. In the meantime, please amuse yourselves with the rest of the internet.

Update: Here you are!


The Uncommercial Traveller

Uncharacteristically, last Sunday lunchtime found me in a pub near Old Street. I was there to meet Webcowgirl for a trip to the theatre – or more accurately a trip to a road in Hackney where theatre would happen to us. Specifically, we were going to see an ‘immersive theatre experience’, a combined production of Punchdrunk and the Arcola theatre called The Uncommercial Traveller, based on a Dickens non-fiction book of the same name. However, it was raining so hard we kept looking out of the window in the expectation of seeing animals parading two by two down the road; and we thought the show we were due to see was going to be an outdoor one. We came very close to just staying in the pub, to be honest. dickens book

But the rain cleared, umbrellas were procured, and we recovered our enthusiasm. Buses were caught, and we arrived in time  – in time to just miss our show. No latecomers allowed. Luckily, the show was held every half hour and we were able to squeeze ourselves in to the 1.30pm showing.

As it turned out, the experience was an indoor one. And genuinely immersive it was. Sunday was the final day of the show, so I shall feel free to reveal exactly what it consisted of: we were ushered into the dimly lit front room of a terraced house done out as a Victorian soup kitchen – probably based on the Whitechapel Self-Supporting Cooking Depôt as described by Dickens. Each of us was directed to a table at which sat a Victorian character, ready to chat, and cups of free soup were distributed.

My table held a shabbily dressed woman mending a hat. She introduced herself (I think her name was Agnes), asked our names, and began to tell us about herself and answer our questions. She mended hats for a living. She had been employed in a factory, but since her alcholic father died she had worked from home in order to care for her elderly and bedridden mother; but she sometimes sneaked away to come to the soup depot, to have some time that was her own. She knew the histories of all the other habitues (“You see the one at that table? She’s an actress. You know what that means,”) and confided that she usually added a ‘tipple’ to her soup. She offered us some, but we refused. (Was it really gin? I should have said yes – first rule of improvisation.)

I was enjoying the sense of having stumbled into a house from 150 years ago for its own sake, but there was more. The room went dark, and the four Victorians suddenly rose up, stood in silence, and slowly sank down again; I felt a thrill up my spine. Our lady began to pack up her hat materials as the other tables were led by their Victorian towards the back of the house. Our lady told us that she had a secret weighing on her mind. Could she trust us? We – the three of us at the table – promised that she could.

(I suddenly feel guilty for writing what I’m about to write. Should you keep a promise you’ve made to a fictional character? I think I shall have to consider the promise also fictional.)

The lady led us to the rear of the house, down a narrow flight of stairs, and into a dark cupboard. The three of us stood at one end with one small lantern between us while she crouched down at the other end, another small lantern illuminating her wrinkled and troubled face. Another thrill crept down my spine at the sight. She told us that her father used to hit her mother. One day she had come home to find her mother cowed and beaten, and had told him to stop. Drunk, he had fallen and smashed his head on the fireplace.

The problem was, she said, that they were going to pull the slums down. And what would she do when they found the body? Who would care for her mother if she went to prison? Where was the body then? asked one of our party. She was directed to pull up the floorboard and there, beneath our feet, lay our lady’s father.

That was the end of the ‘show’. She thanked us for letting her get her secret off her chest, and emerged into the light to swap stories with the others. (Webcowgirl will have hers up soon.)

It was only a 20 minute experience, but sometimes that’s just right for something so immersive. It was certainly an experience well worth having. I suspect that when I’m eighty, I shall remember it as real and confuse my grandchildren by talking about the time I met a woman who mended hats and had a body buried under the stairs.


The imaginary 5am baby

I was woken up at 5am today by a noise. These are the thoughts that went through my head in the next ten seconds:

- Was that the sound of a knock on the front door?
- Can’t be. Who would knock on a front door at 5am?
- Anyway, if it was a knock, they’ll knock again. Listen. Nothing. Go back to sleep.
- What if it was someone who had collapsed from an injury after one knock? What if there’s someone hurt outside?
- Or what – wait, I bet this is it – what if someone’s left a baby in a basket on my doorstep? That happens.
- That happens in the Bible.
- Ok, but what if they did? What if there’s a baby out there, maybe hurt?
- Can you hear a baby? No? There you go.
- Could be asleep.
- And anyway, we couldn’t keep it. We have a baby already.
- Who do I know who might adopt a baby?
- It doesn’t work like that. It’s not like that stray kitten we found. I’ll have to give it to an adoption agency and they’ll place it. It’s ok, there are loads of people on the waiting list for babies. It’ll have a good life. I can visit it and check it’s being properly looked after. It could make friends with my baby.
- I should probably go and check its nappy.

Now fully awake, I realised I had talked myself into going downstairs, opening the front door, and checking my doorstep for an abandoned baby in a basket.

There was nothing there, of course. The milk had been delivered, though.