Old Maid

Courtesy of the fab blog In the Media by the fab blogger Naomi Frisby (who is well worth a follow on twitter as well) I came across this collection of spinster cut-out dolls on Literary Hub. This is Edith ‘Age of Innocence’ Wharton, whose quote is my favourite of all:

Spinster_BookClubKit-dragged-1240x958

I am myself a spinster, being over forty and having never married. I do have a daughter and I think I’ll be horribly lonely at first when she goes off to university (and yes, you will go, darling daughter, no matter what you occasionally toss into the conversation about taking a different route through life…) but actually, in terms of needing another ‘half’, I think in fact I don’t. Need one. I feel whole.

Hair is seeping from places that used to be smooth, and stray bits of me (teeth, hair) are dropping off, and the other day I happened to turn my arm over to look at a lumpy scar I’ve had for years and my elbows look really old. I have spots and melasma. I snore. I get really worn out. I hate parties. (Don’t all rush at once for my phone number.)

Perhaps I’ll feel differently one day, but now I don’t care. I like work. I like reading and thinking and walking and watching TV by myself. I like going to libraries alone, and the cinema too, and I’ve got friends (and my daughter, occasionally, when I unstick the glue that attaches her lately to her friends) and I’m not really sure what marriage is for, if I’m totally honest. It seems to be totally fine for some people. For people who want it that’s totally fine. I even tried to join in once, a while ago, but it’s not my forte, I don’t think: marriage, relationships. Oh, I like it at first (I suppose everyone does), but then afterwards isn’t it all a bit hard and upsetting and boring? Either you don’t care enough, or you care too much, and the two of you seem to switch places every so often – caring, uncaring – and what about all of that effort we put into reassuring each other: she isn’t more pretty than you, I promise; I wasn’t flirting, etc? Stay single and channel that effort somewhere more interesting instead.

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Whether or not I’ll read this book Spinster that everyone’s talking about, I don’t know. I like these cut-out dollies, though. I don’t even mind the word ‘spinster’ although everyone says it isn’t fair because ‘bachelor’ is much cooler. To which I say: really?

Sir-Cliff-Richard-attends-a-press-conference-to-announce-details-of-his-new-album-at-Gilgamesh

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ASMR, f*ck yeah!

Fair play to Russell Brand. He gets off his arse and does something, and just lately I’ve begun to understand how difficult and time-consuming and plain bloody admirable that is.

But this week he’s really got my goat.

I was watching a video on his channel (an admirable video) about taking direct action against the sort of buggers who are trying to nick our school (more to follow on this), and just as I was feeling a wee bit mean for linking to Parklife on another post I noticed this:

So, cheers for that, Russell. Have a gratuitous Parklife link in return:

First of all: female porn is just porn. Sometimes it’s porn with a knowing edge to it but it’s still porn. Willies are out and proud and enjoying their usual excursions to all the usual holes. The men tend to be better looking in female porn, but otherwise: tis porn as we know it.

I’m subtly insulted by his olde-worlde implications that women are titillated – yes, in their nether regions – by the mere fact of somebody paying them attention.

Russell Brand on ASMR reminds me of the Living and Growing DVD that convinced a nation of 5 to 8 year olds that feathers were an essential part of sex.

Russell Brand on ASMR reminds me of the Living and Growing DVD that convinced a nation of 5 to 8 year olds that feathers were an essential part of sex.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/vYVJwBkg1D8

Secondly (and here you can imagine me emitting a primal scream) why the red-top headline? Surely, but surely, RB already has enough attention without needing to sex-up (and, hence, smear with the pervy brush) something that’s (eventually, hopefully) going to be a key part of mental health strategy? You might as well call meditation ‘mental masturbation’ and have done with it.

Not in public please, love.

Not in public please, love.

Russell, although undeniably a man of the world, has come blundering into the ASMR debate like a horny cow at the crockery counter.

ASMR, f*ck yeah! Russell Brand liberates ASMR from obscurity in the style of Team America liberating Paris...

ASMR, f*ck yeah! Russell Brand liberates ASMR from obscurity in the style of Team America liberating Paris…

You might as well ask a nun about the ins and outs of tea-bagging as ask someone who doesn’t experience ASMR to ‘explain’ ASMR to his million-plus followers.

So, what is ASMR, I hear you ask?

Er…

All right. Hands up. If you don’t experience it, you will think it’s weird. You’ll think it’s creepy. You’ll want to stay especially clear of Hailey WhisperingRose who is mainly composed of bosoms (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and posts videos in which she ‘snuggles up’ with you:

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…or invites you on a date.

Hailey cooks up a feast in the ASMR kitchen.

Hailey cooks up a feast in the ASMR kitchen.

Okay. Wow. I’m really not helping myself here, am I?

Let’s talk about onions. This is my absolute favourite ASMR video.

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This is someone who calls herself Fairy Char. And she cooks caramelised onions. That’s all she does. She begins by lightly stroking the uncooked onions (because people who get ASMR like scratching and stroking noises) but other than that: there is no inappropriate handling of onions. The onions get peeled and go straight in the pan. They start cooking. Her clothes remain firmly in place at all times. She discusses the merits of onions. Perhaps you might like to include them on a pizza topping?

PHWOAR. Right, Russell?

He talks about ASMR as if it’s a fetish.

It isn’t a fetish.

I mean, I like onions, but I don’t like them like them.

ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) has always (we think) been around. I used to experience it years ago, and it wasn’t until another writer said: ‘Hey, do any of you guys get this weird tingly thing when someone talks to you slowly?’ that I realised there was a whole community of tingle heads out there. And I WASN’T WEIRD, because other people felt it too.

I used to get it on first days at work (of which I had several, as a temp in London) when somebody soft-of-voice was explaining, and pointing, and speaking at a certain pace… (And would promptly ‘come round’ afterwards none the wiser on how to work the photocopier.) Now and then a cold caller’s voice will fall into the exact rhythm that triggers my ASMR and I won’t even listen anymore to what they’re actually saying, about double glazing or needing my bank account details as a matter of urgency or whether I’ve heard of business opportunities recently in Nigeria, because all I hear is the cadence of it. And it’s lovely.

The key thing is that people shouldn’t feel WEIRD for experiencing something so fecking fantastic. I’m genuinely sorry for you if you don’t experience it, because it’s kind of like your brain’s in a bubble bath being soaped by velvet hands while angels serenade from on high and nothing matters except that feeling. You’re properly in the moment. You don’t even have to stare at a raisin for a really long time; you can soak your own head in the bliss of mindfulness and watch the world’s shit drift away.

Also, it helps you sleep.

So who cares if you have to keep minimising your youtube window when you work in the library, because sometimes, yes, there is oddness on screen:

The inimitable Tony Bomboni. Credit where credit's due: he's got some balls.

The inimitable Tony Bomboni. Credit where credit’s due: he’s got some balls.

I listen to ASMR a lot when I write, and it prickles my brain and keeps giving me tiny spurts of joy that help me write better, more happily, and I’ll quite often have two windows open at once and some Brian Eno overlaid on the crackle of frying onions because, wow, then I’m in heaven.

The University of Sheffield have a study going. The scientific community is slowly waking up. This is a medication free way for people who suffer stress, anxiety, and depression to lift their spirits for a bit. I suppose, if the women (and men) who ‘perform’ in these vids (ASMR-tists) are easy on the eye that’s because they get so frigging close to the camera (to whisper in each of your ears in turn, using binaural mics) the profession does tend to invite those confident enough about their lack of nostril hair and pustules to actively enjoy extreme close ups.

But that doesn’t make it porn. If that makes it porn, then 97% of the output on mainstream television is porn. Porn is:

‘printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate sexual excitement.’

See, Russell, nothing about onions.

EDIT: I feel duty bound to add an update here. Since posting this, a couple of months ago, I have been fairly swamped (by the standards of this ole blog, at least) by people searching for ‘asmr porn’ and ‘haileywhisperingrose tits’. Not sure what that proves, if anything, but in the interests of full disclosure…

Even Hedgehogs Get the Blues, and Other Bedtime Tales.

Settle down, children, and I’ll tell you a story.

This hedgehog owns a school. It is a large school.

This hedgehog owns a school

She looks happy.

The hedgehook looks happy. That's because she is happy.

But she is not happy. She is not happy because her school has a tiny garden. This is her garden.

Only one tree

She is sad because her garden is shit.

My garden is shit

Whenever she looks at her tree, all she sees is failure. The man in charge of the country says there will be zero tolerance for failure. She is afraid.

‘I am special and important,’ she says to herself. ‘My school is special and important. My school should have a bigger garden.’

So the hedgehog invites her friend to tea.

The tea has not arrived yet because the servants have not brought it. The servants are not achieving at optimum levels. If they are not careful they will be sacked.

The tea has not arrived yet because the servants have not brought it. The servants are not achieving at optimum levels. If they are not careful they will be sacked.

Luckily the hedgehog’s friend is in charge of schools. She is wearing a blue dress because she likes the colour blue.

The lazy servants have brought the tea at last. However they have only brought one cake. When her friend has gone the woman will speak to them sharply.

The lazy servants have brought the tea at last. However they have only brought one cake. When her friend has gone the hedgehog will speak to them sharply.

‘I’m sad about my garden,’ says the hedgehog.

‘I’m sad about it too,’ says her friend.

‘I walked past the village school last week,’ says the hedgehog. ‘Their garden is very big.’

The village school has lots of trees.

The village school has lots of trees.

‘Yes,’ says her friend. ‘It is much too big. Also the teachers are pinkos.’

‘They are really taking the piss with that garden,’ says the hedgehog.

‘Luckily,’ says her friend, ‘the school inspector is going to visit them this afternoon.’

This is the school inspector. He likes arithmetic.

This man is the school inspector. He likes arithmetic.

The village school has only one chair.

The village school has run out of chairs

They asked for new chairs from the woman in charge of schools.

She said no.

The inspector calls. It is a sunny day. The children are playing in the garden with their teacher. Their teacher likes pink.

It is a sunny day. The children are playing in the garden

But the inspector is angry. He takes the teacher into a spooky room filled with shadow.

He tells the pinko teacher off.

He speaks angrily to the pinko teacher. The children have not yet learnt ‘Dover Beach’ by heart! Their school is failing.

Now the inspector must leave. He has an appointment for tea at the school with only one tree.

The servants have not brought the inspector a cup. They are really in the shit now.

The servants have not brought the inspector a cup. They are really in the shit now.

‘The village school is failing,’ says the inspector to the hedgehog’s friend.

‘We must take away their trees,’ says the hedgehog’s friend.

‘Be quiet!’ says the inspector. ‘We must go upstairs.’

‘I don’t think of you that way,’ says the hedgehog’s friend.

‘You are flattering yourself,’ says the inspector. ‘We must go upstairs to talk about the trees or else the pinkos will be angry. The pinkos will say we stole their trees to give to our friend.’

They go upstairs to talk about the trees in secret.

The woman in charge of schools meets secretly with the man in charge of inspecting schools

The hedgehog is definitely not listening at the door.

Later that day, the woman in charge of schools sets off in her motorcar.

Her friend goes everywhere with her. He used to be in charge of schools until the pinko teachers said mean things about him. He was very sad about this.

Her friend goes everywhere with her. He used to be in charge of schools until the pinko teachers said mean things about him. He was very sad about this.

‘Your school has failed,’ says the woman in charge of schools to the pinko teacher. ‘We are taking your trees away.’

The woman in charge of schools arrives

Her friend is hiding in this picture. He does not want to be seen by the pinko teacher.

‘What will happen to our school?’ says the pinko teacher.

‘I do not care,’ says the woman in charge of schools.

You have not learnt your equations. You must give your trees to my friend.

The children say goodbye to their trees. They belong to the woman in charge of schools now. She will take them to her friend.

Now I have your trees

Hurray! Here are the trees

‘Here are the trees!’ says the woman to her friend, the hedgehog. ‘They are yours now.’

‘Hurray!’ says the hedgehog.

The school inspector is hiding behind the trees.

Here is the school inspector. He is hiding behind the trees

He is camera shy.

The hedgehog looks happy. That’s because she is happy.

The hedgehook looks happy. That's because she is happy.

Very happy.

Very happy.

The End.

Sleep tight, children!

Disclaimer: All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons living, dead, or hedgehog, is purely coincidental. 

Landlubbers, and life on the ocean wave.

It’s hard when you don’t get a ticket. It’s hard and it’s sad. I mean, after all, this isn’t the Titanic we’re talking about; this ship really is unsinkable, and some of the very best people you know are onboard already – or racing down the gangplank – and the worst thing is that you’ve been onboard before, a few times, years ago (you hitched a lift to the Cape of Good Hope but the Horn of Bad Luck was just round the corner and you fell with a splash into murky water)… So you can’t even tell yourself it’s a shit boat and the entertainment’s Jim Davison and the captain is Old Gregg.

No, it isn’t the boat that’s the problem. The boat is just fine. More than fine. It has all the English canon onboard and most of the Yanks as well, except people like Hemingway, who’s gone off in his own fishing boat with a bottle of turps (it takes a special kind of drink to get a ghost pissed), and Salinger, who went shopping for ear plugs on shore leave, once, and was never seen again.

I am, of course (of course! You mean you didn’t realise?) talking about rejection.

I’m talking about rejection through the hackneyed metaphor of ships setting sail. More specifically, the ship of literary success that was docked in the harbour for years and years and years and yet somehow, in spite of the fact you were once at the front of the queue, you failed to get a ticket.

Harrumph.

It’s a little bit rubbish, sometimes, this writing lark. You put yourself out there, and the editor says:

And your heart goes bang-bang-bang and the critic that lives in your head says never write again and then these guys appear:

Call yourself a writer? I'd call yourself a taxi to Loserville if I was you...

Call yourself a writer? I’d call yourself a taxi to Loserville if I was you…

And yesterday it was sunny but now:

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And your face is all:

itcrowd

And you come across this on the internet:

I can tell you now, God. You need a bigger jar.

I can tell you now, God. You need a bigger jar.

And you feel a bit:

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So you go for a walk, and you walk to a bridge, and you stand on the bridge and look down at the river. You take out your phone for a photo and tap a few words in a memo:

Upside down world

Look in the river. It goes down forever. The sky is in it. 

Darting insects make the river wink. 

A boy is fishing.

Shirt as red as flags. I’m here, it says. I live.

Birds fly through the water-sky. 
Or is sky-water better?
You put your phone in your pocket, go home again, and boil the kettle. Book, tea, blanket. You always get sick on boats, anyway.