Angel Meadows and Sleeping Lions

I lived in London for 11 years and depended on the tube for every single journey I made.  Even now, I can plot a route across the capital in 30 seconds; I relish the challenge of finding the quickest route from A to B.

 

3 years into my Manchester residency (parp) and I still miss the speed and commonality of Tfl.  My  commute to work now feels like a portal into ‘Last of the Summer Wine’.  Trains are slow and they smell, a mixture of pollen, scotch egg and urine.  So I don’t leave the city centre much.  I’ve become a little insular.  But it turns out that it’s okay, because I only needed to walk 5 minutes from my flat to enter a world not dissimilar to how I imagine Hells Kitchen once was, a world of more than just spit and sawdust.

 

On Friday I went to see Angel Meadow, the inaugural project from HOME, delivered by the acclaimed ANU Productions.  We were told to meet in a square on the other side of the Oldham Road and I guess, await further instructions.  Curiosity piqued, I had a look online.  One reviewer had found it too much and had to leave.  Great.  I’d had a jangly week at work and would take ‘too little’ over ‘too much’ any day.  The pull of the sofa and a bland world cup tie between whosit and the other team was very strong.

 

Thank God I ignored this urge, because Angel Meadow was without doubt the finest bit of theatre that I have ever experienced.  And I mean experienced in the most literal sense of the word.

 

Angel Meadow takes place in and around the Edinburgh Castle, a derelict pub which called time 10 years ago after a particularly nasty riot of Oldham and Wrexham fans.  The Castle itself is slap bang in the middle of Ancoats, an area not unfamiliar with blood grudges.  Ancoats is the home of the industrial revolution and subsequently home to some seriously messy gang wars between rival factions who moved there to work, notably Irish and Italian communities.  Apparently the cast and creative team had arrived in Manchester without a space in mind and having discovered the castle, they moulded the piece from the lives and histories that the pub and surrounding area revealed to them; times when women believed in the devil and drank bleach for their sins, where men formed allegiances and rivalries at remarkable speed, where children were cheap and life was very fucking quick.

 

I’m not going to describe the show in detail, because I wouldn’t do it justice (I’ve wrestled with how to write this since seeing the performance 2 days ago) but also on the offchance that the company may perform it again, in which case I urge you to sell your least favourite body organ to procure a ticket.  Truth be told, I couldn’t speak of the full experience if I wanted to, as I only caught a fragment of it.  Each performance is for eight people at a time and we were picked off, reassembled and reformed many times over the course of an hour, but always made privy to performances of such heart-breaking conviction that it felt like a gift and a blessing to bear witness.

 

Angel Meadow is totally immersive  I’ve seen companies like Punchdrunk and Shunt and never felt truly touched – how could I with 50 other people in the room?  And then, for the inhibited amongst us, there’s always the nagging anxiety: ‘Don’t pick on me, please don’t single me out’.  Involving the audience can be enthralling, but it isn’t the same as making them perform.  When this happens, encounters become forced, uncomfortable and leave Sue the office manager feeling exposed, like she’s fallen short all at the same time.  Angel Meadow avoided this by not turning us into performers, but by taking away the audience.  We fell through the space in this funny old run-down pub, sometimes landing together, sometimes alone.  I might grease up a boxer for a fight or have a chat in the kitchen about flowers.  Either way it’s just me (and maybe one other) and the performer, no-one to mediate or judge.  We were free to play.

 

And if this still sounds eggy and uncomfortable, it isn’t.  The performers are so extraordinarily committed that you allow them to pull you through this sordid wormhole without resistance.  You move from watching a play, to watching people, to being part of the group.  The final event was delivered with such energy and conviction that I came out shaking.  And I know that sounds like a shitty theatre critic thing to say, but I’m not wearing a top hat, I’m not arsed about the fourth wall and I don’t cry at soliloquies.  I don’t care for a lot of the stuff that I’m supposed to, stuff that’s  ‘groundbreaking’ and ‘ award-winning’.  I’m a human being who thought she wanted to spend the night on the sofa and ended up having an earth-shattering experience in Angel Meadow.

 

Day 17 of my blogathon and i think, in fairness, there’ve only been a couple of days where I ‘ve surrendered to producing something meaningless and poorly crafted, and just blahhed on, like relaxing into a lovely piss.  Today is one of those days; I had a whole acupuncture session to dream up something pithy, poetic, or provoking and got zero return.  So I’m going to leave a recipe with you.

I’ve more or less given up carbs for a few months now.  I say more or less, because I lack the dedication and organisation to do this consistently.  There’s always the interim between shopping trips, when I realise how poorly planned the whole activity is and resort to eating the Ritz crackers that are stuck to the back of the cupboard.  But most of the time, I stick with it.  Not because I’m trying to lose weight, or be healthier.  It just strikes me that the best part of any meal is the protein and the veg part, so why not just have more of that?  Couple my thinking with the advent of brother-in-law’s health club based around a low carb diet, and it was a natural progression.  The food, and discussion of it evolved.  And here we are.

I genuinely feel better eating less processed carbs, and there’s a wealth of guidance on the web about it (my favourite being nomnompaleo).  The recipes that work the least well are those that imitate carb based food; so savoury muffins made with coconut flour are good, but why bother tricksying around with faux versions?  The best low carb meals are those that you would eat regardless of your dietary intentions, like this very simple take on a cassoulet.

 

Ingredients:

Tin tomatoes

Garlic, 2 cloves, minced

1 onion

1 courgette

1 red pepper

1 leek

Sausages, browned in a pan

Cubes of pancetta

Oregano

Olive oil

Red wine

White beans (if you fancy it)

 

Pre-heat the oven to 190°.  Fry the onion rings till translucent, add garlic, oregano and the rest of the veg and the pancetta.  Cook until it is smooshed together and then add the tomatoes, half a tin of water and a glass of red wine.  Let it simmer for 10 minutes.

Drain the beans, if using, and pour over the sausages in a casserole dish.  Add the tomatoes mixture and pop it in the oven for half an hour.

Who needs mashed potato, when you’ve got this bad boy?

Girl from space

c1c3a75f5b078aac3a1ead5cf64822efAbout 5 years ago I went to see a comic who was warming up for an Edinburgh stint.  It had all the hallmarks of an Edinburgh stint warm up show; a lot of the material was sketchy, and the comic was making little asides to himself and jotting notes in a pad about which jokes worked and which didn’t.  The loudest laughs came from a section where the comic talked about the absurdities of women’s fashion, and it’s a section that I’ve seen him replay on TV comedy quiz shows on more than one occasion.

I don’t mind.  It is a good bit.  The comic talked about the current trend for big bags (popularised by Victoria Beckham amongst others) and tiny, high heeled boots.  With big hair.  It’s what is called in fashion mags a ‘ groomed’ look, and suggests wealth and glamour.  The comedian used it for reductio ad absurdum; if we followed this trend doggedly, the world would be populated by women transformed into some sort of dinosaur throwback, tottering around on heels, bent double by the weight of their bags, half blinded by their own hair.

He told it a lot better than I did.  As you can tell, because it’s an image that has stayed with me longer than the name of the comedian did.  I’ve never been particularly interested in fashion, beyond aspiring to look like Bette Davis in the latter section of Now, Voyager and realistically being satisfied with my effort if I wear something other than jeans.  But I recognised the style of dress that he talked about and I recognise the pain that it must, it will, cause if subscribed to everyday.

Manchester is a curious place for fashion.  People work very hard to belong to a particular clique.  At the moment, any Friday Night in the Northern Quarter, a war is being waged between the hipsters (attire:  vintage, plaid shirts, cropped tops mix and match) and the glamour crowd (short structured dresses, fake tan, backcombed hair).  I never witness these wars, because I’m usually tucked up at home writing another bloody blog, but I do witness the fallout on a Saturday morning.  Today, as I stepped out for my acupuncture appointment (for regular readers the soundscape today was Clayderman revisiting Bryan Adam’s back catalogue and the beachtowel I was under was turquoise), I witnessed a child born of a fashion war.

She was dressed in black shiny lycra leggings with a short cream cropped top, with high heeled, peep toe boots.  Her hair fell as straight as water from Niagra Falls and her make up made her face take on a strange sheen.  Anyone educated in Britan during the eighties was probably made to watch the ‘Look and Read’ series.  In which case, you may have seen ‘The Boy from Space ‘ (indeed how could you forget it, so brilliant and strange it was) – that is the only way I can describe the pallour she achieved.  She had inked in a severe pair of eyebrows and a thick battalion of eyelashes to keep any enquirers at a safe distance. She was walking past a Greggs’ when i saw her.

Listen, I don’t really give a shit what anyone wears.  In fact, being such a fashion scaredy cat, I admire anyone who makes considered effort to express themselves through clothes and then has the chutzpah to ‘style it out’.  But at least enjoy it!  I went to Goldsmiths College, where people regularly dressed as sculpures or magic eye posters, but they owned it; they wanted to talk about the way they looked and what it meant.  More often than not, they dressed like that because it made them happy.  On the other hand,  this girl looked scared, defensive, hostile.  She had made incredible effort to be noticed for her choices but her attitude was so withdrawn and blocked that I felt sorry for her.  Also, she looked in pain; not in that carefree ‘ oh well my feet are going to kill me tomorrow but for tonight I’m going to knock em dead’ sort of way.  This was midday on a Saturday on a day as cold as a well-digger’s ass, where everyone around her was dressed in normal waffley stuff, like fleeces and scarves.  She was wincing, but covering her pain with defiance; don’t look at me, don’t talk to me, don’t anything.  How had she arrived at that kind of fashion?

Fashion is inevitable, because society says that we have to wear clothes, and to choose clothes, we have to make choices, whether fashionable or not.  Why make the choice to be in pain and then not even enjoy the effect you create, or have a damn good time looking the way you do?  I know that I sound as if I am hobbling ever forward on my Zimmer Frame towards a sensible seniority, but I don’t remember fashion being like this when I was a lass.  Even punk was aggressively, flamboyantly playful, not self-consciously agonising.

Please, young ladies and gentleman, wear weird stuff.  We all did it, at least once.  And it gives older people the opportunity to laugh with you (not at you; it reminds us, joyfully, of our own teenage wardrobe malfunctions).  But please, embrace it; do it with a smile.  Too soon you will feel the horrifying warmth of fleece and know that your time in lycra leggings was too brief and you will regret not spending it with a smile on your face.

How to X-Ray a Horse

I’m determined not to start this post with the words ‘ I am’ or ‘My name is’, which I guess I’ve succeeded in doing, but in the process of so doing I’ve also expressed something pretty fundamental to my character.  My head is a challenge factory: see my last post, Driving Miss Lazy, to give you an idea.  I also spent a week last year on an audio fast, where I didn’t deliberately listen to any sounds or music for a week (it was actually really, really lovely).

I am not bonkers, but I like small challenges.  Not skydiving or basejumping or visiting every continent in a day, but litte acts of boundary pushing.  I teach English which gives me a perfect arena to test myself and I enjoy my job a lot, but in other ways, life has levelled itself out over the past year or so.  Before teaching I worked as a hand model, an actor, a charity fundraiser, a stunt double.  I’ve produced documentaries and once had to watch and log hours of tape from DEFRA on such edifying subjects as the humane slaughter of sheep and how to X-Ray a horse.  I’ve been a bingo-caller and a baby – gym instructor and the MC at a feminist cabaret.  The tiny challenges that I give myself now help me to reclaim some of the thrills of yesteryear.

Don’t tell anyone, but I’d love to write all day long, but in reality I rarely give myself the even half an hour to jot down some thoughts.  So this could be my biggest challenge yet …to write every day for thirty days.

And if I fail to do it, I will rewatch the horse X-rays as penance.

 

Driving Miss Lazy

Can  you remember what your old classroom looked like?  I have a friend who showed me a photo of hers recently; it was a portacabin with a broken window and a peeling woodchip wall.  What was most remarkable about the picture is that 20 years later, 5 of the people in that photo were present in the room, well adjusted responsible adults who were still friends.  It made my heart warm, I tell you. And it made me wish that I had a photograph, because I honestly can’t remember what mine was like.  Classrooms have been landed in the same pile of instantly dismissable as doctor’s surgeries and banks.  There were probably some posters or ‘display work’ on the walls, but ultimately who cares?  If I can’t remember it, neither can they is my doctrine, which, as a teacher, gives me carte blanche to leave the walls pretty much as they are;    a few bits of neat work (timewasting) and some inspirational posters.  But my lassitude makes me a rarity in this profession: if they ever run out of ideas for makeover programmes (they are near the bottom of the barrel – an episode of Doggy Styling is on as I write) they should talk to some of the teachers I have worked with; their rooms could induce epilectic fits, so bedecked are they with advice on apostrophes and inspring quotations. But maybe I’m wrong.   Maybe just because I pay not the blindest bit of notice to what is going on around me unless it is to poke fun of it, doesn’t mean my students are doing the same!  In this spirit I have decided to actually read the motivational quotes emblazoned around my room and live by their creed, something which I am pretty sure my colleagues don’t manage.

A dispatch from the field: there is a vogue in teaching at the moment to encourage independence, to foster resilience, to applaud effort and challenge rather than natural skill and talent.  I heartily approve of this: too often and too easily are the ‘bright ones’ and the A grades rewarded and not the students who work their arses off for a D grade.  So a sea change in research has been embraced, at least superficially by teachers and our first port of call  when embracing a new idea is the poster cupboard.  Let’s whack some mottos up, create a banner in publisher: make them independent!  But in my honest opinion, we teachers are the last out of the traps when it comes to practising what we preach.  And I use myself as a prominent example of this.

I passed my driving test when I was 19.  I passed it on my second attempt and only because the examiner, who was a little man in a pork pie hat, was on his last day of duty.  He told me all this as I perched nervously on the edge of the seat, wondering why the handbrake looked so far away.  I nodded manically, actually unable to hear at this point.  He sat low in the seat: I closed my eyes and turned the ignition. 40 minutes later and I’d passed! Though whether either of us had opened our eyes for the entire journey is debatable:  he seemed pretty tired and why not?  Can you think of anyone more grateful for relaxation than a driving examiner on his last day of duty? Good for him, I say, but the nagging doubt that maybe I shouldn’t have passed my test all that time ago has hung over me ever since, like a Disney princess under some sort of spell.

I have driven twice since that day.  My dad thought it would be a good idea for me to drive him back from the pub once (thus enabling him to get royally rat-arsed).  Surprisingly the jump from a two door panda to a 5 series BMW was a step too far and I nearly wrapped it around the lamp-post outside our house.  The second time has provided a rich and consistent seam of comedy gold for my older sister, because I took her round a corner in third gear.  Haha!  She trots this one out whenever she can, even when I just happen to mention anything even vaguely motor-related, like so:

ME:  “There’s nothing on.  Just Driving Miss Daisy and I don’t want to watch that”

HER:  Driving? Bahahaha! Can you remember when you drove me round the corner? In THIRD GEAR?  You’re an idiot.

ME:  Yes.  Yes I am.

 

This was over 15 years ago now.  Her act is very, very tired. Truth be told, I’ve held on to these minor setbacks longer than most and,coupled with a prolonged 12 year stay in London, where you have to be mad or rich or both to own a car, I conveniently forgot to drive again.  I like to get driven: I have an annoying habit of leaning in the same direction as the car as if I’m propelling it on, but otherwise I sit and am chauffeured.  Which is fine when  you live in London, but when you live in Manchester and work elsewhere, it’s a hassle.  The trains are real adventures in “Goodnight Sweetheart” land, and not in a quaint way.  They smell, they’re old, there’s flakes of pastry everywhere and I feel like a non-human when I have to rely on them.  Please don’t misunderstand me if you are still reading at this point: public transport is essential and I would continue to use it even after learning to drive again.  My bid to get behind the wheel has everything to do with control, my control over how I get around.  Good Lord, maybe I’m finally become an adult?

 

So, I’m finally heeding the advice that Maya Angelou, Joyce Carol Oates et al have been shouting at me from my classroom walls (I’m sure that it’s exactly what they had in mind when writing about overcoming hardships, facing adversity, etc etc).  I’m actually going to practice what I preach and relearn this driving malarkey.  The best New Year Resolutions involve the acquisition of something rather than the denial; much better to vow to learn Mandarin than give up trifle for a year, methinks.  And besides, how hard can it be?  I will let you know, but you may wish to stay off the roads in the meantime.

They don’t make ’em like they used to

Christmas and New Year usually brings forth a spate of list programmes;  100 greatest comedians, 10 best kids shows of all time, most awkward bloopers etc etc.  But the cuts ran deep this year, so we got re-runs – behold the lists of Christmas past!

One of these pretty crappy shows is ‘100 Greatest Musicals”.  Oh goody, I thought, I love musicals, because I had developed temporary amnesia and forgotten how monotonous and uninspired this show was when I watched it last year.  This particular list favours the schmaltz fests of the fifties, the light opera toffee tin confections peopled by Julie Andrews and Howard Keel.  Rodgers and Hammerstein, Bambi Lynn, brrrrr.  My theory is that if Lloyd Webber builds a reality TV show around it (Jesus Christ Superstar, Sound of Music and yes, Wizard of Oz), it is dead in the water.

To my mind musicals have to embrace the impossible, or have a damn good sense of humour. A dream cast for me is Dick Powell (insane to think that he ran two parallel personas; song and dance man and Phillip Marlowe.  Eat your heart out, Jackman!), Astaire/Rogers, Marilyn Monroe….and musicals should be off their tits bonkers, without question.  The sublime and the ridiculous.  So, as an antidote to Channel 4’s vacuum packed twee fest, here’s my top 3 bizarro musical moments.

 

Number 3:  Most Ludicrous Cameo:  Harriet Hoctor in Shall We Dance (1937).

Rarely has a moment been more shoe-horned into a film.

By this point, the poor viewer has been forced to accept that Astaire is a classically trained ballet dancer in an impression about as convincing as mine of Kofi Annan.  He sort of vaguely whirls around and looks lofty, falls in love with Ginger, falls out of love and then creates a ballet about her.  And then, without warning (about a minute and half in on this clip) comes this:

Needless to say, bendy toe-dancing did not have the cultural impact of the Charleston or twist.  Perhaps because of its difficulty but more likely because it looks ridiculous.  I dare you to break it our next time you’re on the dance floor.

 

Number 2:  Most unsettling viewing experience:  Lullaby of Broadway from Gold Diggers of 1935.

I love misreading prescription labels.  It allows me to accidentally overdose on antibiotics and have dreams like this:

 

 

Vertiginous angles and PVC shorts.  Dick Powell’s gurning face adds to the disturbia like a clown doll in a jumble sale.  And am I right in thinking this is all a bit fascist?

Honourable mention:  The freaky baby (played by Billy Barty) who pervs on the chorus girls in the Honeymoon Hotel number in Footlight Parade.  Go see!

 

Number 1:  Sheer lunacy:  Ain’t there Anyone here for Love? from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

When I watch this film I make noises like Homer gargling waffles.  It is my absolute clothes crush of all time.  In the cold light of day, everything about the film is odd (including it’s outmoded misogynistic world-view, thank goodness).  Particularly the dance routines, in which Marilyn and Jane Russell look like they are fighting their way out of a series of increasingly tight-fitting polo necks:

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If you haven’t seen ‘Ain’t there Anyone Here for Love’, you must, if only to see Jane Russell repeatedly fail to score with a series of fey chorus men pretending to be Olympic athletes.  They do fake dancey wrestling in flesh coloured pants and then Jane falls into a swimming pool.  I repeat:  I cannot urge you enough.

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I think old musicals are film perfection.  Critics say that they don’t make them any more because the viewing public are more sophisticated, cynical even, and we don’t accept the suspension of disbelief. Poppycock!  If we really do view smarter now, how come producers keep casting Gerard Butler as a charismatic lead, something which takes a much bigger leap of faith for the cinemagoer?  Nah, they don’t make them anymore because they know they can’t.  Why try and improve on such bonkers perfection?

 

Please add any favourite bonkers musical moments that you have – I am all ears and eyes.

Does your family have any idiosyncratic customs, odd tendencies peculiar only to them and unaligned with any festivity or celebration?

 

Before you refer me to social services, let me explain. On the way down to London, we would always pass a hotel on the edge of a roundabout.  More of a motel, if I’m honest.  Anyhow, the main part of this motel on view from the road is an indoor swimming pool with full length windows on three sides (it sort of juts out from the main building; they are very keen to let you know that they have a POOL.)  Subsequently, any swimmers are extremely visible too all drivers and disinterested passengers.

 

Such a mainstay this vision has become, that over the past fifteen years, whoever has occasion to drive past must immediately report, via text, to everyone else in the family, the number of people in the pool.  I think it arose from how collectively concerned we were that the pool always seemed so forlorn and empty.  This manifests itself in the message; if there is a bather, we treat itself to an exclamation mark (“2 in the pool!” ).  If not, then nothing (“No-one in the pool”).

 

The texts are not met with raucous laughter or even a smile, but a grave nod, recognition that family business is proceeding as it should.

 

It runs a bit deeper than that.  As an adult I have always lived away from my hometown, unlike my sister and most of the rest of my close family.  Recently, I’ve begun to wonder what I have been missing out on.  “No-one in the pool” lets me know that a) the sender is okay and b) that I’m still on the list.

 

If anyone unpicked their family psychogeography, they’d find it littered with unique family phrases and customs that have become so normalised through age and repetition that it is perhaps quite hard to see them for what they are.  I think we develop something similar with friends quite easily, but I find the family stories and legends more interesting because they’re more difficult to negotiate.  I’m not the first person to realise that families can be made up of pretty disparate individuals, so the process of finding things in common and then celebrating them can be quite fraught.

 

Some family customs are all about the past, defibrillating previous experience to enliven the present.  At one particular restaurant that we would go to together, my dad would always leap over the three flower troughs that lined the entrance way, because I had once found it hilarious.  So he’d do it every time at this restaurant, but not at any other eateries with leapable obstacles outside (there are quite a few once you think about it).  It was the equivalent of pulling a well-worn goofy face at a baby, and simpleton that I am, the 3 leaps always made me laugh.

 

There are a fair few memorable characters who reappear anecdotally at gatherings and even during absent minded conversation.  Most of them are unfortunate, I’m embarrassed to admit.  There’s the girl who farted audibly on stage while doing a forward roll in a dancing competition, and we still howl just at the mention of her name;  a line from a drunken conversation in a pub that we overheard which has no particular resonance to anyone else; ‘can’t riff for raffing’; a man called Monkey Riley; the noise my Aunt made on an answer phone message once.  It’s true that a lot of these emanated from my father, who spent 40 years in newsrooms in the North East of England, which if you have read or seen The Red Riding Trilogy, you will know operate as a kind of bizarro holding bay.  But they have only become funnier through the repeating and strangely comforting.  My dad died 7 years ago, and the stories are a way of indirectly remembering him and including him in our conversation without becoming maudlin.

I could explain these customs to you in more detail, but why?  They’re not interesting to you, are they?  You’re probably thinking of your own right now:  good.  Family customs are like other people’s dreams; no-one else finds them as intriguing as the teller.  But that doesn’t mean that they don’t bear the repeating.

50 Shades of Grey

Picture courtesy of the Guardian
Practically new.

I can’t do the laundry.  It’s ingrained in my family legend, along with my father’s inability to make a cup of tea without the top being splattered with tannin scabs, my mother’s compulsion to apply blusher before even the simplest of tasks and my sister’s joy at her own farts, like an indulgent mentor.  What on earth would the modern reworking of our coat of arms look like?  We no longer have recourse to deer hunting, fishing and jousting; rather, our chivalric codes involve minor acts of failure or the need to keep up appearances (very English of us).

Our shield would bear a grey bra, a pot of cream Rimmel, a teabag with a sad face and a gust of yellow wind.  The background design would consist of a gigantic unisex ‘meh’ face.

So my incompetency with the laundry is part of what defines me.  I gave my mum the opportunity to list  all  my failings recently (spoiling for a fight, anyone?) and the first one, off the bat was ‘you’re crap at washing’.  If you’re interested, the rest of the list went:

You sniff too much.

You don’t wear enough make up (predictable).

Sometimes you’re very sharp with me.

I refute the last, especially as I had just given the chance of a lifetime, a free pop at all my insecurities:  surely every mother’s dream?  How is that the gesture of a sharp daughter?  I knew she was clutching at straws by then.  I digress;  the point is that laundry is the first thing that comes to mind.  Even my husband, in a bid to artificially bond himself further to my clan, knows to drop the L-bomb in the right circumstances, such as a party, an intervention, or a funeral, to lighten the atmosphere.  How they all laugh  (It’s true!  She can’t!).  My reaction over the years has ranged from the immature and defiant (“well, you’re shit at …being attractive!”) to a gentle and resigned nod of acceptance.  I have found my defining fault and can settle into it, like a retiree with a well-tended garden.  Enjoy the fruits of my hopelessness.

Naturally, there’s lots of way to be shit at ding the laundry; mine is greification.  This is a word I made up, but it sums up very well what I do.  I turn everything into a greyer version of itself.  You’ve got a nude T-shirt bra?  No problem, let me make that taupe-ish for you.  That red and white striped tunic would look better, IMHO, if the colours bled a little, till the over-all tone was elastoplast.  I’m also a wizard at transforming fluffy new towels into strips of cotton Ryvita and have recently discovered a new power for turning bra cups from convex to concave.

On business cards, I could introduce myself as ‘Laundry destroyer, specialism in underwear and towels”.

If you have failed to find your niche family identity and would like to give try laundry inadequacy a go, here’s how:

Separating colours, darks and whites is a waste of time, and politically incorrect.

Likewise, don’t segregate ‘delicates’ and the rest.  Those dainties need to toughen up a bit!

Leaving it in there overnight is fine.  If you can’t be bothered to take it out, that is.

Put EVERYTHING on at 40, regardless.  The dial is too confusing otherwise, like the device in Stargate.  Leave well alone.

Sometimes I like to spice it up a bit by not checking the pockets of trousers for coins or tissue residue.  Once the cycle is done, who knows?  You might be greeted by a White Christmas in that drum, where everything is dusted with a fine layer of soggy snot rags!

To be honest, I have always had guaranteed results with this system.  I hate the machine and the machine hates me, so it feels good when I make it suffer.

Until today that is, when the persecutor became the saviour (or something like that).  The machine has not been happy for some time.  It whines, it struggles, it fails to drain, like it has an excess of tears.  I tried everything you could think of, by which i mean I hit it quite hard and then walked into another room.  Despite my best efforts,  nothing eased its plight.

I knew what I had to do.  I had to open up the weird little socket-y thing at the bottom and purge its sodden soul.

You may have noticed that the Olympics is on at the moment, so you may have a similar condition to me.  All mundane task are accompanied by a commentator style voiceover generated by my brain and played into my ears by my head space.  So, as I laid down the first towel and loosened the valve, John Inverdale intoned: “This is a tricky one, as she can’t be sure what she’s up against”.  2 minutes later, shifting from knees to crosslegs, Sue Barker chipped in “Well that’s tactical, if ever I saw it”.  5 minutes later as I was running out of towel and had to make a mad dash for a (naturally) grey oven mitt to mop up the overspill,  Gabby Logan declared it “her first real error and one she may live to regret, if the competition keeps up this pace”.

And all the time, the water kept seeping out, darkening the various grey porous cloths that were drafted in to soak it up, like an endless cycle of that bit that they always used to put in sanitary pad commercials, where the blue water would disappear completely into the bulky white strip and be locked in for eternity.

I was beginning to think that my nemesis had the better of me, as I stretched in desperation for the semi absorbent sheath of a discarded sleeping bag when the rain stopped.
It was over.  I had won.  I rooted in and pulled out the cause of the obstruction: a pair of grey knickers and a 5 pence coin.

To the victor the spoils.