Month: January 2014

Living Alone And Going To The Toilet In The Dark.

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I live alone. Out of choice. Honest. This leads to a much more relaxed approach to home life.  Why waste a clean fork when this one looks clean enough and I was the last and only person to use it? I can eat all the food in the fridge without peeling off an angry postIt telling me to “Back the fuck down!!” I can come home whenever and with whoever I want (like that happens all the time)…or don’t want (that happens sometimes) – but that’s another blogpost. I don’t have to worry about being loud or leaving clothes everywhere – I nearly cooked a shirtsleeve recently because it was so near the pan.

However, living alone also has some drawbacks. If I forget keys inside I am fucked. There will be no one to let me in. I would have to go back the parents’ house to pick up the spare set. Now that is not necessarily too bad considering they live in the same city but it is rubbish when you only realise you forgot them upon returning from whatever you were doing. One time I came back with that week’s food shop and only then realised I was locked out. On the tube to my parents’ house, the eggs got crushed, the juice got smashed, and everything else got drenched in egg and juice.

It also can be really dull. I’m a student with a fairly relaxed timetable which means I have plenty of study free time. However, I am also really lazy and don’t like to plan anything, rather, I prefer to lounge around the flat and spontaneously decide to go do something sociable. However, at that immediate moment there is no one in the flat to go for a pint or catch a film. And it takes time for people to come from wherever they are – which is therefore why people plan. Rubbish.

Living alone also means that things that need to be changed or updated probably won’t. Case in point; lightbulbs. I’ve been living in my flat for exactly a year ( I had a flat party with a cake and a candle, no one was invited) and recently most of the lights have been going out.

Two out of three in the living room; no problem! One still works and combine that with the fact that Camden Council STILL hasn’t taken down the street Christmas lights my flat is literally lit up like a Christmas tree.

One lightbulb went out in the bedroom. No problem! Dim room is a sexy room. Ladies love dim room.

Then the only lightbulb in the bathroom went out. There are no windows…no problem! I live alone so just left the door open and let the light from the hall do the job.

For a week that was fine.

Then the toilet door started to close on its own.

First time it happened I was urinating. I heard the door start squeaking like it was a door out a horror film. Everything began to get dark very quickly. Instinctively I turned around to stop the door. This was mid-stream. Nightmare.

Second time (the same day) I was ready. I approached the door. I knew what I had to do. Door, meet door-stopper.

The door was too high up! What a ridiculous design flaw. Who makes the bathroom a few centimetres lower from the rest of the flat?? By then I really needed to pee so all I could do was steady the door, look at it to check it wasn’t moving and then proceed.

I think the door waited for me to relax and get into the full flow of things.

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek.

The room started to go dark all over again. The nightmare returns. All I could think of in that moment was a scene from an episode of Blackadder The Third, ‘Amy and Amiability’ where Baldrick talks about the life of a highwayman “Oh, I can’t help it, Mr B.! His life is so dark and shadowy, and full of fear and trepidation!” to which Blackadder retortsSo is going to the toilet in the middle of the night.”

I had a tough choice to make. Do I stay on course and finish the job blind or do arrest mid-stream and put the door in its place?

I decided to persevere with my original mission. The room got darker. I was being tested to my limits; balance, precision, memory, confidence. The room was nearly completely dark now. I focussed on the sound of the splash so if I went off target I would notice a change in sound. Total darkness. Terror, panic.

Finished. Now time to see the results. Door opened. The look back.

Spotless.

Mission completed.

Never again I told myself. Never. Again. The same day I took out the lightbulb, took a photograph of its details (60W) and went to Tesco. No sign of it. Went to Robert Dyas – Success a 60W! I win toilet. I win!

Back at the flat. I rip open the packaging like a present. Get up onto the chair and insert the lightbulb. But it’s the wrong one! I crumble to the floor. A broken man. I was so close. I did everything right. I looked up at the heavens. Why God? Why? The room started to go dark. Was it shock? Was it because the door was closing again? I couldn’t tell what was real anymore.

When I returned to the land of the light and all that is good I wasn’t the same man. A shell of the man I used to be. Weak, resigned to the fact that I would never find this elusive type of lightbulb.

I probably could but I can’t really be arsed anymore. Just propped a law book against the door to stop it. Sure I slip and trip over the book almost every time but it sure beats trying to find the lightbulb.

Also, the light is controlled by one of those chords and not a switch so I don’t even know if the electricity is on or off. So even if I did find the bulb, there would be a 50% chance that putting it in would kill me.

Fuck those odds I’d rather trip over the book or pee in the dark.

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Two Morons Go to Russia: “Russia On Four Wheels”, BBC Two, 9:30PM Mon, 20 Jan 2014

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It’s 1am. I don’t necessarily have an early day tomorrow but still most reasonable people are asleep somewhere by now. I, however, did not feel like sleeping. No, I felt like watching something interesting. Clicked on BBC iPlayer to see if they have uploaded anything worth watching. To my surprise there is a programme about Russia. As a Russian man, not necessarily patriotic but at the same time not necessarily apathetic about its plight, I thought it would be reasonable to spend an hour watching a well made BBC programme about my motherland. I was wrong.  ”Russia On Four Wheels” is one hour and 45 minutes of my life I will not get back. The programme itself is actually 60 minutes, however, I had to rewind many times because I simply could not believe what I was seeing and hearing; moments of levity in gulags, jovial interviews with veterans who fought at Stalingrad, mispronunciation of Russian words and much much worse.

Now you may think I’m a bit harsh with the mispronunciation. You’ll exclaim ‘Oh it’s a Cyrillic alphabet and it’s hard to master.’ And I agree with you. In fact, that was my first thought at the 30 second mark, as part of a taster of what was coming up in the series,  Justin Rowlatt (not twat, I checked) looks at the ‘CCCP’ stamp on a car engine and, without a hint of sarcasm, says ‘Cee-Cee-Cee-Pee’ ‘USSR’.

That was the first time I rewound back. 59 minutes and 30 seconds left. At the 5.30 mark this moment is expanded on. Again I hear the excited voice of Justin Rowlatt; ‘Cee-Cee-Cee-Pee’. But now; ‘Cee-Cee-Cee-Pee’, Justin looks up at the camera and says knowingly ‘USSR, USSR’.

He just translated it.

That is when all my polite hesitations turned into disbelief.  Justin, as he was reading out ‘Cee-Cee-Cee-Pee’, clearly thought to himself that he was reading out the acronym in Russian and therefore needed to translate it, for the benefit of the idiots at home. I couldn’t believe it. ‘No!’ I thought to myself, surely it was said so to humorously highlight how people from different countries impose their linguistic presumptions.

But then why would you translate it?

Why would you not go on to say ‘S-S-S-ER’ and THEN translate it?

Now, I had no idea who Justin Rowlatt was until this programme, but I was very quickly beginning to realise that he may have been just about the worst person to ask to do a programme about a country which is so physically, socially scarred and repressed. His jovial attitude, while of course a prerequisite of presenting a television programme, is completely at odds with the content. The man simply has no register.

As he walks into Stalin’s ominously green Villa in Sochi, his own voiceover ticks off Stalin’s atrocities. ‘Under his rule millions died, many of them executed as enemies of State.’  Then once in Stalin’s office he points at a waxwork of Stalin and, like a child in M&M’s world, gleefully says ‘there’s uncle Joe himself.’ Whilst the voiceover continues to narrate Stalin’s reign of terror, skipping over Collectivisation, Justin, being a bit ‘naughty’, goes and puts on Stalin’s coat. As he parades around the office he remarks with a grin ‘makes me feel like a great dictator’. His voiceover just finished stating how tens of millions of people died.

The fact that I have focussed so much upon Justin just shows you how the other presenter’s contribution, the perpetually astounded Anita Rani, is completely forgettable. Having watched the programme twice all I remember about Anita’s half is that she was in a shiny car, kept saying how everything was really big and then went shopping.

In the second half of the programme, the tone of moves from ignorance to pure offensive.

Justin, having travelled to a gulag in Perm, has grown a beard. The cynical in me assumes it is to appear more haggard so as to better blend in with his surroundings and content of narration. His voice again ticks off the   atrocities committed ‘dissidents, human rights activists and journalists…were sent here’.

Cut to:

Justin lying on a bare wooden bench inside camp. For that second (literally a second) he looks pensive, perhaps thinking of something to say which may sound profound or even merely reflecting on the truly awful circumstances  the camp’s involuntary occupiers were in. And then…

“Tired, hungry, and a bit unshaven, I felt a bit like an inmate myself.”

More rewinding. More disbelief. I was speechless. I thought it couldn’t get worse. I thought this programme couldn’t get more crass, more insensitive or offensive. You see where I’m going…

As buildup to the grand finale of inanity, Anita interviews one of the member’s of Pussy Riot. Having concluded the ‘interview’, Anita leans against a wall to reflect upon the encounter.  This is 56 minutes into a 60 minute programme and Anita says ‘For the first time on my journey I am hearing the voice of dissent…from that I take it she means that far from this country moving towards democracy, it’s actually going back!”

Last four minutes and she decides to glaze over what is essentially the most important point in today’s Russia. But as I said, that’s just the build up.

57 minutes into a 60 minute programme Justin thinks it’s a good time to call Anita and see how she is doing. He decides that the best place to call Anita is from a ‘punishment cell’ inside a gulag. I’ll repeat that: He decides that the best place to call Anita is from a ‘punishment cell’ inside a gulag. Amusingly, Anita picks up the phone in a massive shopping centre with a massive chocolate cake in front of her.  Whilst it is obvious this is an editorial attempt to highlight the polarity of Russian history and culture it is done so with the panache of an 11 year old who is convinced he has learnt all that can be learnt about Russia from a tweet.

Before you ask, yes, of course it get’s worse. Anita, having crassly stated she is sitting in the ‘lap of luxury’ and ‘couldn’t be better’ asks Justin where he is. When he replies he is in a punishment cell in a gulag, with the level of excitement someone might have having just bedded a model, Anita in turn smiles and giggles as if Justin just explained to her why the chickens crossed the road.

In the end the telephone exchange perfectly crystallised the tone this programme took; a lighthearted reaction to human

No more Tinder Loving Care

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I jumped on the Tinder train in the summer. I was a bit slow on the uptake but once I caught on it was great. ‘I’m going to have so much sex’ I thought to myself. ‘The Inbetweeners’ quotes were going through my mind. I thought I just bought a first class ticket to Bang Town. Mayor of Bang town: Me.

Two weeks go by. No matches. It’s probably my photos. Need to spice it up. Definitely need one with a tiger or a lion. Show how adventurous and brave I am. Done.

Three weeks go by.  A match! Success. Let’s see who it is. Oh, she’s ok I guess, don’t really remember swiping her to the right. Was I drunk? But hey, a match, as they say, is a match sir. Might skip messaging her though. I can do better.

Three days later: Ok clearly women can see my profile and my photos are awesome so why do I only have one match? It must be the tag line. I have to show women I’m funny. Women love funny guys. And I am funny AND good looking! Ok funny tagline: ‘If anyone asks, we met on tinder’ HA. Funny and disarming.

Ok this is better. Matches are trickling in. But my self esteem is still pretty low! I need matches to get me up! (confidence wise). Increase range to 100 kilometres, increase age range to 30- no 40. After all 40 is the new 20. I think I read that somewhere. 

Wait if 40 is the new 20 then what does that make 20? Never mind. MATCHES. MAYOR OF BANG TOWN.

5 weeks: 10 matches. Raking in it. Time to whip out the old flirting dictionary.

Attempt 1: ‘Hi’. No reply.

It’s cool I got 9 more ladies waiting for me to hit on them!

Attempt 2: ‘Hi’. She deleted me!? What the fuck. Since when is ‘Hi’ a delete worthy comment?

Attempt 3: ‘Hey, I’m Ben. How’s it going?’ A REPLY. Goldmine.

Cut to a month later and several tens of matches later.

‘Hey, I’m Ben. How’s it going’ x 50.’ Just going through the motions.

Out of 50 matches, most started to reply, some get past a second message, then it becomes so boring.

‘No’ I told myself. I keep reading in trendy magazines that Tinder is all about sex and meeting women! So far all I have done is learnt how to type ‘Hey, I’m Ben. How’s it going?’ on an iPhone with my eyes closed. This will change. Imma ask some ladies out is what imma do.

Here goes. ‘Let’s go for a drink.’

And so the real problem of Tinder begins: interacting in person. Some of my friends haven’t been on Tinder dates, saying it would be too weird. And they are right. Firstly, you have to prove to the girl that you aren’t some psycho killer with a fetish for Swiss Cheese. This is made extremely hard due to the fact that she has never met you in person and knows very very little about you. If you get past that stage you then you have to work out if they actually live near where you do. This stage is made infinitely harder by the fact that Tinder location estimations are ridiculously wrong. So I get past the first stage with a girl who is supposedly 5km away from me and ask ‘Where shall we meet?’ to get the reply ‘Somewhere near Times Square?’ Great. Give me couple of weeks to pack, get a visa, book a flight, book a hotel ( I don’t want to presume), book a restaurant. Shall we meet in say 2015? 

Say you get past that stage. Well done. You’s a playa. Now it’s time to meet. You’ve picked a place; a bar. Is it fun? Check. Is it close to your flat? Check check. You’re off to meet her. Phone open on the app on her profile.

Next step is the hardest: verification. You meet a girl on a random night out and you hit it off, it just feels right. You meet a girl on a Tinder date and you’re not even sure she’s your date. She looks different in real life, not better or worse, just different. Different to the extent where you both look at each other, at the place you agreed to meet, slowly point at each other and pull a face so as to say ‘well this is already very awkward/are you my date/you look better in photos.’ 

At other times you stand at the rendezvous point like a stalker waiting for the girl. Someone approaches. Ok, here goes nothing. You can do it. Mayor. Bang Town. ‘Hi, Molly is it?’ 

‘Um, no.’

Shit shit shit shit shit. ‘Oh, sorry. You looked like someone I know.’ She gives you that knowing look.

‘You’re on a Tinder Date aren’t you?’

Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck. ‘Ha, nearly. Just have to work out what she looks like in real life. Awkward.’

But, without a doubt, the scariest part of the verification is the fear that the girl will be taller than you. You see a girl that looks sort of like the picture and she is taller than you, by a noticeable amount. Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes taller than you. I can’t spend a date with someone noticeably taller than me. When I feel small so does my confidence and I end up feeling like a child. Probably like Tom Cruise. But I guess he had worse problems.

But finally, you got past that step. Congratulations! Now it’s down to your personality! Fuck.

The first date is fun. Good bar, good drinks, good chat. New Tinder date, you take her to the same bar, have the same drinks, have the same conversation. Why tinker (tinder?) with a solid formula? And so on and so on. Some girls you bring back, others you never see again. Quickly the dates blur into one encounter. The girls start to all look the same, sound the same, act the same. There is nothing with the dates themselves. It’s just with Tinder the frequency increases of dates and that’s when they all start to lose that excitement. It doesn’t feel as fresh. You just go through the motions. You feel safe using conversation from a previous encounter.

And that is the problem with Tinder. Whatever you want to get from it, be it sex or just something to do on a Tuesday night, do it more than a couple of times and it becomes a study in monotony. You end up so cynical and numb having the same conversation, doing the same thing. It doesn’t feel natural. It takes away from the fun of meeting someone spontaneously and feeling a mutual attraction. Where once was that raw nervousness and excitement now is just a list to be ticked off.

So I tried Tinder. It’s fun briefly but quickly becomes rubbish. Personally, I’m going stick to spontaneously hitting it off with someone. I don’t know when or how, but that’s what makes it fun every time.