It’s become the modern day equivalent of “I’m not racist but…” used by everyone from Tommy Robinson to Roseanne Barr as a get out of jail free card whenever a controversial remark about Muslims is made.

Islam is a religion not a race, so you can’t accuse me of racism” say about 20,000 people a day on the internet. But what these people conveniently forget is the role played by religion in the formation and shaping of cultures and societies means that its influence spreads far beyond simply being a belief system.

Islam might be a religion – just like Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, etc. But Muslims – just like Christians, Jews, Hindus, etc. – are not just those that follow the religion. They include all those that participate in or identify with the culture, from atheists and secularists who might disagree with the doctrines through to hardline fundamentalists.

So, for example, cultural Christians include anyone celebrating Christmas or Easter as their main religious festivals, following Christian customs for things such as weddings and funerals, or even just identifying as a Christian culturally. Belief in God or church attendance have very little to do with it.

This broad definition is important because it’s the one used whenever a particular group is persecuted. The persecutors never distinguish between those that follow the religion and those that don’t. They target all members of the cultural group.

The Jewish comedian David Baddiel put it succinctly when he recently said: “I’m an atheist but the Nazis would have me killed in an instant.”

Because anti-semites don’t target Jewish people for following Judaism, they target them for being culturally and ethnically Jewish. Similarly, the persecution of Christians in countries such as Iraq, Pakistan, China and India doesn’t discriminate between churchgoers and those who are just part of the Christian cultural or ethnic population. The persecution of Muslims in countries such as Bosnia-Herzegovina (during the ethnic cleansing in the 90s), Myanmar or the Philippines isn’t about what’s written in the Quran – it’s aimed at all cultural Muslims.

Murderous groups such as ISIS or far-right groups that want to wage all-out war on Islam would follow the same pattern. ISIS views the Christian western world as one big enemy territory – followers would see believers and non-believers as essentially the same. Right-wing extremists in Europe or the US want to get rid of all Muslims, even those whose only engagement with Islam might be to celebrate the Eid festivities.

Violence and oppression against a group will often start by attacking the beliefs that underpin its culture. So whether you agree with a religion or not, to attack or denounce it and its participants wholesale is to play into that mentality. Whether or not it actually qualifies as racism is immaterial as it’s pretty much indistinguishable from racism. After all, what is a ‘race’ of people anyway? Most modern understandings of the term are rooted in culture and ethnicity (which are tied up with religion) rather than a biological model based on skin colour.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t or shouldn’t criticise elements of religion (or a particular religion) that you don’t agree with. You can take issue with parts of a religious ideology that might be oppressive, homophobic, misogynist, etc. without descending into something that is indistinguishable from racism. You just need to make sure the focus is on challenging the ideology without demonising everyone that identifies with the culture.

The easiest way to do this is to imagine that you’re a member of that particular cultural group. After all, there are plenty of cultural Muslims critical of Islam, cultural Christians critical of Christianity, cultural Jews critical of Judaism, etc. They have no problem taking umbrage with certain religious beliefs or practices without taking aim at everyone associated with the religion.

If you can do it from this position of solidarity, you’re unlikely to allow what might be legitimate concerns with an ideology spill over into outright prejudice against a cultural group.

So if you’re a non-Muslim who really has a beef with Islam and sees it as some sort of backwards belief system, how about getting in touch with and supporting some of the Muslim groups that challenge its more conservative aspects? Groups such as British Muslims for Secular Democracy, Muslims for Progressive Values, the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity or the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain.

This is surely better than aligning yourself with the likes of Tommy Robinson and trying to hide bigoted statements behind lines like “Islam is a religion not a race”.



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It’s not surprising that the Tories are blaming the recent rise in violent crime on anything other than their austerity programme. It wouldn’t go down too well if they held up their hands and tried to pass off 60-plus deaths this year in London alone as an unfortunate side effect of their policies.

That might just cost them a couple of votes so, with local elections happening up and down the country, far better for all of the right-leaning politicians and commentators to say it’s all to do with drugs and social media rather than stuff like 20,000 fewer police in jobs.

For everyone else, though, it’s pretty hard to ignore that there might just be some sort of link. But it’s not just about trimming down the number of bobbies on the beat. The whole austerity package has put large parts of this country at risk.

Let me share with you some of my own experiences. Now I’m no expert on the causes of crime, but I do have the experience of having worked closely for the past 8 years with a community in south east London that has been affected by both knife crime and austerity.

When I first started working there in 2010, just before David Cameron came into power, there was a tremendous amount of work being put in by the community to combat anti-social behaviour.

There had been a couple of fatal stabbings over the years. The police were working hard with schools, community groups and youth groups on community projects and initiatives to try and keep young people on the margins from going down the wrong path.

From fun activities and events to educational and mentoring projects, a lot of money was going into improving the neighbourhood and the prospects of young people. Much of the funding was coming from the public purse via the local authority.

In late 2010/early 2011, that began to change as cuts to council funding started to take effect. One of the first cuts was to community policing. There used to be something called the Community Warden Service. The wardens worked closely with the police but also with the local community. They were trusted by the community and were able to provide a lot of local intelligence on what worked and what didn’t within neighbourhoods.

The wardens were largely made up of local residents who understood the area. They were an important link between the police and neighbourhoods in an area where trust of the cops was low. They helped out in the community, putting on events for elderly residents and running a talent show for kids at the annual festival.

The service lost over half of its funding in the first round of Tory government cuts in April 2011. The total number of wardens across the borough went from 53 to 21 overnight. Not long afterwards, the service was rebranded, lost even more funding, had to give up its premises in the local neighbourhood and the handful of staff that remained were moved to a new office away from the community.

The wardens were replaced by Police Community Support Officers, but it wasn’t the same. There were far fewer of them, they didn’t have the same presence in the community (whereas the wardens were omnipresent, you rarely see the PCSO’s) and crucially they didn’t command the same levels of trust as the wardens.

In 8 years, this neighbourhood has gone from a team of police and wardens firmly embedded in the community to the local police station only open for half of the week because there is not enough funding to staff it all the time.

Now we move onto some of the other cuts.

At the same time as the cuts to community policing, youth service funding was being slashed by nearly 50 percent, meaning that the youth centre was open fewer hours and there were fewer youth workers. This meant not just reducing some of the fun activities but also scrapping educational and skills development stuff.

For instance, the centre used to run a project called Brighter Futures for kids aged 9-15 to volunteer and become more active in the community. It built their confidence, skills and sense of self-worth. That had to be scrapped.

The under-5s play service in the local park lost its funding in 2014. This service, run from a purpose-built play-hut in the middle of the park, was a key part of a regeneration programme in the park around 2000/2001 that saw the area transformed from a hub for anti-social activity (drink, drugs, dog-fighting) to a hub of community activity run by play-workers known as the ‘Park Aunties‘.

When the under-5s service lost its funding, the building was supposed to be taken over by a social enterprise so that things could continue. It never happened. Today, the building sits unused and the anti-social behaviour in the park has started to increase once again.

The pot of money for community groups, known as the Local Assembly Fund, has been reduced from £50,000 to £15,000 a year. This fund gets used for anything from summer camps for young people to coffee mornings for the elderly.

Funding for the five schools in the area has been cut by £840,000 over five years, working out at around £307 per pupil. These schools include two primary schools with a significant number of pupils with registered special needs. I spoke to the executive head of the schools the other day. She told me she has absolutely no money in her budget to do anything in her schools beyond the absolute basics.

When David Cameron first announced the cuts, he made a big thing about how the voluntary sector would be stepping in to help out. The Big Society – that’s what he called it. But at the same time as local authority funding was being cut, funding to the voluntary sector was being slashed too. Thousands of charities across the country suffered loss of funding, with some losing 100 percent of their funding, and research by London-based LVSC found that 51 percent of voluntary organisations in the capital have had to close services despite increasing demand. This includes many youth organisations providing services and support to young people in high anti-social behaviour areas.

Like much of the capital, the community I’ve worked in has experienced an upsurge in crime in the past few years. There have been a couple of stabbings (thankfully none fatal). I realise most of what I’ve said is anecdotal accounts based on one particular case, but it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that there are numerous other communities in poorer areas up and down the country that have had a similar experience. In fact, I’d say it’s quite likely.

I’m not trying to offer some mono-causal explanation for the cause of the recent rise in violent crime (like I say, I’m no expert). All I’m saying is that, given the role that all of these services I’ve mentioned play in community cohesion and working with young people on the margins, to ignore the cuts to their funding as a factor makes about as much sense as ignoring the links between smoking and heart disease.



Theresa May has said that the Windrush generation of migrants will have their status upgraded to Windrush Expats as part of the compensation package for unfair treatment by the Home Office.

The PM said that the promotion to a better class of immigrant should resolve fears about future treatment of the group.

Expat is an elite term free of any negative attachments, usually reserved for British migrants abroad and white immigrants from rich countries such as the US, Canada and Australia. This will be the first time the privilege will be extended to a non-white group of migrants.

Being upgraded to Windrush expats is of huge benefit to this group as they will no longer be referred to as immigrants, which as we know is a term with many negative connotations and is often associated with words such as ‘illegal’ and ‘scrounging’ by members of the public” said government spokesman Tim Nickothy. “To be officially ranked as an expat means that you get certain privileges – for example, there is much more focus on the benefits that you bring to society and the tabloid press aren’t allowed to blame you for every social problem.”

Other groups such as refugees, asylum seekers and Eastern European migrants will continue to bear the brunt of that” he added.

The Windrush generation came to Britain in the late 1940s and 1950s. Despite being encouraged to travel to the UK from British colonies to help rebuild the nation after World War Two, they have been caught up in successive waves of anti-immigration rhetoric – from racist Tory election posters in the 1960s to being stereotyped as lazy and criminal in the press to this current ‘hostile environment’ scandal.

Following public outrage after it was revealed that numerous children of Windrush migrants were being threatened with deportation due to a change in the law in 2012, Mrs May met with Caribbean leaders last week to discuss what the government should do to rectify the situation.

She said sorry about twelve times but apparently that wasn’t enough, so we’ve bunged them a bit of compensation money and told them they can be expats. That seemed to calm them down” said Nickothy.



‘You can’t say anything these days without the leftist liberal elites who run the media shutting you down and attempting to impose Stalinist PC group-think upon society. It’s becoming more like the Soviet Union every day’ Tweeted notorious right-wing journalist Keith Tunce on Monday morning. Within a few hours, his sentiments had been re-tweeted over two thousand times. This wasn’t uncommon for a Tunce tweet as he was a prolific Twitter user with over 800k followers.

On Tuesday, Tunce reiterated these sentiments from his weekly column in the Daily Mail, for which he was paid an annual salary of £200,000. He lamented the ‘creeping erosion of free speech’, criticised the intolerance of left-wing liberals and claimed it was now near-impossible for dissenting voices to be heard in today’s ‘ultra-PC climate’.

On Wednesday, Tunce was interviewed by Fox News for a piece about left-wing elites controlling the news agenda in western European countries. He gave an impassioned performance as he spoke about how the white middle-class male was the most oppressed group in modern society.

Tunce was a guest on Thursday’s BBC Question Time where he argued with the other guests and several audience members on various political topics. On three or four occasions, he made a point of criticising the BBC for being politically biased and said it was now pretty much impossible for people like him to be given any platform to air their views because the liberal left controlled the current affairs agenda.

On Friday evening, Tunce was a guest speaker at a Conservative party dinner where, for the small fee of £20,000, he spoke to fellow diners about the marginalisation of those on the right who were finding it ever more difficult to express their opinions today without intolerant liberals on the left trying to take away their free speech.

On Saturday, Tunce was paid £7,500 for a guest column in The Times where he blamed political correctness and ‘cultural Marxism’ for the fact that you can no longer say what you want about Muslims, minorities, gays, women or the disabled. He then went on to say what he wanted about Muslims, minorities, gays, women and the disabled. ‘No doubt I’ll get strung up from a lamp-post by outraged leftists because you just can’t say these things nowadays’, he wrote.

On Sunday, Tunce had a break. There’s only so much being suppressed and silenced by media elites a poor journalist and commentator can take in one week.


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Monday – I awake to the sound of the music of David Bowie and the distinct smell of bacon. Upon ascending the stairs, I’m stunned to find Bowie himself in my kitchen making bacon sandwiches and singing Oh You Pretty Things.

I thought you were dead, I say.

I was, replies Bowie and then he tells me the most incredible story. He tells me that he has been to both heaven and hell since he shuffled off this mortal coil. Apparently a lot of that religious stuff – the pearly gates, the eternal afterlife, the God hanging around in robes and a big white beard – is all true but it’s all awful. God and his son Jesus are vile, abusive creatures and everyone in heaven is miserable but nobody will do anything about it because God threatens to throw anyone that steps out of line into hell where his old pal Satan will torture them for all eternity. Since being glorified by Christianity, Jesus has become a bloated megalomaniac sex pest trying to get off with anything that moves.

The arrival of Bowie in heaven shook things up. Both God and Jesus felt threatened by his charisma, popularity and general disregard of convention. Bowie spent his early months in heaven carving out a new character – Neville Upstart – which he unleashed to great acclaim. Neville Upstart was viewed by the heavenly authorities as dangerously rebellious and it wasn’t long before God decided to take action. Bowie was cast out of heaven and into the pit of hell, where he was due to burn for all eternity but, luckily for him, Satan’s favourite song of all time is Diamond Dogs so he was spared. Banished from both heaven and hell, Bowie found himself back on earth.

So here I am, I’m afraid. Planet earth is blue and there’s nothing I can do, as they say, Bowie says before adding, Fancy a bacon sarnie?

The bacon sandwich is terrific. While I’m hungrily devouring it, Bowie tells me of his plans to tour his character Neville Upstart as the world’s first posthumous rock superstar but first, he says, he wants to go to Brixton to visit his childhood home and retrieve a book on Alistair Crowley that he buried years ago in the back garden. He invites me to come with him. Great, I say, we can get the Number 2 bus from Norwood Rd.

Don’t be silly, Bowie says, hop on my back.

Turns out that one of the main benefits of being returned to earth after being kicked out of both heaven and hell is that you can fly. We leave my flat and Bowie soars into the sky singing songs from his back catalogue such as Ashes to Ashes, All The Madmen and Sound and Vision. It’s one of the finer moments of my life to date and I tell everyone about it immediately on Facebook.

We crash-land into a fruit and veg stall next to Brixton tube station. Bowie really needs to work on his landings. Amazingly, although the streets are bustling with people as usual, nobody takes any notice. The fruit and veg seller scowls and swears a bit but nothing else.

Look, it’s David Bowie, he’s back!, I say but the guy tells me to bugger off as he picks avocados up from the pavement. I try to grab the attention of a few passers by, pointing at Bowie and saying his name, but it gets no reaction other than puzzled stares. They obviously think it’s a lookalike. Bowie seems delighted.

Great, he says. Anonymity. That feels like a welcome relief after all these years. I can spend a bit of time under the radar.

Bowie then starts talking excitedly about doing various low-key things that he’s never had a chance to try before, like making ice-cream on an urban farm, or becoming a scaffolder, or a lift attendant.

How would you like to be my agent? he asks me. I tell him I’d be honoured and he points to a man selling hot dogs outside the tube station and asks me to enquire about shadowing him for two days a week work experience.

I approach the hot dog seller, introduce him to Bowie and make the proposition but, to my immense surprise, he doesn’t bat an eyelid and just says, Do you want a hot dog or not?

Bowie shrugs off the rejection but I can tell he’s unimpressed with my skills as an agent. I can hear it in his voice, sense it in his body language. His manner towards me has changed. This is confirmed when he points across Brixton Road and gasps, Holy crap, what the hell’s happened to my mural?

I turn to look but can’t see anything unusual going on. When I turn back, Bowie’s gone, taken flight, up in the air, singing Golden Years to himself as he goes.

I get the number 2 bus back home.

Tuesday – I get a nasty surprise first thing this morning. I open my kitchen cupboard to find that my jar of honey is completely empty. Worse still, there is an enormous pile of excrement in the sink.

I knock on the door of my attic cupboard and confront Geert, the Dutch ghost who resides in the cupboard.

Geert, have you had your horrible racist aunt round to stay again? I ask. Geert says no. Dammit. Looks like we’ve had intruders.

My worst fears are confirmed when Lambeth council send a pest control guy round to do an inspection. He takes one look at the crap in the sink and says bears.

Sure enough, further investigation reveals there to be three bears up on the roof – two adults and a cub. They spot us looking at them and start taunting us. One of the adults flicks the V’s at us, the other flashes its arse and the kid bear shouts out fuck off you sad pricks.

Don’t be alarmed, urban bears are very anti-social and sweary, the council guy explains. He tells me I’ve got three options. I can poison them with vodka, I can set bear traps or I can repel them by leaving gabba techno music playing at full volume all through the night.

The gabba techno is a no-no. I don’t really want to waste vodka on cocky bears. I ask the guy what the traps are like. He says they won’t kill the bears, just wound them enough to stop them returning to the flat. I decide that traps are the best option.

Bear traps set, I head off to the Railway Tavern for drinks to celebrate the birthday of my good mate Ralph Wiggler. Then Ralph and I head back to mine to polish off a bottle of whiskey with Lazarus the moth who gets drunk and starts ranting on about David Attenborough being a wanker. Apparently Lazarus has been filmed as part of a forthcoming Attenborough documentary on moths for BBC One and he’s not happy with the final film. It’s been edited to make me look like a prick, he moans.

Lazarus gets too drunk to fly home so I let him sleep on the windowsill. Ralph sleeps over too on the fold-up sofa bed in my lounge. But I forget to warn him about the bear traps and in the middle of the night we are all woken by a loud scream of AAAAARRRRRRGGGGHHHH!!!

Poor Ralph. He only wanted a drink of water and he’s ended up with his foot clamped in an iron trap. We spend four hours in St George’s A&E before Ralph is taken in for surgery. The surgeons say he’ll lose his foot. What a crazy end to the night. He won’t forget this birthday in a hurry.

I get back home at around 7am. There’s a giant turd on my sofa, a cock and balls sketched out in tomato ketchup on my living room wall and all my milk has gone. Those fucking bears!

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Wednesday – Today is a bad day. There’s a short story competition that I want to enter. The first prize is a week away on a secluded writing retreat somewhere on the south coast. The deadline is 5pm today and I’ve cleared a window in my schedules so that I can spend the day getting a corker written, but nothing is coming out. The creative juices have all dried up.

By midday I’m desperate and there’s only one thing I can think of doing. I visit my neighbour three doors down the street, Howlin’ Piers.

Howlin’ Piers is the best goddamn blues musician in the whole of Tulse Hill. But it wasn’t always so. He used to be an absolutely awful blues musician, a stuffy middle-class financial lawyer with no rhythm whatsoever who would get laughed out of the local open mic sessions for being so shit. Local legend has it that one night he sold his soul to Satan in return for musical gifts. He transformed overnight into this incredible poet, a troubadour telling raw tales about life and the difficulties faced when going part-time in the world of finance law in order to focus on your art, all set to delicious blues licks.

I want to find out from Howlin’ Piers how he conjured up Satan so that I can offer him my soul in return for better writing talent. But Piers is still in bed when I call. He’s very upset to find out that it’s past midday when I wake him up. Having failed to get up in the morning, it means he can’t write a blues song today and will have to try again tomorrow.

But Piers does at least give me the instructions for summoning up Satan. He tells me it can only be done by listening to a Red Hot Chilli Peppers song and complimenting it. I can hardly bear to think about performing such a vile and wrong deed but I need this writing talent badly. So I return to the flat and find some videos on Youtube. It takes me five attempts to get any positive words out about the Chilli Peppers without rushing to the toilet to throw up, but finally I manage it. There is a tremendous hissing noise and my living room suddenly smells like the most awful fart.

Stood in front of me is a man who looks like Lofty from EastEnders. He introduces himself as Satan. I tell him he doesn’t look like what I imagined Satan to look like.

Try saying something original, you silly cunt, says Satan.

I can’t, I reply. That’s why I’ve summoned you up. I want to sell my soul to you in exchange for writing talent and inspiration.

Satan informs me that he sold his soul-collecting business last year. He now runs a firm providing racist and sexist trolls on the internet.

Google now own all of the damned souls so you’ll have to sell yours to them, he says, telling me that I have to type ‘sell my soul’ into Google and hit ‘I’m feeling lucky’.

Right, I’m off to sexually intimidate some feminists on Twitter, says Satan and he vanishes, taking the horrible fart stench with him. I’m straight onto Google. Sure enough, within two hours I’m submitting an absolute peach of a tale to the short story competition. It’s about an heroic internet search engine that saves the planet and fights off two evil baddies called Bing and Jeeves.

Thursday – I’m feeling hugely inspired after selling my soul to Google. I stay up all night writing song lyrics, which is a bit daft as I’m not in a band. To rectify this, I call on my neighbour Bilinda Butcher who used to be in shoegazer band My Bloody Valentine. I ask her if she wants to form a band with me and present her with 57 songs I’ve written in the last 12 hours. To my delight, she says yes.

We form a stoner rock band called Chrome Guff and spend all day at Bilinda’s flat in West Norwood writing three albums’ worth of songs. It’s a huge culture shock for Bilinda, having primarily worked with Kevin Shields who is much more of a one album every 22 years kind of songwriter. It’s a huge culture shock for me too, having never done anything musically before in my life apart from a brief stint as a lead singer in a Swindon band called Scurvy Factory where the highlight of my career was getting kicked out of the venue by the sound engineer five minutes before our first gig for knocking the microphone over onto his head as he sorted out some leads on the floor. The rest of the band had to go on without me and played about ten minutes of messy dirge before they were unplugged and told to bugger off.

I’m confident that Chrome Guff can surpass those heady heights. We have a good combination of Bilinda’s meaty riffs and my enthusiastically screamed vocals. We pick out our favourite song, a love song called ‘Put Your Loving Arms Up My Bottom’, and upload it to Youtube. Within a couple of hours it has nearly a million views.

Bilinda has a great idea. Why don’t we try out a handful of songs at the open mic session at the Great North Wood pub tonight? I’m up for it. My creative juices feel like they’re geysering out of me right now. Tonight West Norwood, tomorrow the world!

We arrive at the pub nice and early and put our names down on the list of performers. But we hit a problem. I come face-to-face with the sound engineer and we recognise each other instantly. It’s Tony Holland, the guy who booted me out of my own gig all those years ago in Swindon. Tony still bears a grudge and he refuses to do the sound engineering for the gig if I’m part of it. It takes a lot of persuading and a promise from me to be on my very best behaviour to get him to change his mind. He does so reluctantly.

We’re on last and there’s a lot of anticipation once word gets out that Bilinda Butcher of My Bloody Valentine is playing. We’re given a 20 minute slot, enough for 4-5 songs. I’m slightly nervous but looking forward to it. Finally, it’s our turn and we take our places on the stage. It’s just me and Bilinda performing as a kick-ass stoner rock duo.

We’re limbering up and Tony Holland is in his familiar position fumbling about with leads on the floor. That’s when I get the flashback, stood directly behind him just like I was twenty-odd years ago, staring down at the back of that fat humourless neck and the urge overcomes me. I do it again.

The microphone stand topples over and clonks him on the back of the head. All hell breaks loose and before I know it I’m outside the venue and the bouncers won’t let me back in. Bilinda has to perform on her own but, without a vocalist, it’s just guitar noise. She resorts to cranking up the reverb and hitting the venue with a ‘You Made Me Realise’ style wall of noise but it’s too much for the place. People start to leave and Chrome Guff get the plug pulled on them on their debut gig, just like Scurvy Factory did in the 90s.

Kevin Shields might average about one song every five years but at least he’s there on stage for the fucking gig!, spits Bilinda outside the pub before storming off. And that was the story of Chrome Guff. Three albums and half a gig in one day before disbanding due to ‘musical differences’.

Friday – My girlfriend Rosa L stays over at my place on Thursday night but when I wake up in the morning, she’s gone. I know what’s happened. It’s happened a few times before. She’s gone sleepwalking.

It’s because of the sleeping pills she takes to help her cope with my loud snoring. They’re powerful medication. She’s sleepwalked quite some distance on previous occasions. Once she got as far as Croydon, woke up in the middle of the town centre, an experience she described as like waking into a nightmare. On another occasion she was discovered up a tree in Sydenham Hill Woods.

I search the house but can’t see Rosa L anywhere. I check with Geert the Dutch ghost but he hasn’t seen her. I call her mobile number but get voice mail. I check the high street, the local pubs and cafes, nothing. I call Croydon police and ask if there’s been any reports of a woman in a nightgown screaming in the town centre but no joy.

By mid-afternoon I’m getting worried. Her somnambulism has never had her missing for this length of time. I’ve been all over Tulse Hill making enquiries but it’s like she’s just disappeared. To make matters worse, I get back to the flat and Geert’s in a panic. He’s broken the toilet and destroyed the flat with the most awful stench.

I ask Geert what the hell he’s been eating and he tells me he’s been snacking on dead pigeons in the attic cupboard. They’ve obviously upset his stomach. I wrap a towel around my head and arm myself to deal with the blockage. As I’m bracing myself to tackle it, an arm suddenly appears from the bowl. Both Geert and I yell out in shock.

It’s the toilet zombie!! screams Geert. But it’s not. It’s Rosa L squeezing herself out of the toilet. Soaking wet and slightly shitty.

You’re back! I cry, gagging slightly. I decide to save the hug until later.

Yeah, she says. I must have sleepwalked into the toilet.

Poor Rosa L. I say it must have been awful for her, but she shakes her head.

It’s another world down there, once you get past the shit-pipes, she says. It’s like an enchanted forest. Squirrels, butterflies, the chirping of birdsong…

I fear that Rosa L may be confusing reality with a sleepwalking dream but she’s adamant that’s what she experienced.

Everything was magical until I tried to come back and that idiot started mashing his digested pigeon carcass into my face, she says. Still, it sure beats waking up in Croydon town centre.

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Saturday – Today was blighted by a journey home on the night bus that I won’t forget for a long time. I don’t like using the night bus, especially at weekends, primarily because I have a dreadful fear of being vomited on. There always seems to be a couple of candidates on the weekend night bus, swaying about, slurring, belching, who could at any moment spray the contents of their guts across the vehicle interior.

Tonight, panic set in when a man on the upper deck sat three seats behind me suddenly yelled out ‘I’m gonna be sick!’. He made a desperate move towards the stairs of the bus but was too drunk to stay on his feet and collapsed in the aisle right next to my seat. I was expecting him to dispense of his dinner via the northern exit hole right at my feet but he was holding on and whimpering ‘Somebody please help me off the bus, I’m gonna be sick’.

I steeled myself, got up and lifted him to his feet. He was retching and gagging as I pulled him down the stairs as fast as I could. I screamed to the driver ‘Open the door!’ and, as they burst open, I tossed his heaving frame out onto the pavement and watched him crawl off into the night as the bus pulled off.

I ascended the stairs and returned to my seat. Giddy with relief, I smiled at the demure elderly lady sat next to me and said ‘That was a close shave’. She turned to face me, opened her mouth and burped a thick geyser of chunder right into my face.

I’m dreadfully sorry, I had no idea that was going to happen, she said.

I couldn’t handle it and immediately projectile vomited. The discharge covered the three rows of people in front of me, some of it rebounding off a man’s shoulder and landing on top of a burger just as it was going into a young girl’s mouth. She screamed and threw the burger backwards and it hit a sleeping child in the face. The child, who had been sleeping in his mother’s arms, woke up. The mother realised what had happened and tried to wipe the vomit from the child’s face but then started to be ill herself. To try and stop herself from barfing over her kid, she covered her mouth with her hand and the liquid ejection sprayed everywhere.

This awful sight made three other passengers yak into their own laps while a fourth made a mad dash to leave the bus while filling the aisle with puke only to slip up and land face down in his own stream. The bus driver must have heard the commotion as he was now stood at the top of the stairs surveying the carnage.

Right, everyone get off the bus, now! he shouted, before muttering to himself oh Jesus Christ it fucking stinks, and then he ralphed all over himself and all the way down the stairs.

I couldn’t stay on the bus another second so I pushed my way past the heaving driver and headed down the stairs. I heard this bleeeuuuuggghhhh!!! from behind me as the bus driver emptied a second load which hit me on the back of the head and slid down the back of my shirt. I reached the lower deck and was spewing everywhere again. Pretty much everyone on the lower level was crying. I was crying too. I hit the emergency exit button, got off the bus and staggered home covered in at least five different types of blown chunks.

Apart from that, it was a pretty good night.

Sunday – I’m excited. Tomorrow I fly to Barcelona for a week-long holiday with Rosa L. I sort my packing out in the early evening. I always leave it until the last minute but it doesn’t really matter as I’m a fairly light traveller and don’t pack much.

I only need a small suitcase. I employ my usual technique of placing the suitcase on my bed and then gathering everything I want to take in a pile next to the suitcase before loading it all in.

Just before I begin packing the suitcase, I notice a tear to the fabric on the inside. It looks quite deep. Upon inspecting it, I discover that I can reach my whole arm inside the tear, which is odd because the suitcase itself isn’t as deep as the length of my arm. I push down further but over-reach and my entire body ends up inside this tear in the suitcase. I find myself falling down this dark shaft before landing with a thump.

I’m in what looks like an airport surrounded by mandrills. They’re all queueing up to go somewhere. I’m at the front of the queue and an airport official, who is also a mandrill, shouts ‘ticket’ at me.

I…I, er… I stumble, not knowing what to say.

The mandrill official loses his patience and shouts for the security guards, two mandrills who approach at speed carrying guns.

He’s with us, says one of the mandrills in the queue. He’s our gofer.

The guards are waved away and I’m let through airport security with these two mandrills, who look like they’re a couple.

Thanks, I say.

Shut up and carry our bags, says the male of the couple. Both he and his girlfriend pile their luggage onto me as we head onto the plane.

Coincidentally, the plane is heading to Barcelona. Great, I think. Maybe when I’m there I can call Rosa L, explain to her what’s happened and arrange to meet her there tomorrow. But when I arrive, it’s made fairly clear by the Mandrill couple – who are called Brian and Tina – that I’ve been brought along as some kind of personal slave. Worse still, it seems to be completely normalised. Barcelona appears to be populated by mandrills, with the odd human tagging along as a gofer.

I have a dreadful week in which I’m made to carry out no end of duties for Brian and Tina. Shopping, taking care of their personal hygiene, scheduling, carrying their bags around for them, morning alarm calls. Plus I have to entertain them. They’re incredibly easy to entertain – all they ever want me to do is strip down to my underpants and perform forward rolls – but they want it done all the time. Whenever I’m not carrying out another chore, Brian is clapping his hands and yelling ‘roly-poly’ into my face. It’s annoying.

I want to escape but fear it might be worse. They tell me that loose gofers are regularly shot. Things get immeasurably worse four days into the holiday when Brian and Tina have a blazing row and Tina goes home early. I spend three horrific days with Brian where, on top of all my other duties, I have to act as substitute for Tina in the bedroom. Thankfully Brian is very lazy in bed and only wants hand-jobs, but he wants eight a night. By the time we leave Barcelona, my hands are blistering.

Relief finally comes when we’re back in London, at Gatwick airport, and I have to walk through the special gofer scanner. I step through and, on the other side, emerge from my suitcase. Rosa L is standing by the bedroom door.

What are you doing inside the suitcase, you fool? she asks. You’d better get a move on otherwise we’ll be up all night and we’ve got to be up early for the flight in the morning.

Yeah, do you mind if we cancel these flights and go somewhere else instead? I ask, inspecting my sore palms. I’ve just remembered that I’ve got some pretty bad memories of Barcelona.



How do you get the better of someone in a good old online ding-dong? World internet arguing champion Astrid Laursen from Denmark offers her tips.

Arguing on the internet is a bit like taking a drunken dump on someone’s car bonnet at 4am. It’s stupid and pointless but we’ve all done it at some point. In fact, there are times when it just has to be done.

But how can you really actually win an argument on the internet? The answer is that it’s easy. Around 95% of all internet users are absolutely useless at arguing. Coincidentally, around 95% of internet users want to argue on the internet all the time. So chances are, if someone picks a virtual fight with you, you’re not going to have to work too hard to send them packing.

The first thing to remember is that most of what are termed online arguments aren’t actually arguments at all. They’re just a trade-off of insults. If someone says to you ‘I’ve just been arguing on the internet’, more often than not it turns out that they’ve just angrily called someone a braindead moron and told them to fuck off and die.

The most convincing way to win an argument, in fact the only true way to get an outright win, is to persuade the other person to accept your viewpoint and admit they’re wrong. So it’s strange that the tactic of so many is to launch straight in with something like ‘go eat a bag of dicks, you twatface’. You’ve instantly made an outright win less likely. It’s like trying to win a boxing match by attempting to wank your opponent off in the first round.

Of course, many people – especially internet arguing types – are stubborn folk who refuse to ever admit they’ve lost even when you’ve torn their argument to shreds and presented incontrovertible evidence proving they’re wrong. In which case, you will have to opt for the ‘technical knock-out’ of making them look ridiculous for defending their argument. This is often quite easy.

Here are my tips for arguing on the internet.

  1. Avoid getting into an argument at all

My number one tip for arguing on the internet is – don’t. It’s not a worthwhile pursuit, you don’t gain anything from it and it won’t make you feel particularly good. You might feel that you need to ‘put the world to rights’ but, unless you’re confident you can get that outright win and persuade the other person to embrace your way of thinking, it’s rarely worth the effort. The best internet arguers are like the best martial arts experts – they will only deploy their skills in extreme circumstances and they don’t go about flashing off 24/7 just for the sake of it.

  1. Aim for a quick and easy ‘instant win’

Before starting any argument, ask your opponent one simple question. Are they prepared to accept the possibility that they might be wrong and you are right? If they say no, reply with ‘that’s a pity because I’m open-minded enough to accept the possibility that I might be wrong and you are right. There is no point in arguing with someone who is closed-minded’. You can then walk away (in the virtual sense) feeling like the victor having delivered a timely put-down. Your opponent will be reeling from being shut down like this but they won’t really have any come back.

Most internet arguers are far too arrogant to even consider the possibility that they could ever be wrong, so this tactic is a good way of exploiting this and claiming a victory without even having to get your hands dirty. But remember: this will only work if you stick to your guns and walk away. Don’t allow yourself to get sucked back in if your opponent starts throwing insults at you.

  1. Arm yourself with facts

If the nature of the argument means that this is a possibility, go for an evidence-based assault. If you are arguing on big topics such as climate change or politics, use available data to back up your points if you can. This will put you in a much stronger position if you are up against someone who seems to be offering up their opinion based on nothing much at all. Make sure you use credible sources (e.g. peer-reviewed academic work or something of a similar standard) and not stuff like The Sun newspaper or the website of some conspiracy theorist nut-job. If you can’t find anything credible to back you up, then chances are your argument is not that strong and you might want to think twice about pursuing it.

  1. Avoid judgements or insults

This is where a lot of people go wrong. They think that labelling people (‘you’re deluded’, etc.) or, worse, insulting people is landing a blow but it actually weakens your position, unless you can do it in a very humorous way that makes you look cool and the other guy look a bit silly. The best way is to formulate a strong enough argument to have onlookers coming to the conclusion that your opponent is deluded rather than you having to point it out to them.

In arguments of a political nature, avoid the common mistake of trying to use someone’s political position as a way of insulting them. People on both sides do this. Those on the right will spit out ‘left-wing’ or ‘leftist’ or, in America, ‘liberal/libtard’ as an insult. Those on the left will do the same with ‘right-wing’ or ‘Thatcherite‘. All you’re doing is showing yourself to be someone who can’t tolerate people with a different viewpoint from them and, as has already been mentioned, the chances of actually winning an argument by going down this route are close to zero.

  1. Be concise

Keep your replies to 2 paragraphs max. Writing an essay may make you feel nice and smug but all you’re really doing is advertising the fact that you have too much time on your hands. Nobody’s going to read it so you’re wasting your time. Think of all the examples of classic argument wins or zinger put-downs that go viral. What they all have in common is their brevity. Nobody wants to share your 2000-word fully-referenced piece carefully rebutting every single point your opponent made, unless it’s to highlight what a nerd you are.

  1. Stay calm and friendly

To be good at internet arguing, you have to be pretty zen. If you’re the type of person prone to Basil Fawlty style outbursts, it’s probably best to stay well away from internet forums and social media. The world wide web can be a nasty place and many of those arguing on the internet are gnarled balls of hatred and bitterness aiming to drag other people down to their levels of misery. Don’t fall for it, no matter how much they bait you. To keep calm, it might help to have something like a punch-bag close to your keyboard so that you can work through any rages that build up before you sit down to engage in your online argument. I have a punch-bag with a picture of Danish politician Kristian Thulesen Dahl stuck to it. It’s all I need to keep me in the right frame of mind.

If the other side is getting angry and sweary and insulty, staying calm and polite can be an effective weapon against this. Abusive people can be made to look pretty stupid if you keep coming back at them with smiles and friendliness. See the Twitter page of Nadiya Hussain for a good example of how to do this.

  1. Be wary of a few common mistakes

There are a few common mistakes that crop up regularly in arguments. Try to not only avoid making them but also be on the look-out for when opponents make them. Some examples are:

Whataboutery – this is a common one where the arguer will divert from answering a point in the argument by bringing up a different, usually related, point as a defensive counter-criticism. It was commonly used by defenders of the Soviet Union, who would counter any accusations of human rights abuses by answering ‘what about…’ and then talking instead about something relating to US imperialism or abuses in a US-backed regime.

Ad hominem – this is where an attack is made on the person making the argument, rather than the argument itself. If you pay attention to point 4 above, you should be OK in avoiding this.

Straw man – when someone deliberately misrepresents their opponent’s argument, usually for a weaker theoretical or stereotypical version of the argument. An example might be if someone is arguing with a feminist and, rather than listen to the points being made, jumps to an assumption that the feminist hates men and wants to subjugate them.

False equivalence – this is where a comparison is made between two unequal things to make them seem logically equal (e.g. ‘both the Nazis and the Allies committed atrocities in WW2’ or ‘some scientists believe in global warming and some scientists don’t’).

Anecdotal evidence – examples of individual stories, or a low number of statistically insignificant cases, to make a general point. For example, ‘I know of this one Romanian family who were given a council house, so clearly all council housing is going to immigrants these days’.

A list of logical fallacies made in arguments can be found here:

  1. Don’t engage with the trolls

Internet trolls seem to have replaced dog turds in the street as the main hazard to avoid in today’s society. They’re tedious and destructive types with nothing better to do than bait people and cause friction and they’re best ignored, with the odd exception of comedy trolls such as the brilliant Ken M. You can usually spot a troll quite quickly if you have your wits about you, as they make little attempt to engage in any meaningful debate and are more interested in seeing what kind of reaction they can get out of you with their childish stunts. If you feel that your opponent might be an internet troll, withdraw from the debate immediately or you face hours of your life being wasted as these fuckers don’t get bored easily.

  1. Be gracious in defeat

If you do lose a battle, admit it and accept it. Don’t try and drag it out as you’ll probably just dig yourself into a worse position. There’s no shame in losing. Don’t view it as losing an argument, see it as gaining a new perspective. You should be thanking your opponent for helping to make you a better, more fully-rounded person. Offer to virtually shake hands with them. Then make a photoshopped picture of them sucking a cock and circulate it to all their friends. That will teach the bastards.



US president Donald Trump has reached out across the Atlantic to offer a lifeline to Westminster MPs who lose their jobs in the wake of the sexual harassment scandal.

An aide close to Mr Trump confirmed that the White House has an eye on snapping up some ‘good talent’ following the fall-out over the past couple of weeks.

‘It’s a happy coincidence that, just as you snowflakes across the pond are purging all of your red-blooded males, Mr Trump’s administration is looking to ramp up its levels of sexual intimidation as we move into year two of the presidency’, said Hank Wolfington, a senior member of the president’s Twitter proofreading team.

It comes just a few hours after Mr Trump tweeted: ‘Fallon for US defense secretary. Come one come all. Englands loss America’s gain’.

It is believed that President Trump’s already out-of-control ego has been further boosted by the fact that everyone around him seems to be implicated in career-damaging sexual abuse scandals, yet when he was caught boasting about abusing women on tape he got elected into office.

‘It’s crazy’, said Wolfington. ‘I mean, it’s hard to believe that someone like Kevin Spacey even has a dick and even he’s gone down. Yet the president could give a press conference with one hand inside a bitch’s knickers and he’d probably walk away unscathed’.

Wolfington informed that the president is looking to build a ‘supersquad of no-holds-barred alpha males’ going forward.

‘We’ll take anyone, from your knee-touchers and racey texters through to full-fledged rapists’, he said.

‘This is an administration with an admittedly high turn-over of staff so it’s great to have a new stream of amoral assholes to tap into.’ 


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Monday – A bad start to the week. I wake up after a restless night’s sleep to find that I’ve swallowed a leg during the night. I cough and I tug but I can’t get it out. It’s affecting both my breathing and walking abilities so I decide to go to the doctor’s.

I try calling to book an appointment but my voice is too muffled due to the leg jam so, after trying and failing for half an hour to put a pair of trousers on, I hop to the open surgery instead. As I bounce awkwardly down the street in my underpants I pass a girl I used to have a bit of a crush on. Back in the day we would often pass and give each other a look but I never plucked up the courage to take it further. She gives me a different kind of look today. I offer a little wave but she doesn’t respond.

I fill out a form at the surgery explaining that I’ve swallowed a leg and need to see a doctor. I manage to get an appointment within 45 minutes. The doctor explains that it’s not unusual for a man of my age to swallow a leg during a restless night’s sleep. He tells me it’s nothing to be alarmed about and that the best course of action is to let the leg pop out of its own accord, which it should do over the next couple of days. He instructs me to make another appointment if things haven’t changed within a week, and to avoid sports, heavy lifting and protracted discussions about politics or religion until things have returned to normal.

I leave feeling a little short-changed, but later that evening as I’m hopping around the Co-op supermarket on Norwood High Street, I suddenly cough up the leg. Just as doctor had predicted. It flies out of my mouth at quite some speed, causing me to kick a promotional display of Jaffa Cakes everywhere which is tremendously embarrassing. Particularly as the display had only been meticulously arranged moments earlier, so it looked like I was making an angry statement about Jaffa Cakes or Co-op staff.

I have a few problems explaining myself to staff and security in the store as I stand next to a destroyed Jaffa Cake display in my underpants with one leg covered in spittle, but on the whole I’m delighted to be walking and talking properly again. To avoid further problems, I take the precaution of sleeping standing up tonight.

Tuesday – Today I have an appointment with a testicle reader. It’s something I’ve never had done before. It’s a similar process to having your palm read but testicle reading is more detailed than palm reading as there are a lot more lines to read on the ball-bag. Whereas palm readers will make quite vague predictions and pronouncements, testicle readers tend to be much more specific on your future prospects.

I don’t believe in all this wishy-washy mystic mumbo jumbo and am only going along because a friend bought me the session and I’m quite curious to hear what my balls have to say. It’s at a community centre in Peckham. The reader is a lady in her 70s who wastes no time in telling me to drop my trousers and underpants before running the tips of her fingers gently over the creases in my nut-sack. She has a very nice touch and I have to really focus mentally in order to keep an erection at bay.

The information she provides is incredibly detailed. She tells me that I will stop off at the Railway Tavern on my journey home where I will order a pint of Aspell cider and take a seat in the beer garden. While in the garden, I will overhear two young gentlemen having an argument about beards before leaving and crossing the high street into the Co-op supermarket where I will spend exactly £4.67…

This reading goes on in minute detail for about 20 minutes, during which time the testicle reader describes quite a boring and very probably accurate remainder of my day before suddenly stopping and informing me that the session has timed out. She tells me that it will cost between £10-50 if I want to find out about tomorrow and the rest of the week.

I decline. Although I was enjoying the sensation of having my scrotum stroked while hearing the audio version of my immediate future, I didn’t want to shell out a note for it. I journey home. As I already know exactly what the rest of this day consists of, there doesn’t seem much point in actually living it through so I go straight home and decide to have a big tidy up of the flat instead.

Later that evening I chat to Lazarus the moth about my experience, while feeding him and his chums their nightly clothes morsels.

You don’t wanna put your faith in any of those cranks, he tells me. We have the same charlatans in the moth community, claiming they can tell our future through signs in our wing membranes. Mostly they just predict a horrible death by incineration due to mistaking an open fire for a fancy light bulb. But that’s just laws of probability, innit?

Interesting. My testicle reader foretold this very conversation I’m having with the moth, only in her version Lazarus was a lot more positive about her profession.

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Wednesday – Not a great start to the day – I open the kitchen cupboard to find that my last two Weetabix have disappeared. As I walk into the living room, I’m confronted by the sight of a bare-footed elderly woman sat on my sofa using the dried Weetabix to scrape dead skin from her feet. My carpet is now covered in a mixture of dead skin shavings and Weetabix flakes.

Excuse me, what do you think you’re doing? I ask the elderly woman, before adding And who are you?

The woman starts yelling at me in what sounds like German or Dutch and then Geert, the Dutch ghost who lives in the creaking attic cupboard at the back of my lounge, sheepishly pokes his head around the door and explains that it’s his dead aunt Hilda, who is also a ghost, who has come to visit him.

Aunt Hilda starts yelling angrily at Geert, in what I assume is Dutch, and throws one of the Weetabix at his head. It misses and hits the wall, shattering on impact in a dry wheaty explosion.

I find out from Geert that his aunt arrived uninvited in the middle of the night. Geert informs me that he hates her and that she’s only come to stick her nose into his business. He says she’s an interfering busybody and a terrible racist and, when she found out he was living in a flat in south London, she wanted to make sure that he hadn’t been corrupted by foreigners or Islamic terrorists.

Aunt Hilda is a real nuisance. She rearranges my furniture, throws any non-European food or drink I have in the bin and replaces half of my book collection with pamphlets by the Nationale Alliante, which Geert tells me is a now disbanded far-right Dutch political party. She also turns off 6Music and plays what sounds like a collection of speeches at Dutch nationalist rallies on a dusty old cassette player.

I need to get this racist Dutch ghost out of my house. I ask Geert what she would do if she thought that a foreigner lived in the flat. He trembles and says she’d go mental. I’m curious to see how mental so I call on my Iranian neighbour Farhad from two doors along and ask him to pretend that he’s a new lodger come to stay at my flat. Farhad has a wicked sense of humour and he turns up that evening acting like an Islamic fundamentalist, complaining that everything in the flat is haram before sitting on the floor and chanting to himself.

As soon as Aunt Hilda sets her eyes on Farhad rocking on the floor chanting Islamic prayers, she begins shrieking and vomits ectoplasm everywhere, all over the floor, the walls, the rearranged furniture, the books, her own racist pamphlets and poor chanting Farhad. Then she evaporates in a huge puff of smelly gas that reeks like the flatulence of a dying animal, or the decaying insides of a racist’s brain.

Farhad takes a shower while Geert and I tackle the sticky bile that now covers the interior of my flat. It’s not nice but not as foul as the presence of Aunt Hilda herself.

She actually took it better than I was expecting, Geert says as he scrubs a wall down. Death seems to have mellowed her somewhat.

Thursday – I have a restless night’s sleep and wake from a nightmare where I’m being chased by a giant creature which has the body of a bumblebee and the legs of a spider. The creature gains ground on me slowly and then suddenly there’s some kind of terrifying earthquake and both the creature and I start sliding down this dark tunnel which gets gradually lighter and lighter and then I wake up with a jolt.

As I’m sitting up in bed, I notice something crawling across my pillow. I think it’s an insect but as it runs onto my hand and makes its way up my arm, I realise it’s a tiny insect-size version of me. This mini-me is shouting something in a tiny voice. I can’t hear what it’s saying so I have to carefully place it in my hands and hold it close to my ear.

Mini-me tells me that I’ve had a sleeping accident. I was too restless in my sleeping, my head ended up too tilted and the contents of my dream became dislodged and fell out of my ear. Mini-me is actually the dream-me and he’s escaped from inside my head. Worse than that, the spider-bee has also escaped. I see it crawling across my pillow, eight legs, tiny yellow and black striped body, the size of an ant.

I ask dream-me what I should do and he says I need to drop him back inside my ear otherwise all of my future dreams will take place without me in them. Which will put me in a weird position, because the dreams will take place from my point of view but all the characters in my dreams will ignore me and I won’t be able to interact with them. It will be like being invisible, or dead.

So I pop the dream-me back inside my ear and give it a little tap, then I pick up the tiny spider-bee and do the same with that. I can hear dream-me shrieking inside my head.

Why the fucking flip did you put the spider-bee back in here for, you idiot??!!??

Well I don’t want the contents of my nightmares coming to life, do I? They’re better off staying inside my head.

Later that day I visit my girlfriend, Rosa L. We play chess and then kiss. I make a visit to the bathroom and when I return, Rosa L has grown a full beard. I ask her what’s going on and she rips off her top to reveal that her torso is rapidly expanding to weightlifter proportions. She begins cackling with such menace that I fear for my safety and make a dash for the front door. Rosa L gets up and comes after me. I open the front door and fall down a dark tunnel which gets lighter and lighter and lighter and then I crash-land on an enormous pillow.

Sat before me is the most incredible sight. It’s a colossal version of me sat upright in a giant bed and he looks like he’s just woken up suddenly. Beside me on the pillow is a bearded and very stocky Rosa L. I begin shouting.

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Friday – My recent restlessness and erratic dreaming has left me feeling tense so I’ve booked an appointment with a masseuse today. However, I’m rather disappointed to wake up feeling refreshed after a good night’s sleep. How am I supposed to enjoy the benefits of a rub down if I already feel good? I try falling back to sleep in an awkward and uncomfortable position. It doesn’t work, but the irritation I feel at my relaxed pre-massage state tenses me up and a few knots begin to form in my neck and upper back. The challenge now is to not become too satisfied with these knots or they may disappear.

The appointment is in Mile End which is about a 40 minute journey. To counter the boredom of tube travel, I’ve invented a little game to pass the time. It’s very simple – you have to subtly imitate all of the actions of the person sitting opposite you. The aim of the game is to see how far you can get before they suss what you’re doing. I play a blinder today and manage to follow someone all the way to their front door before they finally snap and tell me to piss off.

The jubilation I feel at my game success is cut short when I realise I’m now running late for my massage and I have to race to Mile End to make it. I arrive out of breath and extremely tense, which is perfect. My massage therapist, Jenny, takes one look at my shattered frame and ushers me onto the bed in her studio. I lay face down on the bed with a towel draped over my head as she applies the oils.

The massage is amazing and I feel the tension pour out of me. But about halfway through I get a big surprise. The towel covering my head slips off and, looking up, I catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror in the corner of the room. It’s not Jenny giving me a massage. Instead, there is a little monkey walking up and down on my back.

Try and stay relaxed, whispers the monkey as it digs its little heels into a particularly stressed area on the right side of my neck.

Where’s Jenny? I ask.

She’ll be with another client, replies the monkey. Stay focused on the massage otherwise you won’t benefit from it.

But I find it hard to stay focused. I have a hundred questions now buzzing inside my head. Is this monkey qualified to give professional massages? Is it being paid a proper wage? The monkey does its best to give answers while at the same time reiterating that I should concentrate on enjoying the massage.

I’m on my back now and the monkey is working my front shoulders and upper torso. Still I’m firing off the questions. How many monkeys does Jenny have working for her? Are there other animals performing massages?

Relax, urges the monkey as it crawls down towards my stomach and starts to unbutton my flies.

What are you doing? I ask, sitting up.

You’re far too worked up so I’m going to give you a happy ending, says the monkey, fumbling for my defiantly flaccid penis.

Stunned and disturbed by this suggestion, I knock the monkey away from my trousers and it tumbles to the floor.

Oww my shoulder!! cries the monkey, clutching itself. You’ve put it out! Quick, get me on the bed!

I lift the injured monkey onto the massage bed and, under its tutelage, administer a soothing massage to the wounded area.

Oh that’s good, sighs the monkey. You’re a natural.

I give the monkey a 15 minute rub down of its shoulder, back and neck, doing my best to work out all the tension.

I’m not giving you a happy ending, I say.

That’s fine, says the monkey. I’ll finish myself off later.

As I’m carrying out my finishing strokes, Jenny enters the room.

How’s it going? She whispers.

Absolutely magic, says the monkey. I feel totally refreshed and de-stressed.

Wonderful, another happy customer! Says Jenny. She thanks me, hands me a banana and sends me on my way.

Saturday – There’s a monotonous thudding noise coming from my attic cupboard. Geert, unsurprisingly, is a shivering wreck. All he manages to tell me is that there is a contorted maniacal creature wreaking havoc at the end of the cupboard.

Armed with a potato masher, I bravely open the cupboard door and turn on the light. Who’s there? I shout.

I can make out a figure moving back and forth at some speed along the short stretch at the end of the cupboard. It stops when I shout. It is wearing a vest, shorts and trainers and has short cropped ginger hair. The figure slowly approaches me, outstretches a hand and introduces itself as former Olympic long jump champion Greg Rutherford.

After the obligatory autograph and selfies are out of the way – it turns out that Greg is a big fan of my work – I ask Greg what the hell he’s doing in my attic. He explains it’s part of a gruelling new training regime to get himself in top shape for the forthcoming season.

Six weeks in a cold damp attic cupboard, inhabited by a ghost for an added adrenalin boost, he says. It is a little too small for long jump practice, admittedly. I keep banging my head.

This explains the thudding noise. The continuous scuffing of his head on the low attic ceiling has taken a section of Greg’s hair off and he shows me a slightly bloodied bald patch on his crown. I ask Greg if he’s OK and he laughs hard as if I’ve asked him a mad question.

Of course, this is what being an athlete is all about. The hard graft! He says, using a protruding water pipe to do some chin ups.

Careful with that pipe, Greg, I say. It doesn’t look too secure.

Greg asks me if I have any ginger wigs to cover his bald spot. When I say I don’t, he shrugs and says he’ll colour his head in with an orange permanent marker. I can’t show up to competitions like this. They’ll think I’m on steroids, he says.

I tell Greg that six weeks is a long time to occupy my attic cupboard. He informs me that I can apply for a bursary from UK Athletics to cover the costs of hosting him. I call them and, to my delight, they agree a fee of £1,500.

I tell Rosa L about this sweet arrangement over dinner that evening but she’s already onto it. £2,000 to let pole vaulter Holly Bradshaw practice in her garden for only three weeks. An even better deal!

Sure it sounds good but she’s only been there a few hours and she’s already crashed through the greenhouse and destroyed all my broad beans, says Rosa L with a roll of the eyes.

Sunday – There is a theory that suggests that time is like a giant piece of elastic stretching through a vast corridor of space. At some moment in the future, it will reach a point where it cannot stretch any more and it will begin travelling back on itself. Time will start moving backwards, from its final seconds all the way back to the big bang. Each of us will get to live our whole lives a second time but in reverse, from death to birth, getting younger and healthier, moving backwards through each day like characters in a movie on rewind on a video player.

In preparation for this, and to give myself a little treat in the backwards future, I live the occasional day in backwards mode. This is a way of banking certain days to be cashed in when they return as days-in-reverse. I live them out as backwards now so that I will get to experience them as a forwards day when they get flipped back-to-front the second time around. It’s a bit like recording your voice as you try to speak backwards, then playing the recording backwards to hear the words spoken as they should sound.

I wake up, unread a few pages of my bedside book and walk backwards up the stairs to my bathroom where I unclean my teeth and rub a day’s worth of dirt and grime into my face. I reverse back down the stairs to my front door, and then down the flight of stairs to the entrance of the building where Rosa L is waiting for me. We reverse embrace, reverse kiss and then back our way hand-in-hand up the stairs and into my flat.

I retrieve a used condom from the toilet and we have backwards sex followed by foreplay, then we slowly walk backwards up the stairs to my lounge where Rosa L whispers in my ear ‘moordeb eht ot og s’tel’.

We lay on my couch and watch a movie on rewind. It’s the Irish independent film musical ‘Once’. We both suck a few tears up through our eyes at the start and spit popcorn into a bag throughout. Geert interrupts partway through, entering the room and saying ‘oh hi guys, what are you watching?’, strolling around normally and completely ruining the whole backward vibe. But this means he’ll be backwards on the reverse day, and a brief appearance from a backwards ghost will be a nice little spooky touch to look forward to.

After the film, the pair of us walk backwards to the Tulse Hill Hotel pub where we vomit up drinks into glasses and a Sunday lunch onto plates, take money from the till and exit in reverse. I moonwalk back home, slither up the stairs to my flat, turn on my laptop and slowly delete an essay word by word. Then I unboil and uncrack an egg for breakfast (this is by far the most challenging part), go and sit in dirty bathwater until the dirt returns to my body, and finally return to bed, falling sharply asleep after my alarm rings.

Good morning.

Liquid Diaries #1



Government-contracted security company G4S is back in the news following revelations that nine of its staff have been caught bullying detainees at an immigration centre. It’s the latest in a portfolio of scandals and fuck ups by a company that has repeatedly proved itself unfit to carry out work of any kind, let alone high level contracts funded by the taxpayer.

Here’s a list of other occasions the company has hit the headlines for the wrong reasons. This is by no means a full comprehensive list, and it’s in no particular order.


Losing six prisoners in a week

The company first hit the headlines back in 1993 when it was called Group 4, after managing to lose six inmates within the first seven days of a government contract to transport prisoners. This followed an incident in 1992 where 30 prisoners escaped while being guarded by Group 4 officers.


Staff taking drugs and racially abusing child prisoners

In 2015, six members of G4S staff at the Rainsbrook youth detention centre were sacked after an Ofsted report revealed that staff took drugs while on duty, humiliated young inmates and subjected them to degrading treatment and racist comments.


Tagging the fake legs of criminals

In 2011, two G4S staff were sacked after it was discovered they had been fooled into tagging the prosthetic leg of a man who was then able to remove it and break a court-imposed curfew.


Almost ruining the London Olympics

The company was given a £284million contract to provide 13,700 security guards for the 2012 Olympics but had only managed to recruit 4,000 two weeks before the games began. Several candidates criticised the selection process, calling it ‘totally chaotic’ and ‘an utter farce’. In the end, 3,500 extra armed troops had to be deployed at short notice to make up the shortage.


Unlawful use of force

In 2010, 46-year-old Angolan deportee Jimmy Mubenga died shortly after being restrained by three G4S security guards on a British Airways flight. Despite an inquest jury finding that the death was caused by the guards ‘using unreasonable force and acting in an unlawful manner’, all three were acquitted in a trial in 2014. It was later revealed that 65 ‘extreme racist’ texts were found on the mobile phones of two of the guards.


Allowing an 82-year-old nun to break into a nuclear facility

Around the same time as the London Olympics fiasco, the firm was having another nightmare across the Atlantic when three anti-nuclear protesters, including an 82-year-old nun, managed to get past G4S security and break into a nuclear weapons complex in Tennessee. The facility is the only place in the US where enriched uranium is stored.


Fraudulent charging for government contracts

In 2014, G4S repayed over £100million to the government after a fraud inquiry into overcharging for contracts to tag offenders. This included charging for tagging of people who were dead or in jail.


Chaining a hospital patient up for eight days

A 79-year-old disabled remand prisoner was awarded £6,000 damages in 2014 after being ‘humiliated’ by G4S officers who chained him up during his stay in Liverpool Royal Hospital following a heart attack.


Torture allegations in South African prisons

In 2013, an undercover investigation into G4S-run Mangaung prison in South Africa found evidence that guards were using forced injections and electric shock treatment to control inmates. Several inmates have died under suspicious circumstances and there are allegations that many inmates were tortured before they died. 43 prisoners have made legal claims against G4S.


Using immigrant detainees for £1 per hour labour

In 2014, Home Office figures showed that detainees in immigration centres run by G4S and Serco were providing thousands of hours of labour in exchange for pay of around £1 per hour.


Despite this roll of shame, G4S continues to thrive. In July this year, it was awarded another tagging contract from the UK government worth £25 million. Its revenue for the first six months from UK contracts alone is £649 million. Proof that incompetence, unprofessionalism and downright disregard for laws and rights are no barriers to success in this world.


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Monday – The alarm goes off at 5.56am. I reach an arm out half asleep, turn it off and reset it for 9.07am. I roll over and savour that warm feeling of knowing I don’t have to get up for another 3 hours. It’s the only reason I set the alarm for so early in the morning – to savour that feeling. Sometimes I’ll set the alarm to go off three or four times throughout the night just so I can repeatedly wake up, turn it off and bask in that nice warm back-to-sleep feeling.

When I finally get up at 9.07am, I feel really tired due to having woken myself up at 5.56 earlier that morning. It’s been years since I’ve had a proper uninterrupted night’s sleep. But I can’t complain really. I consider myself to be quite lucky. I live alone which means I can live by my own rules without anybody telling me what to do. I work freelance as a self-employed writer and researcher which means I am my own boss and can choose the hours I work. I’m happy with things like this.

The only problem I have is that my mind is shot to pieces and I struggle to tell what is really happening from what is happening inside my head. I think this is mostly due to not having slept properly for years, exacerbated by abuse of various substances over the years to increase excitement and stave off demons in equal measure. Trouble is, as I’m no longer sure what’s real and what is imaginary, I don’t actually know whether I’m still taking these substances or whether I’m just imagining that I’m still taking them. I went to the doctor to seek professional help but he got as far as checking my heartbeat and then he mutated into a wolf and ran howling out of the door. This is what happens when you underfund the NHS, I guess.

I’ve got a 2000-word article to write today on the subject of pharmacogenomics, something I know very little about. I’ll need to spend a couple of hours researching on the internet and if that fails, I’ll just make stuff up, which always seems to work. I’m not sure whether this is because the people claiming to be experts don’t really have a clue or whether my imagination is unbelievably accurate.

But it’s Monday so I struggle. It’s the first day of the week and I’m a procrastinator which means that Tuesday is my Monday and Monday… well, I’ve never worked out what Monday is for. I decide to go for a walk in the park to empty my head of the contents of the weekend but end up witnessing the disturbing sight of a middle aged man masturbating in the bushes, which leaves my head the opposite of cleared. Damn the bloody council for putting mirrors up all over the park.

I reason that a quick visit to the pub is what’s needed. But I can’t decide whether to go to the Half Moon, the Prince Regent or the Railway Tavern so I end up having five drinks in each. This certainly puts paid to the Monday blues and upon returning home I knock out exactly 2000 words on pharmacogenomics, all of which are absolutely A-star quality, before making a late night chocolate mousse and smoked salmon smoothie in the blender. As delicious as this sounds, it actually came about by accident as I intended to make a strawberry and banana smoothie but drunkenly pulled the wrong ingredients from the fridge.

At midnight, it’s time to feed the moths. I turn off all the lights in my flat, don my miner’s cap with head-light, open my living room window and hold out my palm containing morsels of tasty clothing – a bit of jumper, scraps of shirt and the remains of some old underpants.

Lazarus is the first to arrive, as usual. I call him Lazarus although he insists his name is Jeff. He’s a giant black and cream moth and I call him Lazarus because I thought that he was dead when I first saw him. He was on the floor behind my standing lamp and there he stayed for about two days. Then he rose up on the third evening and busied himself around the bulb of my lamp.

I think I’ll call you Lazarus, I cried, amazed.

My name’s Jeff, he replied.

We got chatting and became friends. As moths go, he’s very friendly. We’re into similar music and films. He’s quite clued up on international politics. He really hates the Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan, gets quite worked up whenever he mentions him and starts flapping about angrily and bashing into the window and the walls. The other moths don’t really talk to me. There are about a dozen of them. They just come each night and eat the pants.

Lazarus has told me that being my friend has done wonders for his reputation. Turns out that this is a big breakthrough as far as the moth community is concerned. They’ve always yearned to develop some sort of meaningful relationship with humans but have never managed it and have always been incredibly jealous of the pretty butterflies, who have managed to lure humans into chasing after them with nets. Lazarus is now seen as some sort of shaman. He says the other moths want to talk to me but are far too shy.

I felt quite humbled and strangely proud when he told me this, especially when he said he’d been using the friendship to his sexual advantage. Apparently they all want a piece of Lazarus now. Not just moths either, he told me gleefully. Seems he’s been putting it about a bit among some of the local daddy long legs, who see him as a celebrity and get a bit giddy and starstruck around him.

The other shy moths all clear off quickly once they’ve eaten the pants but Lazarus sticks around. I think he wants a late night chinwag.

Not tonight Lazarus, I say, yawning. It’s one o’clock in the morning. I’m absolutely hammered and I’ve got to be up in about three hours to reset my alarm and go back to sleep. It’s Tuesday tomorrow. The start of the week for us procrastinators.

Oh it’s not you I’m interested in, he says in a low seedy rasp. My date has just arrived.

At that point I notice a daddy long legs floating clumsily about by the top of my curtains.

You sly old dog, I say and we both smile.

I make the pair of them go outside. Not that I disapprove but I don’t really want any of that sort of thing going on in my living room. I don’t think my landlady would like it either. I reckon if I were to phone her up at one o’clock in the morning to tell her that a moth and a daddy long legs were shagging in the flat, she’d not be very pleased at all.

Tuesday – The alarm sounds at 9.07am and I drag myself out of bed, knackered. I lurch slowly for the door and trip over a curled up mound at the end of my bed. It’s Geert.

I should explain. Geert is a Dutch ghost who inhabits the spooky attic cupboard at the rear of my living room. Geert doesn’t like sleeping in the spooky attic cupboard at the rear of my living room as he’s terrified that other ghosts might be lurking about in there. Geert is scared of other ghosts. Not for any paranormal reason, he’s just exceptionally shy and socially awkward around them and never knows what to say. Usually he blurts out something stupid and then feels terrible for days.

I will often wake to find Geert in my room. He’s equally terrified of living humans as he is of ghosts but he’s got used to me since I moved in. He still shits himself when I wake him up and he sprints up the stairs screaming, before calming down and remembering that it’s only me. I’m just glad I don’t have guests staying. Trying to explain a screaming ghost running through the flat first thing in the morning might be problematic.

I make Geert a cup of weak tea (just how he likes it) and he trembles as he tells me that he thinks he heard suspicious rustling noises in the spooky cupboard during the night. I explain it was probably mice or rats or wind. In the two years I’ve lived in the flat, I’ve never had so much of a whiff of another ghost. Despite his constant panicking, neither has Geert.

I live in a split level attic flat in Tulse Hill and I was warned that the place might be haunted shortly after I moved in. A neighbour told me that many years ago the flat was owned by a very strict religious loner who preached total sexual abstinence only to tragically drown one night in his own backed up semen in a terrible wet dreaming accident. Some of the neighbours believe his masturbating ghost stalks the area at night and claim to have seen flying ropes of ghostly white jizz speed past their windows.

Geert, however, wasn’t this man. He had only travelled to London after becoming a ghost. He told me that he never travelled much while he was alive so had decided to make up for it in death. He spent a few years roaming around South America, Africa and South East Asia before whizzing around Europe and finally deciding to settle in London. He’d been in the flat for about eighteen months before I moved in.

Geert begs me to check the spooky attic cupboard out to make sure there’s nothing untoward hiding in there. I sigh but reason that it’s better to do so otherwise I’ll have to put up with him whimpering in there all day, which is hugely distracting.

I turn the flickering cupboard light on and tread carefully on the creaky floorboards. The cupboard is quite large, going back a good 8-10 metres and bending round in an L shape. I can hear the faint rustling sound that must have scared Geert. It’s coming from around the bend. I expect it to be mice, which I often hear scampering around beneath the skirting boards. It turns out to be the end of an old 78 record playing on a dusty old gramophone player in the very corner of the spooky cupboard. I had no idea that there was a gramophone player in here. How odd.

I tell Geert what I’ve found. At that exact same moment, the flickering light goes out and the door to the cupboard slams shut. I hear the thud of something hitting the wooden floorboards by the door. It’s the door knob which has fallen off. We’re trapped in the cupboard. Geert starts screaming in terror. Have you ever been stuck in a spooky attic cupboard in pitch blackness with a screaming ghost and an eerie gramophone record playing in the corner? It’s bloody annoying. I have to slap Geert out of it. Finally he shuts up.

We have to stay calm and controlled and get ourselves out of here, I say, fumbling around in the darkness for the doorknob. I spend nearly an hour trying and failing to reattach it so we can free ourselves while Geert sits behind me shaking and mumbling We’re gonna get spunked on by a wanking ghost to himself. Suddenly, it hits me. The realisation, that is, not a dollop of milky ghost fluid.

Geert, mate, I say. You’re a ghost. Surely you can just walk through the closed door and then let me out from the other side?

Oh yes, says Geert. How stupid of me to forget!

Bloody Geert is such a plonker sometimes.

Once freed, I replace the light bulb in the cupboard and take the gramophone player to Cash Converters in Brixton. They give me £75 for it. I give myself the rest of the day off and head across to the Ritzy to see what’s on at the cinema.

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Wednesday – I sleep right through my 9.07am alarm this morning but am woken up at 9.15 by terrible flatulence caused by over-indulging on chilli pickled onions last night. It always pays to have a back up alarm. The day gets off to a bad start when I discover that I’ve run out of Advocaat to pour over my morning Weetabix. I can’t face having them with milk so I have to make an early morning trip to the off-license. I hate buying booze first thing in the morning. It makes me look like such an alcoholic. Especially when I can’t make it out of the shop before opening the bottle and taking a few large swigs.

As I return to the flat I spot my neighbour Adam from the ground floor who has just finished his morning run. Adam and I are quite different in character, differences best summed up by the fact that he has been out jogging this morning while I have wolfed nearly half a bottle of Advocaat. I don’t want him to see me with a semi-consumed bottle of booze in my hand so I quickly neck the other half and toss the empty bottle into a neighbour’s garden before he sees me. We exchange neighbourly pleasantries and then he sets out on a long and rather tedious monologue complaining about the number of times he’s had to visit the Royal Mail delivery office to collect parcels because the postie always comes when he and his wife are at work.

I’m on the verge of passing out due to rapid alcohol consumption plus I’m fearing I’m about to be hit with a deluge of first world problems. So I interject and say I’m happy to take his parcels in for him. I think that this good neighbour offer will make me feel less bad about sloping off up the stairs.

Oh great, he says. We’re expecting three deliveries from Amazon today. If you could take those for us, we’d really appreciate it.

No problem, I say and then I go back to bed for a few hours to sleep off the Advocaat binge. I’m woken by another powerful bout of flatulence around midday, which is lucky as it prevents me from sleeping through my front door buzzer which is sounding as I exit the bedroom. I race downstairs just in time to catch the postman who hands me three parcels for the ground floor flat. I take them in and knock on Adam’s door. There’s no answer so I go upstairs to my flat, get a pen and piece of paper and write a note:

Dear Adam, I tried calling to deliver your parcels but you weren’t in so I’ve dropped them at the Royal Mail delivery office. Please call by during the normal opening hours. All the best. Gary

I pop the note under his door and make a trip to the delivery office. It’s a tiring walk so I head back to bed for a few more hours’ sleep when I return home. It’s nearly 8pm when I’m woken up for the third time today by my own grotesque flatulence. I really must ease off on those chilli onions. I exit the bedroom to notice that the front door buzzer is sounding again. I head downstairs and open the front door. It’s Bilinda Butcher, the guitarist from My Bloody Valentine.

I panic. Bilinda lives just a few streets away from me in West Norwood and I fear that she must have seen me repeatedly walking past her house trying to catch a glimpse of her, or heard me in her garden at night pressing my face up against her window trying to peek through the crack in her curtains, or spotted me rummaging through her wheelie bin for discarded song lyrics to try and sell on eBay. But she doesn’t say anything about any of this, instead she produces an acoustic guitar from underneath her enormously oversized woolly jumper and asks if I’m interested in having her perform a private unplugged gig in my flat.

She’s amazed when I say yes, telling me that she’s been wandering the streets for three months with this offer and I’m the first person to know who she is. She explains that she’s doing this to kill time in between MBV albums.

It’s an awful lot of time to kill, she says, and we laugh together knowingly at this little joke before she starts berating Kevin Shields for his perfectionism.

The next one’s been recorded already and he said he’d be a week mixing the guitars. That was in April 2015, she says. Now he’s locked himself in a studio in Cork and is saying it will be mid-2028 at the earliest before it’s ready.

Bilinda tells me she’s excited about playing her songs in their stripped-down acoustic form. It’s how they were originally supposed to sound, she says. MBV started as a folk band but Kevin gradually introduced layer after layer of distorted feedback and before we knew it all the songs were buried beneath this wall of insane noise and the indie music press loved it.

I tell all my London-based friends about the gig in the hope of getting a crowd together, but none of them believe me as I’ve falsely announced that Bilinda Butcher from My Bloody Valentine is gigging in my flat on numerous previous occasions and they’ve all fallen for it at least once.

In the end she has to play to just me. It’s not a great gig to be honest. The unplugged versions of the songs sound flimsy and my recurring flatulence interrupts on several occasions, like some awful heckler. The noise of my wind was so intense, Bilinda said it reminded her of the guitar reverb that usually cloaks their songs. The smell, she said, reminded her of a cheap deodorant that Kevin wore for a brief period in the late 1980s.

I apologise and ask how much I owe her for the performance.

Oh don’t worry about money, I’m doing it for the fun, she says. I tell you what, though. I wouldn’t say no to a Snowball if you’ve got the ingredients.

I tell her I’m sorry but I finished off the last of the Advocaat this morning. She smiles and leaves.

Later that evening, I tell Lazarus about the gig.

Pfft, I prefer the Jesus and Mary Chain myself, he sniffs, but I can tell he’s a bit jealous.

Thursday – I’m up early this morning to go jogging in the park. I do two laps dressed in my giant Donald Duck costume. It’s torture and takes forever. The other joggers in the park stare at me and some make rude remarks. Bloody hypocrites. If people can dress up in these outfits for the London Marathon, then why not for a gentle stroll in the park?

I decide to go for a lie down in a bush and almost doze off but am woken up by a dog, a little King Charles Spaniel, who tries to stick its wet nose underneath my fake duck head.

Hey you, wake up! the dog says. You gotta help me. You see that hipster twat over there?

The dog nods towards a young guy with a ridiculously well-groomed beard, oversized vest, skinny rolled-up jeans and slip-on daps who is busy fiddling with his smartphone.

He’s my owner and he’s an absolute bellend, continued the dog. I need to escape. You look like the sort of nutter who could help. Create a diversion, run up to him in your duck costume, push him over and start swearing at him. While he’s trying to work out what the fuck is going on, I’ll peg it. Which way’s Battersea, by the way?

Although I sympathise with the dog, I say I can’t help. For a start, I feel too shagged out after the jog. I don’t want to risk losing a fight with a hipster in a park while dressed as Donald Duck. Someone’s bound to video it and put it up on YouTube. I don’t want to star in a Hipster Fights Duck viral internet video.

You selfish cowardly bastard, growls the Spaniel and then it urinates all over me. How do you like that, coward? it cries.

Not bothered, I reply, rolling over to get up. It’s water off a duck’s back to me.

I’m really annoyed that there are not more people present to hear this perfectly well-timed pun. There is only this stupid Spaniel and the remark has clearly gone over its head as it doesn’t even acknowledge it. I will probably never be in a position to crack this joke again and it’s been wasted.

I’m still smarting over this when I reach home, plus I now stink of dog piss. The flat is so hot it’s like a furnace. This makes the heat inside the Donald Duck costume unbearable plus it intensifies the stench of the Spaniel slash.

I pass out. When I come round several hours later, a panicking Geert is stood over me. He’s found out about Brexit and is worried about what his rights are as a Dutch national.

Have they said anything about freedom of movement for ghosts? he asks me, looking even paler than usual.

I tell Geert there’s nothing to worry about. After all, how could you possibly stop ghosts getting through border controls? I reassure him that Theresa May has no plans to kick ghosts out of the country, although she is renowned for doing U-turns so you never know. I don’t tell Geert that.

That’s not what it says in here, Geert says and he points to a pile of Daily Express newspapers he’s collected in his spooky attic cupboard.

I ask Geert where he got these papers and he tells me he found them in the recycling bin downstairs.

Don’t believe anything you read in the Daily Express, I yell at Geert. He looks both scared and relieved.

You mean it’s not gonna be the coldest winter in a hundred years? he asks.

No, I say.

Then maybe I’ll turn your heating off again, he says, wandering off towards the kitchen.

It’s a good job that Geert’s got someone like me to look after him, I think to myself as I disrobe from my dog piss-stained Donald Duck costume.

Friday – I’m excited as I’ve got a date this evening with my girlfriend Rosa L. She lives just around the corner from me and we’ve not been together for long. Rosa L and I met in the reduced items aisle of the local supermarket. We both went for the same 49p discounted Tiramisu at the same time. Our eyes met and that was it – we had a blazing row over who spotted it first, screaming and swearing at each other as a small crowd gathered.

Then suddenly it was as if something clicked and I felt as if I’d met my soul mate. She must have been hit with the same realisation at the same moment because suddenly the screaming and swearing turned into snogging and hands up each others’ jumpers. Security kicked us out so we ended up both missing out on the Tiramisu but it didn’t matter – this was a love worth 49p.

Since then we’ve been inseparable, apart from all the time we’ve spent apart, which is often a few days at a time. But we love each other. She’s paranoid that she’s too socially awkward, too uncompromising, too coarse for me. But I tell her these are all the things I look for in a partner. She doesn’t get on too well with Geert though. She dismisses him as a crude face drawn onto a pillow while he always refers to her as ‘that sock puppet’.

Rosa L calls for me at 7 and we head down to the Knowles Bar for a few games of pool. We manage to get a handful of frames in before we hear a cry of I’ll take the both of you on best of five, twenty quid.

It’s Leo The Stump, renowned hustler and nutcase of West Norwood. Despite being only just over two feet tall, Leo The Stump has a fearsome reputation for kicking off in pubs. He’s national champion at jiu jitsu in the under 3 feet category. We don’t want to risk upsetting him so agree to his proposal.

The first four games are shared. Leo is a good player but he needs a bit of help. He’s too short to even see let alone reach the table, so to overcome this he collars random blokes exiting the gents toilets (which are right next to the pool table) to lift him to the table for each shot. It seems that Leo The Stump, despite his carefully cultivated macho image and occasional homophobic comments, likes being handled by an array of male strangers.

Trouble is, most of the men who get cajoled into hoisting Leo into position for his shots clearly haven’t washed their hands after their toilet visits and by the deciding frame he’s become like that bowl of peanuts at the pub bar. Leo The Stump now contains traces of around 15 different types of urine and he’s started to smell like a bad alleyway on a Saturday night. Both Rosa L and I are having to take tissues to our noses and eyes after every shot.

The frame goes all the way to the final black but I crack under the stench and, with my poor aching eyes misting over, miscue right through the cloth. A laughing Leo insists this means that I’ve forfeited the game under pub rules. I don’t want to get into an argument and get my backside kicked so I pay up £20 plus a further £100 to the landlord to get the table re-clothed.

It’s been an expensive night but at least I have my Rosa L. Back at my flat, we kiss.

I love you, I say, stroking my hand across her face.

She gently takes my hand in hers, holds it up to her nose and sniffs.

You shook his hand after the game, didn’t you? she says, screwing up her face and gagging. There’s little point in trying to deny it so I just nod and slope off guiltily towards the shower.

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Saturday – It’s the weekend and I have a picnic planned with Rosa L round the back of Norwood Bus Garage. Not the most romantic of locations but fewer wasps and hyperactive children than most parks. The weather looks glorious. We prepare everything and then I pop out to the supermarket to pick up a bottle of champagne while Rosa L gets herself ready.

Downstairs in the hallway I bump into Gladys, my 82-year-old neighbour on the ground floor. Gladys is a dear old lady with a very active sex life for an octogenarian. I can sometimes hear the moans and groans emanating from two floors below if she’s getting a particularly good seeing to.

If you’re going to the supermarket, can you do me a favour? she asks. Can you pick me up a couple of packets of condoms? I’ve got a date from that Tinder at three.

Gladys licks her lips at the thought of her impending date and her eyes glaze over as she thinks about all the things she might get up to. I agree to do this for her. I’m all for doing my bit to promote safe sex among the elderly.

Get me those new Werther’s Original flavour ones they’ve just brought out for older lovers, she shouts at me as I go out the door.

The supermarket has its usual Saturday morning queues and I tut to myself as I sling a bottle of bubbly in my basket and make my way to the condoms aisle. They have quite a varied selection but no Werther’s.

Excuse me, do you have any of these in Werther’s Original flavour? I ask a passing assistant and cringe as she looks at me like I’m someone who likes getting fellated by pensioners.

We’ve sold out, she says. They’re only currently available in one of our stores in a parallel universe.

Oh right, I say. Is that far from here?

Third aisle on the left, past the biscuits, there’s a sign saying ‘gateway to another dimension’. Just go through it, she says, walking off.

I head past the biscuits and sure enough, there’s a sign saying ‘gateway to another dimension’ and sure enough, I walk through and I’m in what looks like the same supermarket only slightly different. None of the boxes of cereal or jars of piccalilli are trying to talk to me, and the place is filled with horny pensioners queueing up with baskets full of Werther’s Original condoms.

I reach the condom shelf and to my relief there are two boxes left. I grab them, join the queue and get pawed multiple times by randy old ladies who think I’m game once they clock my purchase. Finally I’m done and slip back through the gateway, finding myself next to the biscuit selection once more.

The only thing I don’t understand is it’s nearly sunset. The supermarket assistant from before sees me. You found it then, she says.

Yeah but I spoke to you about ten minutes ago. Why is it half a day later?

You lose eight hours transitioning between the dimensions, the assistant tells me. Sorry, I should have explained that.

I race back to the flat. Gladys is not happy with me. She says she had to do it without protection and tells me I’ll have to help her bring up the baby if she ends up pregnant. I’m more concerned with letting Rosa L down on the picnic but she’s fine.

You went all the way to another universe just to help an old lady? That’s really sweet of you, she says, kissing me on the lips. We crack open the champagne and have a mini-picnic at the flat.

Sunday – It’s the day of the Lambeth Festival in Brockwell Park but the day starts badly when I fall out with Rosa L over a Subbuteo argument after breakfast. I win the game 3-0 but then discover that her goalie had accepted a bribe to lose the match. Organised crime within the Subbuteo community has got really bad. The problem started when the Subbuteo manufacturers started producing little organised criminal figures as a game accessory and now they regularly infiltrate and interfere with play, tempting vulnerable players with backhanders.

Rosa L swears that she didn’t know anything about the deal and she bites the head off her goalie to prove it, saying that’s the last dodgy deal that he will ever be involved in as she spits the little decapitated head out onto the pitch cloth. She then reminds me that one of my centre forwards was once banned for six months for taking drugs so I’m hardly in a position to lecture. This really annoys me as she knows it was an unfair ban. He had taken medication for Attention Deficit Disorder and had not been aware that it contained a banned ingredient. Rosa L and I have a blazing row and she storms out.

This means I end up going to the festival on my own, which I have no problem with. I’ll sort things out with Rosa L later. We have these silly disagreements every now and then. I arrive at the festival, which is a free community event with all sorts of fun and games going on, and the weather is glorious. I immediately drink three pints of sweet cider at the scrumpy tent and then I find myself talking to this mysterious woman who is running a stall called Rebel Chutney. She obviously thinks I’m an interested punter and launches into her pitch about how she’s trying to overhaul the image of chutney and jam as these cozy middle-class things.

She shows me a tattoo on her midriff of radical feminist Shulamith Firestone and tells me it’s the fault of the patriarchy that jam and chutney have ended up so mumsy.

Here, try this beast. It will blow your mind, she says, passing me a square of pitta bread with a raspberry-scented dollop on it. As I gulp it down, she whispers in my ear, It’s got opium in it.

I space out for possibly a few hours after consuming the drug jam and when I come to, I’m in some relaxation zone. There’s a sweet smelling aroma in the air and a weird guy practising Tai Chi in front of me. I go to speak but it takes ages for the words to come out. My brain feels like it’s half asleep. In fact, everything has slowed right down. I realise it’s the effects of the opium. Then I realise that the guy in front of me isn’t doing Tai Chi at all. My spaced out brain has slowed his movements down and he’s actually being attacked by several wasps and is frantically trying to fend them off. That explains why he’s screaming.

A really slow-speaking security guy in a hi-viz jacket is trying to say something to me but it’s taking ages.

Wwwhhhhyyyyyy ddiiiiiiiiiiiiddd yyyyoooooouuuuuuuuuuuu ttthhhhrrroowwww jjjaaaaammmm aatttttt hhhhhiiiiiiiimm?????????

I struggle to decipher this but then I piece it together. The sweet smell in the air, the empty jar in my hand.

Why did you throw jam at him?

Now the wasp attack begins to make sense and I can see that the guy is covered head to toe in a sticky dark red gel which the stripey little bastards are gorging on. I don’t recall doing this and I feel terrible. Those wasps are gonna be as stoned as hell.

It was better when I thought he was doing Tai Chi, I mumble, slowly.

Later I stretch out on the grass in front of the stage and soak up the vibes of the dub reggae floating from the sound system. I hear a buzzing behind me and it’s the stoned wasps arriving to enjoy the dub, having caned the opium jam that I lobbed over the Tai Chi bloke. They all land on my shoulders. Normally I’d freak out at this but the spacey dub vibes make it impossible to go mental, plus the gonked out wasps are too enthralled by the music to get nasty. They all nod their little heads along to the sounds. One of them says, this is some good shit. I can’t believe I’m bonding with wasps. Then a passing hippie hands me a joint which I share with the wasps and everything feels perfect and full of love.

There will be a time in the distant future where humans have evolved to a point where there are no divisions. No nation-states, no social hierarchies, no gender inequalities, where millennia of international travel and inter-cultural mingling eradicates ethnic difference and we are all the same colour mixed race. We will have surpassed capitalism and mastered gene therapy and there will be no wars, no incurable disease and no death. We will have reached the end of fragilty and stupidity. Advanced genetic engineering coupled with breakthroughs in thermonuclear science will mean that human lifespans outlast the time it takes to reach the furthest parts of outer space and we will be able to explore the galaxy together, find new homes for our species and cheat the eventual violent death of the sun to live happily ever after.

Either that or we’ll wipe ourselves out in the near future through our greed, ignorance and stupidity. Could go either way really. But our generation will be long gone by then, having wasted all our time arguing on the internet and being mis-sold PPI. What a bummer.

I feel a tap on the shoulder. I think it’s one of the wasps jumping up and down but it’s Rosa L. She sits down next to me and slips something into my hand. It’s one of the Subbuteo organised crime figures in handcuffs.

I fixed it so there’s no more match-fixing, she says as she kisses me on the cheek and rests her head down on my shoulder where she is immediately stung on the side of the face by five wasps.