Sunday, 14 June 2009

Working very hard on two books that need to be completely finished by the end of this month. They’re bringing me into repeated contact with many of my favourite words. Peplum, pantsuit, dimity, dirndl, tankini*. One of the authors emailed me the first draft of his acknowledgements yesterday, and I was overjoyed to read that he has come to consider me “forever John Steed to [his] Tara King.”

I will never be in receipt of better praise than that. I told him he didn’t have a great big arse like Tara - think that went down quite well.

*Not tankini, really.

Sunday, 31 May 2009

? contd.

More unconscionable behaviour in the changing rooms:

*the constant relays of unrecognisable, tuneless whistling. Only a few convulsive seconds from each offender, but someone’s always at it – just beginning or just petering out. The background music alternates between the banging high-energy poison you’d expect and those pained, striving, Evanescence-style dirges. So everyone - regardless of age, taste and bearing in the outside world - just toots a few notes slightly related to those. It’s a relative of tuneless whistling at the urinal, I suppose. A lot of men feel compelled to do that, especially at pubs. “I’m here, I’m doing what I’m doing, and I’m completely at ease.”

*crap dumped everywhere. Holders of ‘platinum membership’ are entitled to a papery white towel whenever they visit. There are bins all over the place to put your wet papery white towels in … but they’re better off hurled on to the floor with your scrunched-up tissues, aren’t they. Perhaps their mums come in later to straighten everything up.

*decaying underwear. This is very widespread. I don’t want to come over all Gok Wan, but a lot of men hang on to their smalls for far too long. If you favour form-fitting, trunk-style underpants, you must replace them immediately once they no longer cling to the thigh. If they flap and sag loosely in the breeze, they are not serving their purpose. They are providing neither containment nor aesthetic appeal - even if they have a person’s name running around the waistband.

If your pants have gone like a skirt, get rid of them and buy some more.

*In the showers today, I caught myself in the middle of a dying-foal sigh.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Monday, 11 May 2009


I used to swim at the public baths, with its completely unisex changing facilities; separate men’s and women’s showers, obviously, but apart from that, just a great prairie of slam-door cubicles. Now I use the pool at the local gym, and the men and women change communally, but in total seclusion from each other. These are some of the things I see men do, when amongst men only:

* use the puny hairdryers to dry all body areas. Under the arms; between the toes; across the hairy chests and backs. One massive regular pulls open the waistband of his briefs, sticks the nozzle of the dryer right in there, and wiggles it around a bit as a sort of finishing flourish.

* preen, epically and unselfconsciously. This really surprised me, and I think I’m quite vain. I get mesmerised watching all the dudes make imperceptible changes to their very short, gelled hairdos before the mirrors. Quite a few arrive, get half undressed, and then just stand there for ages looking gormlessly at their muscles, or their nipples, or whatever, I don’t know.

* make noises in the showers. They’re not communal here; it’s a series of individual cubicles with opaque curtains arranged around the sides of a square room. You walk in and look about for a free one, and you hear these strange, mournful sounds. People forgetting themselves and letting go in a tiny semi-private space, I suppose. Deep sighs, little whimpers, low moans. Sometimes it sounds as if you might pull back a curtain to see what’s wrong and find a beautiful, dying foal under the shower instead of a lonely, nude man wringing out his swimming trunks.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Looks I’ve been looking at

skin girls, 1979

I keep homing in on him in bookshops lately. Collar under, collar over, spotted tie, lopsided round neck, peek of braces.

Friends tell me there’s nothing to admire about Vincent Gallo, but I like everything he does.

Nanette Newman in The Rebel

Bangles, skinny tie, big hair, and so on.

Fabio Testi

Monday, 4 May 2009

Rock Hudson, Poundland

Come here to the sofa at once and join me on the horizontal to watch my important collection of films.

First: Embryo, a tremendously stupid medical thriller starring Rock Hudson, Barbara Carrera, Roddy McDowall and Diane Ladd, which I bought at Poundland last year.

Poundland is where I go to buy Brylcreem, and sometimes biscuits, but I also use it to expand my cinematic horizons. Because what happens if you only watch what you’re advised to? You carry around this burdensome, deforming notion of Good Taste all the time, and you get all het up about whether you’re watching the right things, and whether you’ll be capable of saying something interesting about them when you’re asked at dinner parties. I get invited to surprisingly few dinner parties, but even if that all changes and I end up doing them every night of the week, I doubt anyone will ever solicit an opinion about Embryo from me. So if you read on, don’t be expecting much help with the dinner parties.

What’s far more likely is that you’ll be scarred with an indelible mental image of Rock Hudson toilet-training an adult Barbara Carrera, because that notion does crop up during my evaluation of the film.

It’s amazing how someone can implant an idea like that in your head, and it proves almost impossible to dislodge. It could be this scenario of Rock Hudson painstakingly toilet-training Barbara Carrera, or it could be something closer to home. I still think that I may have ‘child-bearing hips’, for example. One day when I was in the Fourth Form, I was waiting in the lunch queue outside the Dining Hall, and a boy called Ben Mayes walked up to me and said quite casually, “Hah, you’ve got child-bearing hips.” Looking back, I doubt he had any idea what ‘child-bearing hips’ might be. I expect he’d just heard his Mum saying it, and inferred somehow that it would be a pretty disillusioning thing to say to a pubescent boy. In fact, I am pretty much straight-up-and-down in the hip area, and always have been. But I do look at myself in the mirror sometimes, even all these years later, and wonder.

So anyway, that’s what may be in store once I get started on Embryo.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Just setting the tone.