Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Cafe of Doom Holiday Special

Who’d have thought it? Surpassing all my expectations of being solely a purveyor of grim, unhygienically produced and  cryptosporidium habouring meals, the Café of Doom is extending its repertoire to include the heady heights of tourism. As exemplified by the genius marketing tool that is a grubby chalkboard next to the hell bound death tunnel, this popular establishment is now offering holiday specials. At the small cost of £495, you can combine any desert with any in-flight meal and tea or coffee. 

Plane food is regarded a fine dining experience by Café of Doom regulars; one to be taken seriously. Forty thousand feet above the North Atlantic ocean en route to Benidorm, mini bread rolls are spread eagerly with mini butter, tiny sections of unidentifiable animal flesh chewed with relish, teeny ex-tinned vegetables savoured. “Der, that was lovely that food wasn’t it love? Lovely that plane food,” says Café of Doom husband to Café of Doom wife during each aeroplane journey from one comfort zone to another.

Unexpectedly, Café of Doom Travel has stretched their sights further than the favoured Balearic based destinations of its locale, opting for stranger sands. Where to choose? The Gobi? The Sahara? Perhaps in current climes, not such a good idea, although Café of Doom patrons will be no stranger to a combative atmosphere. I think I’ll settle on The Gibson Desert, and food-wise…when in Rome (or rather, Western Australia) it would be rude not to opt for Roats Pots and Impudent Sassages. Did I tell you the Café of Doom now has a bar license? This in mind, my obligatory alcoholic drink will be their special, a pineapple and peppermint snowball, followed by an extra-obligatory tannin torched tea heaped with seventeen sugars. With a regularly changing chalkboard, and a clearly advancing ambition, I advise you to book quickly before CoD's esteem explodes and they run out of places, moving on to attempt world domination. Happy Holidays. 

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

The Red Balloon

A bit of flash fiction....

The red balloon was full and taut when she brought it. She tied it to the foot of the bed and pulled sharply so that it sprung upwards, gently bouncing around like a buoy on wind-blown waves. “It’s a symbol,” she said, stroking his hair but not meeting his eyes. She rose up from her crouching position to stand at the window. He couldn’t tell if she was looking outwardly at the houses and hills beyond or at something internal. Her shoulders were high and her fingernails dug into the pale skin on the backs of her arms as she embraced herself. He noticed the pockets of her jeans hung loosely where they were once snug.

“I’ve got something to tell you,” she said, slowly turning around to face him. She did not smile.

He gazed out at the clouds floating past. The balloon had become a faded cherry colour. He half smiled as he recalled their game of inventing band names and lipstick shades. The trapped air no longer pushed at the sides of the latex, the balloon no longer yearned for the sky. The ribbon securing it to the metal bedframe was slack.

Along with the diagnosis came a package of counselling and pitying looks. A nurse gently warned him that often, those close don’t know how to deal with the illness.

She cried at first; then bought him a lot of bananas. Her nutrition magazines seemed invaluable as a coping crutch. She also bought him a lot of blueberries. And red things. “Red is the colour of life,” she always said. “When you look at red things you sparkle. It’s a reminder of existence.” Her scarlet boots had made him look initially. Then when he saw her ruby lips and beautiful smile he really looked. She sparkled.

“You’ll feel much better soon,” she’d said quietly. “Your mum will look after you at first, she said she’d like to. Then when you’re ready you can come…you can go home.” You can go. It was no longer her home.

 When did things go wrong? It felt impossible to pin point a beginning. Was a single event the catalyst, or had it been a collection? If he could retract one action from the Universe, would everything change? Maybe if he hadn’t fallen ill, she would have forgiven. Or maybe if he hadn’t fallen ill, she would have left much sooner.

 He turned the almost translucent balloon over in his hands. It was ashen crimson and airless, the white ribbon still attached and trailing. He lay on his own sheets now, washed and ironed by his mother. Regret intermingled with the sterile smelling air, no trace of her scent remained. He wished he had been the one to marry her. He thought of a red wedding dress he would never see.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Happy Birthday Ralph the Police Witch

Happy Birthday to Ralph the Police Witch, who is 112 today. He'll be celebrating by cackling, making special birthday road safety/weather based predictions*, drinking an alcoholic potion of Brains, and as such not riding his broomstick whilst drunken.

*Tonight I must "be careful on the Heads of the Valleys road as it's windy."

Wednesday, 2 February 2011


Time stealer. Envy Maker.  Emboldener of unhealthy comparisons.  A claustrophobic agoraphobic’s living e-nightmare. Platform for pretention. A selection of the (censored) phrases I think befit Facebook. Like everybody else I know I joined it way back when, a time which has seemingly evaporated such is the way Facebook has merged into the make-up of our lives. Am I re-hashing an old, boring argument? Maybe. But then if that’s the case, why is just about everyone I know still using Facebook? And why, despite happily removing myself from its pages, do I still feel swathed in references to the social networking site? I have decided to explore the rationale behind my revulsion.

I am a fan of the English language, of good use of grammar, spelling and the like. Facebook references have leaked in like an insidious oceanic oil spill. I regularly hate hearing, “I’m Facebooking.”  Apparently, it has become a verb. References are made to walls and pokes. “He wrote on my wall last night and he poked me twice, he must fancy me.” I’m thinking: “He painted your garden wall? With paint? And poked you? What, with a stick?” In my day, dad would have grounded me for fraternising with a vandal and threatened him with a police truncheon.*

Facebook is now used as a benchmark for clarification of relationship statuses. Screw courts, churches and the spoken word. If it’s not on Facebook for the benefit of your 356 ‘friends’ to see, gossip, and proffer faux sympathy/happiness in response to, the new relationship/engagement/wedding/break-up never occurred. I’ve witnessed friends agonising over the true feelings of their intended beau because, “he hasn’t changed his Facebook status.” As long as he/she changes their underwear and shows clear signs of liking you, then what’s the problem? Why are public announcements  deemed the pinnacle of a relationship’s arrival?  The same need to visibly confirm life events apparently applies to a pictorial corroboration of nights out, gigs, museum trips, holidays, the fitting of your new bathroom and the cat’s third birthday party. Taking Facebook ready photos is the new real-life experience. This online personal photo catalogue feels like the e-equivalent of living in a South Wales Valley terraced street. You invite scrutiny and no longer have a truly private life. You also encourage unhealthy comparisons. Do you remember the girl you went to school with seventeen years ago, the one with brown hair, whose parents’ were doctors and listened to the Queen’s speech on the radio because they didn’t have a TV? You know the one, you got drunk with her once in April 1996? Yes? Well she’s living in Australia now, she’s thin, owns a VW Camper van and goes skiing every year. Her life is perfect, right? That’s the sort of thinking the Facebook photo poring black hole can lead to, inevitably encouraging negative comparisons between people you no longer encounter and your own life – not to mention hours of time sucked away. But the fact is, very few people capture their lonely, unhappy moments. There are no photos of tears, tantrums, hangovers, eye bags, wrinkles, unshaven legs, ripped tights, arguments, fights, bad hair days, fat days or people eating packets of biscuits/ham/haribo/crisps on the sofa. Facebook presents a sickly perfect version of peoples’ lives, which can be a bit of a lie.

The word ‘friend’ has been infected. When used in a Facebook context, I feel a need to package it in inverted commas. What does it mean? It doesn’t imply “somebody emotionally close” as a dictionary definition suggests. You don’t actually have to know a Facebook friend. Even if you have met, a Facebook friend does not need to acknowledge you when you pass in the street, and you do not need to like them. However, you will be obliged to accept their ‘request for friendship’. When in non-virtual life do you request somebody’s friendship? And when, in real life, would you accept the friendship of a person you do not know, like, or acknowledge? I’m thinking never. But even if all your Facebook friends are real friends, what happened to the sharing of experiences using words, photo albums and beer? It seems to me this is concrete friendship, as opposed to the inverted, phony Facebook version.

I’m not a social-networking-free zone. Critics of this anti-Facebook stance will question my use of Twitter. And perhaps that I write a public blog. I maintain that Twitter is very different. It shares snippets whereas Facebook divulges depth. As the front page declares, “Get access to the information that interests you most.” It’s about imparting stimulating stuff. You can choose the info you receive, and if it proves boring, delete the provider obligation free. I’ve found writers, designers, illustrators, artists, gig promoters, films and bands on Twitter. I’ve also found writing opportunities such as the Guardian Cardiff site and The Wales Blog Awards. Of course there is the potential to be pretentious on Twitter as much as Facebook, and name drop as far as 140 characters allows. But like I said, your followee stream can be easily edited. I’m guilty of posting mini-stories about daily mundane-ities such as events of my local steam room but I’m happy to be un-followed if that’s not to someone else’s liking. As for my blog, it’s a place to practice writing. This can be as personal as I choose, and I choose not very. It highlights my thoughts and stories, yes. But my photos and private life, no.

I’m glad to be Facebook-free. My real friends still keep in touch. My time is empancipated from photo poring black holes. I no longer have e-claustrophobia. And I do stuff in real-life without having to take Facebook-ready photos. I recommend you try it too.

*Any police people or friends of my dad who might be reading = this is a joke.