The Worker pt 7: Sunday Bloody Sunday.

Sunday morning. Hangover. Took him a moment to realise where he was. Home. His own bed. A good sign. Fully dressed. He glanced around, the movement of his eyeballs in their sockets making him wince in pain. The pungent aroma of the previous night’s smoke which clung to his clothes, mingled with the sickly-sweet tartness of stale sweat made his stomach lurch, but he observed with relieve that his bed was free of puke and he’d not pissed or shat himself either. Ok, so it was rare for either of those things to happen, but they weren’t unheard of. How had he got home? And when? Where had he been, even? After arriving at the club, already hammered, some time after ten or thereabouts, everything was a blank. He felt like shit, felt like he was gonna die.

He moaned and gingerly winched himself out of bed. Went to the bathroom, pissed like a horse for a good couple of minutes. Bliss! Chugged half a pint of full-fat milk straight from the carton, threw down some painkillers and tossed some bread in the toaster. Checked the clock. Ok, so it wasn’t Sunday morning any more, it was closer to 1pm. A seriously heavy night. He buttered the hot toast on ejection from the machine and took a couple of bites before a wave of nausea broke from the pit of his stomach. He made haste back to the bathroom and spewed it all back up. mouth, nose, some serious velocity. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and crawled back to bed.

The next time he woke it was just after 3pm. He still felt rough, but nothing like the way he had felt before. What a waste of a day. Still in the clothes from the night before, he went back to the kitchen and prepared a mammoth fried breakfast and sat in front of the television while he troughed down the greasy collation. There was a match on. He didn’t really give a shit about Liverpool or Chelsea, being a Man U supporter but football’s football.

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A generic image of a bloke slobbing out on the sofa on a Sunday afternoon

 

Afternoon rolled into evening as he sat, vegetating, on the sofa. Fuck it, he couldn’t be arsed to wash up or so any washing, not today. It would keep. Around 8, he decided to take a shower, after which, still wrapped in his towel, he fired up the PC and checked his emails. Nothing much doing. He logged into his Facebook account. A few tagged pics from last night were up already, and a number of people had left him comments, too. But as far as he could ascertain, he’d only danced like a twat and tried cracking onto a couple of birds, both absolute munters, by all accounts. But he’d not screwed either of them – because they’d turned him down flat – and he’d not flashed his cock or arse, so on balance, no cause for concern. He idly flipped up some porn pages. Before long, his horn was throbbing as hard as his head had been earlier in the day, and he knocked out a mix over a couple of chicks lezzing it up. Job done, he wiped himself down, put the telly on and watched some second-rate eighties action movie till just gone midnight. Waste of a day, alright, but it sure as hell beat having to go to work.

 

 

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The Worker pt 6: Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting), or, Living for the Weekend

He woke around 10. Didn’t feel too bad. Probably still drunk. But he was home and in his own bed. Beat the sofa, or, worse, the gutter or a police cell. Would’ve been nice to have been someone else’s bed, he thought, but waking up next to some eight-pint hound wouldn’t’ve been good. The pungent aroma of the previous night’s smoke which clung to his clothes, hair and skin, mingled with the sickly-sweet tartness of stale sweat made his stomach lurch, but he observed with relieve that his bed was free of puke and he’d not pissed or shat himself either.

He moaned and gingerly winched himself out of bed. Went to the bathroom, pissed like a horse for a good couple of minutes. Bliss! He ambled into the kitchen and tossed some stale bread in the toaster. Checked the clock: force of habit. He buttered the hot toast on ejection from the machine and took a couple of bites. The hangover was starting to kick in. His head’s pounding and his guts are churning. He takes a heavy beershit, then gets dressed.

A trip to the supermarket takes a decent chunk out of his day. He hates going to the supermarket, but needs must, and sometimes there are some fine fillies out and about. He once pulled a bird in the supermarket. Just sidled on up to her in the cereal aisle, like in the Cornflakes ad, only smoother of course. Went out for a couple of weeks. She’d been alright to look at, but a major pain in the arse, wanted a relationship and all that shit. He wasn’t up for all that, he was the free and single, wild oats type. As he’s just been paid, he treats himself to a couple of frozen pizzas, stocks up on the microwave meals, a crate of Carling on special, bread, milk, bacon for a fry-up tomorrow. Throws in a pack of puddings – sundae type things – and some Smirnoff Ice, too. He might have a couple of those while warming up for tonight.

Decisions, decisions! The shorter checkout queue, or the checkout with the tasty piece serving? No contest! He threw in some smooth lines while the cute bit of fluff scanned his goods. Never mind his goods, he was checking out hers!

Once home, he flicks on the television, watches the football. Necks a couple of the cans of Carling. Throws a pizza in the oven for an early tea before it’s time to start getting ready. Going out tonight, going out tonight… While the pizza was heating through, he fired up the PC and surfed for porn. A quick flog of the hog, and then, while munching on the pizza, he flitted around on Facebook and downed a couple more tins.

Turning off the computer, he docked his i-Pod and scanned for the Hard-Fi album. Cranked it up while he took a shower. Squirted a large dollop of shampoo onto his head, worked to a lather. Rinse and repeat. As seen on TV. Stepped out of the shower, towelled dry, starting with a jaunty flossing. Pumped the volume up even higher when ‘Living for the Weekend’ came on as he doused himself in deodorant and doused himself in aftershave. So rarely did a song sum up his life so completely. Yes, this song was his life. He fucking loved it.

Started off in Wetherspoon’s, then on to Yates’s. After that, a quick stop in Varsity. Ok, Varsity’s not everyone’s first choice, but it’s a place to go to meet people. And, as Andy points out, there are some tidy birds in there, especially on a Saturday night.

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A typical busy bar on a Saturday night

 

The round is pulled and they get stuck in, it’s onto the next in under 10 minutes. The dollybirds from the local offices, and the shop-workers too – there were some particularly tasty checkout girls in some of the supermarkets, not to mention the chicks in the clothing stores, even River Island and Top Man – would be tottering in wearing their high heels, short skirts and low cut tops before long. He felt like trying his hand for some action tonight. He’d not had his end away in months now, and he was getting tired of the hand-shandies. He was feeling lucky, but needed to build his courage first. The totty began rolling up, right on cue and before long it was wall-to-wall flange, there for the taking. Andy got the next round in, and as the beers really start to flow, he’s on his way….

 

The Kindle – and paperback – edition of Postmodern Fragments is available via Amazon in the UK …and in the US.

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The Worker pt 5: Friday I’m in Love

Bollocks! He awoke with a start. He had been deep in sleep, in the middle of some long and winding epic dream. There had been some crazy alarms and sirens, fires everywhere and bombs dropping…. but in a jolting instant he realised that the alarm of his dream had been the alarm clock by the bed. How long ha it been going? He checks the time: 8:02. Fuck, shit, bollocks, bugger fuck cunt, he’s going to have to get a move on. He hauls his arse out of bed and throws on yesterday’s clothes that are strewn at the foot of the bed. No time for breakfast – he’s still out of milk, and bread, too – he brushes his hair, cleans his teeth. He’s running late, so no time for a shave today. 8:27 and he’s having to run to make the 8:30 bus: the bus-stop is an eight and a half minute walk but he can make it in half that at a run. He hates running, because he’s not fit – too much beer, too many cigarettes – and he hates arriving at work an exhausted ball of sweat. But he can’t be late. He’s in luck: the bus is running a couple of minutes late, and he arrives, panting and thoroughly fagged out just as it pulls up.

It doesn’t take long before the tedium sets in. He usually enjoys Fridays – the vibe tended to be more upbeat, and everyone felt the tension lift as they coasted toward the weekend. But the morning dragged, and he could feel his boss’ eyes on him, boring into the back of his head. He was keeping his nose clean and his head down. Same as ever, really. He couldn’t fathom why this authoritarian jumpstart little prick had it in for him. Probably for no other reason than because he seemed like an easy target for the power-tripping jobsworth cunt. He tried to convince himself of this, but was certain that the fat bitch at the next desk was shooting him suspicious glances. She was a conniving manipulative cow at the best of times, and while he thought their run-in from a few weeks ago had blown over, perhaps she’d been biding her time before deciding to make him pay by using underhanded tactics. So the truth hurt, and if she couldn’t take being told that she was a lazy, ass-climbing selfish lump of lard who couldn’t get a shag because she was such a miserable, self-seeking boot, it was her tough shit.

 

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An office, predictably enough

The calls keep on coming, but, less frequent, he finds his concentration drifting and his time between calls clock-watching. It’s payday: there are beers with his name on, and he can’t wait to get stuck in!

Midday and he was close to the turtle’s head so decided rushed the closing of the call he was on and go and bab one out. The humid fug of body-temperature merde hung heavy in the air, and he was dismayed to find the seat still warm. But he wasn’t in a position to be picky. He laid his cable swiftly and was back at his desk within 4 minutes.

The afternoon drags, but 5:30 eventually rolls round and he’s down the pub inside 5 minutes. Steve arrives, then Andy, then Simon, with Joe and Garry in tow. They’re all buoyed up because it’s Friday and they’re raring to go. The first round is pulled and they get stuck in, it’s onto round two in under 10 minutes. Ok, Varsity’s not everyone’s first choice, but it’s close to work and it’s a place to go to meet people. And, as Andy points out, there are some tidy birds in there, especially on a Friday night. The dollybirds from the offices nearby would be tottering in wearing their high heels, short skirts and low cut tops before long. He felt like trying his hand for some action tonight. He’d not had his end away in months now, and he was getting tired of the hand-shandies. He was feeling lucky, but needed to build his courage first. The totty began rolling up, right on cue and before long it was wall-to-wall minge, there for the taking. Andy got the next round in, and as the beers really start to flow, he’s on his way….

 

 

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The Worker pt 4: Thursday Afternoon (edit)

The harsh buzz of the alarm slices through the darkness and sears his sleeping brain. He sits up and checks the clock: 7:30. He hits the snooze button, but is surprisingly awake for this time of day. Perhaps as well. He has to be up and out. Chances are he’s still a bit pissed and that last night’s imbibing will catch up with him later, but there’s no time to think about that now. He dresses, eats breakfast, brushes his hair, cleans his teeth, runs the electric shaver over his face. The stubble had been getting itchy and was looking a bit too ginger for his liking. Miraculously, he makes the bus with time to spare, before realising he’s not eaten. Shit.

8:59 and he’s still on the bus, stuck in traffic and some distance from work. An accident up ahead or something. His colon starts creaking and his mouth’s as dry as a pro’s quim. He thinks he should phone in to let his boss know he’ll be late, but the battery on his phone’s dead. He’d forgotten to charge it last night. The bus drops him at the office 10 minutes late. In the office, firing up his workstation, positioning his chair, the usual routine. This morning it’s harder than usual though. A hangover is starting to kick in. His head’s pounding and his guts are churning. And hovering at his shoulder, it’s his manager. Wants a word.

Back at his desk, still bruised from his bollocking – the bus was late defence was no defence – should have got an earlier bus, was the counter, and his phone’s dead battery was no excuse for not phoning in. The fact it was a mere 10-minute delay counted for nothing and it would be a written warning next time – The phone rang. He took the call, went through the scripted schpiel, dispensed some pointless information to the frustrated old goat at the other end of the line, updated the systems, shunted some papers around. Rinse and repeat. The phone rang. He took the call. Etc. Such is the daily grind of the 9-5.

Tension was building now. The hangover wasn’t helping, he always got anxious when suffering the withdrawal. Slow creeping paranoia, he felt as though his boss was watching his every move to make sure he wasn’t away from his desk when he shouldn’t be, wasn’t making personal calls or accessing the Internet for non-work purposes.

Lunchtime rolled around and he was glad of the fresh air. He didn’t really feel like eating all that much, but could feel himself flagging so stocked up on crisps and chocolate for later, and purchased a can of Coke to give himself the pep he needed.

 

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An office circa 2006. Once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all, pretty much.

The afternoon was a drag, even more so than usual. The influx of work – phone calls, emails, paper correspondence – demanding his attention was ceaseless. 5:30 seemed a long way off. Being pulled out for a second meeting by his boss for not turning over enough calls an hour really put his back up. He tried to defend his ‘stats’ by pointing out that it was simply impossible to get rid of some callers, but the manager was having none of it. And the issue of his timekeeping is brought up again. A rage welled in his chest. His boss was a snotty little cunt who had no idea of what actually doing the work entailed. He was momentarily tempted to get his coat and get the fuck out there and then. But he took a piss, washed his face and calmed down and decided to stick it out till 5.30. Eventually it came, and he headed home.

His house was a shit-tip but he couldn’t be arsed to do anything about it. He cracked open one of the cans left from the night before and called out for a pizza. It had been a shitty day and he deserved some kind of compensation, some kind of comfort. At least tomorrow was Friday.

 

The Kindle – and paperback – edition of Postmodern Fragments is available via Amazon in the UK …and in the US.

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at Christophernosnibor.co.uk

The Worker pt. 2: Ruby Tuesday, or, Tuesday’s gonna be the day that they’re gonna throw it back to you

Shit! How long has the alarm been going? He must’ve been sound asleep. The harsh buzz of the alarm slices through the darkness and sears his sleeping brain. He sits upright with a start and checks the clock: 7:52. He hit the snooze button and buried his head in the pillow, but it was no good. Under the duvet, it was warm and comfortable and life was good. But the alarm persisted and he forced himself to vacate his haven. He dressed, ate breakfast, brushed his hair, cleaned his teeth. He was running late, so no time for a shave today. 8:25 and he’s having to run to make the 8:30 bus: the bus-stop is an eight and a half minute walk but he can make it in half that at a run. He hates running, because he’s not fit – too much beer, too many cigarettes – and he hates arriving at work an exhausted ball of sweat. But he can’t be late, he’s been late too many times recently and his timekeeping has become an issue. He’s already on a first warning.

8:59 and he’s in the office, firing up his workstation, positioning his chair, the usual routine. The phone rang. He took the call, went through the scripted schpiel, dispensed some pointless information to the frustrated old goat at the other end of the line, updated the systems, shunted some papers around. Rinse and repeat. The phone rang. He took the call. Etc. Such is the daily grind of the 9-5.

The calls kept on coming and the papers kept on piling up, and while he was on the rota for taking his lunch hour from 12:30 to 13:30, he was stuck on a call with some irate customer and wasn’t able to get away until 12:50. But then, the phones were supposed to be manned by a certain number of staff – 10, equating to 50% of the team – at any given time, and the workshy heifer at the next desk was late back from her lunch. His boss was circling like a shark. He couldn’t fathom why the power-hungry corporate tosser had taken such a dislike to him, but it seemed as though he was on a mission. He has to watch his back: one step out of line and the boss would be on him, and could bring him down. He’d seen it done before.

He was getting hungry and struggled to contain his frustration. It was the same pretty much every day and the days had a tendency to run together, like watercolours on saturated paper. Another cup of rancid instant coffee as stagnant as his life, another plastic spoon, another whinging tosser, the hours passed into days passed into weeks passed into months passed into years, a wasted life, an accidental career. All the other jobs advertised locally were much of a muchness. No, the only way out was redundancy or retirement. Or death. He found it hard to rouse any sense of optimism. Too long in the rut, his spirit had been ground down and eventually crushed, all sense of hope extinguished. They owned him and he knew it.

Lunch: he nipped out to the sandwich shop at the top of the street, bought a nutritionally vapid ham salad sandwich on flaccid white bread. The ham was dry, anaemic, the salad wilted to fuck. Sluiced it down with a can of Tango. He could ill afford to dine this way as he was well in the red and pay-day was still a fortnight off, but he simply couldn’t find the motivation to prepare a packed lunch.

His truncated lunch hour – he had to be back by 13:00, and while some of his colleagues were capable of getting away with pulling epic skives and late sign-ins, he was neither comfortable with nor in a position to do the same – was over all too soon and he returned to his desk, signed back into his terminal and the onslaught, the grind continued. The influx of work – phone calls, emails, paper correspondence – demanding his attention was ceaseless. 5:30 seemed a long way off.

 

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An office, 8:15 this morning

 

An hour later and his bladder was growing taught. He desperately needed to piss, but there was simply no respite. He was also tired, so tired. More cups of gut-rotting instant coffee was the only means available of fending off this terminal fatigue.

5:30 rolled around eventually, he switched off his workstation, clocked off, took a long, long piss that felt like heaven, and left the building. He didn’t have log to wait for a bus home. On arrival, he cracked open a can of beer. It didn’t last long. What to eat? There wasn’t much in. His funds were low and he’d not had the cash or motivation to make the trip to the supermarket at the weekend. A sad, salt-heavy microwave meal for one sat brooding in the back of the cupboard, so he nuked the plastic tray and chowed down the stodgy collation without enthusiasm, washed it down with a second can of lager. It was piss, but it was cold and alcoholic.

He flicked on the TV but there was fuck all on so he fired up the PC and surfed for porn. A quick one off the wrist and then idled away the remainder of the evening on Facebook and a couple more tins. Midnight rolled around and he decided it was time to hit the sack. He needed to sleep: there was work tomorrow.

 

 

The Kindle – and paperback – edition of Postmodern Fragments is available via Amazon in the UK …and in the US.

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at Christophernosnibor.co.uk

Torch-ure – Aflame with Ire and Cynicism as the Olympics Come to Town

It’s fair to say that I’m not really big on sport, either as a participant or a spectator. While I used to be good at cross-country running in school, and do enjoy watching a spot of snooker and test cricket, even keeping an eye on England’s international football matches, other sports I frankly couldn’t care less about (and my running days are well behind me: now, I’m as unlikely to run a marathon as watch one on television). I also happen to find athletics particularly tedious, and as such, have always avoided the Olympics. There aren’t that many people I know who seem all that fussed either. However, bringing the Olympics to Britain – by which of course I mean London – seems to have turned half the nation into rabid fans.

And so it ,was that today, at certain points of the afternoon, half the streets in York were closed while the 8,000-mile national Olympic torch relay traversed the city. The day’s section of the relay concluded at the racecourse, where 20,000 people were expected to attend a (free) ticket-only event. As I made my way through the city centre around 4:30, sections of many streets were lined with metal barriers, with people clinging to them in eager anticipation, sometimes three rows deep. They still had another hour to wait, and as I made my way away from the city centre toward my home, the experience was akin to swimming against the tide as people flooded in the opposite direction from the one I was walking in.

 

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A crowd of rabid Olympics fans clamour round a torch-bearer, somewhere in Britain recently

A friend of mine, who I’d chatted with on the bus into town, had looked slightly surprised by my lack of enthusiasm for the event. He was heading for the racecourse. He pointed out that it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the Olympic torch in his home city. On disembarking, we headed in opposite directions and I began to wonder, as I passed the TV and radio outside broadcast vans, the police cones, the police constables, the stewards and and PCSO and the gathering crowds, if by heading home and shunning the whole event I wasn’t perhaps missing out. Perhaps it wasn’t that they were all pathetic sheep, but genuinely enthusiastic and interested in the symbolism of the torch, the idea of a community and a nation united by sport. What if they were right, and I was wrong?

 

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Another crowd of hardcore torch fanatics brave inclement conditions to flap flags in Durham

I arrived home and didn’t turn on the television, didn’t immediately flick to Sky News, BBC News or the BBC website for the streaming live torch action and scrolling real-time blog commentary, and didn’t immediately sign into Facebook. I didn’t need to: Mrs N’s Facebook feed was already beginning to fill with images of crowds taken from various angles, and reaffirmed my original belief. I had been right all along: what this ‘once in a lifetime opportunity to see the Olympic torch’ actually represented was just one of infinite opportunities to mill about and crush in with countless strangers all clamouring for a glimpse of something fleeting and ultimately inconsequential – in this instance, one of 8,000 gas-lit ‘torches’ that make up a seemingly endless build-up to a sporting event that takes place every four years that’s cost billions. And will be happening in London.

As with the jubilee celebrations, the idea that the whole nation is aflame with enthusiasm and national pride and is backing ‘Team GB’ and the Olympic build-up, as portrayed by the media is a myth. There may have been hundreds lining the streets in every town and city to see ‘the’ torch (which didn’t really happen for the Jubilee) and thousands heading to the racecourse for the evening event, but if anyone truly believes it was for any reason other than the chance to duck off work early, to say you were ‘there’ and prove it by posting photos on Facebook, or to appease the panic that they might have been missing out on something, then they’re even dafter than the other painted-faced flag-wearing bozos and I’ll happily eat the torch I’ve got tucked behind the sofa ready to flog on eBay at the weekend…

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‘The’ Olympic torch. Hand-crafted in ancient Greece and made of real Olympian metal. Yours for just £100,000.

 

 

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How Was It For You? Jubilee Reflections or, a Public Party Postmortem

As I begin writing this piece, it’s raining heavily outside. The corner of the living room is damp, and even above the whirr of the dehumidifier and the fan of my laptop, I can hear the rain lashing against the windows, dripping and bouncing off objects in my back yard. It’s the second weekend in June. It’s supposed to be summer. It was pretty much the same last week, too. Not that people were going to let a bit of rain deter them from celebrating, and so in true British spirit, they took to the streets in their thousands, millions, even, to join in the four day long nation-wide party to commemorate the Queen’s diamond jubilee.

The media reporting in the run-up had been immense, and the previews that had initially been trickle earlier in the year had increased in their intensity to reach the level of blanket coverage several days before the monarch began her tour of the streets to nod, wave and smile at her loyal and loving subjects. I almost felt a tingle of anticipation, a warmth spreading in my heart: this was going to be a once in a lifetime event, a truly historical occasion. It was a time to reflect and to celebrate not only our monarch, but what it means to be a part of the great British nation. There would be events in every village, town and city across the British Isles and every other corner of the Commonwealth, with street parties and countless other activities organised to show our appreciation and community spirit. The momentum was impossible to sustain, of course, and even had I been the most ardent royalist, I expect I’d have found myself experiencing Jubilee jubilation burnout before the first of four long days of national celebrations. Not being an ardent royalist, I grew weary of the hype a full week and a half before the 4-day bank holiday weekend.

In the event, I stayed in for four days straight and avoided the television and radio as much as possible. And the Internet, for that matter. Ordinarily, I’d have taken to the various social networking channels and unleashed my bile, but, well, frankly, I discovered I had neither the energy nor the motivation. What’s more, I couldn’t see the point.

The media hype had already beaten me, and what’s more, it had already beaten many others – into submission. Over the course of the extended weekend, the news channels devoted considerable airtime to voxpops from talking heads who proclaimed themselves ‘republicans’ but found themselves forced to concede that all the pomp and the orderly conduct of the spectators beamed around the globe did indeed make for a good advertisement for Britain. People who would only have described themselves as monarchists in the same way most people who hold no religious beliefs and who only frequent churches for weddings, funerals and christenings would declare themselves ‘CofE’ were jumping on board and heading to wherever they thought they might find the most thriving, vibrant, flag-waving action, or otherwise participating in events that most strongly reflected their notions of what it means to be British.

When I did go on-line, I found the voices of dissent were strangely quiet, and while a few – notably Charlie Brooker – managed to sustain an acerbic commentary throughout, most of the jubilee detractors simply sounded embittered or as though they were struggling for an angle. And yet there was no shortage of material: the boat flotilla might have been fleetingly interesting (pun intended) if you were present, but a slow-moving procession of floating vessels, however ancient sand spectacularly historical, drifting at a crawl down a murky sewage-saturated river in a prolonged downpour is not good television and unlikely to instil a sense of joyous pride on the small screen. In case people hadn’t noticed, we’re no longer in the 1950s: we’re not rebuilding our lives and our country in the wake of the war and no longer clamour round the one 4” black and white television in the street.

Rowing boats begin to gather on the River Thames, London, during the Diamond Jubilee river pageant

Boats. Lots of boats. Whoopee.

Sixty years is a long time. Consider this: postmodernism hadn’t even been conceived at the coronation. Popular culture, youth culture, capitalism as we know it didn’t exist. The Beatles didn’t form until 1960. Elvis Presley didn’t release his first single until 1954. The coronation took place in a different world. So too did the silver jubilee in 1977. The breaking of punk in the UK was not – contrary to so much recent retrospective coverage – I repeat, not, precipitated by the jubilee. Opportunistic pub rockers with manufactured sneers, operating under Malcolm McLaren’s guidance, were nothing more than puppets who happened to make a swell-timed appearance. If punk captured the zeitgeist of the mid-late 70s, and the monarchy found themselves the targets of so much vitriol, it was still only a part of a more widespread dissatisfaction with what we now hear referred to as a ‘broken society’. Times change, but some things don’t change. The question is, if there was an undercurrent of dissatisfaction that expressed itself in the blank nihilism of ‘no future’ back in 77, why was there so little sense of uprising or protest 35 years on? Is everybody really happy nowadays? Yeah right. And yet the thousands who had turned out remained rooted to the banks of the Thames, waving their flags like they’d never known fun like it.

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Thousands of no-life crets, waving flags like they were really excited just because everyone else was doing it

I blame social networking, the media. I particularly blame Facebook. It seems to me that much Facebook activity is devoted to showing your ‘friends’ how much fun you have: how often you get out, how active and vibrant your social life is, how incredibly popular, vivacious and happy you are, how fucking brilliant your life is. If you’re not in this photo, you weren’t there, and if you weren’t there, you missed out on the event of the century that people will be talking about for years to come.

There is, of course, another major consideration. While the news media and social networking sites may have portrayed so much rejoining and unity and a nation united under a flag, the simple truth is that most of the activity took place in key areas in central London and was attended by the kind of bozos who’s turn up for the opening of an envelope if they thought they might be missing out. The world at large may not know this, but London does not represent Britain, or even England, and a few thousand people do not represent the entire population. As such, the streets of London may have been as packed as they were precipitous, but that doesn’t mean ‘the nation’ was celebrating. And why they hell would they be? Is anyone under 75 really going to believe Grace Jones and Jessie J represent the best of British music from the last 60 years? What’s more, the waxwork Macca’s decision to perform ‘Obla-di-bla-da’ was little short of senile. I’m no fan of The Beatles by any stretch, but do strongly appreciate their importance in terms of music history, their enormous influence, and their undeniable status as the biggest band of all time. So with this, the enormity of their catalogue and the wealth of definitive, ‘iconic’ pop gems it contains in mind… why?

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Gary Barlow and Cheryl Cole: who gives a fuck?

Obviously, having Kylie represent the Commonwealth is all well and good, but were the Australians out in the same kind of force waving flags with the same kind of zeal? Of course not,and the point is, neither were most people in Britain. And there’s the problem: Britain – by which I really mean England – is so London-centric that it’s broadly perceived that London actually represent the country as a whole. So, when events in London are beamed out around the globe as representing ‘Britain’, it’s generally taken as fact. Riots in London equate to the country ablaze and falling to anarchy. The Olympics in London translates as excitement the length and breadth of the country (and why not, when the Olympic torch is on a preliminary lap of honour?). A bunch of people waving flags in London equals a nation united in their support for their long-serving Queen. Take it from me, it doesn’t. Some people in one place in one city does not represent the nation as a whole. Don’t get me wrong, if it’s good PR on the international stage, then fair play, but for overseas viewers / readers, please understand that this is not a true picture of life in Britain.

Indeed, so much of the coverage I did see (and I missed Fearne Cotton’s controversial ‘sick bag’ segment. The contention that this was ‘inane’ and ‘disrespectful seems to have missed the point that the ‘sick bags’ were big news – about 3 months before the jubilee, and if the BBC is to adhere to its remit of ‘unbiased’ reporting, then it should present something other than pro-monarchy propaganda, and besides, watching people in the rain waving flags is fucking boring and anything that provided a distraction was a good thing) seemed to focus on how the celebrations brought the nation closer.

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Fearne Cotton and Paloma Faith discuss what the jubilee means to people who aren’t royalist sycophants

There might have been a lot of positive noise to this effect, but I very much doubt this corresponds with the experience of the average citizen. There was no party in my street, or any of the streets in my vicinity, to the best of my knowledge. The Polish couple across the road had a blazing row in the street on the bank holiday Monday. Some curtains twitched. People went about their business, or otherwise used the extra days off work to go and visit family. Had it not been slinging it down, and had it not been northern England, a tumbleweed would have probably passed down the street. It was like four Sundays in succession, and I would have dug out Morrissey’s ‘Every day is Like Sunday’ if hadn’t been in such an all-consuming torpor. So, come Wednesday, I got on my usual bus to work at the usual time, surrounded by the usual faces I never make any kind of contact with, buried my face in my book while they immersed themselves in their books, Kindles, editions of the Metro or whatever shit they’ve got going on their Smart Phones and in short, nothing had changed.

I’m not ungrateful for the extra time off work, of course, but ultimately, the whole jubilee seems to have been a huge non-event for the majority. It’s extremely difficult to muster any enthusiasm, or ire for that matter, for something that doesn’t touch my own life in any way, and while the jubilee celebrations were frivolous, exclusive – despite supposedly being all-inclusive- the monarchy simply don’t impinge on my day-to-day existence nearly as much as, well, so many other things. The power they wield is limited in real terms, and while I may be paying for them through my taxes, it’s infinitesimal in comparison to the sums being sapped from my income by the politicians, bankers and the Eurozone. Besides, I’ve bills to pay, I have to sustain myself and my family by putting food on the table. This is the reality for the everyman. Keeping things going in the everyday is as much as anyone has the energy for. Railing against something a world away and for the most part irrelevant simply doesn’t justify the squanderance of vital time, of vital energy, or essential breath. So fuck the jubilee and the petty bickering between the few who haven’t anything better to do. And fuck the Olympics, Euro 2012 and frankly, fuck it all. Back to life, back to work, back to the things that matter and back to merely surviving.

 

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On Promotion, or This Blog is Fucking Stupid

Christopher Nosnibor interviews Christopher Nosnibor about his latest novel, This Book is Fucking Stupid.

CN: So, another book out. How many’s that now?

CN: This is number six, although two are collections of short stories, there’s one novella and a collection of essays and miscellaneous prose works. This is only my second novel proper.

CN: You’ve also published a number of pamphlets and things too, haven’t you? You wrote over 400 music reviews last year, conducted a number of interviews, and still found time to produce several short stories. How do you maintain that kind of work rate?

CN: Yes, there are half a dozen pamphlets with my name on them. I just sit down, shut up and type. I’ve never lacked ideas. So for me, it’s not about ideas, it’s about discipline. Basically, I organise myself to produce something on a daily basis. It’s less about the creative process and more about the production, I suppose. I really am a writing machine, as advertised. It’s no mystery. I have a full-time job, too, but when I get home, rather than piss about and toss off to the telly, I knuckle down to some serious work. Hardly enigmatic or mysterious, I know, but that’s how it is. And if I need a break, I just set the clones to work in my absence. No-one ever seems to notice.

CN: Tell me about the clones.

CN: Like many people, I often wish I could be in more than one place at any give time, had more hours in the day, could do several things simultaneously. It’s one of the less overt themes in From Destinations Set. Cloning myself a little over a year ago eased the burden a little.

CN: The title of your latest novel, This Book is Fucking Stupid seems like a complete non-starter in commercial terms. Why did you pick suck a self-defeating title?

CN: There’s a certain valour in consigning oneself to failure, and a degree of glory in crashing and burning in a most spectacular fashion. But it has to be truly spectacular. Limping along and failing half-heatedly is the most pathetic of things to see. People are so competitive, it’s a cultural trait. I’ve seen shows on television – not that I’m big on watching television – where the parents in American families tell their children ‘there are two kinds of people: winners and losers, and no child of mine is going to be a loser’, and that kind of mentality really riles me. It’s not a uniquely American thing, though. My idea of rebellion is to devise strategies against this perpetual one-upmanship, which is also a key theme of the story that’s submerged within the book. So rather than make any attempt to compete on the same grounds as everyone else, I set my own objective, namely, if I can’t be the best, I want to be the absolute worst, and truly spectacular at it. With a title like This Book is Fucking Stupid, I’m giving myself a head start toward achieving the kind of commercial failure most losers could only dream of.

CN: You make it sound like you want to be the Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards of the literary world…

CN: To an extent, that’s exactly it. He wasn’t an athlete and never had any expectations beyond calamitous failure, yet he’s better known than most gold-medal winners, simply by virtue of being the absolute worst. So This Book is a double-bluff. The difference between me and Eddie is that while he couldn’t ski for toffee, I actually can write. I mean I’m a technically competent writer, I have a degree in English and the job I do to pay the bills is writing-based. The stuff I’ve produced like THE PLAGIARIST and This Book are written the way they are through choice, but a lot of people don’t seem to get that. I had a story rejected by a magazine not so long ago because they had issues with the way the tenses switched, completely missing the point that the (unreliable) narrator was wrestling with reflections of the past in the present. I’ve always maintained that a writer should learn the rules before breaking them. I know the rules and have produced work that follows them to the letter. In actual fact, the stuff I’ve done that I can’t get published or otherwise gets slated is the most technically correct, but because I’m using the rules against themselves, people just assume I’m clueless. This Book sidesteps all of that by shooting myself in the foot – repeatedly – before even leaving the house.

CN: You say that This Book is a double-bluff…

CN: Absolutely. And it’s working. By pitching it as the worst book ever – which I should point out is certainly isn’t, and despite what’s been said abut it by myself and various reviewers, it’s infinitely better on both a technical and conceptual level than the bulk of recent bestsellers – it’s almost guaranteed to arouse interest. People want to see the worst, or what they’ve heard is the worst – almost as much as they want to see the best. It’s a strategy that seems to be working, too. Only a month after publication, it’s already outsold its predecessor, From Destinations Set.

CN: The hype – in lieu of a more accurate word – seems to have been building for a while, and all seems to have been perpetuated by yourself. Was this an integral part of the strategy too?

CN: When I began promoting This Book is Fucking Stupid, the book didn’t exist, in that it was still very much a concept, and even as I began to post excerpts in my blog, it still didn’t exist as a book because it was far from complete. There was of course something appropriately and inherently stupid in the notion of promoting a book that didn’t exist, although this strategy meant that I had a real incentive to complete the work and get it out into the public domain to save face (the irony being that the finished work would be an act of commercial suicide that probably wouldn’t actually sell even when it did come into circulation. And so the layers of irony continued to build. And so eventually, This Book was published and the promotional machine at Clinicality kicked into overdrive and I went even more overboard in my labours of self-promotion. But being an ebook, we were still promoting a book that effectively didn’t exist, and in material terms, that’s still the case now.

CN: You posted a number of blogs explaining the writing process and the book’s function, and those blogs have in turn been incorporated within the text itself. Do you think you have a tendency to over-explain your work?

CN: Most definitely. I’ve written a fair few pieces explaining my works, probably in significantly more detail than most readers want, let alone need. I have an educational background in English Literature and it’s become second nature to examine text from a theoretical perspective, and my own texts are no exception. Besides, a lot of theoretical work informs my writing, but I’m aware that this isn’t generally all that apparent. Since no-one else is likely to analyse my output, there’s a sort of logic in doing it myself.

CN: Doesn’t that seem rather like a punk band sticking in a jazz number in the middle of a set just to prove they can play? It’s almost as if you feel the need to justify or defend your writing…

CN: I like that analogy, and maybe I do feel that need. Is it a lack of confidence? I dunno. Sometimes, perhaps. I think it’s important to differentiate between writing that intentionally transgresses the established boundaries of literature and writing that’s just plain bad, and it pains me when I’m accused of being a ‘bad’ writer when there are technical elements that are integral to what I’m doing that people miss. Take, for example, a story I wrote a while ago that was, essentially, about the way memory distorts time, and how a recollection of a past event, when experienced in the present, shifts the temporal position of that past event in some way. I tried it round a few on-line journals and zines and no-one would take it. One editor sent me a fairly lengthy email explaining the problems he had with it, the biggest being the way the tenses switched. It left me feeling frustrated because he’d completely missed the point. He’d also assumed that I simply didn’t ‘get’ tenses, rather than purposefully fucked about with them to achieve a specific effect.

I appreciate that some readers will find my technical focus and self-explication irritating, and in some ways, that’s one of my objectives. So I decided with This Book that I’d make the whole theory / practice thing not only explicit, but the subject of the text – or one of the key threads of the text, at least.

CN: Conceptually, it sounds extremely grand, but doesn’t it rail you into something of a dead end?

CN: Yes and no. The scope to expand the book with supplementary material, commentary and straightforward revisions is essentially infinite. That’s the whole point. Because of the nature of the text and the publishing arrangement, new editions can be pushed out as and when. Ten years hence it could run to five or six hundred pages in theory. Plus I’m not averse to new intros and cover art, numbered signed editions, anything else you care to name. Serialisation, a special hypertext edition, audiobook, film, a ‘making of’, anything, everything. By the same token, the point’s already been made simply by virtue of the book’s (virtual) existence, and the book is a dead end as of and in itself. Every book I’ve done to date is a dead end: THE PLAGIARIST was a dead horse long before I started flogging it. Burroughs said he’d taken the cut-ups to their limit by the end of the 1960s: Kenji Siratori effectively produced the same text more than a dozen times in a couple of years, and then I came along ad rehashed the whole thing with some third-hand theory mashed in. I’d dabbled with dual narratives – something already explored by John Giorno in the 60s, 70s and onwards, right into the 90s – again, with my own slant, and by the time I’d finished From Destinations Set I really don’t think there was much scope to take the form further. But at the risk of completely contradicting myself everything I do is concerned with pushing narrative in different directions, I’m not anti-narrative, and I’m not anti-plot, believe it or not. I’m just preoccupied with trying to find new and different ways of writing, and the form and content of my work is invariably intrinsically linked. There will always be new modes of narrative, it’s just a matter of exploring them. I consider that my role as a writer, not because I’m not a story-teller but because I want to render storytelling exciting again, and not in the obvious, conventional ways.

CN: This may seem like a really obvious question but isn’t interviewing yourself completely ridiculous?

CN: It is a really obvious question, and yes, of course it is. Again, that’s the whole point. It comes back to the fundamental premise of the book, that self-reflexivity and self-negation, and the idea that I’d rather provide the academic analysis for my own works – since I’m more than qualified to do so – rather than wait until I’ve been dead twenty years for someone to do it and make a hash of it – or not do it at all. I find it difficult to generate media interest and despite my best efforts, there queue of people waiting to interview me about my latest work never really builds up. And so interviewing myself seems the logical way to go. Plus, I can rely on myself to ask relevant, sensible questions, and if the questions I field aren’t relevant or sensible, I really have only got myself to blame.

CN: The self-interview does feel a little schizophrenic though…

CN: In Anti-Oedipus, Deleuze and Guattari theorise that a schizophrenic mindset is the only same approach to capitalism. I’m inclined to agree. The only way to maintain a thread of sanity is to give oneself to madness.

So the Plan is Now in Place… and it’s Fucking Stupid

So the plan is now in place, and if it seems utterly cranky, then so much the better. While Clinicality Press will be publishing This Book is Fucking Stupid as a paperback later in the year, it will appear first on two different e-publishing platforms. The reasons for this are numerous, and not least of all financial. E-publishing is free and Clinicality have zero funds; any cash raised from the e-book editions will go directly into the production and marketing of the paperback. So far, so savvy. But here’s the rub: each edition will be different. This Book is Fucking Stupid is an incomplete project, and is designed as such, to be revised, expanded and reworked in order to exist beyond the prescribed confines of a ‘published novel’, wrapped up and clipped by the limitations of authorial and editorial constraints.

Bypassing the conventional process of republication by route of the first edition, revised edition, annotated edition, anniversary edition, scholarly edition, restored text, This Book is a continually evolving piece, it’s first e-publication intentionally abridged, with critical passages withheld for inclusion in the second, to be again expanded and subject to further supplements in the form of introductions, prefaces and a comprehensive index in the first print edition, which will also include further insertions that represent the critical and academic reception. These will all necessarily be engineered by the ‘author’, although each revision will represent a diminishment of the original author’s role and input, as his ‘own’ words and the story itself become diluted, accounting for a reducing proportion of the book’s total contents. The purpose of this exercise is to play out the way in which a text (d)evolves and changes complexion with each revision, translation, annotation, commentary. Even simple republications problematise the materiality of the text, with alternative pagination, typefaces, cover art, all contributing to a different reading experience between editions, a situation not resolved but in fact heightened by digital editions such as those designed for the Kindle, whereby the end user determines the format, the font size and thus the reading experience to a certain extent. Consciously or otherwise, readers respond to the physicality of a print edition of a text, ranging from the luxurious yet cumbersome large-format first edition hardback to the pocket-sized budget edition paperback on low-grade paper with the text in a small font, the lines packed tightly together. There’s a sense of the personal in a print edition, also, and it’s undeniable that one tends to feel and respond differently to a pristine first edition and a well-thumbed and rather battered trade paperback. These responses transcend the impositions of value and of commodity, yet these peripheral tangibles definitely colour the way readers engage with a text. Context is another extraneous factor; again, a scarce edition or clandestine publication provokes a different response from a mass-market edition that’s sold in the millions. The idea of a ‘restored’ edition or an ‘expanded’ edition connotes a sense of incompletion or correction, suggesting that previous editions were somehow ‘wrong’, that previous editors or publishers interfered with the writer’s work, either for the same of marketability, for social or political reasons, or simply because they had no respect, an overinflated ego or lacked any sense of competence.

Of course, history is full of revisions and ‘corrections’ – or perhaps more accurately, realignments, reconfigurations and reinterpretations, and this applies to not only literary history. The process of totalization, by which linear narrative and a continuum based on a sequence of events connected by cause and effect, is the very basis of the conception of history. Yet this almost universally accepted narrativisation is complete artifice, and linear sequentiality fails to account for simultaneity and disconnection. Nietszche was right: everything you believe to be true is a lie. To the point, there’s nothing that’s immutable, fixed, and to anchor a belief system on anything is simply an act of misguided (self)deception.  The revised edition, the expanded edition, the annotated edition, these are all examples not of an enhanced reader experience, but of exploitation, and usually created without the author’s consent and, more often than not, following the author’s death. This Book is different. It may still be exploitative, but at least it’s open and honest about the fact, and all of the insertions, amendments, deletions, are made with the author’s knowledge. It also exists to highlight the cynical nature of the conventional process, the life of the book. This Book collapses all of that, trashes it, burns it, razes it to the ground.

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Christopher Nosnibor Banned from Social Network.. for Networking

Back in the MySpace days, when I was refusing to sign up to Facebook before peer pressure and a mass exodus meant I had to move in order to maintain my virtual profile and contact with many of the people who I’d met but who had since migrated, there used to be a running joke about Facebook that centred around the absurd premise of only networking with people you already know.

Having accumulated over 1,300 ‘friends’ (who probably are electric) since setting up my account, it’s probably fairly obvious that I’ve exchanged friend requests with a lot of people I’ve never met, never heard of and know nothing about. I do, however, tend to share a number of mutual friends with these ‘strangers’, more often than not on account of common interests and publishing.

Sometimes, I may not be actively seeking friends to add, but will fire off the odd friend request because, well, because Facebook tells me to. Granted, I’m entirely responsible for my own actions, but the feature whereby Facebook suggests friends is undeniably a less than subtle form of suggestion. Now, I’ll concede that it does list these suggestions under ‘people you may know’, but when you’ve got a significant number of mutual friends who move in the same circles, then you’re into ‘friend of a friend’ territory in a rapidly diminishing virtual world.

Still, to cut a short story shorter, it would seem that one of my requestees decided they didn’t know me and didn’t want to and told Facebook as much. Consequently, I received a notice informing me I was banned from sending any friend requests for a week, and furthermore, I was required to revisit the terms and conditions and tick a box on a declaration stating that I wouldn’t send friend requests to anyone I didn’t know, ever again. I was given the option to cancel all of my outstanding friend requests, or just those sent to users with whom I have ‘few’ friends in common, which was generous, but note the use of the word ‘few’ – not ‘no’. What qualifies as ‘few’? it’s all relative, surely. If a person only has 10 friends and five are mutual, it’s relatively many, but few in real terms. I know, I’m intentionally missing the point to an extent.

Moreover, it’s not that I don’t appreciate the irritation and antagonism serial spammers cause, or the threat to personal security the scamming spammers represent, but I nevertheless find this suspension approach absurd, because it’s not hard to distinguish between a human who’s a heavy user and a spambot.

Can you imagine the same scenario playing out in the real world: for example, delegates milling around at a conference not speaking to one another or introducing themselves to others? Shuffling up to the buffet and not speaking to someone because they don’t already know one another is hardly networking, is it? Or imagine a freshers’ week at university where no-one strikes up a conversation with someone just because they look interesting or they’re wearing a particular band T-shirt or whatever, because they don’t share an arbitrary number of common friends already. It’s unfeasible, and life simply isn’t like that. Social networking isn’t like inviting random strangers into your house just because they knock at your door: the clue’s in the name.

So is this an indicator that despite what Facebook claims to be, and despite the fact we’re supposedly living in a shrinking world with a wider society, what we’re actually doing is growing more insular, more fearful of ‘strangers’ and spending our time indoors not meeting new people, preferring instead to only associate in virtual life with people we know in real life? This would also suggest that social networking is, in fact, the precise opposite of what its name implies, and it would be more accurate to describe it as anti-social not-networking. Staying may well be the new going out, but forgive me for wanting to get out more while I’m staying in.

 

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Farcebook: absurd ‘guidelines’

 

And if you’re loving my work, This Books is Fucking Stupid is published on April 1st.