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I wrote about RyanAir paella for VICE

They’re really nice about me in the comments. And they all seem to think I’m a man. So that’s cool. You can read it online here or the unedited version below…

Imagine if your last meal on earth was Ryan Air paella.

A lukewarm Ryan Air paella, served up in black, microwave-softened plastic tub, accompanied by an ice-cold €2 Robinson’s Fruit Shoot, with Chupa Chups lollies for pudding.

I once, while flying to the gloriously Carry On airport of Knock (an airport that, at the time, was just a bog-hugging hangar with nothing but a shrine, a pub, and a canteen selling curry and chips) was confronted by just such a menu. I was surrounded by seventeen frantically-praying nuns, two farmers who looked like they’d been stuffed into their tweed suits using a hay baler and an in-flight attendant who I swear was wearing fake teeth. I didn’t buy the paella. (Continued)

Goppeldangers: Billie Holiday

I wrote about holiday photos for the British Journal of Photography

You can read the edited version on the FLTR app here. It’s such a nice magazine. You really should. Otherwise, the unedited version is below:

Travel turns a camera into a photocopier; endlessly churning out the same old familiar scenes, again and again. And again.

Anyone who’s had to stand on the edge of a gorse-scattered gorge in the South of France while some hapless onlooker juggles six iPhones, taking click after click of identical snaps on each and every person’s device, knows travel shots are nothing if not predictable.

You can take put a girdle around the earth and fly us to the moon and back, but all we really want to do is get the same shots we’ve seen a thousand times on the Facebook walls, travel blogs and 30p postcards that scatter through our lives.

So come with me and we’ll be in a world of pure lack of imagination; a whirlwind worldwide tour of every holiday photo you’ll ever take:

A bike over a canal, in Amsterdam (Continued)

I did a lot of this at the weekend

(Continued)

I wrote about my face for the British Journal of Photography

The British Journal of Photography have launched a really brilliant new magazine app called FLTR. You can learn more about it here. Anyway, they commissioned me to write about self-portraiture – hurrah! You can read it online here, or the unedited first draft below:

Andy Warhol had polaroids; I have an iPhone 4.

It may be crossed across the back with parcel tape from where I dropped it in the road, it may routinely run out of storage space half way through a shoot and it may contain more podcasts that actual photographs, but this phone is more than just a hunk o’ junk piece of photography equipment; it is a portal into a plurality of personas. It’s how I turn my face from fluffy egg-shaped, beak-nosed burden, into a glorious sliver of the silver screen. It is how I transcend my gender, genes and generation to become glorious.

Allow me to explain: I have a blog called Goppeldangers, for which, using just the objects found around my flat, a budget of £3 and a shoot time of 20 minutes at the most, I recreate famous or iconic portraits. It’s been going since Febraury 2012 and has, to my utter surprise, garnered attention from commenters, magazines, curators and advertising agencies from South Korea to New Zealand, South African to China, The Daily Mail to the feminist blog Vagenda. My face has become my forte. I am a legend in my living room. Or, you know, I’ve managed to cobble together a fairly successful photography blog out of an old mop, a bag of oranges, some bin bags and the clone tool. (Continued)

Lost Treasures of the Black Heart: Mary Toft

Last night I took part in Josie’s Long’s lovely Lost Treasures of the Black Heart comedy club. You can listen to my shitty iPhone recording HERE or, it will come out as a podcast some time in late 2017 I imagine. I love LTOTBH. It’s the nicest crowd, nicest club and nicest buffet in the whole country. And I love Josie Long, too.

For those of you too distracted by my ridiculous skin-tight, shiny curtain jumpsuit to listen, here’s – approximately – what I read….

If I say the words “Mary Toft”, I imagine it will ring about as hollow with most of you as my own, furless womb.

But, if I say the words “Mary Toft” in a thick enough Scouse accent it might just pass for “hairy tuft” which is sort of pertinent. Because Mary Toft is the 18th Century vaginal japester and party game hero who allegedly shoved a litter of dead rabbits up her vagina in order to perform an unlikely and, probably uncalled for, human impersonation of a pink wrinkled cat coughing up furballs.

Let me take you back. Back to those heady days of 1720. Jolly King George was on the throne. By which I mean an actual throne. And a poorly-educated farm worker called Mary Toft was, according to reports from the time, giving birth to “something resembling a liverless cat.”

Now. My granddad was a vet. I can tell you the sex of a hamster using nothing but seventeen seconds and a fairly powerful hairdryer. I got elbow deep into a cow before I’d ever even been fingered. I once excreted the anal glands of a friend’s dog before dinner. I know a thing or two about animals and their organs. But how exactly do you spot if a cat has a liver? I mean, seriously. Short of taking it on a pub crawl around the Wetherspoons of Neasden and seeing how it fares the next day – you’re kind of groping in the metaphorical dark, right?

Anyway, Mary presented this bundle of amniotic-soaked hair, flesh and fur to a local obstetrician called John Howard. And thank god she did. Because the next day old Tombola-vag Mary started to pop out more animals parts. And I mean, a mixed grill of animal parts: a rabbit’s head, the legs of a cat, and, in a single day, nine dead baby rabbits. That is the best game of Sylvanian Families I have ever seen. It’s the Animals of Farthing Wood directed by David Cronenberg. It’s Watership Down, with added labia. (Continued)

I learned how to make coffee… and it got rude

Those glorious people at Munchies sent me off to learn how to be a barista last week. You can read all about it here. Or see the unedited version, below…

I drink so much coffee I gave myself anaemia.

That’s right – over the last ten years I drank enough of the sloe black, slow, black, crow black, foaming black bobbing sea to give myself a genuine blood condition. And it was entirely worth it. Because coffee is engine oil of greatness and it makes us feel like Vikings.

According to the British Coffee Association, 70 millions cups of the black stuff are slurped down every day in the UK. But I imagine at least 50% of those taste like the dirty wet end of a hoover bag: burnt beans, stale grinds, too much milk and all served at just the right temperature to simulate phlegm.

Which is why companies like Harris + Hoole are grabbing the great british coffee drinking public by the beans and teaching us a thing or two about how to make a decent jug of java.

I spent the day at the Harris + Hoole training centre, tucked behind the cranes and warehouses of South East London, to learn – among other things – how to ‘cup’, to sniff, to slurp and how to make a dick out of milk foam.

Now, obviously, good coffee is worth a bit of effort. But it’s hard, when you’re staring into the face of a grown man – the kind of man wearing a watch that costs as much as your entire bedroom, as he explains, in total seriousness – his 11-step programme to the perfect latte. When he tells you that every member of staff undergoes a four day intensive training programme. As he proudly compares timings from the “Hoole-ympics” and UK Barista championships and talks gravenly about how many substandard cups of coffee get swooshed down to the Hades of London’s sewers in the pursuit of his holy grail. (Continued)

I wrote about my wedding phobia for The Guardian

Oh ’tis the season to be terrified. You can read the edited version online here.

Or the unedited version, with a slightly more Larkinesque final line below:

I feel about weddings the way cats feel about log flumes; the way babies feel about bathwater; the way cows feel about white wellies and sloping floors. It’s not horror, or dislike, political discomfort or cynical detachment; it’s fear. Pure, unbridled, bride-addled fear.

And I’m far from alone. To quote Richard Pryor – a man who enjoyed weddings so much he got married seven times to five different women, “Marriage is really tough because you have to deal with feelings … and lawyers.” That’s precisely it; weddings bring together the heinously unlikely bedfellows of sex and state; of vows and discos; of poetry and that boy from your primary school who once set fire to your hair and now appears to be the best man.

Weddings are a compilation of all the things most likely to bring a 29-year-old woman out in a fit of hives; commitment, contracts, estranged family and emotions. God knows how brides don’t simply slide down the aisle on a collective stream of sweat and rescue remedy.

And weddings are everywhere, of course. Particularly in August. According to the Office for National Statistics, the greatest number of marriages take place between men and women aged 25 to 29 (welcome to my admin box), while there was a 5.3% increase in marriages in 2012, to a cool 262,240. That is a lot of bouquet missiles and broken shoe straps.

This fear of weddings has a very particular tang; of champagne and sugared almonds, of fruit cake and forgotten speeches, of toasts and dry-mouthed small talk. It is the fear of formality, the phobia of emotional vulnerability and, inevitably for the single guest, the anxiety of social exclusion. According to an article Roy F Baumeister and Dianne M Tice in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, “Anything that defines the self as useless, incompetent, or inadequate may bring anxiety, for it raises the possibility that the group might reject one as incompetent.” (Continued)

Goppeldangers: Prince

I wrote about piers for VICE

The brilliant MUNCHIES let me splash about in Brighton and call it work. You can read the edited version here.

Or the unedited version, with more photos below:

British piers are a deep fried suburban highstreet, marching blindly into the sea.

They are the crispy battered no man’s land for sperm crossed lovers. They are our national folly; temples of winking, blinking and drinking, decked out in their Sunday best with no purpose but delight. They are the smack of wet fish and the flush of lost youth.

And I love them.

Where, other than at the British seaside, would you find a hairy-armed football fan sitting alone, at a metal garden table, eating wind-chilled fish and chips as seagulls feast on the bones of their avian cousins four feet away? Where else would you find a bowel-loosening, bass-thumping funfair hanging above the swimming filth of the Irish sea? Where else could you walk past a man shadow boxing under a vine of Despicable Me toys? Who else would build a cathedral to gambled pennies across a conga line of barnacle-crusted Eiffel towers?

British piers are the smell of old oil, the tang of piss, the burn of hot fat, the clatter of lost coins, the drip of melting lollies and the texture of wind-whipped salt as it clings across your hair.

Now, I don’t consider a holiday complete until I’ve eaten fish and chips, ice cream and a cream tea. Try doing that in a Tuscan farmhouse and you’re fucked. But step onto the rickety rotting boards of a British pier and you can condense a whole weekend away into one solid hour of turbo eating. I should know. Last Friday I walked out of my computer-humming office, onto a train, and just an hour later was standing in the gathering gloom of a rainstorm, six metres above a churning, slate-coloured sea, eating a bag of candy floss on Brighton pier. (Continued)