Skip to content

I wrote about lunchboxes for VICE

Bury me in a click and lock tupperware.

Lay me out in a sandwich bag and may flights of lunchboxes guide me to my rest. Because if, as Freud suggests, handbags, purses and lunchboxes are a simulacrum of our vaginas, then I have spent my life knee deep in the square little plastic cunts. I love them.

And yet, nobody knows more keenly the hot, fumbled shame of revealing your box to a room of critical glances. The snide comments about your cold curry, the shocked stares at your lip-staining beetroot salad, the jokes at the expense of your fragrant cheese and brinjal pickle sandwiches.

A lunchbox is a missive from your home; a moulded plastic glimpse into how you cook, eat and live. It is probably the most personal piece of paraphernalia in your bag – far more exposing than the odd condom or nest of tampons. Because your lunchbox tells the world what your kitchen smells like, what you spend your money on, what was at the back of the fridge, what you slip down your gullet and whether you can cook.

Which is precisely why we need to break this bullshit lunchbox shaming loop immediately. To spend £4.99 on a freezing, mayonnaise-glutted sandwich, for fear of other people’s mockery, is not to each lunch. It is expensive, unhealthy, ecologically unsound and almost entirely unnecessary. According to three major WRAP studies in 2013, the UK last year wasted 12 million tonnes of food, 75% of which could have been avoided. If we just cut each other some slack about our approach to sloppy seconds then we could all eat better, cheaper and with less waste. We could feast on leftovers, make our own sandwiches, toss our own grains and pack our own veg pots, for a third of the price and in less time than it takes to buy a strip-lit meal deal. (Continued)

The Guardian: How to make a dress

Last weekend, while I was at the Independent-only Latitude festival, The Guardian’s lovely Do Something supplement came out, with this guide, by me, on how to make a dress. I hate to think how many dresses, t-shirts, jumpsuits, shorts, skirts, shirts and tops I’ve made over the years. Certainly hundreds….

When you grow up in a small town with a long body, short temper and no money, it doesn’t take long for you to start making your own clothes. One of the easiest, most summery things you can make is a basic T-shirt dress. In its simplest form all you need are four panels, a reel of thread, and a needle to sew her by.

Once you’ve got the basics, the dress world is your oyster. Yours to decorate with collars, darts, zips, slits, scoop necks, long sleeves, buttons, bells and whistles. So good luck and happy sewing. And don’t worry if you frock it up.

(Continued)

Tragic Misadventures

A few weeks ago the lovely Kit Lovelace twinned up with those folks at Stand Up Tragedy to bring the good people of Camden a tragic night of romance-themed comedy. Here’s what I said. (Some names, for once, have been changed)

My first taste of heartbreak came, like my first taste of toxoplasmosis, while surrounded by sheep nuts.

I cannot begin to tell you how much this story acts as a template for every heart break I’ve ever shuddered through. But here goes. I was four years old, at Cotswold Wildlife Park – a place that prides itself on its menu of £7.90 chicken nugget and chips – with my best friend CT and the love of my young life, HS.

HS, it turns out, was the grandson of Steven Spender. The man who wrote

Ah, like a comet through flame she moves entranced
Wrapt in her music no bird song, no, nor bough
Breaking with honey buds, shall ever equal.

Well, I can tell you, that poem was not written about my entranced movement through the boughs and birdsong of Cotsworld Wildlife Park. Even though I was, apparently, wearing my favourite striped cotton dungarees at the time. Because, on that day, I had the burning comet of searing betrayal fired through my heart. (Continued)

Interviewing Jackie Kay for The Guardian

I’ve got a double page spread in G2 today. Whoopee! Pages 16-17, including a lovely photo of Milton Keynes looking green and luscious. Here’s the online version and here, below, is the unedited version…

If all of human existence can be found between the lines of a poem, what happens if that poem is scrawled out in pink sand across the floor of a shopping centre? If those words are left unguarded, to be kicked and scuffed by people wandering into Costa Coffee or through the racks of New Look?

If You Want Wonderful Words is a new project, brought to IF: Milton Keynes International Festival by The Poetry Society, the centre: mk, robot-making artist Gijs van Bon and the poet Jackie Kay. Kay’s 60-word stanza will be poured out onto the floor, in teaspoons of sand, by van Bon’s robot as it snakes along the travertine marble floor of the Centre MK shopping centre later this month. The robot – a plough-like collection of wheelbarrow parts, pram wheels, a lamp stand and a laptop – premiered at the Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven and is based on a CNC (Computer Numerical Control) milling machine.

“We think of poems in hallowed places,” says Kay, as we stand in the atrium of this giant commercial cathedral. “But this is the opposite of a hallowed place”. It is the place, in fact where Kay met her birth mother for the second ever time, outside Boots, over twenty years ago. Both women had turned up with orchids, a co-incidence of gifts, while Kay’s birth mother presented her new grandson with a giant stuffed panda; a toy that stood taller than the boy himself. (Continued)

LTOTBH: A Right Royal Romance

Last night I took part in Josie Long’s lovely Lost Treasures of the Black Heart comedy club, to venerate lost treasures and hidden gems. If you couldn’t make it, or were too transfixed by my interesting “slutty dental nurse on holiday” home made suit, then here’s (roughly) what I said…

Empress Mathilda, or Queen Mathilda: Nature of a Sista, (little Queen Latifah joke for you there) as I like to call her, was the claimant to the English throne during a period of the civil war known as the Anarchy. I didn’t even know we had a period of history called The Anarchy. The only anarchist I’ve ever really met was a guy spraypainting the Circle A onto a BT sub unit next to a wholefood shop in Oxford. Which, as you can imagine, had the establishment quivering on their knees.

Anyway, talking of Oxford, Mathilda is of particular interest to me because she was once imprisoned in Oxford Castle, before escaping up the River Isis under snow-flecked darkness. I, similarly, was imprisoned for four years in Isis Middle School in Oxford, where I was forced to look like a chubby female Meatloaf impersonator in ill-fitting dungarees and spherical skate shoes, while being spectacularly bad at kissing anyone who didn’t have a mouth the shape of a toblerone and once had to go up in front of my entire school to collect a certificate of achievement made out to someone called Neil. (Continued)

VICE: A Love Letter to British Service Stations

This is probably the greatest commission I’ve ever had. You can read it online here, on the brilliant MUNCHIES.

Or you can read the unedited version below. Photos (and driving) by Martin Declan Kelly:

If I were to be banished to a desert island with just one book it would be, without doubt, the guest book of the Gordano service station restaurant off the  M5. You can keep Shakespeare, take Wordsworth and shove Kipling up your arse. There is nothing that will make feel more firmly planted on the soil of my self, than reading through the compliments, recommendations and observations about the ruched curtains, held between the covers of that wonderful tome. (Continued)

Rubbish Collection for The Guardian

Here’s my latest commission for those wonderful people at Guardian Art and Design. You can read it online here with lots of lovely pictures, or see my unedited version below.

I got some rather strange looks as I rifled through the bins outside the Natural History museum yesterday. But it was worth it. Alongside a printout of Carla Bruni’s face, three banana skins and enough coffee cups to make Nero blush, I found a rather interesting document about the net worth of beef on the livestock market.

The problem, of course, was that I was I’d picked the wrong gallery. Just a few doors down, the British artist Joshua Sofaer is creating an artwork, Rubbish Collection, in which the public will sort through, photograph and archive every single item of rubbish produced by the Science Museum over 30 days. Eight and a half tonnes of paper and cardboard, litres of cooking oil from the kitchen, old exhibition displays, bottles, crisp packets, plastic forks and yes, even sewage. It’s part of the museum’s ongoing Climate Changing programme, which uses art and artworks to explore subjects of environmental and ecological importance. (Continued)

I wrote about food-shaming for VICE

VICE’s new food channel, Munchies, is really, really good. You should read it.

Anyway, this is a piece they commissioned all about food-shaming, in which I describe myself as having an ‘arsenal of snacks’.

If you think that what you put in your mouth is your business, think again.

You cannot ingest a morsel these days without someone, somewhere, having an opinion on it. An opinion they feel the need to share with millions of other internet users. An opinion they’ll illustrate with a nefariously taken photograph and an unsubstantiated comment. And it’s all your fault.

Firstly, you started to live your life as a public broadcast. You document, caption, photograph, and annotate your every animal experience: food, feelings, family, the lot. Secondly, you allowed technology to come between you and the rest of human existence. You placed your phone, feed, and 3G connection between everything you hold dear and everyone you’ve never met.

As a result, you allowed invasive, cynical accounts like YouDidNotEatThat to exist. By following them, contributing to them, and, ultimately, submitting to them, you have allowed a culture of food-shaming blogs to spore up like mold on a peach. (Continued)

Goppeldangers: Mona Lisa

I don’t know what took me so long either.

Comment Is Free: Early nights are social suicide

I wrote about loving an early night for The Guardian. I don’t think my mother has ever been more proud…

In your twenties, it’s more acceptable to leave a party because you want to eat a kebab and kick in someone’s bike, than because you want to go to bed. In fact, it’s better to be leaving a party to steal your neighbour’s Amazon deliveries and take cheap speed, than to be going to bed.

Because going to bed early is our last great social taboo. I should know. I do it all the time. (Continued)