Category Archives: Worklife

Apologies From A Man Leaving The Games Industry

I recently performed, or “read out”, a piece I’d written for Reads Like A Seven, at the kind request of One Life Left‘s Ste Curran. What I wrote was a mixture of sincerity, confession and juvenile scatology, and because it’s 2,500 words, I’m not going to blather on here. TL:DR; I shit on my balls in Austria, I’m sorry, and am going to run a pub in Nottingham.

Because this Reads Like A Seven was part of the Stoke Newington Literary Festival, I will be using fancy dividing graphics. And there’s footnotes, because I’m Terry Pratchett now and there’s nothing you can do about it.

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I recently resigned from my role as Associate Editor on the Official Xbox Magazine.

I had no idea what an Associate Editor was, until I was made one. One who associates freely with editors, perhaps. One with access to the editor’s restroom, where one is spritzed with editorial fragrances by a team of beautiful publisher-funded swans, who time their honking to conceal your editorly farts.

It was only when my duties and salary didn’t change, that I realised that Associate Editor, in my case at least, is what happens when your boss thinks that having a forty year old staff writer on the team is beginning to make the whole magazine look tragic1.

I’m leaving the games industry to run a pub in Nottingham, but before I leave, I wanted to get my affairs in order. And the only appropriate way to do that is with a list of apologies.

11970857801243195263Andy_heading_flourish.svg.med ANYONE WHO READ MY PREVIEWS

I’m sorry to anyone who missed my gently coded warnings. When I said “we can’t wait to find out more,” at the end of a passionless regurgitation of a feature list, that was the closest thing I could professionally say to “I don’t even know what this game is”. The first time I heard someone say “we’ve really listened to our community”, I was impressed, and reported keenly on this consumer-orientated and responsive attitude. By the end of my career, all I wanted was one developer to say “we’ve ignored our community, as they are plainly fucking idiots”.

And when I said “this game isn’t going to change the world” in the last paragraph, I meant “I’m sorry I waited this long to try and tell you that this game looks utterly shit”.

I didn’t mean to generate unwarranted hype, and I’m sorry if you feel like your life is burdened with a hype surplus. But from inside my cell,  I was trying to warn you.

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PEOPLE WHO USES VIDEO GAME REVIEWS AS BUYER’S GUIDES

I will apologise, for one last time2, to anyone who bought Spore as a direct result of me scoring it 95.

In my defence, it wasn’t a terrible game. It was good, even. But when magazines score out of 100, the 90 percent zone works like Star Trek’s warp speeds, the exact science of which was refined in The Next Generation. Every percentage point above 91 is an exponential leap, tending to infinity at Warp Factor 10. If PC Gamer ever scored a game 100 per cent, time space and human thought would almost certainly collapse.

In this environment, a score of 95 was scientifically reckless, and I’m sorry for using percentages that I clearly didn’t understand.

11954234341082748434zeimusu_Swash_ornament.svg.med YOU

I’d like to apologise to you, for making an over-long and 27-year-old Star Trek reference. But that’s how I’ve survived these last eight years. Drop one grenade of relatively niche information, then wade through the rubble of assumed competence.

There have been many times when that assumption has slipped.

A time that’s lodged in my brain was at the Codemasters office in Guildford. I was previewing a racing game for a prestigious magazine. It was, I dunno – DiRT or something – and they offered me a go on their sit-down driving machine toy with the wobbly chair. You have never seen an assumption of competence slip so quickly and so far. I shunted, careened, and failed to steer at crucial steering-appropriate moments, such as “corners” and “the entire fucking game”.

In the reflection of the screen, I could see the developers glancing at each other, and I tried to laugh, but the noises I made was shrill and strangled. It was a howl of anguish.

I gave that game a psychotically enthusiastic write-up, knowing that I had lost any right to criticise an entire genre for the rest of my career. Racing games: I am sorry.

swirl-mdTHE NON-STRAIGHT

I’m sorry to every non-straight, non-conforming person who read my writing. I was given a voice, and I’m not sure I used it effectively.

I’m gay, for what it’s worth. I’ve come out so many times now that it’s easy to assume everyone knows. I’ve had the pleasure of watching women’s and gay issues become more discussed in this industry, and I’ve been excited to see transgender topics getting more and more sunlight. The writing of righteous, belittled and angry people has humbled and enlightened me.

But I rarely added my own voice. Even something as pitiful as gendered pronouns felt like a bold political choice. For a while, I basically did what Nintendo did with Tamodachi Life: made gay people – more specifically, a gay person, hello – a little more invisible.

Not in my day to day life, of course: I was out and perfectly happy amongst the open-minded folk of games journalism. But it’s too easy to forget that audience of straight young adults who might have benefited from having to think “Oh. So he’s… OK.” And more importantly, it’s too easy to forget the non-straight children who might have clutched desperately at any reassurance I could have offered.

It’s too easy to forget, with a brain tamed by age, what a fragile wreck I used to be. How at 10 years old, I realised I was thinking too much about the wrong people, and made the conscious, rational decision to hide those feelings until there was something sexy I could do about it. And how the daily ratcheting  tension of pretence, would make me intense, erratic, and frequently hateful.

Video game magazines were a genuine release for me in those years. I formed imaginary relationships with the outline drawings of Julian Rignall and Gary Penn. Before that, I engaged in one-way correspondence with the actually imaginary Lloyd Mangram. I looked up the home of my favourite magazines in our family’s AA Road Atlas.

Ludlow, Shropshire.

The nonsense words were a lullaby to me, a reassuring whisper that there was something else. I will never visit Ludlow, Shropshire, because I suspect it won’t be the crystal city of sexual fantasy that I still really want it to be.

I gave bigotry a rough time, sure, but I never flew any flags. I’ve abused the privilege of passing for straight  too often, and for every struggling child who didn’t get from me what I could have offered, I’m genuinely sorry.

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THAT PR I LAUGHED AT

During a demo of a profoundly average game, a PR who used to be a journalist told me that the game wasn’t going to change the world. Recognising the words from my own previews, I barked a sharp little laugh, and it dawned on me that the generous language of the preview wasn’t something I’d invented. It was something I’d absorbed, that had sunk into me like a vapid ghost. Like the time I noticed 72 was the “out of hundred” equivalent of the famously non-committal “seven out of ten”, calibrated from 70 to seem extra scienctific.

I was pointed to an issue of Sega Power3, where this observation had been made years previously. Only their number was 73. I spent my career playing catch-up with what everyone else knew. I’m sorry that I briefly had the audacity to think I’d done or noticed something original4.

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YOUNG WRITERS

I’m sorry to the young, passionate, and politically alive writers. The young men and women who watched as an absurd bloke throttled the last coins out of his hobby, occupying a position that they could have used for good.

I’ve always tried my hardest to avoid responsibility. That’s not a juvenile humblebrag: Peter Pan isn’t a role model, he’s a smug immortal prick. It’s not cool to be as childish as I am. It keeps you happy, but…

Let me elaborate: some people tell me that they cry at movies when they’re on a plane – that a combination of air pressure, and the idea that they could be being observed in the peripheral vision of a stranger, judged by a man who’s watching Family Guy, just makes them weep uncontrollably.

I have a similar thing, but instead of crying, it’s laughing. And instead of watching movies on a plane, it’s doing a fart in a public toilet. You may have noticed this is the second time I’ve mentioned farting in public toilets in a talk that’s ostensibly about video games. It’s a real go-to, for me.

You can’t really giggle ironically. So farting in public toilets must be really funny, or I wouldn’t be giggling. There’s only one thing funnier. Allow me to elaborate again:

My first trip in the games industry was to Austria, to see the reveal of a European role-playing game called Gothic 3. Something honestly wonderful happened in Austria. You see, Austrian toilets are different. There’s a little dry shelf, presumably to allow for a good medical rummage before your doings get irretreivably slooshed away.

I wasn’t anticipating – nobody could have anticipated – that my body would weave, in that Austrian toilet, a long solid that perched on that shelf, before actually leaving my, for want of a better word, anus.

And so, connected briefly to the porcelain by a bumbilical cord, I thought “what next? Do I stand up and carry on?” A reflex spasm stole that decision from me, and the treacherously snipped cord toppled forward, and found a new resting place, propped against my balls. I shrieked, laughed at my shriek, and spent a full minute muffling my own mouth as joyful tears shot out of my face. Then I waited another full five minutes to be sure that no-one who heard me would see me leave the cubicle.

You’re probably thinking, why is he telling us this story? Well, it’s an apology to my editor at the time, Jamie Sefton, who I put in the position of having to ask me to remove this story from my preview of Gothic 3. Apparently, 300-word shitball asides weren’t “house style” or “relevant”.

The legendary magazine that is PC Zone would go on to close, four years later. I’m not saying that story would have saved it. I’m saying we can never truly know.

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YOU

I’d like to apologise to you again, for that story, which probably killed any memory of any worthy goodwill I may have built up with all that stuff about being gay.

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MYSELF

I’d like to sneak in a quick indulgent apology to 25 year old me. My video games career started with PC Zone in 2006, but my first opportunity to write for that magazine actually came seven years earlier. Thanks to websites I’d written and contributed to, I was invited to send in a sample review, by a man who would go on to become Charlie Brooker.

This was ridiculous. I’d never been paid for my words before. And what descended on me in those following weeks of opportunity was a chill. Not a “reduce speed by 60%” Cone of Cold, but a full paralysing Frost Nova.

The chill of failure by another man’s hand. Oh, I’m happy failing over here, through my own laziness and inertia. But failing after actually trying? Failure that exists outside your own flagellating tumble-drier of a skull? That kind of heroic failure is for a different, highly successful group of people.

I never sent that review.

From what I can tell from the stories I’ve heard since, told by men who look like they’ve lost something wonderful, I missed true glory. I’ve not seen a truly decadent press event5. None of my colleagues have succumbed to drug-driven nudity in a Monte Carlo ballroom6. My Spore review didn’t retrospectively earn me the services of a sex worker. My career has remained entirely free of strip clubs. And yeah, press events in strip clubs are a repulsive sexist symbol of what a reprehensible dick-sodden boys club this industry can be, but… it’s nice to be invited.

This regret mostly explains why I’m here tonight. When I was asked, I felt that same nervous morbid fist of ice clutch at my gut. I’m feeling it now, and I’ll feel it until this talk is over. But at least I’ve eventually learned, through an even greater fear of missing out, to tell that chill to go fuck itself.

If this was a Doctor Who episode, and I was Donna Noble, doing this talk would right that old wrong, and former me would send that review. At the end of this reading I should get catapulted back to my true timeline, where I do join PC Zone in 1999, *I* invent New Games Journalism, and rip apart the atoms of the universe by scoring System Shock 2 103 per cent.

dark-brown-flourish-border-line-mdTHE FUTURE

Well, I’ve made my apologies, and I choose to believe that I’ve secured your forgiveness.

I like to think I’ve learned from my mistakes, and I’ll try to put them all to good use in my new career as a publican.

It’s a real ale pub, so I’ve got to convince my punters I know about ale. That’s easy – I’m an established charlatan, as we’ve seen from that Codemasters fiasco. And I survived for years on the Official Xbox Magazine, and never once spoke my true feelings about Halo7.

All that endless chat about listening to your community:  suddenly I’ve got a real, physical community that I can’t not listen to, because they’re drunk and in my house. I’ve got the chance to set the moderation policy. I can do my best to make that pub a welcoming place for everyone.

I can use my new position of privilege to help other people, instead of occupying their seat. Let them use whatever facilities I can offer. Room, equipment, whatever I can reasonably offer. It might not be profitable, but I didn’t get into games journalism to make money. I’m not an idiot. I got into games journalism to make strangers like me. Now I get to meet those strangers.

I know my pub isn’t going to change the world. But changing the world is more responsibility than a man with an ice fist in his gut could ever handle.

I will, however, look into having Austrian toilets installed. Because I want my customers to enjoy themselves as much as I did, that wonderful day.

I hope one day to hear you shrieking in horrified delight from my cubicles8.

Thank you.


  1. This is unfair to the boss I’m talking about, and I suppose, myself. The role was offered honestly, and taken thankfully. I’m basically conjuring self-deprecation. 

  2. My Spore review has been an ongoing joke between me and a few PC Zone readers for a long time, and I worry that the joke of “owning it” has run its course 

  3. According to a One Life Left listener and letter writer, it was in fact Amiga Power. In this exciting off-shoot apology, I will confess to making a serious mis-step in this period of my life – I bought an Atari ST. I’m still prone to overstating the benefits of in-built MIDI ports. 

  4. Oh, the humility! Give it up, Log, you think you’re great and everyone knows it 

  5. Not true. I spent the best part of a week in Monte Carlo for Capcom’s annual showcase event, Captivate. Weirdly, the only game I remember from that event is Dark Void 

  6. Facts deliberately obscured, and Monte Carlo inserted as a subliminal confession to the lie of the previous sentence 

  7. A cheap shot, for which I’m retrospectively ashamed. Two reasons: first, I was never pressured to say “Halo is great”, so I’m inventing a fake tension that backs up the false perception that OXM is somehow built on lies. It isn’t. Secondly, while I get nothing from the Halo franchise, there are many people far better than me who disagree. Kieron Gillen gave Halo 3 a bleeding 10, for Christ’s sake. 

  8. This is pure esprit d’escalier. I didn’t say that line at the end of the talk. It was more like “I hope to see you there”, or something shit like that. I’d gone wobbly, and wanted off the stage. 

It’s Time The Tale Were Told…

…of how my trousers fell down and I laughed. If you’re thinking “that’s all very well, but’s I very much doubt if it’s something The Guardian would print in their Comments & Debate section” – if that’s what you’re thinking – then I can see your point. But you’d be wrong!

Anyone buying the nation’s most well-meaning newspaper tomorrow (Monday 12th) will get the chance to read exactly such a story, in which my trousers are quite brutally ripped off. It may not be something that the nation needs to read, but it’s got to be better than this, right? Yeah?

Alternately, you could just look at this link, where the new article will appear as soon as it’s up. And my fourth piece, believe it or not, actually expresses an earnest opinion. The last time I did that, I swear I nearly wiped out organised religion.

Synthetic Opinion #0

A few weeks ago, I wrote 700 words for the Guardian. It was a glorious exercise in public self-castration, in which I exposed myself as the ill-informed prickwit that I quite frankly am. Since then, I’ve written a piece about how much I love progress bars, which I hope cemented my reputation as the Comment & Debate section’s moronic fluff correspondant. I’m currently awaiting response from my third piece about “Embarrassment”, which I’ll put up here if it gets rejected.

What’s become obvious, is that I need serious practice at pulling authoritative opinions from my arse. So, if anyone is still reading this blog after my crazy days of neglect, this is my challenge and my promise; I will write a 700-word opinion piece on any subject raised in the comments. And boy-frigging-howdy, I will be plumbing wells of passion you never knew I had. I will be searing. I will be sensational. I will be bereft of useful information. To make it in this game, I reckon I’ve got to churn it out like a cocksure fraud – so I won’t research a fucking thing.

Look at this shit, I wrote this back in 2005. If I can write 1,000 words about putting on a sock, I reckon 700 words about the Palestinian conflict should be piss-play. So go on, you glorious titmice – get commenting and commission me into orbit.

(This blog post was this man’s idea.)

So You Want To Be A Games Journalist

Q. I RECKON I WANT TO BE A GAMES JOURNALIST

A. And who can blame you? Being a Games Journalist is the finest thing the human soul can aspire to, but I’ll warn you right now; demand is so high that you are going to have to “get in the fucking queue”.

The responsibilities are sometimes crushing. Other journalists (lower case – cf “hey, it’s the Roman gods” and “Hi, I’m God”) are constantly asking us what it’s like, and we have to pretend it’s not quite as amazing as it is, just to be polite. Here are just a few letters from lower-case journalists I’ve had to deal with this week.

Hey Log,
I’m going to a party tonight and Julie Burchill told me it was fancy dress. I got excited and told Kate Adie, only to find out that Julie was lying to make me look stupid. Now I’m in a race against time to intercept Kate Adie before she arrives at the party dressed as Go-Go Yubari. Is this important enough for me to use the BBC helicopter?
Yours,
Tony Parsons

Answer: Fuck yes. You literally cannot afford to waste time in Games Journalism. The deadlines are so aggressive and unwavering that it’s like defusing a bomb in a convent. More often than not we are compelled to send in our copy by helicopter or witchcraft.

Shit Log quick man this is urgent,
I’m about to hand in some article about dangerous dogs and I’m not sure I’ve got any of the facts right. Dogs are those things with four knees that bend the same way, right?
Come on man I’m outside the editor’s office as we speak,
Simon Hoggart

Answer: Hey Simon, chill the fuck up. Remember: whatever he says to you, it can’t change the fact the you wrote an article, so kudos to you. If anyone says you’re wrong, simply look them in the face and say “if you know so much about dangerous dogs, elephants, or whatever it is my article is about, where’s your article? Oh I forgot, you don’t have one”

Hey Log,
What’s Poco Loco like on the PSP?
Georgina Littlejohn

Answer: I have no idea what you are talking about. 43% of that wasn’t even words.

Q. CAN YOU NAME ALL THE GAMES JOURNALISTS JUST OFF THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD OR IS IT A SECRET

A. No problem – we Games Journalists aren’t shy. Attempts to feign humility are useless; our excellence is so dazzlingly obvious that pretending to be anything less than amazing is an insult to your intelligence. So let me tell you about my two favourite Games Journalists of like all time.

Jeff Ptarmigan

This is Steve Ptarmigan. Steve isn’t working in the field so much these days; in fact, he ascended bodily into heaven after giving 99% to Lunar Jetman’s graphics.

Jeff was most famous for the picture on the left, which was his visual response to every single game he reviewed. He used this drawing of his face to convey anger, excitement, disappointment and even arousal; in fact, Steve Ptarmigan was the very first person to suggest that good games were sexually arousing. It’s so common to wax orgasmic nowadays, that heart-wrenchingly emotional poetry is the only acceptable method of reviewing a game. (<50% = Heartbreaking Soliloquy, >50% = Randy Limerick). Take this 1998 poem that Bathtime Mahoney wrote in response to the Otacon ending of Metal Gear Solid.

Trapped in Shadow Moses, you got pretty injured.
I bought you twenty roses, I fought a cyborg ninja.
Now just gimme the sweet stuff, Emmerich,
Open up your honey pot, Hal,
Between my legs I can tuck my dick,
I can be your slotless gal 93%

Memorable quotes from my most recent reviews include “My nuts span around so fast that I’m not even joking this time 84%” (Dark Messiah) and “After downing an enemy Luftwaffe, I slid onto my back and use the weight of my legs to hump my own chin 52%” (Wings Over Europe).

Lady Marmalade

Lady Marmalade‘s famous review of Sinistar, in which they hid behind each other and screamed for six minutes, was to kick off a crazy new era in radical feminist Games Journalism. Older readers will remember Christina Aguilera’s spectular Namco petition, when she barnacled herself onto Namco HQ with the suction of her vagina, and whaled on the windows with her fists until they made a Pac-Man she could properly identify with. Similarly, Lil Kim was so taken with the communication system in Captain Blood she has the symbols for “WANT GIVE YOU GENETIC HELP” tattooed on her fibula.

Sadly, Pink and Mya were expelled from Games Journalism, after they were tricked into admitting that they’d never played Gorf. It was a shame, but come on – you’ll be telling me they haven’t memorised both sets of moves for the Chess level in Dragon’s Lair, next. This is BASIC GAMES JOURNALISM.

That is all the Games Journalists I can think of at the minute, but if you spot any more then please do send them in and I’ll update this… well, I suppose it’s an encyclopaedia, really.

Q. ARE THERE ANY RULES OF GAMES JOURNALISM OR CAN I JUST MAKE IT UP AS I GO ALONG OR WHAT

A. Games Journalism is amazingly difficult (most scientists reckon it’s mathematically impossible / miraculous), but everyone agrees that the hardest thing about it is the percentages. Here’s the system I use; in time, you’ll probably make your own up with the numbers in the wrong order or something dumb like that.

< 10% This is really fucking low, so you can only give this score if there’s no graphics. There’s probably no script either, but if there is, it’s probably like “hello it’s aliens is this a superpower yes I’m flying high now that’s for sure”. Actually, that’s a fucking amazing script, which only goes to prove my previous point about how difficult it is for us to pretend not to be brilliant.
11-20% Never give anything 11-20%. If a game scores this low, you should just give it 6%, so you can phone all your journalist mates up and say “I totally just gave this game 6% and I didn’t even play it”. This will earn you a reputation as a tough cookie, especially if the game is excellent. You’ll be like Judge Steinberg, in situations where defence attorneys say “Shit, we got Judge Steinberg, he totally convicts everyone in trials of exactly this kind”.
21-30% This is a kinder score, and more like a sophisticated Wildean insult. It’s like inviting the games developer to a 19th Century party, and when they arrive you say “aha, sir, ’tis one thing to make a sub-par video game, and quite another to have a face like a big scabby dog plop”. It’s around this percentage that games start to have sound.
31-40% This is quite cruel. It’s like taking the developers out to dinner, then saying “perhaps you shouldn’t eat anything, after all you are pretty fat”. Then when they start crying you say “try to do the big heaving sobs, they’re like doing sit ups”. Games scoring 31-40% will feature puzzles which take you to up to three different continents.
41-49% Most people will be happy with a score in this bracket. It’s a begrudging embrace, say, after an argument you started about the Hoovering. But that wasn’t what was bothering you at all – you’re just embarrassed to approach the real problem. The game probably has a couple of driving levels, bullet time, and stuff that flies across the room when you walk into it.
50% No-one can argue with 50%. It’s the fairest score you can give to a game. To suggest otherwise is to imply that a universal truth exists inside your head, and a continuum of quality can by synthesised from human opinion, which is pretty arrogant. I give most games 50% because I’m the only truly humble person in the business.
51-70% This game probably has a bit where you drive a boat between waypoints to impress a mafia Consigliere. Use these scores wisely – throw too many high scores like this around and people will say “if you love games so much why don’t you marry them”, and you’ll have to marry the game, otherwise your Journalistic Integrity will be fucked.
71-99% Not currently used.
100% Games scoring 100% will obviously have cool stuff like cel-shaded tits and a spooky mini-game where have to blow out candles in the right order, but more importantly, it will have to reinvent the way we play games forever. Usually this involves there being no right or wrong way to complete a level, and unprecedented levels of freedom. Watch out for games where you can just run around and no-one says “come over here, we’ve got missions on”.

Once you’ve got the hang of percentages, you’ve got to learn the initials of all games, and the shorthand for the most common percentages. We’re constantly saying things like “Wow, Gamer slapped GRAW with a beefy Turlington”, just to remind everyone else how difficult our job is.

Q. IS THAT IT THEN

A. Yeah, but I’ll sign off with the three things I’ve learned in my nine long months in Games Journalism.

  1. If someone says “I liked that game” and you gave it a bad score, say “well on a superficial level it did have some merits, but it lacked the substance, nuance and finesse that I, a Games Journalist, require”
  2. If someone says that a game you scored highly was rubbish, simply make up some incredile plot twists and groundbreaking set-pieces that might have happened in the game. When they look confused, say “did you not get to that level? It really picked up around then”.
  3. If someone takes issue with something you wrote – perhaps you said a game was real-time strategy, when in fact it was a point-and-click adventure – refer them to your editor. Then put your finger under your nose, claim to be your editor, and tell them to fuck the fuck right off.

I hope you have fun becoming and being a Games Journalist. And remember; if you get asked a riddle in which one person always lies, and the other person always tells the truth, the answer always involves asking one person what the other one would say.

Also with opinions on this matter : Tom Bramwell, John Walker, The Triforce, Bill Harris, Mathew Kumar, Tim Edwards, Richard Cobbett, Kieron Gillen, Stuart Campbell, Affectionate Diary

Midwives : I Have Fucked Everything Up Right Proper

Gather round, scamps and travellers – and hear my tale. Hear about what happens when you allow unapologetic incompetents to flail unchecked in the offices of our land. My own tale begins innocently enough, with a simple lapse in organisation, followed by a profound disinclination to “do anything about it”, in the spirit of “oh God, do I have to, hmph”.

If I was a mechanic, my customers’ bonnets would flip up, tear off, and shear through a cyclist’s torso. If I was a tailor, my range of bespoke suits would cause a lingering melancholy and laziness that would – eventually – lead to the cessation of all human reproduction. It’s what I do. I do things badly, and people always suffer like you wouldn’t believe.

This is why I limit myself to admin jobs; it’s the same everyday consideration that makes modern Gorgons train their hair not to hiss at the cinema. What possible harm could I do in a menial admin job? Well, I’ll fucking tell you. I forgot to photocopy the study guides for Midwifery Pragmatism.

Now I didn’t realise they had to be taught this; I thought midwives were going to be pretty pragmatic by default. I mean it’s pretty down-to-earth and real stuff, running around saying “shit, a baby – get it the fuck out of that woman before it eats her hole” and “no way, another baby – do you want me to pull it out underwater?”.

not pragmatic enough just about right re: pragmatism too pragmatic really
“I’m not convinced this is a baby, and even if it is I think it’d be better if we all went bowling” “Come on chaps, let’s get this baby out. Also next time we should consider being further away from the window, or maybe not point her fanny at the window.” “Let’s smash their heads in, they’ll only die anyway”.

What I’m saying it that pragmatism is essential to midwifery. Too little, too much, and babies start dying. And now, thanks to me, a generation of totally fucking impractical midwives have been unleashed. I mean, shit! I’ve started a midwifery timebomb!

By 2007, these people will be delivering their first babies. The midwives – I say midwives, by now they’re just baby-killing machines – will be taking the expectant mothers to Alton Towers. Then, when the mothers go on the nice swan boats they start shouting “BOOOORING LET’S GO ON OBLIVION”.

Swans

By 2008, caretakers at the Obvlion will have to unsnag the umbilical cords from the frame, so that other customers don’t get smashed in the face with a 60mph toddler. They’ll become really immune to infant mortality, and it’s my fault. Their wives will say “why aren’t you gasping, there’s all manner of infant mortality on the television, and some is particularly excellent” and the man will say “my daily life is now a catalogue of human remains and unrealised potential, thanks to Log“.

Well, I’ll tell you what. I’m not hanging around for the fallout. I’m fucking OUT of here. On Friday, when my contract ends. I just hope to God that I’m out of here before the carnage starts, and the blood starts flowing.

Trowels and Eggcups

This is totally like I’ve fucked up the Bible.


PS : Apologies go to Neon Kelly (mydeaddog in the comments), the winner of January’s competition, for the delay in his prize sponsorship deal taking effect – I’ve just been a very busy lady (I’m a boy actually, giggle!) and haven’t got around to it yet. In the meantime, Neon, happy Valentine’s Day, and know that I love you harder and faster than I love Kettle Chips (ie really hard and damn fast idst).

Grunt, Laugh, Wank : The Work Toilets Trilogy Concludes

THE STORY SO FAR : He Grunted : I Laughed

A very quick entry out of pure, rabid emergency. Forgive the first-draft-feel (my writing is usually so fucking polished), but I’ve just been listening to a man have a wank.

It really was the most basic mistake of the toilet wanker; assuming that every slam of the door means one person has entered or left. This time, I had entered with a colleague who’d opted to piss rampant; I had gone into a cubicle, for a nice sit-down wee, and to try and complete Castlevania on Hard Mode.

So when the standy-wee man washed his hands and left, our hidden friend assumed he was alone, and that’s when the fapping began. (I had the volume on the DS turned down – the idea of a man having a toilet wank to a tinny-speakered rendition of “Dracula’s Tears” is pretty cool, but unlikely)

I know I couldn’t see it, but there is no other possible explanation for the duration and regularity of a sound that genuinely went “fap fap fap fap fap”. I put my head to the ground, and saw shoes. No porn spread around on the floor, just shoes.

I sat agog for a while, before scrambling for my phone or dictaphone. In my idiot contentment with the idea of playing the DS, though, I wasn’t prepared. I didn’t have either on me. So I ran out of the toilet, as silently as possible, to get them. I needed a sly photo of those shoes, too, so I could do a Cinderella on him, the cheeky bogfapper.

Immediately outside, I ran into a woman who was looking around in that lost, stupid way that can only make a sane human feel rage. “I wonder if you can help me,” she whimpered, and I stifled a snarl and asked her what she wanted. Then I ignored her answer, preferring to stare at the door. After several attempts to listen to this lump of lady, it turned out that she had an expenses form that needed to be handed in. And what she had done was to staple her receipts to the expenses form, and not filled it in. Like the form had a fucking notice at the top reading “just staple your fucking receipts to the top, we’ll guess the rest love”.

I told her to fill it in, and that I’d be back in a moment. I ran through the office to get my shit. No-one runs in our office. Breaking out of a sullen slump is considered ostentatious. But he could finish at any moment, and this was important to me. I’ve had too many (two) funny times in those toilets, and I need a dramatic development, something to keep me going in this place.

Running past the girl, who was still writing her dumb fucking name, I went towards the toilets. And found myself staring at the shoes, now full of man. It’s the guy from the office opposite me. He’s the guy who grunts, wanks, says “Oh God” while shitting, and now he’s smiling at me. “Hi Jon,” he says. “Haha!” I laugh in reply, before turning to help my new best friend with her form.

So where do I go now? I’ve got no mystery. I’ve lost the whole sense of adventure, and worst of all I don’t have any photos of shoes or wanking sound clips to put on the internet. Sure I could make my own up, but that’d feel cheap, and I simply can’t bring myself to lie to you beautiful tykes like that.

So what do I do? Where can you go after looking into the smiling eyes of a man whose shoes you have watched, as he noisily milked himself?

I Trumped Seven Time In Two Minute

This entry is karma for my previous “work toilet” entry, in which the man in the next cubicle made wild rattling noises and gasped “shit“. This time, it was my turn to be the monster in the cupboard.

I’ve just had the one moment in my life that means I don’t need to live any more – I just want to live the last few moments over, and over, again. I’ve just spent a full two minutes crying with laughter, padding my little feet on the floor, and nearly screaming with delight. Oh God, please let me tell you why.

I just went to the toilet in work. Unusually, both the other cubicles were full, so I went into the third booth, dropped my grubbies, and got ready to untidy myself. But what came out was a succession of what I can only – in all fairness – describe as trumps.

NUMBER 1
The first fart with any shit is forgivable, and to be expected. I’m not puerile, so I didn’t laugh at this fart. I did listen to the reactions of the other cubicles – it’s something of a catchphrase in my family to appreciatively cheer “Good Arse” after a peculiarly beefy trump. There was no reaction, so I got on with the more serious business of having a shit.

NUMBER 2
But no shit was to come. What came instead was another fart. Identical in tone, timbre and moisture as the last, if nipped to a close earlier, thanks to a sense of mild embarrassment. The similarity of the farts made me smile a little, and made me think about all the old theories we came up with as children to explain different kind of farts – fatness, gayness, and so on. And all the names for farts we had, from the onomatopoeic “pern” to the Angry Anderson (aggressive, comes from Down Under). These memories make me smile, but I really am thinking more about having a shit.

NUMBER 3
I relax and gently push for a third time, but I’m prepared for the fart, and ready to pinch it off instantly. I can feel my mouth starting to crinkle, but at this stage I mistake it for concentration, and don’t admit to myself that I’m on the verge of laughing out loud. So when my tense sphincter produces a totally different squeaker-style fart, I’m not ready to stifle the “aha!” laugh that jumps out.

NUMBER 4
So now, I’m fucked. The fact that I audibly chuckled, and didn’t even disguise it to sound like a grunt of effort, means that they know I’m in a cubicle, farting and laughing to myself. This was made worse by my clumsy attempt at a late conversion – a wild effort to make any sound that would make the laugh sound like something that wasn’t a laugh. My conversion sound was a gasping, quiet “uphooo”.

If I’d heard that sound coming from another cubicle, I would have pictured them pressing against the walls in fear at what was about to happen; a brown down-volcano spitting its first sloppy rocks. My farts had so far been dry, thankfully – I think I would have fallen off the bowl if I’d sputtered. But everything is building up, and I’m starting to revert.

NUMBER 5
I’ve also seen the flaw in my plan to stifle the farts; I’m having a shit. I’m going to have to get rid of the air, first. I lack the internal dexterity to manoeuvre a balloonful of air around or through a turd. Now that I’ve been stupid enough to cut that fart off mid-toot, I’ve got more left. So I either wait for the other two men to leave, or I just get a grip, act my age, and fart what is left onto the water.

Unfortunately, I’ve totally reverted to schoolboy mode, and during the two second fart that follows, I’m laughing like Muttley would laugh during a two minute silence. If he was fucking rabid. I put my hand to the wall to steady myself, and I hit the oversized toilet roll dispenser, which makes a sound loud enough to imply that my cubicle is a rocket ship that’s about to take off.

I give in. There’s more fart left, but if I don’t stop soon I’ll shit myself laughing.

NUMBER 6
I can’t stop laughing now. I don’t even need to fart to set myself off. I only have to picture the faces of the people in their private shittoirs, and I’m off. The sixth fart comes from this juddering heap – by now, I really don’t have enough control over my body to stop farts coming out. This isn’t helped by the absolute silence from the other cubicles. If one of them would just laugh, or acknowledge the farts, it would break the spell. The fact I’m imagining them to be appalled is just making me worse.

I swap between gasping, laughing, wobbling, biting my fist – and it’s when biting my fist that the sixth flies out. This makes me stop shaking – or perhaps I’m shaking so fast I can no longer feel it – and raise my eyebrows in a disbelieving appreciation of what is happening to my poor anus. It’s fair to say that I’m having the time of my fucking life.

NUMBER 7
The seventh fart proves to be the last, and it’s mercifully short, as the turtle finally stops coughing and sticks its head down my toot-chute. This kills the charm, at last, and I can finally calm down. Even though I do feel like I’ve just done a brazillion sit-ups. The other chambers remains silent, so I suspiciously look under the partition. Sure enough, there’s feet. So, with a final, wry chuckle, of the kind that Oscar Wilde might use after saying “ah, but tis better to have a wind-filled shit than a sin-filled wit” or something gay like that, I run without washing my hands back to my desk.

On the upside, it was a clean break and barely needed wiping.

Brenda Is Dead : Long Live Monica

It’s not entirely fair. Boo hoo, it’s not fair. :(

My job covering the cervical screening course ended ten days ago, but they liked me enough to take me back. Now I’m in another role, whose details are too dull to properly understand. But today is my first day back, after taking a week off watching the telly.

This morning, I got off the bus, and Brenda greeted me. With a weeklong drudge slog hanging from my ankles, this would normally have made my tongue sizzle. But, bouyed by my absence, I winked at her, and decided to keep the conversation on my terms – largely by talking over her. Incredibly, she liked it, and decided to let me in on the office news.

Monica’s got my chair.

My hatred of Monica pre-dates Brenda by some weeks. Monica is a mythical office spectre; her long absences based on entertaining illnesses. When RSI became a commonly-known condition, she had an epiphany – that’s why her hands were shit at doing things! It wasn’t her under-gifted shitfa brain firing off a relentless volley of dumb, dumb commands, it was Health and Safety’s fault.

Now, she has two wrist rests. Presumably if she balances it out, so that she’s had an average of one wrist-rest over the course of her life, this will cure her “RSI”. It’s only because her nails are as long as an Indian fakir’s that she can reach the keyboard at all.

Then, she ruined her reputation for hypochondria by getting a tumour in her eye. Where it would be uncharitable of me to claim that a God-fearing Mormon such as Monica would fake a tumour in her eye, it does give her the opportunity to do the following, which appear to come very naturally to her;

  1. Take months off at a time, to put eye drops in.
  2. Burst into tears whenever asked to do work, because it all so horrible.
  3. Steal my fucking desk, because the “glare” from her identically-lit monitor is too much for her.

My desk was magnificent. No-one could see what I was doing on the internet. Monica’s desk, apart from having the stink of long-term illness about it, is exposed to the whole office. And that’s what the crafty cunt was up to, the second she got her chance. Honestly, you let your guard down for a fucking second. I’m going to dazzle her with the reflection from my watch. I’ll give the bitch glare. Come get some glare! I got a wrist fulla the stuff! And if I get tired, reflecting sunlight into your tumour, I’m gonna come round your desk and rest my bitty wrists! ‘Cos your desk is like some kinda fuckin’ wrist spa! With little wrist-jacuzzis and shit!

Now, I’m not one to bitch, but I’ve seen her typing letters in Excel. I watched over her shoulder, my mouth blopping open-shut in awe. I asked her whether she should be using a word processor, like Word, the software for words. It’s part of the Office package for offices, I explained. She replied – “I tried that, I couldn’t get the words over here.” She pointed to the cell range G1-G5, where she had typed the address.

At the moment, as I live and type, she’s being talked through a data entry form. She was told “you put the name in there”. Her reply, with the emphatic arrogance that I love so much…

“Why does it ask for name? You leave name blank.”

Now, I don’t know where to focus my hatred. Dog with two dicks. I know what I’ll do – I’ll ignore them both, and try to write something funny that’s not based on hating the cunts that fill this world. It is getting to be a bit like shooting a pike in a teapot.

The Lighter Side Of Brenda

Sometimes, Brenda lets you into her world. It’s a strange thing, to be embraced by someone you despise – especially if you have the instinctive desire to be liked by everyone, no matter how much they’ve proved themself to be a big anus.

On the one hand, I was enjoying the fact that this creature had come from her desk and was telling me her funny story… but the actual telling of the story was close to unbearable. It was only by turning on my dictaphone that I was able to relax – I could listen to her without vomiting so long as I had this noble, ulterior motive. To record our conversation and play it to [three inhabitants of] the world.

Before telling me this story, Brenda had sat at her desk, laughing at something. Immediately after the laugh, she looked around. Then she laughed again, and followed it with an “oh, dear!” that clearly emphasised the askability surrounding her mirth. Looking over to me, she took my grimace as an inviting wince, and wrinkled around the desks to my chair. She had a photo.

It was a photo of her, laughing. Laughing in the sense of “mouth widening, teeth bared, eyes squinting”. I recognised it as a laugh, anyway – even though these same expressions can be used for “on the floor, awaiting a kick to the stomach”. The latter describes my face. Hanging from her blouse in the photo is a “Do Not Disturb” sign used in hotels. The weight of the sign is pulling her flimsy blouse down a touch – not obscene, but enough to remind me that she was once a sexual creature, and God save us, may still be.

This sign is a comical one – it features Winnie The Pooh struggling, with a pot of honey stuck onto his head, and has the caption;

“Don’t Bother Me, I’m Having A Bad Day”

It’s the kind of photo that stands for itself. It’s not awful – I mean, it’s not nearly as bad as the office posters you more usually find – and if she’d had it pinned to her partition, I wouldn’t have thought any less of her for it. But she’s not willing to let it rest there, is she? She’s not even going to rest, having stuffed it under my nose. This picture is so amazing to her that she wants to give me the back story.

It came at a difficult time in the office – morale was low, and good old Brenda was keen to portray herself as the office jester. This is an image that she genuinely holds – when it is painfully clear to everyone else that she’s nothing more than vocal shrapnel lodged in everyone’s fucking face. This is where we join the story – the dictaphone is now on.

[what follows is the transcript – click here to listen]

just start lightening it up, to have a laugh about it, because we were all getting a little bit tetchy. So I hung this little sign up that said “don’t bother me, I’m having a bad day”. So Peter came around with his camera, and said he wanted to take a picture. “Don’t bother me, I’m having a bad day…”

Arrr

that’s why I was so pleased, because actually… you can actually read it.

Crikey

No, you can read it.

It’s quite nice… it looks a bit sultry, hanging off your bra like that.

I was showing off for the dictaphone, there. She looked spurred.

Well it’s quite funny because … that’s why I’m laughing. Because when he was taking the picture, right… he kept lowering… he kept lowering the camera. And I said “oi, what you doing, lowering the camera?” And he, well of course he’s….. [voice tapers off into nothing as she makes mouth gestueres that look a little bit gay]

Yeah, I know, yeah.

Brenda physically can’t say the word “gay”. After the recording finishes, she says “I know it’s the fashion, these days, but…”, which prompted me to write down “anal sex isn’t a pair of nice shoes” and promise myself I’d make it into a T-shirt.

So… I… er… So I knew he wasn’t, you know, but I was just you know, kinda winding him up. And in the end, he got embarrassed, and started blushing… and that’s when I started laughing. And then he took the picture, and it was just perfect.

So he was lowering it to get all the words on –

yeah, of course he was

rather than actually take a filthy sex shot of you, for his own purposes.

She enjoys the fact that I’m responding to her, but what I’m saying is irrelevant. The tracks to this conversation were laid minutes ago, and I’m just a passenger.

So that’s why I’m laughing, and not only that, to make matters worse, there’s a barrier there…

a barrier?

a barrier, a partition… and when he was lowering the camera, and I said “ere, what are you doing, lowering that camera, what do you think you’re doing, what do you think you’re taking pictures of”…

Did faces slowly appear, above…

…there were people on the other side, listening to the conversation! I completely forgot, I was so engrossed in winding him up! Stop lowering that camera, stop lowering that camera, and he was laughing, and I was laughing, and of course the people on the other side, I only realised afterwards that people must have been thinking “what is going on over there?” which made it even funnier! And that’s why I’m really laughing, it completely went, and he, and he took the moment, he went CLICK.

She is making me laugh inside my head, now. When she said “and he was laughing, and I was laughing”, she’s just given up her right to claim any part of reality, beyond being a character in a sketch show.

Brenda fondly thinks that the people on the other side of the partition – whose morale she was trying to raise with this photo that she doesn’t seem to have shown them, only me – were thinking “That Brenda!”

She would probably come flying apart and dissipate in a tearless, sandy sob if they told her what they were really thinking, which was “why does death come to so many, but not to this immortal crone?

What makes it even better is, I didn’t mention it to my husband before, right, just because I just can’t. [makes more gay faces] He’s… he’s…

You don’t have to whisper the word… you can say gay these days.

He’s not going to think… he’s not going to think… he’s not going to think… he’s not going to think “what was he doing taking that picture”. I haven’t told him, you see, so it’ll be a nice surprise for him.

This section boils down into three statements;

1. “It will be a nice surprise for him to see that I was photographed at work.”
This is a classic case of “The suprise that was met with a ruffle of a newspaper and a that’s nice, dear”. Unless…


Possibly Brenda and her husband, yesterday

2. “I couldn’t tell my husband that I was photographed by a gay man, although (1) – it will be a nice surprise for him.”

Oh, Brenda. Brenda, Brenda, Brenda.

3. “My husband will not assume I am fucking the man who photographed me, because he is gay. Although (2) – I cannot tell him he was gay, just because. Still, (1) – it’ll be a nice surprise, anyway.”

BRENDA!

I am glad that Brenda has taken me into her confidence, and I hope to get more stories out of her. I’m thinking of writing an anthology. Shit, I wonder if I could get her to invite me around for sunday dinner?

Brenda vs The Chinaman

< < Who’s Brenda? : Meet Her | Fear Her | Touch Her | Hear Her

I have just been forced to overhear the most excruciating conversation of my so-short life. Brenda has just invented and solved a problem that affected no-one, in one of her frequent shouting sessions that let everyone know how fucking loud she is. Today, she let everyone know how important she was by howling at a chinese student temp, who didn’t understand her.

Brenda
You’re going to have to clean your desk for next week, aren’t you?

The Chinaman, whose name used to be Jason, but is now Jackie, looks at her. He isn’t sure she is talking to him, as she didn’t look at him, say his name, or engage him in any way. She simply thought it, and said it. This is Brenda’s magic.

Brenda
I said, you’re going to have to clean your desk for next week. Aren’t you.

Jackie points at his desk and makes a gesture to himself. His English isn’t so hot, but he’s really keen to learn. He lives with other Chinese people and values the times when he’s forced to listen to and speak English. Unfortunately, the distracting elements of Brenda’s conversation – hideous, shrill crow-noise and hypnotic repetition – mean that you can only really listen to her by not listening to her. The second you focus on what she’s saying, the nausea rises and you start to black out.

It’s the conversational equivalent of looking at a partial eclipse in a bucket of water, I suppose.

Brenda
I said, Jackie. [sensing that she doesn’t have his full attention] Jackie, I said if we’ve got the data team coming in on Monday, you’re going to have to clean your desk out. They’ll be wanting your desk, won’t they?

I love the idea of a data team. You don’t fuck with the data team. They keep all the student records. They can cancel your library card, change your name. They’re the fucking architects. And there’s seven of them, each with mastery over a different colour of the rainbow.

Anyway, I’ve been drawn out of writing a bunch of shit about gambling, and my attention’s now firmly stuck on Brenda – I tend to start listening at the second repetition, because that’s when the nausea starts being perversely enjoyable. Jackie now gets the gist of what Brenda is cawking about, and looks confused. He begins to say Jan, our immediate bosses’ name. But he doesn’t quite get the chance to put it into a sentence.

Brenda
Well it’s no good Jan Sherlock saying anything, the data team are coming in on Monday! Jan Sherlock can’t stop that, can she?

She really enjoyed saying that. As powerless and frail as she is, nothing pleases her more than other people not being omnipotent. But she’s aware that this sounds a touch bitter, so she adds an aural 😉 at the end by generating a staccato laugh with no mirth or sincerity. This woman is no stranger to nervous breakdowns; I just wish she’d stop fucking bouncing back from them.

I can’t emphasise enough how little Jackie has actually said. This is a monologue.

Brenda
How will that leave space for the people coming in, then? Answer me that! They’ll have nowhere to sit! Someone needs to do something about that, don’t they?

I’m so embarrassed on Jackie’s behalf that I’ve started chewing on my finger skin. He hasn’t got a clue how to respond to what this monster cunt is saying, but he’s too polite to walk away. And she can’t see how what she’s saying is wrong, and is unwilling to stop talking, ever. Listening to Brenda’s voice is like trying to pick out the stringy bit from an egg white, while somebody stabs you in the knees.

Jackie thinks he is being told off. He doesn’t know how to reply to this torrent of rhetorical white noise, and Brenda’s momentarily run out of steam. This results in ten seconds of Jackie shuffling nervously, and Brenda looking around for people to agree with her. Jackie stammers another boss’s name, and something clicks with Brenda. She’s either recognising this new person’s authority to issue desks, or she’s slowly becoming aware of what an aggressive, bullying cunt she sounds.

Brenda
Oh, Denise said it? That’s all right then.

And that’s where it ends. As dramatically complete as a Stephen King novel. I wanted it to carry on, to see how many times she could repeat herself, I wanted Jackie to just scream at her to fuck off. But no… Brenda’s decency valve once again stopped her just short of me lunging across the table and snapping her fucking neck, and denied her life the conclusion it so sorely needs.