Aubrey Beardsley Standard

tweetering on the edge

Today Twitter asked me if I'd like to say something to 'people I might know' on Twitter.

Generally all I have to say to such people is "Naff off, you asinine twunt" or "Who the chuffbiscuit are you?" or "I am about as interested in your shop/business/website as I am in eating bat faeces." I know lots of you lovely people are on Twitter and find it entertaining and even useful, and I was, naturally, fascinated by it when my riots doodad was being retweeted all over the place, but I just don't have the attention span required to scroll through all the half-conversations and inanities you have to sift to get to a few crumbs of interest. I don't have any heroes, at least not any who'd be likely to have Twitter accounts, so don't like the 'celeb' angle, either. The ubiquity resulting from it has put me off people I used to quiet like, such as Stephen Fry.

FB has its uses, but I still really like Livejournal. I've never got in to reading any other blogs or websites, either, though I suspect I would if I had an office job.

When I said, in my last post, that I thought nostalgia was the last refuge of the mediocre, I wasn't talk about retro tastes or the desire to study the past. Had I meant the latter I wouldn't have been so fascinated by Leigh Fermor's travel writing in the first place. I meant the tendency to wallow in and romanticise the past, especially one's own past. and especially if that involves droning on about how good music was in the eighties. Unless it's the eighteen eighties, of course.
Aubrey Beardsley Standard

we cannot cage the minute within its nets of gold; when all is told we cannot beg for pardon.

I got rid of all the Christmas paraphernalia today and sorted out my artstuffs and paperwork. New year and all that, you know. To brighten up the place I bought a bunch of daffs from the Co-op (oh how I love having a Co-op at the end of the road - more on this later). I thought it was a bit early for daffs, but at least they are labelled 'winter daffodils'. They are just beginning to open on the living room table. Poor premature things. They are small and slender and faintly startled-looking, peering out over the top of the vase as if anxious someone will open it like a gate and make them venture out.

wardytron bought me Artemis Cooper's biography of Patrick Leigh Fermor for Christmas. He's a fascinating man (Leigh Fermor, not Wardytron, though the latter has his moments). He was expelled from school, escaped unscathed from considerable contact with the Bloomsbury set, walked from Zeebrugge to Constantinople before he was 21, kidnapped a German general in occupied Crete, wrote two amazing books about that continental walk thirty years later, spoke five languages, swam the Hellespont when he was 69 and seems to have been liked, valued (and corresponded with) all his ex-lovers. I've read snippets of his writing before. My first encounter was a small chunk I had to translate into French for an A Level test, actually. The only sustained bit of his writing that I'd read before this holiday was his correspondence with Deborah Devonshire (nee Mitford - and in many ways the best of them). Reading the biography made me buy the books about the walk and his novel. Finishing it made me cry in the bath.

I'm halfway through A Time of Gifts which charts his youthful journey from London to the Middle Danube. It's strange and startling; perilously close to overwritten in places and seething with knowledge and the joy of learning and his endless fascination with language and time, with art and architecture, with music and folklore. There's always a subtle dual perspective at work, that of the teenage 'student' walking through a vanished Europe and absorbing sensations and sights with the zest and intensity of a young gundog and that of the older man, who knows that Europe has vanished and so many of the people whose hospitality he enjoyed died in that vanishing, yet who manages to avoid writing an elegy.

I'm increasingly inclined to the idea that nostalgia is the first refuge of the mediocre, or at least of those who have failed to learn how to live.

Speaking of dual perspectives, I am loving the album I bought Andrew for Christmas, too, and have it playing on Spotify now. It's The Jazz Age by The Bryan Ferry Orchestra and is twenties instrumentals of Roxy Music tracks. It's a lovely, cheeky and strangely moving bit of anachronism; musical time travel.
Plain Rosa Smiling

holiday snaps from the holiday dragon

wardytron and I have been back from Zakynthos/Zante a week now. Sigh. The holiday was brilliant and fantastically relaxing and just what we both needed. It was deliciously hot and far away from all the gloomy things. I found us an all-inclusive late deal at a posh-ish hotel near a shallow, gentle bit of the coast. All-inclusiveness made it easier for us to budget for it; it's not something I'd normally do, especially in Greece. The hotel was pretty good, and I'd specifically chosen one that was mainly frequented by Germans, Poles and Italians (with a few Frenchies as well). On cheap sun holidays, hell is other British people. You could really see the difference at meal times, where the non-Brits collated structured meals from the hot and cold buffets, and many of the Brits just ate massive piles of meat and potatoes. I wish I could have photographed the look on the face of a Dutch woman, who had collected a plate of pork chops to put at the centre of the table for her whole family, and she passed an English bloke with a similar plate just for himself. All of his table were salad dodgers. All the really obese people were British and they were the only ones who let their children select a plate of chips and ketchup as dinner. They also wasted far more food than anyone else. At mealtimes it was vaguely embarrassing to be British. I didn't stint on food myself, I scoffed huge mountains of lovely island-grown salad drenched in tsatziki, loads of lamb and pork, and all the watermelon I could cram in my ravening maw.

I don't swim, really, I mainly bob about a bit, so selected Alykanas because the sea is gentle and shallow for a very long way out. I didn't want big scary waves and surfers. Big waves terrify me and I don't like surfers; they're usually insufferable twuntish hippies. The only bad thing about using a mooncup doodad is that I no longer get to flush away a really jammy tampon with the hope it'd somehow end up smacking some smug surfer in the gob.

The only problem with the trip is that my primeval ancestors were obviously scaly-skinned stalwarts that basked on rocks and that Wardy's primeval ancestors were slimy, pallid weaklings that lived under rocks. He really doesn't thrive in 35 degree heat. He doesn't tan either, he just gets red, sweaty and flustered. I tan marvellously, don't sweat and stride about in the heat without a care. A decent tan knocks years off my face and conceals the varicose veins in my legs. I was bimbling about in the hotel room, post refreshing lie-down, with freshly washed hair and a sheet wrapped round me and Ward told me I looked like Aphrodite, apparently:


A day later he was festering about the room groaning and sunburned, pathetically declining a refreshing lie down because it was too darned hot, apparently, and I told him he looked like a boiled sheep's head. I was too ashamed kind to take a photo of him in that state, but took one of him later, enjoying some of the delicious local elixir:


We spent a lot of time on the beach. Andrew made a sandcastle (check out that unwholesome pallor):


The hotel was surrounded by a vineyard and various goats, and we had to pass lovely old olive groves on our walk to the beach about a kilometre away. How my dodgy joints loved bimbling about in that heat.


I deliberately picked a less developed area, and a lot of the development was shut, half-empty or decorated with big 'To let' signs. Gloomy indeed for the Greeks, but great if you want a quieter holiday.

The Ionian islands are much greener than the rest of Greece, and the Italians called it the island of flowers. This pretty fellow and about a dozen of his chums were fluttering about one afternoon when I bimbled back to the beach while Andrew had a snooze.


We didn't do much touristing, because there isn't really all that much to see in the way of history in Zante. Pretty much every building on it was destroyed in the earthquake in 1953. It's got lots of natural beauty and would be a brilliant - though terrifying - place to explore by car. Andrew hadn't swum in the sea for over a decade, and loved it, so we booked a boat trip with the opportunity to do some deep water swimming. The only problem was that you had to jump off the boat to do it, and he was a bit too alarmed by this prospect (I wouldn't have done it at gunpoint). This meant we spent three and a half hours on the hottest day we were there on a boat, roasting. I loved it, but the poor boy fried. Happy Jane:


One of the sad things about Zakynthos is that this crappy rusted tanker is its biggest tourist draw. It was run aground deliberately, apparently. I just couldn't see the appeal. The beach is lovely, but there was a traffic jam of boats dropping tourists off and it was all a bit ghastly, really.


I can't help thinking that having 'magic world' emblazoned on your arse is false advertising.


These are the lovely Blue Caves. That luscious rich turquoise is due to reflections from the white walls of the caves and through the sea on some interesting bug action below. If we'd had more dosh, we would have hired a tiny boat to take us closer into them, instead of being stuck on a big one.


Poor Andrew was boiled by the time we got back to land, and flaked out in a lovely bar. Then I sent him to do the 2km round trip back to the hotel in the afternoon sun to fetch my swimming costume so I could have a cooling swim.


The only other vaguely cultural thing we did was to take the early morning bus to Zakynthos town. There were lots and lots of empty restaurants and cafes, and even more businesses with 'to let' signs on them than in our little resort. Greece at the moment is very cheap, but not very cheerful. We ambled round the Museum of Post-Byzantine Art, which was very small. Andrew was exasperated by just how long it took me to take this picture.


I like this saint. He's got a big black crow.


I convinced Andrew to amble up the huge steep hill behind the harbour so we could look round the ruins of the Venetian fort. At midday, in 36 degree heat, with some of it 1/3 gradients, this was perhaps somewhat ambitious. I managed it comfortably despite - probably because of - the heat, but poor A scuttled desperately from patch of shade to patch of shade, like Gollum in search of his Precious.

I like this campanile. Foreign churches have funny, tinny-sounding bells, don't they?


The view from the top of the hill was lovely, and worth the stroll. As were the lemonade and beer we groaned in delight over at the cafe where I took this pic.


I shall, I promise, explain more about the Sri Lanka offer etc, soonishly.
Lisa Scream

Alien vs. The Simpsons (quite spoilerific)

I had a sudden urge to go the cinema on Saturday afternoon; well, actually what I had was a sudden urge to sit on a comfy seat in the dark and be entertained whilst having a valid excuse for ignoring my phone. Anyway, I went to see Prometheus.

It was very pretty to look at, but deviates hugely from canon. For a start, Mr Burns is nowhere near as evil as he is in The Simpsons and Smithers appears to be be bisexual, not gay, and is very, very sexy and an android. He's a lot like the Rutger Hauer character in Blader Runner with better hair and worse lines. Part of the reason he looks so sexy is that his character models himself on Peter O'Toole in Lawrence of Arabia. This is a very smart move on the part of the director, as left-leaning American viewers will think: Ooh, look he wants to be the one on the side of the Arabs - he must be pretty cool and right-on, and right-leaning ones will think: Ooh, look he wants to be the one on the side of the Arabs - he must be the Bad Guy. These positions are both tenable as he is the only remotely complex, interesting or sympathetic character.

Lisa Simpson is Dr West, an archeologist with a penchant for God-bothering who has read too much Eric von Daniken. Bart is her cute, plucky but tactless boyfriend. Dr West is no Ripley, but in a regal handwave in the direction of feminism, the boyfriend - who is so insentisitive he forgets her eggs have dried up - dies handsomely, and she sails off into the sunset with the android, whose batteries, it seems, will never run out. Despite being barren, she has a DIY abortion which further distances her from the aliens, who are very, very pro-life indeed.

Willy the Janitor is transmuted into a foul-mouthed, unfriendly Scottish geologist, and given some of Sideshow Bob's hair. Ned Flanders is tries to be his friend, but they and all the other supporting characters are so uninteresting I can't remember what happens to them, other than that they all die in the end. Charlize Theron is a cross between The Wicked Witch of The West, Margaret Thatcher and Luke Skywalker but this is nowhere near as interesting as it sounds, and the best bit is when the chimney lands on her.

It does all look gorgeous, though, especially the humanoid aliens, who look they were designed by someone who studied Praxiteles and William Blake. The script, alas, sounds like it was written by someone who studied Star Trek and Dr Seuss and failed to inject the campery of the former or the warmth of the latter. The opening scene, which is unexplained, is brilliant, with one of the super-foxy aliens stripping down to his DNA and chucking himself inot some sort of bleak glacial cauldron. This is presumably how life on Earth started, with time making the dodgy reptilian DNA into lizards, bugs and slugs and terrorists, and the handsome chappy DNA leaidng to monkeys and bambis and Americans. The credits roll to the haunting sound of Darwin spinning in his grave.
Joani Warhol

Problems, problems

SO long-awaited you'd probably forgotten all about it. Here's Part 1, at least:

Dear Auntie Oxidant
I am considering becoming poly, as I have accidentally started dating a really lovely poly chap. You have been rather scathing of polyamory in the past, so I was actually a bit wary of telling you about this. Is it really so bad? Polly Private

It is true that my heart sinks whenever I see the word 'tertiary' followed not by 'college' or 'syphilis', but 'partner', but it's a particular sort of poly that I am so negative about. It's the 'look we've disinvented jealousy, and evolved a new way of living, and we're never going to stop going on about it' Brigade. Poly relationships are just like any others; some of them are crap and some of them are brilliant, depending on the calibre of the people involved. And people have been making their own special arrangements for sexual and romatic liasons for years, in ways that have involved concurrent multiple partners, without needing to identify as some sort of Special Snowflake Subculture. It's isn't special, it's just sex, or in an awful lot of cases, it isn't even sex; for half the pollies I know it's about having a number of dead or atrophying relationships that you never have to actually develop the backbone to end or the commitment to maintain properly. In the London poly scene a lot of the men seem to be sleazy douchebags who'll sleep with anything, and my most scathing comments about that scene were after watching a very young, very vulnerable woman get passed around and exploited in a way that would have had the alleged feminists who stood by and watched/colluded up in arms if 'chav' blokes on a housing estate had behaved in the same way. And a lot of the women seem to be desperately unhappy, and trying to construct a kind of Frankenstein boyfriend out of a bunch of rancid spare parts, whilst competing with some other poor bint for quality time. This is why I mentioned 'tertiary'; the first two women only seem to get on together when they can gang up on the perceived threat of the third one. It always seems to be the women who take responsibilty for organising the relationships, as well. If your new chap is lovely and you are having a good time, then hurray for you. You are a secure, sensible, unselfish person, so you'll treat him well, and have the self-esteem to bail on him if he doesn't treat you well, which is the recipe for any decent relationship, whatever label you put on it.

My ex is living in a house that I need to sell before my beloved and I can go off and be hippies in a smelly field. How do I get rid of house and ex and make lots of £££? Anon Imuss

Oh exes are endlessly vexatious, aren't they? Why can't they all just tactfully die of a broken heart or join the Foreign Legion? Is the ex such a minging, malodorous muntbag that s/he is actively lowering the tone of the property? Or does s/he want to stay there because moving out will mean downshifting? Hmmm. I suspect what you should do is fake a number of vampiric happenings in your local area (disturb recent burials, leave trails of bloody footprints, show up at a goth event in suit that fits, that kind of thing). Then kill the ex by draining all the blood from her body and staking her out like a vampire's victim, at the property you wish to be rid of. The resulting notoriety will ensure the house sells at an inflated price to some drooling psycho/twilight fan/whatever. Even if it doesn't sell, you can rent it out to the producers of that terrible show with the Scouse charlatan and no light bulb budget.

Should I cure my self of my increasingly unhealthy addiction to Gossip Girl (I've even started reading the books) and plough on with a Tale of Two Cities (I've been referred to as Madame Defarge and so need to find out exactly how bad she was) or should I just revel in its glorious first world shallowness and carry on with worrying whether or not Blair will end up with Chuck and leave Louis the improbable foreign prince at the altar? ;-) ms_siobhan

Dickens was the populist drivel of his day, my lovely lady, and A Tale of Two Cities is full of unlikely foreigners. Never be ashamed of your tastes, nor feel the need to defend them. Are you reading on a Kindle? If so no one's going to know what you are reading, anyway. I find this one of the more tiresome aspects of their proliferation, actually, as I can no longer alleviate the tedium of crowded tube journeys by stamping on the feet of people reading Dan Brown.

Dear Auntie Bellum,

I seem to have gone sweet on one of those Lefties. He has a sense of humour, no, really, but if I pursue him, the sex will be inevitably incompetent and possibly offensive (not in a good way) - what is a Centrist to do? Equivocate or spread 'em?



Oh dear. I must have told you about the Guardian journalist I unwisely took to my bed, who had a fit of the screaming abdabs when he discovered a pile of old Telegraphs and a copy of the Spectator next to my bed? Anyway, it IS possible to shag The Wrong out of someone, but seldom worth the effort. There's a possibility he might be alright in bed, but not if he's one of those middle-class Islington organic hemp lefties, in which case he'll probably be too busy examining his privilege to locate your clitoris, AND need Viagra for his upper lip, let alone elsewhere. Spread 'em and blog about it?

Dear Auntie Oxidant,

I am newly, and happily, married. My husband is mostly splendid, but like many of his kind, he finds nothing wrong with leaving his pants on the bathroom floor. We have a very small bathroom and thus this quickly leads to a large pile of scants. Polite requests do little more than address the immediate issue, and an unfortunate incident where the pants were stacked up so high that the cat whisked a pair into her litter tray (which also exists in the bathroom) did not change anything, though it was hysterically entertaining (to me, though the cat was nonplussed).

My question, then, is: can you recommend any particularly colourful or interesting male underwear, so that I can at least be marginally entertained?

Yours with no belief that I will ever change my man (but I love him anyway),
Not-So-Young Bride

I think you have two options, really. Either get a crafty friend to run you up a load of pants made out of cotton chenille / camberwick, so they look like little bath mats when your beloved lazy oik scatters them about the place, or coat all his clean pants with Acme Itching Powder, so he becomes a little more pants-aware.

Is it ok to have a hip flask of gin in one's anorak pocket whilst doing playground duty in the cold & rain?

It is not remotely 'okay'. It is bloody well compulsory.

Dear Auntie,

I want to remain anonymous because this is a serious question. You know my circumstances, and that I have been in a very unhappy relationship for a very long while. What do you think I should do? You don't have to pull your punches, because I want you to say what you exactly what you think, not what you think I need to hear.

Your partner is a selfish, narcissistic, weak, lazy bully. Like all bullies, underneath his bombastic exterior he is a coward and, because he is a coward, he will never leave you, despite his pathetic threats. You have made his life too easy, and your own way too hard. You have mentioned recently how you fear he is undermining your children in the same way he has undermined you. Leave him. You think you are weak and valueless but the very fact of leaving him will show you how strong you are. You will become the person who had the strength to leave the mediocrity who was making her family miserable. Your daughter will absorb the message that a woman should walk away from a man like her father, who has been given every chance - emotional and practical - to improve his behaviour and has squandered every one. Your son will absorb the message that men who bully and denigrate women and children get abandoned. I can't begin to imagine how hard leaving will be, but there are people (and organisations) who will help you. You should also know that the person you mentioned in the post you made and took down almost straightaway at Christmas feels the same way you do. He's just even more unassuming than you are. Cheating isn't wrong, necessarily, you know; sometimes it's the fraught but lovely means to a necessary and liberating end. You don't realise how many people are fond of you, respect you and will help you. It doesn't matter how long you have been with your husband, the rest of your life will be longer. You deserve it to be happier.

I have said what I think here, but it is also what I think you need to hear. I suspect the reason you are not hearing this from your two closest female friends is that they are both heavily invested in their own troubled marriages, and that supporting you to remain in your unhappy position helps to validate their present decision to remain in theirs.

Dear Auntie Oxidant,

There seems to be an increasing trend amongst my friends to organise a weekend abroad or something similarly expensive for their birthdays. Much as I love them, I do not have enough weekends or enough money. Why can't they have a night in the pub? And where will this attempt to outdo each others birthdays end?

Broke of Borsetshire

Are they all having the same Significant Birthday over the same couple of years? I find the easiest way is to reply to excessive invitation with "That's a brilliant plan! I can't wait! And it is just SO GENEROUS of you to pay for all of us, knowing how skint we all are. You're great", which usually nips the matter in the bud. You could also expand your social circle to include some poor people, too. Or simply say "No, much as I love you that's just way too expensive, and I can't spare a whole weekend, but can I organise a pub meet for a lovely night nearer home so that more people can share the celebrations".

Dear Auntie Oxidant

I am fortunate to be dating two lovely gents. My problem is that one of them is hung like a carthorse and the other, well, very much isn't. How can I enjoy Wee Willie while retaining the ability to accommodate Horseboy? I await your expertise!

Hmm. I am slightly perplexed by your question. Is your vagina not constructed out of a superior sort of Memory Foam, so it can happily accommodate both? Alternately, I mean, not side-by-side, obviously. You aren't being impeded in your appreciation of one by recent concupiscence with the other, are you? I'd stick to engaging in specific acts with each of them. Peperami-cock is probably aware of his shortcomings and may be a bit of an animal in other areas, one hopes, and you can probably accommodate him comfortably in alternative points of entry, while sticking to Catering Saveloy for your basic hot, thrusting action.

Dear Auntie Oxident

I recently married my darling man in a small church ceremony. This was done with the assistance of family and in front of close friends. I am now concerned that as every detail of my wedding was not arranged, advised and approved by a committee of over 2000 women, that I may not be properly married at all!


What you mean you just got married, in a church, in a big white frock? Was your vicar - God forbid - male and heterosexual? You didn't write your own vows recite them in Klingon? You didn't have a chorus of groomsmaids and bridesmen sitting in wheelchairs toasting you with vegan mead in mooncups? Or make your friends all stick to some arbitrary and tiresome dress code or theme? Good on you. This means your descendants will look at your wedding pictures and marvel at seeing a Proper Normal wedding entirely free of self-indulgent wankery at which none of the old rellies are pulling affronted Wodehouse aunt faces because they havn't a clue what hand-fasting is. Your wedding, your rules, you're wonderful.

Dear Auntie Oxidant,

I have appallingly low self esteem and find it difficult to approach women. Do you have any tips that don't involve heavy drinking? I've got that one covered.

Yours onanistically,

Noam Deplume

Women are much easier to approach than you think, actually. And the best ones prefer a shy, slightly gauche approach from a decent, modest human being, to a slick assault from a smooth-talking player. It does depend, of course, on the calibre of the women. Do you like gothchicks? I think vaguely alternative women might be more appreciative of your charms, if you could be bothered to stalk them in clubs where the music is awful. And smile at the girl before you approach her. If she smiles back, go and talk to her. Imagine she's a bloke and talk to her the way you would a mate. Or try online dating - you are very witty engaging in writing and women are easily wooed by wit. Do let me vet your profile, though.
Arty Evil Icon

Is it possible to get through an entire day without wanting to punch somebody?

I know, I KNOW I haven't caught up with comments and things. I have been variously sleepy, grumpy, dopey and that missing dwarf, busy. I am still reading, though, and WILL catch up.

I also know that it isn't big or clever to make personal remarks about people, but on Tuesday I was very rude to a man queueing in front of me in Primark. His slightly plump wife was complaining that they didn't have the shorts she wanted in her size (14), they only had 18s and 20s left. He launched into a rant about why size 18 or 20 women would want to wear shorts and expose their flab, 'and what did they think they looked like' etc, etc. He alos pointed out to his wife that as she was 'small up top' she shouldn't draw attention to her bum. Now you might think from this degree of judgmentalism that he was a lithe, slim fit, dapper-dressed Adonis. Nope. He was seemingly muscle-free, enormously fat - 19 to 20 stone I'd guess - and wearing a teeshirt stretched uneasily over his substantial moobs and belly. And shorts.

The young girls standing behind me and I just rolled our eyes at each other. Then he started making an enormous fuss because their little boy had picked up a little rucksacky bag that was dusty pink and had a swirly design on it and asked if he could have it. The man made a HUGE FUSS about this being a girl's bag and how the child was a boy and couldn't have a girl's bag. He did this in a churlish, loud, angry way that garnered him a few more disapproving looks. To dissipate them a bit he looked around at the queue and said loudly, and more pleasantly, to the kid, 'Girls and boys are different. We don't want you getting confused, eh?"

I couldn't resist. I said, teacher-voicily, "Well, you could see how he MIGHT get confused, given his dad's boobs are SO much bigger than his mum's". His wife sniggered briefly, and he went very, very red and very, very quiet.

Auntie Oxidant's Problem Page 2

Do you have problems? Do your friends have problems? Are your friends problems? Whatever your concern or dilemma, ask and it shall be answered! And feel free to link.

Anonymous comments are allowed. All comments are screened for privacy and will remain screened, unless you specifically state you are happy with unscreening, so you can comment whilst logged on and I will not out you as the originator of whatever scandalous thing you have asked. Unless I'm bribed with a very great deal of gin, that is.

Go on, you know you want to.

The responses to the previous page are here
Arty Evil Icon

neither a borrower nor a lenter be

I am not giving anything up for Lent, but I am going to take up something I meant to do as a New Year's Resolution. I am going to learn how to hack the internet so that every time someone prefaces a statement, whinge or question with "I know it's only a first world problem, but..." fifty quid automatically disappears from their bank account and appears in the coffers of Oxfam.

I can't see how making this statement can convey anything but a combination of self-righteousness and false modesty. It vaguely reminds me of my mother insisting I should finish my dinner because 'there are children starving in Africa'. At least my mother was trying to get me to eat well; the only point of this pronouncement is to make the speaker look good, surely? Or do the people saying genuinely believe that saying this shows some sort of solidarity with the occupants of the world's sweatshops and refugee camps?