A word I have needed all my life

The Guardian today has a good lambasting of Robbie Williams and cheap gay stereotyping. The article is an amusing enough rant, but mainly I appreciate it for introducing me to the word floordrobe.

Floordrobe! You remember that moment when you first had a gin and tonic, and it was both delicious and thrilling, and yet felt so natural that you could hardly believe you had lived fourteen or fifteen years without experiencing one yet? Well that’s me, now, with the word floordrobe. I have one, I have always had one. Being something of a vagrant, I have often had multiple floordrobes in a range of residences around the world. If you put me up even for just one night, I will—despite in all other circumstances being useless at DIY—erect a quick, makeshift floordrobe in minutes, and if you’re very lucky I’ll leave it to you to enjoy once I’ve gone. In fact, I don’t just have a floordrobe: I have a state-of-the-art, walk-in floordrobe replete with absolutely no fixtures or fittings of any kind. I like to pretend that there is some kind of organizational principle behind it, but the reality is that it is that quantum physicists should come and hang in my room* rather than spending all that effort faffing around with spin and particles and whatnot, because it is perfect proof of Bell’s theorem: there is no logically possible organizational system which could fully specify its distribution. There may be a small, en-suite bedchamber located somewhere in its vicinity, but generally I find it easier to slump down on the least obviously festering pile and let my freakish self-devouring brain do what it is best at.

Floordrobe. Thankyou, Patrick Strudwick, for giving me a word I have always lacked and yet never even known I needed. And, in the spirit of the original article, how nice that I heard it from a gay man. Such witty chaps, you know.

* Not a phrase heard that often, one suspects.

Today’s bad excuse for skipping the gym…

… comes to you courtesy of a recent house move and consequent sartorial disorganisation.

A piece of advice: should you not have a pair of clean shorts of your own to hand when you are rushing out of the house in the morning, do not presume that you can simply grab a pair of your twin brother’s shorts. Keep in mind that (a) he is generally thinner than you, and (b) he was for a while very much thinner than you.

I got them about half way up my chubby, shapeless thighs before they ground to a shuddering halt, leaving me waddling around the changing rooms like Dick van Dyke doing his penguin dance in Mary Poppins, but minus the animated entourage, sense of rhythm, or dodgy accent. I feared they’d be stuck there, to be honest, and was left pondering how to get a bus home with legs even more abbreviated than usual.

Fortunately I managed to crowbar them off, and left the gym circa five minutes after going in, but rather redder in the face than I usually leave it.

Note: my legs are actually neither shapeless nor chubby; I have eviscerated the truth for the sake of humour. They are, however, ludicrously truncated. To be honest, were they any shorter I very much doubt my feet would reach the ground.

Whilst we’re on the topic of narcolepsy…

I have the most misnamed illness in history of medicine. Falling asleep a lot is the least of my problems. To be honest I think you’re all damn weird being able to get by in a 24-hour period with just one doze. What the hell do you do in a boring lecture (regrettably in most of the interesting ones too), or on the train (if, of course, you can get a seat)? How do you know that you put in a decent gym session if you don’t fall asleep the minute your arse hits a chair afterwards? (Okay, so the times I fall asleep actually walking away from the gym aren’t so good.)

But it’s the sleep paralysis, the cataplexy, the bizarre semiconscious states I often find myself in when I’m sure sooner or later I will blurt out my most heinous, shameful secrets (I once said no to a gin and tonic, but there may be some even worse than that), and the gosh darned inability to sleep more than an hour at a time at nights that really infuriate me. Seriously, it’s 1.30 in the morning on a school night, I’ve already slept twice, and just spent the last 20 minutes thinking about perception, consciousness, and false positives. Not even from any kind of existential despair (I dealt with all that many years ago, through the regular and enthusiastic application of the aforementioned G&T), but because it’s interesting and my brain has decided to enter fully awake, morning mode. In fact, I was going to be writing a post on that topic, but then I realised would in all likelihood be up all night. You have no idea how many half-finished drafts I already have saved on my various half-arsed philosophical ruminations.

This is in danger of looking like a whinge. It’s not. There will be no whinges on this blog: they are forbidden along with credulousness, discrimination, flaccid thinking, and photographs of dogs (those slobbering bundles of hair, saliva, and affirmation-begging neediness). It’s a rant against a poorly-named disease, and a warning to the next person who upon hearing that I have it says, “Oh is that the one where you fall asleep all the time?” I’m not sure how I will punish you (it will almost certainly involve sarcasm and a few choice words such as would make your silvery-haired old mam’s ears melt off), and if I spend time working it out then I really will be up all night. Just consider yourself warned.

Invective, finally

My blog’s strapline is clear. I promised you funnies, but I also promised you rants, and I promised you gin. So far, there have only been the first of these, and not sensationally good ones at that. But after four hours stood on what passes for public transport in these lands, and more than a couple of compensatory glasses of junipery recovery-juice afterwards, I am going to deal with the last two in one fell swoop. Yes, it’s a rant, and a gin-fuelled one at that. Cover your ears, grandma, there’s gonna be some bad words flying.

Now, I am quite aware that this is a somewhat more public medium than that in which I usually indulge my rages, and even though the readership stats of this blog would probably be plotted somewhere at the top left extreme of an Argand diagram, I have to be aware of the rather strong libel laws in this country. I therefore stress that it is merely my personal view that all the evidence points to CrossCountry Trains not giving a flying fuck about their customers. It is simply conjecture on my part that not only this, they almost certainly do not give a sprinting shag, a running rogering or even a walking titty-wank about us either. I will concede that in my admittedly far from humble and probably dangerously distorted opinion they might just give a sauntering smooch for the comfort and well-being of the human cattle they cram onto their ill-kept machinery, but you probably would have to book it in advance.

But, after all, why should they? What possible need have they to look to the comfort of the poor wretches they squish together like amoebas at a cheese and cytokinesis party? Four hours in a train so packed that for periods of it the people are standing not only in the aisles but in the vestibules. A carriage that is so overheated — and this is far from an isolated incident — that I sweat profusely in a tshirt, having removed all my wintery layers. A train manager (hah!) who reacts to my question as to why the train is so overcrowded and uncomfortable with a contemptuous statement that “It is half term, the trains are always crowded at half term.” £106 for the privilege of enduring this, and no other fucking option open to me.

Privatisation, of course, brings the efficiencies of competition into the sluggish public sector. This has been the mantra of all political parties since those first heady days of Thatcherite free market exaltation. But there is only one stretch of track between Bath and York, only one train may run on it at a time and, the way that the privatisation of our rail works, for almost any given stretch of that track or any other, there is only one franchise licensed to operate upon it. If I wish to get between these two ancient towns, then the only realistic prospect is for me to squeeze myself into the equally medieval-standard offering presented me by CrossCountry.

There is competition, I hear the cry go up. There is competition between the franchise holders for the licence to exploit — sorry, operate — a portion of the network. Indeed there is. But then this is nothing more then than the selling of monopolies, a trick as old as the Plantagenets, and one rarely noted for its concerns with the users of those monopolised services. When Charles I was running out of cash and resorted to the sale of monopolies to fund his wars (sound familiar?) one doubts that he troubled himself greatly about the masses who would actually need to purchase the fruit of those patents, and why should he have? He was granting a right to extort cash, it is with the interests of the extortioner that he will have concerned himself, not those of the extortionees who, by definition, were there to put up and pay up. And so it is with rail. Under the myth and fantasy of free market dogma, the government cyclically grants some bunch of incompetent and indifferent nincompoops the right to abuse the fare-paying public for a period.

My housemate owns a bar. He is in competition. If on a Saturday night he were to put on no more staff than a Monday afternoon, if his staff were rude and indifferent, if when his customers complained to him that his rooms were overheated he were to shrug and say that there was nothing he could do about it, then they would take their purple drinking vouchers elsewhere. Yet CrossCountry have no need to put extra carriages on trains during busy weeks, seem utterly uninterested in dealing with the constant overheating issues in their metal tubes of hell, and appear to specifically train their staff to be casually indifferent to the discomfort and displeasure that surrounds them. Their duty is to their shareholders, to maximise profit. They are not in competition for my travel budget, and they damn well know it. And so they will continue to ratchet up the prices, squeeze us in tighter, and twiddle their thumbs over the heating failures routine in their rolling stock. Free markets FTW, hey?

Libel, Stuart, libel. Control yourself. Very well. This has been opinion, and gin-fuelled opinion at that. Any overlap between it and reality is necessarily coincidental, but very very fucking likely.