How To… Find No Enemy

You have an enemy. If you think you don’t, they’ve insinuated themselves into your life, have convinced you to sign over your power of attorney to them and are right behind you with a kitchen knife. Made you look. But seriously, to go through life without inducing untoward feelings in absolutely anyone you’ll have to be pretty damn vanilla. See, I’ve offended the boring types, they’re totally livid with me right about now.

An enemy doesn’t necessarily have to be at nemesis level. You’re almost certainly not interesting enough for someone to devote a large amount of brain space to your ultimate destruction. And if this were a film this would be the origin story for my easily offended foe who’ll no doubt bring me down by setting fire to the internet. What I’m saying is that it’s so easy to make mistakes and inadvertently shove various noses decidedly out of joint.

If you’re looking to never find an enemy of yours ever again, there are a couple of different ways to do this. One requires an incredible level of effort and the other one involves burying your head firmly in the sand. It’s up to you. If you’re comfortable ignoring anyone who might have animosity towards you and any instances of their behaviour then that’s totally fine. If you’re not looking for them then clearly they don’t exist.

Perhaps that sounds a bit onerous. Well, the alternative is to tiptoe your way through existence. You’ll have to stay up to date with the accepted terms for everything, understand the acronyms and learn everyone’s foibles so you’ll never be able to tread on them by accident. This might sound like a living hell but is it really? What a terrible burden to have to stay current on how oppressed groups prefer you refer to them. So hard.

Find no enemy – Akala


How To… Be Yourself

As a patronising self help book might sanctimoniously tell you: well, it’s not as if you can be anyone else now is it? Why don’t you tell that to professional impersonators, book I just made up and will never actually read even if you paid me to do so? It’s perfectly possible to dedicate yourself to imitating or emulating someone you either admire or are intensely jealous of (and harbour general desires to steal their life. We all have those, right?).

But forget about your growing obsession with [insert name of celebrity here] and their perfect hair (am I thinking of Kate Middleton? Is it bad that my mind went completely blank and couldn’t think of a single famous person that anyone might wish to model themselves after. Why was is so hard to come up with the name Meryl Streep?). This is about you and how you’re going to exhibit your fabulous self to the world.

Make a mood board. Paste pictures of yourself through the ages and marvel in how you went from adorable infant to the mess that peers back at you when you accidentally glance in the mirror. Ask people what word comes to mind when they think about you. And pray very hard that the term in question doesn’t prove to be ‘who?’ You could always have a crack at meditating to see if you can mindfulness your way to the core of your very soul.

Once you’ve achieved a certain level of zen when it comes to your general personality you can unleash yourself on the world. Go outside and let everyone revel in being yourself. Then dash back inside because thanks to the fact that you’ve become so comfortable in your own skin you’ve neglected to put any clothes on and folk are beginning to object. Maybe start a blog or something.

Be yourself – Audioslave

How To… Try Too Hard

There are times when you want to make a bad situation better but even your most generous efforts end up tossing fuel onto the fire and lighting that mother up. From that point onward, no matter how benevolent your intentions are, there’s no way to salvage it. I start with this because I want to couch my main points in a framework of understanding. We’ve all been in those circumstances where you’ve most certainly put your foot in it and there’s no way out. I have been in many a situation where I’ve been unable to do anything but dig. However, sometimes there’s just no justification.

Yes, of course I’m back on the Trump attack bandwagon. I was maddened and saddened by the reports of his comments to a grieving army widow (‘he knew what he was signing up for but I guess it hurts anyway’). He’s made the situation so much worse.

The facts: there were several personnel on the White House side of the call listening in, a Democratic congresswoman was in the widow’s car (because she was a family friend with a very personal connection to the dead serviceman) and Trump definitely came out with the comments reported. It would seem that he was ham-fistedly paraphrasing something General Kelly had said about soldiers signing up out of the goodness of their hearts even through they know what might happen. Whether or not this is something appropriate to relay to an upset civilian is beside the point.

At the core of the matter is the fact that people who were already upset were not consoled by what the president said. Trump could have apologised for any unintentional hurt caused and moved on. You know, instead of hitting out against the congresswoman on Twitter, outright denying the claims, sending out his chief of staff to attack the injured parties on Trump’s behalf and making a mountain out of a very sad molehill. He’s definitely trying too hard.

Try too hard – P!nk

How To… Rewrite

I have a writerly word in my job title (I’m an author, technically. Suck it), I rewrite practically every word I set down over the course of a day. Apart from this blog. This goes down warts and all without a single edit (unless I’ve been deprived of technology like some kind of savage and have scrawled my ideas on a wall. During the transcription process, I’ll often give it the writing a playful tweak or two).

But when it’s stuff that actually matters like the stuff I actually get paid for (who would have thought that a blog I write for free that I can’t quite bear to promote would be so unprofitable?) or the novel I’m tenderly attempting to bring into the world, rewrites are inevitable.

Some parts of my master document that hopes on day to be a manuscript are on their fifth draft, others their fiftieth (yes, that’s an exaggeration, deal with it. I’m not sure why I’m being so confrontational. Maybe I’m concerned I won’t see it through like the previous attempts that are languishing in electronic purgatory or I’m jealous of people who’ve already managed to see it through. Why not both?). So rewriting is clearly an integral part of the process and in no way impeding my progress.

Of course, you want to watch out for rewriting too many times or too often. If you keep nipping and tucking a single sentence in a quest for perfection you might never complete the paragraph. You might want to turn your hand to haikus rather than that ambitious magnum opus you were so very keen to tell me about. But when does rewriting trip over into editing? Does it even really matter? What you definitely want to do when you’re rewriting is to ensure that you’ve definitely got your point across and haven’t descended into irrelevant tangents in order to meet an arbitrary word count.

Rewrite – Full Metal Alchemist

How To… Shake a Tail Feather

Why, pray, have you affixed that thing to your arse? I’m not saying it’s not a talking point; it’s just a rather strange one. Couldn’t you have done the usual thing of donning a pair of tracksuit bottoms with the word juicy plastered across the seat? Wouldn’t that have pretty much the same effect of directing the attention of others to the gluteal region? Fine, let’s say you were gunning for originality. Mission achieved.

So we’re clearly going to have to focus on making the very best of a deeply odd self-inflicted situation. We really ought to be able to appreciate opportunities to exercise non-judgementality. Thank you for testing my patience. If we strive to become better more compassionate human beings, what a wonderful world this could be with people we might have previously labelled as freakish pattering about in beautiful harmony.

Anyway, tail feather shakage is going to depend on a couple of different factors. One is bootyliciousness which there’s not a lot someone can do about a lack thereof. Maybe you could ask Beyoncé for a couple of pointers? I’m sure she’d be only too pleased to help you out, she seems nice. Another thing to consider is how the tail feathers happen to be attached. If it’s a secure connection, you can wobble your bum like there’s no tomorrow and you won’t have to worry about looking silly when something falls off.

Perhaps I’ve misunderstood the scenario in general (it’s happened once or twice before). The tail feathers in question aren’t your own or ones you’ve laid claim to. They are in fact ones you’ve liberated from an animal and want to show off to best effect. Or maybe you were just a bit too premature for Halloween? We all know you’re going to be the most fabulous peacock the world has ever seen. Just so long as you shimmy your little heart out.

Shake a tail feather – Ray Charles

How To… Just Go Away

News alert people: Donald Trump has, yet again, done something reprehensible. I know that titbit should essentially be the new permanent headline page of most American news outlets but it’s worth drawing attention to the awfulness. So that we can remember that this definitely isn’t normal behaviour. Sure, he’s victimised every last demographic that doesn’t somehow represent himself (rich white and racist) but this has really pissed me off and is therefore worth talking about. 

We all have to admit, he’s a busy guy. There’s just so much that his predecessor accomplished that he has to go around undoing and those endless holes of golf simply aren’t going to play themselves. We get it. This is why it took the president, the commander in chief of the armed forces quite so long to extend his condolences to bereaved families. And then he expected the public to swallow his rancid lies about former presidents neglecting to do so in similar circumstances. 

Thus far, same old Don. He wants props for doing the bare of the job he conned his way into and recognition that he’s doing it far better than any man who occupied the chair before him. But then he tells a pregnant, grieving widow and her husband, who had just given his life in service to his country that ‘he must have known what he was signing up for.’

Unacceptable. I am not a patriotic person. I am not a fan of war. But men are dead and it’s the job of the president to offer solace. And Trump failed that in his own spectacular fashion. Because he is a man so incapable of putting aside his own ego for a single moment. He wants bloody report cards for every little deed and sterling grades to boot. He couldn’t take two minutes out of his day to be a person. He is a slimy turd who has elbowed his way into a position he couldn’t deserve if he tried. And he isn’t trying at all. Just go away, Donald, go very far away to somewhere history can’t cast its discerning eye over your patheticness. 

Just go away – Blondie

How To… See the Sun

With sunglasses obviously if it’s out. However, with the British weather being the way it is especially during the winter months, you might have to do a little bit of hunting and waiting in order to actually find that eye melting miasma of space gases. So, unless I want to wrap things up at a decidedly puny word count of forty or so, I had better move on to the far more interesting topic of what went down yesterday courtesy of the efforts of Storm Ophelia.

Not everyone was witness to it (London was and as that’s clearly the epicentre of our lives it’s pretty much as if we all got to see the meteorological phenomenon) but those that did see it were pretty freaked out. Or maybe it was just me, not being used to such sights, my little lady brain got itself all into a flutter.

Of course, there was a perfectly reasonable explanation as to why the fiery sky orb took on a particularly Trumpish hue. Dust from the Sahara and debris from the wildfires in Spain and Portugal had been gathered up by the storm’s gusts and were projected into the air. That’s what the science men want us to believe at any rate. Clearly there’s a grand conspiracy going on and this apocalyptic harbinger of doom is likely to be the only tip off we’re going to get.

Or perhaps it’s just a grand distraction. They want to keep our attentions focused on the heavens while they wreak their havoc on the world below. We’ve all seen enough films to know how this sort of thing pans out and I’m not sure we can rely on Superman or James Bond to sort things out on our behalf. So keep an eye on that pesky sun (through suitably smoked glass of course) but be aware on whatever it is ‘they’ are attempting to accomplish.

See the sun – Coco and the Butterfields