Category Archives: Bland Stuff

On the Dangers of Taking Smiths Songs too Literally

Sweetness, sweetness, I was only joking…

About a month ago, Steven Morrissey did another thing that made us all realise what an arsehole he is.

morrissey

This time, his comments had to do with Halal meat and London mayor Sadiq Khan, and, as the tweet above so rightly puts it, none of us should have been surprised. Morrissey’s questionable-at-best-downright-toxic-at-worst opinions have been bothering his fans for a while now, and many people are asking themselves whether art can be separated from problematic artist.

The problem is, as far as I see it, all of us went through that Smiths phase. The band wrote the gold standard of anthems for misfit teenagers, and who amongst us didn’t have at least a few months of Doc Martens, t-shirts printed with that Verve album, and vinyls of the Smiths?

The music of the Smiths is an important part of our cultural landscape – even now, thirty-something years after the release of Hatful of Hollow, people still stick This Charming Man on when the party is drying up and listen to Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now to remind themselves that, no matter how low they feel, they’ll never be as blue as Steven Morrissey.

We all lost a bit of faith in him after he wrote that dire book, but, nonetheless, Morrissey’s lyrics are part of our consciousness. How else do you explain the upward trend of vegetarianism?

Sure, some of the things he wrote are just true – belligerent ghouls do run Manchester schools – but I’m hopeful that as Morrissey the man reveals his true colours, I’ll be able to reassess some of the weirder poetry I’ve been subconsciously living by.

What does “hand in glove” even mean, anyway…?

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Ode to Flakiness

“Rosamund M. Danny,” a good friend of mine said in exasperation, “you’re flakier than an overbaked croissant.”

I looked up from my steaming mug of Horlicks. We were in an aggressively hipster cafe a stone’s throw from our university, and outside the rain was lashing down on the heads of the people waiting for the bus.

I’d been watching them: no buses had come for twenty minutes, and they were getting agitated. An androgynous figure in a grey mack had stomped to the corner, apparently to try and see the bus coming, and then huffed back shaking waterproof head.

It was true: I am flaky. When I type “plans” into my phone, it tries to autocorrect it to “unplanned unavoidable occurrence.” When I try and put an event into my calendar, the software doesn’t even try and hide its incredulity: “Are you sure?” it asks. “You’ve planned to go to York with Jade four times already; what makes you think it’s gonna happen this time?” My phone is a little passive aggressive.

I’d been trying to get into the habit of physically turning it off when I was with my friends – I’d noticed myself becoming one of those “checks Instagram any time the conversation stops flowing to feel less self-conscious” people – and no one likes that. It lay on the table beside my mug now, black screen reflecting the ceiling. I wondered whether, one day, screens would become so hardy that people would use them as coasters; for the time being, I thought, taking a sip of my drink, it was best not to risk it.

The Horlicks was substandard today: they’d not stirred it properly and there were undissolved lumps floating in the top. I took a pen from my pocket and swirled the liquid about, but to no avail: the surplus powder seemed chemically incompatible with the rest of the drink.

I couldn’t blame the cafe – a good mug of Horlicks is an art, after all. You have to introduce the water very slowly, stirring the powder into a thick paste. You can’t rush it: that’s how you end up with a watery monstrosity like the one I was faced with. A good Horlicks is a combination of time and care, that’s what I always say. You have to put your soul into it.

My friend was finishing her cappuccino with an extra shot of espresso. She looked het up and tense.

“What did you say?” I asked.

Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover

Twelve years old. Library card. Fringe.

Sarah led an aggressively sheltered life in a green English village. Her parents, a self-consciously counter-culture older couple, had done everything they could to give their only daughter a childhood free from any harmful influences, even going as far as to request that she not take part in the Year 6 production of My Fair Lady – they feared that the themes of poverty and class struggle would upset her.

Sarah had, at age ten-and-a-half, watched the first ten minutes of a South Park episode, glued with rubbernecking horror to the screen. Her dad, half-dressed for his cycle commute to work, overheard the set and, one arm in his anorak and wearing a single clip-on bike shoe, lurched into the room and tackled the TV.  Standing over its mangled remains, all sparking wires and broken glass, he bellowed in uncharacteristic rage about stiff letters to the people responsible and cartoons these days.

From then on, Sarah was not permitted to watch television. She was allowed to watch any of the dusty pile of kids’ VHS tapes, collected from years of car boot sales, stacked behind the hastily repaired set, but, after a year and a half of heavy use, they were badly warped; the characters jolted through their storylines like badly wound clockwork automatons. Before very long, Sarah had stopped watching the tapes chronologically, and instead would use the remote to make the characters zoom backwards and forwards, creating her own stories as she jabbed at the slightly sticky buttons.

The highlight of her week was her visit to the local library, accompanied either by her obstinately greying mother or her father in his purple and green anorak. Each week Sarah would return a finished book and, once her choice had been approved by her censor, take a new one to the front desk, where the librarian, whom Sarah felt deeply attached to, without ever knowing her name, would stamp the front page with a new date.

As though forgetting the thousands of times Sarah had already stood before her, the librarian would always spend long minutes scrutinising Sarah’s library card as though she suspected her of some kind of fraud. Each detail, from the signature on the back to the logo on the front, would be surveyed in turn, and every few seconds Sarah herself would be gazed at with unconcealed suspicion. Whilst her papers were being checked, Sarah always found herself staring at the librarian’s cold sores, which festered at the corners of her lips. Some weeks they would glisten like open wounds; other weeks they would have scabbed over and look as if they were beginning to heal.

It was November when the library, desperate for more custom, launched a new system: two tables, one for adults and one for children, were piled high with books wrapped in anonymous brown paper. A handwritten sign on the wall read, “Don’t judge a book by a cover.” Sarah approached the children’s table; she saw that the librarian had painstakingly written a short, purposefully vague description of each tome on a star shaped gift label – “boy wizard’s adventures at school“; “a teenage spy faces his toughest challenge yet“.

Even though she suspected it contained The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Sarah selected the package labelled with “four siblings discover a snowy land“. Having read it twice before, she was in no hurry to tear off the brown wrapping when she got home; she spent some time watching the Peak District rain beating at her bedroom window. Finally she slipped her finger into the badly selotaped fold and slit open this week’s entertainment.

But the book that fell onto her woolly blanket was not the one she had expected. Rather than a vintage drawing of two girls riding on the back of a giant lion, she was faced with a blank green cover, on which were the words, JAMES BALDWIN; ANOTHER COUNTRY. Intrigued, she flipped the book and read the blurb:

Education is indoctrination if you’re white – subjugation if you’re black.

This was definitely not one of the Chronicles of Narnia.

Heart hammering, feeling as though she was committing some dreadful crime, Sarah opened the book and started to read –

He was facing Seventh Avenue, at Times Square. It was past midnight and he had been sitting in the movies since two o’clock in the afternoon. Twice he had been awakened by the violent accents of the Italian film, once the usher had awakened him, and twice he had been awakened by caterpillar fingers between his thighs…

Eyes wide open, she read on, savouring every new word and new idea. There were many words she didn’t know (blow job, wop, nigger), but she didn’t dare look them up in the family’s Oxford Dictionary, sensing somehow that her parents would not approve.

By the next morning, she had read the entire book, and, without pausing, she flipped back to the front and started all over again:

He was facing Seventh Avenue, at Times Square. It was past midnight and he had been sitting in the movies since two o’clock in the afternoon. Twice he had been awakened by the violent accents of the Italian film, once the usher had awakened him, and twice he had been awakened by caterpillar fingers between his thighs…

Surely, she thought later that evening, quietly sipping her soup at the kitchen table, there had been some mistake at the library: there was no way that was a kids’ book. But she needed more; she knew she would never again be content with a book from the children’s section, with its papier-mache rainbow and tiny chairs. She began to wonder how she could slip away from her parents and grab armfuls of forbidden tomes to gorge on in the privacy of her bedroom.

Fate seemed to be smiling at her: on Monday morning, her teacher, already familiar with Sarah’s parents’ peculiarities, took her aside and explained that the class would be starting their sexual education in their biology classes. “But you can just go to the school library,” said the teacher, trying to preempt an inevitable meeting with the girl’s abrasive family.

“The school library?” Sarah had not even known that her school, a grey, Northern comp, had a library.

Sarah had a window of an opportunity: for an hour every week for however long sex ed could last, she rushed from shelf to shelf, grabbing A-Level texts and checking them out. She would take them home and hide them under her mattress and read them only in the deep of night, curled up under her unbearably hot blanket with a torch.

UlyssesThe Naked Luncheverything by D.H. Lawrence and Sylvia Plath’s anthology.

Her parents noticed her panda eyes and exhaustion, but they attributed it to puberty and a lack of iron and bought her supplements, never suspecting that under her covers she had access to a thousand foreign worlds they could never dream of. Sarah’s childhood, as they defined it, was over.

Spaghetti Westerns

A hot summer’s day.

The sun (a cluster of sweetcorn) is about to reach its peak. All is still and silent, except for the cicadas (peppercorns) which chirp (rattle) in the long, dry grass (dry noodles) swaying by the blackened courthouse. A tumbleweed (lettuce leaf) bounces languidly across the street (a cast iron affair with an oily non-stick dishwasher-ready sheen).

The heat has almost risen to Gas Mark 4. A smear of marinara sauce dries in the sky, signalling the passage of an aeroplane, far above, carrying rich clients from one coast to the other.

Those passengers, muffled in leather and complimentary peanuts, blast on by at speed: to them, the town is nothing more than a stain on the unravelling hob of the landscape. They’ll never know what it’s like to live here, to wash their hair in bechamel and carve their children’s shoes from unforgiving blocks of ham. They’ll never hear the bacon crackling in the sun or crouch, terrified, clutching their family, in their neighbours’ basements as boiling fusilli pours from the sky.

Worst, they’ll never know the smell of the garlic frying on the plains, of the cheese melting on the roofs: they’ll never know the hunger of being surrounded by food – constantly surrounded by food – but risking a night in the grater for the slightest indiscretion: nibbling the infrastructure, taking a bite of other people’s shoes.

But I know this town: this is my town. I’ve fished in the Red River and picked oregano in the desert. I was born behind our house in the shed my father built from sheets of lasagne with his own two hands and I spent my childhood pulling strings of mozzarella from the neighbours’ gutters  in exchange for homemade treats: pickles, cherry jam – anything that didn’t taste like pasta. They were happy years, but difficult ones: I, like all of us, am tough like the mince seared onto the plains.

My parents worked, naturally, in the region’s one factory, which involved laying out tomatoes just so on a large metal plate so they’d dry properly. It was a tough job, but my parents had studied for a long time at the local college so they could work overtime in the section of the factory where the tomatoes were put into jars. That was more fiddly, much more technical, but we desperately needed the money to keep the onions out of the house: it had been infested for months and all of us burst into tears as soon as we stepped over the threshold.

After school, I’d go to my grandmother’s house and sit out on the porch, watching the peas frolic in the streets, and take to the skies when the stray cats got too close. She’d sit there, knitting a colander, and tell me the stories that her grandmother passed on to her from her grandmother’s grandmother. There were eighteen generations of us buried in the churchyard, she said. I wouldn’t know: the graves were ancient and shot with blue veins of mould and no one could make out the inscriptions our grandparents’ grandparents had chiselled with a cheese knife.

She’d tell me stories of standoffs: two strangers facing each other in the main street, muscles like meatballs, fingers twitching over their holsters, waiting for the wet sound of the church bells boiling twelve times for midday.

You’d hardly believe it, now, that on a day like today, someone’s meatballs flexed slower than someone else’s and their blood dried on the baking non-stick street.

I sigh. I’ll never leave: pasta’s in my heart.

Coming Out

It’s something all of us have to go through. That moment, usually delivered quickly and without eye contact, when we finally tell people about the secret that’s been consuming us since adolescence. That moment when we step out of the shadows into a more honest world. That moment we finally express who we are, without censorship, with an intense feeling of vulnerability, and await whatever comes next with trepidation.

I’m talking, of course, about the moment you tell your friends you’re into poetry.

Sure, as a bi woman, it might seem heavy handed and somehow insensitive to my own struggle, such as it is, to compare something as personal as coming out to admitting you read Auden in your pyjamas, but there are certain similarities between the experiences.

For example, there’s the question of whether it’s even necessary to reveal your sexuality/reading preferences to anyone. I’ve had people, when hearing I swing both ways, react as if this revelation is an indulgence on my part; after all, if they aren’t a prospective sexual partner of mine, they consider this information wholly irrelevant, and might see my sharing it a concession to my self-image. It’s as if they think the only reason it’s important to come out is to cultivate a sort of quirky picture of my character.

Fuck that.

My sexuality is not a quirk. It’s an integral part of my experience and there’s nothing more frustrating than people diminishing that.

Occasionally people, more often family than friends, will question the relevance of this information because they think it’s the more accepting and broad-minded course of action: “Why would that matter to me?”

I definitely get the impulse: to diminish the importance of my sexuality is to tell me that, no matter who I love, they love me; but the idea that my sexuality affects no part of my life other than my romantic endeavors is flawed. Being bisexual is as relevant to my life as is being a woman, being British, and, of course, being secretly into poetry.

Anyway, as problematic as that mindset is, it’s also relevant to coming out as a poetry reader. Why would it matter to anyone but me that I think Howl is beautiful or that TS Eliot is a genius? Plus, if I’m not specifically recommending someone a poem, it can feel like the only reason to tell people I read verses is to propagate this image of me as a cerebral deep-thinker. Generally I try and keep my reading list under wraps to avoid seeming like the most pretentious bastard in the humanities department, which is no modest title, let me tell you.

Sometimes, though, all I wanna do is go to my friends and be like, listen to this!!!!

I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

As well as that, there’s a certain extent to which I think verbalising my interest in women/poetry isn’t necessary; after all, I’m constantly in a lumberjack shirt with my nose stuck in my Kindle – pretty much flaming.

That said, bullshit blogs aside, I’m trying to live a more honest life, which involves being more vulnerable and upfront about what makes Rosie Rosie – namely, gayness and Plath.

The Moon Under Water

Or: George Orwell may have been right about Stalinism but he’s wrong about pubs.

Like every fourteen-year-old emerging from 1984, I was sure I’d found a genius in George Orwell. His description of a surveillance state in which thinking was prohibited and truth concocted seemed painfully realistic. Throwing aside my bent library copy of, surely, the most famous Western dystopia, I pledged to read everything this great man had ever written.

And, to be fair to me, I made a good go of it, at the expense of my schoolwork. I read Animal Farm, then Homage to Catalonia. Now an expert on Stalinism and Franco, I turned to Coming up for AirKeep the Aspidistra Flying, and Burmese Days. I read so much Orwell that I deleted any words with Latin roots from my brain. I read so much Orwell that I decided not to go to uni and instead become a potwasher in some labyrinthine Parisian hotel.

After I’d read as many of Orwell’s novels as my local library could offer,  I turned to pdfs of his articles and essays. I vaguely remember reading The Moon Under Water but, as a teenager too square to drink underage, it didn’t mean a great deal to me.

The essay is a description of what, in Orwell’s opinion, makes an ideal London pub, and, rereading it now, I have to say it’s bullshit. This supposedly perfect pub sounds like the place you’d begrudgingly go when your local Spoons was being renovated.

Here’s what he stipulated for a faultless pub experience:

  • The architecture and fittings must be uncompromisingly Victorian.

Nothing is better when fitted with “uncompromisingly Victorian” furniture, not even a restored Victorian town house.

  • Games, such as darts, are only played in the public bar, so that in the other bars you can walk about freely.

I’m not crazy – I like the idea of darts being confined to a place where they don’t constitute a health and safety risk. But what’s this business about “other bars”? The best pubs I’ve been in have one bar – a polished wood monster – that’s got every kind of alcohol you can imagine behind it. Having a bunch of different ones seems like it’d just end up being confusing.

  • The pub is quiet enough to talk, with the house possessing neither a radio nor a piano.

Admittedly, I’m the most cloth-eared person I’ve ever met. I’ve been known not to notice that music is playing until someone points it out – but even I know that the best pubs play banger after banger. In fact, the very best pubs, particularly the ones that are made up of a few different rooms, offer AUX cables.

  • The barmaids no the customers by name and take an interest in everyone.

Maybe this is just me, but as soon as I’m known by name in a place, I instantly go bashful and never want to return. The best barmaids/barmen (barpeople?) are just short of being friendly, in my opinion.

  • It sells tobacco and cigarettes, aspirins and stamps, and is obliging about letting use the telephone.

What’s a stamp? #millennialproblems

  • There is a snack counter where you can get liver-sausage sandwiches, mussels, cheese, pickles and large biscuits.

K but that food pretty much sounds rank.

  •  Upstairs, six days a week, you can get a good, solid lunch.

Orwell specifies that this lunch should be a joint of meat and two veg – but for me it’s pie or nothing.

  • They serve a creamy sort of draught stout, and it goes better in a pewter pot.

Can’t really argue with this one, to be fair.

  • They are very particular about their drinking vessels and never, for example, make the mistake of serving a pint of beer in a handleless glass.

Mate, if the beer’s good, I’ll drink it out of a shoe.

  • You go through a narrow passage and find yourself in a fairly large garden.

Again, it’s hard to argue with this in principle – a good beer garden, for the two days a year it’s sunny enough to use it, is a real joy. That said, Orwell goes on to explain that a beer garden means Mum can come to the pub with Dad, since she can bring the kids. Hey, Dad! Mum has just as much right to go to the pub as you do, beer garden or no.

This Month’s Underground Hits

March is winding down, and if you wanna know what the cool cats and hip kids have been doing, look no further than this, Britain’s premier horse-drawn blog. I’ve had my ear to the ground to pick up the vibrations of underground tunes.

3. The Cheburashka Song

This month, all the kids have gone old school – as in, Soviet multifilm old school. Check out this hot number from everyone’s favourite generic mammal: Cheburashka.

To be honest, understanding the words only makes it very slightly less trippy.

 

2. What’s New Pussycat?

Yeah, that What’s New Pussycat. That same What’s New Pussycat from your primary school discos, from your dad’s CD shelf, from the Salt and Pepper Diner. All the cool kids are going nostalgic this week. Put your irony aside, stick this banger on a loop, and rock out.

 

1. Rosalind is a Fucking Nightmare

That’s right – stealing the top spot this time is the anthem, Rosalind’s a Nightmare, performed by Bob Mortimer, Aisling Bea and Sally Philips on the show Taskmaster. The comedians had to interview a stranger, Rosalind, and compose a song about her.

It’s worth noting that the Rosalind in question is the lady sitting directly in front of the performers, having the phrase, “she jumps quite far for a woman of her age,” sung directly into her face.

PS – One of the reasons I love this so much is because am a Rosalind, and I’m a fucking nightmare, to be honest.

The Next Morning

This is a story based on a fever dream I once had.

It had been a heavy night.

Ella woke up, still dressed, still wearing shoes, glasses askew, absolutely hanging.

She was tangled in her bedsheets, dazzled by the mid morning light, and somehow both spread eagled and curled up: One arm was dangling off the side of the bed; the other was crushed underneath her body and had gone numb.

She barely remembered getting in last night, and when she’d flopped, fully dressed and still drunk, into bed, she’d forgotten to draw the curtains: light streamed through the window, igniting her pillow with golden fire and reminding her how dry her throat was – she felt like she’d been drinking dust. She struggled free from her blankets, trying not to notice how much her head was pounding and stomach churning, desperate for some water.

Thankfully she’d had the forethought to buy a bottle before she went out last night, and now she drank from it greedily, surrounded by chaos: her desk covered in makeup and homework and a Russian dictionary; the floor littered with rejected outfits. She closed her eyes as she drank, trying to put off the inevitable, but a couple of seconds later the full force of her hangover hit her. She felt like her brain had been roasted and her throat fried. She felt like she’d been marinated and seared in a hot pan. Stick a fork in me; I’m done, She thought as she tenderly set the bottle on the floor by her bed.

Gingerly, she removed her glasses and lay them on her unfinished jazyk smi homework. She’d almost finished the litre bottle, but her insides were still all dried up. She ran a hand through her hair, cringing at how greasy it felt, and, still sitting on her bed, began to poke through the papers on her desk, looking for a sheet of paracetamol she vaguely remembered seeing there. The arm she’d slept on was beginning to wake up, full of strangely acute pins and needles. She wanted to change out of her button-up shirt and jeans into her pjs, but she couldn’t bring herself to look for them; anyway, all that really mattered to her at this moment was getting rid of her headache and getting some more sleep.

Ella eventually found the paracetamol under a list of imperfective/perfective verb pairs. She took two with the last of the water and, kicking off her shoes and wriggling out of her jeans, hid her face under the covers. The darkness was soothing and she lay perfectly still, feeling the blood beat through her aching brain, and waited for the painkillers to kick in and allow her to rest.

 


 

When she woke up a few hours later, she felt significantly better: her throat was still dry, but her stomach had settled and her head was numb. She slowly sat up, put her glasses back on, and found her phone in her handbag. Its display lit up for a moment before going dark, reflecting her tired face: of course, she’d forgotten to charge it. She plugged it in now, and, grabbing her dressing gown from the end of her bed, headed into the kitchen.

Her flatmate, Sophie, was at the table, hunched over a mug of tea and looking worse than Ella felt. They acknowledged each other wordlessly; neither girl spoke until Ella had sat down with a cup of tea.

“How’re you feeling?” asked Sophie, her tone making it clear how her day was progressing.

“Hanging.”

They sat in silence for a while. Ella felt grubby – she was still wearing yesterday’s shirt under her dressing gown, and her aching feet told her that she’d been dancing (where? for how long?) last night. So far, as if retreating from her throbbing mind, she’d not tried to remember what they’d done, where they’d gone, but now, without trying to, she seemed to remember a dark, narrow club on Dumskaya and a lot of Moscow Mules. She’d definitely thrown up at some point. There’d been a karaoke bar, and quite a few shots. She remembered clambering into an Uber with Sophie and trying to make conversation with the driver in her bad Russian. She remembered the balloons being sold in the clubs, the women dancing on the table.

She couldn’t get it straight in her mind, though. The things she remembered were nothing more than fragments; she knew there was a lot more, but the more she concentrated, the faster the memories drained away.

They’d walked along the frozen canal at some point, she remembered suddenly, wincing. When they’d arrived in Petersburg, their teachers had warned them not to walk on the rivers. Who’d walk on the rivers? she’d thought, but now she’d gone and done it. Well, she’d lived to tell the tale, though.

“What did we do last night?” She asked finally.

Sophie didn’t respond for a while. “Everything,” she said.

That seemed likely. Ella sipped at her tea, wondering why her arm wouldn’t stop hurting. She must have slipped on some ice yesterday night and not noticed how badly she’d bruised it. The pavements were uniformly covered with black ice, and all the British students had been warned about falling when drunk and waking up with hypothermia. Sophie was on her phone, jabbing half-heartedly at the screen.

“Did the others get home alright?” Ella asked, feeling lost and lonely without her own phone.

“Yeah. They left before we met up with the Nottingham people. I’m trying to figure out what we did.” Sophie had opened her maps app and was examining her location history. “Blinders, Mishka, Dumskaya…” She tapped on a location off Nevsky Prospect. “Huh. Do you know what this is?” She slid her phone over – apparently, they’d spent a couple of hours somewhere before getting a taxi home.

“Dunno. Try Googling the address.”

Now her stomach had settled, Ella was beginning to think about food. She imagined herself eating different things, trying to gauge what she could take without upsetting her delicate constitution, and realised that she was ravenous. She knew that there was nothing but onions and smetana in the fridge; maybe they’d go out to get something. It was already gone two o’clock so the lunch rush in the stolovayas would be over – they could go and eat their weight in mashed potatoes. The thought cheered her up significantly and she finished up her tea.

“It’s a tattoo place,” Sophie said suddenly. They looked at each other in surprise. Sophie laughed nervously. “I guess one of them from Nottingham got ink.” Ella didn’t say anything, trying her best to remember any of the Nottingham students they’d met, let alone what tattoo they’d got.

She was too hungry to think very hard, though. “I’m gonna shower, then let’s get some food,” she said decisively. She left Sophie texting the group from last night, trying to figure out who’d got what tattoo, and went into the cold bathroom. For once, she thought she wouldn’t mind that the shower never had any hot water: she desperately needed to wake up.

She let the water run as she shrugged off her dressing gown and began unbuttoning her shirt. Her arm really did hurt – she wandered over to the mirror to see if she had a bruise.

At the exact same moment she saw the tattoo, Sophie knocked loudly on the bathroom door: “Mate, don’t freak out…”

А Б В Г Д Е Ё Ж З И Й К Л М Н О П Р С Т У Ф Х Ш Щ Ы Э Ю Я

Looping around Ella’s forearm, in the most stereotypical soviet script imaginable, was the Russian alphabet. “Shit,” she said. She let Sophie in, and the two of them examined her sore arm.

“Shit,” said Sophie. She leant back against the sink. “Shit.”

They stood there for a while, the shower still flowing.

Suddenly Ella started laughing. “Fuck me. What the fuck.”

“At least you know you picked the right degree.”

“Sure.” Then, “My mum’s gonna fucking kill me.”

They looked at the tattoo again. Ella couldn’t be sure it was real: it looked so much like it had been drawn on with a marker pen. She wanted to rub it to see if it’d come of with soap and hot water, but it was too tender – and this, she reflected, strangely calm, implied it was genuine.

“Wait,” said Ella abruptly. She was confused. She looked at the alphabet again, twisting her arm to see better – something wasn’t right.

Sophie seemed to have realised the same thing. “Where’s the soft sign?” she asked.

They counted the letters: only 31 – she was missing two, the hard and soft signs.

“Fuck,” said Ella again.

The two girls, utterly lost for words, stared wide-eyed at the tattoo in the mirror. The incomplete alphabet, stark against Ella’s pale skin, drew their eyes and it was a long while before they could look away.

ARE YOUR TEENS TEXTING ABOUT MORRIS DANCING?

It’s the new craze sweeping the nation: bedecked in cricket gear, waving bells and handkerchiefs, the youth of today are obsessed with Morris Dancing. Whilst it may seem harmless, kids sucked into the heady world of English traditional dance risk social ostracisation, as well as significant bell related injuries.

Parents should be vigilant in order to protect their children from this menace. Keep an eye out for the tell-tale signs – skipping everywhere, singing about rolling hills, hanging out with bearded men are common, but teens may also invest in accordions and ribbons.

Those teens wishing to share info about upcoming Morris gigs, as well as erecting maypoles, might resort to text speak in order to confuse their parents. The following is a list of the most common acronyms used to conceal teens’ true meanings.

  • DTF – Dance the Folksyway
  • FTW – Feasting til Whitsun
  • WTF – Wave the Fiddle
  • BRB – Baldrics to Bellpads
  • G2G – Get to Goldsmiths’
  • STFU – Spangly Tights Forsale – URGENT
  • IRL – Intriguing Ribbon Loop
  • IIRC – It Isn’t Really Cool