Monthly Archives: July 2016

Shy Guy

A few years back, I went to the doctor for some help with my insomnia and left being diagnosed with severe Social Anxiety Disorder.  Getting a two for one on mental health issues hardly seems like a fair deal and I rightly feel like I’ve been ripped off somewhere along the line, but as lodging official complaints and multiple telephone calls are exactly the kind of things that steer me towards panic attacks and sleepless nights I guess I’m just going to have to buckle down and get on with it.

Once I started to read up on the condition it became so abundantly obvious that it was something I’d been struggling with my entire life I may as well have been told that I had an Oxygen Inhalation Dependency or Sarcastic Prick Syndrome.  When I first moved into student accommodation, I locked myself out of my room and spent an hour hiding in the bathroom rather than talking to my new house mates in the kitchen.  This kind of thing seems perfectly rational at the time but in retrospect reads like the behaviour of someone who would eventually find themselves in the paper accompanied by the caption ‘and then he turned the gun on himself’.

I also, literally, didn’t speak to anyone for about nine months upon starting my current job. Mercifully the Christmas party rolled round and I was able to get completely shitfaced.  I guess one solution to this problem would be to spend my entire life drunk, but I do have the nagging suspicion that this may come with it’s own set of pros and cons.

For those unfamiliar with the concept of spending every waking moment terrified you’re going to have to have a conversation, Social Anxiety can broadly be described as a phobia of spending time with other people.  It goes a bit beyond ‘being a bit shy’ (which I had wrongly believed I was for many years) to the point that you worry excessively about these situations before, after and during their happening.  To clarify, it’s not that I don’t enjoy spending time with human beings it’s just that I feel the need to compile a vast project management dossier beforehand to make sure it all goes smoothly and then undertake a painstakingly detailed post mortem afterwards to see where I went wrong.  Honestly, Quincy would be proud.

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This fellas got the right idea. High five bro.

I’ve spoken to other people with the condition (a gathering of a group of people that struggle with groups of people is a pretty wild party, I can tell you), and one of the common themes is that your brain is shouts ‘OH MY GOD!  I’M HAVING A CONVERSATION!’ over and over whenever you decide to talk to someone. In the past I’ve found myself so preoccupied with trying to have a ‘normal’ chat that I’m not actually aware of the topic; I’m just vomiting sounds in a desperate attempt to stave off the threat of silence.

It’s all pretty exhausting and at my worst points made me wonder why I bothered spending time with other people at all.  The amount of enjoyment I got out of it didn’t seem worth the stress and strain I put in.  This is an unhappy paragraph.  Sadface.

But don’t worry because this is a happy paragraph where the life-affirming Elbow song kicks in.  I went to the doctors for a few months and read a couple of books and now have a whole bunch of tools that help me deal with it.  You’re still unlikely to find me in the pub with my arms draped around the shoulders of strangers singing a rousing rendition of The Rembrandts “I’ll Be There For You” but I’m also no longer likely to spend a weekend curled up on the sofa in a feverish, waking nightmare because I didn’t get mad thumbs on a Facebook status.

It’s weird old fucking thing, given that it’s both a symptom of a lack of self-confidence whilst also comes with the assumption that you’re the centre of the universe.  It’s a bit like when you wander into a village pub and everyone looks up from their pints to have a good old look at the outsider.  But rather than going back to their drinks they just carry on staring, and then get a pencil and pad out and start making notes and muttering to each other whenever you have the audacity to open your mouth.  One of the most important things I’ve learned is that not everyone is as obsessed with how I’m perceived as I am.  I know, I was surprised too.  Turns out you’ve all got your own shit going on.  Who would have thought?

Fortunately, it’s not all depressing narcissism, sometimes it’s pretty funny.  And as nobody reads anything on the internet that doesn’t have a list in it anymore, here’s 4 Weird Things My Social Anxiety Has Done (You Won’t Believe Number 2).

1. For our honeymoon, my wife and I went to the Ice Hotel in Sweden.  This is situated in the middle of nowhere and the one of the few sources of food is a mega fancy restaurant.  I ordered a risotto but they got my order wrong, lacing it with the largest, floppiest sweaty mushrooms I’ve ever seen.  In case it’s not clear from my description, I am not a huge fan of fungi but rather than send it back and potentially ‘make a scene’ I forced it down between huge gulps of wine, silently convulsing with every mouthful.  “Everything to your satisfaction, sir?” “Yes, lovely thank you”.  This is the most expensive meal I have ever eaten.

2. Our landlord was doing some work on a conservatory style extention we had coming off the living room.  Given that she was fifty-something and doing some quite manual labour and I was twenty-something and sitting on my arse playing Mario, my finely tuned ‘well-this-is-awkward” sense was already tingling.  “Steve?”,  she shouted.  “Yeah?”,  I instinctively replied despite this not being my name.  I had a good twenty minute window where it would have been suitable to correct this but decided against it, preferring instead to spend the next two years perpetuating the lie, terrified that my wife was going to give the game away.  We moved.

3. When you regularly walk to work at the same time every day you end up seeing the same people over and over.  One day a lady had the audacity to smile at me so I smiled back.  Not a broad, friendly smile or a cheerful ‘morning’, but a barely imperceptible movement of the lips like I had just secretly eaten a Tangfastic.  Unfortunately, this recognition of each others existence had opened the floodgates and we now had to smile at each other every single day. Doesn’t sound too much of a hardship, but then you’re probably the kind of person that doesn’t put the prospect of a seconds eye contact with a stranger in the same bracket as the twelve trials of Hercules.  I’d see her coming round the corner and find myself giving this moment of human interaction a ‘run up’.  Look at the floor, look at the floor, look at the tree, look at the floor, look at her face, smile.  Phew!  That’s over for another day.  Recognising that my options were either murder, suicide or change my walk to work I did the later adding another five minutes to my journey.

4.  A trip to the barber’s handily consolidates all my social anxieties into one monthly repayment. Looking at myself in the mirror, time alone with a stranger, forced conversation, being touched; the whole caboodle. Hairdressers are always such a confident bunch too; I once went to a place with whose small talk included the nugget ‘mate, what actually is fire?’.  I obviously didn’t go back.  Anyway until recently when I loosened up a bit (yes, the Jolly you see before you now is a pretty free and easy version believe it or not), I hated it so much that I managed to develop a ‘script’ to get me through. Part of this script was what I ask for as I sit in the chair which I memorised from a visit with my dad over twenty years ago.  What this does mean is that I can never have a different haircut; this is it now, stretching out into eternity. I’m rather fortunate my mum didn’t take me that day or I’d be in my second decade of looking like Kate Bush.

So there you have it.  Mental health issues can be fun as well as emotionally crippling.  I’ve had this piece sat in my drafts for a while now; trying to decide if laying it out like this is a particularly good idea.  But I’ve spent the last year or so purposefully putting myself in situations that I find difficult to tackle this motherfucker head on.  I’m bored of worrying about worrying.  I’m tired of not feeling involved.  And I’m sick of people assuming I don’t like them.  So come over here and give me a cuddle; I love you all really.

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The Wee Stan Lee

I hope you’re sitting down because what you’re about to read may come as a shock; I am, and have always been, a colossal nerd.  I expect you read these posts in your head with the voice of Huey from the Fun Lovin’ Criminals, such is the level of effortless cool that exudes from every flourish of punctuation, so the revelation that I look like a half-hearted cosplay of The Riddler may be difficult to accept.  But the unassailable truth is that I’m a thin, lanky, camp approximation of a man who possesses the kind of complexion that you can only achieve after endless summers of wrestling with the curtains in an attempt to stop sunlight shining off the television.  I’m like a vampire but without the benefit of the intense, brooding sexuality.  Yes, my wife is very happy, thank you for asking.

Despite essentially being a pre-punch George McFly, there are certain elements of geek culture whose appeal remains a mystery to me.  I’m probably the only person on the planet who knows a bit of SQL and doesn’t give a monkeys about either Star Wars or Star Trek. Any piece of media with a dragon, flagon or ‘ye olde speak’ takes a monumental amount of effort to win me over (I can just about tolerate Game of Thrones because phrases like ‘The tower is but a dawns break away!’ are normally followed by the offender having their face torn apart).  And I’m not a huge fan of comic book superheroes either; on the occasions that I have given it a bash finding that the medium either assumes that you know nothing and have to be told yet again how Bruce Wayne got his powers after being bitten by a radioactive iron or that you’ve been following absolutely every single development since the invention of the printing press.

My children on the other hand are both big fans of the forces of DC and Marvel; thanks in no small part to the sustained marketing push that’s been coming at them from all angles since the day they were born.  Like that bit in Being John Malkovich, Stan Lee is obviously no longer being satisfied with simply having a cameo in the films and now wants to be the only face future generations will ever see; his friendly mustachioed fizzgog ramming a collection plate at them from all angles like the Big Brother posters from 1984.

Thankfully, they are yet to have all semblance of imagination beaten out of them by ‘brand synergy’, and also enjoy creating their own superheroes, often with unexpectedly brilliant results.  I’ll never forget the day when my daughter, a middle class white girl from suburbia, proudly fired her fist into the air and informed my wife that her alter-ego was a crime fighter called ‘Black Power’.  What followed was a pretty nerve-wracking visit to the park, I can tell you.

Her brother, coming up to four years old, reels off characters at such a rate, that Lego have already been in contact about producing a toy range and a tie in video game.  Some of them are pretty good.  I’m a big fan of ‘Change’; a force for good who can alter his appearance at will; mainly because his name is a pretty forward thinking political statement from an author who still shits himself on occasion.  Others are less well-rounded; ‘Dontdothatboy’ presumably has a superhuman ability to give villains a stern ticking off.  And then there’s the third group whose skills and attributes remain a mystery.  These include ‘Spicyman’, ‘Bee-Ham’ and the enduring enigma that is ‘Foot Punk’.

In any case, a couple of weeks ago I was briefly gripped by madness and thought that it was possible to make the house a bit tidier.  Whilst doing so I stumbled across some hero and villain designs my daughter had made which I detail below.  I do so with the proviso that all future commercial activities arising from these characters remains the sole preserve of Soup Kitchen Comics.  Enjoy.

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I’m going to go ahead and make the assumption that Wight Boy is the nemesis of the aforementioned Black Power.  I’m not entirely sure that 2016 is the best time to unleash two characters with such racially charged monikers but she is a child of her time after all.

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Who’s this chap with the glint in his eye and the strangely defined knees?  Why, it’s Taiy the Testu, who sounds like he’s fresh off the set of one of the less popular Studio Ghibli films and looks like child’s interpretation of Keith from The Prodigy.  Give us a fist bump Taiy!

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Bert doesn’t let being a hideously mutated cat/beetle hybrid get him down and and such is truly an shining example to us all.  Stare into his eyes too long and you may start to hear Barber’s Adagio for Strings.

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Quite where my five year old daughter managed to find the inspiration for a rockabilly style, fantastically quiffed hero named Fearis is anyone’s guess, but his proud stance suggests to me that he’s ready to take on any challenge; even on his ‘day off’. HA!

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Edd looks like a wrong ‘un to me; I’ve encountered very view disembodied floating green heads that could be described as one of the good guys.  I’m guessing the lines beneath represent the force that keeps him levitated and are not meant to be an Egyptian hieroglyph of a broken vase.

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Fuck knows what’s going on here.  And I’m sorry to lower the tone, but I can’t see that protrusion from the chest of T-T Tonsn as anything other than a bloodied penis.

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Alex, my man!  Although Alex is totally my bro, don’t go running too quickly into his open arms.  Look carefully and you can see the sign of the beast branded into his chest and the souls of his fallen enemies trapped within his baseball cap.

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Check out the swag on Bob, here.  I’m a particular fan of his effortless eighty degree slant.  Combined with his hand signs, it looks like he’s giving mad props to all his bob-tailed bitches back at the burrow.

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I’m guessing the ‘Mows’ in Monchoo the Mows is meant to be ‘mouse’.  Not sure what ‘Monchoo’ is meant to be. It reads like Scottish slang for ‘hurry up’.

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I did consider leaving Mat out because really he’s just a perfectly acceptable child’s drawing of a cat.  But then there’s something about him that makes me imagine a feline with a human mouth which is just too wonderful an image to pass up.

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Now we’re talking.  Gaze upon the face of sheer determination that is Ningu Niclu.  Ningu doesn’t dick about by doing kicks and punches independently from each other.  And Ningu is PISSED.  Watch out forces of evil, ‘coz you’re about to get a nickling.

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At the danger of reading too much into these drawings, I can’t help but notice that Soafey has a backwards two on her front but that her reflection is facing the same way.  Is she trapped inside the mirror?  Or is she the mirror image herself?  Is she a master of reality, able to bend and manipulate perception to her will?   Also; huuuuuge great big smiley face on her vagina.

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Possessing a truly awesome haircut, Rain Rokstar wields her mighty harp and flying battle fortress which she handily disguises as a stage.  Despite having a name that sounds like an act that came eighth on The Voice, Rain also looks like one of spirits from the recent spate of Japanese ‘idol’ games; a reference that will mean absolutely nothing to all but three of you.  Really pleased I managed to work that one in.

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Gov, seen here setting loose one of the walkers from War of the Worlds, is actually a hardened east end gangster disguised as a three year old boy.  Don’t be taken in by his chirpy, chimney sweep exterior or you’ll get a right knifing you toilet.  Guy Ritchie has been in contact about using the character in his next film.  We’re all very excited.

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What at first glance appears to be little more than a child playing with his favourite toy, look beyond your preconceptions and you’ll find you’ve got Ben and his Boll the wrong way round.  The angry face on the ball,  the vacant look and outstretched arms of the larger character; surely the sphere is the master in this situation.  The 26 burned into the man’s chest suggest that he is not the first that has fallen into this trap.  Makes you think.

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Thankfully my wife is a body confident goddess who is forever challenging established beauty standards with her effortless style and intense eroticism  otherwise she might feel a little offended at being drawn as a giant egg.  In this picture I think she looks like one of those huge inflatable clown toys you used to get with a weight at the bottom so they couldn’t fall over.  Yes, I’ve already told you, my wife is very happy, why do you keep asking me that?