Little Red Riding Roy

One bright and gay day, Little Red Riding Roy’s mother said to her, ‘You better get your sorry ass dahn your Grandma’s and back ‘ere before the shop closes or they’ll be fackin’ hell to pay.’ Little Red Riding Roy, gesturing to the television, said, ‘But mother, look, there are wolves everywhere lately, surely I can’t go out at this hour?’ With that, her mother clouted her around the ear with the back of her hand.

‘You’ll get fackin’ wolves,’ she shouted over her, yanking Little Red Riding Roy off of the sofa by her pigtails, ‘if you don’t get my fackin’ vodka!’

So Little Red Riding Roy skipped down the stairs, onto the street and onward to Grandma’s. On her way past a pub, she bumped into the Big Bad Wolf.

‘Hey Little Red Riding Roy, what’s up?’

Little Red Riding Roy trembled, more with excitement than with fear, though it would have been impossible to tell between the two.

‘Mother is sending me to my Grandma’s, again,’ she replied, inferring why that might be the case by emphasising the word again.

‘Ah yeah,’ the Big Bad Wolf said warmly, ‘my mum’s been at it again aswell, but she’s stopping tomorrow, like’ The Big Bad Wolf beamed a big, bad smile; Little Red Riding Roy giggled at the joke, which she didn’t find funny, and blushed to the roots of her dishevelled hair.

‘Well—’ she stuttered, intoxicated by the mixture of fear and excitement, ‘I really best be off now, goodbye.’ And she skipped along down the street, away from the Big Bad Wolf, and toward her Grandma.

The Big Bad Wolf pinched a pushang from outside the pub and paced it to Little Red Riding Roy’s Grandma’s house. The Wolf could not find a point through which he could break in, so he rang the doorbell. Two eyes peered through and disappeared from a slit in the blinds covering the front room window. The Wolf rang the doorbell and rapped on the door repeatedly, belying the urgency with which he sought to break into the home.

The Wolf heard the Grandma squawk, ‘Get outta ‘ere or I’m phoning the police!’

He had not one moment to lose. The Wolf turned and walked out of the house and, sneakily running down the adjacent side-alley, scaled its wall and heaved himself up on the roof. Opening the roof window, he lowered himself into a jungle. Bright bulbs shone from the ceiling; tinfoiled shimmered like tinsel. The attic was thick with flowering vegetation growing out of metal roots suspended in midair. It was pungent. More greenery boasted itself inside these few feet of space than in the few furlongs outside of it.

The Big Bad Wolf opened the trapdoor and spotted Grandma at the bottom of the stairs, she was looking out of the letterbox and then concernedly at the iPhone in her hand. The Wolf dropped down from the trapdoor, slid down the banister of the staircase and plucked the phone from Grandma’s hand, pressing his paw over her screaming mouth.

Locking Grandma safely unconscious in the wardrobe, the Big Bad Wolf sat down on the sofa, next to a table piled with plastic bags full of this same vegetation.

The doorbell rang.

The Big Bad Wolf greeted Little Red Riding Roy at the door of her Grandma’s house, giving her a shock.

‘What are you doing here?’ she said, suffused again with the mixture, more heavy on the fear than excitement, ‘and where is my Grandma?’ She looked past his imposing figure worriedly, seeing nothing of suspicion through the door, apart from the Big Bad Wolf stood in it.

The Wolf raised a bag of buds the size of a small pillow. ‘I’ve just been talking with your Grandma?’ he said, his big eyes and bad smile both widening. ‘She’s only popped to the shop Little Red Riding Roy, she said she’s getting some bits and bobs and I need to stay put and keep watch.’ He squinted at her. ‘I’m not sure what she’d say about me letting in a lady of the night,’ the Wolf went on, backing away from the door and raising a powerful paw to guide her into the front room, ‘but I kinda like your pigtails.’ Little Red Riding Roy giggled helplessly.

She walked through the door, failing to hide the smile on her face, straining to calm the butterfly blizzard brewing in her stomach, and went into the living room and sat on the sofa.

‘You know what, your Grandma rocks; how she shat out that she-dragon mum of yours is beyond me.’ Little Red Riding Roy, again, giggled, helplessly. The dose of fear came with double the excitement.

‘Don’t!’ was the most spirited defense of the she-dragon she could muster, more due to butterflies than brains.

The Big Bad Wolf walked towards Little Red Riding Roy—then Grandma’s phone rang. He looked at her, and looked at the phone fizzing on the table. He quickly grabbed it and read on its screen the words, ‘Jay Emergency No.’

‘Who’s that?’ said Red Riding Roy, perturbed by his reaction. ‘What’s the matter?’

‘Pfft—nobody worth speaking to,’ the Wolf replied coolly, cancelling the call and sliding into the seat next to his prey. He turned to her, locking her gaze, and said, ‘Your mum might be she-dragon,’ gazing still deeper into her eyes, ‘but she gave birth to an angel.’ Another giggle.

‘You know,’ Red Riding Hood stuttered again, but was willed on by her excitement, ‘you have the nicest voice.’ He edged closer, growling deeply, eliciting another helpless giggle. His eyes bore into hers, radiating wickedness; her eyes absorbed it, reflecting pure innocence.

‘And, you know,’ she went on, feeling herself blush, ‘really nice eyes, too.’ The Big Bad Wolf edged closer still. His big, bad smile appeared again, seething with cynicism; Little Red Riding Roy smiled back, happily, helplessly; hopelessly.

‘And, your smile,’ she started, but was interrupted by the Wolf’s phone ringing again. He pounced upon it immediately, as if he were preparing to do so, and saw on the screen, ‘Jay Emergency No.’

Little Red Riding Roy screamed. The Big Bad Wolf looked up to a man mountain, imposed in the entry to the front room, wearing a balaclava, raising a weapon from his hip. He shot a silenced handgun at the Wolf, who dived to cower beside Red Riding Roy, chancing that the mountain might then show mercy; but bullets riddled both bodies fatally, leaving them in a hairy, bloody, lifeless mess. The gunman holstered his weapon, answered the buzzing phone and informed Jay of the situation.

Grandma awoke to a scream, and herself screamed from within the pitch black of a wardrobe. Jay’s henchman released her. Grandma walked into her front room. Little Red Riding Roy’s corpse sat crumpled over the Big Bad Wolf’s, both bleeding into each other’s hides.

At that moment there was a knocking at the door, or rather, a banging with a fist.

‘I know your fackin’ in ‘ere! Answer the fackin’ door you little shit!’

It was Little Red Riding Roy’s mother.

Two Years Writing: Criticism and Cringe

Time flies when you’re having fun; it flies faster if you’re busy; and flew by for me almost imperceptibly, not having Facebook remembering for me how much younger I looked however many years ago.

WordPress.com, with which I publish this website, assumed Facebook’s mantle this week, sending me this following:

‘Happy Anniversary with WordPress.com!

You registered on WordPress.com 2 years ago.

Thanks for flying with us. Keep up the good blogging.’

Thanks for time-flying with me too, WordPress. Naturally, I looked back at this maiden voyage into writing words as if I’m suited to it; as one would if reminded that it’s been two years since you moved to Torteval or holidayed in Turkey, you wanna know what’s changed.

‘Did I really wear that?’ ‘What was I thinking hanging out there?’ ‘Why oh why did I think that was cool?’ and so on.

With writing, personally anyhow, it’s much the same: ‘Did I really write that?’ ‘What was I thinking to have suggested this?’ ‘Surely I didn’t think that was funny/interesting/meaningful/worth spending any amount of time on?’

One may often react to Facebook remembering for us what we were (doing) so many years ago by cringing. Well, WordPress curled me up into a cretinous, cowering ball and left me to laugh at myself, which I was cringing too hard to do. Why do we cringe in this manner?

I’ve had a think. One doesn’t cringe at the photo in which you look the same as you do presently, doing something that you currently do, with people you currently like, in clothes you currently wear. Usually, the older it is and the more different you are, the sillier you (think you) look, equals the cringier the photo in general. You look back at a different ‘you,’ that isn’t you, this ‘you’ misrepresents what you are now, what you have since become—so you cringe. You no longer tie a blue-haired topknot, or sport those hideously tight white jeans, nor do you preparatively tense your muscles for photographs; you are not that person, you cringe at that person’s having had existence, because it was you, and you are not that same ‘you’ anymore.

If you don’t care for my own experience, and I don’t blame you for its mostly bollitical, scroll down to the list at the end of the article.

Lord knows this has been the same for me with writing. It’s been two years this month since I wrote my first article, for a Guernsey magazine: it was on politics and how people could be more political if they, Christ, ‘1. Read about politics’ and ‘2. Talk about politics’. Though this sincere interest in bollotics stimulated my interest and study at my old desk-job, and eventually a successful application to Brighton and Sussex Universities, I still cringe, hard. Why?

1. Reading about politics: I haven’t read a newspaper since 2015.

2. Talking about politics: if somebody now told me to (cringe), “Get talking about local politics with your friends, family, colleagues and even that not-so-nice-smelling guy on the bus” I would reply that I have better things to talk about, thanks, and what’s your issue with the bus bum?

Spending a year studying in Brightonian coffeeshops has inoculated my bollitical interest: but it worked as does forcing a social smoker to finish a packet of cigarettes one after the other. All the nice ideas you had, your innocence and excitement in pursuing the interest, are enveloped in stuffy, picky clouds of grey. It’s as if after the smoking ban they missed the stale atmosphere in the coffeeshops, so replenished it with conversations about Guardian headlines on Facebook newsfeeds.

‘3. Contribute politically’ But this I still stand cringing behind, I just don’t think you need to be versed in broadsheet to be able to do so. Sometimes the most radically political thing one can do is lead a better life.

I cringe at my pre-university analysis of the prominence given to the 2015 story of cuddly Cecil the lion being poached, at the arguable expense of stories on failed attempts at cross-continental asylum-seeking and migrancy. I cringe because I spent a term studying semiology and methods used by media to disinform and distract which were here not employed; but moreso because I am no longer a person who would be so involved in criticising columns on newspaper websites. I still take notice of the nauseating newsstands, but I can’t quite suffer inflicting a wordy critical nausea upon my miniscule readership just to better articulate what is already obvious: how ridiculous it is to read that the ‘SAS go undercover as beggars to fight terrorism’; to have a guilt-trip charity poster of a starving child stare at me from inside war-torn Yemen, when I’m a citizen of the country which provided the bombers blasting it back into the stone-age, like Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, etcetera.

I wrote an impassioned defence of Jeremy Corbyn’s ascendance to the Labour Party leadership. Simply, I cringe because talking about politics on a Left-Right, black-white, right-wrong binary basis is bollitical infantilism at its patronising purest. ‘We’ve made this Political Spectrum for Dummies on which you can stake your place and have your opinions and enemies prescribed you.’ But, awkwardly, I’m a right-wing neo-fascist because I think that men and women are essentially different and we should stop bombing and otherwise destabilising poorer countries instead of allowing untrammeled immigration; and also a left-wing anarcho-communist because I think that workplaces should be somewhat democratised and the public transportation nationalised. Go figure. Or don’t, is what I’m saying, there are probably better things for you to do.

Saying that, though, I do stand (and cringe) behind it: I wrote that ‘Jez’s more compassionate and, I daresay, principled stances are at odds with British politicians and media’ and ‘The more humanity and normality he radiates, the mainstream media’s attempted counterweight becomes evermore desperate, ridiculous and a lot of people (are at least starting to) see right through it.’ I think truth has been recently realised in these statements: his principles cut through the bollotical artifice and, despite a deranged media campaign the likes of which we didn’t even see for ‘Red Ed’ Miliband, he stuck to his guns in and against his party, through the callous campaign to go on and twat the electoral ball right outta the park, preventing the predicted landslide.

My penultimate political piece was written in November 2015, about the shooting down of a Russian warplane by Turkey in Syrian airspace. Therein is a latent exhaustion with bollotics I will now sketch out, and I suggest you skip the next political paragraph if you’re not interested in geopolitics.

The Syrian War orthodoxy is this, that it was a protest that magically morphed into a civil war. It’s open knowledge that the US-backed Sunni states have fought covert propaganda and proxy wars against the Shia crescent for some time, examples of which include the situation with Iran and the blitzing of Iraq and Syria and Yemen. Then the Islamic State magically appears out of the rubble of an Iraq that was occupied by the US and UK, arising in the cities formerly garrisoned by the US and UK, and is allowed to arm and organise itself without any meaningful action taken by the US or UK, both of which opted rather for making a media scare-storm of it at home. In fact, they furnished it material means by which they secured its ‘Islamic’ ‘state’: namely by allowing it to accrue Iraqi state weaponry and by not interfering with its arm imports from and oil exports to neighbouring countries. Turkey was foremost in respect of this illicit oil trade. Russia put a stop to it. Turkey fired back. Simple as.

Much preferring and eventually prioritising philosophy over newspaper politics has in a roundabout way led me to conclude: that this whole situation is fucked and there is nothing outside the cynical power play of realpolitik at the level of geopolitical strategy. For this reason, I won’t (persistently) pursue thinking about it, let alone write about it. (Say I, performatively contradicting myself by doing precisely that.)

So moving swiftly on. We cringe at yesteryear’s tired trends and burned out hotspots, but not because they are in and of themselves uncool, rather because we ourselves have grown out of and away from them—something in us has evolved. I cringe at my former fascination with fatuously blabbing bollitics, at too readily resorting to tugging heartstrings and at the superfluous syntactical grandiloquence. Yet of these charges I am still guilty, indicating not that politics and pathos and eloquence are dead to me, but that I have changed and therefore my interest in and reliance on them has too. And still, at these words a future me will cringe, but contentedly. I’ll tell you why.

 

  1. You criticise and cringe at yourself more than any other person

The maxim that says you are your own worst critic is doubly true: you are your own critic, but you also criticise yourself on behalf of everybody else too, criticisms that are often overemphasised or purely imagined.

You look back at that photo, at that blue-haired, top-knotted tosspot, and think: ‘Christ, cut it off—preferably at the neck!’ You keel with cringe. But your mum thinks you look cute, your girlfriend thinks you look gorgeous, and it reminds your mate of good times. The critical issues that you take up with yourself are yours alone, not those of other people, unless they say so. I’ve cringed hardest in the last couple days at a piece I wrote back in September 2015, and it was my most popular by a stretch!

You are your own worst critic. Realising this won’t stop it being so, but it will immunise you against the worst ravages of self-doubt in the present and against the still-inevitable cringe in the future. And this I write in an article, on which I’ve spent about five hours, that I have at several points resolved to abandon for the sake of such self-criticism (it is egocentric/boring/contradictory/repetitive/etcetera, and so on, and on, and on).

 

  1. You cringe because you have changed—happy days! 

We cringe because we are not that person anymore. That you might be considered to ‘be’ that same person who wore that god-forsaken topknot or wrote those ill-considered lines is what is bothering about it. We are living, learning beings: we cannot typographically nor photographically freeze the essence of our selves, though we might think we can in that perfected prose or profile picture.

We change. Our prose and pictures, often cringe-worthily, stay the same; looking back at childhood poems or photos that have been printed and posed for posterity, we feel quite similarly. That can be a great thing, if you have now become more authentically ‘you.’ Having had a different look or written in a different way back in the day doesn’t mean that you were inauthentic back then. Had you held on to that topknot because you thought others might criticise you for chopping it (fat chance), or had you pursued a popular path in writing which didn’t actually interest you—that’s inauthentic. Go with the flow: not in a lazy, happy-go-lucky sense: go with that flow which feels right, rewarding and stimulating: go with what suits and feels ‘you.’ Even if that flow happens to produce paragraphs of text that one now deems to be quasi-philosophical over-sentimentalised horseshit, go with it regardless.

 

  1. Cringing is, therefore, good

It’s a truth of tattooing that having trends indelibly inked into your skin will be regretted down the line. This is a more immediate way to understand my point. Usually, we don’t carry the shed skin of our former selves about with us, unless we refuse to grow up. But when you get a naff tat on a lad’s holiday at seventeen, you are condemned to reminisce; you grow, you shed your skin, but it leaves a remainder, a reminder. We should relish these reminders. They are remainders of a self that you’ve since superseded.

So an old photograph or story is like a tattoo: a permanent memento of a shed self that no longer lives and learns as one does presently, so one cringes at aspects of it now considered callow and childish. But we should (also) relish it, for it reveals in our ceding self that person who has surpassed it in the present; we should laugh and rejoice that we are not that person anymore and make damn sure we feel the same about our current selves in the future. Prepare yourself to cringe at the selfie you took this morning in the years to come, as I doubtless will at the words I rattle out this afternoon.

So I’ve read through my two years of writing and I’ve recoiled from the sight of all the dead shed skin. I’ve also realised and revelled in the speed at which I have grown by embracing errors but still letting go of that self-critic just a little; this advice I’ve penned in a piece which this said critic doesn’t quite want to publish, and at which I will no doubt cringe down the line. C’est la feckin’ vie.

Stan the Man

Stan was bored. He’d been sat in a Kemptown coffeeshop all day, listening to humans babbling bollotics, when it was perfectly good weather outside.

‘Dear me, doesn’t she seem in a frightfully foul mood today,’ Stan thought in his royally posh accent. ‘Whatever might be the matter with her?’ He peered beneath the latest edition of Caffeine Magazine she had held before her, in which she so obviously faked an interest.

Francesca caught Stan’s eye, his eyebrow raised, the fawning love he held for her wholly apparent in just one of his puppy dog eyes. She lowered the magazine coolly, as if she hadn’t seen him at all. Stan lowered his head, dejectedly.

‘Christ, I need the loo,’ he thought to himself, ‘somewhat infelicitous of a moment to answer nature’s call, though. I shall have to hold it.’ Stan looked to distract himself, but found no means to do so; there were just people reading papers and talking politics, no one with whom he could make acquaintance, other than a fractious Francesca, who seemed intent on ignoring his very existence.

‘What might I have done? For what crime committed am I deserved this guilt?’ Stan considered restlessly, pathetically. ‘I shall have to make it up to her. But first, lord knows I need the loo!’ 

To get Francesca’s attention, Stan stood up and leaned on the table; he rested his chin on top of the Magazine, looking at her expectantly, and drooled over its pages. Fat flecks of saliva doused its text; Victoria grunted, ‘Oh for fuck’s sake, Stan, what is wrong with you!’

She proceeded to furl the magazine and wallop him around the side of the head with it, for the whole café to see, watching awkwardly looking over their own coffee and craft beer related magazines. Stan sat back down immediately, with a mute whimper.

‘She hates me! She hates me!—And I’m going to shit myself!’ Stan thought in exasperation, though not uttering so much as a murmur to Francesca, who was wiping the specks of salvia from the back of her left hand with a serviette, an expression on her face as if it were something much fouler. ‘Why does she despise me so?’

 ‘It’s coming! It’s coming!’ Stan realised, his usually measured inner-voice shrieking in emergency. He leapt up from his sitting position and leant over to Victoria again, this time resting on her legs.

‘Stan!’ Francesca slapped her magazine down onto the table, clinking the saucer of her coffee cup and allowing it to flop down on to the floor besides Stan, who sat down again fearfully. He trembled before the angry and excellently effective articulation of his name. ‘I can’t take you fucking anywhere,’ she huffed under her breath, blushing with the heat of the stares caused by the trivial commotion.

Stan agonised over Francesca’s outburst rather than trying to resolve his own impending outburst. He stayed sat down and silent despite shivering with urgency. ‘Oh! My dear Francesca’, he thought, melodramatically, ‘for why do you treat me thusly?’

Stan’s stomach dropped, quite further down than what was at that time opportune. ‘I’m going to shit myself,’ Stan thought, more decisively than worriedly, standing up on his shaking legs.

Francesca had composed herself, checked whether she was blushing on her smartphone, and leant forward to pick up her copy of Caffeine Magazine.

Stan shuffled onto the spit-covered mag before she could reach it, and squatted over it.

‘Stan! No!’ She barked at him authoritatively. Stan turned his head, looking Victoria guiltily in the eye.

‘Terrible sorry about this Francesca darling,’ he barked back for the café to hear, shitting onto a page of the magazine discussing the revolution of coffee-beer. ‘But dear, I beseech you tell me, please—why you are mad at me?’