Sunday, 6 December 2009

Feeble Excuses, Procrastination and Displacement Activities

(Things I do when I should be writing)

From the first issue of Words with JAM

This autumn I will be mostly thinking about Cheryl Cole. Not with any sense of prurience – a man has to know his limitations, as Clint Eastwood once said, and I’m reliably informed that I’m hung like a hummingbird and have the sexual imagination of a fencepost, without any trace of its attendant rigidity. But dear little Cheryl has achieved a kind of asexual, robotic perfection, which was aptly, if unconsciously, parodied on last week’s X-Factor when she did that military dance routine as she mimed to her appalling new song. What I mean is, is she actually human any more? Time was, long ago, when the combination of attractive womanhood and a Geordie accent used to flick my lust-nipple for some totally inexplicable reason, but it now no longer does, and it’s all her fault. Soon you’ll be able to buy your own Cheryl Cole on the internet, and she’ll be everywhere, and familiarity will breed contempt so you’ll need a puncture repair kit so you can make her better every time you batter her senseless for not getting your dinner on the table by five o’clock.

The X-Factor, which I’m watching every week instead of writing, seems to be about turning people into clones of themselves, a kind of Tussaud-ising process in which anything fallible – a hint of wanton sag here, a hair out of place there – is removed, and that’s a pity. Look at the ghastly twins, John and Edward. What immortal hand or eye could frame their fearful symmetry? Step forward, Simon Cowell, grinning like a wanking Jap, predatory to the end, envisioning no doubt a Christmas single, another new Rolls Royce and a go on Whitney Houston early in the New Year when they’ve finished drying her out.

But as far as this year’s X-Factor is concerned, I want Olly Murs to win. Not because he’s any good, or because my wife fancies him or anything, but simply because of his name. Me and Olly Murs have names that are exactly the same. I mean, obviously they’re not, but let the picture go all wobbly and turn black and white as we flash back to a classroom in 1959, where the teacher is taking down names. Fine if you’re Dave Smith, or Andy Johnson, or Sue Green, but when you get to Perry Iles, there’s a pause…
‘Perry Iles, Miss.’
‘Terry Ives? Barry Irons?’
‘No, Miss: Perry Iles.’
‘Is that Perry as in Perry Como?’ [Titter goes round the room]
‘Yes, Miss.’
‘Speak up, boy.’
‘Yes Miss.’
‘And Iles is I-S-L-E-S, is it?’
‘No, Miss, it’s I-L-E-S.’
…anyway, you can see where I’m going. It’s a useless name, the sort of name that gives you an inferiority complex from the age at which you first learn to talk. But its redeeming feature is that once it’s in your head you don’t forget it, because I’ll make sure you fucking well don’t (for god’s sake stop me before I kill more…). I refuse to use a pseudonym, because when I’m rich and famous and living with a surgically-enhanced Swedish contortionist and her twin sister in a hand-crafted Andalusian mansion, I want weeping ex-girlfriends to sigh with wistful remorse whenever they google my name, and wish they’d treated me better when they had the opportunity. It’s probably not as bad as some names, though. I imagine Fifi Trixibelle Geldof, Heavenly Hiraani Tigerlily Hutchence, Moon Unit Zappa and Zowie Bowie, or any child who was born in a muddy field in Glastonbury in 1970 and christened Pippin Galadriel Moonchild, will wonder what the fuck I’m making such a fuss about, but they’ll know themselves how it feels to be marked down as being different just because of your name.

And I bet Olly Murs does, too. Ally Muir? OlĂ© Mars? And even when people get it right phonetically, they’ll still spell it wrong: Olli Murrs, Ollie Murze. Even those rich fuckers at Microsoft laugh at us – their spellchecker redefines me as Perky Lies, and my friend Olly as Oily Moors. I feel such kinship for the poor boy, I really do, which is why I’ve spent the last couple of weeks repeating his name as I go about my daily tasks, mimicking the sepulchral tones of the X-Factor’s voice-over man. ‘Olly Murrrrrrrrs’, I growl as I wash the saucepans, and my wife points out that the kitchen window is open and the gossipy woman from Number 28 has just walked by. “Me and Olly Murs”, I sing to the tune of Me and Mrs Jones, until my wife tells me I’d make a good living hanging around the cottages on Hampstead Heath looking out for the George twins, Boy and Michael. I tourette his name with loud abandon as I joyfully skip down the aisles of my local Tesco (AISLES, there’s another one. And EYELES. Bastards.) My neighbours have started talking about me, calling their children indoors and their pets to heel when I pass, and giving my wife those sidelong looks that embody sympathy and a degree or two of concern.

But there he is: Olly Murs, on the X-Factor, with his name in black and white, spelt correctly, projected onto the screen behind him during his performance for ten million people to see. OLLY fucking MURS. Go on, my son, do the business, get out there and win the bastard. Do it for people like me.

Disclaimer: By the time this is published Olly Murs will have probably been voted out and everyone will have forgotten he ever existed and started to spell his name wrong again. Which just goes to show something or other, but I’m not sure what.
- Perky Lies, October 2009.

“Bleach it while you’re down there, doc.” Next edition, instead of writing, Perry Iles will be contemplating the pros and cons of rectal surgery.


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