Interesting Top Ten Lists

Top Ten Literary Characters

In Books, Top Ten on November 30, 2012 at 3:58 pm

I first created this list as a lightweight alternative to engaging my brain with daunting MA research but actually found myself very intrigued by what I felt were some of the strongest characters in literature – as well as some choices that may not appear to be the obvious characters to choose. This turned out to be a surprisingly tough challenge and had me consulting my bookcase (yes, I have thus far avoided caving in to Amazon’s demands that I get a Kindle) and choosing from a variety of texts ranging from airport/pulp fiction (Valley of the Dolls’ Neely O’Hara almost made the list) to historical classics (Dickens’ steely Estella from Great Expectations just missing the boat) to the new contemporary, theory driven texts (Jed from McEwan’s Enduring Love – perhaps the limp film adaptation scuppered Jed’s chances?).

Sadly in order to come up with the list I had to sacrifice the many wonderful characters existing in plays as it just became too many to comprehend – so apologies to the Mother Tulls, Miss Julies, Lord Gorings and Willy Lomans and my condolences to Shakespeare’s Iagos, Portias, Falstaffs and hunchbacked Richards.

Finally, before the list – just to say that one of the things that surprised me was that the list largely neglected some of my favourite authors – the characters in Douglas Coupland, James Baldwin, Don Delillo, Tom Wolfe etc clearly weren’t the dominating aspects of those novels.

Also I would like to say that I am very aware that I haven’t read everything! If you would like to suggest other classic characters then let me know! Email me at literaryjarvis@gmail.com – I’d love to hear your opinions.

Now without much further ado:

 

1. Holden Caufield (Catcher in the Rye: J. D. Salinger)
For me Holden Caufield captures the narrative voice of a post-war generation dealing with such grand anxieties as alienation, apathy and isolation. A cynic at just 17, Holden’s skeptical world view keeps the reader enthralled as he views a world that’s phoniness is finally being realised. However beyond these large themes – despite his wise-beyond-his-years criticisms he is also endearingly self deprecating, funny and his hopelessness with women highlights some of the more universal and humble follies of being young, horny and terrible with chat up lines.

 

2.Sebastian Flyte (Brideshead Revisited : Evelyn Waugh)
Perhaps I am only using Sebastian Flyte to express my love that that sad teddy bear Aloysius! More charm than Winnie the Poor with none of the anthropomorphism! Seriously though, Sebastian’s role attracts us with both it’s tragic self destruction and glamorous wit. The eccentric, aristocratic, (let’s face it, brazenly homosexual) alcoholic train-wreck that struggles with his relationships with his family, with poker-faced narrator Charles and the overbearing Catholic shadow that overhangs the Flytes and Marchmains. Through Sebastian and his sister Julia, Waugh’s wit flows sharp and fast. And of course, who couldn’t love a grown man with a teddy-bear…

 

3.Mrs Dubose (To Kill a Mockingbird: Harper Lee)
I first read Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird at the age of 9 and even then I loved the character of the cantankerous and sharp-tongued wheelchair-bound octogenarian first described as ‘Plain Hell’. At this age the reason why I loved her escaped me, though as I returned to the book and paid more attention to Atticus’ testament to her, I realised it was admiration for her bravery. A dying woman, she resigns herself to kicking the morphine addiction that has plagued her so that she may die beholden to nothing and nobody – “the bravest person I ever knew” – Atticus Finch.

 

4.Boxer (Animal Farm: George Orwell)
Did you cry? I cried. I was never able to look at glue in the same way again. The only non-human on the list, Boxer the horse is pure, dedicated, loyal and hardworking to a fault. In a book filled with loathsome human-like animals and grotesque animal-like humans, Boxer was one of the few characters you could truly feel for. Sadly, though all animals are equal, some are more equal than others and Boxer’s blind faith doesn’t protect him.

 

5.Daisy Buchanon (The Great Gatsby: F. Scott Fitzgerald)
Surely Daisy deserves the mother-of-the-year award for her child, Pammy, who scarcely gets a mention in the novel….perhaps she was left in one of Gatsby’s wine cabinets or rolled under the sofa… The character of Daisy is a much more subtle attack on the American ‘old-money’ aristocracy than her heavy handed husband Tom, it is Daisy’s ultimate cowardice and inability to leave behind the only world she’s ever known to join Great Gatsby – the self-made man – that is his ultimate disservice. Not only is Daisy the unwitting and self-absorbed spider in the centre of the novel’s web, she also gets some of the best lines…. “I’ve never seen such…such beautiful shirts before” (whilst she weeps clutching at Gatsby’s sartorial extravagances).

 

6.Carlo Marx (On the Road: Jack Kerouac)
Ok, maybe I’m cheating here as a way to include my favourite poet – Allen Ginsburg. Jack Kerouac’s on the road may well be synonymous with the pocket-guide for figures of the Beat generation including Neal Cassidy, Alan Ansen, William S. Burroughs and of course Allen Ginsberg, all under thinly disguised pseudonyms (Ginsberg was accused of communist sympathies during Joseph mcCarthy’s reign of anti-Reds fire). For me, Carlo Marx/Allen Ginsberg was what Dean Moriarty/Neal Cassidy could never truly manage – a truly free spirit, reveling in free spirit without the torment of fatherly abandonment and beholdenment to a platitude of abandened women and children. The novel also contains many allusions to its contemporary piece of literature – Howl, the best knownpoem of Ginsberg’s – with Carlo’s waxing lyrical about the Denver Doldrums and many other similar themes.

 

7.Inspector Javert (Les Miserables: Victor Hugo)
Ever read Victor Hugo’s behemoth of a novel? it’s bloody hard work and seems never-endless – I’m still amazed that they trimmed it down to a two and a half musical. A novel spanning most of France and many decades, filled with historical and political backgrounds and acting as a true voice for France’s underdogs – the beggars, the students, the whores, the downtrod and the wretched, it is Hugo’s hymn to the human spirit. It is a mark of Hugo’s phenomenal ability to understand the human nature that it’s primary antagonist, the dogmatic and tenacious Inspector Javert, is not an evil spirit bent on petty revenge for saint-like Jean Valjean’s minor crime misdemeanors but is himself a victim of an inflexible and damning morality, a morality so ingrained in him by his hard-handed upbringing that when his world view is shattered, he can see no other alternative.

 

8.Pauline Mole (Adrian Mole’s Diary series: Sue Townsend)
I sometimes think my actual mother likes to base herself on the chain-smoking, pop-liberalist, Thatcher hating mother of Adrian Mole. Throughout his diaries we follow her three marriages to the same man, immersion in Greer-feminism, fierce maternal pride and contrasting brazen put downs of her social failure of a son – including her utter dismay when his marriage to smart and successful Nigerian Jojo disintegrates. I don’t really have much more to say about Pauline other than I love her and she has made me laugh more than any other fictional character.

 

9.Jean (American Psycho : Bret Easton Ellis)
When reading Easton Ellis’ tour de force, capturing the zeitgeist of late 80s/early 90s materialism and the anesthetization of violence, I remember feeling a constant anxiety for the wellbeing of Jean – the devotee Patrick Bateman refers to as “my secretary who is in love with me”. Possibly the only moral calm point in the book’s turbulent narrative and plethora of grotesque and self-involved consumerist characters, her banal conversation and demure attraction make her the most human character in this dark satire. Also she was played by Chloe Sevigny in the film adaptation. And she rocks.

 

10.Dr. Prunesquallor (Gormenghast trilogy : Mervyn Peake)
Gormenghast castle’s resident physician, complete nerd and self indulgent fop…and unlikely hero. Mervyn Peake reserved the very best of his wordplay for Prunesquallor’s self important babble, whilst we get the impression that he is indeed far more intelligent than the other comparatively medieval characters, his character falls and strange lonely existence with his equally virginal spinster sister make him as much a fool as the others. Nevertheless, it is his own deductions and attention to detail that ultimately saves the castle and its denizens from a Machiavellian villain!

by Daniel Jarvis

Daniel Jarvis is a postgrad student at University of Manchester studying Contemporary Literature. He also works part time in a children’s art centre. He’s a bit of a culture vulture and can often be seen in bookshops, galleries, theatres and cinemas. In his spare time he likes dinosaurs, walking and finding excuses to get chorizo into as many recipes as possible. His ideal pet would be a tapir.

Top Ten Obscure Things That Occurred In Other Countries

In Top Ten, Travel on June 13, 2012 at 2:43 pm

I often consider myself to have had a very boring life. Then I started thinking about moderately out-of-the-ordinary things that have ever happened to me, or that I’ve ever done, and realised that most of these took place outside of the confines of this dear United Kingdom. I don’t make a habit of travelling outside the country very often so certain countries appear in this list more than once, but a lot of weird things can happen on the same holiday. Carry on reading for just ten separate instances of obscure happenings within my life personally. I should warn you though, it’s mighty long.

10: Made A Dolphin Statuette In Woodwork Class [Germany]

I was twelve when I first went away without my parents. It was all part of an exchange trip set up by my high school. My hometown of Ellesmere Port is twinned with the small town of Reutlingen in south-west Germany and so, naturally, that’s where we had the deal with. My German pen-pal was a quiet lad named Christian and it was with him and his family whom I stayed for the longest week-and-a-half of my childhood. Once I had arrived at their house, been shown to my room and left alone with a complimentary tray of a giant bottle of apple juice, a glass and probably some biscuits or something (I can’t remember), I broke down in a state of frenzied hysteria and bawling like a lost child in a supermarket who proclaims “I want my mummy”.

I had to make do, so with my mood as relentlessly stoic as it was, I had to accompany Christian during his day-to-day school life. I don’t remember much about German school other than the first of Christian’s lessons I attended – a maths lesson where, upon realising he had an English exchange student in the class today, the lecturer decided to deliver the entire lesson in English for my benefit, much to the dismay of my Deutsch counterparts – and sitting around in a woodwork lesson watching the other kids continue with their projects. Rather than stare forlornly into the middle distance for an hour, I rummaged through some of the scrap pieces of wood people had discarded over time and found one piece which looked to resemble a leaping dolphin making a small arch shape. I took another plain piece of wood, coloured it in with blue pencil crayon and blu-tacked the lowermost points of the ‘dolphin’ – the nose and the tail flipper – to this ocean-like podium. Of this, I took immense pride.

Years later, I took Woodwork for my A-Levels and barely just scraped a pass.

09: Free Entrance To The Guinness Storehouse [Ireland]

This summer, my University Archery team went on a pre-packaged Tour holiday to Dublin. I say Tour because that’s what many University sports teams deem it to be. I say holiday because that’s how it actually turned out. The company in charge of organising our sport-themed trip were a little lacklustre in their approach to the underdog sport of Archery. It also didn’t help that we were the only Archery team in attendance so it’s safe to assume that we finished somewhere near the bottom of the “Priorities” pile. As a result, our sporting session of a sport-themed week turned out rather unsportly. We ended up facing a good few days of nothing but sight-seeing ahead of us and we felt justified in demanding to be compensated.

So huzzah! The company’s representatives worked their magic and our team-planned trip to the Guinness Storehouse in the heart of Dublin was given to us for free as a gesture of good will. By that, I of course mean that they had to pay for our entry and we didn’t have to pay ourselves. It’s just as well, really. I’m not a massive fan of the black stuff. I managed a whole three sips in the tasting room (which honestly has to be some kind of record for me) before passing the rest of my glass over to one of my Guinness-downing cohorts. As I say, the rest of the week essentially became a holiday starting with that day, which I must say was rather nice getting to socialise with Uni friends.

Pretty much makes the whole trip worthwhile.

08: Bus Ride In Massive Rainfall [Mexico]

We, the family and friends and I, went to Cancún for a couple of weeks to attend the wedding of said friends. It took place towards the end of 2005 and the timing of our holiday could not have been luckier if we’d eaten four-leaf clovers, de-shoed horses and amputated rabbits while we were at it. We went during hurricane season, arriving on the back of one hurricane and leaving just in time to miss another. For a while it was uncertain that we’d actually make it home when we’d planned to because of the forecast. When we returned home, news reports showed of dozens of international families and holidaymakers stranded in the very area we had been. People were taken to temporary shelters which came across like refugee camps and lived off rationed water. It’s fair to say that we well and truly dodged a bullet. And a hurricane.

Still, tropical rainfall season didn’t completely subside whilst we were there. On one of the few days when we actually ventured outside of the all-expenses-paid resort, we ended up catching a bus to an indoor mall just a short way away. It’s only recently that I’ve managed to get my head around public transport in this country, so using foreign transport at a time when I didn’t understand it felt bizarre. Firstly, the awful weather just cast gloom deep within me and secondly, the lack of free seats meant I was one of the lucky ones who got to stand and hold onto the rail handles. And when I say hold onto, I mean hold onto for dear life. Mexican buses travel at approximately 73mph (maybe I’m exaggerating, maybe I’m actually quite close). The fact that I was standing in an insanely fast moving vehicle in torrential tropical rain whilst clinging onto life as I knew it thrust the fear of God well and truly into me. Still, what do you expect for 12 Pesos? (50p for the bus is mighty cheap, no?)

That, coupled with the news that we may not be able to travel home for fear of a forecast hurricane genuinely made me think my life would end in that country.

07: Thanksgiving In (what I believe to have been) Denny’s [United States]

Over time, I’ve come to realise that Thanksgiving in America is practically on the same celebratory level as Christmas in the UK. Upon my sole visit to the States at the ages of twelve (some six months before my German exchange hell), my understanding of this American holiday was akin to that of our St. George’s Day, i.e. you sort of know it’s a pseudo-special day, you sort of make a slight reference to it once, you forget about it and deduce that it’s essentially “just another day”. Our two week stint in Florida came to an end on that particular Thursday of November which just so happened to be Thanksgiving Day. Naturally, my father, mother, sister and I were more concerned with the fact that we had to check out of our hotel fairly early and somehow kill time and eat something before our flight home later that night.

We happened upon a restaurant which I believe was a branch of Denny’s. It might not’ve been since I don’t remember this in its entirety; all I have to go on this are fragmented memories, popular culture references and the loyalty of a magic eight-ball. The restaurant was fairly large, accentuated by the fact that we were virtually the only people in there. There might’ve been one other family over at the far side but, as I say, I don’t remember too well. Staff were limited and we were served by what seemed to be one of only two waitresses. Pleasantries were exchanged, food was brought and hopefully she was charmed enough by our obvious out-of-town-ness (screw it, out-of-country-ness) that she didn’t completely resent us for giving her reason to work on this holiday. As far as I remember it, towards the end of the meal, my mother struck up a conversation with the waitress about whether it’s normal to get people in during a holiday occasion like this and whether this particular diner in this particular state in this particular country has some sort of minimum wage policy. I can’t remember if the girl was paid a decent wage but the conversation compelled my mother to leave a substantial tip when the bill came. In my head, our tip to her was twice as large as what she would’ve earned for the day, but my twelve-year-old brain was mighty gullible and that might not’ve been entirely true.

Also I only found out about Thanksgiving that morning when a hotel maid doing the rounds cheerily wished me and my sister a “Happy Thanksgiving”, to which we nervously, feebly and very Englishly replied with a half-hearted and quizzical “thank you”.

06: Learned To Eat With Chopsticks For The First Time [Germany]

Part of the reason my school-organised exchange trip to Germany shook me up so much was that, not only did I feel such a fish out of water without my family around me, but also the fact that I had only been learning the language for some seven months. Now that my sister lives there (but in a different part, it’s a big country ya know), visits don’t seem as daunting as that first time, mostly because I’m with relatives but also because my German language skills are slightly more advanced at the age of 22 than they were when I was 12. I’m not claiming to be an expert or remotely fluent in the language, but at least now if I were to get lost in a German supermarket, I’d be able to cry out some form of “I want my mummy” in the relevant linguistic fashion.

We went over last summer as part of a “visit the relatives, slash, have a bloody holiday” kind of trip. If you want me to be a bit more topical about this, it was during the whole hoo-hah over a contaminated crop of beansprouts grown somewhere in the country being widely distributed and hospitalising many Europeans with food poisoning. We ate out one night at a local Chinese restaurant; a bit trippy if you’re English (you know, in a bit of a “what, you mean they have Chinese people here too?” kind of way). During my scouting of the all-you-can-eat buffet trays full of Eastern delicacies, I inwardly expressed my frustration at the lack of beansprouts in this Chinese restaurant, before angrily telling myself “you moron, of course there aren’t any right now, you’re in Germany and there’s practically a countrywide beansprout quarantine going on”. I went back to the table with whatever food I had and ate in shame.

After a long time using the fork, I decided to give chopsticks a go even though I’d never gotten the hang of using them to eat. Miraculously, I somehow managed it with some degree of success and since then, eating Chinese food is now just an excuse to get the chopsticks out again.

05: Shot Archery Whilst Dressed As A Panda [Ireland]

As I mentioned earlier, I recently went to Dublin along with my University’s Archery team (cos I’m, like, so cool, yah?) Even though most of the week involved us having to entertain ourselves by way of museums, shopping and getting free samples of the nation’s drink, the catalyst for it came from the fact that our prospected two days worth of shooting (which is, like, proper Archery speak for firing arrows from bows, you get me?) actually turned out to be about three hours long, in a very small space, with excruciatingly sub-par equipment. The equipment needed for such an event is actually quite intensive when you get down to it. We, naturally, provided our own bows and arrows and other miscellaneous accessories for personal use; all we needed the Tour company to provide us with were a few large targets and stands set up in an area surrounded by safety netting. This we did not get, thus our moaning and subsequent free day out. Equipment was indeed provided, but to a less than desirable quality and of a less than desirable quantity.

Before we left for the venue on the day, however, the team collectively decided – sort of on the spur of the moment – to shoot whilst in fancy dress, namely Robin Hood and his Merry Men and other various Medieval-style peasant-wear. My particular fancy dress in this area was pretty lacklustre; essentially I had an oversized tan coloured shirt to be tied around my waist with a rope and green combat trousers, which many historians reading this might frown upon. Over the course of the morning, the Robin Hood theme became somewhat relaxed and we decided to shoot in whatever attire we wanted provided dress was still “fancy”. Two of us in the group came equipped with oversized character onesies (mighty comfortable to sleep in, by the way) which pretty much meant that we were sorted. It worked out especially for me since I’d slept in mine the night before and, this way, didn’t really need to change. My onesie took the form of a giant panda by the way, just in case you didn’t get it from the sub-title of this event.

Admittedly, it’s not that great when you consider that my costume was outdone by a life-size Pikachu.

04: Made Friends With Kids I Didn’t Understand [France]

For the life of me, I honestly cannot remember how long ago this was. On second thought, I might’ve been ten. Anyway, for a large part of my childhood, we owned a mobile caravan. At least one weekend a month, the family would pack up the essentials, hitch it up to the back of the car and off we’d go for a weekend with the aptly named Caravan Club (it’s a real organisation, check it if you don’t believe me) where we’d meet up with other caravan enthusiasts and enjoy one another’s company. Imagine Brookside meets The Waltons, but with caravans. Some of the family friends we made whilst caravanning joined us on a trip to the West coast of France… in caravans. That meant driving from Wirral to Dover, ferrying from Dover to Calais, then more driving from Calais to wherever the bloody hell it was we ended up (and then back again a week or two later).

Our plotted space of field in the camp-site was directly next to some other holiday-goers, only these people didn’t travel across international borders. The British grown-ups bonded with the French grown-ups over barbeques and tequila, whilst the French children showed off their proficiency with the English language through mimicking the current mainstream pop hits of the day. During the whole holiday, I’d see the French kids at various points around the site: in the swimming pool, in the miniature games room, buying ice creams, playing boules on the gravel. We essentially became friends by default, despite barely being able to communicate coherently with each other. One day I remember them pointing to a motorbike then pointing to me accompanied with the appropriate words “moto” and “you”. I assumed they wanted to know if I owned a motorbike or if I could ride one, or if I wanted to hijack this one. I replied with “no” and they all rolled their eyes as if I’d misunderstood. As I understand it, they were telling me the French word for the vehicle and weren’t satisfied until I told them English people call it “motorbike”. On the final evening, contact details were swapped; God only knows why. At this point in my life I’d never heard of the internet so the only form of keeping in touch was really the telephone. We swapped numbers, along with international dialling codes, and I showed off my proficiency with French numbers which I’d learned from the PC Genius series of educational software. Me and one of the French girls went through my phone number digit by digit: “zéro, zéro, quatre, quatre, un, cinq, un….”

I never did get a call from them. Might’ve been a bit awkward if I had though.

03: Crouched In Back Of Car On The Autobahn [Germany]

I’ve already mentioned my sister living in Germany. A few days before the Chinese restaurant at which I bemoaned the lack of beansprouts, my sister wanted to refurnish the flat. This involved a trip to the Ikea store some thirty minutes drive away. It’s nice to know that my first ever Ikea experience was also the real deal, by the way: signs written in another language, prices given in Euro, food somewhat different and all European-y. Anyway, she ended up getting enough flat-pack living room miscellanea to warrant two trips in the car. This involved her and dad taking the bulk of stuff in the first journey, leaving me, mum and infant nephew with the rest of it, in a foreign superstore, for an hour.

By the time the second journey came around, there was panic that the rest of the stuff wouldn’t all fit in the car as well as the five of us; someone would surely have to stay behind again. But we prevailed and managed to fit it so that sister was comfortable in the driving seat, mum was comfortable in the passenger seat, dad comfortable on the back and nephew comfortable in his booster seat. Lengthy boxes blocked off the remaining back seat meaning that I’d have to stay behind and my sister would have to come back for me in another hour. Being impatient souls that we are though, me and her, I was made to improvise by somewhat crouching in that space in the back seat where your feet go. Face down into the floor of the car, arse up at the window, I was stuck, wedged into the car, trying my best to not moon fellow drivers by keeping my rear end low and suffering the pointy wrath of the window-winder-downer-thing because of it. If ever one had a list of obscure things to do before you die with “Travel 80km/h on the German Autobahn in an uncomfortably crouched position” I could well and truly check that one off.

Also, “Exit car by backwards roll”.

02: Suffering A Migraine In A Swiss Science Museum [Switzerland]

Quite possibly the most surreal of all on this list, probably because I’d almost blanked it from memory all these years, only to dig it up again for use in this. I’ve only ever spent one day in Switzerland. It was with Christian and my German exchange family. Living in the south of Germany, the Swiss border was only a couple of hours drive away, and when you’ve got a foreign guest to entertain, an interactive science museum just over the border seems like a nice day out, so I can’t fault them for taking me there. Forgive me, this day’s a bit sketchy in my head, but from what I remember it was a fairly pleasant day, not least for the fact that science museums are so much fun!

The incident in question occurred after I’d played about on a certain experiment thing. I’d eaten almost a whole bag of Werther’s Originals on the day too. I’m not actually sure if they’re relevant to the story or not but I like to think that they played a part in my suffering if only because of the sheer gluttonous fact that I’d practically wolfed them down. The experiment involved two exercise bikes on opposite ends of a giant room. Connecting them was a Perspex tube that ran up the wall and along the ceiling. Inside the tube was a canister. Next to each bicycle was a pad of paper and pencils and the idea went thus: you write your message on the paper, you put the paper in the canister, pop the canister in the tube, hop on the bike and pedal a hell of a lot. What transpired was a very low-tech version of message delivery you see in that episode of Futurama where bureaucratic files are popped in a tube and instantly whisked away at high speed. I assume the bicycles powered some sort of vacuum mechanism inside the tube which caused the canister to travel. It is because of this that the bikes required a lot of power to pedal, like deliberately switching to a harder gear when approaching treacle. Ultimately, I think I overstayed my welcome on the bike since I was cycling so hard the veins in my head were probably becoming prominent extrusions. I don’t believe I got a migraine as such but it was, without doubt, the worst, most pounding headache I’ve ever experienced in life this far. Coupled with the fact that I didn’t know what was going on, barely understood the language and didn’t know how to explain the situation to my German guardians without knowing the word “kopfschmerz”, I lay down, clutching both sides of my head, moaning and groaning like a dying hippo because I didn’t know what else I could do.

I didn’t pass out, I remained conscious for the rest of the day, although I don’t remember a bloody thing that happened after that.

01: The First Time I Was Mistaken For Rupert Grint [United States]

I’m ginger, therefore I must, by law, be likened to him who played Ron Weasley in the Harry Potter films.  Now I’ll be the first one to admit that when the first movie came out, my eleven-year-old self bore a striking resemblance to an eleven-year-old Rupert Grint, but ever since then we’ve grown in different directions. His hair is longer, often slightly greasy and he’s able to grow facial hair at an alarming rate. I wear glasses to correct myopia and take about two-and-a-half weeks to sprout sideburns. Not much of a surprise, then, when my eleven-year-old self was spotted in Florida and mistaken for a movie star. After all, we even shared the same nationality.

It was the same trip that ended with Thanksgiving. Twas the November of 2001 if you’re after some specific context; a trip to Disney capital Orlando somewhat overshadowed by concerns of fundamental extremism after the New York skyline was aerially attacked some two months previously. It was also the time that the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (or Sorcerer’s Stone if you’re American and don’t understand what a philosopher is) was released unto the world. I was with the family, waiting in line for a ride at one of Disneyland’s many theme parks; I believe this particular one was in the Epcot Centre. Just as we made it to the front of the line, the security guard making sure people went through in a calm and orderly fashion must’ve heard our small group speaking with English accents. She was a large African-American woman, very much in line with the stereotype that Family Guy might pick up on, depicting her as holding up one finger as if to say “no, no” but shifting her head side-to-side saying “mm-hm”. As I moved to pass her and board the ride we’d waited for, she stopped me and in her most obvious, Americanest tones she belted out “oh ma God, ain’t you the boy from Harry Potter?” I’d never been remotely interested in the books and not known anything of its characters. As far as I was concerned, this woman had mistaken a somewhat chubby, pale-faced, ginger English kid with a black-haired, head-scarred, bespectacled English kid. I forgave her her arrogance that all English kids look exactly the same and thought nothing of it for a considerable while.

Once Harry Potter fever gripped the entire planet and its surrounding matter, I was subjected to daily shouts in public of “Ron! It’s Ron! Look, he’s Ron! Look, you’re Ron!” and the relentless pointing, as if everyone believed that they were the first people in existence to have stumbled across this vague similarity and to have possessed fingers.

Just to think, if only I’d known that Harry Potter had a ginger friend who’d go on to make millions from this franchise, I could’ve auditioned, my life could’ve been considerably different, and a relative unknown by the name of Rupert would be recounting stories of his past in a blog post like this in the vain attempt that somebody notices him.

By Jamie Walsh

Jamie Walsh is an undergraduate Creative Writing student at MMU Cheshire, currently based in Crewe. He often lets his brain loose at a computer keyboard, the results of such efforts often appear at hardlyamazing.blogspot.com He also owns the Twitter name @Jimadee and mainly uses it to promote the aforementioned blog and keep track of how many followers he has; currently resembling the population of an abandoned train station.

Top Ten Things I Genuinely Don’t Understand Why People Do

In Top Ten, WTF on June 10, 2012 at 9:14 am
  1. People who rush to get the ‘first’ comment on Youtube videos, Facebook posts and websites. I’d understand this more if there was some sort of reward system for typing FIRST!!!! Before all the other idiots, but there isn’t. Perhaps people get a little rush from being the first person in recorded history to post a reply on Facebook to their favourite band’s announcement that they’re going on tour on the other side of the world. But the problem is that you get about a hundred brain-dead cretins all shouting FIRST!!! At the same time. And THEN you get some scathing ironic burke who decides to be witty by typing ‘tenth’ or ‘three-hundred-and-forty-sixth’. There’s a special section of Hell reserved for these people.
  1. People who appear on Embarrassing Bodies. I know this isn’t saying anything new, but… imagine this. Bob has a very rare condition where his man parts are roughly the same size as those little cocktail sausages you get at rubbish parties. He’s troubled by this. He fears the possibility of sexual encounters and daren’t confide in any of his mates. So what does he do? He goes on Channel 4. By definition, he also appears on Channel 4+1, the inevitable re-runs on More4 and is immortalised forever on 4OD. The only thing I can think of to explain why people willingly appear on live television with lopsided danglies and infected nooks and crannies is that they’re being paid obscene amounts to do it. Or maybe they’re all exhibitionists as well. Who knows?
  1. People that have a seizure when I tell them I haven’t seen a particular film or TV show. So a film comes up in conversation. I mention that in the course of my day-to-day life that I haven’t got round to seeing it yet. The other person chokes a little bit and looks at me like I’ve murdered a puppy. “Ohmygod what do you mean you’ve never seen The Sixth Sense???” I mean, there’s some films that you’d be hard come by to have never seen, but the question is phrased in the same way that someone might say “What do you mean you’ve never eaten a sandwich?” It’s not so much the surprise, but the drama that gets shoved into it.
  1. People who wee on toilet seats. I’m not an expert, but I imagine this is a problem restricted to guys. I’m guessing , though, that after many, many years of having wees fairly regularly, a guy will know whether he’s any good at ‘aiming’. If you’ve got a dab hand for getting it where you want it, then that’s great. No problems there. But if you objectively know that you couldn’t hit the ocean if you pissed out of a boat, it might be a good idea to put the seat up. Just a thought.
  1. Cold callers. I’m particularly passionate about this one, for a very good reason. Somehow, somewhere, some telemarketing company managed to get our home phone number, and now we regularly get about five calls a day. We don’t get many calls as it is, so the chances are that whenever the phone rings it’s Mr. Patel from New Delhi trying to sell us some volcano insurance. Once, as an experiment, I let the phone ring to see how long it would keep on screaming without being picked up and disconnected. After four minutes I gave up and answered. And you know what? They put me on hold. Fuckers. As well as being annoyed as hell, I genuinely don’t understand how they can make a living from this. Who actually talks to them??
  1. Cashiers that hand me my change on top of the note. Maybe I’m just being picky here. But I’m sure you’ve been in the situation, right? You buy something and wait for your change. Instead of being handed the note first and then the change (or vice versa), like a civilised human being, you’re handed the change on top of the note and have to balance it like you’re playing a fucking egg and spoon race as you walk out of the shop, desperately trying to cram it all in your pockets before it falls down a drain. I dread to think what this must be like at a drive-thru. The Owl and the Pussycat may have seemed content to wrap all their money up in a five-pound note, but I’m sure as hell not.
  1. People who spend the entire fucking film asking me what else they’ve seen one of the cast members in. I don’t know. I haven’t seen the exact same films as you have. I appreciate that your need to find out what other parts the main character’s cousin’s wife has played overrides your need to actually watch the film, but everyone else just wants to watch it. Shut up. Either they do, which is forgivable, or they get their phone out in the middle of the cinema to check IMDB. And everyone knows that the light from a phone in a pitch-black cinema is blinding. The most annoying thing of all is when they find out and then have to inform you. “He was one of the guys in the restaurant in Pulp Fiction. You know the one? The one who tried to rob Samuel L. Jackson at the end?” That’s great. Fancy checking IMDB again to tell me what just happened in the film we’re currently watching? I missed it.
  1. People who order a large Big Mac meal with a McFlurry and Chicken McNuggets with extra dip but get a Diet Coke. I mean… this is exactly like snorting crack cocaine all day but turning down a pint. I’m not exactly sure who these people are trying to kid; themselves or the cashier they’re ordering from. I’d be tempted to ask them if they wanted a Diet Cheeseburger as well and give them two slices of bread.
  1. People who fish for compliments on Facebook. You know what I’m talking about. Everyone knows that one empty-headed girl who posts a photo of her looking her absolute best with the caption ‘ugh, so ugly’ or something of that ilk. Ten times out of ten you get a slavering army of sex-starved guys ‘liking’ the picture and trying to convince her that actually babes, you’re well fit in this one. It’s blatantly obvious this was her intention in the first place, or why would she upload such an ‘ugly’ photo? I wish I was brave enough to reply with a ‘yep’ the next time I see a photo like this.
  1. PeOpLe wHo TyPe lIkE tHiS. I mean, sure, replacing the word ‘you’ with the letter U is quicker and easier. As is usually the case when substituting syllables for numbers: 2nite, 4ever, all that jazz. But aLtErNaTeLy CaPiTaLiSiNg EvErY wOrD carries so much bloody hassle that I don’t understand why people do it. The stress of actually typing that out was immense. My Shift key’s never seen so much action.

By Dan Peacock

Dan Peacock is a student and writer from York. He writes poetry and prose, and his works have appeared in Gumbo Press, Streetcake and FlashFlood, among others. His short story, ‘Entropy’, was recently selected for this year’s 8×8 anthology. He occasionally writes articles for The Student Review, and spends his spare time staring hopefully at blank Microsoft Word documents.  You can find him tweeting as @Danye_West.

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