Interesting Top Ten Lists

Archive for January, 2012|Monthly archive page

Top Ten Ways I Intend to Kill Myself

In Animals, Injuries, Music, Top Ten on January 29, 2012 at 6:21 pm

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by Fat Roland

Fat Roland yarbs strange fiction wordoids at Italic Eyeball and flems on and on about music at Fat Roland On Electronica, for which he has grubbed awards. He piked in 2011 when he was commended in the Manchester Fiction Prize and now everythroob he does is downhole.


Top Ten terrible things my Brother and I did when we were kids

In Terrible Things, Top Ten on January 27, 2012 at 8:43 am

Oh, what a little terror I was when I was little! My parents are constantly reminding me of all the naughty things I have done and my relatives like to share the stories with any newcomers to the family circle. My older brother never seems to get the same treatment, but he had his fair share of naughtiness too!

1. Feeding my mum cat food – Yes, cat food. It was the squishy, smelly, jelly type. I chose a flavour I thought she would enjoy; duck or something posh like that. I thoughtfully put it in one of those plastic cups with a lid and a straw. The delight on her face when I handed her ‘a drink’ was wiped off pretty quickly. I was only four, and yet still feel the guilt.

2. Smashing the utility room door window. Now, this was a joint effort so I cannot take all the credit for this naughty deed. My terrible older brother and I were having an argument one day, and so he thought it would be funny to lock me in the cold and damp utility room. I did not find this particularly funny, and encouraged by the funny faces he was pulling, hit the window over and over again until my fists smashed right through. Our pocket money went towards a new window, of course.

3. Biting my dad for no reason at all. When I was younger, I had sharp teeth that would always be useful in winning a fight with my brother. I liked biting things. It was one of those lovely Sunday mornings and everyone was relaxed and happy. I remember feeling very happy when dad gave me a huge hug. There is nothing like a hug from your dad! And while we sat there, sharing our unspoken fatherly-daughterly love, I opened wide and bit his belly as hard as I could. A lovely moment, ruined forever. And to this day I still ask myself; Why, oh why?

4. Smashing lights. When we got the living room decorated, mum had to go out and buy the most delicate and expensive glass lights to dangle from the ceiling. To be honest, we never liked them anyway, so when my brother jumped up, arms outstretched to scream “YEEESSSSSS!” to celebrate a goal on TV, neither of us were too upset when one of the lights smashed into fragments. Mum was rather upset though.

5. Emptying my au-pair’s perfume bottle. This is what my uncle likes to call ‘The Perfume Episode’, as though it was just another episode in the on-going saga of my naughtiness. It’s not that I didn’t like the au-pair; it was just that on this particular day, she was ignoring me because there were guests in the house. And so I ran upstairs and shamed the whole family by spraying the entire contents of her Chanel perfume all over the landing. As the beautiful aroma wafted down the stairs, I knew I was in BIG trouble. Mum marched me to the shop to buy a brand new bottle out of my birthday money. That’s good parenting – I never did it again!

6. Messing with ghosts from the Beyond. My brother was never into this sort of thing, but one day a couple of his friends managed to persuade him to make an Ouija board. We spent a good couple of hours messing about with a ghost friend we met called ‘Casper’ (Not very original, I’m afraid). This was all very fun when we were playing outside on a sunny afternoon, but things got out of hand in the evening when we chanted ‘The Devil is coming’ ten times in front of a mirror. That night ended up being full of nightmares and tears.

7. Turning the clocks back as an April Fool’s joke. This majorly backfired – I was the biggest fool that day. On the last evening of March, I tiptoed upstairs and turned my mum’s alarm clock back by two hours, so that when her alarm went off the next day, instead of being 7am, it would be 5am. I thought I was so clever, but I wasn’t smiling when mum came into my room the next morning, screaming ‘You’re going to be late for school!’ It wasn’t until I was fully dressed, wiping the sleep from my bleary eyes, that I remembered what I had done the night before! I felt so stupid – it wasn’t until quite recently that I admitted this to anyone!

8. Almost overdosing on my delicious banana flavoured medicine. Yummy, yummy banana flavoured goodness. I couldn’t get enough of it! So one day, when I had my bi-annual ear infection, I climbed up and up and up to perilous heights to the very top shelf of the bathroom cupboard, used my genius bottle opening skills on the useless ‘child-proof’ lid and downed half the bottle. Knowing I had done something terrible, I thought I should warn someone, so I went to my older brother to offer him some. Next thing I knew, mum’s fingers were down my throat making me sick into the sink and I was on my way to A&E.

9. Whoopee cushion fun. Whoever bought my brother one of these fun toys did not know what they were letting themselves in for. He never seemed to get bored of it and one day he took things a bit far. Dad’s boss had come over for a coffee, which was the perfect opportunity for my brother to be his most terrible, and horrify my dad by slipping the whoopee cushion under one of the sofa cushions. How was he supposed to know it would be the place where dad’s boss would sit?

10. The time I was told to walk back to England. When I was younger, we used to go on driving holidays in France. I don’t think I was ever too badly behaved, but there was one time when I was feeling particularly hot and bothered and started complaining about being cooped up for so long. I went on and on and whined and moaned until in the end I was told to get out of the car with my little rucksack and walk back to England. Which I did. I stomped along for about ten minutes until the car came back to collect me. I still believe I could have hitchhiked all the way home if I had wanted to!

It’s true we did some terrible things, but to be honest, I blame the parents – They never should have let us read Roald Dahl!

By Annalisa King

Annalisa is a twenty-four year old cat lover from Nottingham. You can often find her with her nose in a book, or behind a camera.  She likes to write about what she reads on her blog http://bundleofbooks.org/ and you can also find her at http://flustermagazine.com/.

Top Ten Awful Band Names I Have Been Involved With

In Music, Top Ten on January 23, 2012 at 9:05 am

1) The Quarter To’s

Suggested by a drunken drummer, this name is awkward to punctuate, and I just couldn’t imagine it appearing in text larger than about 10pt. The apostrophe is so wrong, but leave it out and it looks like you’re called The Quarter Toss, which if anything is worse.

2) Midland Railway

This band actually existed , and soldiered on for a number of years, but the attempt to harness the untapped ‘Trainspotter Chic’ market was doomed to failure. Note the absence of a definite article.

3) Soviet Moonshot

Named after a hideous stuffed toy, purchased from ebay, which featured the body of a cat and the tail of a dolphin. The name clearly strives for of a sense of post-rock abstraction, but sadly falls short. As much a genetic freak as the toy which inspired it.

4) Dear Mr Dickinson

We were trying to think of a name. The guitarist had a letter in his pocket. It was addressed to Mr Dickinson. I have a secret fondness for this name, which conjures up images of Sarah Records style jangly indie, but not the Fall tribute act in suits which it was lumped with.

5) Monte Cassino

Monte Cassino is the collected name given to the four battles which made up the Allies’ assault on Rome in 1944. We thought it sounded like Monty Python. Both irritatingly knowing and uselessly obscure, I have to take the blame for this one.

6) Stephen Bray and the Furious Motherfuckers

Mainly suggested because it was ludicrously inappropriate. Top tip – never tell your singer he can have his name in the title, even as a joke. ‘Well, I like the first part…’

7) Kate Beats

We had a friend called Kate Beats. She wasn’t in the band though.

8) Porphyria

Porphyria is believed to be the cause of ‘The Madness of King George’. It turns your urine purple, causes blisters and swellings, and can make hair grow on your forehead, which is a great set of images to conjure up for your audience. May be suitable for teen Goths, however.

9) The Moodswingers

I don’t have much to say about this really. Could work for a teenage girl punk band. Not so much for two young boys playing in their parents’ spare room.

10) The Shaken Babies

Plumbing new depths of inappropriateness, this was to be the name of a Manchester dandy supergroup led by Joshua ben Joseph. The Daily Mail headlines write themselves.

By Thom Cuell

Thom Cuell is a lazy lit blogger, failed popstar, dandy and self-styled cultural consultant. He talks about books and performance at http://workshyfop.blogspot.com, and details amusing things his girlfriend does on @TheWorkshyFop. His online moniker seemed a good idea until employers started using google to filter job applicants.

Top ten constructions from leftover snacks and miscellaneous items purchased for Christmas 2011

In skills, Top Ten on January 21, 2012 at 5:42 pm

Construction #1: Bicycle
After viewing the genius of Bill Bailey and his Dandelion Mind show over the Christmas period, I spent last Sunday afternoon building a Kit-Kat and Wagon Wheel bicycle, complete with Toblerone bike rack. http://twitpic.com/87nkkk

Construction #2: Camp fire
The twiglets and the gold parcel ribbon were just sitting there. Having already knocked over a fat K.P peanuts tub, I arranged a handful of twiglets and the gold parcel ribbon on a dry roasted shingle beach. Ken and Barbie would lap it up.

Construction #3: Table-top football
Jelly babies aren’t a traditional Christmas sweet, but we have them at home during the festive/family/retail season. It was as I was playing the game ‘Vlad the Impaler’ with my sugary jellied friends that I made this wonderful discovery: if you skewer two to three jelly babies per cocktail stick, and dig out a wafer-tastic creamy cheese delight that is a cheese football, Bob’s your uncle, Fanny’s your aunt, you’ve got yourself a table-top football game for the next five minutes, or how ever long it takes for it all to fall apart.

Construction #4: Snail
We are balancing roast chestnuts on the last of the dried dates. It’s not difficult. Once you’ve achieved this, they bear an uncanny resemblance to snails trailing across your garden path.

Construction #5: Smart phone/general gadgetry
I was zoning out on the Chocolate Yule log. Anna had placed it on the coffee table. I reached into my jeans and realised the Christmas gift I’d received from Harry was no longer in my pocket. In mild inebriation, I must have put it down somewhere. Wine has done this to me before you know. Its spirit, which is nothing whatsoever to do with its liquid form, exerts a sort of discipline. Wine has this way of encouraging the opposite hand of that which clasps it, by the thin neat stem of a Tulipe glass, to remain free of unnecessary objects, just in case. I saw it on the coffee table. It lay in terror under grabby, sticky, ice-cream covered hands. I scooped it up before chubby little fingers could get to it. Reaching for the bowl of assorted sweets, I ripped open a bag with my one free hand and teeth. I scattered the contents onto the Yule and pointed it out to baby Alexa. Let the kids go hammer and tongs at the Chocolate Yule log, finished off with dolly mixture ‘buttons’ to press instead of my new IPhone 4S.

Construction #6: ‘Bamboo’ wind chime
If you find yourself strumming Chris Rea’s ‘Home for Christmas’ on an acoustic next December, you’re almost certainly to be sitting cross-legged next to Ken and Barbie, and by a camp fire assembled from twiglets. Discarded pistachio shells and bite size Smarties boxes hanging from a Pringle tube will provide a beautiful ambient backdrop. Honest.

Construction #7: Raft
There’s something enigmatic about the freedom of the seas, the open salty air, and the bob-bob of the ocean wave. I have a Jacob’s Cream Cracker raft, a cocktail stick mast, and Quality Street foil wrapper for a sail. It’s all just about still floating on a sea of mulled wine.

Construction #8: Giant Hoopla game
Don’t let Downton Abbey fool you. Charades is out for Christmas 2012. Dust the spiders off the 2011 Christmas wreath, then take turns tossing the ‘hoop’ over the last few empty Kingfisher larger bottles you have in the garden. The winner takes home the left over brussels pate.

Construction #9: Weeble
Apparently the Weeble was the ‘in’ toy in the Seventies. I tried spiking a pickled onion on top of a Christmas tree bauble. I can’t see what all the fuss was about.

Construction #10: Candles/Fondue
This is probably the best (best being messy) creative construction in this list. Simply roll the last of the Danish Blue into tapers, pillars and tea lights. You can use that old Marks and Spencers gift thread for a wick. I’m not sure what will happen when you light these, possibly nothing candle-like. It’s more probable the structures will just turn into a bubbling cheesy mush.

By L.J. Spillane

L.J. Spillane lives in Manchester and writes little stories. You can catch her at www.ljspillane.co.uk and @LJSpillane

Top Ten skills I have lied about

In skills, Top Ten on January 20, 2012 at 7:28 am

1. Skateboarding

At the age of 9, I could climb trees, fight boys and scuff my knees on a daily basis. But could I use (see, I don’t even know the right verb! Do you use a skateboard? Ride one?) a skateboard? No I bloody couldn’t. But the cool kids could. So when they announced they were meeting near the quarry with their ‘boards, I quickly obtained one from a friend’s older brother (I’d get points for the well-worn stickers, bonus!), pulled my shorts down to a suitably slouchy level and hurried along. I fell off the damn thing within 5 minutes of my arrival, was laughed at and never invited back. Plus, I was so busy moping that I left the skateboard behind and it got nicked.

2. Speaking Spanish

This wouldn’t have been so much of a problem if it hadn’t led to me taking workshops with Spanish students in everything from geography (not my strongest subject in any language) to grammar. Thankfully, the phrase “it helps your language skills to speak as much English as possible in these sessions” saved my linguistically challenged ass.

3. Pint-pulling

I was young, I needed a bar job and – sorry to everyone who is a fan of a well-pulled pint – I was foolish. I learnt quickly (and through lack of tips).

4. Using a fax machine.

I know, I know, give some monkeys a year with a fax machine and they’ll send facsimiles of the works of Shakespeare to their zoo-bound compatriots. But I’ve worked in and around offices for the past 9 years without ever sending a fax. The one time I found myself unable to wriggle out of the task (and was too stubborn to admit I didn’t know how), it was broken anyway. Which kind of proves my point that we should just email things instead.

5. Travel

When I got a job writing travel guides for far flung areas of the world, it wasn’t so much that I lied about having travelled there… It was just that no-one ever asked.

6.  Kissing

At school, when bored, we took it in turns to lock two people in a cupboard until they kissed. The least active lips were left until last, so I fabricated stories of a miniature, rope-skipping Tallulah Bankhead in order to get picked first and get it over with. It was not a failure, and I’m pleased to report I have kissed people since (in public! Not in a cupboard!) .

7. Video editing

Turns out I can blag a lot of things, but advanced technical know-how is not one of them.

8. Singing

I’ve tried this several times. It’s not so much a lie as a hope that the more I repeat ‘I can sing’, the more likely it is to become true. Sadly, as the resulting 3 occasions of an audition, an assessment and a gig demonstrated, there’s a will but not a way.

9. Mime

This just went very, very badly. That’s all I’ll say about that.

10. “Direct marketing skills”

Aged 18, applying for my first ‘proper’ job, I saw an advert in the paper and rang up. “So you are interested in/know about direct marketing?” Why, yes I am! I got an interview, and again smiled and nodded and assured them I was interested. Turned up for my first day to find out it was sodding door to door sales. In Winter. At night. In Stretford. Oh, and it was commission only. My first solo ‘knock-on’ was a chap in his pants who proceeded to play the Countdown theme for me on an acoustic guitar. From there, it went downhill.

To any future employers who may be reading, please take from this my courage, ‘can-do’ attitude and willingness to try new things. Not, you know, the little white lies.

by Alex Herod

Alex Herod is Deputy Ed. of For Books’ Sake, a performer and writer living in sunny Moss Side. She tweets o’er at @collaboratehere.

Top Ten injuries I have sustained due to my own stupidity

In Injuries, Top Ten on January 18, 2012 at 8:56 am

This list is inspired by my own inability to survive day to day life. As a man predestined to clumsiness & injury I find myself dodging death on a daily basis. As such, I have amassed a catalogue of scars and whimsical tales, the top ten of which are here in this list. I have picked these ten out of my many mishaps in recognition of their relation to a) my own stupidity, b) damage done / scars received and c) hero factor…all of the following events are real and only slightly exaggerated (exaggerations denoted by asterisks*).

Often, when asked, “how did you get that scar?” many people may reply with something that instils a certain level of sorrow or awe. For example: “I was injured in the war” or “I was attempting the most dangerous stunt ever performed” Few of my mishaps have afforded me this level of glory. Here are some of my foolish self injuries:

10.

Location: Forehead

Type of injury: Tom & Jerry style bump.

I walked straight into a lamp-post when I was seven and knocked myself clean out. I woke up in the hospital with a bump on my head the size of an apple*. Apparently one of the people who helped my poor old Ma take me to hospital was an old Sunderland footballing legend. But I’d never heard of him. He did buy some sweets from the hospital shop though, which was nice. He also gave me some more on the way to school once. He threw a full bag of blackjacks out of a third storey flat. Hope he wasn’t a paedo.

9.

Location: Bottom of big toe, right foot.

Type of injury: Scar.

As a young child we never had radiators, and my house was always bloody freezing. So I imagine my exhilaration when my parents forked out for a proper central heating system. Also I have always suffered from cold feet. One cold winter morn, drinking my hot chocolate and watching Live & kicking I decided to warm my feet on the radiator, which was one of those corrugated ones with a thin strip of metal at each end. My foot slipped, slicing it open and gushing blood all over the room*. Needless to say, my poor old Mother was less than impressed (under-exaggeration).

 

8.

Location: Knuckle

Type: Scar

How I got this one isn’t really funny or remarkable. I was working in a hotel bar, and had gone to the fridge for more limes; I cut my knuckle, quite deeply at some point during the journey as there was a long trail of blood through the hotel. However I hadn’t realised I’d cut myself at all. It didn’t hurt. The real fun came when a customer almost drank her G & T until she realised there was blood on the lime in her drink. Cue my second trip to the hospital in a fortnight. The skin had to be glued back together, and a lot of food had to be thrown out, as well as a free round of drinks for the horrified merrymaker.

7.

Location: Small of back…just above the arse.

Type of injury: Scar.

In my teens I had a habit of coming home drunk and making a lot of noise trying t, much to my parents’ delight. But my worst habit was falling asleep face down in the shower inebriated.

Upon waking after a particularly heavy session I attempted to clamber to my feet, completely misjudged my distance from everything else, especially the tap. Which tore almost a pound of flesh* out of my back…just above the arse.

6.

Location: Right arm

Type of injury: More Scars.

I’ve never had a posh bicycle, being from the North East, and as such the brakes on mine didn’t really have the effect they were supposed to. But that wasn’t the problem as I was used to the brakes and was almost always able to stop myself in time to avoid accidents by hitting both the front and back brakes together. So when I borrowed my friend’s dad’s bike, with brakes strong enough to stop the Batmobile on an ice rink in a second*, well the result was a truly spectacular Chaplin-esque forward flip followed by a 2 metre long surf along a gravel path covered in broken glass, courtesy of my right arm. It looked like it’d been through a bacon slicer. Epic fail.

5.

Location: Foot
Type: Scalding

When working in a restaurant, if you are going behind someone it is common courtesy to shout ‘Round!’ or ‘Behind!’ when going round corners or standing behind people, especially when there are plates or drinks involved. Long story short, a lack of common courtesy resulted in a cup of scalding water falling onto my foot, burning a layer of skin from it. After sitting in the office with my foot in a bucket of iced water for two hours I got a taxi home and a week off work. I spent that week sat on a bean bag, playing Xbox and getting my flatmate and girlfriend to cook, clean and shop for me. Every cloud…

4.

Location: Head, neck, back, right leg, right arm.
Type of injury: Bleeding, bruising, swellings, stiffness and lack of mobility.

I got hit by a car. I don’t know how it happened. I was crossing a busy road with no pedestrian lights. Everything went black. Next thing I knew, I was flat on my back. I stood up, proclaimed myself to be uninjured and went to work, blood pouring from the back of my skull, did a 9 hour shift and went to bed. Absolute foolishness, only the next day, when I tried to get out of bed and couldn’t do, did I realise the extent of my injuries. I could have put in a claim or something. Anyway a friend of a friend apparently saw it happen, he recognised me but couldn’t quite place me at the time. Reportedly, the car was doing 40 mph and I am lucky to be alive. One would have thought this would make me more careful around busy crossroads; however the end result is a heightened sense of invincibility and the recurring drunken slur ‘I’m harder than a car’ which almost certainly isn’t true.

3.

Location: Lip

Type: Scar

Stumbling home after a night out in Sunderland I was set upon by a ruffian who materialised as if from the shadows, he hit me in the lip, splitting it open and ruining a perfectly good suit jacket/shirt combo. The punch sobered me up however and I retaliated with a blind swing that, as fortune would have it, connected with his nose and ended the conflict. My step-dad had to take me to hospital. It resulted in six stitches which had to be removed in 2 weeks. I returned to hospital (this time in Manchester) only to be told I had to get on a waiting list. Having none of this nonsense I went home, got the vodka out, I bit the sides off my shaving razor and used the blade to cut the threads and thread it out myself. Sensible? No. Did it get the job done? Yes. Does it make for a good story? I like to think so.

2.

Location: Arms & legs

Type: Nettle stings

Extra factor: Hilarious damage to my good friend, Steve.

After a particularly boozy night out, a friend and I started walking home on a particularly cold night. On our way we lamented at the fact that we had to walk a long distance around or old school rival’s school: Thornhill (Bastards). It had low fences and we didn’t envision there being too much of a problem getting through the grounds so over the fence we went and into the grounds.  I lost my friend, Steve. A minute later I heard a smashing window sound. Steve, in his infinite wisdom, had pulled a light from a JCB and used it as a flail to smash the window of a workman’s prefab. When I arrived on the scene he was covered in blood. I saw a first aid kit inside the prefab and clambered in to grab it. After patching Steve up we continued on our quest, confident that home was just over the next fence (this time a high, spiky fence). What was actually over the next fence was a field of nettles. So that wasn’t exactly the highlight of the evening. Beyond the field of nettles we encountered a stream. Steve thought he could jump it… he tried, he couldn’t. Luckily for me I found a small wooden bridge traversing the stream.

When we got home we had to take turns using nettle-sting cream and applied better dressings for Steve’s injuries.

I guess this makes me a criminal. Aiding and abetting an unsuccessful would be thief and actually performing the robbery myself.

Our conclusion from this night is that we are the world’s worst thieves. We only managed to steal the provisions we needed to survive the robbery: a first aid kit.
Truly, crime doesn’t pay.

1.

Location: Right Arm

Type: Gash

Extra factor: Hilarious situation involving my good friend, Paul

Ok, same school, same reason, different fence, different friend.

I’d learned my lesson from last time…sort of. We avoided the nettles and found a street.

We got all the way through the school, nobody tried to break anything, nobody tried to steal anything. We got to the last fence but this was one of those tall ones, with spikes at the top. I went first, being the more experienced climber. I would have made it but as I descended on the other side my arm trailed behind me and was caught on the sharp spikes. This resulted in a ripped shirt and a lot of blood. I was busy tending to my arm when I heard Paul’s voice…”er…help?”

I turned round to find that he had his hands placed in between the spikes, his feet were scrabbling on the fence and the spike was less than an inch from going up his arse. Now a good friend would have suppressed his laughter and rushed straight to the rescue.
A bad friend would burst out laughing and write about it on a public blog 9 years later.

Magically, I am still alive. I’ve never broken, fractured or sprained anything. I put this down to a high intake of milk as a child.

by Graeme Calvert

Graeme Calvert is an amateur stuntman and guitarist. He currently resides in Manchester with his partner and his pet rat, Dave, who loves heavy metal.

Top Ten discarded shopping lists

In shopping lists, Top Ten on January 15, 2012 at 11:47 am

10. Graham

MATALAN BOXERS LARGE. MAIL. MKT SYNCONOGEL. CAR WASH MON? RENT ON-LINE. NEW HEMAROID CREAM. GRAHAM 2PM. P.O. CREDIT CARD. CHECK BUG ZAPPER.

This rather specific inventory was found about five years ago on the pavement outside Matalan in Stockport. Written entirely in upper case on neat lined paper, this intriguing multi-tasking shopping-cum-to-do list is responsible for kick-starting my now bulging discarded shopping list collection. I’ve always wondered what Graham at 2pm would make of being itemised immediately after “new hemaroid [sic] cream” and why checking the bug zapper was of such paramount importance.

9. Mustafed

61/2 SKINLESS BEEF. FLYSPRAY. 3 TINS HEINZ BEANS. 4 CANS SMOOTH.

This succinct list appears on the back of a William Hill betting slip, supplied to me by my friend Ben, who works in a bookies. I’m pleased to see the person is brand aware, though I’d love to know what the blazes skinless beef is and why flyspray appears between foodstuffs. Minds work in mysterious ways, I suppose. The bets, incidentally, were on A Stone’s Throw, 2pm, Market Rasen, Enjoy Your Life, 2.30pm, Market Rasen, and Mustafed, 2.45pm, Newbury. 50p win patent and 50p each way treble. I have no idea what that means. This whole list is an enigma to me.

8. ♥

SLICED BREAD. SKITTLES. LURPAK. BAGUETTE. NEWSPAPER.

Looking at these items, I’d say this is a last-minute local-shop shopping list. It’s scrawled on a piece of paper which bears the URL of Sainsbury’s To You, so I’m also guessing Sainsbury’s were out of Lurpak that week. I have the same trouble procuring President. The paper itself is rather expensive: heavy-grade with a vertical stripe watermark. The list is written in smudgy slanted writing, in what looks to be 2B pencil. Using my Marplesque powers of deduction, I’m thinking “artist”. At the end of the list is a hand-drawn heart in the style of a teenager from the 80s and the words “love ya”. I’m not thinking artist any more.

7. Rosemary

ALMOND ESSENCE. VANILLA ESSENCE. MARMALADE. APPLES. WHITE SHEET – FLAT. MARMALADE. CHICKEN BREAST (4). ONIONS. 61/2OZ CAN FROZEN ORANGE JUICE. DRIED TARRAGON. 5OZ SOURED CREAM.

My friend Jo, who lives in St Albans, picked this up in M&S and sent it to me in the old-fashioned postal system with a proper letter written in purple spangly ink. It’s a very detailed list, with a choice of bizarre provisioning items, and an obvious marmalade compulsion. Judging by the use of imperial and the spidery handwriting, I imagine it was scribbled by a lady of a certain age. Turn it over and the lady appears to be called Rosemary: a note to her, in a completely different hand, describes how a cat got trapped in her garage while she was away and caused all kinds of chaos. Crivens!

6. Barrie & Steve

WATER BUTT 100 LTR. STAND. ATTACHMENTS. DOOR BELL. DRAUGHT EXCLUDER. BLINDS. VANILLA & ALMOND ESSENCE. WHITE SINGLE SHEET.

Written on a piece of paper with an unexplained gummed edge, this is a companion piece to Rosemary, found at the same time and bearing the same script. Vanilla and almond essences and white sheets are also common factors. As well as the provisions, there is a rundown of meals for Friday and Saturday (cake and tea at 4pm on Friday, no less), and also the details of Barrie, who is going to cost £750ish and has a digi camera, and Steve, who is a digger and will be calling at the end of next week to say which day he’s coming round. For some reason, the words “low-budget porn movie” spring to mind.

5. Julie-Anne

BREAD. SUGAR PUFF. BACON. DOG FOOD. SPAGEHITTI. POP. PASTA SAUCE. NOODLES. TOMATES. STEW PACKETS. BARMCAKES. HAM. BEEF. PORK PIES. BURGER. COOKIES. DOUGHUNT. STEAK PIES. CHIPS. MIX VEG. FISH FINGERS. VEG. 2 CHICKENS.

Julie-Anne’s mum left her a note about library books, and on the back Julie-Anne wrote her shopping list for Asda in Fulwood, squeezed between the north Preston sprawl and the M6. Looking at her huge blobby handwriting and the various purchases she intended to get, I imagine that J-A is probably one of those people described as being larger than life. Mommy dearest signs off with “love you x”, although if she knew the crap that Jules eats and how bad her spelling is, perhaps she’d wish she’d gotten round to reading Caring For Children: A Foundation Course by Penny Tassoni (ISBN: 0435401653) a little sooner.

4. Christine

CURTAINS FOR CHRISTINE. TROLLEY FROM GARAGE. MUM – SWEETS. CARD FOR J BAKER. RING HARRISON ETC. WINE – BARB. RING AUDREY RE THURSDAY. SODAS. POT POURRI, PIMMS. COMPOTE. BOOK RAIL. MOVE BARBIE. SWEEEP FRONT. BOOK BOUCHON. HANG WASHING. REFUNDS IN HEXHAM. TUES IN N/C: DUVET COVER – FENWICKS. LOOK AT BARBIE HANDLE (DRAW DIAGRAMME).

With dedicated list notepaper embellished by a picture of Rupert the Bear talking to a black cat wearing a red ribbon round its neck, this is another fantastic shopping/to-do composite, discovered in the Northumbrian market town of Hexham. This is an example of top-level list-writing with special codes and abbreviations, specific lists for specific days, some great spelling mistakes and a particular obsession with barbeques. My favourite entry, however, is “curtains for Christine”. Poor Christine, she didn’t deserve that.

3. xxxx

600ML DRY CIDRE. GLACE CHERRIES. SULTANAS 500G. MIXED PEEL. DRIED PRUNES. 2 LEMONS. 2 ORANGES. BUTTER. BLANCHED ALMONDS. PLAIN FLOUR. EGGS.

Proper pre-produced list paper is quite the rage, and this one is split into four columns: things to do; telephone; letter/email/web; out and about. The list-writer here, however, has ignored all those conventions and written their list of boozy cake-baking ingredients on the other side, along with a note to whoever has been sent to the shops in their absence. The note reads: “Please transfer washing to dry as you may need knickers. xxxx.” You can make up your own sign-off for that.

2. Richard

FLOUR. TOOTHPASTE. SOAP. DISHWASHER. CLOTHES WASH. BBQ. WATER BOTTLES. MUSTARD/MAYO. MILKSHAKE. BEER. WINE. AJ. COKE. TEA. PASTA. RICE. PIZZAS. CHIPS. BUTTER. CHEESE. HAM. CHICKEN. MINCE. CREAM. ONIONS. POTS.

I came across Richard Gere in the street in the aforementioned St Albans while staying with the aforementioned Jo. Either St Albans is a magnet for gifted list-writers, or Jo is my special charm. The list itself is incredibly ordinary, but the paper upon which it appears is nothing if not extraordinary, being a fragment of a magazine feature about the Hollywood actor-stroke-hamster charmer. Never failing to make me laugh is a shot of Richard with a group of Tibetan men seemingly wearing chintzy lampshades on their heads. Verso, a caption explains that Rich is dancing with his mom, Doris, at the premiere of Yanks in 1979. The caption is in Serbian.

1. Anonymous

SUNFLOWER SEEDS. RYE FLAKES. PUMPKIN SEEDS 3K. BUCKWHEAT. CHICKPEA NOODLES. W-UP LIQUID. WASHING TABLETS (£3/12 PACK).

What I like about this list is that it totally sums up the suburb where I live. If you are at all familiar with Chorlton in Manchester, you will know that the inhabitants exist purely on a diet of houmous and mung beans and that our favourite pastimes are upcycling and justifying the environmental impact of going to India to realign our chakras. If you are au fait with Chorlton, you will probably have guessed that this list was lifted in the workers’ co-operative organic grocery Unicorn. What you wouldn’t have guessed is that it is written on a leaflet about genital warts. Sexy.

by Sarah-Clare Conlon

Sarah-Clare Conlon is a writer and editor based in Manchester. She is addicted to red lipstick and white wine, and is often found picking stuff up off the floor. Sometimes herself. She is dead highbrow and her award-winning blog Words & Fixtures is about art and that.

Top ten things I did whilst writing an essay

In Books, Essay, Top Ten on January 12, 2012 at 11:27 am

10. Drew a picture of a pig in a pirate costume and named him Geoffrey. Developed Geoffrey’s character a little, FYI – he’s had a sad past because both his parents were eaten by rival pirates. He wants to be vegan but he eats a lot of swill and can’t guarantee what the ingredients are. He’s a good pig really but he has got quite an unshakeable addiction to rum and accidentally killed his little sister, Mollie, who is a Hello Kitty doll that I won in a grabbing machine in the student bar.

9. Rolled a cigarette out of three rizla papers like I used to do when I smoked pot. Got half way down it and felt a little sick.

8. Tried to learn origami, made a swan, then considered buying lots of construction paper and making a whole army of swans. Put that on my list of things to do. Could be one of my “things”.

7. Got involved in a heated Direct Message argument regarding Posh Boys – their pros and cons. E,g

Pros: Sound a bit like Hugh Grant, sometimes are quite moneyed, sometimes have a bit of
homosexuality lurking in their history which excites me, often dressed like farmers /
croupiers, have such a lack of awareness of the world that they are borderline autistic,
are endlessly fascinated by things like Greggs and fish fingers, sexually quiet submissive.

Cons: there’s a  risk they vote Conservative / are in the Conservative party, are often much
cleverer than me which threatens my fragile poetic ego, not used to not getting what they
want / perhaps too demanding in the bedroom, pronounce “house” as “hice”.

Came to the conclusion that the pros outweigh the cons and resolved to move to London and meet a young aristocrat, marry him, and seduce him out of his millions.

7. Watched every single episode of Peep Show ever made. Felt an enormous sense of achievement. Said: “This is bullshit, Mark” in the voice of Johnson to the essay staring at me from the computer screen. Laughed at my own impermeable wit.

6. Thought about setting up a separate Tumblr account reserved entirely for pictures of dogs in party hats / the pictures of dogs are interspersed with quotes attributed to Gustave Flaubert adding a sort of deep yet haunting quality to the pictures.

5. Painted my nails black, waited for the polish to dry, scraped it all off with my teeth, painted them again and remembered how when I  was at primary school I’d put that weird paste glue on my hands and then wait for it to dry and be wholly fascinated and satisfied with peeling it back off again. Like putting your hand in a bag of rice, that level of satisfaction.

4. Downloaded an app on my phone that helps me to learn German. Hated the app’s condescending tone and developed many negative opinions on the woman narrating the app and why she has such a fucking hectoring, superior tone.

3.  Thought about my future in academia, worried that if I can’t even write this one stupid essay then I should probably give up all together; imagined I could be a famous poet and live in and out of decadent squats in Mayfair and Chelsea, make friends with people called Allegra and Thibault, imagined the reality to be more like signing on the dole and working as a checkout girl forever, repeating witty epigrams to the more articulate of my customers without warning, getting a reputation as “crazy Asda lady”. Still it’s a possibility I wouldn’t entirely shirk from.

2. Tried to make a secret compartment in a book to hide secret things in. Ruined a book and have nothing small / secret enough to hide.

1. Went to write “Twitter” into my browser but autofill suggested “TW Adorno Holocaust theory” and swore aloud at my computer for eating into my social networks. Seeing this as a sign of such commitment to my research, bought a bottle of wine and drank it to reward myself for all my hard work.

by Sian Rathore

Sian Rathore: 22 years old, recently published by Bad Language, Cake and Stride magazine, forthcoming work appearing in Up Literature, newly appointed fiction editor of Metazen, poet and critic. 

Top Ten Observations Regarding the Nest of Ladybirds in our Front Room.

In Animals, Top Ten on January 10, 2012 at 2:38 pm

1. The Ladybird Nest Occurs In Nature

There’s nothing unique about our ladybird nest. Ladybirds nest in groups to survive winter. I had no idea. Neither did my partner. At first, I thought it was something fungal, or perhaps something to do with spiders. They’re clustered in the corner of one of the bay windows.

2. The Ladybirds Are Not Exclusively Red

They’re brown as well. This is why we didn’t recognise them as ladybirds the first time we saw them. Because they’re asleep (to survive winter) they’re just glossy brown dots – about the size of the transparent plastic beads that you’d give to children to make bracelets. The wood of the window frame is white. The nest looks at once repulsively natural and curiously unnatural.

3. They’re Probably Damaging The Wood

I have the sense that they secrete something which will damage the wood. Possibly I’ve read that on the internet. Possibly they’re poisonous (as well). There must be something mucosal, viscous holding them to the wood of the window frame. I worry that when the nest isn’t there anymore, there’ll be a brown stain, and it’ll mean that we won’t get our deposit back. We don’t have a lot of money.

4. They Must Be Cold And Wet

Insects don’t care about that. That’s why they’re sleeping – that’s their method of dealing with the cold and wet. This is more a way for me to talk about my flat. It’s so cold that my partner is often wrapped in a blanket. I sleep a lot, although there are some other reasons for this. It’s so wet that sometimes there are puddles on the windowsills (we don’t have a lot of money). For a while, woodlice were coming in through a hole in the bedroom wall. Great, we thought, we’ve got ladybirds at one end of the flat and woodlice at the other.

5. It’s A Nice Flat Really

And the ladybird nest is a part of how nice it is. It’s run down, but the ceilings are high and we’ve filled it with our stuff. Bookshelves, giant plants, interesting chairs. It’s nice to live somewhere that insects nest (great, we thought, we’ve got ladybirds); it’s wonderful to live with someone who stops you killing nesting insects. I’d intended to vacuum them up.

6. The Nest Is Next To Our Christmas Lights

Which, at the time of writing, are still up, strung across the middle panes of the bay. I turned them on the other day. I told my partner that we’d ‘probably get a brick through the window: people don’t like it when you do things like this’. I’m seduced by the idea that people would be so enraged by Christmas lights still on after Christmas has finished that they’d brick in our window. That’s community (it’s wonderful to live with someone). If a brick happened, would the tightly-packed ladybirds stay, or would it wake them all up?

7. One Day, In Spring…

They’ll wake up. I hope that they’ll wake up all at once, and we’ll come into the front room and there’ll be a modest swarm of them. We’ll pull back the nets and open the window and try and guide them out. People will see us through the window, dancing around wildly and laughing. They won’t be able to see the ladybirds, obviously (people don’t like it when you do things like this). For a week afterwards we’ll find lost ladybirds.

8. Sometimes A Solitary Ladybird Wakes Up.

And flies around the room lazily (dancing around wildly), like a trite and mechanical representation of hope. Or it lands on something and then we notice it. I keep waiting for one to drop itself in my cup of tea. I’m a mature student, therefore I drink litres and litres of tea.

9. I Have A Sudden Fear

I’m worried now that if I get up and walk across the floor to check that the ladybird nest looks the way I’ve described it, it will have gone. The ladybirds will have left (I keep waiting). I won’t check.

10. They’re Nice Enough.

…to survive winter as well.

We don’t have a lot of money. Great, we thought, we’ve got ladybirds.

It’s wonderful to live with someone.

People don’t like it when you do things like this, dancing around wildly.

I keep waiting.

by Aiden Clarkson

Aiden Clarkson lives in Manchester and on public transport. He has done so for a number of years. He’s on twitter (@aidenclarkson) and if you email him (ai_clarkson[at]hotmail.com) he’ll email you.

Top Ten Strangest Books I Own

In Books, Top Ten on January 7, 2012 at 3:45 pm

Books that are either weird in of themselves, or books where the ownership of them is odd. Presented with sample quotes and commentary.

10. The Twelfth Anniversary Playboy Reader by Various. An incredible compilation of short stories and interviews from the late sixties and early seventies. Includes fascinating conversations with Nabokov, Martin Luther King, short fiction from Matheson and Bradbury.

King: “I should have stayed in prison.”

9. Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray. No, I have no idea how or why I have this book. I don’t know where it came from. It just appeared one day. I think perhaps that’s how all households get hold of it.

“This is an example of what can happen when the wave and the rubber band occur around the same time.”

8. Short Stories by William Shakespeare. They are not by him. There is no real author credited. A neighbour gave this book to me. It features each of Shakespeares major dramas turned into short stories. As expected they are terrible.

“Katherine, the shrew, was the eldest daughter of Baptista.”

7. The New Unofficial X-Files Companion by N.E. Genge. An in depth analysis of the third season of the nineties sci-fi horror show. Features absolutely no information of any consequence. Is enough to make even me feel a little nerdy.

“EAT POPCORN

EAT POPCORN

EAT POPCORN”

6. Angel by Katie Price. An embarrasment of riches. Obviously. The result of an over enthusiastic neighbour learning that I owned books.

“She whispered in a voice full of emotion.”

5. The Science of Self Realisation by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Seriously, why don’t I own two of these?

“I never expressed nor felt disgust at the chanting of the name of Krsna.”

4. The True History of the Elephant Man by Peter Ford. Actually rather brilliant, the inspiration behind the David Lynch film and Alan Moore’s From Hell. Track it down, kill for it.

“As a specimin of humanity, Merrick was ignoble and repulsive; but the spirit of Merrick, if it could be seen in the form of the living, would assume the figure of an upstanding and heroic man, smooth browed and clean of limb, and with eyes that flashed undaunted courage.”

3. Humble Pie by Gordon Ramsey. Neighbour again. Contains arrogance and the following sentence.

“We were used to second hand shit.”

2. The Know by Martina Cole. A weighty tome, with a title that makes little to no sense. The cover has one of those strange photographed covers, with real actors. Possibly so that idiots purchase it thinking there’s a film of it out soon.

“Listen to me Mum, he’s a fucking nonce.”

1. World War 3: A military projection founded on today’s facts by Shelford Bidwell. Predictions from this ex Brigadier General include the idea of spaceships and light-weapons fighting wars for us.

“West Germany is the predestined battlefield of World War 3.”

by Daniel Carpenter

Daniel Carpenter is the current fiction editor for blankpages and one of the editors for Bad Language. He runs this blog. He once went to the future. You turn out alright.