Mother, This Strudel Tastes Funny

There’s an old German joke about a poor, mute child who makes a critical observation about his pudding one evening. The mother, ignoring the nature of these comments, is overcome with joy and asks her son why he’d remained silent all these years.

“Up until now, everything had been satisfactory,” he replied.

Try it in a comedy German accent. Go on. It’s hilarious.

I’d like to think these same words apply to me. I may even use them by way of explanation should anybody ask why, at the grand old age of 37, I’ve decided to commit my thoughts to words for others to digest.

Even though I spent a large chunk of my twenties thinking I ought to be a writer, for one reason or another, I never really pursued it. I think it was the hours I found most appealing but I couldn’t say I’ve a unique or even brilliant voice that’s been locked away in hibernation; just waiting for the right moment to awaken from its literary slumber.

A more accurate punch line for me would go something like, “Up until now, I just couldn’t be arsed”.

Then something unexpected happened. One evening, after a few rounds of temporary happiness facilitator at a London Town drinking establishment, the Nick Cave / Robert Pires look-alike in my life asked if I fancied contributing to a website he was creating.

Initially, I put this proposal down to the sheer breadth of spirits he’d imbibed. But the offer was genuine. It seems I’d inspired this through little more than our occasional office email rants and some drunken sermons I’ve delivered about The Arsenal.

If I’d known I was being auditioned, I’d have probably put some more thought into my ramblings. Still, enormously flattered, I took up the offer in a heartbeat; as if I were Renée Zellweger accepting a marriage proposal in any number of her god forsaken films.

Naturally, I’ve been wracked with self doubt ever since sobering up from that evening’s events. One thought that kept creeping up on me is how many hundreds of talented and dedicated writers are out there, struggling to get a foothold in this competitive field.

Yet here I am, a literary ingénue no less, with a ready made platform for my burgeoning talents to be bent over and defiled by the online world.

Or at least say beastly things about what I’ve written.

By the time of our next drunken adventure, having reassured myself with clichés like “cream always rises to the top”, I’ve changed tack and already claimed this forum my friend has lovingly created with his own fair hands as our website.

My website.

I’ve established an imaginary yet vital niche for myself within this project; that of the elder, steadying influence on an overly ambitious and idealistic editor. An essential counterpoint in guiding my youthful charge through his online adventure, and the one to place a consoling hand on his shoulder the moment this turns into a commercial opportunity when advising him to sell out.

After all, my demanding children, London Town mortgage and next year’s season ticket aren’t going to pay for themselves.

I’m sure some people who read this may ask how one with no real writing experience, training or even fully functioning hair follicles has landed such a break.

I know I am.

I’m a slack, materialistic, delusional and unprincipled charlatan; susceptible to an ego stroke or twelve from the assortment of office floosies I navigate through my working day. Such a collection of personality traits embody pretty much every Daily Mail hack you’ve ever had the misfortune to read.

But it’s worse than that, for these new fangled website things also have a tendency to draw a rather specific and narrow age demographic as their audience; an exclusive 18 – 30 club I can no longer claim membership to.

So not only do I possess the raw materials of many a gutter press scribe, I literally have nothing of relevance to say about the lives of London Town’s twenty-something’s and their carefree ways.

I don’t “get” modern music and neither do I want to, I use my mobile phone to actually call people and I steadfastly refuse to wear skinny jeans.

Either that or my waistline simply prohibits this.

However, if embittered ramblings about marriage, weddings, honeymoons, honeymoon periods, periods, mortgages, estate agents, house prices, catchment areas, antenatal classes, children, yummy mummies, the national curriculum, coffee mornings, birthday parties, organic food, nappy sacks, soft play areas, infant gastric reflux, criticising grandparents, car seats, DIY, the death of my social life, chance encounters with weighing scales and how I traded in my principles in order to get my daughter into our first choice primary school are what you’re looking for; I’m your man.

So there it is, my writing USP; a window into the future that could be yours sooner than you think. That faint but persistent blip on your blurry, hung-over and substance abused radar as you gad about town in your bastard skinny jeans that I wish I could still get away with.

Words by Frank Gardiner, illustration by Amy Ferguson

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Dates ‘n stuff

June 2011