Avatar Isolation – North-East Edition

You will never believe what just happened to me! The short version is that I am currently being paid to not work. I am at home right now not working. If I try to work I will be shouted at profusely so I am sat not working on a beanbag listening to the radio.

The year 2020 has been a strange one so far and it continues to get weirder the more we slide through it. The outside world is still there, I can see it, through the big windows in the living room, and it looks fantastic. I reckon that for the moment I am going to stay here and admire it from afar. Besides, it looks a little chilly and I’ve got this patch of dry skin on my hands that the low temperature will not do any favours for.

I have decided to try and do one drawing, sketch or doodle a day for something to look forward to and possibly upload on Twitter (the Book of Faces does not deserve my “talents”) for the world to admire. I hope to have a wall of my efforts with which I can look back on and laugh slobbily, possibly sell to some passing rich aristocrat (they’re always using the footpaths round here) and then retire to the country, doing the same thing I’m doing now, but with a little more style, panache and some hot ladies in a hot tub serving hot drinks.

Look at me and be inspired.

Avatar Luck be a Musician Tonight

I am one of those people who secretly doesn’t know how lucky they are.

That’s a lie, actually.

I am one of those people who occasionally is convinced that luck completely passes them by but, in actuality, it washes up like waves on a beach more often than not. For every instance of not putting one of those new five pound notes in my wallet (everywhere else they jump out and I’m a fiver down) there is something else waiting round the corner, be it a clear run into work on a morning or a one in a mil find on eBay.

Let me tell you about the 23 June 2019.

I am invited by a friend to go to a gig in case someone drops out. I am officially on the ‘waiting’ list so to speak. The closer it gets to the gig it is quite clear that the other person is not coming so the ticket is offered to me, and despite my pleas it is given for free (no, I’m not spitting rhymes over a hot beat, the sentence came out that way). The gig in question is Nick Cave in Conversation at the Sage. I have dabbled in wor Nick and the Bad Seeds over the years with mixed results. This is not the kind of evening that you say no to; you grab it with your sweaty hands and you run away screaming like a frantic, happy loon.

So I turn up and meet the rest of the friends group, who are all rallied round drinking wine, and everyone seems really nice. The usual polite tidbits of conversation are floated round although that doesn’t last for very long because out of the corner of my eye I can see a man approaching. He is coming directly for us.

“How many are in your group?” he says. We all look at each other, we need someone to volunteer as spokesperson. I don’t remember who but a few people stumble up that there are six of us. “Great,” says the guy, “how would you fancy sitting on stage with Nick? You have to be by this door at exactly 7pm (11 minutes time!) and wear these special bands. I’ll run you through the rest of the rules when you’re led to your seats.”

We all look at each other again; what just happened there? There’s not much time to lose though so we all rush to the toilet and head to the door. More stagehands lead us right onto the stage: there are tables set aside with candles on, creating a kind of arc around the middle, which contains a beautiful piano and nothing more. The rules are pretty simple; shut the fuck up, don’t go near him and don’t bother him. Even I, with my primitive brain can handle this.

Nick Cave talks and plays music for almost three hours. He is roughly ten feet from where I am sitting. Nobody is allowed to take photos of him when he is performing meaning that the only memento I have, apart from the ticket and the special band, is a picture of an empty piano with no-one playing it taken about half an hour before it all started. He was amazing, a voice still raw and strong, a plethora of songs all hand-picked on the night, right there and then, whatever people suggest or he feels like playing is done. I have never seen anything like it and I doubt I will ever again.

Avatar Stick

It must be really boring to be a stick.

You spend decades pushing your way slowly out of the side of a tree, looking at the same view every day, sharing your life with the same branches and twigs.

Years later, a bit of wind dislodges you. For a few moments you enjoy the most thrilling episode of your life, as you fall to earth, but soon realise that you’ve ended up lying on the floor with much the same surroundings, only now you’re no longer growing, you’re just waiting to rot down into the ground.

We can’t save all sticks from the monotony of their existence, but we can make a difference to one stick. Ian chose The Stick. This is it.

The Stick spent its whole life on a tree near Royksopp Lido before falling off and lying on the ground for a bit. Thanks to us, though, it’s had a new lease of life.

  • A walk to a pub and then a night on the floor near the pub
  • A trip in a car to Brighton
  • Being thrown onto the bark chippings under the tree outside my flat

I’ll keep you updated on the progress of The Stick and its amazing new life. For now, though: you’re welcome.

Avatar Lemon drizzle

If you ask the question
About what is the best one,
The bakery transcendent,
The cakery resplendent:
I answer it with ease, take
Away your silly cheesecake.
Gingerbread and Eccles
Will meet only with my heckles;
Pineapple upside-down
Meet the deepest darkest frown.
You will find I have no time
For fondant fancy or key lime;
Though partial to a parkin,
There is only one worth markin’.
I tip my hat as witness
To the cake with all the citrus:
Lemon drizzle cake
Is the shizzle cake,
The finest there is,
Lemon driz
Is the biz.

Avatar Tributes and Insults – Christopher Marshall

Look at this big ol’ berk here:

Look at his massive face. Why does anyone need a face that big? What has he done to his face to make it that big? All of these questions need answering and the sad fact that it is unlikely that we will ever get the responses we need.

The worst part about knowing Chris is that he’s always calling on a regular basis asking how I am and letting me tell him all my problems. There I am, trying to sit in my puddle of self pity, and he’s on the phone for about an hour trying to cheer me up. That’s the worst, it really is, however it gets worse than that. There have been times when he has not only encouraged my questionable behaviour but he has also actively joined in, such as the time that we both wrote letters to each other and did it in weird, wonderful ways. I still have most of them in a box somewhere. The most enduring, and awkward, of the letters was the one written on one continuous single line of paper that stretches on for what seems like miles. I’m struggling for space as it is and to have to find somewhere for this is just plain selfish.

I mean I am done with all of this. There is only so much that one person can take and really I have reached my limit. I hope that he is taking note of all of this because it is very personal and I mean every vicious, scalding word of it. You can take your pleasant, jolly attitude and your helpful, endearing friendship and you can shove it right up the puffin pipe.

You utter wanker.

Avatar Tributes and Insults – Kevin Hill

Here’s a little something to wet your appetite for more of the same. Look at this:

Frightening, isn’t it? Most people would agree that this particular image of Kevin is both striking and unappealing. It would be fair to say that using such a picture constitutes a mean act. I would therefore like to counter that comment with my own tribute to the man.

I have known Mr Chang, as he is known to some people, since I was about 12 years old so I believe that I know him well enough to talk down to him. Some people call it “trash talk”, when you belittle or ridicule another person to embarrass or humiliate them. Kevin is a ruthless thug who has wrapped me up in a carpet on no less than a dozen occasions and then thrown, or had his goons throw, me off a bridge. He once smashed my door in when I was at work, used all the mayonnaise and then didn’t recycle the glass jar. Kevin has been known to fart in padded envelopes and then send it to people we know with my return address on it. His despicable behaviour knows no bounds.

I would be lying through my elbows if I said that he has driven many miles to come and save my sorry ass before. I would be fibbing between the gaps in my teeth if I dared to mention that he has probably tolerated more nonsense coming out of my mouth, and been witness to unspeakable acts of insanity, than anyone within my close circle of friends, and yet still wants to stay in touch. I would be “kissing the kitten of fabrication” if I tried to compliment him on being the all round good egg that everyone knows he is. And don’t even get me fucking started on his lovely wife and adorable child.

The shit.

Avatar Scathing Reviews – Personal Dater

I am being hounded at the moment.

Having recently discovered that one of the best ever sitcoms, ‘Community’, is currently being streamed for free via All4’s beautiful service (I know you’re not keen because of the shambles with ‘Whose Line is it Anyway?’, Chris) I have been stuffing my face into it as much as I can. I don’t remember when I started but I am now three seasons in and ready to start the fourth. The only problem with a free service though is that you are repeatedly beaten about the head by adverts, noticeably the same four or five adverts over and over again. In particular you get one advert with some berky babies twatting about in a field, one advert about some airline that sponsors the channel and one for the new dating program ‘Personal Dater’. Every 12 to 15 minutes these sonic pieces of filth are thrust direct through your eyes into your brain and there is nothing you can do about it because you’re poor and can’t afford to buy the boxsets yourself.

‘Personal Dater” in particular looks, on the surface, completely revolting. The premise is that society has broken down and people can’t think for themselves anymore, so a new dating program appears on the horizon. Two friends are tasked with picking between nine candidates as a potential date for their lovelorn mate who is struggling with life. As well as this, a computer picks the best person using complex algorithms and other such spindly IT nonsense. The person then goes on both dates and has to choose which they like the best, whilst their mates hide under a shoe and watch everything like the perves that they really are.

The individuals in question you barely see on the advert; all the focus is on the friends who, based on the thirty seconds you see of them, look and sound like morons. I was sorely tempted to put my fist through the television on more times that I can count on a standard pair of hands. Perma-tanned, muscle-bound, millennial dimwits in one episode and some brightly illustrated, shocked-at-every-instance gurning woman with her tiny male friend, who never gets a chance to say anything in the advert. I lost a full pair of teeth grinning in loathing thinking about it.

In order to offer a balanced review though, and against my usual process, I watched both episodes. Each is only about 25 minutes long so easy enough to fit in between my high octane lifestyle. What you realise pretty quickly is that, like with most adverts, it pulls the absolutely worst in the hope of squeezing your attention so that you do watch them. The two male dimwits, searching for a partner for their best mate, are actually really nice. They do spend a lot of the time grooming the potential dates for leftovers for themselves (nice) however you do warm to them. They have a kind of cheeky charm, normally reserved in advance for the next decade by permanently attached comedy duo presenting mega team Ant and Dec. They’re not dimwits, they’re only made to look like dimwits in a half a minute slot between scheduled programming. The too bright for my eyes girl who gasped her way onto my screen, again eyeing up male bits for any that wouldn’t suit her globe-trotting friend, was actually less annoying with a bit of screen time. They genuinely cared about finding the right person and despite some heavy exposure for Citroen at the beginning (are the candidates chosen on the basis that their mates drive the right car?) all in all it was a light and fluffy affair.

It shows how wrong you can be with first impressions. I had my feet up, pen in hand, ready to tear the whole set up a new hole only to sit, watch, shrug and leave with a blank set of notes. It’s not the most original concept yet it’s nothing to get worked up about. Judging people, I know, is so much fun but I don’t want to judge these people and this program. I don’t think I’m going to watch any more so I will safely leave it as a ‘good for you, not for me’ concept and move on. Hopefully the next time I see the advert (no doubt they’ll stop bloody showing it now I’ve written this) I’ll allow a little smile and try not to get as irate over nothing. Maybe I could do with more fresh air, a little less caffeine?

Ian McIver (writing as a diluted version of Charlie Brooker)