The Greatest Newspaper On Earth? (OK, So Probably Not. I just Liked The Title.)

I’ve never really been an obsessive, favourite ‘paper kind of person. From what I know of the world, I’ve learned that that kind of thing doesn’t happen until you reach a certain age where you can’t leave the bed without wearing slippers, your hair goes very grey, you start obsessing over old repeats of the X Files and the government finally get to you. But I could be mistaken. Don’t get me wrong, though – if I could only pick one single newspaper to take to a desert island with me, it wouldn’t be the Daily Mail. The Guardian would win that battle every time – mainly because it has much less bright and colourful pictures of Jedward than the other ‘papers, and I despise the pair of ’em. Those are the very last 2 people I’d want to be reminded of while being hopelessly marooned (although I could be wrong there and my plan might backfire. Burning pictures of celebrities could create some colourful and vibrant flames, which would be both a) a welcome substitute for masses of helpful psychedelic drugs or b) a good distraction from the impending doom of drought, hunger and going totally mad while longing for a pair of ice-skates or a basketball like lucky Tom Hanks found in Castaway).

High drama

Heading down to Cornwall 10 days ago I had no idea I was about to stumble upon a brand-new paper I’d never so much as heard of…a paper which would prove to be something of an enigma and source of real entertainment…a paper with content so riveting that even the tedious parts of it were so intriguing that we just couldn’t take our eyes off it.

I’d first glimpsed the Cornish Guardian on the first evening we arrived in Par. It was sitting there unassumingly in the corner of the newsagent’s with some suitably Cornish-style headline, and for some reason I didn’t buy it. I can’t remember what the headline was but I’m certain it involved fishermen somewhere along the line, being all friendly and bearded and stereotypical, as we know they always are.

The first morning in Par, I woke up and went back down there, hoping to find a similarly enchanting newspaper waiting for me. But what I found was a dire shock – this headline was different: it seemed to have been hijacked by some sinister Daily Mail reporter…and it read Sex abuser ‘to face jail term.’ in big bold letters. Luckily, just underneath this there was another story which read Calls to reconsider incinerator to be ignored. That was much more like it. OK, so it wasn’t about the phenomenon of Cornish fudge, which was what I was hoping for, but it certainly evened things up a bit. I have always thought of Cornwall as mysterious and intriguing, so this thing about the incinerator fitted the bill perfectly and did the region proud. I wanted to know more, and that’s a sentence about incinerators that I don’t write every day.

For one reason or another – which is a polite way of saying “I can’t be arsed to explain all of what we did that first day, but it was lovely and the company I was with was great and it couldn’t have been better” – I didn’t look again at the Cornish Guardian, or even open it, until later that night. It was very early in the morning and we couldn’t sleep, so out it came. My thinking: it would bore us to tears. Within moments, we’d both be out cold.

We weren’t expecting much – my girlfriend and I were both knackered and a late-night/early-morning traipse through the local Guardian was more of a joke than anything. Neither of us expected to find anything actually of interest. But how wrong we were! On so many levels…

The first sign of promising things to come, or at least something more than a total waste of time and a small amount of money, came on page 3 — don’t jump to any conclusions about Cornish babes, now — with the matter-of-fact headline Raw sewage in high street. Firstly, tired and feeling high on life, the journalist who’d written the piece seemed to have a highly amusing name — she was called Charlotte Lowe, which, at 3am, sounded a lot like Loo and was mildly amusing (sorry Charlotte, what can I say, we were tired and everything seemed funny. If it makes it any better, believe me: I know how it feels to have a name children love to mock…). Secondly, next to the story which we were yet to read was a photo of a woman holding her hand over her mouth in a ooo-[pause]-stinks-like-shiiiiit! fashion, standing next to the offending drain at the side of a road. And it got better. Below the picture was the brash caption SEWAGE STENCH. We knew at this moment that the Cornish Guardian was not about to hold back. If they could turn a seemingly mundane sewage-related story into a thing of great intrigue, we had to ask ourselves: what could they do with a big news story?

Turning over the page, we weren’t prepared or ready for the quality of endless mundane stories which were to come – mundane clearly being something which the Cornish Guardian was an expert at covering (which was a good thing, as it was now clear that this was the only thing it was covering). Page 4 brought the news Jeff’s five-month fight to empty bins still not won, and talked excitedly about a small-business owner battling the local authorities in a domestic Lord of The Rings style affair. Dull as it was, there was something about the way the newspaper put these stories together which was totally fascinating. This one had a photo of Jeff Oliver standing next to an unmistakably full bin with the amusing caption RUBBISH SERVICE. Reading that, it was impossible not to imagine the Cornish Guardian journalists all eating fish and combing their beards while patting each other on the back and talking in a language that even the Cornish locals of far and wide would be hard-pressed to understand.

Moving on to the next few pages, I wish I could say this theme of riveting mundane news continued, but alas it wasn’t to be. It turned out there was an end to it. By the time we reached page 9 we were both fearing the worst: that all there was from here on out was the typical sad stuff that you’d find in other papers. Oh, Cornwall, why did you have to do it?

But page 10 more than made up for the lacklustre intermission! Just at the time when we thought it was all over came a story entitled ‘Wicked’ launderette of the west causes a spin.

Hold on for this one.

The first thing that caught our eye with this story was the picture, which showed a young blonde woman in flip-flops sat on some launderette-style washing machines, leaning towards camera, kissing a massive blow-up frog. Reading the article out-loud, the Cornish Guardian really came into its own, describing a revamped Mevagissey launderette called, ingeniously, Granny Boswell’s Wash House. Not just any launderette, oh no! Cast that thought from your mind right now. This was a launderette which had attracted nothing but controversy from residents ever since it opened…a launderette with sinister under-tones, not to mention Sky TV, as well as a mysterious thing baffling the locals which went by the name of Wi-fi. Along with spiders, toads, and a full-sized witch with broomstick.

At the start of the article, it seemed like a joke. This was just the Cornish Guardian having a laugh, we thought – the sinister under-tones were probably just a ploy to make readers smile while reading in the shop and not go and by the Daily Sport or rent one of the newsagent’s DVDs, which were surprisingly good. Once further in, though, it seemed obvious that we had underestimated Cornwall’s strange, curious appetite for the macabre and the bizarre…soon, it was becoming clear that a man by the name of Carl Harris was at the core of the controversy. Controversy which nobody was laughing at – apart from presumably us, Carl, the launderette staff and all the readers of the ‘paper.

The story went like this: Carl had recently refurbished the launderette, in a bid to modernise it so people actually wanted to wash and dry their clothes within it, thus turning a profit. A sound reason to refurbish, you’d think. Carl clearly wasn’t thick as pigshit. But the way Carl had gone about this had been anything but sound, according to a legion of angry residents…no sooner had Carl hoisted the menacing witch-with-broomstick up for all to see than the letters of complaints had come flooded in. One, which was penned by a group of naysaying local residents who must surely have accidentally consumed fish poisoned with massive amounts of whisky, said how they accused him of “conjuring dark forces in the guise of a pathetic Disneyland launderette.” The contrast of funny and weird in that sentence alone kept us laughing and joking for about 15 minutes, but it was merely the backdrop of humour/ultra-serious-vendetta to what came next.

No criminal is safe!

What came next? A mesmerizing piece of Cornish journalism. It turned out that originally, Carl Harris had wanted to turn the building into a series of holiday apartments, but that a series of supernatural and seemingly inexplicable events – including a drill moving and doors opening and closing on their own accord – had made him change his mind. Carl’s first decision following the events was to hire a paranormal investigator, which he swiftly did. And what the investigator found was troubling: that the old launderette was and had been home to spirits, including a malevolent one by the name of Anne Boswell — also known as Granny Boswell. Anyone else would have sold-up to people without a clue about the hauntings and got the hell out of there and bought somewhere less haunted, surely. But not this Carl Harris – he decided to make fun of the spirits and turn their home into a place where they’d never get a wink of sleep, as well as name the place after the evil demon, in a bid to make friends. You had to hand it to Carl: when it came to facing up to dark forces, he really did so with style and flair. If I could drink alcohol without instantly poisoning myself, Carl might be the first person I’d have a drink with. Next to Granny Boswell in a séance — I’d love to get her take on this.

About the launch, launderette assistant Alice Rouvrais said “Rituals over the laundry and crucifixions out the back will not be happening.”

You have to love the Cornish Guardian.

If we thought we’d had a laugh already, turning over to page 12 changed things forever. This section of the paper was called Around the courts – otherwise known as The victimization of local people engaged in petty crime.

The first person to fall under the paper’s mighty sword was a butcher who’d been banned for driving. I’m not sure what the significance of him being a butcher and drunk is, really – do butchers generally drink and drive more than, say, fishmongers? – but the piece made him out to be a real villain. A man easily on-par with the crimes of another now-infamous local man, who appeared in the next story: Solicitor drove into motorbike. A story about a solicitor who drove into a motorbike, causing a series of Stephen-King-esque harrowing consequences. You can’t say they don’t do diversity.

Next up, without meaning to sound completely sarcastic, we had Magistrate warns man – surely…a magistrate doing exactly what he was employed to do, no? – and Absolute discharge, a story which we didn’t read, but assumed might have something to do with an incontinent or terrified horse on a local country road. By now we were firmly in the Cornish Guardian‘s ruthless grasp.

There were too many other stories to talk about, but some of which were Switched price tags – a tale of a clever unemployed youth showing real common-sense and enterprise, switching goods worth £11.96 for goods actually worth just £5 – and Drunk and disorderly, in which a 16-year-old boy was said to have acted like a very naughty boy. The actual article went like this: REGRET was expressed by a 16-year-old boy from the St. Austell [the next big town 4-miles from where we were] area who admitted being drunk and disorderly when he appeared before Bodmin Youth Court on Monday. “I regret everything about it,” the poor young bastard told the court. The only thing missing from the story was a comprehensive account of what happened when the boy arrived home, where he was swiftly put over his mother’s knee and spanked quite hard (and then made to eat fish?).

I wasn’t going to list the other crimes, but now I can’t resist it: a boy damaged some cars by running on top of them carelessly, a man from Bude stole a laptop computer while on bail and was remanded in custody, and two men jointly masterminded the theft of a generic 32-inch plasma TV from Sainsbury’s in Bodmin on June 7th. Hardly CSI New York, but at least you can’t say the Cornish Guardian doesn’t sit back and ignore the plight of the common people.

All these stories, though, paled in comparison to our number-one-favourite. Man grew cannabis was the title of this beauty, and in it, a Mr P Flint — I’m not printing his full name, as I don’t want to create further employment issues should P Flint decide to move this way — a local petty drug-lord of some esteem, was finally taught his lesson. His crime? Producing some cannabis and possessing a few amphetamines and bits of cannabis resin. For this he was not only victimized and made unemployable in the entire Cornish and West Country regions for the rest of all time, but he also had to pay £250, plus £85 costs and a £15 surchage (presumably just for the hell of it). As if getting busted in a period of record economic uncertainty isn’t enough already, poor P Flint was also forced to share the Around the courts page with an advertisement for PENRICE [COLLEGE] OPEN EVENING, where a series of disturbingly generic school-children look out smugly at the world, while above them the statistics boast of 67% 5 or more A* to C grades including both English and Maths.

Oh…P Flint…we don’t all hate you, honest. Good luck with all your future job searches.

Note: the reputation of Cornish people, fishermen or locals was not intended to be tarnished in this blog post, even if it seemingly was.

Granddad Knows Best

There’s an ancient, ridiculously rough-and-stony farm track at the end of my road (it’s so riddled with stones and thousand-year-old carelessly strewn Roman debris left behind by bored Roman teenagers that it really ought to have an unmissable disclaimer sign at the entrance warning daring joggers they might break both their ankles and legs and telling them where to crawl to for help/shelter if and when that should happen) and today I was jogging along it, free as a bird, wondering what the hell I’d do if one of these mythical large wild cats turned out to be real and jumped out from behind a bush and threatened to tear me to shreds (or what I’d do if it actually did start tearing me to shreds, but I preferred the first thought – much as my sense of machismo was ashamed to admit it). Luckily, there aren’t many bushes down the track. If there were then I doubt I’d feel as comfortable about risking breaking both pairs of legs and ankles on it.

Most days, I can go a full 24 hours without the subject of big cats coming up — 24 hours is usually my limit. Any more than that and I feel compelled to mention it in passing to a stranger or shout “Essex lion!”, just to start the debate again, which usually begins and ends with my logic about their existence being victimized, but so what, we all know they are definitely real. But weirdly, later in the evening, while visiting my grandparents, the subject of these mysterious and much-joked-about wild cats came up again. I can’t remember who mentioned it first, but it was somewhere between driving tanks in the War (the ones Granddad was on had tea and coffee-making facilities, including a hole in the floor to crap through, which gave away your movements, literally, but was infinitely better than shitting yourself in a humid and cramped armoured prison-cell of a vehicle), the state of the country (fucked, but nobody actually used that word), capital punishment (let’s not go there) and mocking our greyhound (real family fun), who recently cut herself and was licking her wound and discovering that the tea-tree oil we had smothered all over it tasted absolutely hideous. There you go, some free pet advice for all you dog owners out there: dogs hate the smell and taste of the stuff, so shove it anywhere you don’t want them to lick. And please, don’t make any dirty jokes.

Let’s move on: it turned out that Granddad was a big-cats-believer. Me, I’d always thought Granddad would struggle to get his head around this important subject, but, as it turned out, Granddad had been thinking about this and forming his own opinions probably before I was even born!

The story went like this, with me adding a large amount of embellishment here, seeing as if I didn’t it would sound much too simple and lack atmosphere, and everyone knows you can’t have a big mythical cat story without atmosphere: one day, while playing golf, Granddad and his buddies came across a sand bunker which had a highly unusual paw-print imprinted in it. Before we go any further, let’s first clarify what constitutes my definition of highly unusual: it made every one of Granddad’s comrades, who were not the kind of men to make something out of nothing, go “bloody hell”, “shit!” or simply stare at the paw-print with the exact same look of unbelievability and doom that a modern male teenager might have on his face if Cilla Black spontaneously appeared in his bed naked singing Surprise, Surprise.

In other words, the paw-print was freakishly big – Granddad made a fist to show the scale, and looked me in the eye to show he wasn’t mucking about – and this meant one of several things. Let’s use a 1 – 10 scale, 10 being most likely, to show what I’m thinking. Either someone had gone to the time and effort of recreating a paw-print and there was no big cat (10, there are sados around, aren’t there?), someone had let their Great Dane loose on the golf course (1 – you’d surely have seen marks in the sand to show where its immense vagina or penis had trailed beneath it), or there really was a wild cat on the loose (10, and if you say otherwise then you’re calling my Granddad a liar, so there).

The only thing that irritated me about the story was that Granddad hadn’t told me sooner — together we could have been a real force to torment the naysayers with. So there, big wild cats exist. My Granddad says so. I win. Anyone who doesn’t agree can kiss both our arses.

Note: if you click the first link, you’ll find professor Stephen Harris can kiss my arse too. Although at least he half agrees.

How To Revel In Your Own Pathetic Uselessness

Wow – sometimes I can be useless. I don’t know why, and it’s probably not healthy, but I have always found examining my varying degrees of uselessness a worthwhile and somehow comforting thing to do. And it’s a good thing I’m like that. Being a human-being, there are endless opportunities for other people to do just that, so getting used to it is something of a necessity. It makes life so much easier and for another thing, it means you never get bored.

Take the other day, for example, when I did possibly the most pointless and unnecessary thing imaginable – a perfect example of how society breeds us humans to mess things up for absolutely no reason, if you will (or at least, that’s the excuse I’m using). Walking down the street at night, my girlfriend to the left of me, a packet of sweet-potato falafels in my right hand which I was highly excited about sampling – I hadn’t eaten falafel for years and was intrigued as to how these would measure up against the prestigious take-away versions I’d been a big fan of – I spotted something on the pavement that looked entirely out of place. The dense shape of a black joke spider that made me smile with amusement. Without giving it any more thought than that, and out of the same simple curiosity that my dog has for other dogs poos, I stepped forward and prodded it with my right foot. Except it wasn’t a joke spider, and I hadn’t prodded, I had forgotten my own immense weight — comparative to the thing on the floor, I mean — and murdered. The legs went in and in, the spider shrivelled up. In just seconds, the spider had gone from being presumably fine and well to absolutely done-for. There it stayed on the floor for a few seconds, dying very slowly, while I contemplated what I ought to do next.

It was then that I recalled that tragic moment in Into The Wild – the part when the solo adventurer shoots a moose and cuts it up to eat, only to find that by the time he starts to cook it in a kind of moss-shelter thing, maggots and larvae have set in and the meat is ruined. A few minutes later, looking all pensive and distraught, he writes in a book that it was one of the most wasteful, tragic moments of his entire life, and it seems quite fitting. I told my girlfriend this — how I imagined myself hunched over a table later that evening, writing something much less dramatic but similarly harrowing — and she gave me the look that said I was making too much of it. But was I? Yes, yes, I was, I definitely was, but still…something about the way I’d dispatched with the spider had got to me and made me feel guilty as hell. And I hate spiders, too, so this revelation wasn’t exactly welcome. Nobody wants to discover that they can’t even hate things properly.

I spent the next ten minutes projecting my blame onto the spider, saying how it was its own stupid fault for being on the bloody pavement in a way that a busy apex predator like me couldn’t help but go for. Luckily, as you’ll find if you ever have to do the same thing, transferring the blame worked quite well.

But I’d hate you to know me for just doing pointless things, so let’s put that right and add some variation to the mix.

This year, probably not for the first time in my life, I completely forgot to call, email or message my best-friend on his birthday. I didn’t even forget for several hours or several days and then remember his birthday. I only realised how pathetic, feeble and incomprehensibly forgetful and disorganised I had been when I actually spoke to Ben and he told me all about what he’d been up to on his birthday. “Don’t worry about it,” he told me, in a nonchalant way which really seemed to ram the point home – the point that this was what it had come to, and this kind of error was now expected of me. Maybe even that if such an error did not happen, that would be much more of a surprise and something to really worry about. “It’s not important.”

But shit, I thought, this is important! If this isn’t important…what the hell is?

OK, so I was being a bit dramatic. Then there was the bigger-picture, too. In world terms, don’t you know, when compared with all kinds of other things, Ben was right: his birthday wasn’t vitally important and missing it hadn’t caused any huge upsets. Backing-up my argument was also the fact that he, like me with my birthday, had never placed much importance on it. Really, it was like this, and I’m sure he would agree: much as I love the man in that best-friends-let’s-have-a-man-hug kind of a way, and much as I am certain that Ben’s mother will always remember the day that Ben forced his way brutishly out of her womb – really, who wouldn’t? – it was just a day like any other. So I knew I wasn’t a terrible human being for making such a mistake, and I knew I wasn’t the first. I looked at the positives. I hadn’t dropped a baby, failed to stop a twin-laden pram from careering downhill towards white-water-rapids or accidentally fallen down a flight of stairs at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, and smashed several ancient very expensive vases into hundreds of not-so-priceless pieces. I really wasn’t so bad after all, then. In fact, there was something actually quite endearing and delightful about forgetting a friend’s birthday. It said You’re such a good friend that you don’t make a big deal out of it. You want him to enjoy his day. You don’t want to burden him with having to reply to a text message or pick up the phone when he has so many other better things to do.

I still felt like a right git though — my deluded justifications only worked for so long. Surely, anyone would. At least, until I remembered, again, that my Dyscalculia – or total lack of ability to understand or even comprehend the point of numbers – had me covered. Covered in a way that if anyone tried to call me disorganised or crap for missing birthdays, I could simply point them in the direction of Wikipedia and go “Ha!” It must be a terrible thing to make numerically-associated mistakes and have nothing to blame it on. Yet me and millions of people like me – I know me isn’t grammatically correct and frankly, once again, I do not care, so don’t bother emailing me – are lucky enough to be able to blame our mistakes on a genuine and very debilitating condition which makes understanding numbers absolute hell. But don’t worry, I’m at a disadvantage in plenty of other areas where I bet you are not. For instance, you should see my try and read a map! Actually, you shouldn’t – it’d probably break your heart.

Note: I have since put in place a clever system which should allow me to remember people’s birthdays. It involves writing down dates and frequently checking them in a daze of panic and paranoia. I will let you know how it works out. If I remember.

Swearing as a bad thing: it’s about time we got the fuck over it

Beautiful bastard

It’s true: if some people are right — we’ll come to how I think they’re largely misguided, silly, deluded or just plain wrong in a few paragraphs’ time — I may be about to single-handedly destroy any credibility and professionalism I may have built up as a freelance copywriter over the past few years; so writing this blog post now at a time of record economic hardship for people my age is a fine idea I think you’ll agree (notice the double use of May there — I’m not that confident about what I do and to be honest, I worry about anyone who is). How? By openly saying how I think swearing, cursing and cussing can be a good thing sometimes, of course. I am such a maverick, what can I say. And yes, for the sake of less hassle this is, I suppose, a kind of disclaimer: as if you hadn’t guessed by now, the following post you are about to read contains lots and lots of swear words, hopefully in what you’ll consider is the right context (unless I’m trying to make a point of using them in the wrong context, but don’t worry, I’ll warn you just so that if your mother-in-law is reading this and she’s a pain, she’ll not be led into doom intentionally, although you may wish I had in some cases, no doubt). This post contains even the really bad swear words which some people have multiple aneurysms over, it’s true! So don’t waste your time writing to me to complain about all the swearing and bad language, and how you thought I was better than that, etc, because you’ll wake up one day and realise you’ve been a silly boy or girl (or you won’t. Won’t realise you’ve been a fool, I mean. I wouldn’t wish anyone not to wake up — that’s just cruel. It’s not in my nature).

When I’m not getting existential, or worrying about how far gone this planet is, or what might happen if Mitt Romney gets into power — believe it or not but it’s a very real possibility right now — I’m a simple man: I like it when it rains very, very hard and I am not in it – especially when I am not in it. I like finding long-forgotten money in pockets – I don’t know why but the scrunched-up nature of five-pound-notes makes them all the more compelling. I like books, theatre and films which don’t hold back, for the right reasons — I prefer to stay away from shit ones, although some might argue that point after I bought both a Jaws box-set without the original Jaws in, and The Descent 2 because it was part of a box-set, in the same year. And sometimes, purely for the fun of it, and because it’s allowed, and because we live in a country that is actually quite good in numerous ways that we keep conveniently forgetting while the rest of the planet tears itself to pieces, I like swearing. I’m not ashamed to admit it, and I don’t think you should be either.

People have warned me about writing things like this. Intelligent people. People who may have a point. People with degrees (silence…joke!). They’ve actually told me that I’m not supposed to say I like swearing or advocate its usage, as this could be a bad decision that will come to haunt me in years or even months time (I’ll let you know). These people, who will remain nameless — mainly because I am hopeless with remembering names, which is lucky for them — have explained to me on several occasions that writing about things like this is a bad/risky idea, for several reasons which I have examined and come to the conclusion are actually quite valid. Such as what I’ve basically been saying, which is more or less that:

1: Swearing makes you look un-professional.

2: Swearing gives the wrong impression and the same thing can be said with better, more intelligently thought-out words.

I say bullshit, that’s not always the case. So now I’m breaking all the rules and I feel like Ross Kemp from Ross Kemp On Gangs in those really risky moments when he says “I think I’m being rumbled…it’s time to go…”. My opinion is this: in the right circumstances, swearing can be really fucking great, and I see absolutely no reason to stop doing it any time soon. Unless I get no work as a copywriter ever again, in which case I might tone it down a bit.

And anyway, me being me, why would I? I’m on a strict no-chocolate-no-cake diet for the next 5 months, you know, and thanks to plain bad luck I also have a condition which means I’m banned from drinking alcohol (I’m not an alcoholic — my body just can’t process it so it poisons me, honest). Sometimes, swearing and telling myself that cake and chocolate doesn’t really exist are the only things that get me through the day.

Who started the argument that swearing in films, theatre and literature is morally wrong? I don’t know, but they were probably religious. But let’s not get bogged down in the religion debate — we’d be here all day. Instead, let’s clamber out of that potential quagmire and into the relative safety of how swearing can be positive (safe while I’m writing this blog post, at least).

Not only is swearing immensely pleasurable to do – in the right circumstances, and within the appropriate context – but it is also an extremely important and historic art-form which has been practiced by many ancient civilizations and perfected by northerners and criminals and Ray Winstone. Go back through the ages and you’ll find all kinds of people from all kinds of classes have enjoyed the rebel-taboo of swearing, purely for swearing’s sake. My teachers at school said swearing wasn’t big or smart or clever but what the fuck did they know? They were wrong, of course, and probably lying just to conform to school rules, because when used properly, swearing is an absolutely essential addition to whatever you are doing. I believe it’s a fact when I say that without swearing, the world would be a dimmer and far less exciting place. It might also mean a world filled with even more horrendous non-stop violence, which is basically unthinkable if you live in a world where Mitt Romney is already imaginary president. I mean…can you actually imagine what someone might be driven to do if they couldn’t vent themselves with a few awful words? You probably wouldn’t even make it to the bus-stop. New parents with toddlers who carelessly left their Lego on the stairs the night before likely wouldn’t even make it to the kitchen without killing one another…

But there are exceptions. It’s not cool, for example, to sit on a bus with your friend and swear loudly in the company of mothers, children and people who you do not know and may not want to hear those kinds of things while going through a divorce, or pondering what the hell they’re going to do with themselves until their new iphone 5 arrives in the post. It’s also not cool to swear for the sake of it in a way which makes no sense whatsoever, or to do it just to impress others with how vulgar you can be when your talents lie elsewhere – choose your words carefully, unless you’re in a vulgar-words competition for fifty-thousand-pounds and you really need the money after blowing it all on hard drugs, in which case go fucking mental. In some cases, I’ll admit it: swearing is the worst thing in the world and serves no purpose other than to anger and frustrate those around you. As you won’t be surprised to hear, I never swear to my copywriting clients or to anyone I don’t know reasonably well. If they swear at me in an email then I might swear back in jest, though, just to prove that I can be on their level and also a professional. On rare occasions, this green-light of approval is just what I need and a welcome break from having to phrase things in ways which require a lot of mental energy. Sometimes it’s just a hell of a lot easier to say Fuck.

Then there are times when only swearing will do and that’s a fact.

I can remember the period of time when, as a child, I learned that my father swore just like everyone else did. Up until that time – I was around eight or nine, I think – the Shit word, whenever so much as mouthed, created a vortex of angry faces and severe punishment for the perpertrator. Anyone conjuring this sickening demon was immediately told-off and made to promise that it would never again be mentioned in the house or anywhere. Then, one day, I was at one end of the room and my dad and granddad were at the other and I suppose they thought I wasn’t listening. “…The fucking thing doesn’t work!” my dad was saying to granddad, as they attempted – feebly and without any logic, I think it’s fair to say – to fix the bastard curtain-rail, despite the case that even a child could see they had not a bloody clue what the hell they were doing. Fucking was a new one and I liked it very much – it sounded great: much more powerful than Shit, and about a billion-times more potent than the much less impressive Crap. After Fucking, Crap just sounded pointless and shit. I was so enamored that I made a point of using it the following day at school not once but twice in the company of adults. It was so potent that it made one of my teachers — nobody liked her as she taught my worst enemy, numbers, and she was said to have the worst Poo breath imaginable — smile in a way that made me think she had just miraculously broken her back.

Fortunately, I do remember some things.

So there we were, rescued by Fucking. A breath of fresh-air which us insult-hungry kids all sorely needed.

Not that I knew what the mysterious Fucking meant…

I had not the slightest clue what Fucking was about until a boy from the year above told me. It sounded horrific and bizarre…two people body-parting each other — that was the term he used and as you can see it has stood the test of time very well — in the mysterious adult  intercourse way, again and again until a weird kind of intimate pleasure was achieved (so they said — it sounded ridiculous, too ridiculous for adults, even). As a nine-year-old with much better things to do, the Fucking made me feel quite sick.

For a long time after that I knew swearing to be fun, hideous, vulgar and without any sense — but still really fun. It was the bad thing adults did…the thing people did when they had nothing good to say. But still lots of fun! So when I arrived at secondary school and found that everyone was doing it, some quite artfully, really giving it their all and being inventive, it really messed with the logic that both my parents and society had instilled in me. Suddenly here I was: surrounded by swearers, and lots of new words which were brutal. Fucking was still definitely up there as one of the firm favourites of the time, but there was a new word around and it was CUNT.

People said CUNT not cunt, I found. If they did say cunt then their face would kind of stretch and pull the word out of its filthy shell, until it was in capital letters and everyone around was either grim-faced (they didn’t know it) or smiling (they knew it and had said it and loved it).

After CUNT, the world just wasn’t the same again. Fucking, Shit and CUNT was the mandatory vocabulary for all from that point on. Aside from being bullied like crazy and still being cataclysmically awful at maths, life was really good.

Let’s do an experiment. Go outside, where there are adults, and shout “Cunt!” Go on, if you can and if your boss isn’t looking, I dare you. Chances are, unless a parade of school-children were walking by or you were stupid/spontaneous enough to not check for police — or those ones who look like police but are actually Community Support Officers, or something — nobody really noticed. Whatever the case, they’ll have probably assumed the worst, anyway: they either thought something terrible happened to you or they thought you were Dom Joly doing a new series (in some cities which are more switched-on about mental illness, they may even ask you if you are OK. Unless you’re in London, in which case that’s not likely to happen).

Why didn’t anyone give a shit? Because most adults know that if someone shouts “Cunt!” in the street very loudly with total lack of inhibition, they are either happy, drunk, very broken mentally or on drugs. It’s 2012, right? The fact is, the world is still far away from achieving peace, people are more concerned about things they should and should not be concerned with, and swearing really isn’t that offensive any more, providing it’s done well. In fact, it’s part of modern human nature to swear. Far as I can see, it’s the people who don’t swear every now and again who look a bit weird. Or maybe not weird, but way too together to not have teleported here from some other much less stressful future time or dimension. If they did, lucky them but I’d still prefer to remain in this one — unless in theirs you can eat chocolate and cake and drink alcohol and nothing happens to you…although that might not be ideal for everyone, mainly alcoholics.

As for the argument that swearing is something people do when they have nothing better to do, well, I think that’s a load of bollocks. 1) busy people with no time seem to swear more than anyone else, 2) plenty of smart people swear and enjoy doing so and 3) — and this is a BIG 3 — no succession of words can deliver the same powerful blow that a carefully placed Fuck or Cunt can. Seriously, just ask Ray Winstone. You may not like the words, you may not want to hear them, you may feel like someone’s just dropped a snake in your naked lap, but try arguing that point next time you stand on a nail. I think we both know that you’re not going to win.

Aside from all this, swearing, whether you like doing or hearing it or not, is an intrinsic part of everyday life for most of the thinking population — it’s just many of them might only swear while on their own attempting to configure an irritating Powerpoint presentation or cook a boiled-egg for the first time and keep the yoke all runny (how I’m jealous of those who go for a non-runny yoke…). Australian outback tribes may not swear as we know it, seemingly setting a good example, but I’m willing to bet that over the past few thousand years they’ve invented their own unique ways of getting the same point across. Books, theatre and movies are a reflection of life, and so it makes sense that they should be accurate — that’s what I’m trying to say. And don’t try telling me that you can replace swear words with lesser equivalents, because unless you’re Nabokov — and even he liked a swear or three — that’s a load of bollocks, too. Come on now, even Nigella swears!

Equally bollocks is the notion that spelling swear words in print-form with asterisks for the missing characters is somehow better and more appropriate than printing the entire word without. To me, calling a character in a novel a f**king c**t couldn’t be more offensive. Not only is this ruining the flow and power of the words, but it’s making me question why the hell the asterisks are even there, seeing as it’s obvious what I’m reading and would only cause a child to ask even more unsettling questions if he or she did come across it (which would be your fault for leaving the book open, if that was where they got it from). I then laugh or get frustrated at wondering why the asterisks were even used and this ruins everything. By that time, I’m pissed-off with the author and fed-up with the publisher for being such a bloody pussy.

Don’t like swearing? Then read books and go to theatre shows and watch films which aren’t accurate portrayals of real-life situations. Miss out on a whole world of rich, diverse language, simply because you felt a little awkward. Just don’t complain when you realise something huge is missing and you’ve just wasted 5 hours of your life.

After reading all that, I suppose it’s possible you might think I’m always swearing. That I can’t go ten minutes without shouting my mouth off. Except like many advocates of a damn good swear session, that’s not the truth. I like a good swear as much as the next man, but I’m much more selective than I used to be at 14, you know, and I also go easy on it on Facebook and other social media sites, as I’m well aware that in many situations it is simply unecessary. I also don’t drink alcohol ever, as I said, which limits my Friday-night-swearing moments dangerously enough that if I’m the company of northerners, they are in complete disgust.