Category Archives: Health Care Tips and News

I’m a leo lover

Something is wrong, very wrong. I have developed a crush on Leonardo DiCaprio. Oh that’s nothing, I hear you all say. Well, the problem is that I am 24. Twenty-four years old! Never a Brosette or a Jason Donovan fan, my teenage fantasies tended to centre around New Kids On The Block and Corey Haim, but I was 15. At 15 it is normal to have a relationship with a poster and to believe that there is some depth to your liaison. I remember going to a New Kids concert, convinced that I even though I was in the 4th row, Joey McIntyre was telling ME that I had the Right Stuff and was his Cover Girl, and not any of the other thousand Blockettes. I remember looking at my posters and eerily believing that Corey Haim was actually looking at me. But at 24?!

I have had two serious boyfriends (unless you count my poster men), spent 4 years at University, lived abroad and have a interesting job but I am seriously infatuated with an American heartthrob. When Leo recently came to London for the premiere of the Beach, I contemplated leaving work early so I could slink past the Odeon Leicester Square. I imagined standing out amidst the sea of screaming fans. I wouldn’t be like that; I would be cooler, older, more sophisticated and sure he would be able to spot me through the heaving pubescent hormones surrounding me.

The fact that I actually work in the world of film PR does not really help my crush because instead of reminding myself that I live in the real world, I believe that one day I might very well have to work on a Leo film, even if it is in ten years. Then you see I would wrangle my way into the premiere and this time I would not have to remain invisible. He would notice me and no, it would not just be a physical thing – no siree – he would want me, need me, recognise that a girl-next-door like myself would be the answer to all his woes.

My fantasy went to a higher plane when I began to recreate that scene from Romeo and Juliet. I would be dancing at the after-party; Leo would spot me once again. Unable to control himself and shaking with lust, he would saunter over, oblivious to the charms of the Nicole Appletons and Melanie Sykes, and place his hand over the necessary fish tank. I would lift my head, briefly interrupted from my impossibly sexy dancing and smile coyly. I would say something dazzling and witty, probably topped up with a memorable comment about the fish. The next day our love would be splashed across the papers. Forget being locked in a bathroom with Nicole Appleton, this guy would be ready to marry me in a bathroom, let alone anything else. Ahem, you see, this is serious.

I recently had dinner with a friend and after a few bottles of wine I made my confession. We indulged in true girlie analysis and instead of having her tell me to sort it out and grow up, we indulged in my fantasies, concluding that yes, it could happen. I worked in the right industry and one day, one day, I might just meet him and there was no reason for the attraction not to be mutual. This was not what I needed. The other point of debate was what leads us to have these obsessions? Was my relationship lacking excitement? Was my life missing something?

When you are younger, I guess you don’t need to question it because it is normal. You have probably not experienced love or any of the other great things soon to come your way and so to a fantasy is healthy. But at my age? Luckily with the furore of The Beach somewhat abating, I have managed to calm myself down. Until the next time maybe. Let’s hope not.


Internet addiction is simple enough to describe, isn’t it? Basically, you spend too much time sat there, ‘surfing’ (I hate that phrase) and whatever. But while it should be considered widespread, as time goes on I find it harder and harder to think of it as a disease. Due to bad traffic, some days I might be sat in my car for almost 8 hours. Am I now suffering from car addiction?

No. I’ve unearthed the hidden net plague – and it’s rife. And what’s worse is, the more net-wise you are, the worst you have it. INTERNET PARANOIA. It’s not difficult to see where it comes from. For a start, you’re sat there, on line, in a room, maybe on your own. But you are logically connected to 100 million other people. That many! Now when you’re a newbie, what does it matter? It’s like someone looking over your shoulder as you thumb through the yellow pages. But as you get more in tune with what’s going on, anything and everything becomes an act of privacy suicide. I recently had a chat with a friend of mine called Andrew, who is doing a PHD in Internet technologies. I casually asked him if he could get hold of a piece of software for me. He said sure, and I followed on by saying I’d email him. His face darkened.

Email him? EMAIL HIM? Was I mad? Did I not realise that all free text mail was monitored by the IT managers where he was? OK, I said, I’d send it to his web based account. Now it appears I was just stupid. A web account? With people using redirectors? Javascript fake front ends? He practically stood up from shaking. OK, I conceded, I would send it to him encrypted.

ENCRYPTED! Andrew practically fell over. Did I not realise that almost 100% of all Internet traffic now goes through NSA routers in the US? That the world governments were sitting on everything we had ever submitted? That they had software decrypting every key ever written? Now I was ‘deranged’. Mad and stupid, it appears, had been quite mild.

Blimey. After a 15-minute chat where he walked the coronary tightrope of fear- induced, sweating information delivery, it appeared that almost everything on a computer these days was unsafe. It slowly transpired that the average Internet user who used instant messaging (that’s paging to you and me), online shops, any version of Windows, Intel chips, British Telecom, and shareware, and had typed their postcode, name, or credit card details into a web browser and had ever registered anything written by Microsoft, ever, was dumb, blind, air-headed, mad, deranged, gormless, deaf and, well, a bit thick.

Andrew then proudly showed me his ‘safe’ PC. It doesn’t have Windows, has virtually no software on it and won’t use any embedded software, making it useless for 90% of the important bits of the web. Virus checkers, anti-hacking guards and security software run flat out, leaving about 5% of the computer available for, you know, running a calculator program or even something as advanced as a word processor. Maybe one day I’ll have a computer that advanced. Until then, I’ll ‘stupidly’ carry on enjoying myself, with the worlds geeks knowing exactly where I live, how much I earn, and when I last bought an imported Wham CD off the net.

Pre-life crisis

I’m 26. Can you hear me? I’m 26. When I was 18, the statement, “I’m 18” was exactly that, a statement. Here I am! Bold! Young! Ready to take on the world! And ever-so slightly sexually frustrated! Then by the time I hit 23, “I’m 23” was just an incidental fact, a mere detail. I whispered it. Now, I’m 26. I can say that boldly again. Like I’m in an American self-help group. “I’m 26. I’m not married. I don’t intent to marry. I don’t want kids. Help me, I’m obviously ill.” (Add the noise of whopping and clapping to complete the effect).

What’s made me feel like this? Well, the other day I updated some software on my PC and they asked me to fill out an online questionnaire. In true back-of-the-cereal-packet style, instead of typing in an age, there was a series of check boxes. Yes, you’ve guessed it – my mouse travelled sadly across the ’16-25′ box and clicked firmly in the middle of ’26-35′. Oh God, I’ll probably still be clicking that box when my fingers start feeling arthritic. I scanned down to the bottom of the list but unfortunately, the company did not have a checkbox for, “Would you like one of our sales representatives to come round and shoot you now.” It wasn’t Microsoft, then.

This questionnaire had obviously realised it had backed me onto the ropes, and went in for the kill. “How much money is coming into your household?” it demanded. Surely it’s more important to know how much money is going OUT of my household… but anyway, a scroll down list was provided. Well, technically, I should have selected “nothing”, as I don’t earn ANY US dollars, thankyouverymuch. Nonetheless, I knew what it meant, so I looked at the options. 10 to 15 thousand, 15 to 20 thousand… and it went on, all the way up to 70 to 80 thousand and 80 to 90 thousand. And now a feeling of deep-rooted personal failure set in. How specific does the marketing need to be to differentiate between someone earning 80 grand or 90 grand? How many people on 80 grand are thinking – “Can’t afford that Merc – that’s for people on 90K”? I scrolled back up, and up, and up, and selected my income. I could practically hear “100 grand and over” sniggering at me from behind the monitor.

Then, they wanted my marital status. I didn’t need to give it to them, but curiosity kicked in once again and I scanned the choices. This pull down list provided, Single, Separated, Divorced, Co-Habiting, Married, and Widowed. It suddenly struck me that it seemed to be in some sort of order of preference. I skipped over this part when I realised that it should have been check boxes – most people I know would need to tick at least 2 or 3. Design fault, obviously.

Finally, came the ultra-small text stating that if I did (or didn’t – it wasn’t entirely clear) check the following box, my in-tray would be chock full of ridiculous back-country US spam until I shut the account down, moved home, and changed my name by deed poll.

I glanced over my previous answers. So far I’d admitted to being a clapped out, worthless, social inadequate. Did I want attention from strangers who were only after my money? You betcha. If there was an ‘extra spam’ box, I would have clicked that too.

Health Kick Hell

I’ve been thinking about it for a while, really. I was sick of looking in the mirror and seeing the remnants of cigarettes and pints winding all over my face. I’m only 24 but am extremely paranoid about being old. I had fits when I became 20 and was no longer a teenager. The more that the shrouded figure of being grown up – looking older, less people wanting to sleep with me and the prospect of having ‘responsibilities’ – crept upon me, the less I liked it.

When I was a child I always thought that I would grow up to be tall, muscled and handsome just as a matter of course. I didn’t realise that I may have to do some ‘exercise’ or something. Ah well, none out of three ain’t bad. Oh hang on, yeah that is quite bad, isn’t it? I mean, how ridiculous is the prospect of exercise? Luckily I did not grow up to be a huge tubster despite my revolting eating habits at university. The staff at McDonald’s knew me by name and said hello to me when I saw them in pubs. Bad sign. Bad, baaaad sign. I had always eaten well when I was living at my mother’s house but apart from a few half-hearted attempts at hockey and playing shockingly bad tennis in the summer, my exercise was limited.

So I had a PLAN. I would eat healthily, join a gym (I really, really meant this at the time) and I would also stop smoking. I have to point out that when I decided all this I was of sound mind, but wrecked body. I had a horrendous cough and was sick of hacking up phlegm balls the size of a urinal every morning. Running was impossible…even the 3 yards to the bus stop had me clutching my chest and gasping like Old Father Steptoe.

Stage one of the plan was the exercise. I started off well by walking home from work every evening (about 3 miles across town, not TOO bad for a start), and my next step was to join a gym. I was expecting a little lump sum so I thought that would be me launched on to the exercise frenzy! Not to be. Well, gyms are just sooo expensive and I was terrified to be honest. Despite friends telling me that gyms were cool now and that everybody was friendly, I just had visions of the one my mum used to go to when I was a kid. During the holidays, I had to go with her as there was nobody to look after me. I would sit on the hot pink plastic sofas and scowl with a 12p cup of juice and watch my mother torture herself on huge machines, whilst body terrorists in stripy leotards, leg-warmers and ‘muscle’ tops (this is the 80s we’re talking about here boys and girls) sauntered about looking healthy. Also, I didn’t really have the money to join a gym so that was put on the back burner for a wee while.

I decided to do the fags and eating thing at the same time because when I was hungry but could never be arsed to cook I would smoke a couple of fags and have a can of Coke. So I trotted along to my local supermarket and managed to dig out a few healthy salads even though they are not really popular in Scotland. You see, health is not really that ‘in’ amongst the Edinburgh folk, judging by the grub they eat, but more of that another time….

I stopped smoking cigarettes at work completely, smoking only 2 or 3 at home, and ate very well and often to make up for it.

And how am I doing? Well, I’m sick of eating and I still miss the old cancer sticks. I have actually started to smoke the odd one at work now due to my ‘high-pressure’ job (yes, yes, cop out of the century). I still eat a salad every now and again, but with mammoth-size portions to make up for the ‘salad is rabbit food’ concept.

On the whole I feel healthy, my skin is à la baby’s ass, but if I don’t get my hands on a quarter-pounder burger soon I’m just going to jump into a field and devour a live cow…

Eat to the beat

There are many things I just don’t understand…The attraction of cropped trousers for gentlemen, perms, what’s so good about 5ive (can anyone honestly say they know ALL their names?), why rich bitches get excited about pashminas etc. But the one thing I really really don’t get is why people feel compelled to eat huge amounts of crap when they’re pissed.

A few weeks ago I was in a horrendously cheesy nightclub. I didn’t want to go, the choice was taken away from me. The friends I was out with that night said they couldn’t be arsed doing the usual club thing, jostling for space with loads of shirtless fashion leaders and impossibly thin beauties in clothes that would cost a week’s wages. No siree, they wanted cheese. Plus, we could get in for free as we have friends who shag in high places…

So fair enough, we’ve had a few drinks, we get into this club, see some of Edinburgh’s ‘finest’ rocking to Dave Pearce’s latest throbbing charty-hearty horrific Techno-lite™. So far, so good. Then a few of the group announce, “Right, we’re away to get something to eat.”
“What?” cried the more sensible members of the group.
“Aye, there’s a diner over there, like.”
And off they trotted. Fascinated, I followed.

In this neon-encrusted black-carpeted nightmare was a large room with banquettes, fruit machines and a cash machine. Along one wall was a series of hotplates with a lacklustre kitchen behind, reminiscent of some dilapidated state school in Hackney. The proceedings were being watched over by a very bored-looking couple of recent school-leavers, along with a middle aged woman with a face that looked like she had just undergone 72 hours of agonising childbirth. It was an amazing scene.

Scores of drunks being propped up by ‘well-built’ girls fooling themselves in shiny size 10 dresses mingled with bored-looking young lads hoping that the extremely drunk and fleetingly pretty stick insect they were holding up wouldn’t sober up before he’d fed and fu… (whoops) slept with her. There was the occasional nasty drunk. “Hey, ya mingin’ bitch, ye, where’s my f***in’ burger like, ah’ve bin waiting ten bloody minutes, c’mon doll, dinnae take the pish…”

Idiot. You just knew that ‘doll’ would head straight for the kitchen and stick his chips up her arse before serving them. The childbirth crone merely surveyed the queue with eyes that told a thousand tales of drunks and their eating habits. It was obvious from her demeanour that such behaviour was nothing new. I could tell from every crag on her face that she had witnessed thousands of intoxicated youths in her time.

“Stop yer catcalling or none of ye’ll get served!” she eventually screamed, as a 13-year-old in a shiny boob tube fell over and was sick in her hair. I made my way, wobbling somewhat (either from drunkenness or revulsion at the situation…I don’t know), to a table and sat down to wait for my friends. They returned with a mass of grease, with a burger in there somewhere and some rancid fries and onion rings. I turned away in horror as they tucked in. I turned away in the same manner when 2 hours later they threw it up in the street.

So why this fascination with getting absolutely rat-arsed and then spending a fortune on dodgy food either on the way home, or as is now ‘en vogue’ in Edinburgh, whilst still in the club? When I’m clubbing, the LAST thing I want to do is eat. I remember at uni how I would moan and sulk at being dragged into the most disgusting kebab shop in Southampton (you know who you are), as my friends ordered chips with chilli sauce, mayonnaise, dog turd and other things you wouldn’t even think about eating if it wasn’t for the 26 pints of Stella you’d just had. The biggest mystery to me is why ANYONE would want to eat a kebab. Oh yes, I’d just love a big slice of horse leg with 10-day-old salad and sauce of dubious origin, ta very much.

More often than not these kebabs would be left to fester on the kitchen table until someone plucked up the courage to throw it away, or indeed in one case, heat it up the next morning and eat it. I would often chuckle to myself as I made my way to my dead-end weekend job and see all the half-eaten kebabs and pizzas strewn across the streets, occasionally with a little pile of vomit accompanying it. Mmmm…lean cuisine, I don’t think.

So keep your freaky diners with silver banquettes and teenage alcoholics. Take away your Environmental Health-condemned fast food vans parked outside grim neon clubs, where ‘burger ‘n’ fries – only £3.99!’ is served by spotty youths in filthy white coats (Hello Leeds). Be gone all you nightmare kebab shops which are just Crimewatch reconstructions waiting to happen (I lost count of the number of stabbing in our local). And don’t even get me started on the deep-fried pizzas and battered black pudding that Scots lap up…

No way, I’m just not playing*. I much prefer to stagger home and attempt to ‘cook’ whatever I find in the fridge/ freezer/ somebody else’s cupboard. Even if I do fall asleep/ pass out/ set the flat on fire, at least I saw myself cook it and don’t need to worry that a school-leaver might have been playing hockey with it in a grease-ridden kitchen. Oh, and slice of horse leg? Er…no thanks, I think I’d rather eat my own eyeballs first…

A trip to the gym

Patrick’s been on holiday to Jamaica for two weeks. He denied me my Kickboxing to work on his tan. Then I went off skiing for a week, and then he had flu (probably just a cold but you know what wimps men are when they’re ill) so I haven’t actually see him for a month. Four weeks without kick boxing. I’ve been aware of the aggression building up inside. Having found an escape route in punches and kicks, it’s been a struggle keeping it cooped up inside like it has been for the last 27 years. So I’ve had to find other ways of letting it out.

I joined the gym near work earlier in the year in a moment of madness. This is the ninth gym I’ve joined in about four years. I’ve got a pattern: I’m quite a regular for the first few weeks then gradually attendance dwindles to maybe once a month, if that. I was determined that this time would be different but my attendance record is already poor. So last Sunday, to compensate for Patrick’s absence, I decided that I would go to the gym before work on Monday. Dottie the Rottie wakes up every morning at 6.30 wanting her breakfast, a walk, several pees and a crap (not necessarily in that order). As my other half normally takes care of her, I rarely get up but spread out in the bed and fall straight back into a deep sleep. Not this Monday morning. No, I get up, throw on some clothes and set off for the gym, kit bag at my side. I brave the Central line (surprisingly pleasant at 7am) and get to the gym just before 8am.

Having quickly changed into my gear, I walk into the gym itself to discover to my absolute delight that it’s “Fat Monday” – there’s one other girl already there and she’s bigger, flabbier and clearly more out of shape than me. Marvellous. She’s also wearing a WetWetWet 1997 UK tour T-shirt with greying jogging pants. For once, in my streamlined black Lycra, I am the fit, slim one and she is the overweight, red-faced one. It rarely happens, but when it does, it’s fantastic. She is looking to me for inspiration. I represent her fitness goal. I am Lightening from ‘Gladiators’; she is Waynetta Slob.

After some exaggerated stretches, I begin on the treadmill, something Waynetta, panting away on the bike, can only aspire to. I’ve formulated a classification system for the cardio work in an average gym. The easiest (and therefore positioned at the bottom of the ladder) is the bike, followed in order of difficulty by the rower, the stepper and finally the treadmill. Waynetta is most definitely on the bottom rung while I rapidly accelerate to the top, pass Go and collect £200.

I keep losing my rhythm on the treadmill as I’m trying to run in time to MTV and the speed of the tracks keeps changing, but I don’t think Waynetta notices. I’m looking good. I can feel her watching me enviously. I run for 10 minutes. I’m warmed up but not breathless, rosy but not beetroot.

Warm up done, now for some toning. The previous eight gyms have had different machines for different body parts – abductors, adductors, triceps, biceps and so on. But here, my choice is limited. There is only the Multigym, ominously positioned in the corner. It’s big, black and resembles a dentist’s chair. I’ve never seen anyone use it. The staff didn’t even include it in my induction. I’m reminded of a Stephen King novel, where inanimate objects develop evil, malevolent personalities. The Multigym is Darth Vadar.

I climb on, straddling it. I spend a couple of minutes of trying to work out what to do. I’d like to discreetly dismount but I know Waynetta is watching, so I can’t. I grapple with the handles by my head. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to push them up, down, forward or backwards, so I shake them vigorously to see which way they go. Aha. Bicep thingies. I can only manage a few (guess who forget to check the metal pin in the weights?), then some knee curls. To my relief, Waynetta has finished on the bike and goes out of the room, to get some water I assume. Now’s my chance. I stumble off the Multigym in a most undignified manner.

Although Darth Vadar has defeated another victim, I feel smug that I’ve outwitted Waynetta. She’ll return and my image will remain as clean as a fresh tampon. As I pick up some hand weights, I hear footsteps. Must be Waynetta coming back. I position myself so that my bulging biceps will be the first thing she sees.

Except that it’s not Waynetta. It’s another girl. She’s wearing this season’s Nike gear in pale blue. She’s slightly older than me but she looks energised, radiant. And thin. And fit.

And suddenly my world crumbles. My ego deflates like a punctured balloon, as I morph into Waynetta and she becomes Lightening. The dream is over. I’m crushed. I put down the weights and as Lightening sets off on the treadmill, I skulk over to the bike, where I belong.

Pussy likes cream

I have learnt the lesson, finally, of sending tacky emails to people with the hope that they will become ‘at one’ with their kitsch, bedecked-with-sequin souls. In my circle of email friends, it has become acceptable – if not de rigueur, to plague each other with emails of the crappy variety. Singing penises that emulate Elvis, and kittens saying “I Wuv Woo” in what is excellent English for a cat, bring a touch of Seventies cheer to my mates stuck in office hell.

The thing is though, I’m a bit unsure about sending kitsch cards via my email should I again type in the wrong address, and the recipient mistakes my irony for sincerity. Imagine the shit I had to go through when my kitten card went to a strange man whose in-box contained (at a guess) only porn notification messages. A cat saying “I Wuv Woo” may be less exciting than Sexy Stacey’s message of ‘COME see ALL of me, for just $49.99!’ – but to the old man, sex is simply a substitute for a little bit of love.

“She Wuvs Me!” I imagine the strange dirty old man crying aloud after I spelt the boyfriend’s email address wrong and the kitten ended up in Cardiff instead of Camberwell as planned. After considering the email to be an interactive porn-type thing for valued customers (again, speculation on my part), the man sends me his reply. Half an hour later my inbox becomes the proud recipient of a photo of an OAP without a stitch on (although, with all the creases, I first thought he was wearing a peach shell-suit), and a caption that read: “Does my kitten want some cream?”. Amused (and thinking that The Boyfriend had downloaded some particularly bad porn) I penned my reply- using all the pussy jokes I could muster, because, after all, he is my boyfriend.

“Pussy’s like a bit of cream in them,” I composed, grinning at my rudeness and fiddling with my mouse. “I especially like to lick it up,” I concluded, before pressing the reply button and then getting on with my dissertation. The next email I received came quickly, and I assumed that The Boyfriend was getting excited at the prospect of having email sex with his beloved. “Why don’t you come over and show me what you like to lick?” was the caption above a close-up of an old man’s (the same one, but how was I to know?) todger. I send back a reply that is too crude to repeat.

Now call me slow, or possibly a bit of an amateur with the new version of Outlook Express, but I still hadn¹t caught on at this point that I was indulging in email foreplay with the Welsh equivalent of Gary Glitter. By the time the boyfriend had come home from work and found me in my school uniform, he had changed my email account to and sent a nasty surprise to the old man. “That’s what you get from having a dodgy email address,” he declared triumphantly, looking me up and down as if noticing for the first time what I was wearing. “But then again, dressed like that,” he said before grinning like, well, the old man probably did, “You could easily get a bit part in Grange Hill.”

Cut Down At Sundown

Wouldn’t it be beautifully poetic justice if that most frothingly reactionary (in a strong field) of Tory politicians, Ann Widdecombe, was the cause of the most liberal piece of legislation this decade? Her muddled ravings at the Tory Conference about on the spot fines for possession of even minute amounts of cannabis have had the opposite effect to that intended and appear to have at last stimulated a serious debate about the whole issue of controlled substances. It now even seems genuinely possible that a bill to decriminalise cannabis could be before Parliament and on the statute books sometime after the next election.

Whilst assessing the damage to her career at her crypt in Westminster, Miss W need look no further than her colleagues when wondering what helped her score her potential place in history. The Tory party’s innate ability to rip itself apart whenever the opportunity for personal advancement arises meant that no sooner had she spouted her patently unworkable nonsense, we were treated to an unsteady stream of chinless wonders distancing themselves from her remarks and staking their claim for the Shadow Home Secretary’s job should her views cause her to be hounded out; at the last count, over a third of the Shadow Cabinet have now admitted to taking cannabis at some point in their lives. Additionally the former Chancellor of the Exchequer Norman Lamont told on the radio of having once taken a ‘space cake’; a frankly bizarre mental image that could at least possibly explain the events of Black Wednesday.

I’m sure once the millions of pounds from the inevitable cannabis tax start flowing into the Treasury’s coffers even the notoriously puritan Tony Blair will be won over and with senior police officers such as Colin Phillips, the Chief Constable of Cumbria, now openly stating his belief that legalisation of cannabis is inevitable and that he would “do nothing” if he was at a friend’s house and saw somebody smoke a joint, surely the argument Is close to being over.

But why should it boil down to mere finance and why should our elected leaders always need to be led on the drug issue? Why is their first instinct always to crack down on rather than explore the possibilities of each new (and some not so new) drug that comes along? Look what has happened with Ecstasy. It’s no exaggeration to say that a massive opportunity was missed in the late Eighties when Ecstasy use started to become widespread. Instead of examining what it was about Ecstasy that made it such a catalyst for an explosion in creativity and social change – helping to generate an amazing new music and develop a whole new culture based around virtually trouble-free gatherings of people – the government decided that it was an evil that needed to be outlawed and a whole generation of Britons were branded criminals for simply swallowing a tablet. Couldn’t a wider view have been taken?

Couldn’t Ecstasy’s advantages over, say, alcohol have been properly investigated? Even if only because, quite simply, people enjoy a relaxing break from routine. A night’s socialising provides this for many and the most common social lubricant is alcohol. But alcohol is a crude, old-fashioned depressant which can promote verbal and physical violence and regularly leads to headaches and nausea the following day. Surely the human race has outgrown the nonsense of the hangover? In fact, who has time for them anymore? Certainly not employers who bemoan the millions of working hours lost to them every year. Those suffering alcohol’s more sinister long term-effects also clog up millions of NHS beds per year. It’s all so ridiculously unnecessary. Isn’t it time we took a brand new drug?

Queasy Rider

I don’t drive. I never have, I never will. My parents tell me, constantly tell me, I should be driving by now. Dad, especially, as he is sick of ferrying me around, helping me move house etc. “Well why have a dog and bark yourself?” I retort.

The truth of the matter I just don’t want to drive. I’m too scared. Not scared of what sort of driver I’d be… I’d be fine, I guess. I have an unrivalled sense of direction and am always berating cab drivers for taking the long way round. No, it is the rest of the world I’m worried about. It’s the other drivers, those over whom you have no control. Being a pedestrian in our beautiful Scottish capital has made me realise that unless I move to a one-horse town, I’ll never be able to drive, even though I would quite like to.

I can just picture me whizzing about the town in a little car (a BMW convertible, I think), casually parking it outside the city’s top night spots (hello 1980s) picking up my rich champers-drinking friends before zooming off to me £750, 000 apartment in the city centre. And then I wake up and realise that even if I did learn to drive I wouldn’t be able to afford a car and I would never use it anyway because the traffic would be too horrendous, and I’d probably crash all the time, AND 75% of people who drive in Edinburgh drive like nutters.

Below is a guide to recognising the different types of schizophrenic motorists whose bonnet you may end up on if you ever take a trip to ‘Scotland’s beautiful capital ™’

1. The Cabbie

Ah, the cabbie. Bastion of Edinburgh traffic… or should that be b*stard? Yes, our beloved psycho-cabbie will stop at nothing to get you to your destination… but you may not necessarily be alive when you get there. Squeal as he does U-turns at 85 mph in the middle of Princes Street. Yelp as he tries his best to run that red light. Gasp as he pulls out in front of a huge mutha of a bus/ wagon/ petrol tanker. Start to cry hysterically as he then charges you £15 for your 300m, 25 second ‘journey’. As if it wasn’t enough being fleeced and almost killed by him when he has got you in his cab, he and his friends will then attempt to mow you down whenever they see you, be you at zebra crossing, on the pavement, wherever. During Festival time he also adds attributes such as only picking up rich/ stupid tourists as they are the biggest tippers, meaning that to get a cab in Edinburgh you have to dress in an ‘I love Scotland’ T-shirt and carry tartan carrier bags.

2. The Laddie Racer

Like a boy racer, but Scottish. Now here’s my personal favourite. Laddie will have, say, an old Fiesta, or a Nova in black or white. He’ll be wearing the ‘latest’ schemie fashions (it is hard to describe to you what a schemie is, let’s just say that they are unpleasant), which will consist of a fake Duffer of St. George hooded top, a Ben Sherman shirt (yummy) and of course, stonewashed market stall jeans. They will drive all day and all night through the Grassmarket (intolerably cheesy tourist banlieue with strip bars, ‘theme’ pubs, souvenir shops and endless stag and hen weekend parties) with their music up really, really loud, windows wound down with arm nestled outside. They will drive up and down as their bleach blonde 13-year-old girlfriends sit in the back seat smoking badly-rolled joints and drinking vodka-based alcopops. The Laddies will whoop and yell at every strip bar they pass, shout ‘ye wankers’ at tourists and generally terrorise pedestrians. Then a police officer or a ‘blue meanie’ (evil strain of traffic warden) will come round the corner and they will turn back into the schoolchildren they are.

3. Driving Miss Daisy

Yep, except this time ‘Miss’ Daisy is driving herself. Really slowly. Until… she sees an amber light and then all of a sudden she will hit the ‘gas’ (man) pretending to be totally oblivious to all driving around her. Do not be fooled. She is evil and has a plan. “I look 10,” thinks she, “so I can get away with driving like a complete arsehole”. Not even an Edinburgh cabbie would punch an old lady in the face. Well, not unless really provoked… If lucky, one can also witness a chauffeur driving the little old lady very slowly in a huge car. You wouldn’t believe how often I see this. Believe it or not, there are some loaded people in this fair city.

4. The Family Guy

It is not particularly ‘hilly’ around these parts, so quite why we have so many people in the city who have Range Rovers and the like is a mystery to me. Or rather was. Until I noticed that they were all being driven by irate looking men in their early forties or their impossibly high-haired wives, accompanied by squealing, screaming, whingeing, crying brats. How I love to see them screech to a halt outside Sainsbury’s bawling at each other. “For crying out loud, Stewart, there wasn’t enough room to get the car through.” “I’m telling ye, Linda, ye couldae got a bloody bus through there”. How they find time to watch the road when they spend most of their journeys arguing and slagging each other off is totally beyond me.

So just a few reasons why I will never take to the roads. Why would I? There are easier ways to commit suicide. I think I’ll just remain a happy bystander. I’ll continue making wanker signs at people who don’t indicate, tutting loudly at those who run red lights, flipping the bird at drivers who toot their horn as I cross right in front of them (well, you could SEE me, couldn’t you, you arsehole?) and generally being a pedestrian. Why drive in the comfort of your own car when you can be jostled by over 10,000 people walking along Princes Street or sitting on a no.44 watching some niddron picking his nose?

With me behind the wheel, I don’t think anyone would be safe…

Can’t Smile, Won’t Smile

Humph. What is it about bad moods? What is a bad mood? Why do I always seem to be ‘in’ them? As far as I can recall, I’ve been in a bad mood for about 15 years now. I can’t remember when or why it started, but I’ve definitely been on the ‘moody’ side for quite a while. On ‘good’ days I’m still in a bad mood, but to a lesser degree. I once saw a good mood far off in the distance… it was through the bottom of a vodka bottle. I keep trying to find it again.. but keep passing out before I can reach it. Ach well.

I have one of those faces that, when I just have a straight face on (i.e. not laughing, crying, smiling, gurning), it is just expressionless. I can be sitting watching something on television and no expression will cross my face. If I talk to somebody for longer than five minutes my face relaxes and up once again comes that blank screen. It is because of this that people think they have a God-given dispensation to ask the following question. “Ooh, what’s wrong with you?” Well, if anything was guaranteed to put me in a bad mood it is that sort of bullshit question. There’s nothing WRONG with me; it is just that my face isn’t doing anything at the moment. Leave me alone. God, NOW I’m in a bad mood. Here are some tips, which may get me out of this bad mood you’ve just put me in, you bastard.

1. I may be in need of a cigarette. Ask me if I want one. If I nod gently then give me one, or take me outside and join me for one. If I snap “I’ve JUST had one for God’s sake!” then back off gently, making calming gestures with your hands.

2. I may have ‘personal problems’. I won’t want to talk about them unless I tell you I do. Listen. Nod. Agree with me. It is NEVER my fault. I am always an innocent victim, unless I say otherwise. If I say it is my fault, nod (always popular) and tell me it wasn’t my fault. I may even smile.

3. I probably have no money. Don’t offer to lend me any, I hate borrowing money. Don’t lecture me about the pair of trousers I just bought, or how much I keep going out. You’re here to make me feel better. You could always GIVE me money, if the urge takes you.

4. It may be a work thing. There’s nothing you can do or say that will get me out of this one. Evacuate the building immediately and don’t make any inflammatory comments about how ‘something will turn up’. Oh yes… something will turn up, all right. Your nose when I stick a chair up it. Shut up immediately.

I don’t like being a misery. It just sort of happens, depending on the weather. Now when I’m in a bad mood, I really am in a bad mood. It is just like this feeling where no matter what anyone says to me I just want to kick them in the face- and never stop. As I walk to work in the morning, still half-asleep and tired and wishing I was still curled up on the sofa with a bowl of Frosties and a cup of Earl Grey, people just seem to make a beeline to bump into me, get in my way or just ANNOY me.

I stagger into the office and switch on my computer where I will spend the next eight hours and people try to TALK to me, ask what I’m doing over the weekend, what I’ve been up to. Hush. It is eight in the morning. My bed is still very much on my mind, my hair is still wet from the shower and I have probably only had time for one cigarette. You’re dicing with death trying to talk to me, I tell you.

I have tried to be cheery, happy-go-lucky etc. etc. but it just isn’t me. It has come to the stage where people EXPECT me to moan about something or be miserable, or have a sarcastic comment. True to form, I normally come up with the goods. If you want me to be happy, pay me more, stop asking me stupid questions, stop asking me ‘what the matter is’ and let me get on with it. What could be simpler?

Oh, and I DO smile. I smile when I find something funny or am happy. So if you want me to ‘smile, for God’s sake’ then stop being so bloody boring and miserable, make me laugh. Now.