BioShock Infinite

This is a love letter. A love letter to one of the most beautiful and engaging games I’ve ever played.

For a while I thought maybe BioShock Infinite was the best thing that ever happened to me, which is a commentary on how enamoured I was with the narrative but, I’ll admit, mostly on the fact I’m poorly adjusted.

For a long time, if someone asked me what my favourite game was I’d say Doom – arguably one of the most iconic, landmark moments in the history of gaming – or Assassin’s Creed 2, because Ezio, da Vinci and free running. But then BioShock Infinite came along and I found myself having conversations in my head: ‘Yeah, Doom, you were a childhood staple and I still hear demons grunting when I close my eyes, you were a literal game changer, buuuuuut you didn’t have an anachronistic Beach Boys barbershop quartet.’ And I think a lot of games fall foul of that same mistake. Sure, Dark Souls is great but it’s severely lacking in 60’s rock covers. There aren’t enough Good Vibrations in Civ V.

So, BioShock Infinite, I want to tell you that from the moment I entered a lighthouse until the final moments of the DLC, I was enraptured. I don’t care about the supposed plot holes because who really knows what would fucking happen: there are no rules, no real rules. Besides, I’ve seen an argument for everything, from Comstock to Burial‘s restrictions. It’s all constants and variables. And I fucking love you.

I love that the narrative was so intricately woven that I was rendered speechless as the credits rolled. That when I’ve watched other people play it, because I immediately sought to watch others experience what I had just gone through, they were equally as stunned. There are layers in BioShock Infinite that supersede the plot in a lot of movies, and this is all the more impressive because key moments aren’t found in laboured cut scenes, they’re effortlessly blended into the gameplay.

I love that BAC wasn’t a cash-grab detrimental to the main game, but instead enhanced it, undoubtedly gratifying fans of the wider series.

I love that you made me nostalgic for Columbia, a time and place that I’ve never been to, that has never existed.

I love that you gave me real characters, three-dimensional characters who grew and changed, characters I wanted to protect and characters I wanted to see suffer, who weren’t just vehicles for action.

I love you because you inevitably shit over any remaining argument that video games aren’t art.

I love that on the second play through everything is different, from the big things to the small: from the vigors you favour to the moment you linger longer on Battleship Bay, just to watch her dance… just to see her happy.

BioShock Infinite, I love you. And also fuck you because now everything else seems a bit shit in comparison…

… at least until Dishonored 2.

 

 

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I Can’t Recommend You Anything

I am bemused every time a stranger asks me to recommend them something to read. And that might sound like a severely infrequent occurrence, and it probably is for most people, but anyone with an online following has probably been asked this question once or twice. Multiply that number for anyone who reviews books. And add a few more to it when you get your own published.

It’s normal, natural.

David Bowie compiled a list of his favourite books and I immediately saved the link for monthly reference. I want to know which books David Foster Wallace loved. I want to know what Richard Ayoade and David Mitchell read before bed. I want to know because these are people I admire, people who I think would make smart and interesting choices. People I respect.

Conversely, sometimes I see book recommendations from people I follow on Twitter and I add it to my ignore pile. We’re not the same. If they loved it, it probably isn’t for me. It’s kind of an asshole thing to say but there are too many good books and not enough good days, so any process to whittle the choice down, however arbitrary, feels excusable.

I get it, though. I get why people who watch my videos might be interested in my recommendations. Maybe they relate to me. Maybe they, for whatever misguided reason, find me interesting. Maybe they have simply enjoyed my past recommendations – I do have great taste. But, by the same token, I’d never ask Richard Ayoade or David Mitchell to recommend a book to me, personally, because they have no idea who I am.

If someone asks me to recommend them a book, and they’re just an online handle with a tiny photo, then I can’t. I can’t adequately recommend them a book. I know nothing about them. When we recommend books to friends or family, we tailor those recommendations to the individual. If I read a book and I adore it, I won’t then recommend it to everyone I know. I’ll recommend it to specific people. Those who will get the most out of it. Interesting historical fiction? That’s for Jim. A digestible, philosophical perspective on life? That’s Myles. A funny picture book? Where’s Arun at? I can’t recommend you a book if I do not know you, I can simply regurgitate my own selfish preferences. My own, biased proclivity towards bitter, existential rambling from metaphysically tortured white men. And no one needs a signal boost on that shit.

So, I can tell you what I love. I do tell you what I love. I have. There are book videos on my channel talking about my favourite reads. There’s no secret information I’m keeping back. No hidden gems. But I can’t tell you what to read if I don’t know you. I think reading is a personal experience; every novel means something different to each person who reads it. Maybe you’re twelve. Maybe your issues are huge. Maybe you’re struggling with an abusive home life. Maybe you’re not, maybe you just like ponies and pokemon. Maybe you’re fifty and you love knitting or curling and still go clubbing on the weekends, which is perfectly fine, but you feel kind of down about the stigma attached to it and the looks you get. Maybe you’re thirty, you’re a passionate stockbroker with a baby on the way. Maybe you’re all or none of these people. I can’t just throw Knut Hamsun’s Hunger at you and hope for the best.

Am I If I Don’t?

Most of my thoughts that don’t immediately lend themselves to a jocund, asinine YouTube video just get a quiet shrug; however, they occasionally persist, soaking up vital synaptic RAM. So, as I also consider the internet to be like my brain’s external hard drive, this is a great place to store the files that don’t fit anywhere else but can’t be deleted because of nostalgia, or because without them Adobe will stop working.

This might make me seem like an asshole but the truth often does that to people.

I consider myself to be many things but also very few. For example, I’m a feminist. I’m a feminist because I believe in equal rights for everyone. I’m all over big picture feminism, sure: rape culture is repugnant, slut shaming is hypocritical, etc. It frustrates me. It disgusts me. But am I a feminist? I don’t go to protests. I don’t make a point of actively supporting female creators or politicians. In fact, I read mostly men; all my favourite books are written by men. Most of my favourite films are directed by men, and I sincerely doubt a majority of them pass the Bechdel test. As someone who has frequently reviewed and recommended films online, I have received many requests along the lines of, ‘What are your favourite films by female directors?’ and rolled my eyes. My favourite films are my favourite films irrespective of the creator. Why do you want to know my favourite films directed by women? To me, with a passion that lies exclusively with film, recommending movies made by women is as arbitrary as recommending movies that feature the colour red. It’s not a genre or era. It’s just a happens to be.

And I know this isn’t the ‘right’ response. I understand why someone would make a ‘Favourite films directed by women’ list. I understand why they wouldn’t then make a ‘Favourite films directed by men’ list. It frustrates me that a ‘strong female character’ is still something to marvel over. I hate the MPDG. But outside of the fabric of the movie, it doesn’t interest me. Film is what interests me. And as a woman, I feel that sometimes these requests made to me aren’t authentic. They’re the judging yeah but… comments.

I’m giving films directed by women the exact same consideration as films directed by men. The same critical criteria. There are less films directed by women, yes, and that’s fucking frustrating but historically relevant and ever (albeit slowly) changing, but for me it still doesn’t constitute a category. There shouldn’t be a Best Female Director Academy Award. It could be argued that the Best Actress Academy Award should eventually be made redundant. We’re all only eagerly awaiting the real actor award anyway…

So, I’m a feminist by the definition of the word, but am I a feminist?

In the current US political storm, I’m supporting Bernie Sanders. I’m British, but I have the t-shirt. I agree with a lot of his policies, I’ve done the research, I think he’s a respectable guy. A good guy. But, conversely, I haven’t done much research into the other candidates. I simply think Hillary isn’t capable of leading a country and Trump has a lot of questionable ethics. But I’m ultimately ignorant, so I’m not going to go publicly trashing either of them. And I can’t even vote for Bernie, so do I support him?

I’m pro-animal rights. If I had one wish I’d eliminate animal cruelty, and everyone would send me death threats because it isn’t world peace. I get it. It would be a fucking dumb choice, but it’s also a hypothetical one so who gives a shit. I’m one of those assholes who can watch some human atrocity online and feel very little. Not because I don’t care, or from an inherent lack of empathy, but the detachment of the screen. The modern sickness. If it were to happen in front of me I’d be overwhelmed but video nasties are more common than reaction videos. Shit, video nasties spawn reaction videos, so we’re all comfortably numb. However, if I see the thumbnail for an animal cruelty video, I’ll cry. I’ll get angry. I’ll wish a slow, painful death upon the perpetrator, and fuck if that link isn’t staying blue. If I won the lottery I’d live on a farm with as many rescue dogs as possible. I eat only free range eggs. But that’s it. I’m not a huge meat eater, but I don’t know where a lot of the meat I do eat comes from. So, I’m pro-animal rights, but am I?

And that’s the thing with defining yourself, what are you if you don’t? Because if I’m only what I actively and overtly do, I am very few adjectives.

And I’m not even sure I want to be adjectives.

Gender & Me

I’m probably going to make a video about this because that’s where most people asking the questions will be, but for now I’ll talk about gender here so I can respond to any tweets and comments about it with a link instead of an irritated regurgitation when the question may be wholly innocent.

I am female. I wrote a book in which all three protagonists are male and, as an author, I used gender neutral initials instead of my name. WHY, WHY DID I DO THIS, AM I THE PATRIARCHY?! No, and there isn’t always a fight to eagerly masturbate over whilst using flimsy rhetoric spewed out from behind your anonymous online handle. I am a feminist but I am also disgusted with outrage culture. There are many valid battles to be had, but I see a plethora of smug, ill-considered attacks littering my online landscape every day (not against myself, but against other people), and I believe they undermine the real issues. They give something for the extremists on the other side of feminism (or racism, or LGBTQ+ rights, or classism, or, or, or…) to cite as an example of how absurd these social justice warriors are and, in doing so, they get to side step the real argument and dismiss ALL feminists as shrill man-haters.

If someone genuinely makes a mistake, or says something quickly and without thought which clearly isn’t meant to encompass their entire political or social beliefs, then sure, if you want to highlight that to them, do.

I made a video a few years ago which provides a great example. It’s a response to another video I saw which requested women make better content online. I saw the video and thought, hey, I’ll respond to this with something that’s a bit fun but also acknowledges that it was poorly worded. I’m smiling in it, I’m being theatrical. It’s not an angry attack nor is it something I spent much time on. But that’s not my point. In the video I say something like, ‘Just because I have a vagina doesn’t mean I can’t be funny,‘ or something, I can’t recall, but whatever I said I equate having a vagina with being a woman. It was never meant to represent my stance on gender vs sex, or the trans community. It was something ignorant that slipped out whilst I was trying to support another kind of equality. This was before there had been so much online discussion about what it means to be trans, so I wasn’t overtly aware of how offensive that might seem, whether I meant it that way or not. These days I’d never make such a comment by accident because I have an increased awareness due to proud, educational, and brave online voices. I’m aware of always being inclusive because I know a trans woman is a woman, to me there shouldn’t even be an argument. But when I made that video and someone highlighted my offensive statement, I was genuinely apologetic. I was trying to make a positive point and accidentally hurt a group of people. It wasn’t a snide attack hidden within a video, it was ignorance. And not the wilful kind.

I still remember receiving a lovely private message from someone quoting what I’d said and explaining the issue, and I replied apologising and discussing how it didn’t represent my views in any way. I also got some comments on the video along the same lines, and I replied to those too. But then there were angry comments, how dare you comments, and I had no time for those. And that’s my example. There’s a difference between someone who hasn’t had any experience with something, who accidentally alienates a group of people with an inadvertent lack of inclusivity, and someone who hatefully and wilfully discriminates. And maybe look, too. Maybe look to see if they’ve already been told ten times, if they’ve already apologised or explained they made a mistake.

Then there are the other breed. There are those who scour the internet, rubbing their hands together, analysing every tweet, looking for something to be loudly self-righteous about. Something to garner positive attention from those who blindly retweet any ‘injustice’ without research. These people are doing it because they love to hate, to be angry, to be loudly aggrieved by the perceived marginalisation of a group they don’t belong to. And they’re not helping anyone.

Educate someone who missteps, but battle against hate.

Anyway, I didn’t mean to turn this into an essay on the issues of uncoordinated groups of people arguing online. I meant to address the simple questions listed above. So I will.

– Three male protagonists??
Yep. Three male protagonists. Why? Because I wanted them all to be the same gender, for style and a cohesive theme, and women weren’t allowed to go to war. The novel spans from the 1930s to 2012. The first chapter with Bobby as a kid contrasts him with his father, who was in WWI. Later, as a teenager, Bobby has to negotiate his own feelings about WWII and the possibility of fighting. It’s that simple.

– Gender neutral initials?? (and other thoughts)
Yep. When I was writing When We Were Alive I didn’t think, ‘How would a man react?’ I just thought, ‘How would that character react?’ This is because I don’t personally associate with being female. I don’t associate with being male, either. I’m not confessing anything, there’s nothing to confess. The only strong associations I have with being female are based around my sexuality, e.g. I wear make up, but that’s part of my sexuality, and I don’t inherently feel that I’m in the wrong body. I know I am a female because I am lucky enough to feel right in my body. That’s it. If I was in a male body I would still be 90% me and I’d be gay. I just don’t know what being female is meant to mean, I don’t think it should immediately indicate anything specific, and neither should being male. I don’t understand gender themed interests. If someone said, ‘I like knitting, cooking, and flower arranging,’ there would probably be an assumption they were female. I don’t like any of those things. I don’t like football or cars or hunting, either. I like writing, art, comedy, video games, reading, and movies. The same as everyone else.

In the book I am currently writing, I have another three protagonists: two men and one woman. One of those characters originally had a name indicating they were a different gender. I changed the name, but changed nothing else. This is because their gender had no bearing on the thoughts they were having or their reactions to the situations they had been in so far. If I was writing a feminine character, or a character from a different time, of course I’d perhaps add nuances to their thoughts. I have supporting characters who are more stereotypically male or female, but the people I’m writing about in this new novel (so far) aren’t defined by gender, and therefore their name was arbitrary. If I’m writing a scene about two people having a conversation about time travel at a pub, whether or not they tick male or female when applying for jobs should be irrelevant.  Gender only comes into play when there is a situation, social or otherwise, that distinguishes them. E.g. walking down an alley at night, when being flirted with, needing to pee in a public place.  I guess the best way I can describe it is that inwardly I am just me, outwardly I am female. Alone I am me, in public I am female.

When I originally sent my MS to my publisher, before I signed with them, I used initials. This is my personal preference. Not because I think it matters, but because when I read a book I don’t want to know anything about the author. I want no preconceived notions. Black, white, male, female, poor, homophobic, I just want to read a book. If I love it, then I’m interested. Ultimately I could hate the author and love their writing, or love the author and hate their writing. To me it’s irrelevant. My personality, or how I present myself online, is not meant to represent what I write. There will always be crossovers, but online I’m this squeaky creature who acts like a tit but litters inane rambles with allusions to depression. When We Were Alive isn’t funny. It’s not my personality. It’s me exploring themes I care about. It frustrates me that an author bio was necessary to include on the back cover of my book as it goes against everything I would want as a reader. I also asked for my photo, the one at the top of this post, to be removed from the cover because I don’t want how old I look, or my hair style, or my clothes, or even my expression, to have any relation to whether or not someone reads the book or how they respond to it. I am not one person. None of us are a single person. We are all different people depending on the situation, who we are with, and a multitude of other influences that change over time. I was not trying to hide my gender, I was trying to be nothing more than a perfunctory, unobtrusive label affixed to a story.

Novel Excerpt

It’s been almost five years since I wrote my first book, but in 2015 I started writing book two, so here’s the opening chapter from my second novel, IKIWABIDKIWS. It’s a work in progress; I’m currently about half way through the story at 40,000 words, so everything is on track. I mean, I don’t have a job and my dog died, but everything is on track with the writing… apart from the chapter where I shoehorned in a dog death. I thought it might be interesting to document this early unedited draft – maybe it will go through a complete tonal shift, maybe I’ll correct my grammar, maybe it’ll end up as chapter thirteen – but whatever happens, here’s what it looks like now.

Noah
Chapter One
November 28th, 2014

The sound of some guy who committed suicide twice depositing quarters in a jukebox scratches at my unconscious. I recognise his voice from that movie where he isn’t allowed to love, and then I’m fully awake and it dawns on me I’m alive, really alive, and I sit up, sucking air into my throat like it’s the first time. I focus on breathing. Easing my lungs out of tornadoes. The distant groan of transit undulates through the wall from the bypass. I can just about see the cars streaking through rat-tail midnight drapes like hallucinogens. Capsules. Silver-tongued secrets speeding past at seventy miles an hour, and I’m reminded of their existence but never their wholeness. Their intermittent headlights illuminate invisible hairs on my body. I am different in the light.

When the weight of ten wasted years is a fish hook through your heart, nothing dances. Everything is impassive. Sobbing isn’t solace, it’s a device of decay. Sobbing keeps the time slowly ebbing away. Here, in The Dog Tunnels, time croaks, growling grudgingly forward. Ramshackle shop-fronts sag, clandestine and asthmatic with winter steam, inside hunchback terraces. An eczema of worn cobblestone streets runs broken bones through the thinning dockland outskirts. Sure, it’s a quaint enough midday tapestry, but by moonlight The Dogs is host to a skittish menagerie of broken, crippled creatures… I’m late, I should leave. The heaviness of dreams will disappear against the night.

Wrestling into my jacket, I pull my hood tight around my ears so I can be faceless in the dark. The fear I had when I first moved to this part of the city all too abruptly left me for another; the fear of having nothing to lose. I’m safe walking along these cobbled bones the same way the homeless are safe in their cracks. I’m a zero sum game. The last time I had something real to lose, something other than myself, was ninety-seven. It was the day after my thirteenth birthday. An antiques fair with James and his parents. I can’t remember James’ surname now, but I remember that day. It’s caustic; burned into me. I was paralysed and enraptured standing in a thin alley formed between wooden stalls. The rickety table in front of me was covered in vases and flutes, chipped bowls and figurines, dusty lamps and waxy candelabras, but it was the dull, tangy glow of amber that hypnotised me. Entombed in that tiny orb was a spider caught suspended and crumpled at sharp angles. I’m an arachnophobe, but I’m an arachnophobe the way people roll down windows to better view accidents on the motorway; I couldn’t look away. I don’t know if I felt the hands on my shoulders, or heard the words in my ear, but I must have because my tears began to merge with theirs. The stalls warp and fade around me now, and I am left with that tiny lump of amber which wasn’t, but was, the shard of glass inside Tommy’s brain. The shard of glass which had, the day after my thirteenth birthday, killed Tommy.

The air tonight is so fucking cold it’s scratching my skin. But I go anyway. I go because I’m the only one who will listen, and the idea of his talent seeping out of that room unheard and trickling into the docks kills me. He puts it out there. He says it aloud to the world but the world never listens. He has more courage than I do these days. Secreting words in notebooks, hiding them in creases and folds; that’s my life. And that’s the problem with success, the expectation stifles. An artist at eighteen created a hollow man at thirty. Sometimes I miss the fire… I’m sorry, Tommy. I’m trying.

The door to the Tooth and Penny screeches in pain with each body entering its gut. Hunching over as it screams for me, I melt into the crowd. The discomfort of my entry ricocheting around the pub tells Quentin I’m here. Smiling, his willow-limbs scuttle around me. A long hand reassures my back, another gives me a whiskey.
‘Noah!’
‘Q.’
‘You’re here!’ The grin cuts his cheeks and lights his eyes. All of him is in this moment.
‘I’m always here.’
‘You’re a good friend.’ I am not. ‘I read your book.’
‘And only twelve years after I wrote the fucker.’
‘It’s good.’
‘The right people read it, I got lucky.’
‘It won awards!’
‘There are a lot of awards to win.’
‘I’m not sure if I understood it.’
Then how can you think it was good? ‘Which part?’ The whiskey howled.
‘Everything you didn’t say.’
Ceci N’est Pas Une Personne,’ the whiskey whimpered. ‘I was eighteen. It was about a soldier and a prophet.’
‘And?’
‘If there wasn’t any more for you, Q, then there wasn’t any more.’
‘Why did you stop writing?’
I haven’t. ‘Because I had written.’
The smile softened. He took his whiskey in one.
‘How much of it was true?’
‘Most of the time travel.’
The moment happened again, ‘How much of it was true?’
‘You mean-’
‘I mean the resentment.’
I was angry when I wrote it. At everything. ‘I was eighteen, I felt everything.’
‘She’d be proud of you.’
She’d think I was a stranger. ‘She wasn’t the sort of person you could disappoint.’

I’m curled on a stool, relatively sober, but my bones crumple over one another with the weight of apathy. I’d be four inches taller if I ever straightened my spine. Quentin is on the makeshift stage, addressing the room like he’s purging art from a lung. His organs are a gallery of fears. Along the bar, gnarled fingers cradle a stout whiskey glass, ice barely remembered against the heat of palms. A napkin, folded into a soft origami crane, rests wet and sagging at the beak. Younger hands are nearer to me; the forefinger and thumb absently massaging a pale ring of skin. A trail of water meanders closer still, waltzing towards yet more hands anxiously padding curves against the condensation of a cold pint. I look down. My own knuckles are pronounced from constant popping and cracking but otherwise soft and unmarked. I don’t know the faces of these men holding their vigils, but their stories are poorly hidden. Clues on fingertips. Relationships lacing joints. None are listening to Quentin. His words are drowning in the dock.

Foreskin

The first time I saw a foreskin (I think I just plagiarised that opening line from Dickens) I was in a big tree. Now, before you get too aroused at all these titillating details, I’ll point out that I was eight years old. Also the foreskin was probably about seven, but it’s hard to tell with those because they’re born old. Foreskins and scrotums are the Benjamin Buttons of the body (only they don’t get younger… so not at all like Benjamin Button). I’d also like to take this opportunity to point out that the foreskin was attached to a body. Luke’s body. Specifically it was attached to Luke’s penis.

A brief round up before we continue: As a child, I was in a big tree when I saw the safe, clean, anatomically correct, atheist foreskin of another child.

It was all consensual and unrelated to anything sexy. We had been building a den when Luke said, ‘Do you want to see something I can do?’ and I said, ‘What can you do?’ and he dropped his trousers, pulled something out of his pants, and squeezed just below the end of it. At this point in my life, I’m aware I saw the head of his flaccid penis come peeping out through his foreskin. But at the time I saw a mesh of garbled flesh, as though Luke had been in an accident, and whilst he had healed from the accident, he had healed poorly and misshapen. So I said, ‘Oh yeah,’ and we got back to building.

Scared While Playing Dead

My parents’ house has those little windows above the bedroom doors. Instead of normal, nice thick wall between door and ceiling, there’s glass. This utterly redundant window provided a prime viewing area for ghosts and monsters to watch me sleeping as a kid. I would stare at that window from my bed, gazing into the darkness of the hallway beyond, and all-but-know there was a shadowy face grinning down at me.

My mum eventually put a translucent floral decal on the window, but by this point I was eighteen and the monsters had transferred their voyeuristic tendencies to younger kids in the neighbourhood. Fourteen years too late, Mum.

Anyway. One day, when I was somewhere between the ages of five and nine, I was alone in my bedroom pretending to be dead. I’d turned my rocking horse onto its side and draped myself over it, eyes closed, dead. After cycling through a few different death positions, all involving the rocking horse (some, more elaborate deaths involving stretching between the upturned horse and my bed), I looked up from a particularly dramatic pose to see a face in the window. I screamed.

My father had stood on the laundry basket to spy on me in my room through the bastard window. The fear of seeing a face watching me, through glass, from eight feet high only barely masked my embarrassment at getting caught dying. Neither of us ever mentioned it.

People I’ve Known #1

In 2012 (probably) I worked as a video editor in Hackney. Our office was next to an adorable little river which you could see from the window. The river was adorned with quirky retro cafes, constantly had men in thin jeans riding fixed gear bikes along its banks, and famously floated the detached head of a murdered ex-EastEnders cast member. Truly a London delight.

My most prominent memory from this specific foray into employment has nothing to do with the job or location, but my workmates. Which is a term they would never use. These people were like the cast of Silicon Valley without the intentional comedy. By this I mean it was probably the most comedic six months of my life, but all my laughter had to be stifled.

As this was a tech start up there were only eight of us in the office, which also meant that everyone other than myself was a tech whiz. The most tech whizziest of all my co-workers exhibited only two prominent characteristics to his personality. The first characteristic was a very militant arguing style when discussing the inevitability of technological singularity. And the second… well, the second was a need to always have four single-serving cartons of Ribena on his desk at any time. If anyone asked for one of his Ribenas, he would pointedly refuse to relinquish the grape. “BUY YOUR OWN RIBENA, THERE IS A SHOP DOWN THE RIVER!” he would say, nasally. It became a daily ritual for the others to try and obtain the mythical juice. No one ever succeeded.

Also, I once accidentally deleted everything on my computer and sat under my desk for twenty minutes.

Mum

I think one of my earliest memories of my mum, which hasn’t come about because of home video or photographs, is of her teaching me maths. I was a daddy’s girl until the age of thirteen, this might explain it.

I remember us sitting at the top of the stairs, which is almost definitely wrong, why the fuck would we be sitting at the top of the stairs? We’ve got a whole house. Unless maybe we were, because I was four and sometimes four year olds just like to chill places, and sometimes mums want an easy life. Maybe the way to get me to do maths was to do it at the top of the stairs.

Anyway, I remember my mum teaching me about percentages at the top of the stairs and her being really pleased about how quickly I could do them in my head. That said, she shouldn’t have been surprised, because when I was still in nappies a lady came to our house to make sure I had a normal brain. After performing some basic tests, like drawing a face in a circle, the lady said she was very impressed because a lot of toddlers draw the face outside the circle. Her tests were not very rigorous, but I was clearly a genius. Side note: who was that lady? Is that a typical occurrence? Was I almost kidnapped?

Essentially, I think mum had taught me all the maths she knew by the time I was five, but it’s definitely because of her that I did really well in school. Thanks, Mum.

Also, Mum? Sorry I never tried very hard as a teenager, and I didn’t get my name written in gold on that special achievements board in high school like you always dreamed. Although I would like to point out that the guy who did get his name written in gold on the special board tried really, really hard and put a lot of work in to get those results, so does it really even count? Yes? Oh. I mean sure, that’s one perspective.

Also, also… Mum? Sorry I stopped wanting to be an accountant when I was fourteen and decided I wanted to go to Art School. That must have been incredibly disappointing. Really they shouldn’t let teenagers make that decision for themselves.

Also, also, also… Mum? Sorry that I quit Art School because I didn’t feel like I was learning anything in order to go to University, but then studied for a degree in Film. That was probably a roller-coaster of hope and disappointment. I bet that circle-face drawing lady who tried to kidnap me is turning in her grave. She’s probably not dead. She might be. Who really knows when anyone dies if you don’t know them at all.