Posts Tagged ‘women’

h1

Interview with Rhodri Marsden

February 7, 2012

I’ve known Rhodri Marsden for about six or seven years. I don’t remember how we met. He’s a journalist and ace keyboard player with bands including Scritti Politti. His new book, Crap Dates, is out now. He’s doing a Crap Dates Workshop at the Big Green Bookshop on February 9th.

Crap Dates by Rhodri Marsden.

Crap Dates by Rhodri Marsden.

Here’s my interview with Rhodri, done in the little text box at the bottom of Skype:

Greg Stekelman: Hello Rhodri.

Rhodri Marsden: Hello Greg. Are you OK?

GS: I am ok. Theoretically I am not drinking for a few weeks but I’ve just had a sip of Talisker and I’m quite pleased with it. How are you?

RM: I’m fine. I’m drinking some red wine called Palo Alto. It’s from Chile. I thought Palo Alto had something to do with Californian technology, which shows what I know about shit.

GS: Shall we do the interview? Just typing. I’ll bung it on my blog sometime soon.

RM: I thought we’d already started.

GS: We had. It was a trick question.

RM: I knew that. (I didn’t know that.)

GS: Most people will probably ask you about the crap dates you’ve been on. I’d like to try a different angle. How disappointed are you by England’s series whitewash against Pakistan?

RM: I’d be more disappointed if I’d actually bothered watching the humiliation. I pay god knows how much money each month for Sky Sports and then England go and ruin it all by making me turn off the TV in disgust.

GS: I was a bit disappointed but I didn’t really care. It seemed an odd series. In Dubai or somewhere. I like listening to the cricket on the radio but I don’t really care that much whether we win or not unless it’s against Australia.

RM: I care quite a lot.

GS: Like an English Faith No More.

RM: At one point I convinced myself that I could control the movement of the players using my mind. You must get that with Spurs.  I ended up writing a column about it. It comes out tomorrow. I mention Allah at the end and I’m worried about reprisals.

GS: Yes. I do get that a bit. I like fooling myself that I have control over the players, when in fact I am powerless. I do the opposite in life: I pretend I am powerless when in fact I could change things if I wanted to.

RM: You take your trousers off to affect the fortunes of Tottenham Hotspur. I’ve seen you do it. I mean on Twitter.

GS: Yes. I do it. But now it’s more of a comedy conceit than anything else. I do it to please my followers rather than change the game. I’m a terrible whore.

Rhodri's new beard.

Rhodri's new beard.

GS: So, tell me about your new beard. What inspired it?

RM: The short answer is vanity. Do you want the long answer? Please say yes.

GS: Yes please.

RM: Thanks.

RM: Because I do gigs with Scritti Politti I invariably end up being sent photographs of myself on Flickr and so on, looking like a massive baldy potato head. That’s actually what made me start wearing a hat.

RM: Then just before Christmas we did two gigs in Dalston, and because of the angle I hold my head at when I play the keyboard, I just displayed a massive double chin.

GS: I’m also receding and somehow found myself growing a beard. We cling to hair, wherever it may appear.

RM: As we all know, beards cover up all MANNER of double chin issues. And so it has proved.

GS: Yes. Beards are good like that. I haven’t seen yours so I don’t know where the cut-off point is. Some men let their beards run all the way down their neck. I prefer a straight line just above my Adam’s Apple. You?

RM: I’ve kind of fashioned a graduated approach under the chin. It’s working quite well.

GS: Good.

RM: But the reason I did it now was because Simon & Schuster said that they might end up getting me on BBC Breakfast to promote the book. As far as I know that’s not happening, but were it to happen I wanted a beard to hide behind. Because I’d be terrible.

GS: I think you’d be good on TV. I’m always impressed by your poise when you’re on stage. You snap into Johnny Showbiz mode.

RM: I’m fine talking to rooms full of people, and I’m fine on the radio, because I can REFER TO NOTES. You can’t do that on the telly. You’re just there. I’d panic. I panic on the radio when I don’t have notes. It’s embarrassing. I just laugh nervously and say “Yes, well, there you are then.”

GS: Ok. I thought I might use some the old “dating” questions I came up with last year.

RM: I think you should.

GS: What is your favourite pair of shoes?

RM: Maybe you should explain where these questions originated. Or maybe you can interpolate that into the NARRATIVE.

RM: Anyway, I’ll just answer the bloody question.

GS: Ok. I’ll quickly do the narrative. “Rhodri and I were in a pub full of people and I started randomly interviewing people, asking them silly questions. Rhodri liked the idea of it, and asked me to send him a list of silly questions. I did it. The end.”

RM: My favourite shoes are plimsolls from ASOS. They are £12 each. They last approximately one month of pounding the streets ofLondon. I bought six pairs just before Christmas and I’ve just got through the first pair. Slung them in the bin yesterday, and put on a nice fresh pair.

RM: The reason I bought six pairs is because they were reduced to £6 each.

GS: That’s very good. Romantically, I thought everyone should have a much-loved, well-worn pair of brogues. But you’ve shattered that and shown me that shoes, like memories or love letters, are disposable.

RM: I’m a chucker. I don’t hang on to anything.

GS: I’m a clinger. Like the guy in MASH.

RM: I recently shredded a big folder full of letters I exchanged with my wife in 1995, before we got married.

GS: Golly.

RM: I hung onto them 10 years after we divorced, which is pretty good going for me.

GS: Theoretically, you’re right. It’s good to let go of things. I just find it very hard to do.

RM: Can I tell you why I shredded them?

RM: It’s interesting.

GS: Yes. Of course. I’ll tell no one except the people who read this.

RM: Well, she was (and is) Hungarian. And while her English was perfect, when I was writing to her it was kind of important that the meaning was explicit, you know? I couldn’t slather on layers of stupid irony because she’d have written back saying “Not sure what you mean on page 4.”

RM: So I was reading these letters back, and it just didn’t sound like me. And I got to a bit in one of the letters where we were talking about having to get married, for visa reasons. And I said “I think this is the best chance for our love.” And at that point I decided to shred them. I was wincing more than I was reminiscing. I can never spell reminiscing.

GS: You got the spelling right. That’s quite a sad story… onto the next question: Do you have a nickname?

RM: Not really. A lot of people call me Rhodders. I can handle that. My ex-girlfriend calls me “bobble”, but that sprung out of our mutual loathing for baby-talk and pet names. So of course we ended up doing it.

GS: I have on occasion called you Rhodders, but I feel bad because it reminds me of Rodney from Only Fools and Horses and no one wants to be compared to Nicholas Lyndhurst.

GS: What was the first single you bought?

RM: “Club Tropicana” by Wham!

RM: It meant a lot to a 12-year old boy, this depiction of excess in some sun-drenched holiday resort.

GS: Does the song still mean something to you? Sometimes a song hits you at just the right age and despite not being a particularly great song, it owns you for the rest of your life.

RM: Of course it does, yes. I love it. I can’t think of anything I used to like that I disown now.

RM: There’s stuff I like LESS. But nothing I’m embarrassed about. Guilty Pleasures my ARSE.

GS: I think the first single I bought was The War Song by Culture Club. Or rather, I pointed at it and my mum bought it for me. I don’t think I’ve listened to it since I was 10. But enough about me.

RM: War is stupid. People are stupid. Love means nothing in some strange quarters.

RM: Or something like that.

GS: It’s simultaneously quite profound and fairly shit. Like a lot of art.

RM: Hahah

GS: Have you ever vomited on someone?

RM: No. I had a 21-year vomiting drought, which lasted from 1990 until just before Christmas when I got that bloody norovirus.

RM: I was very proud of not having vomited for 21 years, and now I can’t say that any more.

GS: Still, that’s a very long period. I’m impressed. Most of my vomiting has been through drunkenness. Are you a good drunk? I don’t think I’ve ever seen you properly pissed. Only slightly tipsy.

RM: I’m careful to only drink not-very-strong beer and limited amounts of stronger stuff. I know my limits quite well. I’m quite a jolly drunk, but in bad times I get very weepy. Bawling my eyes out on the tube and all that. Sheesh.

GS: Which tube was it? Do you remember? I bet it was the Northern Line.

RM: Of course it was. I’ve lived in Tooting for 15 years. I’ve spent most of my life on the Northern Line.

GS: Paul Simon wrote a song called The Northern Line, but I don’t think it’s very well known. You should write one. Hang on, I’ve just realised that Barnet to Tooting song of yours is about the Northern Line. I’m a bit thick.

RM: That’s not really about the Northern Line. It’s more about going out with someone that you’re in total awe of. A dangerous business.

GS: Yes. But let’s pretend it’s about the Northern Line.

RM: When I wrote it my girlfriend at the time said to me “Er, that’s not about me, is it?”

RM: I said “No.”

GS: As a writer or songwriter you obviously draw from the people around you and it can be a bit awkward. Both when you’re saying good things and bad things.

RM: Yeah. I do this weekly thing in the Indy about MY LIFE and it’s difficult. I can’t write about the things I want to write about because I know there’ll be a knock on effect. Not because everyone’s reading it – just cos it’s indiscreet and rude.

GS: You’re quite established as a journalist these days. Do you ever yearn to write a novel or a play?

RM: I can’t do it, Greg. I’ve not no imagination. The Indy asked me the other day to write a 200 word fictional scenario to illustrate the concept of online behavioural advertising. I couldn’t do it. I just froze.

GS: I ask that out of misguided snobbery. People sometimes think I’m a journalist and I’m at pains to point out that I’m a writer – as though I’m a tortured artist. Also, I’d be a terrible journalist.

RM: I’m good at observation. And being coherent. That’s about it.

GS: Those are excellent skills. And anyway, a lot of fiction is just observing things and changing people’s names.

RM: I’m totally envious of your imagination, without wishing for this to descend into mutual masturbation.

GS: No. Because we’d have to be in the same room to do that.

RM: And have our willies out.

GS: I think everyone is jealous of what other people can do. Skills that other people have – music, maths etc – seem like magic to me. When I see someone play a musical instrument it’s as impressive to me as them levitating or mind-reading.

RM: DRAWING. People who can draw. I faint. Oh, that’s you again. We should probably just get married.

GS: Yes. They have a place for us these days.San Francisco.

GS: Your mention of the word “willies” made me think. What do men call their penises these days? Have new words evolved since we were children?

RM: I know a woman who went out with a man who referred to it as his “ziggurat”.

GS: Wow. What a twat.

RM: I’ve just looked up a picture of a ziggurat, and all I can say is that I’m glad my cock doesn’t look like that.

GS: It’s like that early stage of a relationship when you and a lady are trying to work out the best words for your bits. Because you can’t whisper sexily “I’m going to put it inside your womblehole.”

RM: That would be difficult to pull off, I agree. Avoid all childish words while engaged in the act of love. That’s my hastily constructed motto.

RM: “Guffed” is another word best banned from the bedroom.

GS: Yes. There’s normally a good six months when farting isn’t mentioned at all. A wonderful period in any relationship.

GS: So, about the book. Shall we talk about the book?

RM: Might be a good way to round off, yes.

GS: Yes. Have you had a good response to it from the people quoted in the book?

RM: Well, I asked everyone if I could use their tweets, and all but three said yes.

RM: 300 yes, 3 no. Not a bad result.

RM: And I’ve written more words for the book than other people have, which makes me feel marginally better about piggybacking on their wit.

GS: Yes, but the whole point of the book is that it’s wide… it’s lots of people’s experience of crap dates, rather than just your own experiences.

GS: After reading it all, who do you think comes off worse in the dating game? Men or women?

RM: Men, by about 3000 nautical miles. Arseholes.

GS: Yes, that was my impression

RM: Oh, maybe I misunderstood the question.

GS: No. You understood it perfectly.

RM: Men are arseholes and women have a great deal of misery to bear.

GS: Yes. That’s probably one of life’s lessons. I wouldn’t patronise women by claiming they can’t be as monstrous as men, but men do seem to me more consistently insensitive and monstrous than women.

RM: Yep. I’d be interested in stats about whether more men dump women than women dump men. But regardless of that, men would do it in a more annoying way.

GS: This is true.

GS: Do you have any last words before we both go to our (separate) beds? Any statement you’d like to leave us with?

RM: I’ve just spent 20 seconds trying to think of something profound, and have failed completely, so the answer is probably “No.”

GS: No. That’s a good way to end.

h1

Stephen Fry’s opinions are not important

November 3, 2010

I’ve never been a particular fan of Stephen Fry. I think he’s a moderately talented man, but I can’t for the life of me work out why he’s considered a genius or a national treasure.

He’s clearly an intelligent, sensitive man. I admire his openness about mental illness. He champions many good causes. But he doesn’t seem like a genius to me. About ten years ago I read a couple of his novels. They were passable but nothing amazing. I could list many contemporary British novelists who write far better than he does but don’t get half as much exposure. He’s a good but not great comic actor. He’s a decent but undistinguished director. His documentaries tend to be crowd-pleasing middle-brow exercises (“I’ll drive around America. Me! Stephen Fry! With rednecks! And gangsta rappers!”). His journalism is solid but no more than that. He’s a good quiz show host. It’s not that he’s terrible at any of the things he does, it’s just that I don’t think he’s particularly great at them either – were he not already an established television star I can’t think that his novels would have garnered anything more than a small but loyal following.

Perhaps his real talent lies in the crafting of his own persona: that of an eccentric English boffin, reassuringly upper-class but never snootily posh, a loveable professor: the type who wanders Oxford in tweed and corderoy, undisturbed by the modern world. He’s a comforting image of an England many believe has passed away. We can listen to him on Radio 4, sipping our tea and murmuring, “Oh, Stephen is so terribly clever,” as we think of a more pleasant, civilized time, when David Niven and Roger Livesey strolled through Michael Powell fields.

I should state that there’s nothing wrong with this. As I’ve mentioned, I think he’s a bright, fairly talented man. The fact that many people seem to think he’s a genius is hardly his fault. If people were calling me a genius I wouldn’t be in a hurry to correct them.

Anyway, I’m not naturally predisposed towards Stephen Fry. We’ve established that. Which brings us up to the events of this week, when The Guardian published an article criticising him for an interview in Attitude magazine in which he waffled on for a couple of paragraphs about the fact that he didn’t think women enjoyed sex as much as men did.

I found myself sympathising with him, at least initially.

The whole furore has been ridiculous. Mostly because it doesn’t fucking matter. It’s just his opinion. He’s just some bloke. He’s not The Pope or an elected official. He’s one man and it’s his opinion on female and male sexuality. It’s not as though he’s demanding women be stoned to death or have their right to vote rescinded. From the outcry in some papers, you’d think he was a leading Feminist Gender Theorist who had suddenly gone mad and claimed women must be circumcised. This being Broadsheetland, rather than a muted shrug of indifference, there’s been countless articles about just how much women love sex and what a terrible man Stephen Fry is, as though the women of Britain were unable to have sexual fun without a waspish columnist in The Independent telling them that nasty Mr Fry was wrong, and that ladies really do love orgasms. I think Stephen Fry’s comments were a bit stupid, but I don’t think he’s suddenly some mysognistic monster, sneering down at women from a massive cock-shaped altar. To repeat: He’s a man voicing his opinion. You do not have to agree with him. You can ignore him.

The whole reaction depresses me because it seems emblematic of a climate in which the perameters for debate are so narrow that anything outside the stifling consensus is seen as a heretical attack that deserves at least one stern slapdown from Rosie Boycott. The tone of some of the newspaper pieces has made it sound like he’s commited a crime, rather than make an observation. It makes me want to write an article claiming that women do not enjoy fisting puppies, just so someone can sternly counter with “ALL women enjoy fisting puppies, you patriarchal monster!”

However, the newspapers’ reactions have not been as annoying as those of Fry himself. He claimed to be misquoted and then flounced off Twitter, saying that he’d been treated like the Antichrist. Generally speaking, when someone has been misquoted, they tell the public what they actually said. Stephen Fry hasn’t done this, which leads me to believe he wasn’t misquoted; he just wasn’t expecting The Spanish Inquisition. As for the reaction from the press, well of course it’s over-the-top, but he should expect that. He’s not some naive 17-year-old X Factor finalist – he’s a fiftysomething man who has worked as a journalist and has decades of experience in the public eye. He seems to think that giving an interview to Attitude – a gay magazine – doesn’t count as a public statement and that he doesn’t have to stand by his words. It’s almost as though he’s saying: “Oh, I was talking to the gays. I didn’t realise the straights were also going to read it.” If you do an interview with a magazine (in which you are the cover star) you can’t act surprised when the quotes are picked up in the mainstream press. And since he’s spent the last decade riding a wave of relentless self-promotion (I can’t help but think that a book of Oscar Wilde stories should have Oscar Wilde on the cover, rather than Stephen Fry) he can hardly be surprised when national newspapers follow stories about him. And since he himself hasn’t been averse to giving celebrities or journalists a metaphorical kicking when they have said things he’s disagreed with, he can’t grumble too much.

Quitting Twitter seemed like the action of a child taking home his bat and ball because not everyone loves him. No doubt he will return at some point. He did last time. If I were him, rather than saying I’d been misquoted or treated like the Antichrist, I would explain that it was just opinion. That actually, Stephen Fry’s opinion on female sexuality doesn’t matter; that actually, Stephen Fry’s opinions on most things don’t matter. That women will continue enjoying or hating sex whatever Stephen Fry or Rosie Boycott or anyone else says. That Stephen Fry is not God or Jesus, the Antichrist or a genius. He’s just a normal, flawed human being, the same as the rest of us.