So there I am, tearing down the high street in my beloved grey marl sweats, and me, I hear a small shrill voice calling. ‘Hel-lo-hoo!’ This voice, it’s tiny, it must be way off, yet it seems right in my ear. ‘Hel-lo! Ari-el! Hel-lo! Help me!’

Me, I come to a standstill, scanning around the street, somewhat confused. People scurry by in their shopping trances, not-there there, all caught up with important nonsense, the glorious a-void-dance we all do so well. Me, I want to do that dance, but the voice, it tells me, ‘Over here! I’m here!’ And frowning, no choice, I follow its apparent direction. ‘Yes, here! This way!’ I’m getting to wonder if this is a ghost. Either that or I’m truly off my trolley—because I seem to be the only one who hears the ethereal call. Tugged by it still, I crash through the door of a busy bakery.

‘Ariel!’ the voice cries triumphantly.

And hark at this: Me, I realise I am mad—bewitched you might say. And it’s wonderful! I am under the influence of a lean, long-legged blonde. A doll with boobs.

Absolutely: it’s Barbie.

There she sits, on a shelf by the window, surrounded by buns, donuts, éclairs, in a little frilly apron—some sort of shop mascot. People queue up, ordering doughy goods, while Barbie, her wide staring eyes stare at me.

Oh, what big eyes you have, I think to myself. All the better to see you with, my dear.

‘Hello’, says Barbie. ‘You found me at last!

To be sure, when she talks, Barbie, her mouth, it doesn’t move. This is not Toy Story. There she sits, smiling. Her lips apart just so.

What BIG teeth you have. I think, saying to her, ‘Hi.’

And she says, ‘My teeth are not big. Wrong story! Seriously, too much big bad wolf, Ariel—you’ve got to quit—all this spying on him is getting to be something like stalking and—’

‘—Blimey,’ I tell her. ‘Okay, Barbie, none of your business. That wasn’t meant for you; it’s an Ariel-to-Ariel ism. What are you, anyway?—telepathic?’ Barbie laughs. ‘This is awesome.’ I add. And believe me, awesome is not a word in my vocabulary. Barbie laughs again.

‘I’m glad you could come,’ she says. ‘Buy a bun and dance with it. Avoid no more. Abundance is the way to go.’

I smile. ‘I like the void. It has its merits. Space and all that. Is that what you got me here for? To buy buns? How much do they pay you?’

‘No. I want to tell the world a thing or two, and you’re the one I’ve picked to do it for me—you get me? Because I’m a doll.’

You don’t say? All the better to sally with you, my dear!

‘So shoot,’ I tell her. ‘I’m game.’

‘Fact is, I’m fed up with being an ideal,’ says Barbie.

‘Yes, that must be a trial,’ I say sarcastically.

‘Be serious, Ariel. This is a serious issue. I’m a toy. But I’m fashioned sexy and it’s very confusing. The messaging—you know, people are making lewd videos with me. I’ve seen them on You-Tube. But I’m straying… Point is, I need some form of humanity. Something that smashes the ideal. Women don’t have bodies like mine. My body is misrepresentative.’

‘But you are a doll, Barbie.’

‘I’m unrealistic. An unrealistic ideal!’

‘True. You are pretty ridiculous.’

‘Hel-lo!’ she says.

‘Well you said it.’

‘No,’ she says. ‘I said unrealistic.

‘Yes, your feet are too tiny. And so is your waist—and your hair is—come onit is—it’s way BIG—it’s fracking ridiculous. Hydraulic.’

Unrealistic,’ she states defiantly. ‘What I am, is a plastic ideal. And I’m sick of it. I want to be a woman.’

‘Great,’ I tell her. And I find myself thinking ridiculously: Oh, if only I were a doll. No real life: an un-breathing plastic ideal. How ideal! And then, desperately, I yell in my head: What is it I want?! And I get to thinking that when I was an ideal, all that time ago—when he, that un-man, was into me —it wasn’t so hot, he never really saw me—because ideal women—idolized, whatever—they have nowhere to go except down. A long long way to fall. To Barbie I blather, ‘So you want me to tell the world how fed up you are?’

‘I want to live,’ cries Barbie.

This takes me by surprise. ‘I want to live?’ I echo mournfully.

‘I want body fluids. You, Ariel, you have them, you own up to them! Your stuff of life.’

‘Yes but…’

‘I want to accept myself. Y’hear, Ariel, accept yourself! Look,’ Barbie says, matter-of-fact. ‘What you can do, what I really want is for you to make me a gusset. What is it you say about it—in your Introduction? That the gusset carries an awareness of the life-cycle. It suggests the state of becoming blemished, by it’s very existence, it’s very purpose—that’s what you say! It represents reality. The opposite of the ideal—oh shame, embarrassment, pain—give them to me!’

Me, I think to myself: You want those things?! Girl, you don’t know what you’re talking about.

‘I do,’ she answers. ‘I know perfectly well what I’m saying!’ She’s inside my thoughts again. ‘It’s called being alive! You, Ariel, you feel! You dare to feel! You’re brave! Don’t you see? For all the pain, it’s wonderful!’

‘You shouldn’t do that, Barbie,’ I tell her, dazed. ‘It’s rude to stalk my thoughts. My thoughts are my thoughts—they’re not for you to mine.’

Barbie, she ignores me, she cries, ‘We can do it, Ariel! We must survive loss. The loss of idealization. The loss of your loves. Oh make me a gusset, Ariel! Let me live.

Me, I smile ruefully, nodding. I realise, Barbie, she’s a bit of a sage. Ridiculous, but true. And why not? ‘I get you,’ I say. ‘I really do.’

Given half the chance, we’re more than meets the eye. Ideal women do not actually exist. We all spill. To be judged ideal is a camouflaged curse. ‘Blimey, for a moment I was actually willing myself to be you.’

Barbie cries. ‘If I could only be you…’

‘Be me? Why would you ever want to be me?’

It’s ridiculous, but there are tears in my eyes.

‘Oh Ariel, you’re alive. Stop the avoidance! Dance with a bun! Make me a gusset! Avenge me, Ariel! Give me life. Only you can do it.’

I smile with wet eyes. ‘Barbie, I’m going to do it. I’ll do it.’

‘That’s awesome!’ she says. ‘But look, I haven’t got any knickers. You’ll have to get me some—’

Me, I reach up and grab Barbie from the shelf. I turn her upside-down, inspecting her bare plastic bottom; it’s obvious there’s quite a lot missing down there. Barbie, she’s yelling, ‘No! I don’t mean literally! Get off! Ariel, stop it! Put me down! I’ve had enough humiliation!’

‘Sorry, sorry…’ I murmur, up-righting her, holding her ‘perfect’ little body at arm’s length.

At this stage, the shop assistant, she clocks me playing with Barbie, and she’s heading over, red-faced: ‘Oi you! Oi!’

Me, I tell her quick, ‘I was looking for her stamp of authenticity.’

‘She’s real alright,’ Shop Woman says, demanding Barbie with her open hand. ‘Can I help you? ’

‘Have you got anything wheat-free?’ I ask stupidly.

Baker Woman snatches Barbie from my grasp, checking out her pert posterior, her smooth un-crack. ‘If you’ve damaged this Barbie, they’ll be trouble. You’ve no right. She’s our lucky charm.’

‘She’s fine,’ I say. ‘Too fine. That’s her problem.’ As Barbie is plopped back on her shelf, I smile, adding decisively. ‘I’ll take a bun. A sticky bun.’

And to Barbie, I say, ‘Sorted! Let’s give you some real taboo. Let’s give them all a bit of a stir, shall we?! You may not have a cu_t, but I can fix things for you! I will. I’ll give you something that speaks of life, of humanity, something that every person must face. A stain. I’ll avenge your plastic ideal. ’

And I do. And this is that.

Truth is, me, in case you hadn’t realised, I carry around a lot of secrets. They come two-a-penny and fill my pockets like all the worst sweeties. Lil fried eggs, rhubarb and custards… remember flying saucers? And I just can’t seem to unpack them—okay, so that’s a lie—even you know that, if you’ve taken a care to read me—no what I do is, I gorge on them—and I make myself sick. Right? I hide away and chew; suck, suck, sucking on secrets. It’s a folly, it really is.

Me, I’m a secreholic.

A memory addict.

Just how long can I last before I make a whole nother mess?

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t feel sorry for myself. More like I think—blithely of course (remember I’m a spirit and spirits, they are blithe (says Noel of the Coward-y custard kind))—what I think is: Me, I’m an idiot.

Don’t you know it: Things, they get imprinted when we’re scrappy lil kiddies—and we come to believe our own dumb dream. Like, what I’m saying is, I’m saying, Jeanie (=mother), she carelessly laid down this legacy for me. La-di-da: idiocy. Fact is, it wasn’t her fault—she was caught in the cruel clutches of something bigger than the both of us. She just fell far far away, disappeared into bitter sods of alcohol.

I lost my mother at the splendour age of four. When I lost my Poppa.

She was there, not-there. And he was there, not-there.

But what can you do?

Okay, so before you start crying in your soup, hold your horses and get this: me, I was a lucky lil perisher, because I had my Granny and my Granddad, two great wonders of the world. And before you attach to the image of a couple of ancients, know this: they were only thirty-six and thirty-seven respectively! These two loves had birthed their Jeanie (=my mother) just twenty years before. Jeanie had been so bright and happy but now my Poppa was gone she was lost. Granny and Granddad, they were under their own sorry strain, but girded themselves, girdling me. They took a hold of things. They tucked me up, and they brought in the bacon when my Poppa and Jeanie couldn’t do it any more. They saw me through.

Bless them.

And me, I waited. Pretending not to wait. Waiting for my Poppa to return. I remember him saying goodbye. He creeps through the mess of my cubbyhole room, careful not to wake me. Tenderly, he sweeps the yellow hair from my face, brushing it out onto the pillow, giving me the appearance of being caught in a gusty breath of wind. He is smiling and crying all at once, silently. Just one warm drop of him plops onto my cheek. Tomorrow I will discover it, a ring of crusty salt. And remember. He said, he said, I’ll be back, my little Ariel. He closes his fingers around my teddy’s mush, lifts him like that, like he’s a ball in his fist, and nestles him close into my loaf. He says, ‘You are decidedly threadbare. Now you look after her, you old thing, y’hear?’ Then he tilts into me once more and tells me in my dreams, ‘I’ll be back when you’re twenty, Ariel, my little sweet. Don’t worry. I’ll be back. When you’re twenty.’

And then he is Gone.

My Poppa, he came, secretly, that night, and told me he’d come back. He told me he’d come back. He told me. When you are twenty. I’ll be back.

Only I don’t know if he told me after he’d already Gone.

Only I do know.

Only I know.

Life and death, it’s a circle. We separate them, make them linear. Birth to death.

But it’s not like that.

We carry on. We are eternal. We are all one throbbing ball of energy, living together, separate, but not. You get me?

“would you adam and eve it?”

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In a Time that was Once, in a land up the road, there lived a little girl with a grand Shakespearean name. The little spirit that she was, she had hung around her Poppa, naked and unborn, for quite some years, indeed since he himself was a boy, determined to materialise, when time was ripe, as his own wee babe in the world. She had wished herself so ardently to human form that the simple touch of her Poppa’s lips upon her mother’s was enough to ignite the egg that was her beginning.

Just like an old wives tale.

Which of course is a bit of a porkie (pie=lie); for after all, immaculate conception is the stuff of stories—is it not? Truth is, her parents did this yumptious thing that you have to do to bake a cookie. Her mother was but a babe herself (=not legal), and she may not have wanted to spring another life so soon had not the tiny sprite (=me) spun a wishing spell to captivate her. I was born to Jeanie (16 yrs) and Jimmy (19 yrs) on April 1st 19??, and a proper little fool I was. Wise and funny, a speaker of riddles. I was Shakespeare’s invention: fool and sprite in one. A magical gift born of wonder to youthful parents into a rosy world. And I became known as Ariel.

The little girl, she was very happy because she had everything she wanted. She did not know the land of cornucopia in which she dwelt would one day be shattered. She did not know that her wishing herself into this world was the quiet beginning of a calamity. For all she was a spirited sprite, she could not divine her destiny until it was upon her. For all her clever ways, she could not realise that her very name ensnared her in a Tempest from the beginning.

Now she is all grown up and beyond, she understands she is imprisoned in a tree, which is her body, with no Prospero to free her. She lives in a world of symbols. It is the only way to keep her situation all sewn up.

She is a bunny, a pussy, Ratso Rizzo and Travis Bickle; she is a little blown up human, a walking-talking-catch-a-story living doll. Me, I am more than meets the eye, less than you could ever imagine. A red representation of woman on a euphemism door…

How is it that the people that hurt you, those self-serving snakes who used you up then chucked you raw—honest-to-goodness hurt you—how is it, these people, you miss them?

How can that be?

When it was you who ran away?

I mean—you get me?—I’m the first to say it, me, I ran fast as any bunny can. I hopped, skidded and skedaddled up hill and down dale, I scurried the gamut of adapted cliché, slalomed the poppycock of all those well-worn, old hat phrases. Yeah, I saw the writing was on the wall; I leapt out of the frying pan into the pyre; I ran with my tail between my pegs. You couldn’t see me for must.

Muddy truth be told, deep down in the mess of me—you probably realise by now—if perchance you’ve attended these pages—yep, deep down in the sticky jam of me, I miss him.

Even T.B., he who lives with me, he cannot save me from that—for all his love and devotion. Ashamed as I am to admit it, me, I look for that wolf, for that dastardly devil, I look for him in Ted. I want for Teddy to speak big bad wolf words. Because the big bad wolf, he wasn’t all bad, and he sang me many a honeyed verse. And he sure knew how to… (lowered register here)… lurve me; yeah, he sugared my cherry a treat.

This wolf in man’s clothing, he knew how to get to me—you get me?

I’ve gotta admit it, I’ve found in T.B. a creamy, fresh, wholesome version of him. See, Teddy, he’s honest. He tells me things I don’t want to hear, things that he thinks will help me. And he’s celibate these days. We share an innocence, a pure and simple version of love. While at the same time, he’s a bit of lizardy lay-about, and a bit of a puffer—like him—slow-voiced and languorous, hazed in his dooby schmooby; a thing strangely seductive, laced as it is in memory lane.

Poor T.B.

Okay, so while I’m confessing, me, for sure, I’ve been a-runnin and a-huntin some more. I’ve loitered in woods and doorways. I’ve been on the look-out for his natty wolfish form. Betraying T.B. and my own integrity. I’m a foolish tail, harmless enough, but a tail nevertheless. A haunter. And it’s all a dream, miles and miles from reality. Me, I’ve locked myself away, living my own starry fairy tale.

I locked myself in—

and I locked myself out.

Then went about losing the key. On purpose.

The key to myself. To what really happened.

I don’t want to know, I don’t want to go, into the labyrinth of who I am. Yet truly, I long to be found. I peek though the keyhole, getting but a glimpse into my own heart, a tiny keyhole-shaped view, something that shows me just a little bit, a limited aspect, that is enough and not-enough, all at once. I peep into my past—just the keyhole sized parts I can handle. I wantonly live in denial of the truth, kidding myself I’m seeking it. Or maybe, me, I am seeking truth in my own jumbled way.

I suppose I sound like a sap? Me, the maker of my own tower, the guard to my own cell, keeping myself locked out of the now, locked in to the peered-at piece of my past I dare to trace.

Through the keyhole is where I need to go. Open the lock and be free. One day. A long way away. When I can.

When I’m through getting my knickers in a twist maybe.

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Me, I’ve been having a bit of a hard time of it lately. It goes something like this:


Do I matter?

What the flip am I doing with this here life?

And I realise that all this clinging to the coat-tails of the big bad wolf, he that is the name-cloaked sweetheart of my once-was life, this coat-tailing, it’s a secret trailing of my long ago loves, a memory-mining of coveted times. It’s a denial of what I have become: naked, running, afraid. Truth is, me, some while ago, some ever after which was not happy, I lost so much; and before that, even longer ago, when I was just a little mite, I lost most of what matters. All in all, me, I lost everything a body could care for.

And now I’m trying to find it (all) again.

Which is impossible—or not—depending on how you view time. It is mooted that time is a manmade construct and that, although we experience it as linear, this is actually not so: everything is happening at once, in a perpetual NOW. In theory, we can step into any time. If every Now is always here…then me, I’m seeking the Now that was Then. The Now that is Now, it’s not a place I want to be. I’m seeking to blot out the sorrows. It’s as if me, I’m trying to explode my cells back to the awareness of Then as Now, vanishing now forever. I’m dreaming the life I used to lead.

I will blur my life with fantasy.

Being of tender stuff, these days, I put on the costume of a tough little customer. That said, I always have. How else would I survive? Sometimes, just to get by in the world, I put on someone else’s smile. I put on someone else’s snarl, I steal their voice, their flashing expressions. I take on characters from films. Taxi Driver. Midnight Cowboy. Always men. Me, I conjure inside Robert De Niro, gettin to feel his blood coursing through my veins; I invite Dustin Hoffman to straddle my heart, vying to be seen, even as I make myself invisible. Inside, he yells, I yell, we yell: ‘I’m walkin’ here!

So here I am: I’m Robert de Niro, Dustin Hoffman, a cookie, a bunny, a pussy, a mouth, a head, some legs. I’m Pegs. Anyone but me. And what is ‘me’? A collection of cells and neuro-transmitters? A psyche? A spirit? A soul?? I can tell you my real name, I can tell you right now: it’s Ariel. There. Does that make a difference? Is that me?

Truth is, we’re still no closer to knowing who I am…

It’s a very, very strange life that I’m leading…or supporting, you might say.

I spend the day mooching in a state of paralysis, feeling that me, I will never, ever get to be inspired again. Yet I marvel in spite of myself at magnolia and things, at the blissful unconscious continuum of nature. Things sprout, they bud, they flower, they fall. The cycle in which we all must live. I marvel at the gold finches flashing in the blue. Me, the birds and the flowers, they’ve always been my friends. The Birds and the Bees, now that’s another matter. And I feel blue as blue can be. Which is black.

And just when I think all in myself is gone, when it feels that me, I am anathema to all that beauty—only then, at my tether’s end, can I thrust myself forcibly into the alive space. The space of creation. And begin.


All that angst simply to begin.


Just how many beginnings can this cookie bake?

…You get me?

The gusset starts life as an innocent little piece of cotton sewn between the leg-holes of female smalls, this is a symbiotic relationship, since both knickers and gusset need each other for basic survival. Whether the gusset has any comprehension of its fate as it sits inside a pair of knickers hanging jauntily in a lingerie display, is as yet uncertain. Evidence suggests it is likely it has no idea that it will become soiled and grotty, and spends the early part of its existence excited about its future. But while it waits for a wearer, it soon has to come to terms with the fact that it is largely ignored. The knickers themselves are admired and examined, and it is strongly suspected the gusset soon laments its relative anonymity. It is not uncommon that these early experiences render it somewhat catatonic, as if it were an alcoholic drowning its sorrows in the bottle (not without irony as it will soon find itself drowning in the liquor of great human splendour). According to the latest research, the gusset quickly develops aspirations for fame and attention, which are sadly unrequited—until that is, it is rather old or has been the absorber of some hapless accident. At such time, especially if the knickers in which it dwells are particularly loved or expensive, the gusset’s sullied appearance is mourned and mooned over. It becomes the centre of regret, grief even, and is appreciated in retrospect for its original perfection and innocence. This sweet, stained little piece of cotton has, after all, cupped a pretty picnic, tenderly enveloping the delicious spoils in comfort and warmth, forever sopping up all manner of secret spills. At such time, the gusset, it is believed, gains a solid sense of self worth despite its compromised appearance. It realises it is necessary.

(warning: content may offend)

The long and the short of it is: these 3 little words are front page heaven and make for bigger newspaper sales.

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Me, when I was seven, I had this bully friend and she, this hurly-burly fiend, she had this fetish for Lucky Knickers. In her world, it was a dead cert that if she wore them she always won a fight, always had her way, and was boss-girl supreme. This pig-headed gnasher, she would parade herself about with her hands on her hips, elbows jutting out, her mean piggy snout looking for trouble. Me, I was her pathetic little slave, lamely pulled along inside her shadow by her darker forces. I dreamt that one day, one day, I would give her a knuckle sandwich for tea, a juicy steak of fist, while meantime I yelled yellow insults at her from inside my head. Wazak! PIG! Ah me, I never did think to name my knickers Lucky and lick her when hers were in the wash.

Bunny that I am, me, I get to brooding on the other side of luck. The ‘Un’. Like the time when I was nine, and I was walking home from school through the woods and had this urge, this terrible urge to go—you get me. I needed a poo. Smack out of nowhere. I stopped and I waited, wringing my pegs one around the other, and I begged and I begged, sweat sopping my brow, heat mauling my mug. But try as I might, my crinkled little kiss of a bum-hole, it just couldn’t stop the journey my poo was bent on making, from out of the tunnel of my curly bowels, into the light of day. Yes, out it snaked, happy as Larry, slow at first, then packing my pants in a slurry of stinky ploop. Some say that Thomas Crapper invented the flush toilet, while others dissent, but it’s widely accepted he came up with the ballcock. Had he been thinking environmentally he might have come up with an earth loo, a self-composting situation. But I digress—although who’s to say Crapper wasn’t wearing his Lucky Smalls when he was flushed(!) with his nutsprick idea?

But luck, surely, it’s simply a state of mind—no? It’s an idea. A concept. It doesn’t actually exist—does it? You can be feeling lucky and circumstance can overwhelm your mind-state and unlucky things can happen. Equally, your mind can tell you you’re lucky and you are. The power of the mind is at issue. Plus cultural mind-set, superstition, belief. Is luck a religion?

Me, I get to thinking, it could be useful to wear your Lucky Knickers on important dates: with a boy/girl you fancy; for an interview; for an exam. I suppose Unlucky Knickers only become so after the event, and then spend the rest of their days knocking about, abandoned in the bottom of an undies drawer…