Thursday, 17 November 2011

Reflections On Being Suddenly Slim

So here I am, 20 years an unreconstructed, unapologetic fat bastard, suddenly slim. Ok, slim-ish. It's all relative. I've lost 2 and a half stone, but then I was ridiculously heavy to start with. I was a man I no longer  recognised, a man I caught unwittingly in a coffee shop mirror and instantly dismissed as a corpulent pig. That was the turning point, really. If that was what I saw when I wasn't sucking in my cheeks to ready myself for my reflection, it was what everyone else saw.

A word or two on how I got here. Simple, really. No forensic calorie-counting, no fads, no crazy fitness regimes. The key? I've just stopped the bi-weekly loading of the mega-sized carrier bags they give the greedy chocoholics in the 99p Shop.Without that evil sugar/fat abomination hanging about the house demanding to be scoffed, I'm having to make my own fun. Walnut anyone?

Here's the regime: I eat dinner late so breakfast is not the first thing on my mind when I wake up - it's easily skipped; lunch might be a bit of popcorn, a yoghurt, some fruit; a snack when I get home (granola, nuts, pretzels) followed later by the kind of evening meal in which I've always specialised  - anything that takes less than 3 minutes to make. Chicken soup (powder + hot water + boil it + vermicelli = done) followed by a few slices of toast and jam or a chicken stir-fry, if I'm feeling all Jamie Oliver, or - pushing the boat out here - a baked potato with some packet roast chicken and microwaved beans. Dessert is a yoghurt, tons of fruit, tea (copious) and maybe a packet of Polos as a treat. I know it sounds grim, but I honestly haven't suffered or yearned. And now I'm where I want to be, I can have decent meal out or a lump of chocolate if I fancy. The key is moderation.

Here's an interesting tale (if you're pissed or on something); it was my birthday a few weeks ago so all bets were off. I hit the sweet shop, hard, and gorged on Boost, Caramac, Maltesers and Tooty-Fruities, but - this was the funny thing - I didn't particularly enjoy it. Me, Fatboy The Sweet Gorger. Would you credit that? Just felt sick, actually. I think they call it -'re-educating' your stomach, or some such shit.

And one other thing; I cycle a minimum of 14 miles a day, but then I've been doing that for 20 years. Combined with sensible eating, it helps the weight fall off, whereas if it's done only to feel virtuous and excuse the relentless stuffing of one's face every night, it helps not a jot. 

Clothes don't look crap on me any more. My last blog was obviously a cry for help. I'd reached the point where jeans, no matter how capacious, looked appalling, like I was trying to squeeze two legs into each leg-hole, and shirts needed to be XXXL to even resemble something made to be worn by humans. I can now go into shops and stick on a pair of 34 inch-waisters (I'm nearer 32 now - I know!) and they look ok. I was nudging 40 inches and, honestly, you don't want anyone to see you flipping those babies off a hanger and sneaking into a fitting room. The other bonus here is that the clothes I was squeezing into a few months ago now hang off me, something I still enjoy demonstrating to my children who, sadly, don't give a flying fuck. Yes, Dad, you've lost weight. Big. Deal. Oh yeah, by the way, I crashed the car.

One other bonus is that there's less weight going through my tortured knees. Now, people who know me will know that I rarely talk about my 9 knee operations, the constant pain, the swelling, the clicking, the sheer, unalloyed misery. Oy, you shouldn't know from it. I still can't play tennis and a return to the ski slopes would probably be inadvisable, but there's been a definite improvement, as you might expect given that the equivalent of 9 stone has been removed from the load going through them when I walk, 18 when (if) I run. 

Turns out I have cheekbones! Who knew? They sort of jut out and create little shadows on my cheeks. Is that normal? And hip-bones and shoulder blades and a spine...which hurt when I move about in the bath. And - stop me if this is too much information - I felt a hard lump when I was washing my bottom the other day. No, not a tumour, silly (although I'm of an age when...let's not think about that). No, it was my coccyx. Who put that there? I've also, apparently, reduced the risk of heart disease and diabetes, made myself less prone to debilitating asthma attacks and, best of all, removed all trace of the corrosive bouts of indigestion I used to suffer every day despite 24 Rennies and a couple of Omeprazole (a dosage that should neutralise Sulphuric Acid). 

But there's a downside. Suddenly, I look my age. Which might not sound bad, but everyone used to comment on how much younger I looked as a fatso. Well of course they did; I had 26 gallons of natural collagen filling the wrinkles, smoothing the skin. Not any more. It's Wrinkle City up there, but a small price to pay. I even had an insane, thin man's number 3 haircut to complement my now slender face - it looked absolutely fucking horrible (got carried away with the slim thing, I think) and am grateful to still have a thatch capable of  consigning such catastrophic hubris to memory, given time.

So, there you go. I'd be happy to counsel anyone seeking to do what I've done. Call me smug, call me obnoxiously gloaty (I may be less so shortly, given that Xmas is approaching, which might yet wreck everything; the fat, greedy boy lurks just under the surface - I can hear him), but feel free to contact me, if only to allow me to crow a bit more.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Why Do All Clothes Look Shit On Me?

I could probably answer that question in one short sentence: because I'm fat. But that would be to oversimplify things and I'm here now so I'm going to wax for a bit. And, let's be honest, if I left it there, you might accuse me of implying that you can't look good in anything if you're fat. This, of course, would be arrant nonsense. Many larger people manage to pull it off: George Melly, a proper pudd'n if ever I saw one, always looked elegant in his baggy flannels and floppy hat; there's an overweight woman who runs our local tea shop and she looks fantastic; Oprah's never too shabby. Vanessa Feltz...sorry, bad example (this is what is known as a cheap shot - it doesn't make me proud, but it's staying). Oh, and let's not forget, there are plenty of skinny bastards who look shit, aren't there?

I'm not going to waste time on the fat v thin debate here - yes we all know there are societal pressures, that obesity (and ultra-skinniness) can be unhealthy, that prejudice and bullying can be rooted in something as trivial as body shape. No, I want to keep this as superficial, shallow and egocentric as possible. I merely want to establish the reason I look so shit in everything, and being fat is right up there.

Fatness, of course, is a relative term. In many people's eyes, I'm not. 5' 10" and 15 stone 9 suggests otherwise, I'll grant you, but I'm very square-shouldered, unusually broad and don't have an especially chubby face nor a pot belly, so I carry it reasonably well. But as soon as I slip into Gap jeans - Easy, Straight, Boot, you name it - I look like a man harbouring Elvis and his fatter twin brother down either leg. My thighs are heavy and my knees buckle inwards due, in part, to ruined, arthritic joints, and my legs always look like a pair of mutant slugs having weird 'X' shaped sex in a sack . Lest you think this is a Gap-based issue, I've tried Next, Hennes, M & S and more. They don't make jeans for people like me. Or trousers. Or shorts. Underpants? Just about.

Then there's shirts. I've tried them all; tees, V-necks, button-ups, button-downs, Grandfather tops. I dunno. I just look shit. I adhere religiously to the 'black is slimming' trope, but to no avail. In fairness, I've got a better chance of looking semi-presentable in a shirt than any pair of trousers, but it's a fine margin. So why? Short neck? That probably doesn't help. No waist? A problem. Lack of definition around the torso? Yeah, ok, you don't have to get offensive mate.

Maybe I need to employ the services of one of those people who just know which clothes work with which shape. It might be painful, I might have to accept certain limitations, but at least I won't look shit. That or lose some weight. People, I have been dieting for a week and lost 6 pounds. So maybe I should hang on before getting Gok Wan over. It might save me a lot of money and the gruesome misery...of having Gok Wan over.      

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Review of Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton

As abysmal as Sister was readable. For a start, the protagonists are bloody angels or spirits or something, telling the story (too dull to precis here, but it's about who was responsible for burning a public school down - good riddance to it, I say) whilst their corporeal selves lie comatose in hospital, having been injured in the blaze. I thought this madness would resolve itself in something satisfyingly realistic, but no, it appears Ms Lupton was happy for her 'spirits' to communicate with each other, follow the police around, go home, do anything really, without apologising for her feeble conceit.

And then there was the teeth-grinding, middle-class smugness of it all. The protagonist's family were all incredible, clever, wonderful, generous, perfect; their saccharine-sweet love for each other deeper than the the deepest ocean, higher than the highest mountain. Yuck. And for a professional scriptwriter, Ms Lupton's dialogue was unforgivably dismal.

It gets worse. For reasons I have yet to fathom, Ms Lupton sees fit to italicise words, phrases, even whole sentences, lest we, her stupid readers, can't work out where to place the emphasis ourselves. More infuriatingly, most of the italicised words didn't merit emphasising.

Sister good, Afterwards appalling. Second book blues. She's blown it with me."

Thursday, 4 August 2011

And which is more - you'll be a writer, my son.

I'm sitting in Starbucks prior to appearing at the rather wonderful Krater Comedy Club at the Komedia here in drizzly Brighton. I wouldn't normally think this blog-worthy - and it probably isn't - but I thought a few words about the rising fear and tension a performer endures before going on stage would be interesting from the perspective of someone actually living through it.

Problem is, I'm not. I mean, I am living through the period directly prior to a gig, but tension? Not really. I love Brighton, but I think getting here at 2.30 for a gig starting at 8 (stage time, around 9.10) was patently absurd. I had a hearty lunch at Bill's (why would anyone go anywhere else?) and then whiled away an hour viewing a house (we're thinking of moving here one day) but really, it's only an hour from London and I could've left at 6.

I've got into the habit of arriving insanely early for things like voiceovers, the rationale being that I usually cycle so need to cool down first over a nice cup of tea. Nothing worse than leaving a foetid patch of sweat on a studio chair, is there? Yet, although I cycled to London Bridge Station to catch the Brighton train today, I think a five and a half hour cooling off period is a bit over the top.

So, here I am just around the corner from the Komedia, knocking out this blog and about to be turfed out at 7. I have a very respectable and weighty bag of sweets from the hip little pick 'n' mix shop in the North Laines which I'm thinking of raiding on a bench somewhere to while away some more dead time, but I'll be scraping damp sugar from the bottom by 7.05 and be feeling bloated, nauseous and only marginally closer to kick off. You need a bit of tension to get up there and do your stuff, but right now I'd be happy if they locked me in and left me here overnight.
Well, there we are. An ill-considered, stream-of-consciousness, unedited blog. Was it all worth it given the paucity of insight and wit? Don't answer that.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Great Book...How Many Have You Sold?

It's a question I've been asked a few times.

Not many's the answer.

Here's a salutary tale. Several years ago, I approached some piddly literary agency with my debut novel, Losing It. They were Little, if memory serves. Oh, you mean J K Rowling's billionaire (ex)agents? Yes, that's them. Less than three weeks after receiving my hopeful little package, they were all over me. Loved the book, said it was a potential best-seller, that I'd be great at promoting it given my performing pedigree. Oh, could I just make a few minor changes? Here we go. All right, go on then, if you insist. So I did. They wanted more. Grudgingly, I re-drafted. What, more changes? This time I told them to stuff it lest they destroy my artistic vision.


Absolute, 100%, 24 carat cretin.

If they'd insisted I re-cast my female protagonist as a Taliban warthog with acne, I should have got on with it. They were Christopher bloody Little, J K Rowling's...who cares about artistic effing vision?

But you see, I (the aforementioned cretin) figured, if they loved the book, so would everyone else. But I made no progress with the handful of other agents I approached and, in a fit of pique - tarring all agents with the same brush - I published it myself. That'd show them. I eventually sold 400, which isn't bad, I'm told, but only after nagging libraries, appearing on radio stations so local only God was listening in, chivvying local book shops and wasting a smallish fortune on useless PR. Net financial loss? Let's not go there.

And that's when I gave up writing novels for a few years until inspiration struck and I rattled out A Song For Europe, an edgy romantic comedy more in keeping with my day/night job as a comedian and scriptwriter. I gave it to a few trusted folk to read and received rave reviews. Which is when I approached another handful of agents. This time, one came back on the same day I emailed them a sample, champing at the bit. Not quite in the Christopher Little league, but long established and respected nonetheless. Sadly, they weren't particularly set up to promote an edgy romcom and although there was a ripple of interest from publishers, nothing happened.

But I believed in the book and, rather than suffer the misery and financial flagellation of self-publishing, decided to stick it on Amazon as a digital download. Kindles everywhere would be loaded up with my David Nicholls-stylee novel within days.

Except that didn't happen. The problem is, if no-one knows it's there, it might as well not be. What to do? I've had my head buried in websites claiming to know the secrets of promoting digital books. I've started a Facebook fan page ( - 95 fans and counting - none of them have bought the book). I've started tweeting for all I'm worth (@SimonLipson). Still nothing. I'm sure I can do more, but I'm beginning to think I need to commit A Song For Europe to good, old-fashioned paper.Then... ring up libraries, contact local book shops, appear on Radio know the rest. Somehow, I have to get the 'word-of'mouth' thing going, but there are only so many hours in the day. And if I shift 400 copies, so what?

I'd love to hear from anyone who's been through the self-publishing maze and/or stuck something on Amazon Kindle. Maybe we can knock heads and work out a strategy for getting our works of genius into the hands of a deserving public. As an avid reader, I know a hell of a lot of inferior crap gets published. There's no rhyme or reason. So - sisters, brothers! Let's do it for ourselves! (ahem - sorry, quite forgot I'm British for a moment).