Stop talking Britain down? Seriously, how do we talk this place UP right now?

Boris Johnson waving two union flags while stuck on a zip line

There’s an old YouTube video of a festival-goer who wanders out of a portaloo while a Dutch TV crew are filming the facilities, who then proceeds to wash his hands in a fetid urinal. As if hallucinating a crystal clear babbling brook and a snow-white bar of Dove, he picks up a urinal cake from one end of the trough then shuffles down to the other end where the piss is more plentiful, swishing his hands around in the frothy, citrine shallows, before rubbing the deoderising block between his palms. Eventually, he catches on. “This isn’t a urinal, is it?” he asks the Haarlem105 TV presenter. “I think it is, man,” she regretfully informs him.

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Daddyopolis

Minecraft character Steve looks out over the Minecraft landscape as the sun sets.

Last September, for my son’s 6th birthday, we bought him Minecraft for the PS4. As he’d been spending quite a lot of time watching gamers on YouTube Kids playing it, we thought he might like to experience the game for himself rather than just passively watching other people. I had always thought of it as “that stupid game with the blocks”, which now feels like a terribly unfair and disparaging comment, especially when it pops into my head while I’m branch mining with an enchanted pickaxe at 2am in the morning, as my dry, unblinking eyes scan subterranean tunnels for rich seams of diamond, emerald, lapis lazuli and redstone.

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Beware: spoilers

Vilos Cohaagen in the original Total Recall, with a bloated, bloody face and bulging eyes, as he experiences decompression.

The first time I watched The Equalizer, starring Denzel Washington, it took me much longer than the 132 minute runtime to get through it. The reason was that I kept rewatching the bit where Denzel’s character, Robert McCall, effortlessly takes down a room full of Russian Mafiosi in just 28 seconds, leaving a trail of broken, bloodied bodies in his wake.

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The paunch of shame

A male runner on his back, collapsed on the pavement.

I’m new to running. I’ve obviously run at times in my life – to catch a departing train, for instance, or escape a persistent wasp. Also, my tardiness has occasionally forced me into a frantic dash across campus to attend a meeting, where I’ve strived to achieve a fashionably late arrival, albeit as a sweaty, breathless, dishevelled, shambles of a man. But actual running, for fitness, on a regular basis, never.

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What about Larry?

The Elf on the Shelf smiling and looking cheeky, with the lights of a Christmas tree blurred in the background.

Recently, late at night, as my wife and I peel ourselves from the sofa to clear away our empty gin glasses and extinguish the fairy lights on our Christmas tree by wildly jabbing at the inaccessible plug socket switch with a mop, one of us will stop dead in our tracks and utter the following words: “Oh God. What the fuck are we going to do with Larry?”

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My gaming life

I’ve had a creeping longing for a return to some kind of normality recently. And by ‘normality’ I don’t mean tombstoning at Durdle Door, where the few seconds of free-fall you experience as you plummet towards the shimmering waves below is, quite ironically, the safest way to socially distance yourself – by more than two inches – from thousands of lobster-skinned beachgoers shitting into burger cartons and ice boxes.

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My dreams from the last 10 years

I realised recently that I’ve been using Twitter as the unofficial repository for scraps of my dreams over the last 10 years. Whenever I’ve woken from a dream worthy of note, my first act has usually been to inform my few hundred disinterested followers on social media. So here are the raw recollections of a decade of dreams, all neatly encapsulated in 140 characters or less thanks to Twitter’s original tweet limit.

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Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of Anxiety Over Social Distancing)

Award-winning playwright and novelist Marsha Norman once said: “Dreams are illustrations from the book your soul is writing about you.” If that’s true, then my book is destined for an inconspicuous bargain stand in WHSmith, clumsily stacked next to some shop-soiled Toffee Crisp and a collection of incongruous 10p advent calendars.

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This pandemic is killing my cynicism

I’ve cried a lot recently (more so than normal). While driving to work one morning in the week before lockdown, I welled up listening to The Leisure Society’s ‘The Last of the Melting Snow’. There’s nothing particularly unusual about that – plenty of songs get me in the throat – but it’s the fact that I was sobbing uncontrollably even when the song had finished. Inconsolable at the wheel and completely overwhelmed by the creeping, all-consuming nightmare of a deadly pandemic. Yesterday, I cried at the kitchen sink listening to the The Smiths’ ‘Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want’. If we’re in this for the long haul, I may cry myself to the point where my entire body becomes as withered, cracked, and desiccated as my excessively washed hands.

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