Some blogs I know

  • Freckles and Doubt
    Considering her mastery of narrative structure etc. (insert narrative structure here.....)
  • Trailer Park Refugee | just three shots of tequila away from a bar fight….
    Just three shots of tequila away from a bar fight...
  • Exile on Pain Street | Straddling the Hudson River. One foot in NYC, the other in suburban New Jersey.
    One man's story, etc.....
  • Fat Man on a Keyboard
    'At first they came for the smokers but I did not speak out as I did not smoke. Then they came for the binge drinkers but I said nothing as I did not binge. Now they have an obesity strategy...'
  • New York Bike Blog
  • Belgian Waffle
    Prolific? Bien sur. Waffle? Not a bit of it. The best thing to come out of Belgium since Leffe Blonde, and that is saying something.
  • Non-working monkey
    'Why taking work seriously turns you into a cock', among other lifesavingly important career advice.
  • Razorblade of life
    'Not so much cutting-edge as half-cut and still sliding'...
  • blue cat
    This blue cat fellow (he writes for the telly you know) issues forth an apparently effortless stream of grade-A funniness that has me overcome in turns by helpless laughter and shameful, powerful envy. There I've said it.
  • Joella
    Joella in Oxfordshire. Working for The Man while training to be a plumber (I think!). Loves gherkins, hates aubergines... and Fascists.
  • Bushra
    Bushra's blog/ homepage/ call it what you want
  • Dubsteps (formerly Hobo Tread)
    Thoughts of Skif, a Havant and Waterlooville fan exiled in Liverpool- possibly the most engaging non-league football writing to be found on the web- and with a little bit of politics, and plenty more beside!
  • Tired Dad
    The Man Who Very Nearly Fell Asleep
  • troubled diva.
    Mike, the self-styled 'Fairy Godmother of British Blogging'. He got us all published in a book, you know...
  • Private Secret Diary
    Dispatches from deepest Norfolk. Not that private and not that secret. Just consistently hilarious.
  • The man who fell asleep; Sadness and ecstasy in unequal measures
    The book inspired by this veteran site (A Year in the life of The Man Who Fell Asleep) features the 'sarcastic polar bears of north London' among other oddities that the author manages somehow to render absolutely plausible.
  • Pete Ashton's Internet Presence
    Birmingham's finest. Writing with enviable clarity on every subject under the sun since 2000 (a very long time indeed!). Now with added nice pictures of canals and stuff...
  • Looby
    'An awkward, clumsy fellow; a lubber; a novice'....a venerated (if refreshingly irreverent) blogging institution. Lancaster's very finest!
  • RichardHerring.com
    The comedian Richard Herring's kind of online diary thing. Always worth a visit.

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« Wolverhampton- part 3 (of four, as it turns out.) | Main | Home Alone »

June 15, 2006



I don't know how much to say here, because I don't want to piss you off.

But when I read your letter to Anthony, it screamed "Two Self-Absorbed Men!" to me.

Your letter was so self-righteous, so black and white. It painted Anthony, your friend, the man you had been so close to for so long, as this evil terrible human being. You were accusing him of all this selfish behaviour, but it seemed to me that all your problems were based on viewing things from your own selfish perspective and not making much effort to consider his point of view. You had convinced yourself that he had transformed into a horrible selfish person, and everything you said and thought came from that viewpoint.

But people who behave badly in the ways you described normally do it from a position of defensiveness. They are rarely horrible people. That kind of apparent arrogance rarely stems from a feeling of superiority - it is normally a result of insecurity.

And people are rarely Wholly Good or Wholly Bad. When they appear to be behaving that badly, the assessment is as much about the self-absorbedness of the apparent victim as it is about the bad behaviour of the perpetrator.

I wasn't surprised at the content of Sonia's letter. I wondered if something like this was coming.

Yes, she's probably over-compensating. He probably did behave in genuinely bad ways. But he probably also was genuinely concerned about his wife, and doing his best to make things better for her. He did a bad job of it, but maybe that's because he was so focused on her that he didn't notice the effect on you.

As a result of this weekend and the subsequent exchange of letters, maybe you both took up angry defensive postures and convinced yourself the other was the villain. This is how wars are waged.

It's horribly easy to misinterpret other people's behaviour and intentions, and then get so bogged down in self-righteous anger that you never get to the root of it.

Sorry. Please don't write me a poison pen letter!


P.S. That should have read "Two Self-Absorbed People!" not specifically men. Women do this too. I do it. I have done it. Many times.

And just because I really should be getting on with my novel and this is a great distraction, I'll stick a couple more oars in.

When we meet up with friends from a happy part of our past when our lives were different, we are often disappointed. This is because we want to relive old times. We want things to be just like they once were. But they rarely are, because circumstances change. People change. Priorities change. He wasn't focused on you in the way he once would have been. He was focused on Sonia instead. He wasn't carefree and fun-loving like he once was. You didn't relive the old days.

It's happened to me, and I've seen it happen to tons of other people too. When things aren't like you hoped they would be, you blame each other. Instead of accepting the situation as the culprit.

And finally... when we feel like people are judging us, it's just as likely to be purely about our paranoia and insecurity, rather than being actively true. You say your relationship had always contained a component of Anthony taking the piss out of you for being a bit inept. In the past you had accepted it, but now here you were, on the dole, worried, insecure, and maybe, just maybe... a little jealous of Anthony's success? You therefore converted the comments he had always felt comfortably able to make (and let's face it, many friendships are based on an ability to happily rip the piss out of each other and say things that may sound vruel to an innocent bystander) into arrogant judgements against you.

You took your own feeling that Anthony had done better than you, and turned it into his opinion that he was the superior being.


Oh God, I've seriously pissed you off now, haven't I?

's OK, I'm a bleeding-heart liberal. Always have been.


No Clare, you haven't pissed me off. I shouldn't have written all this down if I wasn't prepared to accept criticism. And your views are ones that I respect.

I think you've got a point. It's funny, I have spent 10 years holding this pretty unequivocal view that I Was Right About The Whole Anthony Thing, and re-reading my own letter didn't do much to change that view (in fact I was perhaps too easily convinced once again by the eloquency of my own arguments). Re-reading Sonia's response last night (I hadn't done so while writing the first three instalments) gave me much more of a shock. I had forgotten how forceful her defence of Anthony was- all I really remembered was how she just wanted to shoulder the blame for everything. Looking back, I am surprised at how readily I dismissed her arguments- and the context she offered for Anthony's behaviour- at the time.

I think you have guessed correctly in your readings about my own insecurities at that time, as well. The only part of my own letter that made me wince on re-reading was the PS, all about how I had 'recently taken up a positon as a secondary school teacher' and so on. The fact is I was as miserable as hell and completely out of my depth in that job- and I certainly felt inferior to Anthony, who I had always compared myself to, and who now seemed to be moving ahead so efffortlessly in his personal and professional life.

So- self-obsessed, defensive- guilty as charged, really. In mitigation let me just say it was all ten years ago- something else that comes across in my letter is that I clearly believed myself to be a fully-fledged grown-up back then. Now I think at 26 I still had a fair bit to learn. I would hope that I wouldn't react that way again, and would try, like you say, to take a wider view. The friends I still have (many of whom may be reading) do not have to fear the wrath of my pen should they ever neglect to get their rounds in...

Damn this is all tricky as hell though isn't it? I think next week I will be back to writing about bus-rides and Greggs pasties...

Martin Q


I am appreciating this change of direction in your blog - temporary or permanent, it's up to you, but it's certainly good reading. I keep wanting to say "enjoy" but it's not that - there's more depth than that. Thank you for opening up to us, anyway.

I couldn't help thinking agreeing with your initial reaction to Sonia's letter but a moment's reflection reminds me I've read the first three instalments from your own (non-neutral) perspective. I am sure wisdom from Clare and no doubt some others will help you process it - as I am sure this will not be the end of the story, for you at least, even though the quadrogy (?? trilogy of four) is complete.

I am not sure I have much wisdom of my own to offer, except to say that there is one phrase in this post which I do not agree with:

But it's too late to write now

Go figure.

PS Consider putting your real name onto this blog - we can all work it out easily anyway, and it might enable Anthony to find you, and hopefully read your final paragraph in full.


Ooh, I'm glad I didn't offend you. And yes, I also spotted the impetuosity / self-absorbedness of youth in all of this. I think most people get better at perspective as they grow older.

Maybe Martin is right, and it isn't too late?

Then again, whenever I've tried to patch up this kind of break many years after it occurred, I've found it dissatisfying. Neither of you can entirely remember what happened in the first place, and both of you tend to have moved on so far that there isn't enough common ground left to sustain any kind of meaningful reconciliation. Instead, I've found that everything just feels a bit pale and old and pointless. The hot feelings have subsided and what is left is a kind of shrug, as you realise you'd prefer to just get on with your life. But it is nice to give and receive apologies, if only to lay ghosts to rest.


I had forgotten how weighty part four was, and why it had gathered dust in the attic.

While weighing all the other comments, one thing that stands out for me is that the circumstances of the final visit amplified the fundamental tension in the relationship between you and Anthony -- a tension that had been more easily ignored in the studenty, floppy-haired hustle and bustle of previous years.

This was that Anthony had always (at least, ever since I first met him), behaved patronisingly towards you, and that your relationship relied upon your taking a submissive role that bolstered his rather shaky ego. On the one hand, you were possibly feeling insecure at the time of the Liverpool incidents, but on the other hand I think you had perhaps become more confident about yourself, and that this letter-writing was a final rebellion against what was essentially a friendship that was founded intolerable levels of bullying and condescension.

Sonia's letter was noble and contained many truths, but I think there was a deeper level of dysfunction in the relationship between you and Anthony that even she couldn't address. (I also recall the severity with which Anthony banned us from speaking Spanish in Sonia's presence -- something that we all knew would have made her feel more included.)

I look forward to writing a comment about cheese pasties next time!


...or I could be completely wrong!

(she says, vacillating wildly in the face of independent verification)

It's always possible that he was an arrogant tosser who had his wife well and truly fooled into believing he always had her best interests at heart, whereas far from helping her with her alienation in a foreign country, he was compounding the problem by insisting on always speaking English and not allowing her to feel more comfortable by speaking her own language.

(a well known tool of imperialist oppression is to refuse to allow people to speak their own language - tried and tested means of making people feel inferior)

Then again, maybe Anthony did indeed do all of this stuff but had no idea how detrimental it all was and genuinely believed he had everyone's best interests at heart... or like all bullies was himself fundamentally insecure and dealt with that by making other people feel shit...

That's the problem with always looking at every conceivable point of view. You end up precisely nowhere.

Sorry. I'm about as much use as a chocolate teapot. The truth will be somewhere in the middle. It always is. My guess is that he was a bit insecure, a bit arrogant, not a total bastard but hardly an angel either, and the relationship had run its natural course and was never likely to have survived outside university.

Have you ever noticed how, in an artificial environment like uni, relationships can thrive between all sorts of unlikely people, but when they're coughed back out into the real world again at the other end, reality comes down like a big cold bucket of water and drenches all but the most genuine of partnerships, washing the rest away?


Hi Clare! I have always admired E.M. Forster because of his ability to inhabit all points of view simultaneously and to present the complexities of good and bad in all his characters -- I think that this discussion is an excellent exercise for the novelist, so you're not really procrastinating at all!


Ha! Spoken like a true procrastinator. ;o)

But of course you're right; it's an essential skill for novelists, and funnily enough I spent some of the day today doing just that: working out the perspective for a bunch of conflicting characters, each of whom thinks the others are at fault.


I would like to make some perceptive and even-handed comment about this but it's Japan v Croatia in five minutes.


When I read the reply from Sonia I felt a sense of shock that I'd taken your side instinctively, without hearing the other party's point of view, brought on by no other angle than feeling pre-disposed towards you because I like your blog and feel like we'd get on if we met. Which isn't that good really - I mean, you could be total twat for all I know :)

But then, after a while, and having read everything (including the comments by interesting Clare), it's still not right.

It's all very well to make allowances for people, as Sonia is doing in a brave show of submission to a man, but why was she prevented from speaking Spanish? I gather you, Antony and Sonia all speak it, so why did he prevent you all from doing so? The lack of Spanish in the weekend seems to be the main thing that could have made the weekend better for Sonia, but (like only a woman would) deflects the blame for this away from Anthony.

I agree with all Clare's points about someone often appearing a twat only because he's failing to live up to the highest standards - everyone does that on a daily basis. But if I was being a twat I'd much rather be told about it than being understood and tolerated. And when you're over on a weekend with your best mate, surely you just make an effort to behave in socailly-acceptable ways, rather than to expect people to divine by telepathy the reasons why we appear to be acting like a knobhead.

The whole tenor of Sonia's well-meaning letter is that there's a hierarchy of people who matter. She puts herself last, and tries to subsume her own suffering (which was terrible, and for which I had the utmost sympathy) in the interests of smoothing relations over. Life can't work like that - you need to have a bit of an argy-bargy every now and again. And Spanish girls need to be more feminist, and stand up for themselves.

Anyway, all that aside - fascinating post Jonathan, and this is what blogging's all about. Strangers poking themselves in on your personal life :)


'You need to have a bit of argy-bargy every now and again'. Quite right Looby- I couldn't have put it better myself. In fact I wonder whether I couldn't have saved myself a lot of time and emotional energy by just writing that one sentence, instead of a 5000-word opus...

Seriously though thank you for your comment, which I think is typically perceptive (and certainly more so than if you had tried to dash it off during the opening exchanges of Japan versus Croatia...)


Oh, my post disappeared!

It was only short. It just said "Wot Looby said".

He's got his head screwed on, that one...

(Vacillator? Me?)


No, Jonathan, it was the detail that was interesting, not the lesson you learned from it. And Clare - it's always interesting hearing someone type out loud. I like the way you let yourself change your mind in public. I think it;s one thing men aren't very good at - we prefer to make grand pronouncements of Truth, when in fact, we;re just as self-doubting as you.

*And* we've just won 1-0, another result I predicted!

John S

Sounds to me like Anthony's a wanker, Sonia's missed the point by a wide margin, and you did him a rare favor by your honesty. But then, I predicted Ghana would beat Brazil and I had Costa Rica into the quarterfinals, so there you go...


Well John S, I think that concise summary provides a most fitting conclusion to the Wolverhampton debate- unless of course Anthony himself turns up in the comment box (possibly accompanied by a team of smartly-dressed Spanish libel solicitors), which is a development I have not entirely ruled out.

Your World Cup predictions however leave a lot more to be desired. I can quite see why you are stuggling in your works sweepstake, as the only way the lamentable Costa Ricans could have reached the quarter finals would have been if FIFA had introduced a rule dissallowing all goals not scored by veteran bandy-legged strikers who used to play for Manchester City. And even FIFA aren't that ridiculous.

Clearly you need help- fortunately you can call on the a new service from these pages- the official Crinklybee World Cup form guide, which is today strongly commending the following picks for the semis:

1..the improving GERMANS to see off the flashy ARGENTINIANS, who have surely peaked too soon..

2..the dogged if uninspired ENGLISHMEN to squeeze past the suspension-hit PORTUGUESE, who were fortunate to see off a poor set of Dutchmen last time out...

3..the ultra-conservative UKRANIANS to prove no match for the ITALIANS who will remind the Balkan upstarts who wrote the book on the dark but strangely beautiful art of defensive football.

And finally, the reinvigorated FRENCH to turn the clocks back to 1998 and see off with surprising ease the over-hyped BRAZILIANS.

Cheques and postal orders, made payable to 'Crinklybee Badly-Flawed World Cup Betting Advice Services Ltd', to the usual correspondence address. All major sporting events covered. No personal callers except by prior appointment please.

John S

Clearly I should have solicited your World Cup advice at a much earlier date. (If I had managed to solicit it way in advance, say back in 1994, perhaps this entire unfortunate episode with Anthony could have been somehow avoided. And how's that for clinging desperately to the nominal topic?)

As it is, for the office pool I'm only allowed to pick teams I picked earlier who are still alive, which amounts to Germany (I swear I don't remember picking Germany, I'd have shunned them in honor of all those grandmother's houses in England), Portugal, and Italy. I realize Portugal is down a man or two and if they get any more yellow cards they won't have enough men to field a team in the next round if they squeeze through this one, but there's always the chance for that fairytale underdog performance where 6 bandy-legged Iberians manage miraculously to defeat an 11-strong squad of feisty Franco-Brazilians.

And that's just the sort of thinking that's put me where I am today.


This nearly made me cry.


Hiya Skipsey... aye, John S's world cup 'predictions' were enough to make anyone cry, unless we are talking about his bookmaker... oh, you mean the Wolverhampton story? Yes, our summertime four-part trilogy was quite a tear-jerker (I just read the last couple of paragraphs again and started to feel a bit, you know, emotional meself)... and it led to the most heated debate we have ever had in the Crinklybee comment box. A debate, it seems, that is destined never to end...

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