That Life II Commentary: Chapter 6

Moving on from the horrific political situation at the moment, where two men who pose in a golden lift call themselves of the people and anti-establishment, I’d like to return to this, for a bit of light entertainment.

It’s interesting that I come across this chapter at this time, because its title is kind of relevant to what’s unfolded. Chapter Six: Shocking Truths.

Ross lay on his bed, mulling things over.

God, that’s all I could do when I found out at as well.

OK, OK…I know I’m going on about it, but Trump supporters would have done if Clinton had won, so, fuck the double standards. I’ll try and keep the Trump jokes to a minimum, but no promises…

More than twice his mind landed on Amber.

Oh, of course it did…behold the wonders of teenage lust.

She’s bound to hate me thought, he thought, rolling over and sitting up. 

Why does everyone in this story think about crushes the same way I do…?

Oh, wait…

There was a knock at the door.
“Come in,” he called. Then, upon realising something, he added, “Depending on who you are.”

Yeah, you’ve got to be careful, it could be Donald Trump.


The door opened and his worst fears had been realised as Keith walked in. Ross stood up angrily. He was so angry, he didn’t even realise that Keith had a serious expression on his face.

Even Keith knows that a Trump victory is no laughing matter.

Alright, I’m sorry. But honestly, these jokes are just getting handed to me on a silver platter, it’s irresistible.

It transpires, actually, that Keith wants to make amends.

“Look, Ross. It can’t go on like this. I’ve been a prat and I know it. We just have to-”

What’s my obsession with cutting people off?

“We just have to fuck until we’re exhausted to the point of collapse…”
“We just have to finish our sentences at some point.”
“We just have to stop making Donald Trump jokes…”

We use humour to deal with traumatic experiences, that’s just the way humans are.

It’s interesting that we’re still nowhere near finding out what exactly Keith’s meant to be apologising for, although I still think there are rape undertones in the text.

Ross grabbed him by the front of his shirt and slammed him against his wall. He was glad now for them being almost the same age. He couldn’t walk away.

Oh God, is this retribution rape…?

“Oh come on, Ross,” Keith said. “Don’t do this. I’m your brother.”

Again, out of context, it sounds so…

Oh, and yeah, was that covered before? I don’t think it was, in which case…OMG ANOTHER REVELATION, WHAT CAN WE DO…?

After that particular bombshell’s dropped on us, Ross tells Keith to bugger off.

We then get a scene with the last two people you’d expect – Queenie and Carol, the local redheads, who never have any role outside of being various characters’ lust objects! And what, they’re getting character development now??

“Do you want this?”
Carol was holding up a photo in a frame that had a young man and a young woman on it, who had just married. Queenie was puzzled.
“Why? Don’t you want it?”
“Oh…all right then.”

Well, that got us nowhere…

Of course, the narration later reveals that the photo, wherever the hell it suddenly came from, is of Queenie and Carol’s parents, who apparently abandoned them…at some point…Queenie is naturally not too happy about this, but forgets about it as she’s getting ready for school.

She put it [the photograph] down on her bedside table and looked around for her school-tie.
Where did she leave it?

As any person who has grown up within the British school system knows, misplacing your tie is a serious offence. The faculty will look upon you in wide-eyed horror, weep for their lives and beat you soundly with left shoes and unripe bananas. To a teacher, the only crime more heinous than not wearing a tie is being Michael Gove.

So, Queenie decides to go and ask Carla, her and Carol’s twenty-year-old sister, who was briefly introduced in the last story as being some gum-chewing chav, if she’s seen it, which seems a very odd move. Isn’t Carol, her twin sister who shares her room going to be much more likely to find it…?

It transpires that her sister isn’t in her bedroom, which makes sense, given that without any parents she’s surely the primary care-giver and has to work…just reminds me how incredibly rude Carol was to her in the last story. Poor Carla…

Queenie was about to leave when something caught her eye. Another photograph, on her sister’s desk. She went over to it.

Why? That’s a little nosy, I’d say…and besides, why is a desk photograph of your sister’s so interesting to you all of a sudden…?

She recognised one of the people on it as her sister, about four years younger. And the other one was…
She gasped.
She knew that face. After all, it was on the news often enough. But her sister in the picture was holding hands with him.

I have to say, Kythner’s ability to have a connection with literally everyone ever is starting to get a little far-fetched. It’s almost like he’s an Uchiha.

Or maybe it’s an absolutely tiny world.

We cut to Amber, who’s finally back in school and continuing to read her Horowitz book.

The people around her were all discussing their plans for the weekend, but she didn’t care. She would just be glad to get out of the madhouse they called a school.

Why would she care about people discussing their weekend plans? That makes very little sense…

It’s interesting that this is still the first week of term. This story has moved a lot more slowly than the first, which has crossed weeks without incident. We’ve done just four days (evidently Monday was an inset day) in five whole chapters. That really is something. I obviously wanted closer attention to more detail this time round…

Whitney was sitting on her desk, bragging about something or other. Nobody except for Summer and Kurt were actually listening, so it didn’t really matter.

I dispute that with nearly every fibre of my being. I would love to hear what Whitney says to her admirers. It could be anything, from bragging about how many girls she’s seduced with her wild hair (Summer might not like that) to the fact that she alone amongst everyone in this school has no connection to Kythner whatsoever.

Unfortunately, Whitney doesn’t like being ignored. So, beckoning her cronies, she marched straight up to Amber’s desk.

Whitney, we will never ignore you. Just don’t stamp on Summer’s heart by flirting with Amber again. 😦

 “What are you reading?” Whitney asked, grabbing the book from her hands.

See, I don’t get Whitney’s intimidation tactics, if that’s what they’re meant to be. Sure, something like this would be irritating, but it’s not awful. Whitney would get an F in evil. Maybe she’s just trying to make more friends. Badly.

Trying to keep her temper, Amber replied coolly,
“Just an interesting book, too good for your primitive minds.” Summer snarled and made to punch her, but Whitney held her back.

By her bra strap, no doubt.

“What genre is this anyway?”
“Humour mainly.”

Isolated like this, this exchange has to rank among the politest and most civil conversations that take place in either story. Hell, Whitney doesn’t even want Summer to deck Amber for calling them stupid to their faces. She seems generally interested in Amber’s hobbies. I cannot even begin to fathom how I was supposed to portray Whitney as an aggressor here. It honestly looks more like Whitney is trying to get into Amber pants and Summer’s very upset by it.

The next sequence confuses me even more.

During morning interval, Whitney, Summer and Kurt had bullied a group of year sevens away from an isolated spot on the field to plot revenge on Amber and everyone else.

For what? Well, for being patronising dicks to them, probably…and Summer is not doubt more than eager to get involved in any potential love rivals. I wouldn’t worry, Summer – Amber’s more into her dead brother than anyone else.

“They’re all really arrogant,” said Whitney hypocritically. “We need to sort them out.”

Not that hypocritically, from where I’m standing…

It’s kind of endearing that these three are trying to deal with a growing list of protagonists. It’s a losing battle, my friends. They would have benefited better from having a Quirky Miniboss Squad, but apparently, that’s not the way things work. Even Whitney’s confused as to why Kurt’s with them.

“Why are you here again?”
“Oh, he fancies you,” said Summer in a very casual tone.
“Oh, that’s nothing new,” Whitney replied. “It’s impossible not to. Anyway…”

Summer’s casual tone is clearly forced. She’s not happy sharing the minion-light with someone else who adores her Whitney, and Whitney’s just reminded her how desired she is…keeping her on her toes.

Am I forcing this romance? Well, yes…but they’re in such a better light as a couple.

Whitney decides that the best way of ruining these people’s lives is to dig up any dark, foreboding secrets they have and exposing them to everyone. Not a bad idea, but such action is less likely to result in widespread humiliation as much as sympathy and martyrdom. Still, such secrets most people would prefer to keep under wraps, and it just so happens that Caleb (TSAM) is eavesdropping on the whole thing…somehow…look, I’m not going to try and work it out, it’s Caleb, even earthworms probably adore him. He’ll have used one of those.

“All right,” Caleb said to Amber, Ruth, Naomi, Toby, Jack, Ian, Queenie, Carol, Ryan and Ross.

The return of the Mighty Ridiculous Power Rangers!

Seriously, three versus eleven? Not much of a contest…

Caleb advises his crew to leave any incriminating evidence of anything untoward at home, which…seems logical, even without people intentionally trying to expose something about you. Doesn’t seem like it’ll work though, given that these characters’ pasts have a nasty habit of catching up with them.

Whitney, Summer and Kurt begin their campaign of trying to expose our ‘heroes,’ breeding a rather obvious hostility. Then we get this.

Worse than this, if possible, was the fact that Summer was head-over-heels for Ryan and was constantly stalking him.


No, I’m going to remain calm. Because anyone trying to convince me of a heterosexual Summer is fighting a losing battle. This is the first time this has been mentioned since the last story. You’d think if Summer really had an unbridled love for our resident UKIP supporter, she’d be a lot more dedicated to him than say, her actual true love.

Her stalking of Ryan is clearly pragmatic. First off, she’s trying to find information either about him, or his eternal rival Jack that he’d be happy to spill. Secondly, this is clearly another attempt to make Whitney jealous, considering Whitney’s been doing the same. They’re going through a rough patch.

Another sign that Summer’s infatuation with Ryan can’t possibly be genuine is the way she speaks to him. She’s trying far too hard, bless her.

“No, Summer!” Ryan said as she attempted to pin him down. “Find something better to do!”
“Like go to your bed and…”
“NO!!” Ryan screamed and fled.

See how obviously forced and stupid it is?

Anyway, we get a reintroduction of Meena, Kazuki and Cordella from the last story. After doing absolutely nothing they have returned, once again, to do nothing. Well, I say nothing…

“Just try to keep Whitney and her lackeys off our backs for the time being,” Caleb said to them. “We all have enough to worry about. Can you believe that every single teacher is suddenly obsessed with GCSEs?”

“Yeah, you guys do all the hard work in trying to stop these people, despite the fact that there are more us and we’ve all got plenty to deal with.”

Who are meant to be the selfish and arrogant ones again?

Also, being year 9s, I wouldn’t worry too much about GCSEs yet…

After school, Queenie decides to bring up what she discovered earlier with Carol. I would complain about her leaving it this long, but given the information gathering campaign Whitney’s set against them all, I can’t blame her. I have to wonder what role Whitney’s campaign has in this story, but never mind…

“I found out this morning why mum and dad left all of us.”
“Carla…dated Seb Kythner when she was at school.”

That’s a bit of a logical leap, isn’t it? Surely if you disapprove of the boy your daughter is seeing, you keep a closer eye on her, not fuck off to God knows where. Maybe they were just awful parents, but I think the more likely explanation is that Queenie’s jumping to conclusions…

Carla demands to know how Queenie knows about this…

“I found a photograph of the two of you,” Queenie replied.

Yeah, in hindsight, Carla could have done a better job of keeping it hidden, even if she didn’t want to just throw it out than say, keeping it on her desk in plain sight. She’s making Whitney’s job infinitely easier.

Carla tries to defend herself.

“I didn’t realise he was going to end up arrested for the murder of his mother. I just thought he was misunderstood…”
“Misunderstood?” Queenie almost laughed. “He smoked flipping crack almost every day and you didn’t even notice?”

Aaaaaaaaand we’re back to the drug demonization.

This is so bizarre – why is someone smoking crack considered to be the epitome of all evil?

Now, don’t get me wrong – I don’t think chain smoking of any kind is a good idea, and I think smoking crack can be pretty dangerous for your mind. But this story treats it like the cardinal, eternal sin of anyone’s values, and if anything, he sounded like an addict and a victim.

And how exactly does Queenie know he smoked crack even back then? She has no way of knowing. Jumping to non sequitur conclusions again. She’d make a good creationist.

Then we get a little something which does irritate me quite a bit. Carla continues to talk about her experiences.

“But, well, you know… after I slept with him I…”
“You did WHAT?!!?” Carol half screamed.

She’s already admitted to being in a relationship with him, why is the fact that it was a sexual relationship, a) So shocking, and b) So much more awful? Given that it was four years ago, it’s clear that Carla is not pregnant or suffering from any terrifying STD as a result of it, and so my only real answer is that this was, essentially, slut-shaming.

I’m not proud of it, like, at all, but I had weird perceptions when I was younger. The fact that this disturbs me now is a clear indicator of progress, and if nothing else, I want people to go away with the idea that change is not a bad anything. Progress has built the modern world and it’s our only hope to stamp out the vitriol that’s been dominating the Western world recently.

Anyway, Carol heads off to her bedroom to digest this particular revelation.

This was so overwhelming she almost screamed in misery.

Oh come on, it’s not that bad. It was a long time ago. And your parents are awful people if that’s they reason they left you. That’s just the way it is.

No doubt wanting some comfort, she calls up Jack to tell him about what has transpired. Jack is pretty shocked by this, and asks her to meet him tomorrow, doing this rather bizarre internal struggle with himself…

He was really angry with himself. Carol deserved a nice, handsome, understanding guy, and Jack knew he was none of these things (well, obviously he was a guy, but you know what I mean).

Yeah, not the best time for attempted to comedic whatever during what’s meant to be a very solemn moment. I would also ask him not to be so hard on himself, but this is the ‘ooh, redheads!’ guy, soooo…my sympathy is limited.

We then get a small scene with Amber who is celebrating the fact that school is over for the weekend. The way this is written betrays a character who’s obviously very introverted with just one close friend, which has already been established I’d say. It is, nevertheless, a personal reflection. As is the fact that she considers the friends she has made at Hyde Park Comprehensive, and when her mind settles on her brother lookalike, we get a parallel to what went through Ross’ mind before.

She sighed. Did she have a crush on him? Almost certainly, but he was obviously not interested in her.


I really needed to work on my techniques back then.

The next scene is one of the best. It’s a dream sequence, and unlike Amber’s plot-relevant dream, it’s just used for a bit of comic relief, as dreams tend to be…

How did I get here? Sean wondered.
He was sitting in a church and Toby and Naomi were at the front. Naomi was in a bride’s dress and Mr Mothman was leading the service.

Already that image is so wonderful.

“If any person has any objection as to why these two may not be wed, please don’t attack me with a briefcase, or else I might have a heart attack. At least I’ll still have more hair than the headmaster.”

Sean was annoyed. Why were they getting married? Surely they still had GCSEs to think about?

Well, they are only in year 9…nevertheless, I still love the fact that Sean’s the only person in this story with his priorities straight. Ironic, considering that in the first story he was one of the most demented.

This next bit might be the most fantastic line in either of these stories:

He marched up to the front of the church, and slapped Toby, who squealed like a pig and died.

Self-deprecating humour FTW!!!

He turned to Naomi, expecting her to be glad, but on the contrary, her hair was turning grey and her skin was wrinkled.

Look at your hair grow, isn’t it strange, how time makes your appearance change…?



I mean, if Sean was dreaming about that…woe betide him…

“Detention Sean!” Mr Mothman barked, and turned into Aiden who was holding and AK-47. There was a clatter of machine gun fire and…
Sean woke up.
“What the hell was that?” he asked himself aloud, sitting up in bed.

Well, let’s find out.

According to what might be the psychological interpretation of dreams (or might be some divination nonsense, I don’t know) dreaming of attending a wedding means you’re accepting or going through some sort of transition, which for Sean, kind of makes sense, given that he’s going to be doing his GCSEs soon. Yeah, he’s the one who should actually worry about it…

Anyway, Naomi comes into his room without knocking, and we get this.

“Although…” she eyed Sean’s hair apprehensively. “Your hair is worse than Toby’s!”

Again with the self-deprecation…is that all that happens to me? And given that we’re talking about bed head hear, that implies she’s been with me in bed. Make of that what you will…

Sean doesn’t pick up on it actually, which kind of annoys me. Wouldn’t it have been so great to have a teen pregnancy storyline in this? Imagine the narm! I mean…I know they’re like…13 and 14, but…so are their partners, so…eh…

So what is Naomi doing in his room?

“Hmm? Oh yeah. I was looking for my necklace. You know, the one Toby gave me for Christmas?”
Sean considered.
“Well, I think I may have seen it in mum and Quentin’s room.”
“OK, thanks.”

OK, why would her necklace (I want to know what it looks like now…) be in their room? Because it’s the only double bed in the house…? Things are looking immensely suspicious now…

And for that matter, why would she think Sean’s got it? She probably assumed he was testing it for anything untoward.

Sean then desires to know from Naomi why she’s managed to get a relationship and he hasn’t, and she just tells him to be patient, pointing out that he and Alexis are very close.

 “[…]I hardly see her without you!”

Well, I mean, to be fair as possible, that’s probably because the only times you see her are in association with Sean, given that you know her through him…just saying…

So Naomi heads towards her mother’s room, but Quentin tells her that it’s best to leave it, as their mother has a hangover. Naomi is upset by this once again, but as this particular story thread really doesn’t lead anywhere, cutting it would have led to no problems whatsoever.

Oh, and it turns out that the necklace was in the room after all. I’m calling it – we totally fucked in there.

Anyway, that’s the end of that chapter, and the next includes a fairly major plot development, and least as far as these stories go, so we can all laugh at that. Leave comments, I hope to see you next time, and be overwhelmingly wonderful to each other because life’s too short.



Lighting Candles in The Dark

I was originally going to post another That Life II analysis, but right now, this is more pressing. And here was me thinking there couldn’t be a national balls-up than Britain’s in June…

Against all conceivable reason, the racist, misogynistic, climate-change denying isolationist crackpot with no experience in politics is poised to become leader of the world’s only remaining superpower. Is that a horrifying prospect? Well, of course it is, and not just for the United States because it’s going to felt right across the world. And in this weird backwater year of 2016 where hatred seems to be rearing its ugly head again, we can’t afford to be complacent.

There have been many times, before a Trump presidency was even a conceivable possibility, where I have considered quite thoroughly whether there was no hope. The world had been so unbearably cruel and I didn’t think it was worth continuing in any sense. And yet I did. I can’t begin to explain how, and its not as though such feelings are not cyclical but they aren’t in perpetuity.

I bring this up, because, as a writer, the best way I find to express my emotions is articulating words around some kind of narrative, with the possibility that it may one day be heard and understood. And this is the candle in the dark that keeps people going – the hope that there is something more than the outrageous xenophobia we’ve seen in both Britain and the US in the past months. Technically yes, Trump will be the head of state. But don’t think for one minute that that means you have to respect him. No decent person should. This is an appeal to all decent people in America – make sure when he goes down, and he will, its with the least amount of collateral damage.

Hatred is cyclical, but it does not win. It didn’t win before with civil rights and LGBT rights and it won’t win this time, because there is nothing maintainable or rational about it – or indeed Trump’s campaign promises. He can’t make Mexico pay for a fucking great wall. I don’t quite know how people can’t see that.

I can’t pretend to know what lies ahead, but even if everything goes down, I’m glad to see there is righteous outrage across the world at a man like this taking a position of power. This is democracy in action and progression in action, what I always like to see. He won the election – don’t let him win the world.