The Real Housewives of Westminster.


I’ve not suffered grief, not as an adult. The last time someone really close to me died, it was 1979. It was the simple sadness of childhood and long forgotten by now.

A cancer diagnosis for a close relative (and not my own) probably is the closest I’ve come. That thing, when you wake up and wonder ‘yeah, why am I sad?’ and the thud when your brain reminds your heart. Apparently this happens because you can’t process it in one hit. Your mind ‘reconstructs’ the way things were before ‘the thing’ as you follow the usual pattern of your day – and then the thud. Yeah, here comes that thing again.

So it goes with Brexit.

Shocked, bemused, frustrated, livid, INCANDESCENT, frightened, swearing at my mum on Skype about all those other motherfuckers (sorry Mum), Over it, On top of it, laughing out loud on the train at the futility and receiving dagger eyes from the other camp, getting drunk (lotsa booze folks), Blubsy in the Corner, gigantic bags of crisps (it works), one eye on the Bloomberg channel ticker feed, one eye on the Guardian, one eye on the Kardashians (What a bad time to be all up to date with the Housewives of 3 major US cities? Big assed Kardashians are a poor substitute I know, but my GOD, Those People! And I’m slightly enamoured with the way they bleat like lambs when they laugh. It’s soothing. Kanye remains silent throughout. He’s a Remainer, God love him).

But not the Queen. God is not going to save the Queen – after her bloody dinner party Parlour Games, giving the Bingo set young and old their coded message: Give me 3 good reasons to stay in the European Union. [Give me 3 good reasons to keep the Monarchy, M’am] She may as well have sent a guilty-edged note on vellum, rolled into cigarillo formation and tucked into the collar of a Corgi to every doggone household ‘up and down the country’ (I hate that cliché, I rue the day it was coined) with the words. VOTE LEAVE. Way to go QEII.

“But Grandmama, you’ve lost half of the realm. It was our future. Now what?”

“They were rude.  I never liked them.”

“That was the Chinese Ambassador.”

“Where am I?” *carks it*

They really are just like the rest of us after all. Whodathunkit?

Pop-up government. Eton Rifles at Dawn. Collapso Politico. They nearly ruined Wimbledon, FFS. Nearly.

This cluster fuck did not happen in isolation nor in a vacuum. WWLRS? (What Would Lisa Rinna Say?) Own it. OWN. IT.own your shit

Then for the love of Mike, Fix It.



Mother Nurture: Whatsa matter you … D&G?

If anything, this latest BOO HOO of some super-duper celebrities highlights just how damaging the speed of the internet can be.

There is a very interesting book out on that very subject: “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed” by Jon Ronson. More of that later ….

vogue italiaIf the contentious ideals of la famiglia normale espoused by D&G had been written up in a 1970s Vogue article – then the comments would have been read by Sirelton and David on the patio with breakfast and tut-tutted in private, the Vogue possibly ending up in the bin and retrieved, and binned and retrieved and binned and ….(projecting my own approach there). So what’s all the fuss about?

dehumanisationActually, D&G have managed to insult every child conceived by IVF by labelling them “synthetic” – a more dehumanising term I cannot think of. Dehumanisation is a slippery slope, as we all know #Harmondsworth #Woomera .

Here’s a secret admission: I used to think IVF was tampering with Mother Nature too. Yes, I did know it was a lot of people’s only hope to conceive but still, I thought, can’t those people just adopt a child in need?

I guess, I didn’t know anything about a) parenting (I mean, what’s so great about having kids?) or b) how bloody difficult it is to actually get the chance to even adopt a child. I did have the good sense to keep those opinions to myself – and not rush to the nearest loud haler (a device used to blow your own horn before email! I’m a survivor of ye olde days).

Not so, one of my lecturers at university. She stated right out of the blue in the middle of a tutorial:

“I think IVF is immoral.”

I was stunned,  as she was the original Earth Mother figure. I never did get to the bottom of this outburst but I think it had something to do with gender-selection when promoting a viable embryo. If so, there is a point to be made there too. But then, I’m pro-choice when it comes to abortion – so I think those two arguments cancel each other out?


Now that I have children, I get it. Smarter people than me got it before having children – or at least those with an urge to nurture. David & Sirelton obvie have a very strong urge to nurture and so went down the IVF route (twice) like so many others before them. Why not them?

elton david familyAccording to D&G, it’s because science is involved in the creation of life and because mother nature made David & Sirelton gay – so they’re not actually supposed to have a family because they won’t be able to be proper parents (and if they do, then it’s not a “real” family anyway). Che cretinata!!

Having utilised science to save my own life (chemo / radiotherapy etc) – it would then be a gross hypocrisy for me to deny science to others to bring life about. I mean, Cancer is nature’s way to thin out the population (some would argue) why fight it? Hmmm …..

popeMamma Mia! Aren’t D&G just a product of their own environment?: heavily catholic* older generation Italy, with a traditional view on family.   *Not all catholics agree with D&G and I’m not slating that religion (Mum, I’m looking at you), but I’m fairly sure the Pope agrees with D&G on this one matter, so there’s that.

In their rather ‘more of the same / shame’ follow up comment – supposedly to counter the slapped gauntlet of Sirelton on the call to ban D&G goods (not on my shopping list to begin with Sirelton but I feel your passion on the subject), D&G helpfully clarified further:

You don’t go to to the greengrocer for his views on IVF. You go because his produce is the freshest” Dolce and/or Gabbana

or words to that effect. My italian is rusty.

rusty italian

Gather ’round D&G, let’s settle down with one of Ye Olde Vortex’s tales from the Maelstrom: Once upon a time in suburban Surrey, England, I overhead the little cafe owner comment that the lady sitting outside his coffee-joint must have been “a jew” as she was rolling her own cigarettes. Needless to say, and in spite of the fact that he was the only person to serve molto bene Illy coffee in a 10 mile radius, I gave his cafe a wide berth in eterno – and I let friends know about it too.  So Dolce (or Gabbana) I do go to my greengrocer for her views on IVF. I think most of us do?

Si or no?

GOOD NEWS: JC’s HRT-joke is ‘taxing’ and a fallen Madonna bounces back.

I find him ... taxing
I find the little man … taxing

First Up: Jimmy Carr’s joke about Madonna’s stash of drugs (erm, HRT) wasn’t all that. He should find himself encircled by a hot-flash-mob of HRT-deprived ladies one day and crisp up in the face of Mons Fecking Vesuvius.

I just find the little man ….taxing ….these days. (boom tish but probably a boom tish for UK residents only: JC was embroiled in a tax avoidance scandal a few years ago. When Cameron thinks something is morally wrong, you know you’ve gone too far)

And so, to the fallen Madonna;

or as she’s known in the Vortex: La Madonna Caduti

Fallen Madonna
“La Madonna Caduti” (Fallen Madonna). Cape on Stair, circa 2015

Last night, I had every intention of getting off the Twitter at a reasonable hour when a little birdy told me that Madonna had just fallen from the stage at the Brit Awards! And … I was still in time to catch it on ITV+1.

Happy Days! I was preparing myself for a car crash of epic proportions and had to sit through a few more awards / performances/ant+dec unfunny ‘bits’ to get to the moment of interest.

Then it happened.

“Oh Sh*t!” I shouted at the telly.

It was really awful to see and I’m surprised ITV+1 aired it, to be honest. Surely Madonna’s “people” would do some fancy footwork of their own to ensure that bit would be edited out of the delayed coverage? Madge, you need some new “people” on the books.

At the start of the performance, Madonna stood atop 5 largish steps, her ginormous cape about to be whipped away from her neck by dancers in the dark. However …. the cape was fastened far too tightly and yanked Madonna instead – occasioning her to fly backwards over all the steps, landing on her ass – legs akimbo.

Kinda looked like she did a bit of a jump in there to aid some ‘bounce’ at the bottom? Imma running with that. (I’mma on the Imma bandwagon of late because I’ve only just worked out what Imma means and Imma use it all the time now). [Hard learning a new dialect? Innit?  Imma get the hang of it real soon – Ed.]

Apart from the booming backing track there was silence in the 02 Arena (quite the dichotomy, no?). The dancers look confused (and not a little terrified). When Madonna rose, I sensed the sheerest of rages sweep over her face and she looked F*CKIN FURIOUS! She brushed back her hair and carried on. With lyrics such as: “If I should fall” etc, I didn’t know where to look! My hand was still covering my mouth for the rest of her performance (Just in case, you never know).

You know what else? I felt nothing but pride for the lady. What a monumental joke gravity played on you love – so undignified – and yet you went ON WITH THE SHOW like an OLD PRO. It’s going down in history (pardon the pun) as one of showbiz’s best recoveries. The audience went wild at the end and I’m guessing she got heaped with praise backstage for making a silk purse outta that sow’s ear. I had a cursory look around The Face Book (I joined today in a personal capacity, hate it already – you’ll only find the Vortex on Google+) and yes of course people are making crude jokes about a hellish stuff up and worse; making fun of HER for falling.

People, no. I think the take-home message is one of triumph and I am going to renew my Madonna Fan Club status TOOT-EFFING-SWEET.

What did you make of it?

Hi, my name is Vortex and I can’t commit to a book.

2dirty white boy

Here’s the thing.

I am the world’s s.l.o.w.e.s.t. reader. It’s not that I can’t speed read or nuffink, it just takes me forever to commit to a book. Huh?

Well, let’s take Hilary Mantel’s “Wolf Hall” for example: Received for my 40th, just after it won The Man Booker Prize, I started it in good faith … and managed to finish it in my 45th year – when the sequel “Bringing up the Bodies” won its Booker. It takes me as long to read ’em as it does for her to write ’em.

Damn book (but exceptionally fine book, mind you) lay on the floor beside my bed for FIVE YEARS; Dusty jackets are not restricted to my wardrobe.  Oh I’m hearing you: What kind of wrong-headed biblio-refusenik ARE you? Oh, just your ordinary every-day kind of …

I digress. Back to the thing.

When I go ’round people’s houses I see they have all the books they have ever read and enjoyed, proudly co-habiting various rooms.  All of Them Achievers (it’s a conspiracy no? Straight out of Rosemary’s Baby)

all of them witches

What do I have?

I have all the books I’m gonna read, sitting up there like soldiers; proud and neatly colour-coded (The Decorologist made me do that). One giant bloody TO DO. Well, 2015 is the year that I’m going to tackle that TO DO and send all those books to the Loft where they belong (after I’ve read them, that’s my point).

Yes – this idea is stolen from another blogger whose name escapes me (tee hee), but I’m sure they suggested others climb aboard the book wagon and start throwing books around; I shall now be accountable and knuckle down and finish those goddamn books once and for all.

Oh sure, I’ve got plenty of time for TV – it’s the books that have me in a cold sweat. I keep buying them; second hand booksellers, charity shops, even full-whack up the mighty Amazon. A little non-book reading yet still buying habit. Don’t even talk to me about Kindle – it CHEAPENS the word!

Recently, I signed up to because I want a list (lists! LISTS! Everyone loves a list) so I can gaze upon my achievements and feel, well, “Listical” (totally ‘nicked’ that from Helen ‘Razer’ when I was researching the Taylor Swift / Triple J Hottest 100 debacle. Of which, I throw my hands up in despair. They’ve Changed.).

So here they are, all the books I’ve NEVER (and only partially) read. No particular order and my apologies if you spot last year’s birthday present in this list. It’s not that I didn’t like it, it’s just that …. I watched many hours of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills / Atlanta / New York / Vancouver / Melbourne instead. Beverly Hills wins hands down.)

US David Nicholls1.“Us” – David Nicholls Given to me by my friend’s mum who can inhale a book in one sitting; she swore I’d love it. I’m 20 pages in, I’m swearing I do love it – I just can’t commit. Forgive me Margie, I have sinned. It’s been 4 weeks since I’ve looked at it.

lena dunham not that kind

2. “Not That Kind of Girl” – Lena Dunham. Big fan of “Girls”, I gave this to my friend Sza but she already had it, saying: “you read it and we’ll discuss it” ….. feeling clammy ……can’t quite commit to it yet, BIG undertaking ….expectations of ruminations …..

zoe heller the believers3. “The Believers” – Zoe Heller. My sister popped this in my suitcase when I left her a few months ago. “You’ll really enjoy this.” Heller wrote “Notes on a Scandal” which was GENIUS. No reason to fear this? Or so I thought …..

gillian flynn gone girl

4. “Gone Girl” – Gillian Flynn. Oh god – every person and their pet has read this and I’m in a constant state of SPOILER ALERT! It’s exhausting  …. So tempting just to watch the movie on Netflix and lie to myself. Can’t be that much better on the page, surely?

pg wodehouse sam the sudden5. “Sam the Sudden” – P.G. Wodehouse. Not only am I a pretend-reader, I also harbour pretensions of writing (ahem) and my genre of choice is a detective / mystery / comedy – of which, I have absolutely no inkling. I saw this little old book for 50p outside the newsagent and snapped it up for research. Then I filed it.

robert sackville disinherited6. “The Disinherited: A story of Family, Love and Betrayal” – Robert Sackville-West.” Here we have a 2014 Christmas present from my Aunt, unread. I did manage to read his other: “Portrait of a Marriage” –  and gave it *two thumbs up*. I’ve even made the pilgrimage to Sissinghurst for crying out loud. I’m keeping up with the Sackville-Wests (or I’ll die tryin’….)

hornby a long way down7. “A Long Way Down” – Nick Hornby. Cannot recall ever reading a Hornby (always saw the movies first and then didn’t bother with the books). This is the only Hornby novel on my shelf, therefore it must bravely speak for the others. And yet ….

speaking with the angel8. “Speaking with the Angel” a compilation of 12 stories by Nick Hornby, Robert Harris, Melissa Bank, Giles Smith, Patrick Marbeor, Colin Firth (Golly, when did that happen?), Zadie Smith, Dave Eggers, Roddy Doyle, Helen Fielding, Irvine Welsh and John O’Farrell. I note from the bottom of the book that £1 for every copy sold was donated to the Treehouse Trust of autistic children. At least I contributed something there (unless this too is second hand …? )

virginia woolf mrs dalloway9. “Mrs Dalloway” – Virginia Woolf. This was given away free with a daily tabloid, of all things! Amusingly, Tesco didn’t force me to take the tabloid – just gave me the book! Goodie, I loved “The Hours”……Shelved.

joe keenan putting on the ritz10. “Putting on the Ritz” – Joe Keenan. OMG!! The palaver surrounding this book and I still haven’t read it! My friend Truuude gave me “My Blue Heaven” (hysterical, YOU should read it!) and this. Not unlike a scene in the book itself, Truuuude’s husband took back “Ritz”, to read because I still hadn’t. Shortly after, said husband went and lost it / filed it in the forever file. They were both guilted into buying me a replacement copy after a few “don’t you have it? / I thought you had it? / Can you look for it please?” conversations. Et Voila! Back on my shelf of the unread.

2dirty white boy11. “Dirty White Boy: Tales of Soho” Clayton Littlewood. I have no idea whose book this is, or where it came from. On the cover: Hot Pink, coupla gay blokes in angel wings, man in a bowler hat giving me the two finger salute, and a horny hooker in her doorway. Sensational! Right up my street! Looks like it’s never been opened, even by its original owner  …. and probably for the best?

thackeray vanity fair12. “Vanity Fair” – William Makepeace Thackeray – Holy Hell … Biig book with tiiny writing. I started this about 2-3 years ago, and am one or two chapters in (will need re-starting at this point). Problem was, I read it right off the back of Pride and Prejudice. P’n’P was a pot boiler, this? … not so much. It needs a space, in time, of its own when I can find a quiet corner and sit down to read.  Unlikely at best, and just quietly:  NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN.

proulx shipping news13. “The Shipping News” – Annie Proulx. I found this about a year ago, trolling my local charity shop. I knew her name from somewhere – just couldn’t put my finger on’t. Took it on a hunch anyway. Later that day, on the googler, Bingo! She wrote “Brokeback Mountain”!  It’s a really oddly written book – all jagged edges and prickly, much like the characters. I was starting to find its rhythm when, for reasons unbeknownst to me, I fired up dusty ol’ “Wolf Hall” (after its 5 year hiatus). Annie … wait!… I don’t know how to quit you …

belinda alexandra white gardenia14. “White Gardenia” – Belinda Alexandra. Mum left this with me after one of her visits. “Just finished this, you should read it” Yeah, you should write “You Should Read It” on my Tombstone!

meyer twilight15. “Twilight” – Stephanie Meyer. *tired sigh* No, you didn’t misread that. Me, the biggest Vampire-genre-sucker walking around in shoe-leather has never read “Twilight”. I have read all the others in the franchise , never the first. Here’s another defect:  I start in the middle of series, to see if it’s any good. I saw the movie first – then saw no point pursuing the book; until it appeared in a discount store. I may be right this time; Leave the undead, unread. Save my poor eyeballs for Thackeray, ditch Meyer. That’s the kind of advice I need people!

mcewan solar

16. “Solar” – Ian McEwan. This man’s writing is an education. I’m not often in the mood to be schooled. I’ll take it as read (if only), this one is excellent. Plenty of other McEwans I haven’t tackled yet; no wonder they’re looking worried (boom-tish).

eggars you shall know17. “You Shall Know Our Velocity” – Dave Eggers. My lovely friend Huggeeee Bear gave me this when I had my first child. I guess he & I both thought I’d have lots of time to read; seeing as though I wasn’t at “work”. Indeed. Unread.

winton breath18. “Breath” – Tim Winton. Mum again. “You haven’t read any Tim Winton? None? Take it! Take it! I’ve had this one for about 8 years. I did start about 10 pages, it’s written in a most peculiar style which is kind of reported with no quotes. Yes, I should probably read one of his books – but is this the one?

niven straight19. “Straight White Male” – John Niven. Oh Boy. This writer is the original revolting magnet. Husband of Truuuuude gave me “Kill Your Friends” to read (signed by the author – so trusting!). It was all a bit Dick Emery (Oh you ARE awful, but I DO like you!) And I did like it. Not that I’ll admit it in polite company. “Oh, you should read his other book then” and I was duly loaned SWM. I know it’ll be a rip-roarer, just need to light it up and see …..

Mengestu children of the revolution20. “Children of the Revolution” – Dinaw Mengestu. I know nothing of the origin of this book (probably Mum? Right?) except that it has a sticker on it: “Winner of the Guardian First Book Award”. How many has he written now? Lemme check: That would be 5. He’s written 5 books, I’ve read … not many.

atkinson one good turn21. “One Good Turn” – Kate Atkinson. Another “you must read this” book pressed upon my person. The name sounds like chick-lit, the cover looks like a mystery. Smells familiar. A quick flick through the early pages tells me, yes, I’ve started this one too. It didn’t grab me then, not sure it ever will?

polly bad bride22. “A Bad Bride’s Tale” – Polly Williams. Most definitely chick-lit. I hate chick-lit except for …. who am I kidding? This one will float to the top as an “ice breaker” and a “ball roller”.

rushdie midnights children23.“Midnight’s Children” – Salman Rushdie. I bought this because I was on a “must read every Booker Prize winner” jag. This was always touted as “The Booker’s Booker”. When I commuted by train for 3 hours a day I could afford to have such highfalutin dreams. The sad reality, I suspect, was that I was never brave enough to openly read Rushdie on the London Underground. I would have needed to cover it in a brown paper bag, like a wino. A job too far.

bernhard schlink the readerhomecoming schlink24 & 25. “The Reader” & “Homecoming” – Bernhard Schlink. I really loved the film “The Reader” so I think I pinched the second book from my parent’s home in order to complete my set of non-read books.

26. “Angela’s angelas ashes frank mccourtAshes: A memoir of Childhood” – Frank McCourt. Mum. Again. “I’m going to give you this now because you REALLY should read this one.” I’ve not quite recovered from the nuns at Primary School so it’s going to be a while before I delve back into that world. It has been with me for about 10 years – so maybe the time is nigh?

barrett crime scene cessnock27. “Crime Scene Cessnock” – Robert G Barrett. Another book given to me when I had a new baby. Pregnancy might have been a better window (and I ain’t doing that again!)

austen persuasion28: “Persuasion” – Jane Austen. Emboldened by my assertive stance with “Pride and Prejudice”, I bought a gnarly old copy of this book at a book fair and told myself I’d read ‘An Austen each year until read‘ …Ah yep.

rupert everett red carpets29: “Red Carpets and other Banana Skins” – Rupert Everett. Truuuude again. Believe it or not, this is actually quite the riveting read. I let it get away from me and then other books queue-jumped.  Elbowing poor little Rupert off his own Red Carpet! I was enjoying it – 4 years ago.

I'm not arguing!
I’m not arguing!

30. “Undisputed Truth: My Autobiography” – Mike Tyson. I was loving the whole “new” Mike Tyson brand. The doco and the book. I must be about 120 pages into this with 440 to go. Ay Ay Ay! It didn’t stop me giving all of the male members of my family a copy this Christmas. I should finish this before they do – because that would be wrong in the eyes of the Lord (and probably Mike’s). I have to cover those eyes when I go to bed, they freak ‘im indoors out!

litt exhibitionism31. “Exhibitionism” – Toby Litt. Toby Litt wrote one of my all time top 5 books: “Finding Myself” so of course, when I saw this on a friend’s bookshelf in 2007, I took it. (I did tell him about it later). Stop/Start, Stop/Start, Stop/Start. I don’t remember anything about it and will have to start it again if it’s to make any sense at all.

So there we have it: 31 Books NOT burning a hole on my bookshelf.

If you’ve gotten this far then here is your PRiZE!

You get to shout numbers at me like it’s Saturday Night Bingo to see which book I start AND FINISH. I may even give you a review, if at all tolerable.

My shame is on public display – feel free to FLOG IT for all its worth! Hell, you can HAVE the book when I’m finished with it! Send me your address to and it’s yours (except for the ones that don’t belong to me – don’t worry Truuuude, I know which ones they are).

NB: If you’ve read anything on this list and think it’s a total waste of time – be a Good Samaritan and lighten my load. I’m not parting with the Tyson though.

In the “Comments” box please! Even if it’s 2020 …. I’ll still be going

PETTY THEFT!* Does Sam Smith owe a “writing credit” to Tom Petty?

*Not my gag – apparently there is a Tom Petty tribute band out there calling themselves this. Genius and current. You can run yourself ragged trying to be current ….

Maelstrom. Copyright 2015
Maelstrom. Copyright 2015

Right outta the blue a statement from Tom Petty appears on my radar: which was really my first inkling that something was adrift in the cosmos; that Tom Petty, wasn’t happy.

Really, Tom Petty? Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me (2014)” is so similar to “I Won’t Back Down (1988)” that you’re going to have to insist on a writing credit and, I can only assume, all the other credits that go with it (I mean to say, why would you “pass” on the royalties after all that kerfuffle?)

Well, we didn’t see that coming at Vortex HQ, and neither did Sam Smith, so the story goes. Most of the noise on the net suggests that Smith’s camp said something along the lines of: Sure thing, Tom Petty (whoever you are?), we’ll throw an ageing rocker a bone. Even though we (me and my team of myriad songwriters) have never, ever, EVER heard “I Won’t Back Down” before, our songs do sound awful samey when you speed one up, put t’other in reverse and transpose all the chords to end up in the same key.

Don’t take their word for it! Hear it for yourselves. Some kind soul going around town by the name of envanligfjant has thrown together this demo for us:

Now, as some of you are well aware, I’m of a late eighties sensibility. So it was only when my “Cramps” (R.I.P. Lux Interior) cassette had been chewed for the umpteenth time in the VW Golf of Doom (actually, the VW Golf of Doom was totalled in ’86 so it would have been the Dawn of the Unreliable Volvo in ’88), that I may have had occasion to smoke’n’drive along to “I Won’t Back Down”. High probability of air-banjo at the lights.

Somewhat catastrophically, the mists of motherhood (among many other mists) had filed Petty’s vital song away for safe-keeping. I can swear with my hand-on-heart that I have not recalled “I Won’t Back Down” from that day to this – such are my filing skills. Until ….Tom Petty and his Statements brought it again to my attention.

What does it all mean? There’s no such thing as a free lunch? But whose buffet is it? The Smith Buffet; with a help yourself to a writing credit bar & I’ll pick up the silverware (“Stay With Me” is now up for “Song of the Year” at the Grammys, unlike “I Won’t Back Down” which spent 15 weeks on the Billboard Charts and peaked at number 12) or the Petty Buffet; small servings of a generic salad which you can dress up any way you like, but you gotta admit brother – it’s still my f*ckin salad.

Where will you be dining?