Is Kylie’s Latest Pop Effort The Result of Ageism?

Kylie Minogue’s latest album Kiss Me Once has just been released to affectionate – if not quite ecstatic – praise, and having listened to it a few times, I’ve already classed it as a guilty pleasure. A really, really guilty pleasure.

Because it’s like sugar; addictive and sweet, yet no good for me. I firmly believe there is a place in the world for carefree pop music – you can’t spend your life endlessly listening to Morrissey, after all – but when even the most shamelessly commercial pop music starts to feel cynical and calculated, you have to ask what’s going on. Why do I feel so patronised?

Kiss Me Once is the latest example of a worrying trend in which mature women in pop aren’t allowed to be just that – mature. Coming hot on the heels of Madonna’s lacklustre MDNA and Cher’s disappointing Closer To The Truth, Kiss Me Once tell us once and for all that older women in pop aren’t allowed to grow up and develop their artistic style; while all these albums have a scattering of great, catchy pop tunes, they overwhelmingly seem cynically produced to appeal to gay men and tweens – two demographics I didn’t think had much crossover appeal.

It’s not as if these women have always produced mindless mass-appeal pop either. Madonna co-wrote Like A Prayer and Frozen; now she sings to her lover ‘I’ll give you the password to my phone’ – quite the admission of love and trust, if you’re 13. Cher, who once longed to Turn Back Time, now implores ‘all the women in the club, stand up’, while Kylie, who breathily invited us to ‘Confide In Me’, now invites us to ‘Sexercise’.

I’m not saying that older women can’t be fun, playful and sexy, and there are those that would argue these artists are making a bold assertion of their vitality: ‘look at me, I’m not over the hill yet’. But I don’t believe that any of these women find it particularly empowering trying to keep up with the Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez crowd. The fact is, the inanity of these lyrics and the bland, over-produced music that they are set to seems to make a bold statement about what, if anything, mature women have to contribute in the pop landscape. It’s do or die: act like a 15 year old, or disappear forever.

Many of the filler songs that pack these records feel as if they were written for Miley or Selena initially. (Note: Cher actually covered Miley Cyrus’ ‘Lie To Me’ on her last album. Cher does Miley? Universe implosion imminent.) Does anyone truly believe that if Madonna wanted to write an album where she tried something a bit different or wrote lyrics about her experiences from a more mature perspective, the result would be a dud?

MDNA may have reached number one on music charts in most countries, but it still ranks as the lowest-selling album of Madonna’s career. And for the record, she was 40 when she co-wrote the Ray of Light album, some of the best work of her career. Did anyone worry about her ‘advanced age’ then? No, because they were too busy listening to an interesting, complex and mature record.

I guess we should have seen this coming with Madonna – after the misstep of her American Life album, she made a clear decision to get the gays back on side by sampling Abba’s ‘Gimme Gimme Gimme’ on the electro-disco track ‘Hung Up’. It seems that at that point Madge – or her management – decided they would stop trying to push boundaries and instead go with lowest common denominator tween-pop-lite approach.

Is this simply unabashed capitalism or deeply entrenched ageism? I say the truth lies somewhere in between, and while I look forward to the day we get a new Ray of Light or Impossible Princess, I guess I’ll have to content myself with an amazing and varied body of work by three amazing women.

Originally published on Lifetime Television

Angela featured image

Meet Chrissy Williams and Howard Hardiman, the team behind Murder She Wrote inspired ‘ANGELA’

‘Murder, She Wrote’ is one of the most successful television shows of all time; the amateur sleuthing of Jessica Fletcher spanned a whopping 12 seasons and won four Golden Globes for its star Angela Lansbury in the process, making the show a beloved classic that is still in re-runs to this day. 

Angela Lansbury already had a highly accomplished career behind her by the time Murder, She Wrote premiered in 1984, having starred in Gaslight, The Picture of Dorian Grey and The Manchurian Candidate on film (netting three Academy Award nominations in the process) as well as Broadway triumphs in Sweeney Todd and Mame – an illustrious stage career that had bagged her four Tonys.

Since Murder, She Wrote ended in 1996, Angela has kept busy, winning a fifth Tony for Blithe Spirit – which has now transferred to the West End – and receiving an honorary Oscar last year. Angela Lansbury is a national treasure. An international icon. But it begs the question: how much do we really know about Angela Lansbury?

This was the question that set Chrissy Williams‘ mind racing. Upon waking from a dream in which Angela revealed to her that there was no Jessica Fletcher and that she was secretly a mass murderer, Chrissy decided to collect those dark thoughts into the form of an epic, ominous tale. After teaming up with artist Howard Hardiman, the result was the pamphlet ANGELA, a twisty, Lynchian mystery ‘for those who have fallen under Angela’s thrall’. I caught up with Chrissy and Howard to talk Angela, the Lanz and Lynchian influences:

Angela 1

How did you both meet and decide to collaborate?

Howard: Chrissy had been reading my comic, The Lengths, and she’s a very efficient stalker.

Chrissy: We met through mutual comics’ friends. I insisted that he work on ANGELA. Eventually he agreed after I made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.

Howard: She broke my legs in a rage when I said I wouldn’t draw for her, then the idea grew on me.

Were you a fan of Angela or Murder, She Wrote before this project?

Howard: I’m not sure if I’d say I was a fan, but I do have photocopied printouts of her face all over my toilet wall, so I guess a passing interest.

Chrissy: I grew up watching Murder, She Wrote in Italian with my cousins – my mum is Italian, but I grew up in England, going to Italy for extended periods during school holidays. Murder, She Wrote was on at lunchtimes and we watched it every day. The vocabulary was never complicated and the plots were easy to follow – it was reassuring and relaxing, like images from a familiar nursery rhyme. And so, like all stories you grow up with in childhood, they crept into my subconscious and became part of different, darker stories.

What were your favourite Angela performances?

Chrissy: Jessica Fletcher is a role model – she is open-minded, generous, driven, tenacious and warm-hearted. She knows how to look after a garden. She has faith in humanity and an irrepressible impulse towards goodness. Bedknobs and Broomsticks was also OK.

Which came first, the text or artwork?

Chrissy: The text was first published (in extracts from this full piece) as an unfolding concrete poetry poster / broadsheet which was created for Antonio Claudio Carvalho’s p.o.w. series, inspired by Hansjorg Mayer’s futura series from the 1960s. It showed the text extracts with a single repeating black and white image of Jessica Fletcher’s face. Sidekick Books were interested in doing a fully illustrated pamphlet though, and when I met Howard it all fell beautifully into place.

How did you come up with the disturbing concept for the story?

Chrissy: I had a dream in which I woke up and found Angela Lansbury kneeling on my chest, throttling me. I had uncovered her secret: there is no Jessica Fletcher. All twelve series of Murder, She Wrote were a cover for the real Angela’s diabolical murderous acts. The text fell out of that nightmare, combined with bits of Jacobean drama I was reading at the time (there was a season on at the Old Vic, near where I was working then, which found its way into my writing). Her terrifying performance in the original Manchurian Candidate probably helped too.

And the nightmareish artwork?

Howard: I live on the Isle of Wight. It’s just how life is down here.

Angela 3

What would you say the story is in ‘Angela’?

Chrissy: It’s a dark love letter. It’s about trying to be good.

There’s an interesting Twin Peaks comparison here – are you a fan of that show and David Lynch in general?!

Chrissy: Yes, and yes. Howard’s artwork is what brought the Lynchian element to it directly, but it made perfect sense to me when he suggested it. Twin Peaks and Murder, She Wrote both frequently appear in the same lists of popular American detective shows. They spring from the same genre.

Howard: Oh certainly. When I was at school, we all watched it. When I saw the episode where Audrey Horne auditions for the brothel by tying a knot in a cherry stalk, I spent hours teaching myself how to do that, in case I ever had to audition for a brothel.

Were there any concepts for the artwork or text that you didn’t end up using? Perhaps they were too dark, or too risque? 

Howard: There was an awful thing happening to a dachshund and we just couldn’t go there.

Chrissy: Oh, those poor dachshunds.

What are you working on at the moment and what’s next for you?

Howard: I’m nearing the end of a residency with Quay Arts on the Isle of Wight and I’ve got an exhibition, Line and Shade, which opens on the 26th of April. I’m also working on a new book about a Badger going for a walk in Wroclaw in Poland and working on a few painting commissions.

Chrissy: I’ve just had a new pamphlet published called Epigraphs (if p then q). It’s a sequence of 100 epigraphs, each of which could stand in for an individual poem, as well combining to form a single sequence in a hundred voices. I’m currently working on a longer manuscript, and have some readings coming up. In particular, I’ll be reading from ANGELA on 13th May 2014 with Richard Scott at Waterstones Hampstead.

You can follow @chrissywilliams and @howardhardiman on Twitter, and head over to Sidekick Books to find out more about ANGELA.

Originally published in Spindle Magazine

Have You Seen…Absolutely Fabulous?

Sweetie, darling: pour me a glass of Bolly – just a smidge – and come and sit down so we can talk all things FABULOUS. Absolutely Fabulous, that is.

Jennifer Saunders’ satirical sitcom set in the world of fashion and PR took the world by storm when it was first broadcast in the ‘90s, with its characters, clothing and distinct lexicon becoming iconic in the process. Absolutely Fabulous has remained a firm favourite ever since – camp, quotable and quirky, the exploits of Eddie and her sidekick Patsy captured the imaginations of audiences both gay and straight everywhere.

PR guru Eddie was the world’s highest-functioning alcoholic: she rarely went into office (thanks to her friend Mr. Mobile Telephone, she was always at work), yet she ran a semi-successful PR firm and managed to hold on to a large house in London’s classy Holland Park. Her ever-present best friend and confidante Patsy (played with venomous relish by Joanna Lumley) was the enabler of the situation, a parasitic magazine fashion director with a propensity for Stoli, ciggies, cocaine and windscreen washers with buns so tight they were bouncing off the bedroom walls.

Treated less well by these two were Eddie’s long-suffering, buttoned-up daughter Saffy (an excellently deadpan Julia Sawalha), the ‘adult’ of the mother-daughter relationship and constant voice of disapproval for her mother’s shenanigans – referred to by Patsy as ‘that little bitch troll from hell’ – and Eddie’s mother (June Whitfield) a kleptomaniac who may or may not be suffering from Alzheimer’s.

These were not a likeable bunch, but we loved them anyway; Patsy’s parasitic tendencies may not have been sympathetic, but for someone whose Mother reportedly hated her and for whom home was described as ‘a little place above Oddbins’ (a UK off-licence chain), her annexing of Eddie’s life seemed fairly logical.

As well as establishing one of the most dysfunctional families ever seen on television, Ab Fab also skewered the worlds of fashion and PR with razor sharp precision – stemming from the fact that even Eddie didn’t really seem to know what she did for a living. ‘P-R!’ she says, when pressed by Saffie. ‘I PR things. People, concepts – Lulu!’

Still, whatever they did or didn’t do for a living, they always seemed to have plenty of cash to spend on ridiculous designer clothes – “Lacroix, sweety, Lacroix” – and regular trips abroad: between flying to New York simply to find a new door handle, to selling Saffie into slavery in Marrakech, bearing their breasts atop the Eiffel Tower and getting married in a ceremony presided over by Whoopi Goldberg in the Big Apple, they clocked up some serious frequent flyer miles.

As with many high-profile sitcoms, Ab Fab attracted the fandom of a number of big celebrities who all clamoured for an appearance on the show. For a show that dealt with the cult of celebrity, this was a blessing, and Saunders’ often invited them to appear in unflattering roles, such as Minnie Driver, Elton John, Kate O Mara, Erin O Connor, Twiggy and Naomi Campbell.

Ab Fab ended its initial run with ‘The Last Shout’ in 1996, in which Eddie had a near death experience and became convinced she was the messiah (God, incidentally, looks a lot like Marianne Faithful). However, the show eventually returned for two more seasons and to this day sporadically produces one-off specials – meaning you’re never far from the hilarious shenanigans of Eddie and Patsy.

And who would want to be? Absolutely Fabulous is an iconic show in many ways and for many people – but especially to the LGBT community. Maybe it was their unabashed hedonism that appealed to us; maybe we just liked looking at lovely jackets. Whatever it was, Ab Fab has made an indelible mark on our collective memories.

So, it’s goodbye aging obscurity and Hello! Magazine…

dawn french

Dawn French’s Best Moments

The great Dawn French announced today that she will tour the UK in a one-woman show she describes as “somewhere between a monologue, a play, and an autobiographical slide show with a few funnies thrown in.”

Once the paramedics got our hearts started again, we began to think about exactly what Ms. French would put into her show – titled 30 Million Minutes – seeing as her accomplishments as a comedian, writer, actor, author and memoirist couldn’t possibly fit into your standard show length. Take a look below at Spindle’s highlights from Dawn French’s illustrious career and remind yourself why you definitely need to get tickets for this show:

‘Dickens Daughters’ – Shakespears Sister Parody

Dawn and her comedy partner Jennifer Saunders are probably most famous for their spot-on movie and music parodies – and probably their best remembered is their take on the iconic video for Shakespears Sister’s Stay. As the original song and video were so singular, it seemed almost parody-proof – until French and Saunders got their hands on it, dressed Dawn in a bin liner with a tinsel crown and had she and Jen play-fight on a double bed. This must be seen to be believed, though I’d say it’s less bonkers than the original video. Shakespears Sister vocalist Marcella Detroit didn’t seem to mind though, as she later made an appearance on Saunders’ show Absolutely Fabulous in 1996.

The Vicar Of Dibley – Four Christmas Dinners

In this 90s BBC sitcom Dawn played Geraldine Granger, a female vicar sent to a sleepy countryside parish. Female priests were a hot-button issue at the time, and this fish out of water story of a cheerful vicar trying to navigate the hostility and stupidity of village politics was a huge hit.

Now we know we’re meant to show the clip of Dawn falling into the big puddle, but frankly the physical comedy of this attempt to stuff down four Christmas lunches in one day is a personal highlight of the series.

French and Saunders – Silence of the Lambs

Without a doubt French and Saunders’ most fondly remembered movie parody is this one – I don’t think anyone before or since has done such an accurate impression of Jodie Foster as Jennifer Saunders does here. The biggest laughs, of course, go to Dawn as a portly, female version of Hannibal Lecter, aided by a terrific script that is at once faithfully recreated while also being utterly, utterly silly.

“I want a view, Jennifer. I want to see trees and some grass. Yes. I want a dressing room that overlooks the Blue Peter garden.”

Wild Wild West – Mary

This curio ran for two series on BBC One and starred Dawn and Catherine Tate as lesbian (lesbean) Cornish shopkeepers Mary and Angela. At the time this oddball show about the eccentricities of Cornwall village life wasn’t too well received with critics or viewers, but its retro-raves are legion – to see why, check out the video to see Dawn trying to put out a fire by telling it to shutup.

Roger & Val Have Just Got In – Val

Probably the crowning achievement of Dawn’s acting career has been this comedy-drama in which she co-stars with Alfred Molina. The show takes place in real time in the 30 minutes after middle-aged married couple Roger and Val have just returned from work – and that’s it; just the two of them, in their house, working through the mundanities of life while masking past trauma that lurks just beneath the surface. It’s a joy to watch these two masters at work, and a reminder that Dawn is much more than just the fat one from French and Saunders.

Tickets for 30 Million Minutes go on sale at 9am on Friday 28th February. Dates are:

June
5-8 – Sheffield, Lyceum
10-12 – Glasgow, Pavilion
13 – Derby, Assembly Rooms
14 – Buxton, Opera House
15-16 – Llandudno, Venue Cymru
18-20 – Birmingham, New Alexandra
25-28 – Brighton, Theatre Royal
29 – Plymouth, Theatre Royal

July
2-6 – Bradford, Alhambra
9-13 – Dublin, Olympia
16-20 – Cardiff, New Theatre
23-24 – Crawley, Hawth
25-27 – Reading, Hexagon
30-August 2 – Dartford, Orchard

Words: Thomas Dearnley-Davison

Originally published on Spindle Magazine

Have You Seen…Bridegroom?

If you haven’t heard of Bridegroom, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was some kind of wedding comedy in the vein of the dreadful Katherine Heigl film The Big Wedding. Instead, our titular Bridegroom here refers to Tom Bridegroom, partner of Shane Bitney Crone. Shane and Tom lived in Los Angeles and were deeply in love, building their careers and travelling the world. Then Tom died in a tragic accident, and the bottom fell out of Shane’s world. But that’s not the saddest part of the story; what happened next, with Shane being banned from attending his soulmate’s funeral and being threatened with violence by the Bridegroom family, makes for a harrowing watch; the final kick in the teeth is, of course, the fact that Shane had no legal ground to stand on.

The documentary unfolds in a linear style, telling both Shane and Tom’s stories of growing up in the American heartland and the pain and heartache that ensued as they both came to terms with their sexuality in environments deeply hostile to LGBTQ people. Shane fares better than Tom here; his family, after the initial shock, accept him totally. Tom, on the other hand, is more or less ostracized by everyone except his mother, who eventually admits a tacit acceptance of his true self. This all changes after Tom’s death, as his family close ranks and bury Tom with full military honours – denying who he really was and denying those closest to him the right to say goodbye.

Bridegroom is brought to us by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, one-time creator and writer of hit sitcom ‘Designing Women’ and long-time friend to the gays. It’s well documented that during the run of the show, Bloodworth-Thomason would have Julia Sugarbaker, played with haughty Southern perfection by Dixie Carter, espouse progressive, liberal values. Carter herself was a registered Republican so not all of these leftie diatribes went down too well with her. Still, they struck a deal: Dixie would say whatever the writers wanted as long as she got to sing in at least one episode each season!

Jokes aside, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason used her cuddly sitcom about Atlanta interior designers to make some groundbreaking statements on television in the late 80s. The episode in which the ladies find out a family friend is both gay and has AIDS not only showed care and compassion towards the subject instead of outright fear and anger, but also put our characters in the position of having to deal with other narrow-minded bigots.

Bloodworth-Thomason apparently ran into Tom and Shane at a wedding in Palm Springs and was later saddened to hear of Tom’s death. When she investigated further and found out the full story, she and Tom decided to collaborate on this documentary.

At times, Bridegroom isn’t an easy watch. It’s brutally honest and the subject matter will have you in tears many times throughout. But it ends on a message of hope; thousands of people contributed to Kickstarter to ensure Bridegroom got made, and as the credits roll we are shown messages from people who have seen the film and have been moved by it – most memorable are those that say they were prejudiced against gay people and have completely reversed their position after seeing Bridegroom.

Bridegroom is at its heart a love story, a relatable and human tale of love found and lost between two soulmates; but it also serves as a beacon of hope for the world and an appeal for love in the greatest sense between all human beings.

Originally published on Get OUT! Canada

winner takes it all

Valentine’s Jukebox: Abba’s The Winner Takes It All

The Winner Takes It All is probably one of the most realistic anti-love songs of all time, as it talks about the shameful reality of what happens when you get your heart ripped out and stamped on by a gold platform boot belonging to a Eurovision song contest winner.

Written by Björn Ulvaeus, with the aid of a bottle of whiskey, in the aftermath of his divorce from fellow bandmate Agnetha Fältskog, The Winner Takes It All marked the moment when Abba ceased being a band of happy-go-lucky double daters and began to develop a more mature, personal and reflective style. The divorce the following year of fellow bandmembers Benny Andersson and Frida Lyngstad sealed Abba’s fate, and although this period of turmoil proved to be one of their most fruitful creatively – their final album The Visitors is the band’s underrated masterpiece – the writing was on the wall.

It can’t have been easy for anyone – writing a song about your divorce then having your ex-wife sing it, but Agnetha’s heartbreaking vocal is filled with both ice cold resignation and bittersweet longing, telling us that she was feeling the same things as Bjorn while behaving like a true pro.

Courts, judgements, gossip; this is how most happily-ever-afters truly end up. After talking for so long about the bliss of falling in love, with The Winner Takes It All, Abba admitted they’d been selling us a pack of lies. The bastards.

Abba, I still love you.

Words: Thomas Dearnley-Davison

Originally published on Spindle Magazine

dom & ink map my heart spindle magazine

Meet Dom & Ink, Author of Relationship Journal ‘Map My Heart’

Whether you’re attached or single, happy or miserable, gay or straight, this most romantic time of the year can be somewhat tricky. Especially as it keeps pissing it down.

Everybody needs a release, a forum in which to express their innermost thoughts – especially when it comes to matters of the heart – and there’s no better way to do so than with a relationship journal such as Map My Heart.

Map My Heart is a book about relationships. It’s also a journal you can doodle in. It’s also a confessional diary. It’s basically the most cathartic gift book you could get yourself or anyone else around V-day. Written and illustrated by Dom & Ink, the book is filled with beautiful drawings, sage advice and is seemingly voiced by the firm guiding hand of a stern yet lovable dinnerlady. I knew I had to find out more about the man behind the doodles.

When I met Dom & Ink, otherwise known as Dominic Evans, it turns out my dinnerlady analogy wasn’t far off. We sat down to talk getting laid, getting dumped and getting close to Glenn Close:

So, you produced the original version of Map My Heart – called Batter My Heart – when you were at uni. What inspired you in the first place?

When I started my Masters in Brighton, I knew I wanted to produce a book to do with relationships. Originally I intended to make a comic book collection retelling peoples’ own stories of their successful/failed love lives. I love hearing about people’s relationships and stories of how they dated and met. I’m really nosey. Originally the book wasn’t going to be about love and stuff, it was going to be about all different relationships like families, friends – stuff like that. But then I found all the good stuff I was hearing was all the love stuff, like ‘I slept with Brenda from Gregg’s behind your back. She poured coffee all over me and in a hot sensual moment smeared a pasty down the front of my body. She seduced me.’

You’re like a human Take A Break magazine.

That is the best compliment! Also I used to love Sunset Beach when I was younger. So, that’s what inspires me. But my main inspiration was stories off people. The whole book is based off stories that people have told me or I’ve overheard maybe in toilet cubicles. For some reason, I do manage to get people to open up to me. I think it’s because I’ve got a face shaped like a love heart.

What were the differences between Batter My Heart and Map My Heart?

Well ‘Batter’ was only 60 pages and also was A4. The content was pretty much similar. The main improvement we wanted to make with the book was to add more pages for the reader to get involved with and scribble all over. I wanted the reader to go away from the book feeling like they’d been on a journey and could really interact with it, so that’s where the interactive element came into play. Also ‘Batter’ had a Cheryl Cole short story called ‘The Tears of Cheryl’. Unfortunately our Chezza isn’t too well known Stateside or the rest of Europe so I had to discard her and her beautiful Geordie locks. God I bloody love Cheryl.

Spindle MAP

So there wasn’t some devastating breakup you were trying to get over that inspired you to start writing?

Everyone thinks I was in absolute pain writing this book. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been through some tough breakups – for me, leaving Henry Cavill was really hard – but I did find it quite cathartic writing it because I confronted some of my own demons. There are some pages in the book that are directly from my life. I don’t tell anyone because I like to keep people guessing.

Tell us one of them. Give us a freebie!

Alright! On the ‘What Type Of Dater Are You?’ page (pictured above), I’ve been on all those dates. I went on a date with a Pretty Arsehole once who was a wanker and said he modelled for Burberry. Turned out it was actually Burton’s, the shop where clothes go to die.

I love the characters you’ve drawn throughout the book. I’m enjoying this bunny boiler Glenn Close person quite a bit.

I enjoy Glenn Close quite a bit.

How could one not?

I wish I could get close to Glenn Close.

Have you seen Damages?

I bought the first series because it were £4 in Cash Converters Bolton and it was great. Then the second series wasn’t £4 so I didn’t watch it. It’s ended now hasn’t it?

It ended some time ago. Do you have Netflix?

I don’t, no. Everyone says I should get it.

First, you should get Netflix, because it’s all on Netflix.

I never have time to watch TV shows, Thomas, I am bogged down! I am so far behind on American Horror Story. If I had Netflix, I’d never leave the house.

But that’s the joy of it. You never need to. You’ve got all your friends right there.

Does it have Real Housewives though?

Real Housewives? No.

That’s the downside. I rely on ITV2 to give me my daily fix. This is when I realised I should get a boyfriend sometime soon, so I don’t have to stay in and watch Real Housewives.

The same thing crossed my mind, but then I realised I preferred the company of Glenn Close.

In Damages, yeah. £4 from Cash Converters.

So there’s a part in the book where you have to write a letter to yourself…

You could put a tenner in there. Because then you could go and get Damages season 2 for £8 in Cash Converters. Season 3 was £12.

You know, Netflix is like £5 a month.

That’s too much.

This book radiates class. You even have quotes from Shakespeare!

To make it all cultural, for people that read in pubs, I put in quotes of famous people. I feel like these give it depth and make me seem a lot more intelligent. I basically Googled ‘what can I use for free – Shakespeare’ and I just took what I could use for free.

shakespeare map my heart

Can’t you use the whole lot for free? There’s no copyright on it.

Is it public domain? I wasn’t sure. There was a whole email conversation – very intense – between me and the intern at the publishers. It’s like Snow White, fairytales; they’re public domain, aren’t they?

Well, I don’t think Shakespeare was ever copyrighted…plus, it’s been 500 years. I think the limit on copyright is 70 years?

Look at The Bible. Jesus was copyrighted.

I don’t think The Bible is under copyright either.

I think it was, Tom. But I do tend to make things up to make me sound like I know what I’m saying. I did put Beyonce in originally, but Beyonce gets something like 5 million per quote used. And I was going to use ‘if you liked it you should have put a ring on it’, and they were like ‘we can’t afford to pay that’ – so she became Michelle Obama. Classier.

Perfect. Michelle’s an icon. And you’ve also got some unattributed quotes illustrated as well – such as ‘some people are meant to fall in love but not be together’.

Someone I actually fancied sent me a picture of that and said ‘that’s like you and me’. Thanks. Thanks a lot. Why don’t you go take a scissor to your groin?

So what’s the worst breakup you’ve been through?

Hmm, that’s a toughie. I’d say one that involved being cheated on. It’s such a bad feeling and I would not wish that on anyone. I felt like an idiot for not seeing it too. I think I have a winning streak at picking men that are complete and utter arseholes.

And what’s the worst breakup story you’ve heard?

I’d probably say the worst was someone being dumped via Facebook. My friend was dumped like that, and it is such a cruel way to leave someone, and also humiliating. Everyone on social media sees it, then everyone comments on it and to be honest, it’s no one’s frigging business anyway.

Well, as you say in the book: ‘Rejection is God’s protection’.

My Mum taught me that phrase. “There’s a reason he slept with the whole of Manchester behind your back”. You know what Mum? There is. Saying that to any friend, though – if they don’t get a job interview or something – just say ‘rejection is God’s protection, Brenda’.

I don’t have that many 55 year old friends, though.

I have a Brenda. She works at Gregg’s. And you really know you need to get a boyfriend when she says ‘you’ve not been in for a while.’

rejection map my heart

‘Love is an adventure in being human’ – who said that?

A mate’s Mum.

Okay, so you’re just going to take the credit for that?

No! I gave her a box of chocolates and a bottle of wine. She knows she’s in it.

Were the chocolates from Poundland?

£1 from Morrison’s.

Nice. So what’s the best feedback you’ve had from someone who’s doodled in the book?

My friend’s Mum’s a psychologist and she brought several copies in for her clients and they’re loving it! Because she said that a lot of people have come in and one of the big reasons is relationships. Some of the stuff in the book has really helped them tap into it and got them talking more. Some stuff they’ve not brought up while talking or in person, they’ve put into the book. They felt a lot more comfortable drawing or writing about it. That was great feedback for me as I like the idea that while ‘Map’ is packed with humour and laughs, there are still moments when readers share themselves with it. I love that.

So it’s become art therapy?

I’ve changed lives, Tom. I’m basically Cilla meets Jesus. I’m Jesus Black.

What’s next for you?

I cannot say. All I can say is that there could be something more Map-related soon. That is all!

And finally, Valentine’s Day is coming up: what advice can you give for anyone that’s single and ready to mingle?

If you’re going out for Valentine’s, get dressed up. You don’t need to go full on tux and top hat, just y’know, something to make you feel damn good. Meet some mates and go for some drinks in a good bar. Not a club where you end up dancing to hard house on a pole at 3am. Just a decent bar with good people and think of your body language. If you look like you’re open to conversation then people will approach you. Open body language, eye contact and a killer outfit. Single who?!

Well. This has really been quite a journey.

Thank you. I feel like you’ve gone on a journey.

I really have. You’ve broken me, reading this book. I just don’t think I’ll get my happy ending.

You will, Tom. I’ll find you someone. I’m amazing at getting people laid. I’m basically a pimp.

Our Map My Heart competition is now CLOSED but you can pick up a copy at Huck and Pucker .

Words: Thomas Dearnley-Davison

Images: Dom & Ink

Originally published on Spindle Magazine