Some knowledge is forbidden, sought only by deranged, twerking dervishes obsessed with degenerate rituals. So how is it that a forty-year writer is privy to their secrets?
Do you know who JB, Marvin, Aston Marigold and Makka Pakka are? Thought not. They are JLS. Infuriatingly I’m not only aware of their names, but also their favourite restaurant and where Mr Marigold would take a girl on a first date. The response, in both cases, is a ubiquitous high street chain specialising in poultry, which, given the millions they’ve no doubt amassed seems highly unlikely. Not the sort of venue the gold diggers they entertain would tolerate.
So how is a man dedicated to a quiet, contemplative life, infused with Radio Four, familiar with such arcana? The answer is simple. My apparently tone-deaf stepdaughter is a JLS fanatic. I have half a brain, and am not in the thrall of pernicious pederasts masquerading as priests, so before this development I was far from pro-life, now I’m convinced that abortion should be legal up to 18 years after birth.
Everyone, except Woody Allen, had informed me bringing up a stepdaughter was going to be traumatic, but I had no idea how utterly distressing it could get. Pandora’s beatbox is playing, and I have heard the horror that resonates round the adolescent heart. (Awash with hormones it must be their six-packs that captivate rather than the cacophonous caterwauling.)
Milburn Road has become my Guantanamo: a detention centre specialising in aural torture. Our residence is spacious, so initially I avoided her room. Then she introduced me to sodcasting. Why would anyone do this? The sound quality is so appalling railway announcements sound crystal clear. If she likes distorted music why doesn’t she play it through a loudhailer. Admittedly it’s hard to tell the difference with JLS, but I think it’s slightly worse.
An Englishman’s house maybe his castle, but I’m in the dungeon lashed to the rack. I had to flee, seeking sanctuary in my car, but to no avail. Constantly forced into ferrying her about, even here JLS rule supreme, Charlotte Green and James Naughtie banished (Stephen - I hate to tell you this but Charlotte Green.... ed).
Jukebox plays constantly. Before the last note has faded, it’s on again. And again. And again. On an average day I hear it twenty times. Even the Goombay Dance Band’s Sun of Jamaica couldn’t endure such heavy rotation. Cruel and unusual treatment I can handle, JLS I can’t. They may make her wanna get jiggy, but they make me wanna drive my car into a wall. Why, oh why, has the Everlasting set his canon ‘gainst self-slaughter?
I tried to be understanding. Empathic. Between the ages of thirteen and nineteen I was a teenager. I played The Specials very loud and very often, and I refuse to make the mistakes my parents did. Rather than filming her berserk bedroom dancing and broadcasting it on Look North, I would share her interest in Jack the Lad Swing. No matter how idiotic your children’s passions you must nurture them.
Do you question my veracity? When she started dating we provided her with some French letters – just in case. Another fact you’ll be blissfully ignorant of is that JLS have, admirably, released Just Love Safe prophylactics to raise awareness of safe sex. We gave her these to make things humorous as opposed to deeply awkward.
The plan was a partial success. She found it highly amusing. I had to purchase them and consider it the single most humiliating moment of my life, and remember I’ve walked home naked hiding my shame in an empty box.
Not that I find buying sheaths uncomfortable. I’ve lived through dangerous times. At university women wore badges proclaiming that if you wouldn’t wear a condom they’d kick you in the nuts. But these were no ordinary rubbers.
The assistant looked exactly like Audrey Hepburn would’ve looked if she’d spent her adult life working in a supermarket, and we’d been flirting for weeks.
‘Here you go Stephen,’ she purred, passing me the Durex Comfort XL, her elegant fingers brushing mine for just a second. ‘I assume these won’t be too tight.’
‘I’d prefer the JLS ones please,’ I croaked, desperately ignoring the mischievous glint fading in her eye.
‘The ones with the naked boy on them?’ she questioned.
‘That would be accurate,’ I replied.
The door was closed, but an icy wind blew through the shop as the new box, emblazoned with a well-oiled Aston, was tossed onto the counter. She took the money I offered and returned my change with stony countenance.
‘So did you have a good weekend?’ I mumbled.
‘Get out,’ she shrieked, and, desperate to escape before the police arrived, I tactically withdrew. If this incident didn’t result in me headlining a list of potential sex offenders the judicial system just isn’t working. I couldn’t have been more embarrassed if my stepdaughter’s boyfriend had asked me to help him put one on.
Now tell me I could I have done more? I dare you. I double dare you.
Yes I pray daily that she’ll commit an offence heinous enough to warrant confiscating her i-Pod. Offered her ten-year old brother cold, hard cash to plant twenty Rothmans in her blazer. Took comfort in fantasy. Imagining how she’d react if I started playing Topographic Oceans at full volume all day, every day. (Probably with a noncommittal shrug and nonchalant ‘whatever’, but ho hum.) Steadfast in my determination to support her, I did nothing, and the relentless torment continues. I’ve rung the Samaritans so often they’ve taken out a restraining order.
Sabotaged by my own liberal agenda, and reduced to walking around wearing earplugs and willing my peptic ulcer to burst, all I can do is grin and bear it. My only solace: that it could be worse. A lot worse. She could be a Belieber. My views on gasmask-wearing, lunatic-fringe Bieber will remain private, but I will state that if I was in a cell with him and David Cameron with only two bullets. I’d shoot Justin twice.
Till next time, from the depths of my own private hell, I bid you farewell. Surely things can only improve.
With thanks to Dominic Salmon and Dangerous Dave Nicholson