My Family And Other Animals: Growing Up Crazy In The Wilderness Of London’s Blini-Belt

In his work-life my father was something of flex-exec. Weekdays he’d spend pimping-it in air-conditioned offices, talking sales figures, developing ‘strategy’ and making people cry; on weekends, he presided over us – his loony family – with all the charisma and craziness of a latter-day Manson. Slipping on a pair of Ray-Bans and a Dashiki, he assumed the role of quietly demented religious-guru – leading us in group-meditation sessions or ranting shit at the neighbours.

When I was very young, I still believed my family was much like every other. I envisioned children everywhere wrinkling their brows, and sighing audibly, as their own dads squeezed on pairs of leather trousers or encouraged them to imagine ‘a hot breeze’ flowing from the top of their heads. It was only later that I realized mine were not universal problems, that other families did not have an Australian mime living in their basement; did not enjoin their children to discuss their feelings about sex; did not call each other (with some affection) ‘cunt’ ‘cocksucker’ and ‘poison-dwarf’; did not play ‘ram-raid’ in their Volvos; did not stage ‘Viking funerals’ for their children’s dead or dying Tamagotchis and were not smuggling their pre-pubescent children into nightclubs to see Henry Rollins. But mine did… and thank god. Anything less would have been tedious.

Of course there was argument, alienation and bloodshed, but on the whole we just muddled through. My mum couldn’t quite hack it, and bowed out around the time my Dad raised the possibility of acquiring a second wife/mistress. Dad found himself a new woman soon enough – one who was far better suited to his temperament. And my Mum, well, she’s happy.

They’re older now, and calmer too, but just last weekend I found myself, yet again, face-to-face with the brute irregularity of my father’s anarcho-suburbanite parenting model. It was, even by my lax standards, a strange one. Here follows a list of the topics the family covered in one intensive round-table discussion:

• How we could get-rich-quick selling cheap (frankly, dangerous) Chinese-made condoms at knock-down prices on the web.

• How we could get-rich quick retailing a sex-aid of our own design (Wank Mitten: the textured latex glove designed for YOUR pleasure. Imagine here a kind of veruca sock, but larger, softer and with a sort of flesh-coloured pad molded onto its midsection. The Wank Mitten, we reasoned, was cheap enough to produce, and had enough scope to pull in the real crazies – those enthusiastic masturbators keen enough to explore all the alternatives)

• Who, exactly, could ‘spank’ whom at table-tennis (here followed a long and kind of boring tournament in which my youngest brother – Joshua, 13 – proved himself a regnant spanker, and we his unhappy spankees)

• Boris Yeltsin (conclusion: best Russian principle to date)

• The joys and sorrows of sex with fat girls (the youngest brother had little to contribute on this subject. He did, however, nod agreeably and kind of stuck his oar in over a couple of points)

• Ben (my gentle, professional 21-year old brother and the subject of long debate in our family. How, we always wonder, did he manage to turn out so ‘ooooookay’? We fast-ball disparagements at him for just about everything – liking the wrong music, preferring sensible footwear, his huge, no, vast, collection of executive desk tidies, his quite appreciation of Royksopp and his subscription to The Economist)

• The best way to make hummus from scratch (the old ‘blend or mash’ debate again…)

• Discussion point: “Just what the fuck is wrong with the British Media?” (This one was pretty much a conversation stopper – my father and I eyeballed each other nastily over my admission that I thought the Financial Times ‘kind of eloquent and pretty good, you know, on the whole’. His response: ‘nothing will ever change the fact that they remain, in essence, fucking fools and fucking fascists’)

• Susan Boyle – friend or foe? (‘Is she the victim of corporate greed or its benefactor?’ ‘Did she get lucky or was she a plant?’ and ‘How long before she’s shilling for FemFresh, or crooning on a cruise ship?’)

So goes a typical night with the family Green. They’re difficult to explain, but not impossible. Potential girlfriends have to sit through months of gentle instruction and complex debriefs before I arrange an introduction. ‘Stuff gets weird’ begins my standard disclaimer ‘but beyond the drugs, the cults and the divorces they’re all surprisingly normal’. Of course, I’m lying. They’re not normal at all.


  • Katie June 3, 2010 at 11:34 am

    This is good - more of this please!

  • yourmom June 4, 2010 at 1:17 am

    ADAM GREEN? like for real?


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