Monthly Archives: November 2009

No.30: Consider Organising Your Accounts

Every flancer has a brown A4 envelope under their bed. This envelope contains precisely 34,583 receipts. And its name is Depression.

Every year at around about April-ish, the flancer panics and considers running away to Aruba because the envelope calls (just before the accountant does. For the ninth time). Every year around about June-ish there is Olympic-Standard Procrastination. And every year around about September-ish there is lots of sobbing and entire boxes of wine drunk to try and stamp out the treacherous brain cells that insist on reminding you of what could happen if you do not sort your shit out.

Sometimes though, after a head-blow or some seriously A-Grade boredom, the flancer thinks, ‘ooh, I might just give next year’s accounts a preliminary tickle…’  A gallon of stomach-chewing coffee will be brewed and some Kendal Mint Cake eaten in order to fortify the flancer against the contents of The Envelope. ‘Rather start now and reduce the horror come May,’ thinks the flancer smugly, buffered by the escape-hatch-thought* that they can sack off this madness whenever they want because it’s only November.** Flancers, incidentally have and use so many escape-hatch-thoughts throughout the course of the working day that the thought-escape-hatch hinges are wafer-thin through constant deployment.

But the gaping flaw in this ‘plan’ is that flancers are  the most disorganised creatures ever to spring forth from the hands of the Lord.

Flancers are just not programmed to get things done in good time. In good time means: ‘before I suffer serious comeback for repeatedly putting this off.’ And so, whilst truly intending to begin ordering their accounts, the following scenario will occur: A Facebook status of ‘Am starting my accounts!’ will be posted in order to crow to other flancers that you are indeed a paragon of organisation.  This will then be Tweeted. The search for The Envelope will commence (cue small internal fanfare – or if like me you spend quite a lot of the day alone and thus talking to yourself – external fanfare)  but first you happen to unearth your cuts book. You will read your cuts book with a nostalgic half-smile, realise an hour has gone by and re-commence the search. You will then find a photo album of your student days and then a copy of Vogue from 1997, both of which will distract you for a further two hours.

You are now up to your nipples in dust bunnies and decide, hey – you may as well clean your room. Then, why stop there? Clean the house. Stop for a coffee. Hem some curtains. FB and Tweet something spitefully witty about H M Revenue & Customs.  Answer some emails. Maybe start knitting a bag to keep The Envelope in when you find it.

You then remember The Envelope and why you started looking for it.  You will also remember that The Envelope means sitting there, head in hands for hours thinking: ‘what the chuff did I spend £15.46 on in Argos on the fifteenth?’ Cue the silent workings of the extremely well-oiled escape-hatch-thought hinges.

And then the phone rings and interrupts you. It is your accountant on your case. Because it’s now actually April. 


*Escape-Hatch Thoughts: ‘I have plenty of time for this and will do it later.’ ‘This is totally good enough.’ ‘They will never know I made that up.’ ‘I deserve a break – hey, I might burn out if I’m not careful.’ ‘A long walk and a coffee is good to recharge creativity.’ ‘I think I’m ill.’

**Unless of course you decided to sack off this year’s dealings with your pushy accountant for online self assessment and are now seriously considering how ‘doable’ prison is rather than going anywhere near The Envelope.
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No.29: Annoy other People

You know when the battery is running out on your smoke alarm and it emits a high-pitched ‘pip’ just regularly enough to make an interesting and effective Ministry of Intelligence torture device, but not often enough that you can be fagged to change it?  Well that’s like being stroked by a handsome, interesting person carrying a tray with Ferrero Rocher and a pot of coffee on it just for you, compared to the irritant factor of a bored flancer.  Bored flancers are the death knell for anyone else nearby with real work to do, what with their sleeve-tugging insistence that they need a cohort to skive off doing nothing with, so that they feel less guilty about avoiding doing anything about having nothing to do.

Flancers love to share their boredom.  They are uniquely generous in this way.   If you are a naive first timer, you will feel pity and invite them over. And then you will learn, and fake your own death so that they stop calling.  They’ll come and hang out with you at work, twiddle with things on your desk, empty and then break the coffee machine and re-arrange everything so that you mistakenly send a Ikea brochure meant for your ‘take-home’ pile, to a client that sent in a letter of complaint. You will wonder why you have a vaguely insincere letter of apology in your hands when you get home that night and wish to browse for wardrobes.

 If you have already alerted security to the fact that the flancer must not be allowed to enter the building on any circumstance, they will either hassle the security guard to play cards or to help them try and name as many bands with ‘The’ in the title as possible in ten minutes. Or, if turned away they will telephone you ‘just for a chat.’ When you say you have to go because everyone else has now packed up and left for the day, they will beg you to come for a drink  or try and convince you to take tomorrow off work and go and play Mini golf with them.

If you rebuff them, they will get the huff on and wander off like a child denied the biscuit tin kicking at the ground with their bottom lip stuck out and then probably start doing something that results in a tapping, scratching or beeping noise that makes you want to gouge your own eyes out with the fruit you brought in for lunch.

On discovering that bananas just aren’t a sharp enough de-ocularising* tool, you come up with a better plan and send them out to buy batteries for the smoke alarm, and sneakily emigrate whilst they are at the shops.


*for any student doctors reading, before you use this word in an essay – I thought I ought to point out that I made it up.

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No.28: Justify Your ‘Job’ to your Parents

As previously pointed out, the question ‘how’s work at the moment?’ is feared and loathed by flancers worldwide. But it is particularly horrorsome when asked by a parent.

Especially when you have called them to borrow money.

‘How are things?’ blithely asks The Mum.  You mumble ‘ok’ whilst trying not to break down over the truth which is that – only ten minutes ago – you were contemplating laying down in the gas oven due to an all-time workless low. The Mum isn’t fooled. She can hear in your voice that things are a bit rum. She distracts you by twittering pleasantly about the nasty hanging baskets Shelia from across the road has put out and laughs at herself for being a curtain twitcher (hey, you can relate, see post No.15). She asks how your friends with jobs are getting on at work (The Mum needs to show interest in a child’s life. And seeing as her child has been virtually unemployed and single for five years – any child will do. But The Mum knows that asking about your life will only upset or embarrass you further, and so she makes this adjustment without realising that this just makes things worse.  Until of course she asks you about the married friends and their new-born children.)

‘Would you like to speak to your dad?’ she asks. All pretence is over.

The dad pulls no punches* and immediately after asking ‘how you’re keeping’ will ask you how you are for money. His gently hectoring tone suggests that any chance of a loan is off, so you reply, ‘fine’ swiftly followed by thinking, *shit!* as you remember that The cunning Dad probably opens your bank statements, as virtually every flancer has used their parents’ home address as their fixed address since university in order to get loans and credit cards. Which, in retrospect is pretty bad because that’s where the bailiff will go first.  The Dad will ‘hmm’ enigmatically and ask about work. You will fluff somewhat and try and distract him by talking about the flashy book/script/project you are working on. This bluster impresses many, but cuts no cheese with The  Dad; who is all about  mortgage and cold hard cash under the mattress. He asks if you need money. You say no. He will ‘hmm’ again and ask what you’re doing today (seeing as you’ve called them at like, 3pm) The honest answer being ‘nothing’, you throw him off the scent by talking about a proper job you were considering getting. He will demand details. You will not have them.

Then you realise that you have a coffee date you are late for. But telling The Dad that you don’t have time to explain how poor and workless you are because you have to go out and dispose of your non-existant disposable income  will further secure your place in the ‘WRITE THIS OFFSPRING OUT OF THE WILL’ file. The Dad senses that you are ready to go and despite everything sends his love (as does mum from the background.) You can hear the theme tune to Murder She Wrote and the kettle whistling.

‘I’ll pop a bit in your account today,’ says Dad. And as you put the phone down trying not to sob, you swear to yourself that when your book sells its first million – before anything else – you will buy that man a sports car.



*Dads hate using the phone and talking to their children – even if their children are millionaire entrepreneurs. They just do. If ever you call home and your dad picks up, within twenty seconds he’ll usually say: ‘I’ll put your mum on’

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No.27:Shout At Your Computer

The army of brains in glass domes on wheels who work for computer companies know that flancers love wasting time. And so they specifically design small electrical items that don’t do what they are meant to do, precisely so that flancers can squander hours of every day swearing and thumping them. Most – if not all – laptops have the emotional button-pressing, wind-up skills of a top criminal psychologist crossed with a five-year-old.  They know exactly how to set synapses to ‘enrage’ and push you, the hapless operator, in all the right ways…until you explode in a teary flurry of expletives and collapse sobbing, begging for it all to be over.

Nine times out of ten* the more aesthetically gimmicky a gadget/computer/Operating System is the more things there are about it that can break down at stupendously inappropriate moments. Like deadlines for example. Gimmicky techno-things are also a lot like high maintenance girlfriends: they look utterly sexy.  You don’t feel you can really afford them.  All your friends are slaveringly jealous and want one too.  But within 6 months they become a totally useless pain in the arse that demands hours of your attention just to get them to execute one simple task which they then do reeeeealy slowly just to get back at you for asking. They sit on their 100-thread count tablecloths like small electrical Jennifer Lopez’s, stipulating the correct air temperature and humidity necessary for them to perform.

The primary hurdle is usually the relatively uncomplicated task of asking said gadget to be ‘on’.  If you have had a laptop for like, centuries (i.e. about two years) it will probably be as reluctant (and as speedy) to warm up as an eighty-year old ejected from bed at 5am by a shouty army Sargent demanding 50 press ups in the mud. So you press ‘on’ and then have time to go and make coffee, have a shower, do your shopping and solve the global fuel crisis before it’s ready to do anything.  At this point, a small box will pop up bearing a cheery  yet unfathomable message that requires you answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’.  Fear immediately descends because you know that one of these choices will wipe your archived copy from the entirety of last year and the other choice will launch a warhead at Wales. By now you will be so angry that you could easily kick a puppy without remorse, so you drink more coffee (just to ramp the old blood pressure up further) which is when your screen will freeze because you had the audacity to ask your hellbox to launch internet AND  Skype SIMULTANEOUSLY.

Note: Despite it’s apparent stupidity, your laptop actually has the ability to telepathically communicate with other electrical goods in your home too. So whilst it’s rumbling to life in its own sweet time, your TV will probably go on the blink, your coffee machine will start making tea and your hairdryer will give you an electric shock.

You desperately want to throw it out of the window,  but you can’t because you haven’t got a spare 300 quid for a new one (which will descend into this sort of immature, teenage stroppery within 18 months anyway) and you know for a fact that editors will not accept copy written by hand on a sheet of creased A4.

So you shout at it some more and when it decides to finally whurrr to life you feel vaguely triumphant – as if this attitude-riddled box of wires and lights has heard your rantings and decided that you – as the human – are to be obeyed.

But underneath that shiny casing beats the heart of a cruel, sadistic yet-even-more- intelligent life form, waiting till you’re out to explode and set fire to your house.


 *By which I mean ‘ten times out of ten’.

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No.26: DIY

 D.I.Y is simply time-wasting with wood for the bored and middle-aged, but has snuck under the radar of everyday life disguised as a means of generating pride and a sense of achievement via a nasty, unsafe set of shelves. 

Thus rendering it  a perfect, bored flancer past-time.

Flancers are bored, creative people. And when ‘bored’ and ‘creative’  meet with ‘practical’ and some plywood, the end result is often something that was meant to look wonderful, but in actuality is a half-finished, useless piece of something cluttering up the hallway/worktop/shed. Non-flancers beware: if you ever catch your work-at-home comrade eying-up a broken spice rack or saying something terrifyingly prophetic like ‘d’you know, a shelf would look really GREAT there,’ immediately attempt to talk them out of it/strictly forbid them/issue a sedative.  Because when you return home from your proper job, your house will look like a small amount of plastic explosive  has been detonated where once there was a wall or perfectly nice space. And it will stay this way for up to a year.

For flancers, it’s not about the finished item but simply doing something with their hands. Because if they are dismantling a bookcase and replacing it with a pointless wine-rack  they won’t be pushing a Ginster’s pasty dipped in Nutella into their own face. Which for many flancers is a daily – nay- half-hourly hazard.

If you know a flancer that lives alone (and many of them do because they are impossible to live with as this blog as demonstrated. Either that or they live with other self-employed writer-types in an attempt to cancel each other out) you can guarantee that periods of worklessness will coincide with a grand unveiling of some sort of  horrible DIY project. This project will start out as ‘Project:Paint the Kitchen’ but will soon evolve into ‘Project: Take the wallpaper down in the kitchen so that you appear to live in a slum. Buy some paint. Leave it in the hall for you to smash your shins on. Use paint tin as doorstop.’

The other thing about flancers is that won’t start small. Their creativity having been thwarted by uncontactable features editors/literary agents (none of whom seem to have a ‘reply’ function on their email accounts these days) will have resulted in self-esteem so low that only constructing a gazebo in the shape of the Taj Mahal will serve to rebuild their dwindling self-worth. 

The best thing to do is either get them so smashed on coffee before you leave them alone that they daren’t pick up a power tool or buy them a flatpack and hide all the screws.





There’s a saying: ‘If it Aint Broke, You’ll Have Nothing to Do



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No.25: The Ironing

‘Who irons for God’s sake?’ Asks the world in unified disbelief.

Answer: Flancers.

They LOVE it. It take ages and they can feel virtuous. ‘Want to know what I’ve ACHIEVED today? This!’ the flancer gloats, pointing at an enormous pile of flannels, socks, bed linen and teatowels (probably none of their clothes.  Flancers tend to subsist on a holey, elasticated, greying, soft-clothing-flavoured wardrobe. The sort of things you put people with mental illness in so that they don’t hurt themselves.)

 If you are the victim unfortunate enough to have stumbled upon this sort of  Widow-Twanky-On-E-Numbers scene,  chances are something you didn’t want ironed is also in that flattened pile of smuggery currently teetering higher than your fridge-freezer combo. Like your crease-effect party dress, your crinkle-effect bed throw or your dog. 

Nothing is safe from a flancer with a Russell Hobbs 14993* set to ‘steam’.   How to spot a workless flancer? They are wearing an ironed hat, draped in an impeccably steamed tablecloth and their handbag (filled with perfectly square handkerchiefs) will probably have a  crease it that you could cut cheese with.  The reason why is because ironing is a brilliant distraction from no-work hell because you feel so satisfied when you’re finished – hey! you even have the perspiring brow and rosy-red cheeks that universally indicate ‘effort’. 

So when you get home from your proper job and your flancing housemate/partner is standing proudly next to an ironing basket full of precisely pressed goods wearing a face like a five-year-old that’s just presented you with  a paper plate covered with dried pasta and sprayed gold; fake the same level of enthusiasm**.  

Flancers  need all the love for their work that they can get.


*Go nuts, my workless comrades:

**Hell, you could even stick a perfectly ironed sock to the fridge if you liked. They’d love that.

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No.24: Fill In OnLine Questionnaires

‘Not-knowing’ causes the Homosapien brain massive problems. Bipedal primates loathe and fear the absence of answers.  This is why the losing team on University Challenge always says ‘Goodbye’ (when aggressively chided by the Paxman) as if they are going to their execution.  Answers are king. Not-knowing is the Anti-Christ.  Not-knowing is worry, misery and a condescending look from Jeremy from behind his big desk of ANSWERS. For example: think now about all the things you don’t know.  Scary shit, eh? 

Flancers in particular hate not-knowing, and – even worse – not knowing something another flancer does know.  This means  dropping a valuable point on the Fantasy Scoreboard of Gloat and One-UpManship. After Paxman’s U.C. desk, the internet is the ultimate great big answer machine, and so flancers love it and use it to gather pointless facts with which to win pub quizzes and to commandeer conversations so that no-one gets a chance to ask them if they’ve got much work on at the moment. 

As well as providing answers, the internet also presents the flancer with countless more things they don’t know. Specifically, things they don’t know about themselves – which it then politely offers to help them discover the answers to via the form of an Online Questionnaire. All flancers adore Online Questionnaires because (a) flancers are action-packed with ego and (b) it’s blatant time-wasting tarted-up as ‘Internet Research*’

I have, in the last 24-hours discovered: How Old I Am Really (43. Disappointingly.) How Old I Will Be When I Become a Millionaire (84. Not taking into account inflation.) What Sex My Brain Is (Female, I am told. But I don’t know what this means. I will have to research it online.) Am I Tone Deaf? (pardon?) Am I Funny? (No. See previous answer) Would I Make a Good Dad? (No. Having bombed after Question 1: ‘are you male?’) And finally, my personal favourite: Which Level of Dante’s Hell am I Due For? (Level 8, apparently. I can look forward to being eternally whipped by horned demons. Questions to uncover this essential piece of information included: ‘Is a pimp is a good thing to be?’ And  ‘Some people just deserve to die: True or False?’  I spent the next thirty minutes after filing my responses waiting for  MI6 to come crashing through my windows.

Arguably, a better sort of Online Questionnaire would be: ‘Where is Your Next PayCheck Coming From?   but I have distracted myself from this by the Which Muppet Are You? quiz.  To which, doubtless, most people I know think they possess the answer already.


*Internet Research can also include: finding exes’ wedding photos/crafting an hilarious status update on FB, Googling ‘dogs in hats’, downloading River Cottage Autumn, looking for recipes that include instant coffee and Weetabix, organising your coffee schedule for the week by email and filling up shopping carts at an array of online stores but not taking them to checkout.

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No. 23: Forget to Get Dressed Properly

Despite previous posts about how much time flancers spend on rather than working, barely any of them ever dress themselves properly. Today for example, I am wearing striped pyjama bottoms two-sizes too big, some pink ballet pumps over chunky walking socks, a checked, long-sleeved shirt and a turquoise print scarf (the heating isn’t on yet).  I last washed my hair when we had a Conservative government and if you asked me when I last brushed it, you could go and make yourself a souffle whilst I try to remember.

For most flancers, their daily ‘commute’ consists of: bed to coffee machine to desk.  Therefore, dressing like you’ve covered yourself in glue and sprinted though a charity shop’s ‘To Be Sorted’ pile is commonplace.  I regularly scare postmen requiring a signature, unexpected visitors and myself – if I happen to stumble near a mirror.  In short – the flancer’s work wardrobe is the sort of thing that would have Jeff Banks waking in the night screaming and gnashing his teeth.

The other day, a friend called me up for coffee. So desperate was I to go outside where other human beings are,  I turned off my laptop, put on a coat and unthinkingly left the house. Halfway through coffee I looked down at myself. I realised I had simply gone through the morning’s non-dressing ritual as per, which is fine for my living room/work space but very not-fine for a vaguely respectable – and more importantly, public – area. 

As it happened,  I was wearing (a) no bra, (b) my pyjama top and a cardi which I had slept in (c) no socks and (d) jeans that had been on the floor of my room longer than the rug.  I could also smell something wierd, which in retrospect was probably my hair.  On the plus side, looking this bad means people regularly offer to pay for your coffee. On the minus side, people pull their children away in horror and intimate relationships rapidly degenerate when for the third time that month your partner sees you in your ‘work clothes’ and assume you have a drink problem.

One final note: I watched The September Issue the other night which is about U.S. Vogue Dragon Queen, Anna Wintour.  I imagined her working from home in thermals, flip flops and a Hello Kitty nightie with soup stains on it and it made me like her so much more.

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No.22: Feel Guilty about Having a Nice Time

When you don’t have any work, the theory goes that if you do not spend every waking hour seeking work you are the worst kind of lay-about waster. That you somehow deserve to be mercilessly flagellated with the flex of your own, inert laptop over the metaphorical thigh of the Grafting Classes. That you are a parasite, living off the good-will and stolen refrigerator contents of those that love you; your jobless, good-for-nothing backside growing fatter by the day on stolen Cornflakes and surreptitiously liberated chocolate that some other tax-payer provided for your enjoyment.

But enough of these Daily Mail rantings. The (slightly less foaming-at-the-mouth with outrage) truth of the matter is, as a workless flancer, given the opportunity of a nice day out (as opposed to weeping gently over your bank statements) you are torn.  Torn between gleefully skipping out of the house (away from the nasty bank statements) and the broodingly intense guilt born of illicitly enjoying yourself when you should be coming up with better ways of generating cash than rooting around  in the washing machine door seal.

On some level, perhaps the more superstitious flancer feels that this devil-may-care frivolity will anger the Employment Gods further, resulting in another month of cleaning the bathroom walls* with a toothbrush just for SOMETHING to do (before realising that was your only toothbrush and you can’t afford a new one).   Perhaps others feel that in having ‘fun’ they will lose the motivational terror that results in every  feature editor’s  in-box haemorrhaging under the influx of 347 of their desperate ideas at least twice a week. Perhaps being in a situation that results in the thought:  ‘I really shouldn’t be at Alton Towers on a Tuesday…’ is just plain depressing.

And so, you people who intend to lure a flancer from their misery with a charming proposal, bear in mind: (1) Avoid alcohol.  Booze + miserable, skint flancer = tantrum and/or earache.  (b) whatever it is you’re doing, make sure it’s a weekend.  Or a Friday, actually. No one in magazine world does anything on a Friday**.


*actual act of  flancer-desperation. Thank you AC.

**Or Monday mornings. Or Thursdays for that matter.

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No.21: Take up Jogging

Here’s a flancer-based equation:  

30% of your day sitting down +  30% being paranoid + 15 % innate A.D.D + 15% over-active imagination +10% ability to self-delude  =  take up jogging for one day a month.

On this one, epic day, the flancer will have woken up having decided that their indolent life path can only end in morbid obesity. That they can delude themselves no longer that ‘Five- a -Day’ in fact refers to fruit and vegetables,  not cigarettes, cups of coffee or visits to YouTube.  They will look in the mirror, observe mournfully the toast and cake crumbs and on their (  jumper from the day before, smell the Marlboro aroma of their unwashed hair and an epiphany will occur (after a short breakdown).  Everything that is wrong with their lives can be solved by going out and JOGGING.  A sudden, desperate need descends to join the ranks of happy, healthy humans whose circulation actually works and who move about outdoors (and not just to get to the car).   They want a piece of this happiness! And without further ado they put their trainers on, walk to the  car and drive to the shops to buy something to jog in.

At first glance, a Flancer’s wardrobe could be mistaken for the wardrobe of somebody that keeps fit anyway. Do not be fooled:  countless tracksuit bottoms (you can’t sit and write in a suit, for god sake), heat-packs (sitting = lumbar problems), water bottles (came free with the bulk-buy tracksuit bottoms), maybe a yoga mat (a Christmas present), small dumbbells (a fad) and such like.  Flancers never use any of it for it’s intended purpose because generally flancers are crap at sport. Rather than admit this, they will ardently insist that this slothish lifestyle of drinking and smoking is par for the course of creativity; observe! those Rive Gauche, artsy hipster-types! They spend months indoors eating nothing but Gauloises on toast and they produce masterpieces!  But this is simply obfuscating bullshit and if you point it out to them, they will probably cry, nod regretfully and on their next trip to the supermarket buy loads of bottled water and Ryvita.

Anyway, once they have returned from buying kit, the flancer will often discover that all the energy they had for jogging has been used up by going out and queuing in JD Sports for a whole twenty minutes.  The real fighters, however put on the kit and go for a walk. To the shop.  For fags. But the obsessives will warm up (which will traditionally resemble something that Mad Lizzie off-of Good Morning Britain used to do. Because people who never exercise resort to 80s-style  warm-up techniques* for some reason) and set off, after first taking fifteen minutes deciding whether to take their key, hide it under the door mat, put it in their sock or just leave the front door open so the paramedics can get in when they come back with them on a stretcher.

Then comes the other dilemma:  do you take your mobile in case (a) you get lost or (b) you end up in the local ghetto with no strength left to run from the yoots? Or, the real reason. (c) to call someone to pick you up.  By this time it will be dark. 

The flancer will set off, soon reaching the 200m mark. At this point, initial smugness is replaced by chest pains and the onset of migraine. Anger and hatred arrives at the 400 m mark.   And at half a kilometer the flancer is praying a bus will come along to throw themselves under to make it stop.

At least then they will get a lift back. Who cares if it’s in an ambulance?


*namely star-jumps, side bends or anything from group-exercise sessions at Butlins holiday camps Circa. 1981. Kinda like this only less choreographed

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