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Archive for November 19th, 2010

Marmite Things

This morning, inspired by Catherine O’Flynn’s denunciation of Jaffa Cakes in the Anti-Room Questionnaire,  fellow Anti-Room editor Sinéad and I were discussing, along with regular commenter Colin Morris, the phenomenon of what Sinéad dubbed “marmite things” – the things that everyone else loves but that you hate.

Jaffa forever! Sorry, Jaffa haters.

Sinéad and Colin were on O’Flynn’s side against the delicious, tasty Jaffa, and indeed orange-chocolate combos in general, while I defended the combo of orangey goodness (well, it’s a fruit, right?), spongey cake and tasty choc. In fact, to me, this combination of chocolate and orange seems not only delicious, but completely logical. Chocolate is good. Orange is good. Why not combine them together?

But of course Jaffa Cakes aren’t the only things that seem bewilderingly popular to some people. I myself can’t understand why people get excited about Arcade Fire, whose first album was good but whose subsequent releases have just sounded like Bruce Springsteen (I also don’t understand why people love Bruce Springsteen, apart from his appealing persona, which isn’t enough to make me actually voluntarily listen to more than a handful of his songs). And I also hate Guinness. I’ve tried several times over nearly two decades and I will never, ever “develop a taste for it”, as was claimed in my late teens and early twenties. Same goes for olives, aka the world’s most foul-tasting food after coriander (though at least there’s a biological reason why the latter tastes like soap to lots of people, including me).

So what about you? What inexplicably popular and also highly acclaimed (as opposed to, say, Westlife) things do you loathe?

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Catherine O’Flynn’s debut novel was rejected by over 20 agents, before being published by independent publishers Tindal Street Press. What Was Lost – the story of a missing girl set largely in a shopping centre – was long listed for the 2007 Man Booker Prize for Fiction, the Orange Prize for Fiction, and shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award. It won the Costa First Novel prize at the Costa Book Awards. Her latest book, The News Where You Are tells the story of Frank, a local TV news presenter.

What’s the first record you ever bought?

A Message to you Rudy – The Specials.

What’s your favourite smell?

Chlorinated swimming pools.

Have you ever had a nickname?

At primary school I started off as COF (my initials) but due to the prevalence of charity posters on the classroom walls this mutated to CAFOD. It never felt like a cool nickname to have.

What is your favourite room in your house?

My bedroom, it’s the lightest, the warmest and the biggest.

What are your guilty pleasures?

Weak, milky tea; Toby carverys; sandwiches with no vitamin content; central heating on for ten months of the year; being a writer.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

Once I killed a wolf.

Who is your closest female friend?

Mrs. Sarah Yarker.

Do you have any tattoos or piercings?

A piercing, as was typical of the time, in each earlobe.

Where would you most like to live?

Birmingham by the sea.

Who was your first kiss and where did it happen?

Johnny Morris (a schoolboy, not the Animal Magic presenter). At a party when I was 11 and everyone had been drinking martini and lemonade.

What’s the most unusual question you’ve ever been asked?

‘Can I touch your face?’ by a reader.

What’s the best Christmas present you’ve ever received?

A Fischer Price music box record player. I loved spinning those thick plastic discs. I used to tape my own slick radio show.  ‘That was The Camptown Races…’ (heavy breathing, clatter of plastic) ‘…and at number 5 is London Bridge is Falling Down.’

What is your favourite word?

‘Otorrinolaringólogo’. It came up in a Spanish spelling test once. Sadly life has yet to present an opportunity to use it. Maybe I’ll stab myself in the ear next time I’m in Spain just to get the chance.

Who was your first love?

Clint Eastwood. I was 8. It wasn’t reciprocated.

If you weren’t doing what you do, what might you have become?

My life as a writer isn’t that much different from my life before. A tiny bit of work, a lot of aimless wandering and thinking about piffle.  If I wasn’t a writer I’d be doing much the same but feeling less guilty about being unproductive.

Is there a book you’ve bought several times as a gift for someone?

Hey Wait by Jason.

What happens after we die?

We never have to see Jeremy Clarkson’s enormous face again.

Sum yourself up in three words:

Can’t be done.

And finally… What are you anti? What are you pro?

Anti: Jaffa Cakes, drivers who don’t give a courtesy wave, women’s magazines, men’s magazines, 24 hour news, traffic news, festivals, pollen, Sharn and Bill, the cold, empty confidence, the Pontipines.

Pro: Talking Heads, Bowie in the ’70s, Adam Buxton, Bill Callahan, Patricia Highsmith, David Foster Wallace, gasometers, cooling towers, Summer evenings, The Maltese Falcon, Werner Herzog’s voice, Desmond Dekker’s voice, the Wottingers.

Catherine O’Flynn


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