How I ended up being a Sadonna
Being a laughing-stock is an almost unavoidable rite-of-passage for first year college students. Whether you go to uni, poly or tech makes no difference; second and third years need someone to point and laugh at to make them feel superior - that's just the way it is - and who better than early October's influx of fledgling freshers?
I acquired this gem of wisdom from an older sister, who, as five years my senior had already been there, done that and worn the psychologically-scarred T-shirt by the time it was my turn to flee the family nest.
I decided to tackle this head-on by attempting to look as 'cool' as possible for my first appearance at college, so I dressed a bit like Madonna who was the coolest woman on the planet in those days (yes, it was that long ago).
Big hair, slutty make-up, fishnet stockings ... I somehow imagined that turning up looking like a hooker would win me an instant exemption from the unwritten-rule of the polytechnic pecking order.
Sadly, this wasn't the case.
As I strolled into the Manchester Fashion College building, trying to look nonchalant in a ballerina tutu and biker boots, I was greeted by a chorus of loud guffaws.
One guy even spat his coffee across the pattern-cutting table and proceeded to choke theatrically, so great was his mirth at the ridiculous spectacle before him.
And so great was the impression I made that I was christened with a nickname within minutes - Sadonna, or Saddo for short - which stayed with me for the next three years.
Even the tutors called me Saddo. Not quite the image I had intended.
With the benefit of hindsight, where I went spectacularly wrong on that fateful day was that I stood out like a sore thumb.
I now know that the trick is to try and fit in; to mingle and merge with your elders so that you won't be singled out for individual ridicule.
So, to assist all prospective students in this potentially-catastrophic transition process, I have compiled a list of essential must-have items which, if adhered to, will guarantee instant campus kudos:
÷A collection of T-shirts (skinny and tight for girls, baggy & extra large for boys, but always predominantly black) printed with a witty slogan like Procrastinators of the World Unite Sometime Tomorrow or Don't Call Me Juvenile, You Stinky Poo-Head!; the face of Karl Marx/Bob Marley/ Che Guevara; Heavy Metal band official merchandise, the more obscure the better, such as Napalm Death, preferably with list of tour dates; a solitary cannabis leaf or anti George 'Dubya' Bush slogan.
Alternatively, go for an ironic post-modernist nostalgia image, like Zippy from Rainbow/Peter Falk as Columbo/any Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.
Or try a movie memorabilia image, preferably gangster-related like Pulp Fiction/ScarFace/The Godfather.
÷Staple Ramones-style skinny/drainpipe jeans with regulation rips and tears at knee and/or one pair of the baggy 'cargo' version with superfluous straps and low-slung waist (avoid Sk8R Boi-style long shorts - so last season and a bit gimpy) Studded belt.
÷One leather three-quarter length coat, must be black, single-breasted (double-breasted just doesn't look casual enough) and very worn-looking. Squeaky clean and brand new will only give the game away, so if necessary apply a few strategic scratches and cigarette burns.
Luxury item? One velvet smoking jacket for pretentious evenings in.
÷One pair Converse trainers; one pair Doc Marten's; one pair Crocs for Teacher Training or Psychology students.
÷One beanie hat, preferably with band logo (see above). Luxury item? One Russian military hat preferably with hammer and sickle insignia.
÷One pair fingerless gloves (good for crafting roll-ups); one bandana; one dog-tag neck chain; one i-Pod; one mobile phone with Kaiser Chiefs/ Kasabian/ ironic CrazyFrog ringtone.
Stick to the above and you should avoid close scrutiny by the fashion Gestapo.
But, if all else fails and you're still not being taken seriously, just say Saddo sent you.
X factor? Simon's got it for me
Simon Cowell equals human Marmite. You either love him or hate him. But whichever way you swing, it is impossible to deny that wherever he appears is compulsive viewing.
He's a walking mixed metaphor - a hybrid of Midas and Medusa, capable of turning ideas into gold with his personal touch, but people into stone by a single cursory glance.
And it's not just here. Across the pond he has become such a phenomenon that he was announced this week as the third highest earner on US television. His personal fortune is now listed as £100m and counting.
Against my better judgement, the opinion of all my friends and, indeed, anyone whom I've ever met, I find him impossibly and implausibly attractive.
I simply can't help myself.
I know it's wrong. He's unpleasant, unconquerably arrogant, masochistic asadistic and enjoys - nay, thrives - on watching people squirm.
He's got no style and wears high-waisted trousers and short-sleeved leisure shirts. His hair grows upwards unabated like that guy from Eraserhead except that his goes naturally into an unflattering middle-parting like a church-going Bart Simpson.
He's basically a tasteless, charmless B-word.
And yet I can't get enough of him.
Saturday is now X Factor day. Saturday night is Xtra Factor night. All social events are cancelled forthwith. Not that there were many, but you get the idea.
Although I may cringe through every bad performance, wincing as he cruelly condemns each poor participant, on those rare occasions when he is impressed and deigns to smile, I always wish that person was me. And my heart melts ...
There's only one thing for it. I'm going to the next auditions. I'm not a great singer, but who cares?
What's the worst that can happen? Well, apart from complete and utter public humiliation on a global scale, that is?
Watch this space.
Smoking? it's no, no, no, nanny ...
Cigareets an' whisky an' wild, wild women ... Those were the days ...
It seems the persecution of smokers continues apace.
First, we were taxed into oblivion every Budget Day without fail. Next, we were unwelcome in the workplace. Then we were barred from bars and banished from bistros ... even theatres weren't allowed to have a fag on stage (pun totally intended).
But now the latest ruling from Nanny State means that smokers at the wheel of a car can face a hefty fine.
According to the new updated version of the Highway Code, anyone spotted having a sneaky ciggie while in control of a vehicle is breaking the law and liable to prosecution.
What next, I wonder, as I drag on a Berkeley's Menthol outside in the freezing cold and the pouring rain ... ?
Government health warnings such as DIE, DIE, DIE! printed on packets?
Smokers to be branded with a cigarette butt and forced to wear a nicotine patch armband?
Guatanamo Bay for persistent offenders?
Cigar smokers to be shot on sight?
Why Britney's not quite mommy
So, the inevitable finally happened. After countless sordid tales of alcoholic benders, alleged drug-fuelled partying and general reckless behaviour in the presence of her kids, Britney has been officially declared an unfit mother and the two wee boys have been handed over to their dad, Kevin Federline.
I do feel sorry for her in many ways. She's had a rough old time of it lately and, whereas other celebrities live the life of Riley and get away with it, she follows suit and just ends up in more bother. But the way she reacted to this week's ruling proves in itself why it was the right decision.
Within hours, she appeared in front of the paparazzi, smiling blankly and waving to the cameras apparently without a care tin the world. Then it was off to the tanning salon for a bit more 'me time'.
Business as usual, in fact, for the singer whose hit Not Quite a Girl, Not Yet a Woman could now have a new verse ... Definitely not a Mommy.