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My obsession with Adrian Chiles’ column

I’d like to enjoy his Guardian writings, but there’s one small thing getting in the way

Image: The New European

I think about Adrian Chiles’s cock more than is strictly necessary — which is pretty obviously: at all, unless you happen to be Adrian Chiles, his sexual partner, or his doctor (should Chiles be afflicted with a disease affecting his cock). 

I didn’t even really know who Chiles was much before I acquired this problem – I had a vague idea he was a television and radio presenter, but since I don’t watch the former, and don’t listen to the radio station he broadcasts on, Chiles wasn’t in my world.

 I did vaguely know he was in a relationship with Kath Viner, the editor of the Guardian, because I’d read a couple of columns he’d written for the paper that were such utter flim-flam (Wilde described wit as “the epitaph of an emotion”, and by extension, Chiles’s efforts are the epitaph of cogitation), that their presence in the paper was only explicable if his cock were in some way involved. Clearly, Ms Viner – if we accept the idea that she’s an even halfway decent newspaper editor – must be blinded by Chiles’s cock to at least this extent. 

Obviously, I mean blinded metaphorically – although the image of Chiles putting out the eye of the Guardian’s editor with his cock does have a certain slapstick jouissance to it – because if it isn’t some hidden sexual potency, unguessable from his sagging grey-potato-sack exterior, that has clouded her judgement, how else can we explain this? Chiles is, in a sense, primus inter pares when it comes to the current crop of Guardian navel-gazing columnists, intent on nothing much more than running a pale flag up the aforementioned pole, so as to signal his surrender, and hence his surpassing virtue in a world where all the scales are weighted against him having any moral character, what with being white, rich, middle-aged, male, heterosexual etc…  

At least, given the two columns of his I’ve read this would appear to be his agon – it certainly isn’t mine: indeed, I believe all that posturing on the part of the powerful is just that: a little ethical fig leaf they sport in order, quite unsuccessfully, to hide their engorged sense of entitlement. Anyway, one of Chiles’s columns was all “about” how another middle-aged white man had wrongly assumed because he was a football fan, he must be a racist. I shit you not: he managed to string out this advertisement for himself over seven paragraphs – but that’s not why I think about his cock. I think about his cock because… and, oh, Lord, if you do exist, grant me just this one boon: erase from my memory any vestige of this flaccid-yet-turgid copy… in the second column of his I read, he discussed at length the fact that he’s had a urinal installed in his domestic bathroom.

Why would someone do that, and why would they write about it for a daily newspaper? Furthermore, why would their lover put these lucubrations on her own front page? Alright, not necessarily on the physical front page (I haven’t actually bought a hard copy of the Guardian for decades, thanks to Viner’s predecessor, who so vigorously pursued the illusory grail of “free” content that to this day – so long as I put up with the banners and pop-ups that confirm yet again the view of Harland Potter, the misanthropic media mogul in Chandler’s The Long Goodbye, that newspapers are indeed advertising vehicles predicated on their circulation – I can read Chiles without losing anything save my soul), but at least on the first screen display that shimmered into being after I’d fingered the Guardian app on my phucking phone.  

The questions are rhetorical: we all know the reason he installed and wrote about the urinal – and we all know why Viner published the piece: Chiles wants as many people in the world as possible to think about his cock – and Viner is only too happy to be his accomplice. Gagging for it, you might say – if you were going to be as vulgar as Chiles. Obviously, for a man to write about his habits of urination in any detail at all is to summon in his reader’s mind’s eye this ghostly vision: the authorial hand on the authorial cock, directing – or quite possibly, misdirecting, but more on this very soon – his spluttering gush. (Or indeed his halting piddle – let us not fall here, under the influence of Chiles’s residual blokeishness, into forgetting the almost inevitably enlarged prostate of the ageing human male, and its equally inevitable sequels.) But at least if the man is pissing into a standard sort of vessel, our imagination remains hazy – it’s only when a master-craftsman such as Joyce takes us by the hand and leads us into the jakes, Chez Bloom, that we find ourselves at once contemplating the outward trappings of an evacuation – the protagonist’s partial disrobing, his seat, the bucolical environment without, the very newspaper column he reads while he composes his own columns of excrement – and the inward sensations of this particular shitter. 

No, Chiles isn’t – to employ an idiom he’d doubtless find congenial, were he ever to read this column – in that league; rather, it’s the reader who does the imaginative footwork here; the reader who transposes urinal and commode in quick succession, such that like an old 3D postcard, the tip-tilting alternation magics into being… his cock. For what, pray, is the distinguishing characteristic – for a penised-individual – of pissing into a urinal as opposed to pissing into a commode? Surely, that the former requires less grip and less steady an aim. True, many is the pissed-up pisser who’s pissed on his shoes in the pub’s pisser. (Or, as Joyce might question it in the form of a chiasmus: Whose many shoes in the pub’s pisser pissed on the pissed-up pisser is?) But overall – and especially when a splash guard is brought into play – the urinal offers the best option for legerdemain in respect of the lingam.

But there’s the rub! Just to think of Chiles lightly holding his guttering cock is, perforce, to think of that cock – and not just think of it as an achieved object, like Chiles’s face, which – or, so I’m assured – is familiar to millions, its homely features bulging out from their TV screens as he inducts them into a mystical union with his own sympathetic mediocrity; but to think of it imaginatively: is Chiles – to coin a phrase – a grower or a shower? Does he dangle down towards the pure and gaping orifice of his – no doubt scrupulously cleaned – home-urinal, something resembling a marrow in a hiking sock? Or are we talking a button mushroom here? 

(And yes, the provocation to the reader encoded in the preceding sentence, to consider whether or not Chiles is circumcised is clearly warranted. Think on it: circumcision, while long since understood to be contraindicated on all medical grounds, nonetheless continues to be the most-performed operation in the world bar none. An uncomfortable thought, but one which – when you summon the remembrance of cocks past to the court of sweet silent thought – inevitably supervenes.) 

Some years ago, while getting a clap test at the aptly named James Pringle House (which was where the inner-London sexual health services were concentrated before herpes and then AIDS made them so much more popular maladies), as the doctor thrust what looked suspiciously like a miniature metal darning mushroom into my urethra, I asked him – purely in passing – how great a variation he’d say there was in the male penis. (I suppose I could have asked a female prostitute who largely served male clients the same question, but there wasn’t one to hand.) The answer came as no surprise to me – and I’m sure it won’t to you either, for even if you’ve never given the matter much thought in the past (which I find surpassing unlikely), it hasn’t been far from the forefront of your mind since you began reading this tense-yet-serpentine screed.

“More or less infinite,” he said “and the variations are not just many, but also extraordinary. Yes, yes, there are the prosaic matters of overall size, girth, heft and length – the obvious gradations of colour, texture and vesicular patterning; and, of course, cocks smell seven thousand kinds of different fecund nastiness, but the really surprising thing is the variations in form. I’ve seen cocks shaped like hot water bottles, hammerhead sharks, firemen’s drop keys, cake stands, dolphins, rotary-dial telephones, Loughborough Magistrates Court, the Welsh language poet RS Thomas… I could go on.”

“Please do!’ I expostulated, as he withdrew the miniature darning mushroom and smeared some of whatever was pullulating in my prick into the neck of a sample vial.

“Brighton Pier, Lady Mountbatten (an amazing likeness, really – one the cock’s possessor was quite unaware of), a tin of Colman’s mustard powder, a neolithic hand-axe, the median strip of the M40 just north of High Wycombe, dust, ashes, waste, want, ruin, despair, madness, death, cunning, folly, words, wigs, rags, sheepskin, plunder, precedent, jargon, gammon, and spinach. But that’s not the whole collection,” said the young houseman, washing his hands at a sink in the corner, while I pulled up my pants and trousers. “Such is the polymorphous perversity of the human penis, its ability – if you like – to twist itself, like some fleshly Mobius strip, so as to unite the incommensurable antinomies of our benighted existence – space and time, good and evil, up and down, man and woman, man and… man – that I’ve even seen penises inscribed with as-yet-unwritten newspaper columns, columns which have been, as it were, thrust back at us from some unimaginable future… columns in which household names turn their cocks into Duchampian household objects…”

Enough! Ça sufit! There is no God – and there exists no psycho-surgery precise enough to resection this phallic obsession of mine, one which if neglected swells in the darkness with grotesque and throbbing alacrity – and if acknowledged, proliferates, like some insanely philoprogenitive and self-seeding shrub. 

Chiles, exemplary feminist that he is, comes out with some guff in his piece (much the way a drunk man – or woman for that matter – involuntarily farts while urinating) about how his urinal obviates the obvious solecisms males commit when sharing the commode with females: urine droplets on the seat, or that seat left up – but the fact remains: there is no possible justification for owning your own urinal unless you want to do the following: 1. Exclude women from one of the available receptacles allocated to urine. (Assuming, that is, there remains a standard commode, Chez Chiles.) 2. Avoid at all costs having to sit down while urinating. (Chiles does concede that he has an acute aversion to this – but the truth is the practice also obviates the same solecisms as his urinal; and moreover, a lot of men do have to sit down in order to urinate, as he’ll discover in the fullness of time, and his own ageing bladder.) 3. Write a newspaper column about it so that a lot of people will, quite involuntarily, start thinking about your cock.

In fact, both 1 and 2, quite as much as 3, entail trying to get people to think about your cock as well, Chiles. Yes, yes – I concede: before you wrote the column for your lover’s rag, only people who actually visited your flat, or to whom you vouchsafed this vital intelligence, would have known anything about the giant and petrified porcelain ear hanging off your bathroom wall. And yet there it was, listening and waiting for its moment in the nuclear-fission-intense glare of public recognition; and there, close beside it, was your cock – also waiting for its chance to shine. 

I do not hate you, Adrian Chiles, for making me think more than is strictly necessary about your cock. Neither do I blame Kath Viner, the editor of a proud liberal newspaper that’s recently celebrated its two hundredth anniversary of speaking truth fearlessly unto power, for assisting you in this matter — much in the way that a skilful farmer moves in to help a lumbering bull, as it attempts to insert its vast cock into a cow’s cunt. I prefer to think of you both as some more egalitarian version of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles-that-was: he fervently desiring to be her tampon – she, happily compliant in this arresting scenario. True, their love-talk was exposed by a phone-hacker, while yours required the willing involvement of scores – perhaps hundreds – of Guardian staffers, but the end result is the same: a certain timeless whimsicality attaches to the notion of your very fleshly attachment.     

What a welcome corrective this is to the litany of sexualised hatred we read about in the pages of your lover’s rag, wherein all intimate relationships are shadowed by a darkness that bodies forth from human genitals themselves – like some fanny-born phlogiston. Male, female, trans, non-binary; straight, gay, queer or bisexual – it used to be that the possibilities of sexual violence and contumely were exhausted by the obvious binary, but now – grâce á le Guardien – we live in a stygian realm, out of which loom the most frightening chimeras. O! How your cock, Chiles, leavens this heavy dough of unwanted concupiscence! No, I do not resent you for forcing upon me your cock, as a sharper does a marked card – on the contrary: I thank you, I reverence you… I accepted paragraphs ago that many of my readers will have thought to themselves: He doth protest too much – he loves this Chiles’s-cock-o-centricity, desires it even; indeed, it was this insight itself that effected a sudden revision in my thinking – much as the sufferer from the hysterical condition known in Indonesia as latah believes that his cock has everted and is penetrating his own body – such that I now not only no longer believe that I think about Chiles’s cock more than is strictly necessary – I also want you to think about it as much as I do. 

And so it is that under the banner of Adrian Chiles’s cock we will march together towards a better and kinder future.

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