Monday, October 31, 2005

Not Now

One day I'll tell you about my chin, but not now. Last night I returned from visiting Bristol and Bath, the western reaches, golden land of my mis-spent youth. A lovely time was had by GGF and I, catching up with old friends, making new friends, and eating fish.
























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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

If I Had A Penny For Every Time...

Long long ago, on top of a tall mountain they called Crystal Palace, there grew up a boy child who collected spiderwebs. Each morning, going from bush to bush, tree to tree, and all along the iron railings which stretched from the buttercup slopes of Penge to the northern limits of Crown Point, from Spa Hill along the ridge to Beulah Heights, a wild place festooned with sweet chestnut, holly, oak and beech, the young boy took his spiderweb collecting sticks, and treading seasonally, followed the millions of spiders, carefully removing only enough silk each time, in order to keep the spiders spinning year after year. Nobody had taught him this, he just seemed to know what to do.

Looking down on the green expanse of the Sorry Doons on the one side, and the great sprawling metropolis of Lungdom on the other, he sometimes wondered what he was doing, when all the other children had trainers and bicycles, attended youth clubs for their afterschool social interaction, played football and other sports, and generally did not behave as if they were living in a constructed fantasy world.

Sometimes people would remark upon his spiderweb collecting activities. "If I had a penny for every time people asked me what I am doing, I would be wealthy indeed," he mused.

His skills developed, and he won a scholarship to attend art school. He learned to make interesting objects from his spiderwebs, exhibited them internationally, and sold them for large amounts of cash. He moved from the top of the mountain into the great sprawling metropolis, where he became popular. "You are good at this," people told him, and the more they told him, the more he believed them. "You make really cool stuff with spiderwebs." His confidence grew, and soon his work was in all the major art galleries of the great sprawling metropolis, and in many more cities besides.

Some people, however, whilst appreciating his skill, comprehended neither the level of his success nor the origins of his art, the years of practise, the dedication and the long pursuit of the perfect spiderweb that were responsible for his singular abilities. Watching him collect spiderwebs, and make beautiful objects from them, they would remark helpfully, "You're good at that. You should do that for a living."

"If I had a penny for every time people told me I should do this for a living, I'd be skint," he mused. "The art world is far more lucrative than putting a tax on well-meaning but ignorant advice."

Here endeth the parable of the spiderweb collecting boy.

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Saturday, October 22, 2005

Johnny Cash Likes My Song

I've been awake fifteen minutes, and listening to a song I wrote yesterday, or more accurately, finished yesterday. The chords have been shaping around a D retune for a few weeks, the structure emerged in a writing session with The Caliph of Maidenhead and the lyrics arrived earlier in the week. The surprising thing is, it's a country song. I didn't set out to write a country song, it just emerged that way, harmonica, harmonies, narrative.

In my dream last night, I was chatting with Johny Cash, playing bass while he played guitar, deciding not to attempt to record it in case the moment was lost to another moment and we lost the vibe. I didn't want to insult the man. We were back of a house somewhere, in a yard I have never seen before. He was warm and easy to be with, interesting and philosophical. I felt close to him and honoured he was spending time with me.

Songs are born like babies, and if you are being true to your muse, which is a luxury many commercial writers cannot afford, then they can be as unexpected in their personalities as people. This new song is about a relationship which creates miracles, and as the relationship fades, so do the miracles, but once it's over, then the miracles return.

Songs and music tie times and places together in deep and unmistakable ways.. across the skein of time, they loop back and forth, bringing memory and meaning.

This morning, I am feeling strangely delighted that the Man in Black deigned to visit me in my sleep. We shared the same birthday, me, Johnny and Victor Hugo. I've always felt a connection. I'll accept this as a good omen.

Time for breakfast.

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Thursday, October 20, 2005

Busy Doing Nothing

I remember watching a backgammon game when I was twenty and asking a friend of mine whether it was worth learning. He had been playing all afternoon, and his wry comment was, "You can waste a lot of time playing backgammon," so I decided to give it a miss. I can hear howls from all backgammon fans. I have since questioned this decision, as I enjoy dice games and any peaceful pasttime which does not require one to ingest mood-altering substances to take part has to be good. Still, I have resisted so far. Instead, I have been writing, in one form or another. You can certainly waste a lot of time writing, and, if you have readers, you can waste a lot of their time too.

Of course, I also have a normal life. In it, the every day story of the smell of sex is as real as anything else, and the dialog engendered by writing and reading is as real to me as talking and listening. That's one of the reasons I like blogging. The other main appeal for me is that it is, like every new art movement, autodidactic. Whatever the reason for releasing the chattering monkey upon the illuminated page - the screen - there is no one way to blog, no certain course leading to blog success, no academic measure; there are no blogging certificates not issued by spurious institutions not worth the paper they are not printed upon. There are however many excellent bloggers who for some reason use up precious chunks of their lifetime putting it down in words.

Song writing, on the other hand, needs no explanation or analysis.

Ever since I can remember, Busy Doing Nothing has been one of my favourite songs. For a short time only, purely for review purposes, here are my two favourite versions - the original one sung by by Bing Crosby, from the 1947 film A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court and one from the early 1980s by Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin, which I particularly love because of the sneaky mood of unease which creeps into the arrangement.

Waste some time listening to them, while you can.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Change The Record

Last time I took on a behemothic theme it was Death. I struggled with it, wrestling at the cliff top; and by the end of the month, I was near to despair. I was then heartened by IG who kindly reminded me that the great central themes, the ones labelled HUMAN CONDITION we cross and re-cross. Therefore I took on Time not even intending to cover the merest scrap of it's immense woven trailing tattered layered incomprehensible fabric, in fact, knowing that this month, of all months during 2005, I was going to be hardest pressed for time to write. I simply wanted Time to be a nail for me to hang my coat upon, and blow me, if it hasn't cooperated.

Time started to become comprehensible to me as a seven year old child when someone - I cannot remember who - explained to me why our experience of it changes as we age. He (I recall it was a "he") used the following explanation to show me why afternoons as a seven year old last ten years, and ten years as a seventy year old last a single afternoon. Think of a record, an old vinyl disc, spinning around. You are born in the middle. Near the centre, we travel around quite slowly. As we grow, we move at a steady speed out to the edge. See how much faster the edge travels, and yet the disc still spins at the same thirty three and a third revolutions per minute. And then we fall off, he didn't say. But I could see that, unless someone was making the disc bigger, that was eventually going to happen. Then I would be on the living room floor, chewed by the dog, and hoovered up on Saturday morning.

I never thought we'd be able to change the record, or the speed of its spin, or perhaps, navigate to the edge using special ropes to cross over and start to return to the centre on the other side. CDs didn't exist, so I couldn't come out with a precocious lazer light concept, arguing for immortality via hiss-free digital recording.

Since then, I have spent much time on Time. I have cogitated, meditated, made art and music and written about it, dwelt comfortably upon its cushions, engrossed in the glorious detail of all it has given me, despaired at the wasting of it, wept and marvelled at its passing, as the microgroove takes me backwards inexorably towards the edge, playing all sorts of hidden messages.

Songs become emblematic of a time. Remember the old adage, Tom Waits for no man? Tom Waits wrote his superb song, Time in 1985, which was a time when my cultural horizons were expanding hugely. It's from the album Rain Dogs.

Well the smart money's on Harlow and the moon is in the street
And the shadow boys are breaking all the laws
And you're east of East Saint Louis and the wind is making speeches
And the rain sounds like a round of applause
And Napoleon is weeping in a carnival saloon
His invisible fiancee's in the mirror
And the band is going home, it's raining hammers, it's raining nails
And it's true there's nothing left for him down here

And it's time time time, and it's time time time
And it's time time time that you love
And it's time time time

And they all pretend they're orphans and their memory's like a train
You can see it getting smaller as it pulls away
And the things you can't remember tell the things you can't forget
That history puts a saint in every dream

Well she said she'd stick around until the bandages came off
But these mama's boys just don't know when to quit
And Mathilda asks the sailors "Are those dreams or are those prayers?"
So close your eyes, son, and this won't hurt a bit

Oh it's time time time, and it's time time time
And it's time time time that you love
And it's time time time

Well things are pretty lousy for a calendar girl
The boys just dive right off the cars and splash into the street
And when they're on a roll she pulls a razor from her boot
And a thousand pigeons fall around her feet
So put a candle in the window and a kiss upon his lips
As the dish outside the window fills with rain
Just like a stranger with the weeds in your heart
And pay the fiddler off 'til I come back again

Oh it's time time time, and it's time time time
And it's time time time that you love
And it's time time time
And it's time time time, and it's time time time
And it's time time time that you love
And it's time time time


Go find it, if you have time.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Flexing Like A Whore

John Allanson was ahead of his time. He was an interesting chap from South Norwood, pleasant, enterprising, and a real David Bowie fan. When he was 17 he saved up and flew to New York to see Bowie in Elephant Man, stayed a week there on his own, saw the show several times, and lurked stage door to meet him. Bowie, relaxed and enjoying the stage run, spent some time chatting with John, appreciating that he had travelled from practically the same part of South London where he grew up.

I liked Bowie from a time in my childhood when space travel seemed to represent a way out of everything I couldn't stand - the oppression of the age is easy to forget. He wrote Space Oddity, and it was the first record I ever went and bought - Woolworths, Crystal Palace, seven inch vinyl. It cost less than ten shillings. I still have it.

Then his style changed. Perhaps Ziggy Stardust and his other eccentric, chameleon creations were cocaine-fuelled, but for us early adolescents, his sensitive extroversion was a remarkable freedom, and a wonderful alternative to skinhead culture and the Bay City Rollers. Bowie had all the best lyrics, and one day I went round to John's after school, and he played me Time. It was the first time I heard the word wanking recorded. We played it loud - his parents didn't seem to mind.

Time

Time - he’s waiting in the wings
He speaks of senseless things
His script is you and me, boy

Time - he flexes like a whore
Falls wanking to the floor
His trick is you and me, boy

Time - in quaaludes and red wine
Demanding billy dolls
And other friends of mine
Take your time

The sniper in the brain, regurgitating drain
Incestuous and vain, and many other last names
I look at my watch it say 9:25 and I think oh God I’m still alive

We should be on by now
We should be on by now

Lai, lai, lai, lai, lai, lai, lai, lai
Lai, lai, lai, lai, lai, lai, lai, lai

You - are not a victim
You - just scream with boredom
You - are not evicting time

Chimes - goddamn, you’re looking old
You’ll freeze and catch a cold
’cause you’ve left your coat behind
Take your time
Breaking up is hard, but keeping dark is hateful
I had so many dreams, I had so many breakthroughs
But you, my love, were kind, but love has left you dreamless
The door to dreams was closed. your park was real dreamless
Perhaps you’re smiling now, smiling through this darkness
But all I had to give was the guilt for dreaming

We should be on by now
We should be on by now
We should be on by now
We should be on by now
We should be on by now

Lai, lai, lai, lai, lai, lai, lai, lai
Lai, lai, lai, lai, lai, lai, lai, lai, lai
Lai, lai, lai, lai, lai, lai, lai, lai
Lai, lai, lai, lai, lai, lai, lai, lai, lai
Lai, lai, lai, lai, lai, lai, lai, lai
Lai, lai, lai, lai, lai, lai, lai, lai, lai
Lai, lai, lai, lai, lai, lai, lai, lai
Lai, lai, lai, lai, lai, lai, lai, lai, lai
La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la
La, la, la, la, la, la

Yes time


"His trick is you and me - boy."

I used to feel ambiguous about his voice - I wished he'd pitch better. But I always loved the way he sings that phrase - boy. So aloof, and so damned Brechtian.

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Monday, October 17, 2005

The Oldest Noodle

Although the site of well coordinated decor and hygenic bathroom and kitchen surfaces can produce in me a glow of contentment and an expression of satisfaction you might find ordinarily in OCD sufferers, or in women of a certain age suppressing a certain inner rage, whose children have left home and them with little to do except preen house and garden, I am not obsessive about tidyness. I explain to everybody that the house I grew up in contained five children and two working adults, and there was never enough space or time to get the place straight. Mr Hawking once tried to explain otherwise to me, saying that my concepts simply needed adjusting, and that anyway domestic black holes were not factual, merely descriptive, but I was in no mood to listen.

Everyone was incredibly protective about their stuff but nobody would clear up after themselves. Tidying meant that someone, the designated tidier, would take all the small piles of stuff from the living room and put them in one big pile in the dining room. You would say goodbye to any book you once had after tidying. You could lose your homework, your bicyle pump, your best shirt, or your girlfriend, and the place would still in fact remain in an appalling mess. You would open the cutlery drawer and find a hammer, open the front door and find Encyclopaedia Britannica. Breakfasts were chaotically deranged, a fight to find food, which there always was, somewhere, followed by a fight for space, a perch for cereal bowl or plate with slices of toast, and tea, glorious tea. Those first precious minutes of the day are now breathtakingly peaceful, sans family, sans mess, and sans Mother.

My delightful mother grew up in a modern household during the second world war, and became a tremendous force for social good, being a woman who understood the value of education, of history, of physical, emotional and cultural health, but she was a hoarder, and like many who lived through war rationing, especially lax on discarding old food gone past its use by date.

When I read about the oldest noodle, I recalled visiting the family home several years after I had ceased to live there. She proudly showed me her new kitchen, lots of real wood cupboards, in fact, I have never seen more cupboards in any kitchen, and in each cupboard, stuff, and not just kitchen stuff. There were several cupboards within easy reach, so I opened a few. All full. In one cupboard was another cupboard.

"Very nice," I said, sitting down at the round table, moving a pile of letters, paper, magazines, two plates, a pair of pliers, and some sewing, to put my cup of tea down. "Excuse Father's mess," she said.

Ignoring her laying the blame completely unfairly on her loyal and long-suffering husband, I asked, "Have you actually thrown anything away at all?" "Yes! Yes!" she said excitedly, grinning like a schoolgirl. "I found a jar of mincemeat at least thirty years old!"

I went through the fridge, and found various inedible and unsafe articles, which I promptly binned, and a plastic-wrapped pack of faded grey meat - "for the dog". Sadly, the dog had long since died, and since Mother didn't have Alzheimer's, I asked which dog. A flicker of guilt crossed her face, but she wouldn't be drawn. I wondered if she was secretly feeding some poor discarded stray animal, and pointed out that if she fed this to anyone, that would surely be their last meal. I never did work out what the meat was really for, but since I was allowed to remove every other dangerous item, and obtained her assurances that the meat wouldn't be used for human food, I had to let it pass. Perhaps she had an old freezer out the back somewhere with a small space into which that meat fitted perfectly.

Whether we like it or not, and as a child, I liked it not, we descend from our parents, we are of them and like them, and we become them, even without knowing them. So now, I have come out. I am a hoarder. I have hoarded, I am hoarding, I shall hoard. My rationale is no different from my mother.

Still some life left in that - but not actually enough life to warrant keeping it any longer. This especially applies to clothes.

Could come in handy - which we always used to say quite correctly about masturbation, but which never applies to bicycle parts, sunglass lenses, or old bus passes.

Will be useful one day - yes, perhaps, after I am dead, someone will use this small box of matches with an acid smile to light the pyre of all my useless possessions.

Just needs fixing - which joiner is going to fix that writing desk? which electrician that Grundig ribbon microphone? which future archaeologist of twentieth century plastic that model ostrich?

Waste not, want not - except for storage space, which hoarders always exceed.

I have a loft, which is more or less full. I want a garage. I dream of having outbuildings. I want a workshop. My eyes mist at the thought of a workbench upon which to put my large vice, which currently sits at the end of the hallway, next to the collection of firebricks I have kept safely these last fifteen years.

At one point, in my flat there was so much furniture, old computers, art, boxes and drawers and crates of stuff, none of which I knew what to do with, and yet I could not face living with it any more, so I hired a storage cage. I paid £50 a month for a whole year, just for the privilege of not throwing stuff out and having it under lock and key. Mostly, it was stuff I had kept from childhood. Yes, I know this can be seen as a psychologically significant act. I just wanted some space. Of course, I told myself, I will put up shelves, build cupboards. I will throw lots of stuff away. By the time I got round to doing this, several years later, I was even more attached to the stuff I still had, and I had accumulated a whole lot more cool new stuff.

Finally, the be-all-and-end-all of excuses for me to keep things: I will make art from it. I will write about it. I will photograph it. It shall transcend its origins.

Yeah, right.

When I admit to this, I recall J, handsome, philosophical, and since lost to me as a friend, telling me that all his notebooks full of wonderful ideas were "books of forgetting". We record our inspiration not for posterity, but as an elegy.

Regular readers may have noticed the unusually long recent silence of the every day story of the smell of sex. There is a reason for this, obviously, and thus I have been congratulating myself on the great efforts I have made to remodel my environment in order to assemble an audio studio, which is significantly enhanced by my having mothballed some rather beautiful gear eleven years ago. At last, some successful hoarding. In the process, I moved things around, retrieved things I needed, discovered things I had forgotten about, and yes, even threw some things away. I have more space. I am tired, but happy. I woke up yesterday sensing that many years had slipped away in the night, and I laughed at my foolishness and at my past choices.

I found all the fortune cookie papers I have kept, and I will share them with you now, so that I have at least made art from twenty three of the twenty six thousand things I have hoarded over the past few years, and my fortune cookie piece can at last be rescued from the books of forgetting.













































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Friday, October 14, 2005

Bird Flu

Makes you glad to be a bloke.

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Saturday, October 08, 2005

Saturday Morning

Anything can happen on a Saturday. It doesn't matter what weather is doing, really, because it's Saturday.

Household obligations and the desire to sleep are the only thing between you and this miracle time of freedom.

Sunday can be leisurely, for sure, but it is already too near the forced march of Monday. Saturday leaves you time to spare, to eat and drink, to be lazy, to watch a film, then another, to dress inappropriately and then more so, to be lost and found, to make waste, not haste.

One Saturday morning in early December, 1993, I awoke in California, in a cheap just-above-shitty motel off Santa Monica Boulevard, with plasterboard walls so thin you could punch through them, fat cockroaches scuttering everywhere, and the sun streaming down as usual. The sheets were clean enough, thank God.

My first thought was to notice the bullet holes in the walls that we hadn't seen the night before.

We had driven down the two of us in a huge white Oldsmobile from Bass Lake through Fresno, and on to a Friday afternoon meeting with a female executive in a large recording corporation in Hollywood. It was a long drive, at interminably slow speed, but it was this way I first entered Los Angeles, driving in on the freeway.

I found a bowling alley near the office, where I changed from my hiking jeans and boots into conservative office wear. I felt British guilt at using the bowling alley's lavatory without paying for bowling, so I bought an iced tea before I left.

In the car park, S waited for me in the sun. "They are bowling on a Friday afternoon!" I exclaimed. The local inhabitants were choosing to spend money to remain out of the afternoon sun in dark, echoing tunnels, with aircon and a cafeteria.

"It's cheap," she replied, leaning up against the side of the car in shades and shorts. "It's hot."

It was hot, sunny like a pleasant English early summer day in mid-May, and this was December. December - April, Los Angeles is not usually too bad, climate-wise. Pleasant temperatures, air pollution just about at London levels.

Next morning, having retrieved the Oldsmobile and swiftly exited the motel, I phoned Bill, bass player, resident of West Hollywood. Bill was great, a big friendly warm guy, just like Californians are supposed to be. He kindly offered to chaperone us culturally and find us a less scary place to stay for a couple of days, despite us waking him up on a Saturday morning which was clearly his recouperation time from an intense Friday night's gig, and to meet up for lunch.

We had a few hours to kill, so we decided to go for a jog along Venice Beach.

Saturday morning 9.30am Venice Beach is as mad as anywhere I have ever been.

As we jogged, we fitted into the scene seamlessly, moving and keeping pace with the other joggers, keeping to the jogging lanes obediently and taking it all very seriously.

Nowhere has the civilised veil of sanity been more transparent. Never have I seen more artificially enhanced bodies in my life. This is a place of human extremes, where the most unhinged people in the world hang out, from every state, from every land, of every gender and sexuality, drug takers and sellers, rich people alongside paupers of every kind, in a permanently wacked out beach-zone of constant physical improvement and psychological deterioration; we watched people lifting weights, balancing, pulling up on bars, trampolining, and conducting all kinds of body beautiful exercise in a complex and bizarre public Saturday morning ritual.

We jogged past the beach tractors cleaning and combing the sand. We jogged past a black guy on rollerblades wearing star-shaped shades, with his amp on a trolley, rolling along with him, playing glittering rock guitar, his face screwed up permanently in soloist's ecstasy. We jogged past beggars and vendors and migrants and zombies and tourists and locals; we jogged through an episode of Baywatch. I noticed the crew's black shiny bomber jackets with the show's logo on it, and this felt quite normal. Everyone was just ignoring the shoot, and the minders just hanging out with the rest of us, not expecting anything in particular to have to deal with.

It was the first time I jogged wearing shades.

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Friday, October 07, 2005

Anchovies, Cox's Orange Pippins, and Rioja



Just a suggestion for Friday night.

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Slump

Don't know if anyone noticed, but the global economy hiccupped yesterday. I quote from Aunty Beeb:

Stock markets across the globe have fallen amid persistent US interest rate jitters amid fears that oil prices could spur inflation. Wall Street's Dow Jones wiped out early gains made on positive company news to close 31.38 points down at 10,285.98. The slide came despite oil prices dropping to near the $61 a barrel mark, as the fall triggered a drop in the price of heavyweight oil companies. In Europe the key Dax, Cac and FTSE markets sank more than 50 points. Wall Street's drop came a day after the market slumped on comments from a Federal Reserve official who warned the central bank needed to stay alert to potential inflation pressures caused by rising energy prices.

What does it take for a hiccup to become a slump? Confidence, or rather, the lack of it. In the case of the global market, it's it's about how you feel about where you are, not about where you actually are.

European shares still recorded their biggest daily fall since the 7 July bombings in London as concerns over the future of interest rates knocked sentiment and shares in oil heavyweights tracked crude prices lower.

Sentiment! And we thought successful capitalism was all about wise investment, competitiveness, and industrial might.

I've been thinking about time, as I have quietly and without fanfare decided to base this month's theme upon the entire concept of TIME, beginning, for some reason known only to the God of Instinct, with cycles of seven. This morning I remembered an astrological prediction I read a couple of months ago which said, anything you didn't resolve seven years ago will return and you will (I will) have to deal with it now. Portentous stuff.

Being that Piscean combination of cynicism and suggestability, when I read this, I immediately dismissed the thought from my conscious mind lest it become a self-fulfilling prophecy, whereupon said concept, banished to the fermenting barrel of the deep, dark cellar of my subconscious, continues to offer new interpretations as it reaches excellent drinking quality. In any case, once I came out of denial about the fact that I WAS thinking back to where/how/who I was seven years ago, I started to make sense of me here/now. Here are seven things about seven years:

Seven years ago, I was depressed, as low as it gets. Now I am on a good level emotionally most of the time, and if I'm not, ah well fuck it, I'll recover sooner or later.

Seven years ago, I was totally skint, Now I am rich enough to afford debts.

Seven years ago, I was single, and confused about whether I really wanted to be with anyone. Now I am living with my lover, and confused about what I really want from being with someone.

Seven years ago, I was beset by morbid fear, wearing a lot of black, and expecting the worst from civilisation. Now, I am wearing a lot of black, and expecting the worst from civilisation.

Seven years ago, my horizons were limited, reduced by the bad custodian I had become of myself, by negativity and bad habits. Now, I am staring at great vistas of opportunity and pleasure, produced by long, careful management of myself, and I accept that I can be profoundly negative and that I need to work on my bad habits.

Seven years ago, I was rescued by a colleague who dragged me into a cool music project. Now, I am working with my colleagues on a cool music project.

Seven years ago, I was politically disengaged and cynical; now, having briefly but meaningfully engaged, I am once again politically disengaged and cynical.

So, in some respects, I have not moved on at all, but I feel better about being here, in others, I have made good progress, in others, I have simply moved from one place to another, still carrying around the same old shit.

You can tell someone who is perfectly well that they have a month to live, and watch them fade. The world is full of stories like this, as much as it is full of "I should be dead but I didn't give up and now am living life to the full" tales. Recently I experienced a major hiccup which didn't become a slump. Or maybe it was a slump, but I decided it was a hiccup, so it went away. So, I guess, I must have had the right sentiment.

Confidence is a valuable commodity.

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Thursday, October 06, 2005

Railings


All around and about the patch of suburban south London where I grew up, there was evidence of the Victorian obsession with order, classification, heirarchy and status, and also of the tumult of the following century that tore all that certainty apart, and nowhere was this more evident than railings.

A lot of the railings that once surrounded parks and municipal lawns were cut down during one or other of the two world wars, on the pretext that this was for munitions, tanks, aeroplanes, etc., but the vast majority of the metal reclaimed in this way, along with kitchen pots and pans, and Uncle Robert's bathchair, was completely useless for that purpose. How effective a morale-boosting initiative that was: we now have only one pot to piss in, and the park's borders are forever defined by a metal barrier which disappeared more than sixty years ago.

Some of the long lines of railings survived - posher houses, schools, hospitals got to keep their heavy wrought iron, and these were painted and repainted, fine details obliterated by layer upon layer of lead-based green or black gloss paint, or left unpainted to rust and grow thin, becoming ever more fragile and brittle. Certain stretches of railing could be broken by a good kick, but you had to be careful, or the great War God Tet Ah Nhus would come down from metal heaven and bite you in the leg and kill your face.

Cut to a future time, when archaeological visitors to the island of Crystal Palace are handed small sticks and shown to a length of railing which has been set up for the purpose. "Go on, children!" they exhort their bored progeny, "Bang the railings, just like they did in the Twentieth Century, to keep the War God happy!"

There were particularly fine lengths of railings around my primary school, and one of the first things I learned to do was to walk at a steady pace with a stick held horizontally, listening intently as the notes made gongs out of each metal stem - bing-bong-bung-bing-bang-bing-bing-ding-thwock-bing-bing-beng-bong-bing-dong-bung-bing-bang-bing-bing-chug-thwock-bing-ding-beng-bong - wonderful entertainment for the musical ear aged five, and maddeningly distracting for attendant adult with a head full of Premium Bonds and an arse full of piles. Being forbidden made it more special, and soon I had logged all the places in the area that lines of railings lived, and visited them in order to make my processional, Balinese street music at leisure.

Railings kept me in school, and once, aged ten, out of school, when I managed to impale my left hand whilst returning a lunchtime ball which had landed in front of me in the road. Climbing onto the wall, I threw it back, slipped, and for a few grisly seconds, the weight of my body hung from my punctured hand. I pulled myself up and off, jumped down onto the path, spread my fingers and stared at the enormous wound. As I did so, I realised I was looking at the other side of my skin - the wound had not quite gone right through - before it filled with blood.

"Come in, love, and I'll put a plaster on it," said a helpful but entirely misguided dinner lady. I looked at her, and decided that this was a professional clean up and stitch job, so ignoring her well-meaning but ludicrous advice, lifting up my left hand with my right, I jogged gently back up the hill home, and when I got there calmly announced that I would need a visit to hospital. I was descended upon by Mum and siblings with lashings of prompt sympathy, whereupon to my great surprise, I cried. Damn! I had been so determined not to, but the bastards went for the emotional jugular.

In hospital, I got three stitches, which I still have, in a small wooden box, much to the disgust of various girlfriends. This wound was blamed for my depression (nobody ever asked me, "Any recent bereavements?") so a few months later, I was prescribed valium.

Bing-bong-bung-bing-bang-bing-bing-ding-thwock-bing-bing-beng-bong-bing-dong-bung-bing-bang-bing-bing-chug-thwock-bing-ding-beng-bong went my head, but nobody was listening then. I found railings later - I filmed them in Wood Green, when I got to art school, just walking around Woodside park in the sun, with a stick making the notes.

It was a piece I never showed, never finished.

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Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Tuesdays Don't Exist

Did you ever wonder why Tuesday is so strange? For a long time now, we've been subject to the most awful regime, based on some outdated notion of time being divided into days in groups of seven, which they call "the week". NB: they never say which week.

The day after Monday is called Tuesday, in English-speaking places, but not in other places. In Germany it is called Dienstag, but it's the same day. Tuesday Blues Day, the ravers used to call it, because their artificially boosted weekend seratonin levels had, 48 hours later, drained away to nothing, leaving their mood as flat as the surface of a late work by Piet Mondrian. If only they had known that Tuesday didn't exist, that would have cheered them up, to be feeling that bad, on a day that doesn't exist.

Sunday, generally seen as the last day of the "cycle" of seven, is the busiest day of the week, the day when finally there is enough time to be able to sleep, eat, watch TV, read newspapers, visit friends/relatives, browse a market and catch an exhibition. After Sunday has exhausted everyone, on Monday they return to their jobs where they are able to rest and recouperate for a few days while the "cycle" repeats once more. It is rough, really, this awful treadmill, and especially so when you realise that our so-called seven day week is actually only six days long. We are being cheated.

In fact, Tuesday is Thursday. The real second day of the week was critically mislaid by the first Russian to drink space in 1961, but this was hushed up during the Cold War in case everyone got scared and someone pushed the button. The two super-powers copied Thursday and put it in place of Tuesday, in a panic, fearing world disorder. If only they had known. It was the main reason that Kennedy was shot, was the cause of the Chernobyl, and it was why Mandela was released, none of which momentous events happened on a Tuesday.

Artists and children have noticed the change, as the rest of us are being hoodwinked. It is no coincidence that People Are Strange (Densmore-Krieger-Manzarek-Morrison) has that stop-start mood of morbid panic. It was originally written: Tuesdays Are Strange - Jim had to be persuaded by the Doors to change the lyric. His untimely death was no coincidence, either - he was about to blow the lid off the whole scam. The closest anyone got to telling the truth about Tuesday is Mick Jagger - and who would believe him, prancing around foppishly, squawking about a girl named Ruby?

Happy Thursday, everyone.

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Monday, October 03, 2005

Post-Ozzie Rozzie Pre-October Theme Interstitial

Well, that was Ozzie Rozzie. And, here it is in PDF format (720k) for your download pleasure.

I really enjoyed writing fiction for a month. I went back through the story once finished and tidied it up, correcting the odd typo, removing a couple of minor contradictions, enhancing the details here and there. It was fun to abandon the dialogic nature of blogging for a while, just to run on a steady path towards a destination. I didn't know I was going to write some episodes until I got there, so reading them back was as much a surprise to me as it was to you.

I'd also say that of all nine things I've done with the humble blog format this year, writing serialised fiction was the most demanding, and the most rewarding. I wonder how many more stories there are lurking like dodgy mushrooms just beneath the damp forest floor.

What fun. What next?

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