Saturday, 31 December 2011

Uses for animal entrails



For 7% of my life I've been a Ford Cougar driver. Well not exclusively I have driven a considerable amount of other vehicles in the 7% period of Cougar ownership, often for many miles and in other countries. Anyway I'm now not sure what to do next, how likely am I to stretch that unexpected 7% up and into double figures? I suppose I could by simply doing nothing and working out some rough calculations. I check my red top horoscopes, flayed animal entrails, tea leaf markings and Autotrader pages but the bright light of imparted wisdom still fails to shine on me.

Life makes sense



She was thinking of it as now (well not today because it was in the past right now) and how it had been the best day of her life. A simple, an easy and a best ever day. No love, no romance, no flowers, no proper sunshine, singsongs or chattering but just the best day. A day spent on her own, on her own terms, in her her own time. In fact it was less than a day because that was the way it worked out. Less than a day, mere hours and still the best day of her life. Not even twelve hours come to think of it, just a perfect flurry of the preening and pictures, reflections and glimpses squashed up like a crazy slide show and compressed into a wonderful presentation, only for her eyes. So short, so long, so parallel to everything and yet so out of step. Metaphysically magical. She stopped and caught that thought, the best thing ever but somehow short (in time) but so deep in experience. Really all the measures we use here are wrong. Stupid priests, scientists and explorers who fail to catch the reality of reality. We see through the wrong end of some cosmic telescope, trained on silly and unimportant things that we have been badly educated to value, all magnified by a cruel emphasis on time. But take that time element out and just see things for what they are, running, crawling, lumbering along and onwards outside of time's boundary. What a strange and open freedom that is. Life makes more sense, eternity is far less of a pressure to plan to fill and all lifetimes however rich or barren are removed from disappointment. Time is over. “Now”, she said to herself, “I can relax and simply await that next moment.”

Friday, 23 December 2011

Happy Christmas and don't drink...


...and drive, well not very much anyway, a better Christmas for all concerned will be the likely result. Currently I've been driving on the opposite side of the road and not in a Cougar, that won't last however because in a few days I won't be here in sunny/cloudy/warm/nice Portugal, I'll be back in the UK. Anyway if you've stumbled upon this, fair enough, seasons greetings to you and I'll try to do better next year.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Watching TV

Sometimes I'll watch a film or a football match on TV not because I'm particularly interested in it but because I know that my son is watching it and he's not here. Maybe that seems like an odd thing to do, maybe it is, it just feels good. TV pulls things apart, corrupts and makes folks lazy or so they say, at other times it also makes you feel less alone.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Moonlight

After we had eaten the pheasant the farmer's wife wife produced a warm, home baked sponge that was topped with fresh peaches, sliced and juicy. It was a glowing, delicious moment and none of us could believe our luck. Here we were, rescued from the wilderness and now dining in some style. Our fatigue, minor injuries and the disappointment of our failure to find the passage was temporarily suspended. I sat back in the old wooden Captain's chair and couldn't help but grin across the table at my fellow travellers. The farmer's wife then began to clear the table, we all began to help, chatting, laughing and satisfied.

There was a full moon that night and I glanced out of the dining room window. I could see right across the fields and there in the near distance I could now make out a figure, it looked like the farmer. The moonlight was picking him out like a searchlight, he was standing over something, a shape on the ground. As my eyes grew accustomed to the scene and distance it became clear that he was bending down examining the carcass of a red deer.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Bad light stops play

Not much is more maddening than the twist and turn clips on the Cougar rear light clusters. Bulbs regularly turn and fail of their own accord rendering you without rear lighting and up for a blue light stop from the police. It has happened to me. Perhaps it's wear and tear, poor fitting or just a GM based gremlin. I'll never know but the overall effect is the loss of winter driving confidence and a lot of time spent fiddling with the three plastic screws that hold the thing together and then trying to persuade the bulbs to remain in place and just peacefully cooperate with the light switch, how hard can that be?

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Demon of Scribes

In my sleep I was visited by the spirit of Titivillus; the demon who ensures that errors and omissions are made in sacred writings thus frustrating the writer and confusing the reader. He was in a philosophical mood and wanted to talk about the past, the “good old days” when life for such a specialised demon was straightforward. He/she did his/her* best work (he says) in the days of heavy calligraphy and quill pen use when monks ruled. Those guys must have hated him, now he's almost redundant, straightened out and thwarted by the spell and grammar checkers that run in everything these days. Anyway the “patron demon of scribes” told me that nowadays he's kept busy by collecting all the idle chat that occurs during church services, in mosques, in temples and in ashrams everywhere (he has no real boundary issues – any gathering will do). His mission now being to take these remarks, hold them tight in labeled bundles and bring them to Hell where they will counted and used against the offenders – nice that they're all going to Hell you may say. When I showed him Twitter, a few tweets and what was trending his little face lit up – fun times ahead and you will hear his/her name again.

*bored with the gender change.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Many long miles

Here we are resting up halfway to Aberdeen; coffee and cake time in between dodging the speed cameras and a blinding sun that seems to come from everywhere at every possible angle. The traffic was pretty light and we made good time, all set for a spa afternoon, party drinks in the evening and an early rise to get back home for football and family. I'm pretty sure that none of this is fiction unlike most other things here, the line between truth and fantasy does blur on some days, much more than others. Anyway sliding between those contradictory places, sleep and wakefulness, I enjoyed the drive. A Cougar is a machine for travelling in.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Mirrors of the soul

“What happens if a cat eats a poisoned mouse, a mouse poisoned in a mouse trap?” she thought about the possibility as she leaned on the supermarket cart and placed the cat foot carton on the metal grill of the base. She looked at her fingernails and paused; pillar-box red and not a chip, nice shape, she congratulated herself. Really she was just ambling around the shop, there was a purpose and a to do list but they were buried deep in other thoughts. She much preferred to think about how she was looking, how she felt, what clothes would do for her, how her hair could be coloured. She was thinking in that sea of swirling thought, nice warm imaginings, far away from the aisles and offers.

She tightened her grip around the cart's handle and heading out of pet foods passed the pasta and pulses and into soft drinks. She admired the fizzy, shiny can packages, shrink wraps and shapes but concentration was tough, how was her make up now? She could feel herself inside her clothes, as if she was a product, held in by this superfluous packaging; superfluous but it gave her a shape, held her in, helped to move and be an object, a discernible object in this shop, in this space, in this place. Her colours were all the separated her from the candy background, her shape made her distinct in these parallel shelves and piles of boxes. Her appearance defined her even if her thoughts contradicted, as they always did. “These contradictions are the breath of my life, these contradictions rise in my nostrils, rise and tickle the cortex of my brain, away hidden from drapes and appearance.” She moved across to the bakery, hot loaves were shoved into those open ended bags, she imagined flies and insects landing on the bread tips, she imagined but she could not see. Her shoes were now uncomfortable, she lifted her feet in them, let air move on her heels, the air that was bathing the bread, supermarket bread not real. Her heels, the heels of her shoes were not for this floor or this posture. She picket up a baguette, some pastries and felt the warmth as odours oozed out. “Must keep it away from the milk and the fruit – no warm contamination allowed in this cart.” At the deli pieces of cheese were lined up on the counter top on paper plates, you could try before you would buy. She picked up a piece, ignored the thoughts of the other foreign fingers that had dwelt on the plate and plopped it into her mouth, there was a slight lipstick mix moment which the cheese won.

“Three words, three words, three words I never hear him say, three words.” she was heading into the wine and spirits, offers running past with meaningless labels, red, rose and white. Three words. Bottles clinked in the cart against some cans and hard edges. “I love you”. These are the words I never hear him say. Toilet rolls and paper products, silly cosmetics, wasteful packaging repeated across items designed by graduates in marketing, applications and synthetic materials. She was feeling bullied by the shop, the whole shop was a bully, a bully experience. She decided just to let the cart spin slowly, on some invisible middle axis, around the columns of super wipe up super sucking super absorbent towels with hidden pockets of moisture gathering material that are designed to save your face, carpet, couch or floor in that awful embarrassing moment when someone spills a liquid nearby. Reach out and touch the answer, the answer to an embarrassing problem is the towel that gulps it all up or down. “And me I'm not young anymore, I'm not so pretty, I need these clothes, make up, to make me make up.” Swallowed by the mainstream, too much to lose by telling the truth.

She walked across to the coffee shop, she didn't quite recall the till or paying but the groceries were all bagged, almost neat in the trolley, ready to be transferred to the car, to the house, to the cupboard or fridge, to a plate, the mysterious dishwasher, the silver bin, the stomach or gut, the drain, the big black bag, the wheelie bin, the landfill. History buried under clay and plastic. Coffee made her feel better and she twiddled with her nails. Still perfect, still shiny after the shop, so different from inside her head. That place seemed ravaged by externals, eaten up by wolves. Words eaten by wolves, chewed and spat out as if never said. I love you is so hard. The coffee was good however and she was aware that she could study herself in a well placed cafe mirror, her reflection looked out the other way, looked at her nails and into her coffee, there in that other place, in that so separate place, untouchable from here and as backwards as a reflection in a puddle. That girl in there had other things on her mind, somewhere, earlier today she had heard the words “I love you”, across a pillow and through a mist of sleep. She turned, their eyes met, they both stared and picked up the coffee cup, they looked through, pupil to pupil over the white rims. The moment of recognition was in slow motion but over and done in a flash.

There are somethings you should do, there are some things you should never do, then there are other things. What could you say about looking straight into your own soul and what would you say? I love you?

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Drive thru - drive by


If you happen to be hungry during your next visit to the USA this handy map may help. Often a peckish soul caught out on a quiet drive can't easily find a restful oasis in which to put up and enjoy some nourishment and a long cool drink. Even in the States it is possible to stray anything up to 400yds without the reassuring sight of a yellow bun and a brown burger, you can't be too careful. You can't be too hungry - you can however be too fat and unhealthy. Have you tried the new breakfast wrap?

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Wondering

Apart from wondering when the timing belt might snap, the exhaust will collapse or a tyre will shred I do wonder about the power of the comic strip to entertain, influence and change popular culture. That's about it.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Nasty muscle

It was touch and go, a snip at £1299 but as a wise man once said, “if it seems too good to be true then boy it is too good to be true.” A 2002 Saab 9-5 2.0 manual Arc in bright red with all the toys and coming in at a mere 69k on the clock. A private seller not trade so the possibility of waving a wad of cash to a desperate man could get it for maybe £1100 or less. Always one for a bargain and the opportunity to make a quick buck I was sorely tempted. So tempted that the pain was physical but I knew that I had to play a waiting game, had to bide my time, this was my chance to make money and timing was everything. After the requisite number of days the advert remained live, hook in the water I thought. My palms were sweating as I made the phone call, 12 miles away I'd be quick, punchy, decisive and out there with the cash and the signed owners slip in moments and on for a resale and nice weekend profit. I'd expected a gruff middle aged male to answer the phone or maybe an Asian accent, maybe some early haggling, then maybe it'd be gone.

What I got was a prim, pretty, Edinburgh, Morningside female, better than ever, an ignorant rich bitch selling an unloved shopping cart to a charming man like me. Candy and babies sprang to mind as she gave me her address; “Yes, I've had a number of calls, quite a bit of interest but nothing has come of any of them, I'm rather frustrated, I'm due to take delivery of another vehicle quite soon and there isn't much space in the driveway and I've no wish to leave it on the street.”

“Well madam, I'll be over in about 30 minutes if that's ok with you?” “Fine”, she said and passed across her address details. I finished my coffee and looked quickly over the A to Z, easier than sat nav no matter what the geeks might say and don't start me on those stupid thumb bursting smart phones.

As it was the middle of the day the traffic was relatively light and I made good time across town. I found the address and the car, gleaming in the driveway it sat proudly outside the house. Somebody has spent time polishing it up and there was a “4 sale” sign on the windscreen. I couldn't understand how it hadn't been snapped up, was business really that bad, why had the sharks dipped out on this little honey? I rang the door bell and looked at my shoes, clean enough.

There was a pause and then a shadowy figure came up to glass and unlocked two locks and drew back a chain. The lady from the phone call pulled the door open and smiled, her eyes had a definite sparkle, we were away. “I'm here about the car that's for sale” I said in a fairly obvious and awkward tone, shrugging slightly and trying to hide a little of my enthusiasm. “Of course” she said, “I'll just get you the keys”. A few seconds later she handed me the keys, “take a look yourself, I'll just get my coat.” I took the keys and checked the car, clean as a whistle, sweet as a nut and tidy as a brushed hamster. Of course I'd have to find a few niggles to focus on so I could argue her price down a bit which I duly did. She seemed a little put out when I mentioned the miss-fire, the tracking and the discoloured oil but we agreed on a final price of £1050, as good as I'd hoped.

“I don't like to see cash being handed over outside or in the street” she said, “you'll have to come into the house”. I followed her in through the glass door, it closed behind me. “To the kitchen” she trilled. I followed on thinking about the denominations of notes in my wallet, I didn't want her to see how much money I actually had, that was a bit vulgar and in these circumstances when I'd negotiated downwards by a decent margin, pretty inappropriate.

When I awoke I was sore and damp, tied up and sitting in a puddle in a derelict warehouse of some kind. “You're lucky son” said the policeman looking down at me as I looked up at him. I felt sick and disorientated and stuck in some kind of numb shock, my face was sore. “You're the tenth one they got with that scam, must've taken £25k in cash, a few cards, your own cars and the contents of all your wallets, then away they go. All you need is a mobile phone number, a posh squat and a little bit of nasty muscle, a little bit of nasty muscle, does it every time.”

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Mr Clock

Catching up with Mr Clock

I was running late (or was I he in some other story?), a little late anyway, nothing unusual, just what happens when you run out of time. It had all seemed simple in the beginning, catch a train, catch a lift, get there, get changed, then get to the church, Jesus, it wasn't even him who was to be married. It was a friend of an ex, not a proper person at all. It was somewhere in Yorkshire, for some reason that made it complicated, who knows why. It doesn't help either when things start to run in the wrong order, well the train was fine, a few minutes late, then she was supposed to pick me up; I waited. That's all you can do, when she did arrive there was only a gushing explanation and a blurred set of instructions. Due to a bereavement and a complication (family related) could I go and open the hall first, then the caterers could come in and prepare and then we'd meet up and it's a funny kind of combination lock and the numbers are blah. It's all on the yellow sticky, now folded in my back pocket, ready for later, for the thing that happens later.

I really worked hard and took it all in and wrote the number on my palm to be safe, ok less time to change into the kilt but at least I had a role, albeit very much a back room one, to play in the day. She dropped me near to the hall. The church wasn't the usual kind, the people there were enthusiastic, they participated or so I'd heard. The church itself really was a small complex of separate buildings, an obvious meeting room, offices, sheds, halls and outbuildings. I wasn't quite sure which one was the hall and strangely there was nobody around to ask. I decided to follow the instructions I'd been given (why would I do otherwise?) and arrived at grey stone building with a brown door and a rather fearsome looking gun metal combination pad with letters and numbers.

Each pad I pushed seem offer some stubborn mechanical resistance but I entered the six digit code; nothing happened. Perhaps I hadn't pressed hard enough so I tried again, still nothing, no clicks or whirs or sounds or movements that might reveal a degree of success. The deep frustration and anger you get when faced with a mechanically stubborn situation like this is hard to describe. I felt the rage and I felt the trembles but I held myself together and tried one more time. It still wouldn't open. I was undone in this dream, in this role and situation. I hate ever so when I let people down, that's a horrible feeling, any author or artist will tell you that, though they may not mean what they say. That thing that I cannot quite name is clearly the prerogative of the creative types (those with the radiant souls) and I am not in their company.

What had happened formed a typical, familiar dream or nightmare for you, being late, losing teeth from your mouth, forgetting your underwear or falling into pillows from a great height. Then something snapped, maybe in me, maybe in the lock, it was open, it clicked. I pushed against the door, there was resistance for a second then a forgiving creak and the door travelled inwards, open. I fumbled for a light switch but that was unnecessary, there was a light in the room, in the space. Dull and bright, clear but opaque, the light of somewhere was from somewhere else. Time was not important and attitudes towards it changed in me, in that room. I met with Mr Clock and shook his hand, I held his gaze and he held mine, it seemed that there was a mutual respect and acceptance from our opposing positions. Mr Clock leaned forward, there was no need for him to introduce himself, I'd dreamt of this moment many times, in many times. He smiled an old man's smile and I felt as if he approved of me. That feeling made me feel six feet six tall and eighteen inches wide at least, worth all the effort and the rambling. Then he looked me up and down and said three very simple, straightforward words to me. I still remember them, “Be patient son.”

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Track rod adjustment


MoT'd and street legal, the mechanics may be sound, you can never really tell, anyway that's it over for another year so I've some borrowed time to spend. I added two new tyres, got the long term slow puncture fixed and the track rods adjusted to whatever it is they should be - all under budget but costly just the same. The occasional joys of motoring. The weather improved briefly today so I applied some sticky gunk to the op of the windscreen in a last chance bid to stop the water. I've no regrets sticking with this beast, three years plus and still going...

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

MoT & Taxi

Cougar's gone in for that annual surgery and the tense revelation that leads to the production of an MoT and another year of possible safe and legal running. It's not a day for the faint hearted, large amounts of money are at stake as well as the probable untimely end of the driver car relationship. That's what you live with when you own and run an everyday classic jalopy.

So after leaving the car overnight I found out today that it's really down to the front discs and pads being worn and not too much else, the routine service will no doubt help smooth out the rough edges: looks like an affordable result and continuity, at least until some major component fails and at 133k anything can happen at any time.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Grace

“It's not essential that you are able to ride a horse but it would help a great deal, some skills with 4 x 4 vehicle driving and the ability to prepare meals for up to twenty people would also be useful.” James listened as the manager described a few more details of the job. “Ever done any survival training? Know a little about first-aid and can you use a high powered rifle?” James eyes glazed over as the words slapped against his ears like the back of his mother's hand. He cleared his throat and prepared his answer, he tried to summon up a confident voice and curb the almost uncontrollable desire to blink. “I can turn my hand to most things and yeah, I can survive up there, spent a few winters with my grandfather in Norway, he taught me a few things...” James let the sentence tail off and watched for a reaction from the manager. “Ok, maybe you are what we are looking for, you seem to have a handle on things, these mountains are tough, trouble's always just around the corner, let me take five on this.”

James took a few steps back, the light was poor and he was unsure about what was directly behind him, he wasn't thinking straight and he told himself so. The manger who was staring the other way turned around suddenly, just in time to see James fall backwards into the dark. “Whooo!” In a second he was gone, over the edge, two hundred maybe three hundred feet, the manager ran forwards as if to make some kind of a late grab for the boy, all too late.

When James woke up he remembered very little, he was warm but his arm felt sore and there was a dull pain at the back of his head, his tongue explored his mouth and he could taste blood, he coughed. Over in the corner a light came on, held in a long grey hand. James blinked and tried to focus. The light turned slowly but could see through to the source. He was inside a large, airy space, it felt warmer than it should have, there was no wind and there was the smell of fire and burnt timber. The light came closer and the long grey hand shrank back to a more normal size.

“Hello, I'm Grace, I found you near the foot of the gully, I brought you here, you're ok now.” James swallowed but couldn't find a voice to answer with. He saw that Grace was cloaked, whispering and now leaning over him. She seemed to be an old lady. He found some kind of voice, “who are you and how did I get here?” “Peace”, she said, she stood up and swayed a little, “I may just have saved your life.” James tried to answer but no words came, just a grey coating of sleep that overcame him and that pushed him back into the place he'd just stumbled from.

A bright hospital light was burning, burning up in a green sky, shining down like some foreign sun, warming and warning. This time James woke with a start and arched his back upwards, spitting like a drowning man hitting back through the surface. The room was empty and unfamiliar but was a hospital and he was alive. He sank back into the pillow and tried to put the pieces back together. The job opportunity, the manger talking to him on the hillside, the fall, the time and then Grace bringing him back to life in the cave or bunker or cabin, whatever it was. He drifted back into sleep.

“A lucky lad, out there, at the foot of the hillside, this time of year and with those injuries, no wonder he's been out of it for ten days.” James heard the words drifting by from the far end of the room, his eyes stayed glued shut. Sleep and some impersonal anonymity seemed a good place in which to remain.

“We were amazed that we found him, the fog came down and the weather turned, it was the dogs that found the body, we'd given up.” James felt like he was climbing stairs, step by step, up the inside of a skyscraper, ringing concrete steps ignored by everyone else, they were all in the elevator.

“Funny thing was that he was wrapped up, wrapped in a blanket, placed out there, like he'd had some care, the head wound had been cleaned, the arm was straightened, somebody had found him.” James' thoughts were as grey as the hillside, there were no colours, no shapes, just the voices floating by. Then a light came, a light wrapped in a memory, days old and indistinct but real. He remembered the light, the hand, the cloak, Grace.

In the spring when the weather had calmed James returned to the hill, alone, still puzzled, still none the wiser. In the clear air he walked the path and saw the spot where he had fallen, near to the manager's cabin. He stood in the clearing looking down, he studied the rocks, the edges, the boulders, the plants clinging onto life two hundred feet below. A silver stream threaded through, running north and out to the head of the valley. No caves or cabins, no landmarks, just the sharp V stretched and cut across the landscape. James walked back down the path, back towards the road turning for one last time to look. It was then that something caught his eye.

Over on the far side he saw a figure, moving away between the scrub, no bright colours, no hi-vis or backpack as you'd expect with a walker or climber. “Hi!” he called across, maybe three hundred yards between them. “Grace, Grace, is that you?” The figure turned, slowly, as if it took great effort a hand motioned a feeble wave. At that moment the sun emerged from the clouds and a light passed between them, instinctively he shielded his eyes. The moment passed and he looked across, the figure had gone, the landscape turned backwards, empty, unforgiving, hostile.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

£1995

Every so often your faith in faith and the milkyness of the milk of human kindness is restored by some random event or in this case car advertisement. £1995 for a twelve year old Cougar smacks of the unrealistic or the desperate or perhaps both. I don't mind, in the troubled times we live in I'd like to think that there is somebody out there with two grand to spend on this old lady. He or she probably wont regret it right away, it's only when you become trapped into the way of the Cougar that you realise the actual price.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Enjoyable conversation

Sometimes when I think about losing weigh and the effort and exercise just to shed a few pounds I reflect on H G Well’s Mr Pyecraft. Weight, size and the resultant self-image are largely illusionary things that can be pursued but never caught. Feeling fit and healthy and comfortable with yourself is quite different and much more inner than outer. Feeling good does go with looking god, in a parallel way but they seldom intersect. Often I feel hungry in the core of my being, I feel the gnaw and the knots in my stomach as if it was devouring itself, growling and bubbling in anticipation of a crust. Then that feeling passes and my core sulks, denies it’s needs and slinks back like a battered beast that has been maltreated. Then I eat something, it’s never enough but it silences the howl. Then maybe I take some exercise, a brisk walk or a cycle, I feel ok but my mind is restless. The truth is that I want to eat and drink what I want, indulge that great Scottish appetite for excess and fill every god shaped, dog shaped and whisky shaped hole to it’s addicted limit and then float, serene, grinning, smug and over indulged like a rotund Pyecraft. Then I wake up and I’m not hungry at all. It must be a new hotel room but as is my habit I don’t recall checking in.

I though of us up there in that hotel room, alone and busy, supping great classic drinks and smoking, like Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda. Here we are half mad with the alcohol, the clothes and the creative drive that’s pushed us into this elegant prison with either a typewriter or a laptop, depending on the era. The drapes are close to closed, only allowing in the thinnest bands of the Mediterranean light, keeping the cell shrouded, hanging in smoke and passing clouds. Providing lift and nesting spaces for random words and phrases so they can float in that gap about our heads and below the ceiling until they finally encage with a kindred idea and can come to rest on the screen or paper.

We are asleep in a Steampunk world of planned disorder, we gather artifacts to worship, we hope to find uses for them and we read books hoping to find meaning and short cuts. Books that will lead us across bridges and obstacles with their iron and steel words, taking us places we would otherwise have missed. This illusion of education and shared experience is hard to avoid, it pops up like some acid distraction and causes our thoughts to fail in this perpetual eclipse. Somebody someplace knew better and wrote it all down in a book and we, desperate to claw our way to that place read it and then replicate it and replace it with another. Our unseen audience scoops them up and places them on shelves, in cardboard boxes or in suitcases but as long as there is an income stream to be accessed then why should we care (and that is not a question).

A nervous waiter brings in a tray of fresh drinks, bowls of lemons and limes, ice in a silver bucket, gin, tonic and more gin. A Champagne bottle pops out on the balcony and laughter, thinner than the sunlight edges into the space. I’m too bust pretending to concentrate, she is too busy too notice, the girl on the balcony is sipping and smiling and looking out across and blue sea that burns cold with an inner light of drowned promise. “How I love this time of day, it makes my troubles melt away, just to see the porpoise’ play in the ocean’s frantic spray” The words are tagged onto a Gershwin melody that she repeats between sips. All of the land is locked in siesta, asleep and blind, we are locked in the search for a holy grail of plotted ideas and she is trapped in her bottle blonde world.

Sweating at the brow I stand up a walk backwards from my desk and throw an ice cube into my mouth, sucking it as if it could lead to the source of some inspirational point, sucking as if it gave me strength. Then I ‘m alongside, like a liner on the balcony, parting the drapes and blinking in the sharp sunlight. Zelda person reacts and pretends to swoon but quickly joins us with her glass. We mumble about royalties and royal families and royal swear words. We sit back in those finer white cane chairs that came from somewhere, we talk about our writings and look at each other, painfully thin through the lenses of these expensive sunglasses that still fail to cut out the glare. But then maybe it’s the over stretched glare of our failing personalities, burning out before our eyes, dying like some alien race about to go down, below the surface as in a repeat of Atlantis and other lost legends. Civilization interrupted and held back, progress denied and stunted, growth impaired and development thwarted. If we only had something to say we could have such an enjoyable conversation.

“I see all people as equal, all as the same, all as different and all as victims of the eternal shame. The original sin was never man’s; god (he deserving only a small g) committed it with his nonsensical vision. We failed him because that was all we could have done. Now people marvel at it all and waste their lives in ridiculous devotions, competitions with other narrow minded idealists or bigots and cathedral building exercises. No sane god would have let this happen.” She finished speaking and sipped more champagne. “ See that dog sleeping in the shade there? He has more purpose and knows more satisfaction than any one of us because he is a dog and dogs don’t go to war with one another.”

“God failed us first because we invented him in such a slipshod manner,” Zelda piped up from the room from the couch. “He failed us first and we now build our careers on perpetuating and exploring that failure but at least we have sex and alcohol to dull the pain. And we have errant days like these and crashing typewriters to click the miles of paper that lie between us and that artificial heaven you seem determined to manufacture for us.”

“I was never my intention to deceive any of you.” I said. With that I rolled up the newspaper, left the company and went next door for a cool shower. Tomorrow we would travel across continents and under newly formed clouds, the aroma of strange cookery and spices opening and stimulating our senses at every turn.

Friday, 9 September 2011

From Russia...

...with a measure of unrequited love. At least these Bosch bad boys burn a little brighter and last a little longer than their Halfords counterparts which judging by their limited life span are made either in Zambia or Antarctica under license from a fledgling manufacturer based in Taiwan and determined to cut costs. In the past five days I've replaced four bulbs, an activity mostly carried out in the rain in supermarket car parks or in retail parks. The simple theory being that it's much easier to check your lights in greasy reflected shop fronts than any other way, that's my way of working. The good feeling of fixing things and getting your fingers a little grubby in the process makes it all worthwhile.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Strangers on a trainset


Everybody is just coming to terms with something, arriving before leaving, embarking on a journey, writing journals and trying to look your best. A train may well be along in a moment and some folks may just sneer at the photographer, none of that means much, images are best held in the mind's deep places. It's more important to be yourself and if you can, catch the eye of a kindred spirit. They do exist, out there somewhere. Just be careful that they are not on the other platform and about to travel in the opposite direction. Happens everyday to at least two strangers.

Monday, 22 August 2011

The truth about magic

It was inevitable that something would go wrong with the magic trick at some point. There were too many elements, it was inherently unstable, the rehearsal time had been too short and the equipment and the props were unreliable. We were led into a period of false security however, this was brought on by everything going quite well in the first few performances and as a result the audience reaction was very good, so good in fact that we began to get confident. This in turn grew and developed into something worse, cockiness. That was bearable but then that developed into complacency and that in this business was tantamount to recklessness. In stage magic recklessness will quickly lead to disaster.

It was the seventh time we'd done the trick, the perfect number but we were all very nervous. I looked across at you and winked, I remember that moment well. I strained to hold your glance for a few seconds longer, just as the applause was building, rushing towards us but you looked away. That precious moment never came and now it's too late. You will die not knowing, you wont put two and two together, the evidence will never fall into place for you into some recognisable pattern. This is all rather unfortunate, not what was planned at all but look upon it this way, over the piece we entertained, enthralled and amazed very many people. That is our mark and our history, I'm just sorry that it all had to end.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Holiday Autos

No1 in an occasional series. This fine specimen was spotted and captured by me the other day parked near the beach in Marmaris in Turkey. I felt a bit sorry for it, not for the owner though.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Of idols and the idle

They are there and here and there. Travelling around the world spending other people's money, tweeting their warped wisdom as they go. Beware the wormy tongue, the shiny, bright lights and the promise of something too far away to grasp. Their religion seems to get them somewhere but they themselves are in a worse place than nowhere.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Wordy

Truculent isn't a word I use regularly, neither is xenophobic. There is of course a very good reason for this namely I only have a vocabulary of five hundred words (exactly) and these two bad boys are coming in at five hundred and one and five hundred and two respectively. This simple fact has placed these two very useful and certainly meaningful words outside of my current range of basic word benchmarking if you will. A lesser man would perhaps be frustrated by this limitation but not me, when faced with using words outside of my vocabulary and over that somewhat abstract, imagined yet tangible line of five hundred I simply use the time honoured technique of substitution.

For example if I wished to use a word such as “azle” (coming in a seven hundred and ten) I might just use biscuit or roller, or if wanted to say “pernicious” (a close one at fivefivefive) I could say hammock or liquid. Easy. This method has saved me conversational(?) embarrassment many times over and the fact is that as conversations and debates run on few people if any notice it when you drop and hammy, stupid or inappropriate word in there. Language should flow freely, abstractly at times, make interesting noise and allow itself to be as absurd as the topic. Folks the truth is, people only really ever listen properly to what they are saying themselves, everything else is blah-blah right up to word five hundred. Don't believe me? Next time pay close attention to where their eyes are focused as they speak...

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Whatever is written

We were looking at each other we think, odd wandering thoughts persisting. I concentrated on the shape of the face, every one's face tells a...? I ate a scone and drank a latte, she had a slice of millionaire shortbread and a larger latte, she had an Americano, she has water, water is clean. I remained persistently invisible, as always. Outside the sun shone, traffic and shoppers passed. When I got home I looked at mine, deeply hidden in the parallel universe of a shaving mirror. How had time played tricks with it, a thousand thousand cigarettes, facial scrubs, alcohol and sugary drinks, shaves, exhaust fumes, summers in Ibiza, Florida and France, rain and salt sea spray, not sleeping, slimy bars of chocolate and greasy fried foods, time, tides, worry and wear and tear, tears, laughter and the occasional heavy handed slap. What I feel is always written on my face.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Lentil as anything


In Denmark there are no lentils, they just have a plain thin soup recipe to get them through the hard Winter months. History is vague on this but my theory is that marauding Vikings had them done away with as a direct result on an intellectual crisis that occurred over the portrayal of Loki, God of Mischief and Mayhem (later to be translated and cruelly reinterpreted as a child's sweet, yes, I can reveal that that is what M&M actually stands for). Loki was always the subject of camp fire arguments and mass murders and due to his wiry profile and scary demeanour associated with thin and (unmanly) soup. It was believed that to thicken the soup would be a gross insult to Loki and so incur the God of M&M's great wrath or he might just play some cruel tricks and twists of fate on you. These might include sinking your longship on some uncharted reef or rendering you unable to rape or pillage properly due a mystery illness, impediment or complex psychological disorder.

None of this went down well with the chronically superstitious and baffledVikings great sailors thought they undeniably were (discovering America before the Americans and Greenland before the colour ever existed or could be knitted into a nice pullover). As a result the Vikings avoided using lentils and went so far as to deny their very existence, this was reflected in them being removed in a cruel and ritualistic manner from songs, sonnets, great and epic tales and most soup recipes. The end had arrived for the lentils of the west lands, the rest as they say is some kind of history.

Editor's note: Loki is/was of course a Norse God and maybe didn't have much of a following in Denmark...or did he?

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Better


“It’s all I ever think about, it’s all I ever think about.” That’s what she said, she kept repeating it, over and over, like some mantra, like a prayer, a quiet cry for help as she walked away. She was tall, attractive, troubled and I was intrigued. Those within earshot could not understand this mumbling, slowly ranting woman. None of us knew quite what she meant or understood. I was fascinated, briefly, eternally, questioning so I followed. Not something I was used to doing, not my normal behaviour, tracking a strange, disturbed woman, on the edge and striding away to deal with or confront that mysterious purpose. I kept what I considered to be safe distance, I let the crowds part before her, the lights change and the barrage of traffic get between us. I borrowed a technique I’d seen in a hundred movies, change pace, stop occasionally, look away. As if aware of my inexperience she steadfastly walked on, not looking back, not turning, allowing me the luxury of this temporary moving bubble. I was closing in, may be something would happen, a sudden stop, a meeting and perhaps I’d understand.

Fifteen long minutes passed and we were out of the business district, through a shopping centre and into an area of bars, cafes, street vendors and more shifting crowds. Her brown hair bobbed ahead of me, above, below, hidden as the Red Sea gaggle of pedestrians shifted, parted and closed in. I was still in the hunt. Left down a side street, right onto a busier one and then abruptly stopping, looking at her phone and sitting down quickly on a silver chair outside of a sprawling restaurant that opened onto the street. I stood still looking blankly into an opaque pub window, I stepped to the right and began to read a wall poster, she was still on the seat, now talking on the phone, her back to me, unaware. I moved carefully and as far as I was aware naturally towards where she sat. I noticed an empty seat in a table opposite and made a bee-line. Just as I crossed the pedestrian barrier a couple laden with shopping and embroiled in a vigorous conversation beat me to it and sat, absorbed in there discussion. I prepared to turn on my heels and retire, then I saw another space, vacated by a young suit, three tables away and facing her, perfect.

A waiter was by now at her table and she ordered something. Another waiter was now by my table, “coffee, a pot and a ginger cookie please.” An automatic order made as I looked across. Both our orders arrived a few minutes later, she had tea and water, I supped my coffee, she was still oblivious of me, her faithful and unfamiliar follower. Then from nowhere (well from the street ) another woman appeared and sat down quickly at her table, it was it some electric spark flashed between them and as I watched they seemed like a pair of some sort. Both were dressed smartly, business suits, one blue one grey, skirts and heels, both from the same office or business possibly. Handbags were strategically placed on the tabletop, they then both began to lean back, creating a battle space it seemed, staring at one another, like rival sisters about to quarrel over a lover or some long running family dispute.

I cupped my coffee with both hands and leaned as far forward across the table as I dared, straining for some snippet of conversation or vital word to be borne across to me, above the street noise and café chat but there was nothing recognisable that I could sift from the babble. Now they were speaking taking turns, animation seemed to be bristling, slowly building, even without the essential key of words I could unlock that much. Suddenly the other woman stood up and squarely slapped the other, the one I’d followed, rudely across the cheek. A shriek followed and an abrupt silence…every head turned their way, as you would expect. She stayed in her seat and bowed her head, the other woman took a step back and with a stiff back straightened up. Her voice rose up from the table, she sniffed and with a trembling and whispering tone said “But I’m wearing it better…”

Friday, 1 July 2011

They (may) mean us no harm


Fair and affordable: Watching the world pass under the very tip of your nose. Perhaps you are out and about, enjoying a drink and some relaxation. Then as you sip on your coffee and munch on your caramel biscuit you remember that these are not just people that you are watching. Many of them are in fact shape shifting alien lizard tourists from the future on holiday and participating sociological studies for long periods of their visit. They arrive through the numerous sink holes in the Pacific, transported by energy beams powered by captured solar winds. Then they absorb the look of the locals by a temporary regeneration process and mingle and interact as they gather data and unwind. They mean us no harm. You have thought about it for a while, how it really was and then you were distracted. It was a rather nice cup of coffee and the biscuit was crunch and tasty, the service was fine though there was something about the waitress, was she, could she be? You park that idea and enjoy the afternoon sunshine, overall the total experience was fair and affordable. You have a fresh thought, what kind of feedback do the lizards give after their holiday?

Monday, 27 June 2011

2520

There may be only 2520 Cougars 2.0 but at least the life cycle curve isn't sitting at too acute an angle just yet. Overall there are 9451 still around on the British highways and byways, they should last for a while but according the trends for other models when they do go the decline is rapid.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

White Worm


It seemed like a normal tin of creamy, delicious macaroni and indeed that's exactly what it turned out to be. Curse you suspicious mind and suspicious nature. The poor can could never have known, never ever. It was gone in 120 seconds, a time that I do not believe to be a world record of any kind.

But then when I reached the bottom of the can, 121 seconds later I discovered to my horror that there at the bottom, at the deepest point of the 12oz tin there was, coiled up, a great white worm. The great white worm was thankfully asleep so very gently and carefully I reached in with two fingers and pinched it, just behind its mouth and I began to pull it out. I don't know if you've ever seen a great white worm but they can be huge, enormous. As I pulled it seemed to grow, in an exceptional and exponential manner. Thankfully it remained asleep as pulled the great lengths from the can, foot after foot of rich, slimy, wrinkled white worm. I had by now turned the can upside down and was letting the worm pour out, like syrup or condensed milk all across the floor in massive, sleepy wormy coils. It was at that moment I notice some small print running up the label on the side of the can, a statement that I had failed to read before opening the can:

Caution, macaroni mined in a white worm friendly environment, frequent checks are made to ensure that multi-dimensional worms do not enter the can and cause cross-pollution but this manufacturer cannot guarantee 100% (or even 90%) that the purchaser and the end user will enjoy and fully worm free macaroni cheese eating experiences, we apologise in advance should you encounter a great worm or suffer contamination in the can sub-base area. Please call this number 0800 WORM WORM 1 should you require assistance or help with coiling and capturing a worm, many thanks for your patience in this instance and making this purchase in the first place.”

The worm was still sleeping, how helpful that was as the last strand plopped from the tin and onto the floor. A remarkable and wonderful mutation – and as it turns out delicious too. All you do is pop the worm into a (very) large casserole dish, season a little and drip and drizzle oil on it and bake in a hot oven at 200 degrees for about 40 minutes. Tasty and full of protein and all for the price of a can of macaroni.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Writing

Writing backwards

I was alone at the table, behind the wind screen in some payment café, no dogs allowed. The coffee was that warm, continental, granular dish water kind. Foggy on the top and hard to tell if there was any actual milk or cream in there. I supped it slowly and let the pieces of coffee dust swim around my mouth - it was a decent beverage and the cup was a warm and tactile one, thin edge and smooth china. I’d blocked out the traffic and passing pedestrians, the paper readers and the tourists, my focus would be the lined note book now placed between the coffee cup and the half eaten muffin on the too small plate. I had a nice pen, that’s always important. I picked it up in my left hand and removed the cap, allowing the nib to touch the paper.

I stared straight ahead, through the back of a diner’s head, past a lamp post and traffic sign, beyond the edge of a building, into a carved stone balustrade, over a suspended lamp and away into the distance where grey and brown stone building merged into a mess of hoardings and bus tops. My left hand, as if it had a left hand and mind of it’s own began to write. A scribbly, scrawny scrawl, an out of body mess of ink and paper while I gazed far and away and my unloved lesser hand did the work. Time had stopped, my thought processes had stopped but the hand continued to write.

I was asleep and in a dream, the coffee had dried the back of my throat but my transcendental peering into the abyss carried on and the hand wrote on, page after page, only stopping to allow the lazy right to turn the page to a fresh one when that was required. The was sweat on my brow and in both palms but the writing was over, the pen was rested and my hand returned the conscious control of my brain though I’m not sure which side.

I picked up the noted book and flicked across the pages…complete gibberish, well that was my first thought and then a pattern began to emerge…

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Party over?

Some might think that the party is over and that we are at the end...well that's a fair enough proposition but not one that I share. I tend to see things more as a continuum, they just roll on, one thing into another, changing, blending, morphing always into something more interesting than before, better at times then maybe not so good. Don't be afraid of the change, the bigger numbers or just floating along with the current.

For a while I was absorbed in numbers, chasing them, making sense of them I thought, trying to understand where they might lead and looking for a deeper meaning. You can do all of that, it's ok, but it's not everything and never leads you to an end in itself. Ignore the numbers for a while, the scribbles and lines on the page or screen, let them go. The party can be over if you want it to be.


Monday, 6 June 2011

Overcome


High heeled shoes that could pierce your heart

“I can't just sip a drink, I can't just sit their looking at it or holding it letting it swirl around in the glass. I get nothing from admiring the colour or the bouquet, I don’t want it just to be sitting there dumb while I go about doing something else, maybe reading a book or in conversation. I can't do any of that, I have to drink it, in fact I'll start drinking it as soon as it's poured at the bar. I'll drink some, just to get it clear from the edge just in case I spill some on the way back to the table, at least that's what I try to make it look like. If I'm in a bar I'm there to drink, there I've said it.”

The speaker retreated from the spotlight and took a seat at the rear of the stage, a ripple of applause came back at him from the audience. It was a tough gig, sympathy was scarce, like a taxi after midnight, those well healed individuals knew what he was saying , he was one of them but they were reluctant to acknowledge his position or by any means show approval for all that had been said in the long speech. The event drew to a close and mumbled thanks drifted here and there, hands were shaken, men kissed the hurried cheeks of women wanting to be elsewhere, staff flipped chairs and nodded as they tidied things that needed tidied. The lights were slowly turned up, shadows left by any available exit, gold features, sculptures and drapes appeared from the gloom as the flood of the lamps passed over. All he could see were the backs of the audience, all now headed outside, clearing their heads and shouldering jackets and coats. Good to see them go.

Outside the regular patterns of rain were drumming onto car roofs, scattering umbrellas and glistening flagstones, the tropical rainfall covered his escape, back to the hotel, back to find some sanctuary, back to the bar. The lobby opened it's mouth into a dark jungle-wood panelled lobby, lights were dim, exits glowed green, shadows lurked away somewhere else and low piped muzak sax tried hard to create a civilised atmosphere. The bar was warm and smokey, unhealthy but welcome like a seat on a busy train. A waiter carried a tray of roast beef sandwiches across his advancing bows, mustard and horseradish wafted past. He laid the tray in front of a greasy, sun-glassed man nursing a glass of red wine. A girl sat beside him, black dress and fox fur jacket, buried by the moody shadow pool of a winged leather funeral chair. The buttons glinted in the amber glow. Quickly he caught the barman’s eye and pointed to the optic rack, “double please!” the barman nodded, “Room 230”. In a single sweet move he dropped his coat and picked up the glass and as was his habit took a mouthful. The hot buzz alighted briefly on tongue and throat, moved around his mouth like some spell looking for a victim and then he allowed the swallow. In his head, in his brain, at the core of some place between thoughts and soul another light began to glow. No instant light like an electric bulb, it was more of a rising, slowly throbbing flame, held in a lens, held in check but powerful enough to escape given the chance. It was about eleven thirty by this time.

Time passed like slow clockwork lubricated by maple syrup, he got up from the chair and signed the tab at the bar.

The call girl was walking towards him, blond hair and fox jacket and good times. Circles around her eyes, eye liner and care all mixed up, a cheek bruise. Somebody had given her a rough evening. Her high heeled shoes and low neck line could have pierced the hardest, stoneymost heart. She looked like she was afraid of everything. In her hand was a brandy glass, warm and golden, lipstick on the edges and two fingers of liquid left in it. As she passed she whispered, “I'm just dying for a drink”. There are hotel corridors and lobbys all across the world, places to relax, forget, travel and work in, just don't get caught in one like two ships in a fog.

“I don't care what country you think it is!” shouted the policeman, “this isn't there, this is here!' He fingered the gun in the black holster, he fingered the fabric of his trousers, he was sweating a mixture of used up rain and used up fear. “West Chesterton Hotel” he barked into the radio mike clip on his shoulder and looked ahead waiting on further instruction. The handset gave a tone and crackled, “Ok, let it go...over.” The policeman acknowledged the message swung on his heels and exited the bar, “don't know WHAT I'm here for!”

We all hear voices sometimes, none of them are God.

“I'm tellin' ya the only way that you can beat this thing is with a complete change of lifestyle, you need to get something else. Get religion, get fit, take up golf, find a good woman, find an interest that takes you and keeps you at least a thousand miles away from this. But you can't ever do it, all the people you know, all the circles you move in, all the beats you walk and streets you stumble into. Every gold plated excuse and reason that you try to dredge up to explain, they all come from the same source and you need to run in the opposite direction.”

“I can't just sip a drink...”

He called the lobby, “Taxi, charge it to Room 230, five minutes?” The call girl dragged on the fox fur and left the room, the brandy glass on the nightstand was empty now.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Hello Colombia


Colombia. An interesting place that I once visited about 12 years ago. The traffic and vapour filled atmosphere in Bogotá was, as I recall pretty intimidating as was the apparent threat of kidnapping. Of course nothing bad happened and I had a really enjoyable visit and was taken by the very kind and friendly attention I received from all those that I met. We stayed in the Tequendama Hotel which is something of a colonial and historic legend in itself. Spacious and cosmopolitan with a faded splendour and air of controlled decay about it, soldiers and suits were everywhere and the staff seemed panicky and overworked. The views from the roof over the city were impressive – I'll remember that for a long time. Though I was not actively participating in it the reason for the trip centred around a somewhat shaky religious quest and period of frustrated exploration. The shelf life of this topic ran out a long time ago but the pleasant memories of the thin air, happy yellow taxis, street vendors, steaks and tomatoes and hunger for American Dollars remains. Moving on leaves gaps but in time they are filled.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Wet May


May was the wettest May since records and things like that began. As a direct consequence windows everywhere are at their dirtiest (since records began). This appalling situation can only be rectified by decent, deep cleaning using the well established skills and techniques of the professional window cleaner (as above). Now it's June and for the mean time the rain has stopped, the windows are clear and usable once again and we can see a way ahead. As for the car windscreen, it needs attention as do some other bits of the car, June will be a busy month.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Good at some things


It's great to be good at things. Fixing and refixing your car, custom jobs, alterations and improvements. Rides clean and pimped to perfection. Round here we kind of sketchy on that type of detailed work, kind of lazy in some ways and not really as creative and artistically inclined as the many great design exponents and engineers of these motoring masterpieces. They remain admired from afar while my car is used with the dull regularity of a washing machine, freezer or microwave. I had denied the car soul and personality; this is mainly due to lack of funds, skill, resources and time. That's it then - but there is a special relationship that I can't quite define...

This motor clearly has soul and personality.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Bit of a city

"Hello world" says the sign, hello from a place outside of Birmingham, a city in England, a country in the UK and part of Europe. People regularly come to this spot from all over Birmingham in order to leave it, it's that kind of place but not, despite the behaviours exhibited here a bad place. It is simply Birmingham and this is view from inside the airport towards what is out. For some reason would be air passengers casually abandon drinks bottles here, there and everywhere in the airport. That's because bottles from Birmingham cannot be brought into the airport and taken on aircraft, it's against the rules. Fair enough.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Glasgow Mission City

I was in Glasgow, just driving around, looking up at the buildings, looking down at the ground.

Cities are fine for short periods but who would want to stay there? They are primarily designed for business, pleasure, commerce and litter and diseases. Not much else survives apart from stray cats and saxophone tunes riding on the warm breeze or cold fumes. That's what cities are mostly about. I caught a lot of shoppers, office workers and deadbeats, every one's face seemed stuck somewhere else, pointed down and set to avoid eye contact. people walked and crossed to the drum beat of a traffic sound scape and the flash of lights. Occasion rain seemed to scare them as they were lured into some eatery or other by the deep smells of onions, garlic, cooking oils and prices and menus written in chalk on boards. Today I wasn't so hungry, it just wasn't for me. I got back into the car, the short walk and the free parking were enough. I headed out and home.