Sunday, 30 March 2014

Modern Fable

"The faulty ring pull on the can of cat food meant I had to open the tin with a regular tin opener. A process that the can clearly was not designed for. It was near the end of the laborious opening revolution that the can began to distort. There then followed a slow explosion that left me and my shirt front covered in tasty and meaty morsels, served in a highly pungent gravy that, as far as my blocked up nose could tell owed a lot of it’s existence to fish based products of an unknown type. Perhaps today was not to be my lucky day after all."

Upstairs in the bedroom and for the second of two consecutive days, one after another that is, a young and lost pigeon had been tapping at the window. When I say tapping I mean flying into the  window glass as if it was not there and flapping it's wings. Then doing it again and then retiring, tired out to somewhere up on the builder's scaffolding for a rest. Then it would return. From time to time one or other of the cats would sit on the windowsill and try to out stare the pigeon. It was a game that meant a lot to the cats, they practised intensely and seriously. The pigeon didn't quite get it and broke the staring match pretty regularly. The cats remained a full hunting tension all through these encounters. I liked to break them up by pulling on the cat's tails, gently but firmly. The spell of the pigeon and the dreams of a successful hunt were then broken in the cats, for the time being. I suspected that the pigeon had mistaken our house for the railway bridge along at Torryburn. Our overall orientations were the same as was our distance from the river, or so I thought. It was an explanation I could believe in.

It was about then or maybe during a fast drive up the M90 that I lapsed into daydream mode. A voice that might have been a pigeon voice told me a story about how in their early days the SNP and Labour Parties joined together to attract Korean money into Scotland. Big money. They decided that to attract industry and Korean satellite activity they'd build the biggest building in the civilised world behind some trees in Dunfermline. They did this quite successfully but at the expense of a few schools and hospitals and some cream teas and mini-buses for the aged. The huge building was duly opened by the Queen or Barack Obama's representative with pomp, circumstance and a detachment of bagpipers. The ceremony could be seen from space and ariel shots were sold to local businesses as a means to recoup some of the cash. Sadly the great factory plan failed when the Koreans realised that their current suite of products had been over taken by technology gleamed from some alien information and blueprints shown on the Discovery Channel one Sunday night. In the snap of a finger the industry had moved on and the triumph that was the Scottish building turned into an empty disaster and a great white elephant. The Scottish Government were puzzled by this chain of events but issued a statement to say that they were confident that a boom in white elephants was just around the corner. We were riding a crazy wave on the edge of emergent technology whilst all around us Korean restaurants and take-aways shut up shop and moved south to London or Manchester. The promised boom never arrived, head hung low and school leavers found other ways to pass the time. Ironically this involved them buying thousands of smart phones based on the new alien technology that had so scuppered the big Korean plan.

Five years later the day came when the now worthless plant had to be demolished. To avoid embarrassment a new blackout was declared and many more trees were planted. An innocuous and anonymous housing estate was also built around the edges as well as a Dobbies and golf range. The ordinary people hardly noticed the demolition works and slowly and piece by gravelly piece the concrete chunks that were designed to last a thousand years were crushed up a shipped to Spain to be made into Ford Fiestas. Nobody ever mentioned Korea ever again unless in the context of some silly joke about fast food or K-Pop. A number of locals did take the plunge and buy Korean cars. This was seen as a comforting indicator that the healing process was truly underway.

The strange thing was once they'd cleared the site and moved the rubble they discovered a deep subterranean lake that had been covered up by the huge building. The lake was so deep it was described as bottomless. In the lake there were blue fish. A kind of fish nobody had ever seen before and they were there in their thousands and they tasted good. Here was the opportunity we'd been waiting on. Out of the jaws of defeat and disaster a new and tasty blue fish industry emerged. It was quite a success and the numbers of accidental drownings, barbed wire impalements and food poisoning scares were never as high as were quoted in the official statistics prepared by the Sunday Mail. The locals just laughed it off and tucked into their sweet blue fish and got on with their enhanced leisure pursuits. It was just like the good old days. Looking back I'm sure that the aliens, having revolutionised the phone industry with their bright and uncalled for ideas and put us out of that business decided to compensate the lowly Scots by sending in the blue fish. A parting gift if you will. 

When I came around I was just level with Glenfarg.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Five fingers open

Breakfast with Jennifer Lawrence was a strange, icy affair. She was looking at me now and again but in truth not much. I was not the centre of her attention nor was breakfast. Breakfast was mainly black coffee, various rather nice chilled fruit juices in elaborate glasses and different kinds of fruit salad. Her frown and her dry lips said everything. She was watching the door. She was expecting somebody. I felt sure of the that. A deal, an offer, a way out. It would be something like that. Way beyond me and my current level of gifting. The waitress came by and topped up the coffee. I could tell she kind of wanted to engage with Jennifer (and normally that would have happened quite easily and naturally, her reputation and most evidence told the world that she was an open, pleasant person who wouldn't snarl at or avoid normal contact with persons in the street or breakfast waitresses), but today Jennifer was not playing that or any other PR worthy game. Today was not to be about scoring those kind of points. A couple of times I tried to spark a conversation. I smiled and compliment her look, the fruits, the décor or just the weather (or what little I could discern about the outside world via grey swathes of blinds and plate glass masked by clumsy air conditioning). 

Eventually, sometime into her third cup of coffee she spoke, it was a bit of a mumble really, as if she was in character or practising a line. She called me a fucking useless idiot. It was whispered, low, more like a secretly spoken thought that had slipped out. It struck me that though she wanted me to hear it she wanted me to know that despite the meaning and weight of her statement she was unwilling nor even interested enough to apply any more effort or energy to it that to deliver it via a feeble whisper. That was kind of insulting but, I thought, possibly a passing thing, the articulation of the mood of the moment, a jagged edge from a broken hangover, a release of steam to ease some other unrelated feeling. That would be it.

The waitress was hovering, she was anxious, I could tell. Jennifer seemed to be smoking an invisible cigarette. I shooed the waitress away by asking for some brown toast, nicely burned at the edges. Jennifer took the opportunity to look at me this timer, hard and cold. She mouthed three words that had a familiar silent ring. Useless fucking idiot. I smiled and nodded and nodded a good morning to other guests about to sit at an adjoining table. They'd spotted Jennifer and were talking a little behind folded napkins. I said that room service might just have been a better idea, even in this place few A Listers came down and ate in the restaurant. She nodded and said she'd wanted to get out of the room anyway and shut the fuck up. I fiddled with the cutlery and drank a mouthful of the coffee. It was really good, this was a great hotel. I was living the dream albeit this part of it wasn't quite working out. At least she was still sitting there, at least we looked like we were in some sort of working or professional arrangement that wasn't truly dysfunctional or broken. Here we were keeping together some small, fragile but precious illusion. I sipped more coffee, so did she. We're mirroring I thought to myself in a sudden flush of positivity.

At that moment she stood up, pushed back her chair and glared down at me. For the first time I noticed that she was taller than I had thought. Imposing and powerful almost. Some extra stature had come upon her, maybe over night, maybe on account of me. Well that was unlikely. The waitress rushed across to remove the chair from Jennifer's path. She understood she had to clear the way. To make sure her exit was unhindered. But Jennifer just stood. She was staring at me, I stopped looking around, Id been taking in the commotion of the security men moving towards her and the angled eyes of other diners. She looked at me, hard this time, inside a tiny churn rolled across my inwards. Coffee and cereal were disagreeing over something in my stomach. She was still looking but began to open her mouth. Then she spoke, “Useless fucking idiot!” She broke into a broad smile and twittered with giggle, “Love you!” She waved five fingers open, turned and was gone. Little did I realise then that I'd never see her, or meet her in the flesh, again in my life.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Sympathy for Crimea

I probably shouldn't say so but I loved the outcome of the Crimea vote. Putin can go fuck himself for all I care for him and I know nothing about the Ukraine, I know less about the Muslim minority or any other group that may (for good reason I imagine)  fear the might and the stony face of Russia with their tanks and armour  stacked up against them. I just loved that the vote was so one-sided, positive, emphatic, clear, unambiguous and quick to take place. How much time do you need to put your own heart in order? To act on your feelings? Or to follow the mob and adopt the mass conscious when wordlessly it speaks your own name or sings you a national anthem you'd buried deep in your psyche? None of that might be correct or work on every level but it makes me anxious and angry for Scotland. We don't seem to have that hearty passion, the stony stonewall, that fire and determination to get ourselves a better answer and align ourselves towards a higher destiny. That's not us, the bairns of Jock Tamson and the slaves of the Empire. We are not all there. We are not all here. But it might come. The dullards and quislings and fly by night, turn-coat politicians may just ask too much of us all. We snap like winter twigs under their feet as they ignore us. Balls, Miliband, Alexander, Osborne, Cameron, Clegg and Maude and all the others (they too have their own stiff reflections sitting smug and stupid in Holyrood) may just fire a few more sanctimonious or patronising salvos across the border and the resistance might find it's way through. A powerhouse of ignorant wisdom and pent up misunderstanding. The flower of Scotland blooming late, irregular and twisted with an uncultivated pride but with enough gumption to take on a challenge (and most likely fail). Failure of course is only defined only by the actions of the winner and the context of the contest. Even in abject failure there is honour, who wouldn't celebrate landing a good punch on a bully the second before he knocks you flat?


Children make you complicated. They make your life complicated but you become complicated first. Your breeding of yourself, like an explosion of some kind of horcrux, pieces of soul and personality exploded out from you and forming these other versions of yourself, diluted, profaned, enriched and beautified by their other part(s) and by chance and the warping of experience. A sad and brilliant dance then carrys on as these carbon copies grow and explore and weave lives that are extraordinary in that they reflect all of you and nothing about you at the same time. The parent stands apart bamboozled by the creation and the events, able to interfere but unable to change anymore than you can change your own reflection in a mirror. You stand, observing their growth and behaviour behind that mirrored glass. I was never ready for this but I was born ready. I was never expecting this but I saw it all coming. I didn't know I wanted any of this but I cant live without it. The gravity of family and development sucks and pulls in a relentless manner that gives little time to think. If you stop to think you are caught and you drown in the black but vivid spiral that is the remains of your own life. You who were once an individual, or so you thought, now immersed in a team sport of commitment, support and anguish.

Then comes the curious dissolution of your life as that precious family grow up and leave like swallows in the autumn. The unused macaroni and empty beds, the silence, the lack of grocery shopping and raised voices, the stopping of the music, the slow creep of worry and the awful and hurtful awareness of the passage of time. That time that once seemed vital and unending now looking like the dry mouth of a blank, dark and anonymous alley into which you've accidentally run. How did I ever get to be here? Why is there no turning back and am I alone?

There is some comfort in other activities, random things you come across and fall into, self actualisation and daydreaming, books and travel plans. There is news, never ending and tedious. Things happening across the world that command you to take interest in them, there they are, laid out before you. You consider them like some powerless king, you may falter towards some judgement or hasty opinion. Then you change the channel or click the mouse pad and normality resumes. Their in the empty place with it’s photographs and trails of exhausted text messages. As if your brain isn't full enough, now, after a lifetime you struggle with the memory of experience and the total recall of trivia. It's pleasant but unnerving, shocking and comforting and try as you might you can never quite explain it. Never quite.

Monday, 17 March 2014

God bless the Illuminati

In the Crimea they've voted by an enormous margin to return to being a part of the Russian machine, a silver cog on the grimy Black Sea. Putin has spoken and apparently the people have spoken and the world has looked on slack jawed. They want to return to the enormous heaving bosom of Mother Russia with all the complexity and contradiction and pain that goes with it. Citizens beat their own breasts, they fly the Russian flag, they sing and light torches, Ukraine no more, we are and always have been Russian; and when communism collapsed (which never quite happened) under the weight of it's own ideological corruption the people of Crimea were swept along as part of a rough cut political piece of expedient reorganisation. Now they want to set things right. Ah! The sound of democratic self determination, that musical piece beloved of the SNP, the Yes people and the chattering classes so unburdened without the weight of academic ideals and anxiety over processes and timescales. There are no proper rules when it comes to who rules. Having an army always helps.

For obvious reasons the rest of Europe and the USA seem to be struggling with all of this. They are smug and disdainful, they dislike what's going on and are wagging long, pointy fingers around. Hurricanes hardly happen in Hertford, Hereford and Hampshire these days, there's just a depressing flood of Tory self righteous rhetoric and rainwater. So because of  the rushed, naive and possibly partly corrupted referendum process none this can be approved. It's not cricket or rugby or American football, the Russians have tanks and soldiers and are aggressive (unlike us). They locked the gates and barred the doors and the secret service whispered into two million ears and said “Vote Yes or else you're in with the Ukraine for the next fifty Eurovision Song Contests.”

There were only two questions on the ballot paper and little else to choose, that idea does sound rather familiar. A bit like setting up a Yes or No scenario in a blank landscape and then campaigning on those two fairly easy to understand options. “But where's the debate?” that's the plaintive cry. As if debate before decision ever sorted anything. Debate is argument that ebbs and flows like an unruly tide, then somebody decides regardless of the outcome and the people still vote from the fear or the love that is in their hearts anyway. So it's outside of the rules of international behaviour and worst of all it's a victory and a boost to the cult of (limited/stunted/clever) personality and bully boy tactics that goes with the volatile package known as Vladimir Putin. There are talks of sanctions and a new Cold War, frost and iron, stone faces and the pushing up of gas and oil prices. The hypocritical energy companies will rub their hands at the prospect, ready and willing to squeeze a few pence out of the frightened masses. A little more instability working on the markets, a little more uncertainly over supply lines, a big hike in the prices. That's how we work, that's how the West behaves and dances around to the butterfly effect of some perceived instability in an area that’s seldom seen a stable decade in the last thousand years. 

Make no mistake, Russian is on the way back from the brink as we head towards it, the CCCP logo will once again adorn ice hockey jumpers and football strips. Their will be Cossack dances and parades of huge missiles, huge flags will be unfurled and great gas guzzling factories will produce substandard consumer items and first class weaponry. In the West we'll declare a bit of an chilly kind of phony cold war and also rearm and regroup and the balance will be restored and those heavy weight shadow boxing matches of the 50's to the 80's can resume. Doomsday Preppers and arms companies can relax, Sci-Fi and thriller authors can pat themselves on the back and stuff a few more pages into their typewriters. The churches can once again boast of Bible smuggling exploits in discreet Volkswagen campers and emails and social media will be monitored and strangled...and in Crimea? There will be dancing in the streets to the tune of a thousand Lada car horns (those that actually work anyway), then it's down hill all the way once the Coca-Cola syrup runs out and your Ford Focus needs a new clutch plate. It's about then that the Ukrainian minority will start to fight back...

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Book of Invasions

Watching the world burn: I don't really hate anything apart from the rest of the world. Their shrill voices and their religions, their ideas often hostile to whatever mine might change into. Their clamour for...I'm not sure for what. People always seem to be clamouring. Maybe in the west clamouring is seen as a sin, unless it's a sports event or some celebrity sightings bash. But the western folks play by some kind of space invader rule that doesn't apply elsewhere. There (in the non-west which is a fairly inaccurate means of describing anything) the way is simply full on invasion. Invade your neighbours in the next building, state or continent. Whether it's a funeral, a feast, a political rally or a religious festival then that's grounds for clamour leading to full on invasion. Shouting and screaming and carrying dead bodies or running away from frantic charging bulls also seems to work quite well and certainly adds to the drama - as I look on, bemused and at a safe distance. A few random guns shots (bullets come down once they've gone up), cannon mounted on rusty pickup trucks and posters of bearded men help. Also burn a badly drawn American flag, that really pisses the rest of the world right off. So to all those currently invading I'd say, fuck off and just go and invade yourself. Where did invading anything ever get us? (Apart from the Romans, Normans, Attila the Hun...)

Sunday, 2 March 2014

My Struggle

“The critical reading of texts always resulted in the parts being deleted, so that was what I did, my writing became more and more minimalist. In the end I couldn't write at all. But then I had a revelation, what if I did the opposite? What if, when a sentence or a scene was bad I just expanded it and poured in more and more? After that I became free in my writing. Fuck quality, fuck perfection, fuck minimalism. My world isn't perfect or minimalist so why should my writing be?”

“Concealing what is shameful to you will never lead to anything of value.”

Karl Ove Knausgaard.

Struggle: So it's that awful feeling of being ineffective and insignificant, wanting to perform on some bigger stage and not making it, not having the depth because all the time you measure the value of the day on how well your digestive system worked. Did your bowels move freely, did the discomfort or dull aches and pains come to much, is it over. That was it, there was no intellectual challenge. Of course if one came up you'd stifle it with some pallid and ghostly piece of garbled ignorance and dull expression and hope to God that the would do, to parry the blow away and wish for no more oncoming questions or challenges, but I had some brilliant ideas once, I know I did.

So you know that feeling when the idea does come your way, that bright light, growing into something, forming up, making sense of itself for the first time. Like witnessing a birth that's nothing to do with you but you, as a spectator cane see everything, detached and then from that viewpoint you can own it and adopt it and run with it. That's the best part of surrogate creation. Not doing anything at all but just being there so that the thing lands in your lap, you see it for what it is and go with it. Trouble is once these moments dry up they are harder to recognise it becomes a chore. The effort to pull through new stuff becomes a chore.You go looking in some twilight place, you search but there are no clues, it's a trial and a frustration. Like some fairy tale plot where the quest unfolds becoming steadily harder as each painful task is accomplished. Meanwhile on the sidelines the snipers line up to shoot you, never to kill for that would be too kind. They're just there with their pot shots and dismissive comments and enlightened suggestions to wound, to draw blood. It's always about the repulsive power of some stinking blood from somewhere. Paying a price in blood. Religions and disease and life forces all summed up in your bullet wounds and scar tissues. There they are, taking aim already.

I'm at some strange crossroads but without a credible soul to sell, just a ragged ghost that's played out and weak. No devil in his right mind want's me today, there are younger, fresher models lining up on the barricades and refuge camps, on the campuses and in the gyms and glittering canteens of the third sector. He'll have their throats for sure and ravage them like a wild dog. They don't understand any of that yet, such is the power of their educated positioning. But that wont last. So I'm invincible but ineffective, I'll take no one down, I'll just produce a stream of warm, unhealthy air that’s somehow dodged the purifying effects of the system. People will be put off but nobody will actually be hurt, that's important. An old obsolete weapon pointed at the sky with a marzipan warhead and a faulty guidance system. Start the revolution if you will but my life force wouldn't strike a match on a Molotov Cocktail and I could hardly suck an e-cigarette to get it going. It is irritating to get older and more tired.

Refection is for Narcissus: I was trying to look back on myself.  I do it from time to time, to make sense of things like being in a living dream where you can move objects and people, memories and events and get them finally sorted out and in the right place. That's how everybody should approach old age. It might take some strong and as yet undeveloped drugs to achieve this but I'd sign up for the treatment. Ideally it would also tackle all the prostrate and rattle and hum troubles that perplex and annoy. Life's good quality would return, in an unreal way of course but who cares for reality. Reality: a dull series of unending and unedifying debates about things that seldom get progressed generally ending wars of words or as a last resort violence and terrorism. Then some cycle of regret and repair kicks in, there is a short period of enlightenment then the whole stupid process starts again. I cant be bothered with that. You'd think some clever academic would have mapped out a decent diagram by now and would be hawking it around the colleges and so influencing the bright young things just to a) go back to nature or b) just devour all  in their path. There probably are too many active voices on the planet right now. A filter must be applied.