Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Friends etc.

“We hadn't really ever believed that the long awaited friends reunion would ever take place. The prospect, ten years and more after the plot device of divorce, of  them getting together to gather up the loose ends or develop the lifelong storyline and tale  telling was just too remote. We'd allowed them into our lives, those contrived but lovable characters, them with their crazy and unrealistic behaviour, all those shared moments of comedy, pathos and irony, the parade of in-jokes and clever quips, the procession of completely unlikely situations and funny coincidences played out before an audience ever ready to laugh and lap up each well rehearsed and performed set piece. It was a lifestyle choice, we saw them and mirrored all we could, hairstyles and mannerisms, endless coffee mugs, polystyrene cups, cookies and muffins, cliches and appreciation. We built our own little tributes and tableaux, we lived vicariously through these characters, uptown, downtown, adopted into that dysfunctional and unlikely combination of families as they walked around in wide open dramatic spaces holding loud two person conversations whilst the the rest of the room ignored them as it rolled on. Realism was conveniently suspended for so long and in so many locations. None of that,  either in production values or in belief really mattered, we were spellbound and addicted. We were all in there as willing victims bought into spending time in this ideal world were happy endings eventually came round after soft struggles, foot stomping petulance or romantic happenstance. There were no nasty people, just jerks and little bullies, things to be brushed off and dealt with and money and bills and the big bad world are alluded to but never really part of the spoiling of plot as we bathed in the warm escapism of each unlikely episode. For a while I loved the mythology, the sense of being part of something but I also was uncomfortable, like I'd been taken over or violated. You felt it too, I'm sure you said as much, perhaps I misheard. So it's over, it's gone, life in a modern day  religious cult has ended and we're excommunicated, hardly fair on you I know. It was me all along, I brought the house down on us brick by brick, you were as much of a victim as they were but I didn't really mean any of it, I didn't intend to poison the communion wine or taint that bread but I did. What's done is done. I'll make a clean and clear confession to the authorities, you'll be fine, they'll be here some and so will the Sunday papers. Friends? Who needs them?”

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

I observe

Life isn't such a bleak thing at all, it's quite the opposite. Don't believe everything they tell you. Some people never get that, they remain locked in the perpetual cycles of the lowest levels of existence, grumbling like itchy volcanoes. I was thinking these thoughts and also considering a packet of crisps and some oatmeal oatcake cookie things (with dips). The question was/is what to eat first, was there an appropriate order or ranking for these two foods that I should honour or succumb to. What did convention demand and was there any digestive type of advice I should consider? I briefly googled but all that came up was Steve Marriot's life story and various odd and unrelated articles about what music really consisted of. That forced me to turn back to the BBC but the news there was all too real and repetitive. I decided that hunger had placed me in some weakened state where my powers of decision making were diluted, I might be confused as if caught up in some prelude to old age and the eccentric behaviours that might accompany that segment of existence. Old age and making decisions didn't seem to go together so I decided to pull myself together and eat nothing right now and just go out.

While outside I observed a pair of Oystercatchers. They were my favourite bird, oddly elegant but with a cartoon look and comical gait and some almost human glint in their little eyes. Black and white and orange with staccato movements and sudden bizarre little flourishes of behaviour, quirky and out of this world, perhaps having stumbled into our universe from another parallel one where birds rule. They seemed intelligent and purposeful as they pecked and explored high up on foreshore. A long way from the high water mark and any actual naturally occurring oysters. Perhaps they'd gone off their food or were they just searching the whole area for an item that had been lost or misplaced? I'll never know but I did start to think they might not be quite as intelligent as I first though, there, wandering about pecking at pebbles so far from any seafood. I returned home an just ate the crisps and then the oatcakes. Seeing the bird's lack of direction and purpose had given me some.

I don't know the name of it but that feeling you get, that anxious and driven thing, when all you want is for the events and commitments that are pressing down on you, the things that are “must do” not “might do” or “could do” but “must fucking well do”, those things you want to happen as soon as possible, for them to be over. That feeling  of bringing on the event, peddling time towards you in some blur of quick execution. They are there, bearing on you like an express train and like a tidal wave. You're braced and ready for the impact, tight and tense for the landing of the killer punch and the weighing up of your chances of survival. The gamble and the uncertainty, like pulling off a bank robbery or some violent crime, successful and undetected and getting it away with it. Phew. 

How much time is there before the next enjoyable thing comes along? That was always my question. My long but short and to the point question. When can I expect pleasure  next and in whatever form? And it has to be soon. It could be simple enough, a smile, a banana, punctuation, a story told, whisky, a song on the radio, sunlight flickering through the blinds, a touch of the hand, a whole film lasting 90 minutes or more, a stranger visiting, silence or surprise. I could have carried on; my enjoyable things formed up into a list was a long list. There was a whole world of enjoyable things and I had only really named a few. It then occurred to be that just making lists was enjoyable, just naming and sorting good things and putting them in order, even a random order was good. Satisfaction was pleasure and for the most part, for me it was found in very simple, straightforward, everyday things. I'd no idea how that had come to be. I even liked the word thing with all it's meaningless, solid and abstract possibilities; lists of things. Why was it that I was so easily pleased? Perhaps I was some kind of simpleton, simple soul, easy pleased idiot. Perhaps I just didn't care. Unsophisticated and lacking in complexity and depth, childish and naive, eager to accept whatever came my way and so totally predictable. Happy when the clouds moved, the rain pattered, the sun broke through or the fog rolled it. Easy, cheap happiness, you cant buy it. Soon, any moment, soon, it would be time to look out of the window again.

Monday, 28 April 2014

True wisdom

Kim Jong-un's note takers just write gibberish for effect. To make the not so great man look greater, to perpetuate the myth that he is forever producing wise quips and pointers, a flow of original ideas, good practise and inspirational thinking that, for the greater good of the Korean people and the wider world must not be lost. He really knows how to do things. Just hold a mirror to his lips to see if he actually breathes, he may be dead or a machine. I just about know how to make a passable cup of coffee, where to look on Autotrader and how to unwrap a McVities Digestive Medley biscuit. I know about snacks and quality time on a laptop or the phone. Precious moments of self indulgence when nothing really happens other than the ritualistic wasting of that most precious but undervalued item, time. Time to yourself, snooze time or reading or dreaming time. Time perhaps to remove you shoes and try to tickle your own feet, hot and tired as they probably are. Some people see time as a story, a curve or an arc in the universe and all of us, apart from Dr Who walk along it, or are at least on it, travelling together in the same way. Heads up or down on this elongated pilgrimage, determined to spend our days doing what we like or what we feel to be right. Looking out for our fellow travellers and helping them with their heavy loads. That's the burden time gives us all. Shovelling shit, earning a crust, creating stuff or horsing around. That relentless ticking and candle burning that spills us out into the great endeavour of just getting by.  We fall in love, we get angry, hungry, frustrated, but the clock can't be stopped and the long march drags on. The trouble is that we soon realise that the long march isn't so long, it's all quite finite and really rather short. All those diagrams of time that stretch it out and show our lives and civilisations as a fleck of paint, a messy stain or a tear drop around midnight's final seconds on the 31st of December. That's how much we mean. Where is your good cup of coffee, your well presented pet, your straight shelf, your soufflé or your wondrous academic achievements? Where are your friends and family, your neat cupboards, your manicured lawn or your beach holidays? Probably captured, in random phrases and works, in Korean script or bad English in Kim Jong-un's great library of notebooks. For indeed as the Dali-Lama, Steven King or Heinrich Himmler might have said; “all true wisdom is somewhere and I'm fucked if I know where that somewhere is so it must be someplace and why would it not be there, in the notebooks of Mr Kim Jong-un.”

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Hundred year old man

“Everybody that goes comes back some time. The truth is I've been having second thoughts about reincarnation. What was once a dream or just a bad idea now seems...likely. We are all in this huge rotational spin, spinning as loose souls in space, confused and searching across the great Astral Planes. We are seeking for the correct resting place, the vessel, the homecoming. The process carries on and we are somewhere, unseen but plotted on the spiral path to the place we belong. I say all this because of the flashbacks and flash forwards that plague and entertain me. Short bursts from a vivid reality that  reeks of familiarity and inherent strangeness. Touch, feeling and memory all conspire to remind me of these fragile previous lives. Spirits and fragments, things deliberately hidden by the physical but determined and strong, pushing through the barriers of the possible and into the reality of the physical. How else can I describe it?”

“This journey is not an easy one and as my awareness has grown I've found it all the more difficult to stay with it, to travel and remain steadfast in this journey. The long trek through the confused memory where sense should prevail but cannot. Such is the force and the energy of history. Like some pulled back catapult determined to power mankind forward the trapped souls hold and retain the power and force of indescribable travel. There is frustration in the limited release. The sense that though the raw forces should prevail they never can quite gain their necessary release. They are trapped and the journey, far from being smooth and steady becomes a struggle and a stutter. We grudgingly are allowed to move forward but do so in a great fog, direction is lost and purposes are unclear, we need a light and map.”

These were the dying words of Jeremiah Black. A gunfighter, a robber, a Christian Minister, an alcoholic, a grandfather and a cancer sufferer (though the death certificate said pneumonia and bullet wounds). Jeremiah died in 1914. I was there because I was Jeremiah.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Three faces of winter

Behind the Chinese screen. 

In this business I just take my time, when I find the right thing I check it out, I research and then I pounce and buy and ship out quickly. That was why I was in this rather seedy antique market today. The air was heavy with dust, pollution and cooking smells. I felt a little sick and a little uneasy but I was hunting for a bargain and I thought I'd found the bargain of the trip. “There!” On the wooden and silk screen a delicate design was portrayed, the three faces of Winter. A formal but disturbing piece. The faces were gaunt and marked, grey and washed out, split with a naked aggression turned towards each face. Warriors or war lords sneering at each other across a frozen wasteland. Winter arguments, cold and unending seemed to prevail. There was a little light and shade in their woven expressions, as if the silk worm had tickled each white countenance just a little to humanise by a degree or two but not enough to force a thaw. There were scripts, hidden messages  and far away storks, the hope of spring while the ice warriors strutted and argued and waved their swords and bamboo sticks. There was a huge narrative somewhere to explain and inform but right now I didn't need to know anymore. I'd had a chance to look over the exhibit, to take it in. I'm not an expert but I could see age, craft, history, rarity and most important value. This was a piece worth getting hold off. I could make some money, good money.

I looked around the rest of the market. There were other pieces, interesting, glittering, catching the eye before the screen did. There were vases and dragons, great hangings and rolled up scrolls and inked paintings but I was going with my instincts. The screen was there, part of the landscape of the shop, hidden in plain sight. It was the best thing by far. I just wasn't sure how the proprietor regarded it and how, in the event that I showed interest,  he'd try to inflate or push the price. There was nobody around so I quickly took a few photographs. It was as if I was under scrutiny. No sooner had I flipped my camera into my pocket when a head popped out from behind the screen itself. A girl, grinning, peeking and looking me up and down. She was an artful mix of Chinese and European bloods, dark haired but no quite olive enough, western eyes but an Asian mouth and nose. She smiled, ventured out a little further and asked me if I liked. I nodded and pointed to the stock and offered a few compliments. All very interesting, well displayed and of good quality. Business must be good I offered. She shook her head, all was not well, business was down, the air pollution kept the customers away, the smog affected the stocks, there was trouble here and there. No, business was not so good, not right now.

Whatever strategy I was going to employ was abandoned. I engaged in small talk around some other items to deflect from the screen and she played along. There were a few hints and stories of these objects,  ownership and how they came to be here. Their various virtues and potted histories were trotted out.I smiled and nodded. I soaked it up but my eye kept returning to the screen. She noticed.  “You like?” I stuttered and pointed to a print that was hanging near by. “You get this screen at a very good price, very good, not like anything anywhere else.” I thought what the hell and we started on the money matters, American Dollars, cash, now. I carried cash always, that was how I worked. We talked figures, she screwed up her face and rolled her eyes. I returned the compliment and upped the tone of my body language. 

I was right up against the screen, studying the details, the form, the working. She was beside me, pointing to the figures, jabbering about the tales it told.  Three faces of Winter...but there is a curse.
I looked her straight in the eye. “Curse?” “The three faces of Winter is one side of the screen, have you not seen the other side?” I'd thought that the screen was the same on both sides, it hadn't occurred to me that the other side might be different. 

I struggled past various awkward artifacts and managed to crane myself around to see the rear of the object. It was pretty much the reverse of the displayed side though the design had faded a bit and there were black or dark brown stains and splattered across part of it. “And the stains are?” “Blood of course, blood from the various attacks, murders, that sort of thing”. She was grinning at little, confident in my ignorance and delighted that I was now intrigued. I leaned over a little further and clambered over the bric-a-brac until I was finally behind the screen. Once there I could clearly see the marks and the fine work that had gone into the manufacture of the screen. I stood for some time taking in the newly revealed detail. There were a lot of stains it seemed, not all the same colour, in different places and all looking like they'd occurred over time. A long time. I crouched down and took a closer look. This was authentic and I was sure and there was more of a story to it. I love history and the chance to cash in on it.

The next few seconds were a blur. I was aware of the girl getting closer to me, smiling. I also sensed another figure behind me or around me, had something emerged from the screen? That made no sense. Then a sudden pain, sharp and intense. I wanted to shout out but I was choking. A sharp object had pierced my neck. I entered some other world. There was pain and a grinning face. There was a spurt of red and I was falling. Then a black cloud passed across my eyes circling like some swirling passing storm and I was gone.

I awoke in the hospital. In a white bed with a bandage tightly wrapped around my neck. The slow shock of the truth was painful and sobering. I was in a city a hundred miles away and I was without explanations. I'd been found in an alley, drugged and stabbed but alive. No money, passport or valuables. No connections with the market I guessed, the police wanted a word apparently. I was angry and confused...and cursed. I looked across the ward. There on the wall there was an old print, a Chinese piece. I recognised it immediately now. The three faces of winter but without faces, just the bare background. In life there are no clear rules, people do what they do, there are no rules apart from those you choose to adopt for yourself and you must stay wary of the rules that others may make for themselves.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Perfect potato

Imagine Margery in an imaginary menagerie
Consider Cicily in a cataclysmic capillarity
Enable Eleanor in an egalitarian envelope
Admiring Alison on an allegorical animal
Seeing the best 
Fearing the worst
Love and punctuation
Fit to burst.

"The richer I am at writing the poorer I seem at self expression and the more I feel for that abstract and empty space that temporarily sits there between my ears and behind my eyes. It frustrates and fascinates and I cannot grasp it. I have known it all my life but it appears strange, foreign and unlikeable. It is hostile towards me many times, contrary and determined to thwart what I think are my own finely tuned purposes. Occasionally, then, now and without warning out of it pops, like a unexpected magician's rabbit or card trick ending, a clever, bizarrely structured or polished thing. Straight and correct, like a diamond or a perfect potato. There it is, raw, dripping dry  and born from my mind. Puzzling and inexplicable, like an unplanned puppy birth or some unrelated consequence of a backward thought. These moments make me happy and, if I am truthful, a little confused because up until that time I surely had forgotten that I don't really know myself or how the fluid mind plays these tricks. Again and again it would appear to churn out it's contents  and memory still plays these damnable repeated tricks."