Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year in 2012 & New Year Resolutions


With gratitude I wish to thank the people who visit this site. I wish you happiness and peace in 2012. Also, success with your dreams, your inspirations, your creations, and may your life resound with good health, hope, solidarity, trust and love.

My new year resolutions are to eat and sleep regularly, to look at all things again without any preconceived ideas, to stop feeling like an empty square in search of a future, to travel by Chinese lantern with my pet kangaroo high above a chestnut grove, to get more variety into my dream life, and to sleep in a barn with an ethereal, amorphous, waif-like, beautiful young lady who wishes to explore the conflict between love and independence with eloquence, vitality and magical insight.

*         
Reflections: Only the rich and privileged are able to maintain their grand illusions of life for long. Others must live on solid ground, in the real world, celebrate its joys, mourn its misfortunes, and pass from the darkness into the light before it is too late and all is lost.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Great Interviews of the 20th Century - Ronnie Kerrigan discusses his novel: Sink


This is an edited version of Ronnie Kerrigan's interview with Tanya Shepherd, first published in Dogs Monthly, November 22, 1996

Tanya Shepherd:  What influenced you to pursue writing as a career?
Ronnie Kerrigan:  Basically, I'm an exhibitionist with nothing worthwhile to exhibit. I'm totally devoid of literary, or poetic talent. Anyone who ever read my printed work would be painfully aware of this fact.

What's the best advice you have ever been given?
Don't move or I'll shoot.

Your parents were schoolteachers. Did this have any particular influence?
I remember our home was covered in books. Roof tiles would have been more effective. I believe they would have prevented the rain encroaching and soaking our clothes, beds and watering down our food. Of course, it was a household full of readers. One day I counted twenty five, and I didn't know a single person.

Were your family energetic and battling people?
My mother was highly energetic both physically and mentally. She was a marvellous pianist. I remember sitting in the living room listening to her playing Chopin. My father would simultaneously perform a clog dance dressed as Charlie Chaplin in the same room. I believe out of spite, perhaps jealousy. He felt eclipsed by my mother's creativity, and her ability to eat home-made ginger biscuits without a sudden need to use the bathroom.

What was your relationship with your father? I believe he had numerous affairs.
How much was reality or fantasy is anyone's guess? He carried a candle for years for a woman younger than my mother. Undeniably this played havoc when he was washing, eating, or driving. I don't believe the candle was returned to the young woman.

Your father started writing seriously while in jail. Did that influence you to write?
Perhaps. My father had a terrible fear of silence. Anything motionless such as a full moon, a mist, a pool of water, a quiet asthmatic, could light his short fuse. He was jailed for impersonating a menu at The Grill at the Dorchester in London and shouting at diners, 'Chips with everything.' He wrote a novel while incarcerated titled Love: The Beginning of Suffering. It was never published.

Why?
It was considered too credible, absurd, yet devastatingly truthful. He felt that woman were superior to men in all aspects of life. Anyway, one has to sell, promote and market oneself. My father didn't have the energy to perform with the goal of influencing a particular set of observers at a given time. He once said to me, 'Only the reader can judge whether a book is superficial, or, alternatively, possesses an abiding intensity that provokes thought, empathy, joy, doubt, and gets to the heart and soul of things.'

Your novel, Sink, is the first of three short stories that will form a trilogy of novels? Is that correct? If so, can you elaborate?
I'm still trying to find my writer's voice. One must be an acute observer of human behaviour, attitudes and be able to read character. A voyeur, of sorts. The language, the words, the characters, must impact on me. I don't expect anyone of a reasonable intellect to read it. Otherwise I would be outed as a fraud. The trilogy will include, Sink, Bath and A Single Room. I suppose the first short story, Sink, could be interpreted as an attempt to cast light on something detached, yet ever present, that has borne witness to the life and values of an individual. The effects of their childhood and formative experiences, their ambitions, achievements, loves and disasters.

The heart of the story is that no human being is free of flaw or disappointment. The antiquated sink, and the single room in which it stands, face the cycle of renewal. The cycle of renewal that those with abiding intensity and strength use to create a less complicated and better life for themselves and those around them.

If you could change one thing in your life what would it be?
Years ago, one night, while the world was sound asleep, I found myself fizzled through the consumption of too many cocktails. For some reason, unrevealed to myself, I felt a sudden urge to board the night bus to Putney High Street in London.

Would you care to amplify on your comment? 
Well, the bus was 'out of service.' I spent five days on the inert machine before a passing dog jumped on board to inform me. The dog was a Neapolitan Mastiffa which, I recollect, bore an uncanny resemblance to Cherie Blair.

*    
Reflections:  It is noteworthy to remember that words can be dangerous in the mouths of the supercilious, the detached, the impassive, the fabricator, and especially if they fall on your head. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

An Uninvited Guest


I don't often grimace, unless someone unexpectedly appears out of nowhere. Indeed, my heart has sunk on more than one occasion when conversing with a guest at some party, or other social occasion, and a face suddenly appears over my guest's shoulder to join the conversation.

The 'uninvited' usually has large protruding eyes and squints menacingly at me. 'The heat gets to me. Does it get to you? It gets to me and then I doze off. Do you doze off? Do you doze off and wake up with your head throbbing? Just like me? A blinding headache? A mitigating migraine? Just like me? Back in a second.' The person then disappears in the manner they first appeared. A nightmare come true, surely?

My guest usually looks at me with raised eyebrows – their eyes are engaged elsewhere - and expects an answer or a reaction. I tend to give neither. I remember once or twice snickering at such bold clowning when I was at school, or on probation in some godforsaken workplace where the prospect of being fired was farcical in itself. Now I find such antics tiresome. In fact, they tend to deaden my spirit.

My neck starts to twitch. I become a frightened rabbit, or some other poor animal with sizable ears in need of a good night's sleep, or a trip, say, to Moscow in the depth of winter, when it is bitterly cold, dreary, and unpleasant to the eye.

The world is confusing enough without individuals unexpectedly appearing out of nowhere when one is otherwise engaged. Such confusion can actuate embarrassment, and cause one to spray a sliver of saliva in the direction of one's guest. Indeed, it can make one question whether one is crazy, gone of the boil, or just plain dead.

*  
This morning it's raining. My wife and I are soaked. Our clothes and rucksacks are damp and our heavy boots are cold and muddy. I check my guide book and compass. It confirms we are sitting at the kitchen table in our home. Where would we be without maps?

Though hungry and thirsty we are relieved to know our precise location. Sucking on beach pebbles we exchange a Frisbee, and converse about salmon sandwiches, ham and eggs, and the person who introduced half-day closing.

When my wife inquired about lunch I smiled, and pulled a piece of pancake of two months standing from my pocket, and proudly announced we were in luck. While our diet is frugal (we sometimes dine at a neighbour's house when he is out), my wife and I retire to bed early to avoid the expense of candles. We sleep badly due to the absence of bed linen and our constant fretting over debts.

As creditors are pressing down heavily on us I have hatched a plan to 'outwit the nitwits' which, to my knowledge, has not been tried before in the history of civilization. My wife and I intend to do a 'moonlight flit' during the hours of daylight.
  
*         
Reflections:  My next door neighbour, who I would describe as a roly-poly Einsteinian type of figure, has an extreme fondness for miniature trains. Indeed, every time I see him he is wearing a stationmaster's uniform. His wife appeared to be wise and compassionate - she left him six years ago to live with a cross-eyed elephant hunter, who I believe, hitherto, has captured a terrier, a squirrel, and a worm masquerading as a tiger.

Anyway, the annoying fact about the miniature train is that it comes down our chimney breast every hour, on the hour, and the sound of the train, and its damned whistle, are unbearable. Furthermore, to have at least ten people standing in our living room (whom my wife and I have never met before), asking 'when the next train is due?', is impacting on what little is left of our sanity.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Crucible of Love and Relationships


I normally rise at five-thirty, disembark from bed at seven and swim across a lake close to my home. The exercise usually fills me with elation, and gives me time to think. Imagine my surprise and indignation to discover the lake no longer existed, and had been replaced overnight by an out-of-town shopping mall.

In fact, I was swimming by the entrance to the House of Frazer department store before I realised there wasn't any water. I walked sheepishly back through the mall with the sound of mocking laughter in my ears. My only consolation? I was naked and wouldn't need to wash and dry my 'Arctic White Casino Royale' swim trunks. I'm sure Dr Freud would find my predicament, my defining act, of colossal interest.

The second eye-popping experience happened on Saturday evening. I was standing under a restaurant awning; the rain coming down unremittingly. My partner, Eleanor Winchester-Rifle, was beating me about the head and torso with twenty inches of rubber tubing. 'To think I missed bingo for this!' she bleated in a cracked, decaying voice.

I studied her face and found myself amazed by her aged appearance and skill in wielding large rubber tubing. We quarreled; she left. (I never see her again. She dies, aged seventy-one, from a broken fingernail while abseiling in the Sahara Desert without a rope and harness.) I remained in the entrance watching the vile weather and light fade, careful not to meet the gaze of whispering bystanders.

A man's voice, toneless and steady. 'Every relationship has its highs and lows. A couple like you require homeostasis.'

I try to resist talking to strangers. I'm abnormally self-absorbed and a fervent collector of patterned wallpaper. Conversations tend to turn into complex jigsaws with too many pieces. Any pieces above ten and I want to run, soil my pants, or buy an umbrella; usually its all three. My hands became clammy, my voice thin and strained. 'I can't go near a doctor without suffering post-natal depression. My nose and mouth turn stale, metallic ... And I have an aversion to small, tanned faces.'

His silence filled me with dread. I felt like crying or weeping, and I wasn't wearing my fake glasses. The guy could be a psychopath, or worse, full of jovial indifference. His body and face were both heavy and round. I jumped when he put a strong, swollen hand on my shoulder. 

'I learned my first wife was a lesbian after twenty years of marriage. Imagine that, if you can? I was suicidal for all of two minutes. Then Jane and I sat down and openly discussed the situation. The prospects of our relationship surviving after such a thunderbolt, you know?' He glanced at me. I tried to put on a fake smile but it didn't fit my sagging face.

'Your wife! ... Jane! ... Are you still a pair!? ... A couple ...!?' My voice sounded as if my vocal chords were squinting.

He moved closer. 'It's a question of attitude. I wish I'd handled the whole situation with more maturity, you know. With more care and love for my wife and children.' My mouth was as dry as bones residing in a museum, or in a microwave with a broken timer. His gaze penetrated each muscle of my face. He seemed to enjoy watching me squirm.

'Jane had a laissez-faire tendency. It was hard for me seeing her leaving our home on a stretcher. But then I was always the pragmatist. We had a yin and yang type of thing going, you know?' He leaned forward and whispered, 'We all tend to act differently in times of crisis than in times of ease. I risked everything when I shot her.

My heart pumped faster. My knuckles turned white in concert with my hair. 'Your wife?!' I gasped. 'You?! You shot your wife?!'

He put his fingers to his lips. 'Talk quietly,' he whispered. 'You never know who may be listening. Our marriage wasn't great before my wife died.' My fingers trembled so much I felt a French accent coming on. With his voice flat, and devoid of emotion, he stared directly into my face. 'Do you think I'm making this up?! That I didn't kill my wife?! Getting over an agonizing break-up isn't easy, you know! Especially for the partner left behind!'

Life and death shot before my eyes. I pictured myself walking around on sticks for months if I didn't escape his company. 'I've just remembered I have two children to launch! I mean, two children to take to lunch! My children and I have a shared history! It goes back years! Decades! Centuries, in fact!' I longed to be invisible. 'I've just remembered I'm someone else, and my job has been outsourced to an untuned, plywood violin! Catch you later!'

Without batting an eyelid I jumped into the rain and entered the city's sewage system by the nearest manhole.

*         
Reflections: Family, lovers and friends - indeed, ourselves - change over the course of a lifetime. It may be due to the death of a loved one, illness, redundancy, debt, addiction, family secrets, broken dreams, or trepidation. To successfully survive expected, or unsuspected, experiences one requires strength; room to breathe to discover who we were always supposed to be, and strive to become that person. 

Closing our eyes and mind solves or achieves nothing. Embrace the 'kiss of life' while it exists, and handle your inner emotions with sensitivity and care. Treat others' with genuine and profound humaneness. Life is neither predictable, nor a fairy tale.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Magnificent Silence & Place des Vosges


It's a fine sunny morning in Place des Vosges. Today, without warning, R.K. died in a half empty flat. My name is Lid (spelt without the L), a phony professor, of sorts: well aware of R.K.'s successes and failures, but not my own. I was first on the scene. His last words? 'Milo! Come in out of the rain! You'll catch your death!' Some might say, 'Poor R. K.' Others may say: 'He was due the alternative.' 'Was he juggling carving knives? Not that he had any.' 'He was born with a face you longed to thump.'

Was he a dark-eyed tomboy? No. Blue eyes, blond hair (until he was born), with an amicable anxious face. His humour could make a deceased person breathless; carry one to a place of exclusion, where nothing exists except a magnificent silence. The occasional tear, but no self-pity. A suggestion of despair, but no fresh disasters.

He was once dismissed as a mixture of repressed emotion and personable; it can never be said he was an actor; that his life was built around performance. His life was unactable. He once admitted, 'Life is a hateful comedy. If only I had been a character in a book I should have remained unseen, unheard, implausible. I pleased many people by being elsewhere. I openly scorned charm radiated by others; though I softened my abrasive edge prior to my demise.'

'My happiest time? The mid-1960s. Why? Without exhaustion I was loquacious, a loose cannon. I recall talking to people about matters I knew little of myself. The absurd conversing with the absurd. Deliberation. Animation. Vanity. Inescapable.'

His father (short on humour, long in the leg) was a nun. He died in 1998 after falling off a donkey in the family home and swallowing the donkey's false teeth. The donkey died in jail after being caught interfering with a hen. R.K.'s mother (short in the leg, long on humour) was a recluse who enjoyed walking the fields, lanes and roads near her home with her dog, Plato. A woman fond of reciting Aristotle's Law of Non-Contradiction to those she encountered.

When R.K. reached seventy his world moved progressively inward. He moved to Paris in 2006 and lived in a fish tank in a French Restaurant on the Rue Saint-Marc. A year later he relocated (with two fish) to a soup bowl in a café on the Boulevard Saint-Germain. The fact that neither R.K. nor the fish spoke French did not provoke despair, tension, or yearnings. For entertainment they listened, and danced, to a gramophone recording of barnyard noises.

*
Reflections: A blind man once told me he could tell by my voice that I had never observed or understood anything in my life with any degree of clarity. When I asked him, 'What does it mean to be a good person?' he smiled. 'That is hard to define. But one should know, and not need to inquire of another human being.' 

Saturday, July 09, 2011

The Two Workers

The Two Workers

In the suburbs of a city two men stand talking.

John:  I took pride in the job. I was as happy as the day was long.

Paul:  I wonder what the 'Good Fellow' up there thinks about all this?

John:  It's a sad freedom we face. 

Paul:  I feel a madness descending.

John:  They say I had the smile of a saint.

Paul:  I'm frightened of the young. Splitting themselves laughing ... Riotous behaviour. Were we ever boisterous like that?

John:  I inspired confidence.

Paul:  You were well known for that.

John:  A fine open laugh, and a firm handshake. I was smart. Played them at their own game. 

Paul:  No one better.

John:  All I see now is the end of the road. What will I tell Mary? And us living in a crumbling, dark house.

Paul:  I could do odd jobs if it weren't for my rheumatism.

John:  When I was young I thought I knew my mind. But events, personalities, guilt, changed all that. I'm not one for bearing grudges. All I desired was a warm home for Mary's sake. She has stood by me in thick and thin.

Paul:  As beautiful as pink linen raised to the sun.   

John:  Victims of mismanagement, ineptitude. (Pause) There have been others like us, and there will be others' long after we're gone. What matters is what they want. They'll wreck the place. But it will be replaced. As sure as hell, it will be.

Paul:  We devoted our lives to their demands. Do you think anyone cares about the daily existence of ordinary people?

John:  The silence is deafening. We've been cold-shouldered. Now we're a burden. (Pause) There's no denying nature has dealt us a mighty blow. How are we to move forward? Stay on our feet? Regain our self-esteem?

Paul:  We were caught asleep when we should have been wide awake. Those loud-mouthed-good-for-nothings conspired behind our backs. Nothing but "touts and traitors" to the real workers! Every one of them!

John:  As the body grows sadder life gets harder. I have my wife and son to worry about. What shall I say? Mary will be upset. She'll think I did something dishonourable. How will she look at me and see the same man again?

Paul:  We're victims of gamesters content for us to play their game with their rules. It never crossed their minds we have opinions and ideas of our own. They shrugged their shoulders and laughed. Fraudsters, plunderers, adulterers, riffraff, the lot of them.

(Pause)

John:  Today the earth feels empty except for the two of us standing here. We're suffering because of their indifference, lack of imagination. (Pause) There's more than one reason for anything of importance that happens in life. Disharmony, disorder and disaster do not happen by chance. We worked under the illusion they were principled, honest, intelligent, of high virtue. Who will judge their transgressions and insincerity?

Paul:  I achieved great pleasure carrying out my work. Today I view it all with contempt and misguided loyalty.  In truth, I despised them. Some of their directives and beliefs went over my head. I'll not lie. Why should they escape personal judgment? Are we to remain passive to their back-room politics and intrigues? What about the decisions taken while we were understaffed and overworked. (Pause) Their stench pervades the wind. I can hardly breathe. The 'name' will be sullied forever.

John:  My parents lived with ease in hardy, rural surroundings without the clitter-clatter of unnecessary worldly goods. They didn't have the extremes of anxieties that beset those who have lost touch with the world and nature. Yet, they were happy. We took long walks through the fields and forests, up and down hills accompanied by the sun or dark-blue clouds. I remember looking up at my father and mother with love shining from my eyes. I remember squeals of laughter, teasing, listening to my breath.

(Pause)

You and I have families to support. Callousness and careless actions have closed our workplace, without prior notice. Yet our ideals remain the same. The hard light of the sun has waned for now. That's the way it is. We must open the doors of disillusionment soon, otherwise our lives won't hold water.

(Pause)

Paul:  I can no longer believe in the future. I'm old and the world is going to hell! They should be condemned to death!

John:  A thing is beautiful until it is perfected. Then it becomes ugly and, worse, arcane. The fiasco of life is that the search for perfection is illusory. That's how it must be for the moment.

*    
Reflections: Until today I wasn't sure what the most dangerous thing was in my home. I thought it was my drug-addicted, hatchet-waving son, running around in the sunken hours of the morning screaming 'Enter Sandman!' I was wrong. Recent research has confirmed that 'all' dishwashers  contain 'black tough fungi'. This 'fungi' is known to survive heat, salt, strong detergents, acid, beatings with baseball bats, and missile attack.

Since this information came to my attention I sleep in a wardrobe in my bedroom. I constantly smell of mothballs. In fact, during one period of severe trembling (on hearing objects moving in my kitchen) I swallowed four or five mothballs. I hallucinated and became a hair in Einstein's nostril. As to how and when it will all end I have no idea.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Dozing Doctor


My doctor has dozed off. His breathing is disorganised and the stale scent of alcohol hangs in the air. I've noticed his patience has been waning lately. Perhaps it has with other patients, too? As I entered his consulting room ten minutes ago he looked pale, wriggled his fingers, yawned, and with a cheerless, lethargic voice enquired, 'And how are we, today? Still ill and dying, I trust?'

The Doctor is normally a rational human being with a determined face and intelligent eyes. This morning, however, he seems paralyzed by emotional trauma, sarcasm and indifference. I notice that his wedding ring is missing. His tormented face and toneless voice make me ill at ease. 

'What are you here for?' he barks, as if worn out from asking questions.

'I'm worried about the side effect of a drug you prescribed last month. While I sleep my left leg goes for walks without me.'

'How do you know it goes for walks if you are sleeping?' he asks, sighing deeply.

'Sometimes I pretend to be asleep. Then a short while later my left leg gets out of bed and leaves the house.'

'So what?' he says wearily. 'Do you think it's having an affair with another leg, perhaps? Are you frightened it will run off with some other leg and leave you after all these years? Stand up to your left leg! Demand your rights! Wear ladies tights to keep your legs together, if necessary!'

I sit in silence, stunned by his outburst.

'Patients don't understand that doctors get bored listening to them. Yes, bored. I see you are shocked by my confession. So what! The staff in this place don't even say 'good morning', a simple 'hello', 'goodbye', 'safe journey home' to me. Can you believe that? This place is a cauldron of disorder, disharmony, and accusations!'

I have an irresistible urge to scream. I feel nauseous. My stomach starts to churn.

The doctor bows his head, sighs, and in a tired voice says, 'If I were at home right now I'd be on my own. Life is a simple story. It's not the same story for everyone, but it's a story all the same. You fall in love, get married, have children, and you work. You work so goddamn hard you forget about love. You forget it's the most important thing in your life. My wife suffered a long time without me knowing about it, and I'm supposed to be a doctor. She left me a note saying she was tired of me, tired of our life, tired of being unhappy. To tell the truth, I, was unhappy, too. She took off with a rich sweet-talker who, like every other human being, has within themselves the potential for destruction, treachery, delusion and deceit.'

Another prolonged period of silence descends. The doctor's voice softens. 'I see your left leg is back. Treat it with love and respect. And don't be too tired to tell it you love it. Everything meaningful that happens in one's life has many meanings, not one. Take time to heal yourself. Take back control of your life, your body, your left leg ... '

The doctor's head drops between his knees, he begins to snore.

I lean back in the soft black chair, and think: 'How precious time, love and health are. Would the doctor take his wife back if she returned to him? Would he still love her? Is it possible to love someone more than once, or is that delusional? Could he trust her again? Perhaps his time has come and gone. Perhaps his life will now be one of immense sorrow and anger? His nights long and full of false, painful memories.'

The image of the dozing doctor's posture will remain with me. I wish I could say (with absolute confidence) the same about my left leg. 

*
Reflections:  It's remarkable how unperturbed some people feel about living in a hermetically sealed world. Ear phones are a definite deterrent to a meaningful conversation, unless you happen to have a XL megaphone at your disposal. On a recent visit to London I observed many people on the underground, on buses, in restaurants and at a concert (?!), sitting in isolation wired to iPods, cellphones and other technological gadgetry, totally unaware of the natural sounds and vistas or friends and lovers in their company.

Some passers-by walked swiftly along the pavement: eating, drinking, talking on cellphones, listening to music on iPods, charging through people and displaying limited understanding of good manners and etiquette. This increasing trend is not unique to London, however. The number of gadgets are increasing, and becoming smaller and cheaper. In fact, I have five: one in each ear, one in each nostril, and another in my belly button. It's a losing battle . . .

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Trials and Tribulations of Milford Frankfurter


This morning, a neighbour, Milford Frankfurter (part-time astronomer and searcher for extraterrestrial life in the skin of fish at weekends), emitted a cry from his house resembling a three-spined toadfish suddenly intolerant to salt. I suddenly realised that my house has inadequate sound-proofing, and the upstairs toilet is too well-concealed. The possibility that the toilet might have been stolen crossed my mind, slid down the side of my face, and made for the kitchen to make breakfast.

Milford's hideous cry unsettled me. My mouth, throat, and left leg were bone dry. Suddenly, my stomach ulcer flared up. Luckily I keep a bottle of mineral water at my bedside in case I speak in German during the night. I took a quick drink and doused the flames emanating from my stomach. The smoke and increasing darkness made me quiver. Someone rang the front door bell. After much agonizing I went downstairs. It was Milford. As he spoke I glanced anxiously at his burning car.

'My one remaining pleasure! I've killed my darling Nissa!' cried Milford, crossing and uncrossing his hands above his head. 'I've destroyed her! My life is over ...' He began to pace nervously up and down the cedar tree in my front garden. He begged me not to tell the police. 'It was an accident! If the truth comes out I'll be ruined! My wife, Lola, will never forgive me!' 

'Where is your wife?'

'Lola's in the car! She was jealous of Nissa, see? And you can't stop people talking ...'

Milford had sent a message by smartphone to preheat the cabin of his car. Due to a typing error he keyed 300°C instead of 20°C.  Tragically, he had fallen asleep in his house. What seemed like a few minutes had, in reality, been an hour. I listened in horror.

'My wife must follow ever move I make! Is it any wonder I suffer from iPhone and car tracking angst! I pay a colleague at work to exchange shoes. My wife has chips in the heels of mine! Imagine! And I have to do a little business here, and a little business there, during the day, you understand?!'

Milford sounded like he was giving me advice I didn't want. Suddenly there was an explosion. An object flew through the air and landed on the street lamp opposite my house. It looked wrinkled and shriveled. I rubbed my eyes. 'I can see a woman's face! Dressed for mourning! If I weren't so tired I'd say it's your wife, Lola!'

'Are you waiting for me to die?!' came a deep, harsh voice from the top of a lamp post. 'Thought I was wiped off the face of the earth! I won't forget this in a hurry! Get me down! Hurry up, dammit!'

Lola's words made Milford's lips move, but this time they weren't saying anything. He was arrested by the police and charged with the manslaughter of an all-electric vehicle (EV). The ambulance and fire services arrived, attended to Lola, and Milford's burnt-out pride and joy.

I drank strong coffee to calm down; mindful that Milford had senselessly succumbed to lunacy. Wearing a blue check dress and a turban, I sat on a small camping gas stove in my living room, as the 'debris of the day' lay in wait for darkness and silence.

*    
Reflections:  If you stay silent long enough, your lover, spouse, sibling, or friend, will reveal their innermost thoughts and secrets. Their eyes will impart the truth; their words and sighs will unveil the lies. Some people consider themselves to be interminably virtuous. They normally wear a uniform, or behave as if they do.

Monday, May 02, 2011

The Art of Regurgitating Furballs


During a recent stay in hospital I was thrown out for impersonating a general anesthetic. A patient, Mr M., ninety-eight - who claimed to be partially deaf in one nostril - accused me of infiltrating his memory during an operation to have a pinprick removed from his finger. Mr M., was in surgery for an hour and remembers nothing. In fact, that missing hour of his life is a dark void bereft of sensation, feeling, and emotion (uncannily similar to when my wife and I attempt sex). 

My defense includes the following:

1)  I am addicted to the smell of warm metal. In fact, I've blacked out twice sniffing my TV.

2)  I believe the word 'chopsticks' should be hyphenated.

3)  It is difficult to remain calm while the world of Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, iPods, iPhones, and texting collectively destroy the human race. The facts are undeniable, uneatable, uncalled-for (just like marriage). They poison our freedom. Can an individuals life be so bad it must be supplemented by gadgets offering a faster, smoother experience. In the meantime, I'm sticking - literally - to massages with cool coconut oil applied by skilled, smooth female hands. It is therapeutic, relaxing, and I don't have to engage in meaningless, mindless conversation unless I so desire. Adorning a different disguise each day has its downside but it's worth it just to be enveloped - albeit temporarily - in the scent of mint, basil, lavender, marjoram, and to step once more among the throng feeling crisp, calm, refreshed.

4)  Sometimes I go away for several days and I am left alone at home with a bottle of hair dye. Why would someone close to you do such a thing? I'm forced to sit by the telephone and computer to receive confirmation of my whereabouts.

My solicitor believes I may get a light sentence: a dose of chloroform, or be forced to sniff ether from a begrimed medicine bottle. He advised, however, that I may be asked to explain the title of a film, for example: Duck Soup, Reservoir Dogs, Quantum of Solace, or - heaven forbid - Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.

*
Last week a neighbour, Kant Sitwell, was struck on the head by lightning. He was standing in his garden disguised as a ship and shouting: 'Smallpox Aboard! Smallpox Aboard!' I remember Kant once told me he could locate buried treasure just by looking down his wife's throat. Anyway, he appeared, at first, to have sustained no serious injuries after the incident. Then, unexpectedly, he experienced an intense craving for cat food, walking about on "all fours" with a can opener between his jaws, sleeping on a cat-hammock on a radiator in his living room, and entering and exiting his house via a cat-flap. 

When Kant began to use neighbours gardens as litter trays, and to loudly meow from his roof in the middle of the night, tempers frayed. He wanted attention, reassurance that his family and neighbours were still around; that he was not alone. Yet something had to be done for the sake of the community's [sic] sanity. With strong support, and little logic, it was agreed he should be boxed and shipped to Oxford to sing, or play organ, with the New College Choir. I'm sure Kant still enjoys climbing trees, grooming his coat, and hurling fur balls at unsuspecting passers-by, when choir duties permit.

*
Reflections: My house is still and the street outside (which reflects a ghostly layer of life) is moving. Perhaps I should ease my intake of nitrous oxide? I gaze at my 'new' wife. In most aspects she appears not to have aged since we first met three days ago. Except for grey hair and a white beard she still looks youthful, agile, hairy.

However, her stubborn habit of nail-biting is driving me to distraction. This afternoon a neighbour complained that my wife's 'infuriating habit' had caused the boundary fence between our houses to collapse. When he asked for all the nails to be returned I honestly said my wife was about to finish them off. In fact, she is swallowing the last six inch steel nail as I type.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Andrew Marr Admits Using a 'Super-Injunction' (sounds rather harrrowing)


Andrew Marr (?!)

BBC presenter Andrew Marr won a High Court order in January 2008 to silence the media over his extra-marital affair with a fellow journalist. It is alleged that Mr Marr said: 'I did not come into journalism to go around gagging journalists.' An unfortunate phrase, given the circumstances.

I have no personal interest in what Andrew Marr does outside of his working environment. In fact, when I see certain individuals on television, for example, Ian Hislop, Anthony Charles Lynton Blair, John Leslie von Prescott, Glenn Beck, Ian Richard Kyle Paisley, James Martin Pacelli McGuinness, I have a near-death experience. After closing the doors of my warm house, I climb on to the roof, and adopt the persona of a great Russian bear with podgy ears and bulging eyes. I usually bring a bag of potatoes and throw them at passers-by. When police arrive, I advise my neurotransmitters are misfiring, or that I'm choking on a Malteser shaped like Andrew Marr's head.

In 2004, Andrew Marr published My Trade: A Short History of British Journalism (a compelling and interesting read) providing an insider's account of what makes so-called 'British Journalism so distinctive.' On page 385 Andrew writes, 'When I appear on television, the newspaper critics were quick to make unflattering comparisons ... Others were "powerfully" reminded  of [my resemblance to] the notoriously grim-faced Russian president Vladimir Putin. I do not much like the look of Putin, so it is disconcerting to discover many people [who are these nutters'?] think we are indeed dead ringers.'

Looking closely at photographs of Andrew Marr and Vladimir Putin I admit I see a striking resemblance. But then I once lived in Wagga Wagga, and harbour an ambition to work in a fly-infested butcher shop. Now where did I put my contact lens, monocle, and purple, bug-eye glasses?

Scene: A Peppa Wendy tent located in a front garden in South London. Chief Inspector Berkhead addresses a throng of open mouths, and large unblinking round eyes, aka 'Police riot officers.'

CI BERKHEAD: This afternoon you all received ten minutes of police riot training. You must believe me when I tell you that I would have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility, and to discharge my duties as Chief Inspector as I would wish to do, without the help and support of the woman I love. Any questions?

PC 1: Is 'kettling' spelt with two 't's' or one 't', sir?

CI BERKHEAD: Um, I see. Well, if you find you are close to Sainsbury's, Marks & Spencer, or Wimbledon it has TWO 't's'. If you find yourself near a Tesco store, or watching Eastenders, I recommend using ONE 't.'

PC 2: Should there be water in the kettle before we engage with the hostile crowd, sir?

CI BERKHEAD: New balls, please!

PC 2: Excuse me ...? Sir?

CI BERKHEAD: Oh yes, silly me. Unfortunately each incident is different. One night you're sitting in the car with sunglasses on, then you're married to a hairdresser ... (deep in thought) ... Always carry a kettle on your belt. Even if your kettle is empty, go thought the motions as if it's full. Never leave the station without your kettle. Why it would be worst than discovering after twenty years that your wife is a man. New balls, please!

PC 3: What about 'teapotling', sir?

CI BERKHEAD: Never make the tea too sweet. Remember, people are like flowers. The bigger, the dumber. Use 'teapotling' where less than one person is demonstrating. (Pause) I'm going to be straight with you. The police budget has been severely cut. That's why you have no boots, one sock between twelve, and wear short shorts. You will have to imagine the rest of your uniform and equipment. Each police duty belt is fitted with hairspray, a toilet brush, illusory leg, arm, nose and ear restraints, and corncobs for use when official toilet paper is nowhere to be found. And remember, nothing beats a good kick in the buttocks, even if you have to pay for it. You're dismissed!

PC 1: Where do you want us to go? I don't like being far from home.

CI BERKHEAD: Try the park up the road.

PC 1: The park is crowded on a Saturday ... People and dogs.

CI BERKHEAD: There's sense in what you say. I'll try to think of somewhere else. (Pause) I know! The cemetery at the end of this street. Except for a few trees and seats there is plenty of space to undertake your duties with passion, integrity, and indifference. Be supportive to each other and treat everyone you meet with suspicion. In fact, with utter contempt. Our dear city is safe in your hands!

*    
Reflections:  COR, BLIMEY! I ALMOST FORGOT! Andrew Marr said at the Cheltenham Literary Festival that citizen journalists will never replace 'real' news: 'A lot of bloggers seem to be socially inadequate, pimpled, single, slightly seedy, bald, cauliflower-nosed young men [sic] sitting in their mother's [sic] basements and ranting. They are very angry people ... ' It may have been a slip of the tongue, of course. I doubt it, somehow.

Monday, March 14, 2011

CSI: Ards (Crime Scene Investigation: Newtownards)


It's Sunday night. Newtownards looks like a town swallowed up in quicksand. A place full of cold resentment: empty of people, church towers and statues. Even the homeless have gone home. Without looking at each other, CSI Detective 51st Grade, O. Bluebottom, and CSI Detective 52nd Grade, A. Pinkbottom - both rookies in the PSNI - walk towards the crime scene. Their police car has been stolen as they guzzled food in a local hamburger joint. The vehicle resides a short distance away on a petrol station forecourt.

Both officers string up yellow tape. Their job now is to keep spectators and the media back from the crime scene. Not an easy task when there is no one about. Bluebottom and Pinkbottom turn away from the police car, spread their feet wide apart, and place their hands in each other's utility belt.

The Mobile Crime Team arrive. On sighting Bluebottom and Pinkbottom the flashing strobe lights bars immediately cease and the vehicle speeds towards Belfast. Chortling and catcalls flow from the disappearing car. 'They don't look like Dempsey and Makepeace, that's for sure! If I were married to Pinkbottom I'd start divorce proceedings, pronto. Do you think Bluebottom pees standing up or sitting down? Looks like he's fixing to cry.'

'See!' says Pinkbottom. 'Now, no one's talking to us.'

'Don't talk to me! It was you who was hungry and wanted to shave.' cries Bluebottom. 'Didn't we suffer enough yesterday? Arresting a mother because she called her kids Crystal and Coke. Asking who her suppliers and the producers were? What the hell were you thinking? On Monday you arrested a male for wearing one-legged shorts. HE ONLY HAD ONE LEG! He was wearing two-legged shorts, for Christ's sake! Couldn't you recognise the man's physical condition?'

Pinkbottom looks at Bluebottom. 'Has anyone said you look like the devil? Those bushy eyebrows, horns and long tail. No wonder your uniform doesn't fit right.' As the officers talk a monkey wanders under the yellow tape, jumps into the police car and drives off. The roar of the engine makes Bluebottom's mouth fall open, hit the ground, and swing back to hit Pinkbottom on the nose. Her eyes flare as she wipes blood from her chin. Their radios crackle: it's Det. Sgt. F. Blackbottom.

'You dare to call yourselves crime investigators! Your butts are in your heads. Just like mine. A monkey was seen driving a police car down East Street a few minutes ago at 5 mph. I 'd be obliged if you two monkeys would run along, apprehend the monkey, and take possession of the police car. And forget about commendations, medals, or promotions. I've arranged for both of you to be transferred to Belfast Zoo tomorrow. Permanently! I feel sorry for the poor animals. However, it must be done.'

The radio goes silent. It starts to rain as Bluebottom and Pinkbottom begin their frenzied run towards East Street. Some residents, aroused from their sleep by the collective cry of 'Ooh ooh ooh, ah ah ah', believe a Rave Party is taking place in local playing fields. Others conclude it is the rhythm of the rain, and placidly return to their dreams.

*
Reflection: The death of a check-out operator is more meaningful to his, or her, family than the death of a visionary, a genius, a zealot, or a winner of a Nobel Peace Prize.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Killing Time


A wise doctor once told me that the view from his house is not the same as mine. Using a map, he highlighted the area of town where he lived, and warned me not to rent a property close by, or he would kill me. I stood by my promise. He died one morning making breakfast dressed in his Donald Duck play suit. His house pal, Gus Goose, finally tired of eating duck eggs, and stuck Donald's yellow flat feet down his strap-on duck beak. The wise doctor's last words were, 'And there's me keeping blue eggs for your birthday ...'

*
Lately I've been feeling tired, bloated and lacking in energy. I sent a sample of my hair, with a cheque, to find out what my diet was doing to my body. I received an in-depth analysis in the post. The results were amazing. It confirmed my body was in great shape. The cheque, however, is suffering from hypersensitivity, a skin problem, muscle imbalance, deficiencies in a number of minerals and vitamins and requires to undergo a comprehensive detox plan. As I type, the cheque is resting on the sun-drenched front porch. It's on a new diet. I believe it's starting to look and feel better. It's early days, of course, but the signs are encouraging.

*    
I'm in the library trying to think and write. Outside the the street is bright, full of people coming and going, mostly going. A man with a small, slender face, and black-rimmed glasses in the left inside pocket of his jacket, stops in the street and holds his breath in his right hand. He places it back in his mouth and moves on. I sense a presence looking down at me. A young girl: pretty, short straight black hair, wearing a short black leather coat. In fact, everything is short, including the scar on her left cheek.

'Aren't you a teacher?' she asked.

'Yes,' I said, lying.

'We've met before,' she continued. 'Your first name has two syllables ... Let me guess ... May I sit down?'

'You may.' I like the company of females, playing with words, expressions, flirting. She inclined her head. It made her more beautiful.

'Is it Rumpelstiltskin?'

My kind of girl. 'No. But you're close.'

I produce a genuine smile and place it back in my wallet. 'Have you been in a library before?'

'No. This is the first time. I mean ... Well, I've been watching you'. Her blue velvet eyes aroused my emotions. 'Two syllables? ...'

'Sometimes one, sometimes two, sometimes three or four, if you count swear words.'

'What do you write?'

'Whatever pops into my head. If I wait, something happens. Something always happens.' I pause for a moment, only because she is so damn pretty, bracing, and she observes, listens. She's sharp in a good way.

'Is it Alex?' she asks. Then, 'Jean-Patrick?' I notice the holes in her jeans and her small well-shaped lips.

'I have to go.' We stare at each other in silence.

Her voice sounds like a whisper, 'I'll see you again.'

I lift my writing materials. 'Well, yes ... ' She gives a lop-sided smile and tells me her name is Hannah.

I hand her my card. She looks at it for a while. Her face lights up. She is amused, beautiful.

'I'll see you around kid.' I do my best Robert Mitchum impression as I exit the library and merge into the shape of the town. I'll see her around, that's for sure. Life's all about killing time. There are worse ways to kill time than in the company of an intelligent, beautiful, young woman who knows your first name has two syllables.
*    
Reflections:  What most people want in this world is honesty and to be recognised as a human being. The mass media (owned by the wealthy) try their best to distort the truth about the poor, the disadvantaged, the homeless, the unemployed.

Twenty-four hours walking and sleeping in the streets without proper clothes, cash, credit cards, mobile phones, Blackberries, iPod's, laptops, food, and protection from physical and verbal assault, might just enlighten 'some' people whose job it is to distort the truth to bag a 'good' story line.

Thankfully there are honest people with compassion, generosity, courage, and goodwill, who daily help the damaged and abused whose lives, sadly, hang by a thread.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Day in the Life of Burt Bacharach


'What’s New Pussycat?'

'Number 4—ham omelette—with coffee—please,' said Burt, removing his sunglasses, pinching his nose to ease the tension.

'Heavenly,' retorted the waiter, smiling widely.

'The truth is—' Burt said, biting his lip, moving closer to the waiter.

'Yes?'

'The truth is Hal David wrote most of the lyrics—Hal David! For the last time—Hal David! I’m a composer, an arranger, a pianist, a singer, occasional lyricist—'

'Hmmm,' the waiter chuckled, exposing his red gums, 'Absolutely.' He disappeared to place the order. Burt closed his eyes, and massaged the ridge of his nose.

He eat his breakfast leisurely while humming a melody. A new melody that he banked away inside his head with all the others. Once finished, he put on his coat, placed a tip on the table, and walked towards the exit. As he opens the door to greet the rest of the day—there has been a sudden downpour—he hears a shrill, irritating voice. 'Will you be having breakfast tomorrow, Mr Bacharach?'

The question takes Burt slightly by surprise. He hesitates, his face bristling with distress. 'I’m not sure—? I probably will.'

'Promises, Promises,' chuckled the waiter.

Burt searches for a reserved response; nothing of value materializes.

'Are you all right Mr Bacharach?' a concerned voice enquires. 'You look tired.' A young waitress gently touches Burt on the shoulder. She is blushing like a schoolgirl. 'Have another cup of coffee—on the house—or, perhaps, a glass of cold water.'

'Well I ... cold water, please,' said Burt, touched by her concern. He sits down, rests his head on his hands. The waitress returns and watches as he drinks from the glass. She observes his expression change from one of concern to one of calm; in fact, he gives her a warm smile. He notices the young girl has broad shoulders and hips, and thick black hair tied in a ponytail. He hands her the empty glass. 'In my ignorance I forgot to ask your name?'

'That's OK. It's Dionne. And, yes, my mom named me after Dionne Warwick.' She stares at him through her big blue eyes.  'My mom's favourite song is "The Look Of Love". You're really Something Big in our home. In fact, in our life.' Burt thanked Dionne for the kind words. He asked her where she lived, and if she had other work. 'I was born about Twenty Four Hours From Tulsa,' said Dionne pleasantly. 'I work two or three nights at Blue On Blue, a nightclub on Second Avenue.'

'That must be hard on you?' said Burt quietly.

'I like it here in New York—at the diner—Alfie and Arthur. We've had some Magic Moments since I arrived. At the beginning I looked like The Blob. I'm settled now. Which reminds me! I've got to get A Message to Michael. I couldn't live without him. He's my boyfriend and we are getting married Any Day Now!' Burt congratulated Dionne. She responded with an affectionate glance and pretty eyes laced with fun.

The door of the diner opened and in walked a boyish-looking man with long, shining, light-brown hair. Dionne greeted him with a kiss and introduced Michael to Burt. It was clear The Look of Love was written over both their faces; a special happiness embraced the diner like a Lost Horizon painted from memory one amazing night. Burt knew that Dionne and Michael would share all kinds of new experiences together. In the Land of Make Believe everything, and anything, is possible.

Freed from the iron restrictions of composing music for a while Burt felt revitalised. 'Are you going anywhere special on your honeymoon?'

'Oh, yes! San Jose. Have you been there?' enquired Michael.

'Yes, I've got lots of friends in San Jose—lots of good friends.'

'Would you mind showing us San Jose on a map? We're lousy at finding places we've never been to. Dionne and myself would be grateful. That is, if you have the time?'

'Of course. That's What Friends Are For, after all.' Deep in that moment Burt felt stability, a sense of peace, and thought how Wonderful To Be Young, to be in the presence of love, to feel alive.

*     
This afternoon I witnessed two middle-aged men quickly pass each other in the street while holding a laconic conversation:

1st MAN: Hi Jim. Long time no see.

2nd MAN: You're right there. All the best.

I remain perplexed by their flow of words spoken on the run, so to speak. A minor detail you may venture, but a strange way to behave, nonetheless. Perhaps they don't enjoy each others company; perhaps they share a raw wound that will never heal, perhaps a long conversation would only unleash anger, anguish, regret. Perhaps they don’t like words.

However, I postulated they may both have hemorrhoids. They walked in familiar fashion: legs wide apart, jeans hung low, and each wore a pained expression. I believe I heard one of the men say (further along the street), ‘Mind out, idiot, you’ll mess up my make-up!’

*  

Reflections: 'Well?' said Madam du Salmon. 'Well, what?' I enquired. Madam du Salmon threw me a look which I threw back just missing her protruding left ear. 'Dammit! Why are there no Stone Age cave paintings in Britain?!' I advised Madam du Salmon (as she drank water straight from the goldfish bowl) that the cave paintings had been sold to a mystery art collector in Paris by a man believed to be stony broke.

The man was last seen running towards the Place Pigalle rubbing two francs together, shouting: 'And the clinker award goes to London's National Gallery!' Madam du Salmon's face grew livid. 'What's the point of talking to you? You're an idiot!' 'Exactly,' I replied. Bored by Madam du Salmon's company, her diction, her lack of make-up, her ugly pale mouth, I suddenly left the room to find out who - or what - had thrown a thought which had struck the back of my head.