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.