Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Big Tex Is Dead

It’s not the ending to 2008 I wanted, but at least Forrest Gump didn’t turn up on my doorstep and wave a box of chocolates in my face. Or anywhere else.

Maybe, like me, you’re planning on waxing reflective today, wondering how to transform yourself into a better person without recourse to plastic surgery or a total personality graft, reflecting on the good and bad times you’ve seen and looking forward to your next BOVI-Burga (The Burger You Can Trust) — or whatever.

It’s a good thing, isn’t it? To take stock, mix in a couple of herrings and whup yourself up a Stargazy Pie of speculation and resolution? I’d like to think so, but deep down (just above the elastic of my Whirlo Socks) I have a couple of reservations about the whole business of grand resolutions:

1) It’s a fucking waste of time.
2) It’s a fucking waste of time.

So, here’s what I’m currently thinking. As I began making my way through the mountain of papers, power tools, tropical fish and drawing stuff constituting all the tangible remains of my late Dad’s life, I came upon this photograph. Actually, I came upon loads of photographs, most of which I’d never seen before — of my grandad in daft looking trousers, my aunts and uncles in the black and white Skeggie beach gloom some time before the war (or probably during, if all the dark clouds looming o’erhead are, in fact, smoke), and my Dad’s grandad, who, it turns out, stood a full 6' 7" without his cap. Anyhow, what struck me about the photo below is the way my Dad is striding into a future he couldn’t possibly know. A future full of computers and religious extremists, cheap flights to despoiled Hungarian wastelands and exactly the same Queen. Think of anything you like after the late fifties when this photo was probably taken and those are all the things he couldn’t possibly have known about. And me, of course. Nearly fifty years’ worth of times, people and things — good and bad, taken and given.

I can’t think he’s out to change the world and he doesn’t have the look of someone too intent on changing himself, and it may be that the person taking the photo isn’t (as I suspect) my Mum, but the ringleader of a gang of Teddy Boy thugs that terrorised the caravan parks of Great Yarmouth till the price of hot dogs drove them away, thus rendering my whole life a sham, BUT, right now I’m seeing a quality in my Dad’s stride that speaks to me. Granted, it was probably a sunny day and I’d be very surprised if umpteen bags of delicious properly cooked fish ‘n’ chips weren’t lurking off camera within a couple of yards, yet there’s no mistaking what this photograph is actually about.

If I’m to do anything different in 2009, it has to be done this way — preferably with a similar steam of merriment rising in wisps from my smile as I swing my feet into empty air. So thanks for that one, Dad.

Oh — and whatever they’re saying now about 2009, remember: it hasn’t happened yet.

Monday, December 29, 2008

140 Pages Of Thrills & Spills - Plus Or Minus The Odd Near-Death Experience And A Hint Of Levitation

Fans of checking in to witness my WIPometer count slowly but surely doing sweet FA will no doubt have noticed that over the past few weeks, I’ve excelled myself in the Doing Zilch department. Partly, this is due to the onslaught of festive responsibilities (dressing up as Santa, combing the Christmas tree, clearing the house of carbonised Yorkshire pudding smoke etc), the cruel hand of fate turning out not to be the Full House we expected, and the simple fact that the two outstanding chapters constituting the missing 5000 words can’t really be written until I’ve gone through what I have so far and checked a few plot twists for consistency.

My one joy this week (okay, okay — burning the Yorkshire puddings on purpose was fun) is that I’ve printed out the whole manuscript. There are gaps and gaffes and gruffes and grawpes, and twenty-odd paragraphs that need rewriting lodged in there among the 250 footnotes for spelling, punctuation, consistency, timing, weather, mood, flan ingredients etc, but for the most part (the revising part, incorporating a couple of chapter writes), I suppose what I’m saying is that it’s finished as far as word counts are concerned. At this stage, adding up the words is a meaningless exercise.

In an ideal world, my next move would be to hire a bunch of dancing girls to squirt warm milk and honey onto my naked flesh as I writhe in a bathtub full of Baileys Irish Cream, stuffing my face with spicy samosas lock myself away in a bunker and devote every gurgle of skin pore geyser to bashing the whole thing (and it does look lovely now it’s all printed out) into shape, but as my hands are pretty much tied for the next few weeks, and my revision skills on a par with the telepathic prowess of the world’s least intelligent slug, my first week of January deadline/threshold/zenith no longer looks like a working target. The momentum, however, is with me. I’ll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, here’s my celebratory pic...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Let Festivity Abound

That's the spirit of Christmas for you — dazzles and beguiles you with the brightest of lights for most of December, then sneaks up behind you at the very last minute and whacks you gently on the arse with a sapling of purest tinsel.

Thanks to everyone who's dropped by in 2008. Have a great Christmas and return soon when the larder/cellar/utility mule is bare.

Santa ahoy!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Realistic Foaming Blood Capsules — Hur Hur, Fool Your Pals...

Today has not been a particularly good day for failing to resemble a walrus assaulted by its dentist with a variety of whizzy parerphinalia.

Why so?

All my life I’ve been prone to nose bleeds — which either means I have hyperactive bone marrow, possess a particularly feeble nasal membrane architecture or have no idea people keep whacking me over the head with cricket bats every time my back is turned. The upshot of my recent mucoid woes is that I’ve blown both nostrils soggying up the aloe vera tissues, and today I spent most of my lunch hour with my head hung over the sink like some sort of vampire trap. I can’t tell you how many loo rolls I’ve had up my nose. OK then — half. But that’s a lot of loo rolls for a nose. That’s, like, a quarter of a roll per nostril. You try having a quarter of a loo roll sticking out each of your bleeding nostrils without looking like a walrus assaulted by its dentist with a variety of whizzy parerphinalia.

Anyhow, I’m feeling light-headed now, and may have to lie down in a darkened room with a scented colander...

Friday, December 19, 2008

I'd Sex You Up But I Gotta Clear My Throat Of Phlegm, Baby

OK, here's the deal.

Another vocal wocal thingy as suggested by the ever wonderful Robin S and augmented for fiendishness by the furball we all know and love as McKoala.

The idea is a simple one: to read out a list of instructions from something terribly ordinary like a packet of indigestion tablets and sex it up big time.

So — I've gone with the handy Paracetamol tablets that have been preventing me from sneezing my head off all week. Not sure if this is full on sex however, as it was all I could do to get to the end without coughing my lungs up — but to ensure those of you desirous of palpitations are not disappointed, I've enlisted the aid of a 70s Throb God to help me out a little.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Pump Me Full Of Vitamin C, For I Am Pune Incarnate


My second blog post about being under the weather in as many weeks. But before you decry me as a useless malingerer with the constitution of a gnat whose feeble infected body ought to be flung from a cliff into a swirling sargasso of frenzied feeding sharks, allow me to point out in my defence that prior to this Month Of Mucus, I’ve only chalked up a single day off work in ten years due to illness, and even then, I was actually skiving.

What comforts me, in my hour of dissolving man-size tissues by the boxload, is that I’m not alone in my plight. This is not to say I’m glad everyone else is sniffling and snorking too; merely to point out that a lot more people in my immediate social circle seem to be ill than is normally the case for this cheery, festive time of year. Indeed, I was only remarking this morning to the woman in Tesco (as I stood paying for my Lucozade and trying not to die) that most of the people I’d encountered while browsing the shelves seemed unusually dead, and the few who were up and about on their feet could have passed for cardboard cutouts soaked in wallpaper paste.

Maybe it’s the economy. Maybe everyone is a tad more downcast than usual for glad inhabitants of the new millennium that the physiological hurdles erected by our bodies to keep the bugs at bay have somehow overturned. Or maybe there’s a sale on.

Either way, my head feels like a strip of overcooked bacon that's been tugged between both halves of my brain by a dimwit ogre enthusiastically trying to make fire. And I’ve groaned like a fat man’s settee all day long.

Shoot me.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

No Partridge, No Pear Tree

For the past couple of days, a pair of pigeons have been visiting my garden and sitting in the tree in the rain. I’m assuming they’re a mating pair — they don’t look like a couple of blokes discussing the ups and downs of the pigeon football league, and although they’ve pecked at one another quite viciously on occasion, their demeanour lacks the full-on lust for bloodshed of females shamelessly bitchin’.

As I gaze out on this scene, desperately hoping, it has to be said, for flurries of festive snow and bulbous red reindeer schnozzles to burst through the gloom, I’m reminded that this is a time for giving as well as receiving (lots of chocolate, this year, please — oh, and a Beano annual and plenty of little surprises that make me sigh, ‘oh you shouldn’t have’ or ‘it’s a nice colour, but do I wear it, eat it or trim Geoff’s whiskers with it?’) and I’m moved to scatter the lawn with husks of dried bread, pigeon-friendly sunflower seeds, and anything from the fridge that’s been sat in a bowl covered in clingfilm for over a fortnight.

Ha! I jest! But here’s the interesting thing. Mother of Girly Of Whirly (for both, indeed, exist*) makes delicious Christmas puddings for the whole family every year which, in spite of their abundance of joyous flavours and textures, are big enough to mass constipate a herd of elephants, and as I’m rooting around in the freezer among the emergency supplies for use in the event of nuclear attack (as anti-mutant missiles), what should I discover but a single slice of figgy pudding wrapped in greaseproof paper circa Christmas 2007?

So — treats all round, I say. In the run-up to the big day, I shall dispense festive cheer to the dicky birds of the universe a spoonful at a time, singing like a benevolent angel. Or, at very least, Nigella Lawson with a stinking cold.

* My penance for demanding to come back as a dragon when the Lord had me earmarked for a slug.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Casting Off Of Albatri 6

For Characters, Imagined And Real

A blank page
and a breath.

All possibility,

I will hold you dear
until death.

You are life,
you are life,
as is.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Yo! Sing Ye, Glad Cherubs Of Pop!

I’ve spent most of this week ploughing my way through the glut of Christmas CDs and albums hoarded since birth, and, having survived Wombling Merry Christmas, Mistletoe & Wine and all the hideous pseudo-festivities offered up by Shakin’ (Bloody) Stevens, I’m ready to host an ongoing discussion of all your favourite Christmas records from Yule Log Wahoos past. Till you’re all sick of it.

So — what tunes deck the halls of your soul with holly and ivy?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Christmas On The 60s/70s Cusp

The great thing about this photograph is that I can’t remember a single thing about the day it was taken.

The print is actually much larger than other photos I have from this time, which leads me to believe that the whole event (probably a jumble sale) was considered so potentially memorable, the organisers hired the sort of Man + Camera you used to see lurking on seaside piers waving an ugly baby monkey at screaming toddlers.

I’m glad I still have this iconic image. Without it, the magic of that particular day would have been lost forever.

Everything about this photo brings me so much joy every Christmas, I have to decant some of it off and send it to the poor. From the undeniably serious boy in his undeniably unserious hat to the girl with the ludicrously arranged legs, this baby has everything. As for 8/9 year-old me on the far left, I can’t think for a moment why I’m smiling so much. You may not be able to read the writing on the box I’m holding, but I can confirm it’s a 260 piece jigsaw, almost certainly of a yacht. Even the most enthusiastic of jigsaw fiends couldn’t have been cheered as much as I clearly am here, so I can only presume it was the Santa Effect, radiating with all the wonder of a magical dream from the git in the cozzie sat in the chair.

My. There were no frills for us 60s kids (with our wooden teeth, our scurvy, and our imaginary friends who were actually deformed relatives hidden from view in the basement); no purpose-built Lapland style grottos resplendent with fake snow and populated by animatronic reindeer for us. Oh no.

Picture the scene, moments before the doors opened...

PHIL: Chraaaaaaaaaaaarst. There’s thaaaaaaaaarsands of ‘em. Where’s Terry?
RON: Dunno, but we’d better let ‘em in, else there’ll be a riot. I’ll go and look for him...

Moments later, after an Italian Job style screech of Ford Anglia rubber on paving slabs, Ron squeezes his way through the fag smoke in the snug of the Dog & Bastard, where an obviously inebriated Terry sits poised to bet two bob on a hand of cards he dropped into his pint glass several minutes before...

RON: Terry! What you playin’ at, mate? You’re supposed to be dressed up as Santa down the St John’s Ambulance!
TERRY: Blimey. You mean that costume wasn't for kinky sex with the missus...?

Moments later, after Terry is bundled from the pub, clutching at empty glasses, he finds himself sat on the single chair representing The North Pole In All Its Majesty, struggling to pull a cotton wool beard over his head without igniting it on his Embassy filter tip....

TERRY: I’ll get you back for this you miserable fuckin’ bleeders...
PHIL: Chraaaaaaaaaaaarst. Pack yer swearin’ Terry. There’s kids about...

Oh to have been a fly on the wall. Or the soggy egg sarnies.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Analogy Stretcher 2

Sniffles well and truly over, I rise this morning, glad to discover the following gem in my inbox from the awesome Kiersten...

“Like moths to a flame.”

This one is so good it’s hard to avoid using it — especially when you’ve been invited to an insect-themed fancy dress party by Beelzebub himself.

But does it make any sense?

Much as I would like to say “anything goes” on this one, it may be wise to limit our discussions to a subtle fusion of philosophical debate, wine-crazed frippery frenzy and Weissmuller whoop-inspired eurekosis. That way, I can still eat nachos while I’m typing.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Analogy Stretcher 1

What say we stretch a few analogies between us till they can’t take it no more?

Email me with suggestions and I’ll post up some suitably victimizable examples as and when.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Directly Outside 6

Directly outside my window, the Gunge Collector hovers on his Levi-disk. He inserts his keycard in the console and opens up the window, filling my cell with a noxious mixture of bile fumes, exhaust smoke and wheezing sneers of laughter.

‘You 8745-tr653956-hf974610-getdl-00846?’ he calls to me, the screen of his handheld infopod flickering with images of how I looked before I was incarcerated in this hellhole. No, I’m Whirl, I think. Dumb insolence.

‘Yeah,’ I reply.

‘Mask up.’

I cross to the secure locker above my bunk and unlock it, my fingers already shaking from the cold as the mist from outside licks at my naked body with its sickly yellow tongue. Pulling on the mask, I feel the petrified rubber squeak across my skin and when I clamp the mouthpiece to my jaw, I discover the piercings in my lips have shrunk and offer up my lips to the bolt gun. The Gunge Collector wipes away the blood with a rag and clips a stained filter to the end of his pump.


I hate that noise. And the first tug too, like my face is about to be sucked clean off. But I’m used to it now, and as the fluid is drained from my nose, I watch the dial on the pump — 20 — 30 — 40 — willing it on to a hundred. Below me, each snotty bolus bulges its way along the tube, down through the mist to the monster glistening in the courtyard. The end of the spout flails against its dilated pneumostomes, soaking the sore and peeling husks of blubbery flesh round their edges with globs of steaming mucus.

An icy dizziness engulfs me and I feel the Gunge Collector’s rough hands tear off my mask.

The window slams shut.

I fall to the ground.

I want to roll into a deep dark hole, curl myself up, and die. But I’m trapped in this place. Doomed only to witness as the world spins by, directly outside...

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Proboscis Of Nostril Dramas

Looks like it’s my turn to go down with a horrible bout of the galloping snots. I’ve managed to avoid it for the whole of November despite being sneezed on by just about everyone I’ve met, and by lunchtime, I fully expect my nostrils will be capable of lubricating every last cog in the cosmos — bar the one at the back of my brain I reserve for writing.

Problem is, I’m clearly not ill enough to not iron*. I’m in that halfway house of snifflers’ limbo between bounding through the day like a zealot and flopping into bed like a corpse — that no-man’s land of joyless tedium over which the sullen Gods of cleaning, ironing and washing up hold sway. Normally, I’d flick through the TV channels, but it’s been quite a while since I’ve donned my Captain Grot veneer of mucus and it seems the BBC have now dispensed with screening cartoons and documentaries during the daytime, favouring instead shouty studio debates featuring a variety of dysfunctional imbeciles and ugly fat girls permanently up the duff. Maybe I’ll iron some handkerchiefs.

The good news is that me and Geoff have made up. My conscience finally got the better of me and I knew I couldn’t leave her suspended by her ears over a flaming cooker ring for another day. Besides, her wails of anguish had got so bad, I woke up several times last night thinking Edith Piaf had risen from the dead. So we’ve been enjoying considerable Snuggle Up On The Sofa time, and thanks to my hiccup-frequency display of sneezing, her coat is looking pretty shiny.

One bonus of the snots kind of illness is that, unlike diarrhoea, when it has you in the fiendish green coils of its bogey tsunami embrace, you can carry on eating. So maybe that’s what I’ll do today: eat. Fish is supposed to be good for restoring you to health if you’re ill, so I may hop on a shoal of trout and get a bit of fresh air on my way to the supermarket. Instant noodles are down to 50p a ton this week, so I’m stocking up just in case the world economy improves.

Hopefully I’ll be over this by tomorrow. I’m not the type for allowing viral mutants to put their feet up on the bean bags of my blood cells for any longer than is necessary. I just hope I avoid that headache thing where it feels like Led Zep have reformed a couple of inches behind your eyeballs. That, I can do without. I hate Led Zep. Bleuuuugh....

* To hell with grammar. This is a compound verb — an activity.