Monday, November 30, 2009

Hey! Reachy-outy Up There Thing!




Stripped of their crowns of leaves, on a summery winter’s morn, the trees reveal their secrets.

Every branch, every twig, every whitherslungthing — always awayto to somewhere, somewhere, somewhere.

And the rooty toots — just the same, I suppose. I haven’t the heart to dig them up.

They’re like the vegetable equivalent of horses — and let’s not forget, each Midsummer, from the best of them, unicorns bound.

But we have plenty of these, don’t we? Us?

Unseen filaments of possibility, so insubstantial it seems sometimes they’re made of almost nothing.

Yet these are the best of all the skyward, earthward, anywhereward flings of mortal luminesticus.

And though they may meet in darkest gloom on occasion* with the most abhorrent of life’s shibboleths, I sign myself up as a willing witness to their fleeting flail.

On a brighter note, the countdown to Christmas begins tomorrow.

Bring on the music! The dancing ladyboys! The gruffly-spoken ex-wrestler convicts whose dreams of release from this mortal existence speak so crisply to every troubled post-Eurythmics era bemuscled poncey boy.

OK.

Forget the last one.

Let’s have some Best Christmas of the Decade kind of stuff. Right here, right now, on the YULE RUG.

Reminiscing, paying forward — or just the heck on here.

I don’t care.

Wahey!




* On occasion...of your doom!

Morning Music


This one doesn't move, sadly — but what do you expect first thing on a Monday morning? Usain Bolt athleticism?


Friday, November 27, 2009

Yeah...And A Woolly Hat...And Bedsocks...


Today, I've been like a frisky badger — rubbed precisely the right way with one of those nylon feather dusters that generates a lot of static, and filled to the tip of my sniffly-snuffly snout with a roaring cascade of Vimto.


Great!

I’ve had a productive morning’s writing, I haven’t killed anyone, and there are still plenty of chocolate digestives left in the biscuit barrel. Whoops. No there aren’t. Naughty

And now as the sun fades on the burned-out shell of a neighbourhood still visible through my window in spite of the smog, I feel a Cheery Grandpa Moment coming on.

I shall cast off these tired work clothes (that’s imagery btw — I’m actually referring to a pair of jeans and a reasonably smart shirt, both badger-sized) and wrap around my person some snuggly dressing gown affair, don slippers fit for a family of friendly mice, and sit myself before the roaring radiator (not as romantic as a log fire, I know, but thanks to the crappy boiler, it does roar when it gets going) with a mug of hot cocoa and a muffin soft enough to eat without my teeth in.

And there, I shall remain, contentedly snoozing the night away till bedtime, stirred only by the warmth of a friendly cat, a loving cuddle from Grandma (Girly of Whirly probably won’t dress up for this. Or thank me), and the gentle tick-tock of long-sighted lovebirds trying to peck each other’s eyes out. Okay, so I made that last bit up, but you get the idea — though now I think of it, some sort of avian addition to the household might be worth thinking about. Geoff can’t catch birds to save her life and I’ve always fancied a bit of that Song of the South / Snow White in the kitchen kind of thing. (Scribbles note to self)

So that’s my stall set out for the night, I think. I’m going to Grandpa it on up in downtown Twilightville.

How are you starting your weekend?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

On Medical Students And Leather-Clad Sub-Dom Sex Slaves


I can't say I recall precisely what Monks Habit (no apostrophe, note) tasted like. It was one of the many speciality beers brewed by Marstons in the early nineties before the whole of Burton-on-Trent was snapped up by the Japanese (or whoever it is that's now responsible for the murky filth currently being cauldron-spawned there alongside all the Marmite). Maybe it was one of those "saggy, with a hint of diarrhoea-gorged baboon" real ale affairs, I don't know.


Anyway, there I was this morning, stood before a motley shower of medical students with a Monks Habit (no apostrophe, note) beermat gripped tight between my teeth in an attempt to induct them in the delights of the auriculo-nasal plane. If you've ever been on a foreign holiday, you'll know exactly what that is, of course — that moment when your ears pop and the spotty businessman next to you sneezes two whole nostrils full of swine flu all over your Not Particularly Appetising Plate of Utter Cack. You know — but they didn't. They're students. They're imbeciles like that.

The point is, some bright wag attempted to derail my exposition (which, as I recall, went something like gottle o geer...gottle o geer...) by pointing out a mystery trapdoor dangling from one corner of the lecture theatre. Likely, it was a removable ceiling panel allowing access to a hidey hole full of wiring or an anti-student mustard gas mechanism, but the moment I gazed upon it, my impish little brain sensed a fantastic opportunity for reviving what was rapidly turning into the least entertaining two hours of my life (with the exception of the night my Mum went to see Rod Stewart in concert and kept me up till three in the morning describing every last detail about how sexy he looked. Please, if I make it to Heaven — no reruns of that one).

So, I said, 'looks like someone has sprung the gimp.'

It was perfect. Really, it was. An open flap in the ceiling, and a gimp on the loose somewhere on campus. How hilarious is that?

NOT. Apparently. At least, if you're a medical student.

They responded with a look of bovine confusion typically reserved for a castrated bull pumped full of sleeping tablets and presented with a yoyo — in unison, like some synchronised Abject WTF team.

Had I the slightest amount of sense, I'd put it all down to experience, lock up the imaginary marauding gimps. But I'm not blessed with such sage wisdom. So I'm using that one again

Monday, November 23, 2009

Make Do And Mend For The Festive Season


Most days, I count myself extremely fortunate that I am a Man of Two Fridges.


It lacks the panache of King of England or Lord High Master of the Universe, I know, but two fridges are better than one, even on a freezing cold November afternoon.

My first fridge, I’ve had for years, and it stands in the kitchen in an uncannily fridge-friendly corner.

My second fridge, I inherited from my Dad. Old and battered, it lurks in the shadows of the scullery and feasts on little-used or unusually proportioned items deemed unsuitable for Fridge #1: jars of horrible jam I can’t bring myself to throw away, marrows, bottles of cider, bulk tubs of EZspredd butter, eggs, anchovies and the odd 1960s board game with half the pieces missing — and that’s just the top shelf.

Like all accessory 2nd fiddle appliances, it doesn’t receive the attention it should. Truth be told, it doesn’t receive any. Like a tired, unwashed tramp whose only aspiration in life is a clean pair of undies and a Thai bride with all her own teeth, Fridge #2 has sat in its designated spot for almost a year, watching J cloth after J cloth wipe everything else in the house clean a hundred times over, from the sink to the Wii to Geoff’s occasionally errant felinanus.

So today, I braved the carapace of cack bristling by the stalagtite and -miteload from its marrow-packed interior — with the broom from the yard, a half pint of rocket fuel and a selection of heavy duty shovels.

The grime, I’m glad to say, came off almost immediately. I even rescued a stray It’s Your Birthday Collect £10 From Each Player card, stuck to an old crust of Port Salut like a nicotine patch on Dean Gaffney’s face.

And that’s when I found it. The THING.

A compacted husk of blackness, it resembled no withered vegetable; no crisped nor mouldered slice of ham. What the hell could have spawned it (in conjunction with my own shameful idleness)???!!!

At first, I wondered if a giant had been in, and smeared a huge bogey on the side of the salad tray, but I can barely get in the scullery myself, and so dismissed the idea as fancy. Besides, the Giant Alarm slumbered noiselessly in its caddy.

I prised it from the fridge’s shrivelled antibacterial interior. With the weird-looking tongs Girly of Whirly uses to beautify her eyelashes. And the tweezers she...no, don’t go there.

Turns out it was a walnut from last Christmas: uncracked, unloved — and unbelievably smelly. Any other time of the year, and I’d have thrown it away, but on this occasion, I may just spare it.

Hosed down with disinfectant and covered in silver foil, it would make a splendid point-less star (nay, ORB) for the tree come December...

Friday, November 20, 2009

Dire Emergency Situations #36


Whirl reclines in the bath, traces his toe round the tap like a fledgling ballerina negotiating the dance equivalent of a bicycle stabiliser.


The doorbell rings.

Odd. Who can this be at a quarter to six on a cold November night?

Son-of-Whirl calls up the stairs. ‘Dad. There’s a man. With a parcel.’

Of course!.

The surprise Christmas Xbox from Amazon...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Too Much Mint Sauce


Bear with me a second, people.


It’s 7.32pm, I’m stuffed full of mushy peas, and I may be about to come over all logical. Or ill.*

So here’s how it is.

“Chalk and cheese”, right?

Like Vinnie Jones and Bonnie Langford. Celtic and Rangers. Black and white. Cannon and Ball (actually, no — they’re both equally crap). Willy and front bottom (I know, I know — Cannon and Ball threw me. And now I’ve just thought of Little and Large too, which is more disturbing. I wish I’d never started this. But yes — them. Equally crap. But the words ‘little’ and ‘large’, still like chalk and cheese, yes. So I’m back on track now...). Fire and water. Barbie and Ken. Okay, you probably get the idea now.

BUT

What’s the opposite of “chalk and cheese”?

Can’t just be ‘similar’ or ‘identical’, can it? To describe sameness using perfectly ordinary words while conferring upon differentness the most florid of metaphors would be to unbalance the Universe, surely.

Oh, but here’s the truly brilliant thing. It’s 7.39 now, and those peas have had a little time to diffuse through my stomach wall directly into my brain. I only mentioned them as a frippery, but it appears I knew the answer to this vexing conundrum (the chalk and the cheese, not my bulbous adenoids) before I’d got halfway through that second sentence.

It’s “peas in a pod”, isn’t it?

Great. Problem solved. I can get back on with my life now...



* Logical **

** Captain

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Glad


It's rarely I put pen to paper

with nothing inbetween
and yet — this inky darkness,
so resplendent, so unseen.

Enow! I am a pirate Lord
(with a beard
and a crew
and an octopus)

rattling my sabre heartily
'gainst grimmest writersblocktopus.

Set sail, me hearties —
Clods of salt,
may ye lick from fever lips!
Bernita rejoins the flotilla.
Let cry thee
with thy WIPs!

Monday, November 16, 2009

When zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz Is Not For ‘Sleeping’


For someone who doesn’t drink a lot of coffee, and actively thinks every branch of Starbucks should be raised to the ground and replaced with an olde worlde tavern draped in vines that sells only flagons of the purest stout, I’ve drunk a shitload of the stuff today.


Thank heavens for the dishwasher! It’s obliterated an accurate cup count like the bottle-gobbling litter bin by a drunk’s park bench.

As a consequence, I whizz round the house with the manic energy of a Punch man choking on his swazzle. I’ve hoovered, ironed, peeled some potatoes, shaved, watered the cactus, been up in the attic (twice), scanned the cat for viruses, peeled the carpet, hoovered the cactus and replaced at least half a dozen light bulbs that didn’t need replacing, but oh, it was such fun, such fun, such fun!

Now, I wait for the next exciting thing to happen. The hairs on my hands curl into piggy tails and ping onto the desk. My teeth spin like seats on a walzer. The veins on my neck pound at the walls.

Write a list!

Write a list!

Write a list!

Tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea tea

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Morning Music


Goodness knows how I missed this one when it came out.


Comes with not having my ear to the musical ground anymore, I suppose.

Anyhow — I heard this yesterday afternoon following one of my less-than-good days. And it whupped my ass back into shape.

Substitute your own number if you're not 19. Or just remember when you were, and you did that stupid thing.

Then go and wish Janey a happy birthday...

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Some Thoughts On Writing

This post got me thinking about the Inner Editor — that irritating fiend that lurks inside me and gobbles up all the protein from my numerous mid-paragraph muffin breaks like a tapeworm coiled round my guts.

I wanted to post something in the accompanying comments trail, but the inner editor worm-thing’s constrictions squeezed only drivel from my keyboard (another great ‘ink & pen’ analogy ruined by the onward march of technology, btw).

In the comments there, the Inner Editor conundrum (and for those of you who don’t know it, it’s like Rubik’s cube crossed with the dire essence of a phantom Sudoku puzzle) was raised by the spookily chirpy JaneyV and picked up on by guest blogger Nate Graziano (who normally resides here).

I won’t reproduce the conversation verbatim as the words are not mine to quote willy-nilly, but the distilled essence of it is here...

Nate: Nice hair.
Janey: Nice beard. But what bothers me is this. I try to stall my inner editor so I can get the first draft out. Difficult, though.
Nate: Yes. Best to get stuck in and draft. You're still at the discovery stage. John Irving, I know, plans everything out first, but to me, that’s not so much fun.

(If either of you are reading this and don’t appreciate my paraphrasing, here are some other lines you can insert:

“Some days, I’m possessed by a literary wanderlust I can’t control.”
“Obama should grow his fingernails long, like an Eastern potentate.”
“I love the way haddock crisps up when tossed gently in a wok.”
“Get lost, Whirlochre!”

:) )


I have moments when I’m plagued by the Inner Editor, and I think I may have figured it out. What follows is not a hard boiled thesis on the craft of writing, nor a hissy dissing of others who favour different methods. Just a few thoughts I’m having now.

Most of the time, I think I’m with Irving. I separate out the thinking and the writing, casting for plot and character as I idle through laundry or tackle the hordes of alien invaders that battle daily to seize control of our tiny dimension from the portal over my bathroom mirror. Editing thoughts is easier than wrestling with gerunds and spatchcock advectival nethermewoes in a linear progression of words, and by thinking through the essence of what happens, beholding the images that hopefully one day will burst forth unaltered and still vivid from the page in spite of numerous subsequent chops at the language, I can arrive at a shopping list of things to write about. So, a while ago, I had this...

Haloumi and Dann-Glarr throw Orb Lorfd into the waste disposal. leg and a wing. He screamsto reveal plot thing with clock then is gone. H reconstitutes quiche and dg is a pain. H in boots“Might I suggest that thing you call moussing?’

Nonsense, badly written, and full of spelling mistakes, I know — but it crystallises the picture I have that flashed into my head as I ironed, without the tedious business of having to write it all out as a line-by-line narrative. When I have something like this, I can re-run the scene, and add in further detail, with no heed paid to the Queen’s English, and no need to be witty/pacy/descriptive/killer/etc. It’s as anal as trainspotting.

After I wrote that outline, I changed a few things, but it remained the same writer’s building block in essence — a summary of what I wanted to write ABOUT. Having an ABOUT is very useful when you’re trying to summon the words — like a showroom dummy for a pile of clothes. I find it helps to have a lot of work done before you put pen to touchscreen. Creating too much of a scene or character as you’re simultaneously involved with the psychomechanics of typing or scribbling, and trying to pin amorphous blobs of think-stuff to the blank page or document with hard fixed words is to engage in two different processes at the same time, I think. Chinese circus acrobats can do this kind of multitasking seemingly effortlessly, often with four different parasols and weird shaped vegetables grown only in the Yunnan Province — and maybe some of you can do this too. But I can’t. And as you saw from the last post, I’ve got big feet. And would look ungainly in a spangly acrobat’s uniform.

So my choices are twofold. Either I can write blindly and churn out loads of stuff I may end up not using, or I can find myself something to write, and layer on the detail, refine in subsequent drafts. A lot of the early stuff from my WIP was generated using the first method and I’ve got all sorts of stuff lodged into the fabric of the book like shrapnel that’s proving a swine (oink oink) to unarticulate/excise. With method two, I’ve produced clearer stuff, and quicker too. But the downside, as Nate noted, is that the potential for spontaneous fun is diminished by this draconian approach. Unless — you imbue the thinky-generaty moments with fun (and if you’re in any way theatrically-inclined, you can impro the voices, walk the walk — you’d be surprised what shocking stuff comes out); and in the draft notes like the H&DG one above, add frequent comments such as FUCK ABOUT WITH THIS, MUCH SWEARING or SOMEONE MUST DIE.

Hmm, a roundabout post, this. And not entirely nailed. In coming clean (or filthy as a heifer’s backside) about aspects of the writing process as I see them, I hope I’ve not bordered too much on the supercilious. As I said, I’m not in command of The Golden Rules Of Writing (though this radio-controlled beetle swarm — such fun when unleashed on my heighbour’s teenage son...).

Just to say, on reflection, I don’t think I’m a Dorothea Brandesque writer-into-empty-space. Looks like I’m a megalomaniac Stalinist overlord with shit taste in shirts and an addiction to linguine. But I think I can live with that.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

On The Couch With Sock Monkeys



WO: You little bugger!

SM: Tee hee hee.

SM2: And technically, it’s buggers...

WO: Technically — and actually — it seems, you duo of simian fiends.

SM2: I dispute that. Only one of us is a fiend.

SM: And with my missing arm, I’m only partially simian.

WO: Don’t split hairs with me—

SM: Okay, whaddya want us to split? Bananas?

SM2: Ba-dum Tiiish!

WO: You know what I’m talking about.

SM2: Ooooh. Simian, fiendish...

SM: ...and bizzarely telepathic!

SM & SM2: We could be the next Jedward.

WO: You could be the next Fucking Thumped Hard...

SM: Okay, okay, if you must know — we found your missing sock in the tumble drier.

WO: “we...?

SM2: While we were rehearsing.

WO: Dare I ask?

SM2: You may.

SM: Ssssh. Don’t tell him, don’t tell him. He pulls this great face when he’s angry. Like a horse with a thistle up its—

WO: What face?

SM: Your face.

SM2: Go on. Do it, do it.

SM: He almost is. Hee hee.

WO: You still haven’t answered my question. About the rehearsing. Hallowe’en is over and it’s still a long way to Christmas. What are you about to pull?

SM2: If you must know, we’ve formed a pseudo-ladyboy dance troupe.

SM: So our sessions will have to take a back seat for a while.

SM2: For an Italian celebrity TV show.

SM: Ssshhh! Don’t give it away!

WO: Ladyboys? I don’t get it.

SM: They already have two lots of monkeys.

SM2: And a puma.

SM: So we figured — put the boat out.

WO: Using my socks as sails, huh?

SM2: The Italians love that kind of thing.

SM: It’s the Vanilla & Strawberry Whip look.

WO: So you thought you’d just help yourself?

SM2: We thought it.

SM: We did it.

SM & SM2: We’re that kind of badass monkey duo.

WO: Okay. I’ll make you a deal. Seeing as I’m the one holding the bazooka—

SM: Shit! Where the hell did you get that?

WO: It’s a writer’s trick. And look here — a panzer tank!

SM2: Yipes! He means business.

SM: Okay, so what’s the deal?

WO: Eighty per cent of any prize money you win, with an option to terminate at any time if you attract the attention of the Pope with your lewd pseudo-ladyboy antics.

SM: Hey, who said anything about lewd?

SM2: Yeah. We’re a class act, us.

WO: Any antics, then.

SM: Hey, we’ve got to be allowed at least one antic.

SM: Too right. That puma can juggle underwater.

WO: Okay. One antic it is. But if the Pope so much as bats an eyelid, or Silvio Berlusconi becomes involved—

SM2: We get the idea.

SM: And anyway, time’s up, Big Boy.

WO: Hey. Since when was this a paid-for session? I only came in here looking for Geoff. Her tea’s ready.

SM: Ah. Geoff. Yes.

WO: What’s with the sheepish look?

SM2: We’re a mounted pseudo-ladyboy dance troupe...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Mobbed By Undead Hordes


While Son-of-Whirl was out collecting all the gooey sweets that would subsequently compact inside his guts like a tumour the size of a horse, I manned the front door of Whirl Towers with my sackful of Haribo.


We never did this Trick or Treating lark when I was a nipper (and if truth be told, I never really nipped). The first time I came across it was in a Charlie Brown book — all that business with Peppermint Patty and the Giant Pumpkin. Gone are the days of Penny For The Guy and Bee Gees & Indians, it seems.

Anyhow, the trick with all of this, as I discovered, is NOT to have the sack of sweets in your hand when you open the door to the undead hordes mobbing your driveway. Keep them tucked away behind the curtain and reach over for one or two small bags from behind your anti-kid riot shield, I say. If you reveal the whole sackful at once, all those skeletons, cats, witches, ghouls, fiends and monsters DO NOT GO AWAY. They linger in the driveway, wailing like banshees, and texting like crazy, and before you know it, half the 5-11 year-old population of the country is banging on your front door with a lust for your wares to rival a flock of hungry swans descending on a picnic.

Next year, I’m going the whole hog with the horror theme and putting the little bastards to the sword...