Sunday, September 26, 2010

On The Couch With Sock Monkey

SM: We’re going to try something a little different today.

WO: Isn’t that what normally happens?

SM: Haha.

WO: Including your sarcastic laugh?

SM: Haha.

WO: Twice?

(At this point in the transcript, there is a lengthy pause, a curt simian cough, and a prolonged repressed snigger.)

SM: Today, you get to be the analyst.

(Another long pause, this time filled with the sound of WO’s eyebrows stretching the skin on his forehead into a thin, pink film in an arc two feet above his face.)

SM: Therapist, specialist, call it what you will...

WO: I’d call it ‘weirdo monkey guy’.

SM: Why, thank you. I’ll change the sign over the door.

WO: But you’re kidding, right?

SM: Monkeys do not kid. If monkeys kad, gorillas would goat.

WO: Point taken. But what’s the point of the analyst thing?

SM: I hope to deduce more about your mental state, the underlying cause of your cripplingly disturbed mind, from questions you ask me, based on your perceptions of who you think I am.

WO: So — business as usual, but I get to wear the pants?

SM: Hrmmmph. In the world of analysis, there are no such ‘pants’, as you call them. You may be paying me a hundred quid a session and in most respects, your every thought and action is carefully directed by my analytical whims, like an actor reciting his lines on cue, but at the end of the day, we meet as equals.

WO: So, let me get this straight — you’re saying that for the rest of the session, I can direct your every thought and action with my analytical whims?

SM: Of course you can’t: you’re a half-wit.

WO: You think I can’t think of anything appropriate to ask you?

SM: Inappropriate, yes — and necessarily revealing.

WO: For a hundred quid, it bloody well better be. Lie down.

SM: What?

WO: This is my clinic now and I want you prone, like in the movies.

SM: What movies?

(Here, a brief pause of about this length ensues. No...more like this.)

WO: Tarzan.

SM: An analyst scene? In a Tarzan movie?

WO: It was dark. I don’t remember.

SM: Intriguing that you should watch Tarzan movies in the dark. Was it Ely, Weissmuller or Crabbe?

WO: You expect me to differentiate between Tarzans when I don’t even remember the name of the film, where I was, what happened in the scene, whether Tarzan fought crocodiles in quicksand or hunters in — waitaminute, it was Dustin Hoffman.

SM: Don’t be ridiculous. Hoffman never played Tarzan. You must be thinking of Little Big Man.

WO: No, no — it’s a classic analyst scene. He’s lying down, I’m sure of it. I can see the couch and everything.

SM: So, I’m lying down because you’ve seen an “analyst movie” where Dustin Hoffman lies on a couch?

WO: Spot on.

(We hear a petulant hrmmmph and the crinkle of monkey fur on beaten leather)

WO: Yes. Perfect. Oooh, it’s like playing Doctors and Nurses.

SM: Thank heaven it’s Tarzan and not Tootsie.

WO: You look like a Roman emperor, only furry.

SM: I’m a masterful recliner. Now get on with it.

WO: So, what kind of thing should I ask?

SM: The ball’s in your court: you’re the analyst.

WO: Like Laurence Olivier, yes.

SM: What?

WO: Like Laurence Olivier, in the film. He was Hoffman’s analyst.

SM: If you’re going to come over all Thespian Analyst, stick to the ridiculous posturing. Any thees, thys or thous and you’re out of the door.

WO: Let me think. Hmmmm. Tricky.

SM: Anything. Just say anything. First thing that comes into your head.

WO: Can I take a look in your mouth?

SM: What the hell kind of question is that?

WO: It’s in the film—

SM: The analyst Tarzan Hoffman film?

WO: Yes. Olivier — that’s me — is bent over Hoffman, looking into his mouth.

SM: Sure you’re not thinking of Caligula with Tony Curtis?

WO: Certain. It’s no Roman bathtub we’re in, it’s a proper analysis place, a whatchamacall it?

SM: My competitors call it a consulting room. I prefer the term Psyche Boutique.

WO: Whatever, this place looks like a dentist’s surgery, only dark, very dark.

SM: Film Noire, I’ll wager. No wonder you couldn’t remember which Tarzan it was. Anyhow, to answer your question, yes, you can look in my mouth. As Olivier, please. This is most revealing.

WO: Okay, so Olivier — me — leans in and says, bloody hell, what’s that on your tongue?

SM: What’s what?

WO: It’s like a lump.

SM: What kind of lump?

WO: A polyhedron kind of lump.

SM: Pack joking. What kind of lump?

WO: A lump kind of lump — purple, the size of a lentil, right at the back on the left. Can’t you feel it?

SM: No.

WO: Here, give me your tongue, I’ll show you.

SM: What do you think I am? A Chameleon? Get a mirror.

WO: So the Whirl-as-analyst game is over?

SM: Yes. I could be dying. Make haste.

WO: But we can continue with it next time?

SM: Yes. Anything, yes.

WO: With me as Olivier, you as Hoffman, and the couch as...Different Couch?

SM: Anything, yes, yes. So where’s this lump? Where is it? I can’t see a thing.

WO: It’s right at the back, there. On the left by — no waitaminute, have you been eating chili con carne?

SM: Kidney Bean Hongrois, actually. What of it?

WO: There’s a bit of purple bean skin stuck to your tongue.

SM: So, I’m not dying?

WO: You never were. But if you’d carried on with the theatrics, you might have been in trouble. Talking of which, when we play the analyst game again next time, do you want me to dig out some lines from the film? The more I think about it, the more it seems to resonate with me. I’ll research, dig out the DVD.

SM: As long as you’re sure it’s not the Curtis, anything’s fine by me. I’m alive is all, I’m alive.

WO: So, same time next week?

SM: Yes. And same Bat Channel...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Thank Heaven It Wasn't Cucumbers

There are words for everything these days.

Like Eskimo descriptions of snow (or Inuit/Yupic, if you want to get ‘igloo anal’), they proliferate and multiply.

The very best are beautifully interchangeable — yet, on reflection, resolutely specific. Bollocks and balls are not the same things at all.

So what am I to do with this phenomenon, for which there is, as yet, no words?

You return from the supermarket clutching fresh sweetcorn, thinking, “can’t wait to have this for tea” — then put it in the fridge and forget about it.

Next time you’re in the supermarket, you see more sweetcorn and think, “bloody hell! That sweetcorn in the fridge! I bet it’s gone off by now.” So you buy it and put it in the fridge, only to discover the original sweetcorn is perfectly OK.

As you’re flipping through Jamie Oliver’s What To Do With More Effing Sweetcorn Than You Can Actually Eat, Let Alone Cook, your partner appears with a bulging shopping basket and announces, “look at this for a bargain. Two packs of sweetcorn for the price of one!”

It’s on the tip of my tongue, the word for this. But I’m too busy screaming ARGHHHH! ARGGGGHHH! ARGGGGHHHH! to place it.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

"...And My Fingers Are Up So Many Jugglers..."

I fancied borrowing a juggling balls analogy for describing my current writerly predicaments, but not only is it a cliché that’s been done to death, rumour has it the same fate befell the juggler from whom I stole the balls, and with the police prowling the neighbourhood for all manner of madmen, I can’t risk an unwanted excursion in a padlocked security van, trussed and bound like a common criminal.

So I’m going with toes in pies. It’s got to be toes because my fingers are needed for typing. True, I could don a selection of miniature pork pies and deftly tap at the keyboard with the skill of a thimble-clad spinster knocking out pairs of tights on her Jenny, but I figure the pastry would crumble eventually, no matter how much I visualised kittens afloat on puffs of cotton wool, thus ruining a perfectly good thirteen year-old keyboard and exposing me to the threat of death by dogs allergic to pastry but hot on compressed pork.

One pie on one toe, I can handle. A meringue, perhaps; and Big Toe, has to be. As metaphorical encumbrances go, it’s manageable: I can wash, I can cook, I can dress. Two pies, and things get tricky. Like Level Two on what seemed to be a cinch of a game when you named yourself HYPERKILLA and clicked Almost Monocellular Novice. Do I go for another meringue? And since the big toe is important for balance, should I cover the other one for symmetry’s sake or leave it free to work its balancing magic unaided? Further down the Toe/Pie line, the dilemmas proliferate, particularly when it comes to anything packed with cream or fruit jelly and weeny pinky dinkys crushed into cashew curves by a childhood of ill-fitting shoes and exposure to torturers.

When every last one of your toes (and yes, I have 10: I’m no mutant) is buried deep inside some puddingy pie or other (and yes, I’m going with sweet, not savoury — call me Mr Fray Bentos Averse), you realise how compromised your forward motion potential has become. Lift one toe/pie combo, and you’re forced to manouevre a couple more random digits to prevent yourself from slipping over (or having a squelchy parabola of jam squirt right up your trouser leg) — and if one step forward prompts a couple of mis-steps to the side, in no time at all, those two mis-steps necessitate more, till each last iota of your conscious, directive powers is expended, used up, gone, and to all intents and purposes, you might as well be a drunk old uncle demonstrating his hip hop prowess at a family wedding.

So how’s your writing week been, mes amis?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Book Review: PARANORMALCY by Kiersten White

The bunker of superlatives has been plundered.

The Horse of Crying Woot is hoarse.

And the elves? Who make the cheerleaders’ pom-poms? The streamers, the bunting, the vuvuzellae? “We may be immortal,” they holler, “but churning out this celebratory Paranormalcy stuff’s gonna take forever.”

Any silky dress that fails to snag on bullrushes is paranormal in my book...

When Kiersten and I started following each other as fledgling bloggers, this moment was always on the cards, and I’m so pleased the deftness for language she displayed from day one in her short, witty ripostes around the blogosphere, her frequent flashes of fiction and snippets of stories, has been unleashed by the triumverate of triumph known as HarperCollins/Wolfson/Sussman and allowed to spin out into a full length novel. It’s not so much the icing on the cake as the strawberry that swoops from overhead like a jet, loops the loop before your very eyes, and whooshes between your awestruck lips like a basketball slam-dunked by a titan.

The premise is a simple one. Evie, a sixteen year-old girl with strong views about mermaid’s bras, can see through paranormals’ glamours, and when all those vamps and werewolves start being taken out by a spoiler alert mystery being, she finds herself at the centre of a pacey plot that rocks. And in between chasing rampaging otherworldly creatures and blitzing them with her taser, Evie falls in love with a boy.

I always knew I was going to adore the monstery parts, all those classic fantasy beasts being tweaked with style. What I didn’t expect was to melt like a liquified puppy over the kissing scenes. I don’t normally do YA, but for this one, it seems, I became an honourary fifteen year-old teenager called Julie, complete with pop socks, crush-prone outlook, and life-threatening homework dilemmas.*

* To clarify: the puppy was liquified humanely.

There are so many good things about this book, but what stands out most for me is the pace. As I read it, there could almost have been a paranormal in the room with me: I swear some of those pages turned themselves. Also, of course, there’s Evie. In spite of her of her eviedent superpowers (sorry, I had to), she’s ultra vulnerable, ultra lost, and since the plot is more sophisticated than the Girl Meets Monsters / Girl Meets Boy scenario I’ve outlined, she’s led astray in ways that make you want to leap right between the pages and drag her out with your bare hands. This happened to me a couple of times, and I was ready to plunge straight in, armed only with pyjamas and a reading lamp, but an eerie voice counselled, paper cuts — and I managed to restrain myself. Weird things happen when you read this baby, I swear.

And read it, you must!

My only complaint? I could have done with more. Luckily, Kiersten has had the foresight to compose a trilogy, so I’ll only have to lope around like a wounded animal for another year. Maybe I’ll lope like Jacques, the Gallic lycanthrope. Aaaaah, another of my favourites....

Friday, September 10, 2010

Fitness For Life

Regular visitors to this blog will be well aware by now that given a choice between fasting for a week in order to attain spiritual perfection, and stuffing my face for an hour until I’m fit to burst, I’m 100% likely to go for option #2.

Problem is, at my age, the ability to sport a permanently unswelling waistline (to the extent that, on a good day, I can still fit myself into a pair of jeans I wore when I was 21 — if I iron myself for an hour or two beforehand, exhale till I’m blue, and leave my skeleton at the zip) doesn’t cut the mustard like it used to. Now, the inner horrors exceed the outer ones in both number and severity. There’s so many things you can do to ruin your internal organs these days, all from consuming a humble Hob-Nob or two, it seems.

I mention this because I bumped into an old fiend at the weekend, an old friend the same age as myself. An old friend the same age as myself who nearly died of a heart attack last Christmas. As I understand it, he overdid the fags in his youth, but in all other respects, there was absolutely nothing wrong with him bar a genetic predisposition to ticker trouble — and biscuits loaded with polyunsaturates. Again, as I understand it, I fall into the same boat. Watch me topple now from the quayside into the chugging tug of heart rot and Digestives, there to consider my fate.

Perhaps, I say to the spectre in the mirror, whose ethereal fronds I still wish to see flickering before me 25 years from now*, perhaps it’s time to start looking at food from a wider perspective than flavour, amount, texture, yumminess and bliss. O mirror of the future, light my way towards responsible calorie counting, additive awareness and the Fat Free Misery ‘n’ Wretchedness Aisle of my local Tesco.

* and if you’re wondering what a mirror is doing on a workaday ole chugging tug, let’s not forget that even for burly sailors, there’s a fine line between looking roguishly manly and unashamedly scruffy, beardwise.
I’ll say one thing for mirrors on stubby sea vessels: the magic works faster than that genie and bottle thing. The moment I resolved myself to rectify my pre-rectal digestive habits, I was drawn to search the internet for diets, principally those involving no minimally plump thirtysomething women in leotards or Mr Effing Motivator. What I got was this:

I have no idea whether Mr Ehret’s system matches up to the nutritionally sound, scientifically researched, regimes du jour, but to be honest, I’d rather trust a snappily coiffured German fruit enthusiast of yore to advise me on diet than any number of cash driven modern day fitness gurus. Especially if I can combine my improved food intake with an exercise regime from roughly the same era as the mucus-free stomach nirvana proposed by Ehret.

I’m thinking of something along these lines — simple exercises involving minimal effort, minimal stretching (except, perhaps, for the elastic in whatever dinky trunks I purchase for my 20-minutes-a-day Lean Against A Chair marathon).

If I’m still here next week, I’ll let you know how I’m getting on.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

One Parrot Fiction

For a writing site, this place has become conspicuously devoid of actual fiction in recent months.

So, to resolve this paradox de cosmos infinitique (et aussi très très bloody foncé), I shall be rolling out a number of new fiction features this Autumn with the unrestrained glee of a self-whuppin’ bum cheek scarleteer.

First off, is this baby. Click on the picture to read...

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Skimpy Dimpy Polamalula

The best thing about blogging is the socialising, the popping in to say, “how do you do?” and “you’re going out in that outfit? What do you think you are? Some kind of avant-garde clown-cum-astronaut?” I love all of that stuff. And blogs are such a better arena for it all than Twattity Twat Twat Twat or Arsetome — not that I think ill of anyone who uses either of these great 21st Century innovations (especially me).

The downside to blogging is the Troy Polamalu tangle of unread posts that builds up after a few days away from your inbox: all those missed birthdays, parties and announcements; deaths of special hamsters (capable of stunts) and hand-sewn swimming costumes. I hate all of that stuff. Because it means I have to skimp on my reading. And at my time of life, especially right now, clad as I am in my summer shorts and way uncool horrific leather sandals, skimping is a hard one to pull off — like the lid on a jar of baby food replaced by a baby gorilla too smart to be fobbed off with Apple ‘n’ Lemur flavour Ape-o Mush. Actually, that gorilla is way too smart to be kept in the house, now I think of it. Screwing a tin lid back on a tin of unwanted ape food, as an act of indignance, smacks of a degree of intelligence unseen since the quintet of Planet of the Apes films hit our screens in the late 70s. How many baby gorillas have watched the re-runs of those as they’ve languished in their compounds, captives of some late night TV watching zookeeper? It would only have taken one to mutter (in its gorilla-y way), “hey, listen everyone — that Roddy McDowell guy’s on to something. If we can get ourselves some Hooman costumes, we can make it big in Hollywood” before we’re talking Potential Simian Insurrection Time. But — Potential, not Actual, note. Because even if word had filtered through to every captive gorilla in every land, and even if they’d been able to get hold of a job lot of human costumes, unless they’d also been watching Gok Wan’s How To Look Good Naked, they wouldn’t have seen the need to mix and match trousers and tops, and would have gone out into the world with all manner of flares of fabric trailing from their disproportionately short and doubly bent legs, and been picked up immediately by the authorities. Maybe that’s what happened. One by one, the bravest set out, lured by the bright lights, the fame. And one by one they were all banged up again. Four square walls and a handful of floppy bananas. They say failure can ruin a guy. Imagine what it must have done to all those gorillas. That’s why we’ve got to be careful to feed the little ones their favourite flavours of Ape-o Mush. To stop them coming over all petulant and screwing down the tin lids. That’s how it starts. Be warned.

So what blog posts do you find yourself skimping on when you fall under the wheels of your bloggerly inbox?

Long ones? Rants? Advice? Or those featuring a candid account of Clint Eastwood and John Wayne trying to outholster each other at the film premiere of The Towering Inferno? If it’s the latter, I can save you some valuable time in the future by posting it.