Monday, February 22, 2016

Nowhere Street

    Here’s a thought experiment for you.

    Or maybe it’s a writing exercise.

    Possibly, it may even be a cool way to chill out on the unfolding universe.

    Today, you are bound for Nowhere Street.

    You’ll take in its sights and sounds, drink deep of its fulsome odours, and stroke the furry backs of its abundant wildlife.

    You’ll do all of these things for the very last time today — until exactly a year from now.

    (Trust me: some of the best thought experiments and writing exercises are slower burners than the Human Torch’s favourite suspenders and stockings.)

    Pick a street close to where you live.

    To make things super good later on, it helps if it is somewhere you visit often, preferably long(ish) rather than short(ish).

    Better still, it must lead somewhere you occasionally need to travel but is not essential for reaching that particular place.

    It is a familiar street you may visit, or you may not visit.

    Once you’ve thought of such a street, it is time to slip your on your shoes.

    Make a note of the time as you stroll out into your immediate panorama.

    Train your senses on your surroundings as you walk, paying heed to the time travelling  visions of yesterday and tomorrow that momentarily interrupt your business du jour.

    What is on your mind as you walk?

    What is going on in the world around you as you muse?

    Why in hell did you come out in your slippers?

    Some time soon, you’ll arrive at one end of Nowhere Street.

    Forget what it was previously called — none of that is important now.

    Today, this street is going to disappear, returning only annually like some doorstep Brigadoon.

    Today, this street will drop from your everyday life into Nowhere.

    Deep breath, best foot forward...

    The weird thing about this place is how much you take it for granted.

    You pass by in a blur, noticing only the bigger changes — new lick of paint on a door, tree chopped down, broken window — or momentary incidents like man with a huge stomach, loud car racing past, and random goose attack (if you actually notice anything at all beyond the end of your preoccupied nose).

    Today, you must endeavour to take it all in.

    Cross-reference the scene with the immediate temporal carpet bombing of the moment.

    Did I lock the door?

    I can’t wait to see Squirting Hosepipes III at the cinema this weekend.

    Where did I put my favourit hat?

    All of this, mushy-mixied up with

    Number 32 has a nice garden wall.

    The pavement is uneven.

    Ooh, look — a Honda.

    Mushy mixy, mushy mixy, all the way to the end of the street.

    Do not be tempted to look back.

    This is Nowhere Street, and it is gone now.

    You won’t see it again until a year from now.

    Next thing to do is to race home in your slippers.

    Find a pen, flash up your tab, turn the crank on your computer.

    Jot everything down that you can remember.

    Every detail, every thought, every whatever.

    Name this piece of writing NOWHERE STREET, and be sure to fix the date, and the time you set out.

    Now, forget the whole thing.

    All you have to do with this project for the moment is to NOT VISIT Nowhere Street.

    For the next 360-something days, do not go there, do not think about it.

    If you must pass by, do not gaze upon it.

    My own personal Nowhere Street clocked up its eighth visit this year.

    Like you’re about to do, I set out with deliberation, senses primed to suck in all stimuli I could vacuum from the place before blotting every iota of its existence from my sensorium.

    In those eight years, Nowhere Street has changed more than anywhere I know.

    Most of my familiar haunts morph before my eyes in ways that are spectacularly forgettable.

    Broken windows, missing trees, paint slapped on the woodwork: all these things switch and change and become part of the view.

    One day blurs into another, as men with huge stomachs are pecked to death by mobbing geese, and entrails dissolve into the pavement with every to and every fro of my meandering.

    Nowhere Street is not like this.

    Obvious changes to its annually exposed facade are glaring in the extreme, but everything else is open to question.

    After eight years it becomes almost impossible to say what has changed and what is still the same as it was.

    Has the house with the red door always had a red door, and if not, what colour was it before?  And when did the change happen?

    Something is missing here, but what is it?

    The more times you visit, the weirder are the tricks that Nowhere Street plays on you.

    This is especially true when the immediate temporal carpet bombing of the moment is interrupted by its predecessor(s).

    It is as if some of the thoughts I had on my first outing have been frozen in time forever,  hidden from me until the one moment they can flourish with spectacular brightness.

    Themes emerge, some even die.

    My walk feels like my walk — but is it different now to how it was, way back when in 2009?

    What was I wearing?

    What thoughts would never have occurred to me if Nowhere Street was still Whatever Street and I came here all the time?

    All I know is, I do not return from my adventure with nothing to write down.

    I can’t predict what will happen to you as you set out to create this deliberate hole in your life.

    Indeed, it may seem to you that I am the worst kind of buffoon, preoccupied with trivial nonsense and walking round in circles in my slippers for the sole purpose of wearing them out so I have a viable reason to ask for Fluffy Snoopy Lounge Bootees for Christmas.

    Do not be fooled by my evident stupidity!

    Get out there now, and book yourself an annual encounter with surprises sublime. 

 Image c/o quicksandala @Morguefile

Monday, February 15, 2016


    I am minded to write about an eruption of reptiles, such is the paucity of excitement in my life right now.

    It is 5.37am on the morning of Valentine’s Day, and I am beset with a hideous fever.

    Truth be told, I am being melodramatic here — it’s only a kind of weird infection paralysing my skull down the right hand side.  There are no shivery-wivery bugs grasping at my every platelet like a Twilight vampire sucking on a neck.

    However, the upshot is that all I have right now for inspiration is reptiles, bursting onto the page with scaly circus bravado.

      If I am honest, I would love to keep lizards...somewhere.  Not big ones, not the ones the size of your leg or a dalmatian.  That is an uncomfortable amount of reptile, and I would be looking over my shoulder all the time to see if they were communing with the spirits of long-dead T Rexes with a view to ushering in a New Age of Dinosaur Terror.

    I like the small ones, the wibbly flibbly ones — the kind that inhabit sunny French walls and go eeee eeee eeee like poorly kittens or newborn mice.  That is what I miss so much about France — the incessant, locust-like chorus of lizard squeaks, lofted into the warm night air like an exuberance of eggy farts.

    Perhaps I should invest in an enclosure first, just to be sure I am happy with the overall concept.  I believe reptile enclosures are like glass versions of rabbit hutches, and while most are designed to inhabit shelves and purpose-built tables, I would suspend mine from the ceiling by delicate lengths of chain, possibly metal ropes weaved from the necklaces of virgins.
    I estimate that an enclosure of this kind would need a test run of three to four months.  I’d want to be sure I could maintain the core temperature at a lizard-friendly level without burning the house down as I incinerated paper and cushions in the furnace built onto the side, and I’d have to ensure that the dangle factor of the overhead structure did not prohibit my taller  house guests from standing fully upright.

    But, after this, the lizards could go straight in, there to erupt

    It is my sincere belief that I have begun this Valentine’s Day in good heart and displayed considerable imaginary generosity to mankind’s least furry friends (other than fish).

    It only remains for me to direct one and all to a cool new blog threatening to take the internet by storm with its unfolding glories.

    The effortlessly fun Jane Volker is walking round Ireland, documenting her adventures as she goes.  Compared to tales of me shuffling around my living room in my slippers, it is certain to be an exhilarating read.  Hey — compared even to Arnie shuffling round his Californian bunker retreat in his slippers while alien hordes bomb the fuck out of Los Angeles,  Jane’s new walking blog is certain to be an exhilarating read.

    You can pick it up here.

 (This is what I got when I googled 'irish lizard'. Isn't the internet such a deliverer of unbridled excitment?)

Monday, February 8, 2016

Please Leave A Message...

    I was wondering today about Babs.

    You know Babs — she’s that girl.

    Time was, I never so much as gave her a call.

    She did not exist in my life.

    But things move on, and one day she showed.

    This is how it happened.

    We all know smartphones are inherently stupid.

    No matter how many times you switch them off, or transform them into cunningly encrypted vaults thanks to nefarious lockscreens and passwords, they always try to bust themselves out of the loop by making the next call.

    Back in the day, pockets and handbags served only as passive receptacles for loose change, keys, and every shade of lipstick, but since the advent of the smartphone, they have blossomed into entities blessed with basic powers of initiative.

    These vacuous sink-spaces can dial numbers.

    And when that happens, all charge whaps out of your phone and bulks out someone’s answerphone with two hours of unremitting mmmmmmfkkfkfhhhhhffffhpppphhffffkfkpfffhfhfh.

    Worse still, it’s always the same someone.

    He or she is right there at the top of your Contacts list, the default option for any calls made by your keys or sneakily hidden chocolate bars.

    “Hey, Whirl,” comes the eventual reply, “just calling to let you know it’s happened again.  What are you doing?  Swimming with dolphins?  Suffocating with elephants?”

    (This is Baz, btw.  He believes himself to be amusing.)

    “Fuck off, Baz,” I say, deleting the message as a Mongol executioner would dismember the bodies of his enemies.  “I’m renaming you Twatface.”

    That’s when I had a much better idea.

    Shuffling Baz deeper into the alphabetical pack would only mean subjecting someone else to occasional bursts of prolonged mufflepocketry.

    And because that someone else was Carl’s Muscle Studio, no way was I about to risk revealing my muffles to a tattooed maneater from Galway.

    Fate dictated I needed someone else at the top of my Contacts list — someone who would never, ever mind if I called them every five minutes.

    So I keyed in Babs’ number.

    No idea why I didn’t run with Aaron or Aardvark Carpets — that would have made much more sense.

    It’s as if I heard a hint of a whisper, breezing through a gossamer figment of flyaway blonde hair.

    Babs is as fictitious as her accompanying string of random digits, and now, whenever the contents of my pocket collude with chance and animate my smartphone, my muffles greet only an undisturbable abyss .

    Three or four times a year, I call up Babs for an accidental heart-to-heart.

    And three or four times a year, she never calls back.

    But I got to thinking this morning — what if Babs is actually out there?

    This blonde haired girl who would love nothing more to be the recipient of my muffles?

    Perhaps she also has a smartphone.

    Perhaps she also rings out, quite by accident, from her handbag.

    And perhaps, like me, she has a non-amusing amusing friend.

    Might even be this guy’s name is Walter.

    And instead of renaming him Twatface, she keyed in a fictitious guy named Whirl, who she rings from time to time for an accidental heart-to-heart.

    Only he never calls back.


Thursday, February 4, 2016


    You can’t move on the internet these days for writers offering writing advice.

    Seems everyone has a take on everything from the creative process to the particulars of publishing.

    And what about all those successful business entrepreneurs with big bucks businesses showing everyone else to how to become successful business entrepreneurs with big bucks businesses?

    They have the motivation, they have the aspirational funnel, they have the raw material to stuff down the wider end of the tube.

    Plenty of copywriters also will tell YOU how to WRITE to CONVERT.

    Their $3k mentoring programs transform noobs into sought-after professionals — all in the space of three 10 minute phone calls.

    More chefs than ever before have swapped the kitchen for the classroom in their zeal to grace more of the world’s dining tables with the perfect canapĂ© or ocelot jus.

    Their online stores are filled with signature hats, aprons, ladles, garlic crushers, chopsticks — and more.

    And let’s not forget all those masterclasses with prominent ex-polititians — if you can afford $30,000 for fucking dinner.

    What has happened to people actually doing things?

    When did we all become such gurumaniacs?

Monday, February 1, 2016


    The first snowdrops of Spring now dangle their blooms like Quasimodo swinging naked from Notre Dame’s pendulous clappers.

    In time, more will come — to be joined by daffodils and crocuses in a medley of floral abundance.

    Even for those of you who are cactus shaving enthusiasts, warmed only by the cultivation of indoor succulents’ beards thanks to technology’s finest hand-held buzzards, there is something so alluring about the snowdrops’ sprout that it is almost impossible not to want to race out amongst them and lick the rainwater from their petallic shimmery.

    Cold, wet, windy days await us as February marauds its way through Winter’s final moments, but we must all endeavour to brave her cruel lashes with the fortitude of sprouting bulbs.

    Our time to flower and flourish will come again when the Sun’s rays flick across the horizon like a porno star’s tongue tip over eager flesh, but for now it is necessary simply to snuggle down in the dungarees of bulby crustiness, the better to survive the icy cold and all the worms mistaking us for underground hotels offering cheap B&B discounts.