Saturday, 31 January 2009

me me me me me me me me meme

The lovely Red Rum ("Your money's no good here, Mr Torrance...") has tagged me. I must write ten interesting and honest things about myself. "Interesting" is subjective, "honest" less so. This will probably be the last one of these I do for a while, as you all now know me better than is entirely healthy, given that we've none of us ever met in what I like to call "the flesh" (mostly because there's so much of it).

1) I've just this second sold a book to the blonde Aussie one from Sheila's Wheels. She was thoroughly charming and if I had a car I know where I'd be getting my insurance from.

2) I have only ever once made hollandaise sauce - it was perfect. I am now so worried that it'll never turn out that well again that I have never reattempted it.

3) I once shared a flat with an inordinately cool Zimbabwean guy called Dumiso; during the course of one rainy Sunday afternoon doing the ironing and watching Zulu we discovered that we were, respectively, descended from Gonville Bromhead and King Cetshwayo. We decided never to speak of it, although whistling "Men of Harlech" became shorthand for "I'm trying to annoy you".


4) I will eat anything except tripe (I hate the consistency), brains (not sure I like the idea of eating something that has ideas) and andouillette (made of bowel, smells of bowel). In my defence, I'm not particularly squeamish otherwise - I will happily eat kidneys, tongue, sweetbreads, black pudding, snails, etc, and in my time have eaten crocodile steak, water buffalo, snake, peacock, a scorpion, and a bee (on purpose, crystallised in honey).


5) I went on an anti-Vietnam War march in 1972 or -3; I was a small child at this point (!) and my deeply peacenik Canadian babysitter took me (I grew up in Montreal). At the age of 6 I knew who Nixon and Ho Chi Minh were, what "impeach" meant, and why there were so many American men suddenly living in Canada...

6) Further to the Canada thing, I was also living there when the October Crisis happened - so am the only one of my contemporaries who has, albeit briefly, lived under martial law.

7) I would sell my soul for the ability to drink a double espresso after midday without turning into a sleepless and jittery speedfreak. I love coffee, love it, love it, and it has ceased to love me since the day I turned 30, fickle swine that it is.

8) My family motto is Nil Desperandum. Which is a toughie to live up to on a drizzly day like today. Mostly I'm an optimist though.

9) I collect nice shiny facts like a magpie collects sparkly bits of tinfoil. In fact if I lived in Philip Pullman's world my daemon would undoubtedly be a member of the corvid family - maybe a rook, because they're sociable, highly acquisitive, and according to myth they like to tell stories.

10) My idea of perfect hell is massage. If there's one thing I hate more than being covered in oil, it's having to make polite conversation with a complete stranger while naked.

I'm going to tag Naweed, because I know for a fact he's never done one of these. Go, dude, make me proud...

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Life 2.0

Before I start I will just give you two little stories to illustrate this post:

1) My darling friend Foxy Highflyer was recently due to meet a man for a date. He blew her out, pleading a backlog of work commitments, which would have been a perfectly good excuse - if he hadn't, the following day, updated his FaceBook page with the status "Mike is SO HUNGOVER after last night's big bash" (or similar).
2) My equally darling (and foxy) friend Ziggaaah has been seeing, on and off, a man who conveniently lives nearby, and the other morning on her way to work saw his alleged ex-girlfriend emerging from his house well before breakfast time, and his FaceBook status was the same day updated to "Frank is In A Relationship".

Wait! Come back! This wasn't meant to be a moan about MEN. What this is, and here I finally get to my point, is a moan about what we have decided to call LIFE 2.0.©
Life 2.0 is exactly like life, just more so, and more technologically enabled. After all, what these guys were doing is just the cyber-equivalent of getting their mate to "casually" tell you they're not looking for a long-term relationship, or "accidentally" leaving the receipt for a dirty weekend in their suit pocket for you to find. It's not, of course, restricted to the field of relationships. Forgetting your PIN number is the Life 2.0 equivalent of the cashier at the bank refusing to believe that that is your signature. Killing your Tamagotchi.. well, need I go on? I realise I'm in no position to comment, as having a blog doesn't really equate to anything old-style apart from writing a diary which, unless you're very careless, never gets read by anyone else, or maybe writing a newspaper column - except millions of us do it, which certainly isn't the case in the press. I have no idea what the moral of this observation is - and I doubt there actually is one - I suppose it's plus ├ža change, or something pithy about the equipment changing but not the operator...

Monday, 19 January 2009

Star Crossed

Every now and then you can't beat Gone With the Wind as a great, lazy, sandwich-eating way to spend an afternoon. Apart from Gandhi it's the only film I've ever seen that admitted it needed an intermission (and even had special intermission music! You can't fault David O Selznick for grandeur of scale). And I think the intermission in Gandhi was only there because the cinema management thought, quite rightly, that we might need it. I went to see The Unbearable Lightness Of Being as a student, and secretly rechristened it The Unbearable Numbness Of My Bum, although that may have less to do with the undeniable length (and lack of intermission) of the actual film and more to do with the fact that, if you're not a big fan of Daniel Day Lewis, the sight of him saying "Take your clothes off" FORTY-SEVEN BILLION TIMES can get a little wearisome.

Anyway, back to Gone With the Wind - my delightful friend Marky Mark told me that apparently Margaret Mitchell was a total fan of astrology, and had deliberately written the novel so that each of the main characters was a perfect archetype of a particular star sign, as follows:

Scarlett O'Hara = Aries
Rhett Butler = Sagittarius
Ashley Wilkes = Pisces
Melanie Wilkes = Cancer
I think I more or less got that right. It's a great theory but I worry for the future of fiction if, on top of unsolicited quibbling about inaccuracies in period detail etc, the author was also subject to letters arguing that no Libra would behave like that... but then I would worry, being a Pisces.
(The picture above, by the way, comes from my favourite scene in the film, when Scarlett's unlamented second husband has just died, and she's drunk the better part of a bottle of brandy - Rhett comes to see her, and as she's desperately rinsing her mouth out with eau de cologne to hide the smell of booze, Mammy shows him in with the line "Mr Rhett's here to see you, Miz Scarlett. I told him you was prostrate with grief.")

Monday, 12 January 2009

The Point Of No Return

At what point in one's life do embarrassing songs simply stop being embarrassing? And why? When we were children we would happily bop about to pretty much anything with a beat (how else to explain the constant popularity of inane dross like the Tweenies, Take 5, Sportacus, etc etc...). And then puberty struck, and everything reduced us to paroxysms of squirming, particularly if our parents liked it. In fact, as I remember, you were only allowed to admit you liked songs/bands of almost proscriptive obscurity - if you'd caught the name late at night on John Peel and nobody else had even heard of them yet, that made it all the cooler. And if they ever got into the charts, you had to stop liking them immediately and whine about how they'd sold out. In my day it was tantamount to social suicide to admit you liked anything that could even vaguely be categorised as "disco" (ie anything poppy with a beat), which led to a huge crisis at parties - in the event that you did anything as uncool as dancing, rather than sneering in eyeliner from the edge of the room, there was very little you could actually dance to. Gothy posturing to Joy Division hardly counts, as it's more in the ballpark of "I will now portray Anomie And Social Despair through the medium of modern dance".
So - when was it that the disco rot started creeping in? I have a memory of a distinct turning point in my second year at college, when I shared a huge house with (among others) a girl who would unashamedly start a Saturday night off with "Never Too Much" by Luther Vandross. It was all downhill from there. And once you've conceded that Abba are possibly the finest popsters in the world, and you stand up to be counted, admitting with barely a blush that you know all the words to "When I Kissed The Teacher", well, the primrose path to Shameless Musical Leanings beckons. Rapidly you find you actually know the dance to Bucks Fizz's "Making Your Mind Up". You play the Nolan Sisters at parties. And songs such as the one below are greeted with whoops of delight rather than the general slinking off in shame that they deserve. Go on, admit when Marks and Spencer used it in an advert you were actually pleased to hear it again...

Friday, 2 January 2009

Christmas with La Boheme



Picture the scene. An opera house stage, swagged in crimson velvet. The house lights go down, leaving only the scalloped brass footlights aglow. As the curtain slowly rises, we see before us a threadbare chaise-longue in a draughty, ill-lit Paris garret of the 19th century, upon which a frail figure in a tattered nightgown lies, coughing weakly into a tiny scrap of bloodstained lace hanky. Alone, uncared-for, the helpless figure of Mr Fishwife prepares for his final aria as a cruel world leaves him to perish of consumption. Beside him, the burly figure of, well, me, weeps in a baritone voice (I'm bordering on basso profundo at the moment).

Happy New Year! As I write I'm clutching a packet of Day Nurse capsules in one hand and a large cup of tea in the other. Oh yes, Mr Fishwife's flu has finally got its claws into me and all my attempts to dodge it have failed. Inevitable, really, when one is sharing the same bed as someone already afflicted and they are coughing lavishly into one's face at all hours of the night. So far I fear I may have infected not only Mr Fishwife's mother but also my entire family, Inexplicably Single Martyn and his parents, four of my closest friends, their nieces and nephews, and most unforgivable of all, a pregnant woman. I won't go on again about the joys of Night Nurse, but it beats champagne hands down as this year's best tipple for the festive season. On the plus side, I sneezed on somebody very rude on the Tube.