Category: The Random and Confused


Yesterday, 25th May, was International Towel Day.

I’ve been harping on about this on Facebook for a couple of weeks and I’m quite sure no-one knows what the hell is wrong with me anymore, but that’s because many of them have yet to have their minds and hearts delightfully corrupted by the wondrous “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” series of books, by the late great Douglas Adams.

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7556-hitchhikers-guide-to-the-galaxy-movie

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For other like-minded ladies and gentlemen, here is a profound explanation of the importance of towels, as found in Chapter 3 of Adams’ work The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:

“A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have “lost.” What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

Hence a phrase that has passed into hitchhiking slang, as in “Hey, you sass that hoopy Ford Prefect? There’s a frood who really knows where his towel is.” (Sass: know, be aware of, meet, have sex with; hoopy: really together guy; frood: really amazingly together guy.)”

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There are five books in Adam’s original Hitchhiker’s series, and a sixth novel written by Artemis Fowl author Eoin Colfer, which I haven’t read and probably never will.  No disrespect to Colfer, but I have such a close relationship with the original books that any semi-official additions seem distinctly sacriligious.

I’m not the only person who feels this way.  These short, humourous science-fiction novels have brought so much joy to readers that they hold them close to their hearts in the way that only a genuinely funny, insightful author could achieve.  The bittersweet tone of the last two books in particular establishes Adams as a writer with great heart.

So what the hell is this Towel Day all about?

It’s a simple commemoration of the author, who was not only a great writer, but a proponent of environmental protection, technological innovation, as well as a respectful (and erudite) atheist.  Adams died suddenly twelve years ago to widespread grief.   The simple towel, as described above, is as good a mascot as any for his commemoration – not to mention that Adams would no doubt love the silliness of knowing that thousands, maybe millions of people around the world are all walking around with towels…

The dedication is huge.  The official Facebook page has some great stories and photos of people across the globe who are celebrating Adam’s life and work in this uniquely peculiar way:

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chile

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scrabble

Thumbing for spacecraft (https://www.facebook.com/towelday)

 

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kurdistan iraq

Wearing your towel for protection against solar radiation, in Kurdistan, Iraq (https://www.facebook.com/towelday)

 

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texas 2

Texas – With these towels they do wed! (www.facebook.com/towelday)

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This hoopy frood from Texas already has a ride (www.facebook.com/towelday)

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israel

The answer to Life, the Universe and Everything, from Israel (www.facebook.com/towelday)

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This couple has found the Answer (www.facebook.com/towelday)

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star wars

May 25th is also a Star Wars anniversary, so there are plenty of weird franchise-mixes going on … Stormtroopers celebrate (www.facebook.com/towelday)

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argentina

Group celebrations in Argentina (www.facebook.com/towelday)

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6WiQp6T

A towel as a cape in India (http://imgur.com/6WiQp6T)

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astronauts

Get this – astronauts on the International Space Station know where their towels are! (twitter.com/AstroSamantha)

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Most of these amazing photos are pilfered from the Facebook page, which I expect will keep running each year.  You can also read about the massive support worldwide at the official site.

There are also numerous shots of pets with their towels, so it’s great to see our quadrupedal planetary co-inhabitants joining in the fun (no dolphins yet though).

I also happened to come across this restaurant whilst taking a walk in Leeds yesterday, so I just had to take a photo:

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The 42 restaurant and bar in Leeds, England

A restaurant and bar, prominent at no.42 on a street in Leeds, England

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Why do I care about all this?

Not because I have an interest in towels, or even for the basic pleasures of supporting a much-admired writer and activist.

It’s partly because Adams suffered from crippling low confidence (not to mention writer’s block), as many of us do, but mainly because his books have always managed to make me laught out loud, even on my darkest days.

No other writer else has been able to do that before or since.

—db

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I imagine a canvas about A3 size, arranged landscape.

In the centre are three magnificent buildings: on the left is the pale marvel of Udaipur City Palace.  On the right is the golden fortress of Jaisalmer.  And in the centre, a gleaming pearl, is the Taj Mahal.  These are large and form the focal point of the painting.

To the left of these is Lisa’s face.  She is wearing brown sunglasses with large lenses, and she is smiling.  The brown lenses reflect the Taj Mahal and a flare of light.

Around her head, like petals on a flower, are several distinct items of clothing.  These will include but aren’t limited to: voluminous yellow trousers; a long purple top; a pink sari.  Woven around these items are splashes of liquid colour that run up and down the canvas.  The splashes have the vague suggestion of flowers or fireworks, which fills the top-left-hand corner of the canvas.

To the right of the three buildings is an auto-rickshaw with a green roof.  It could be leaping out of the page.  Its driver is a scrawny man of indeterminate age.  There may or may not be people in the passenger seats behind.  The vehicle bursts out of another splash of colour, this like an explosion of festival powder, which contains long streaks of Arabesque curls and stripes.  Beneath this are the words TUK TUK.

Above and to the right of the rickshaw, in the top-right corner, is a male Indian face looking outward.  He has a black sweep of hair, thick lips, wide eyes.  Shadows on his features make him appear menacing.  Above him is a street sign that reads: Tourist Information Centre.  These words appear to be enclosed in an elongated sun, but this is actually a speech bubble with twenty spikes, each denoting one of twenty voices.

In the centre of the canvas, at the bottom below the three buildings, is a cow.  She isn’t interested in looking at the viewer.  In her mouth is a bright gajra, the garland of marigolds that can be found in every shop and dwelling during festival time.  Flowers and petals are littered around her front hoofs.  The trail leads ahead, to the bottom-left corner of the canvas, by which point they have merged indistinctly with the currents of a long river: the mother Ganges.

Tiny floating candles glow amidst the currents.  Above the river float several tiny but distinct Hindu gods, in the Indian “miniature painting” style.  Amongst them are recognizably a praying Shiva, a seated Ganesh, Hanuman leaping with a mountain in one hand and his mace in the other, and the dancing Kali.

The cow is not alone.  Standing at her side, almost obscuring her, is a black water buffalo.  His head is picking up grass or garlands from the ground by his front right hoof, displaying his heavy horns.  His sharp hip bones protrude from his flanks.

Behind the cow and buffalo is a longer trail of flowers, which surround a circular fountain in the bottom-right corner of the canvas.  The base of the fountain is decorated with stone birds.  Water sprays upward, glistening.  It almost touches the front wheel of the auto-rickshaw above.

Rising from the flowers by the fountain is a green topiary elephant.  The leaves are painted in minute, exquisite detail.  It is rising up on its rear legs.  Behind this, almost like a shadow, is a realistic depiction of a real elephant.  We see the flaps of its ears; its domed head; the long curve of its trunk; and its tusks.  This is all.

Move across the canvas, past the cow and buffalo and the river, to the blank space that is to the left of Lisa’s face.  A woman is painted here in ochre hues.  She looks from under her orange hood to the left, away from the centrepiece.  Her bangled arm is stretched out; she is begging.  The woman is not too old or gaunt.  Beside her, clutching her skirts, is a young boy or girl.  The child is looking directly at the viewer.  Behind the child may be an emaciated street dog with patchy fur, at the very edge of the canvas.

The remaining blank space is above the centrepiece of forts.  Here in large letters of appropriate font and colour is the world INDIA.  Beneath this in small letters reads: a portrait.  More colour explodes from behind the words.  To the left of the giant “I” are the blue-green feathers of a peacock, the country’s national bird.  To the right of the giant “A” is a faithful reproduction of a kingfisher, exactly how it appears on the label of the eponymous beer.

Where there are small gaps between all these images, the space can be filled with chunky lettering saying one of three phrases: “Tuk-tuk?” – “Hello come inside” – “Namaste”.

—db

 

End of the world

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It is night.  Roving light in red and green filters through the cracks in my bedroom curtains, making me stir.  The colours play over my eyelids; I turn, semi-conscious, onto my side and feel my sweat-soaked hair cool and wet against my forehead.

I open my eyes.

For a long moment my brain works to interpret the play of prismatic light that pierces the humid darkness.  It can’t work it out: what could be green, shining through my curtains, and what could be red, in the middle of the night…?

First my right leg, then my left swings out from under the duvet.  My hypersensitive feet touch the gnarl of the old carpet; I flex my toes.  Then, walking towards the window with rainbow hues dancing an aurora on my bare chest, I breathe deeply with a twitch of anxiety between my lungs.

I open the curtains.  I feel my eyes strain in their sockets.  On the other side of the grimy glass the back garden is illuminated like a surrealist’s mixing palette: a low forest of herbs, the rough corners of a boundary hedge, and a garden shed with windows reflecting the celestial drama high above:

The sky is full of light and colour.  Where usually I would see only a smattering of pale, twinkling stars, I see now an immense array of pinks and greens, swirling across the heavens in thick gaseous swathes.  A centrepiece is the moon, but it is broken: shattered into a genuine crescent with splinters of pale rock still lingering in the primary orb’s diminished gravity. 

Dominating the sky is a half-risen planet, its diameter spanning the width of the horizon, a purplish-brown bloated monster.  It looms, surrounded by wisps of galactic mist and those meteoroids unfortunate enough to get caught in its massive fields yet lucky enough to survive, locked in endless complicated orbits.  Diaphanous swipes of frozen space-ice form broken rings around this fearsome dome, with stars shining through the thinner ribbons from behind.   This planet seems close enough to reach out and touch.

All around, broken pieces of shattered asteroids and distant moons plummet through the atmosphere.  They burn with low, scraping rumbles, the sound of massive engines.  As the scorched segments break up in the intense crucible of light and heat they flare up suddenly in blinding displays of orange and white.

It is the end of the world.  The universe has slipped into a jumbled chaos, drawn into itself, and the effects of this cataclysm are evident in the unravelling atmosphere of Earth that disappears from the stratosphere into cold space, letting in the biting teeth of frozen vacuum.   

I see all this from my bedroom window, and observe the microscopic fragments of human civilization rushing upward through the sucking tear in the atmosphere. 

The devastation sweeps closer, and the gargantuan planet grows larger as though on a collision course with our barely significant planet, and all is dwarfed by its relentless approach: heat and colour and the bass trembling of objects much larger than I colliding in boundless space.

So what has me thinking about fear this week? 

Is it because a few nights of heavy sleeping have brought on nightmares, in which fear is unconquerable; or that because there are going to be some big changes and challenges in my life over the next year?

I’ve always taken a certain approach toward fear: tackle it head-on.  All those years of kid’s fiction, comic books and video games have taught me something.  Run away from fear and you’ll be running forever, but kick it in the nuts and you’re gold.

It’s not always easy, obviously. 

          pho-bi-a

          noun

          a persistent, irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation that leads to a compelling desire to avoid it.

If you could talk yourself out of it, you wouldn’t be afraid.  But fear is one of the biggest obstacles to happiness: fear of the unknown, fear of the future, fear of what people will think of us, fear of failure.  These fears stop us from having new experiences, discovering new places and new parts of ourselves, and worst of all, from trying.

I have never blamed a person for being afraid of anything.  But I lose patience with a person who doesn’t try to master their fear.  Successful or not, that is a respectable thing.  It is the definition of bravery. 

Case in point.  My girlfriend has everything going for her: she is beautiful, brainy, stylish and ambitious.  And yet, if a house spider materialises in the middle of the lounge, she freezes up.  Her fear is literally paralysing. 

Some people aren’t afraid of spiders.  I can’t say I’m entirely comfortable with them myself, but I can snatch one up in a piece of kitchen roll if I have to and wash it down the sink if I have to. 

Nasty murderous giant that I am. 

There’ve been enough studies into why we have this irrational fear of such harmless, tiny things.  I presume most people agree that it’s an evolutionary throwback to when we were apes wandering through the lush forests of our deep past.  Those curious chimps who dared poke a venomous spider may not have survived to breed; those sensible or fortunate enough to stay away passed on some genetic predisposition toward creepy crawlies and this fear allowed the survival of their DNA to present day.

But we’re smarter than chimps (albeit marginally, natch) – so why can’t our rational minds defeat the notion that this spindly thing skittering against the side of the bath is something to be terrified of?

Fair enough, I live in the UK, comfortably far away from black widows, redbacks and camel spiders.  I’ve little to be afraid of (although there are a good dozen species in the UK capable of painful, poisonous bites). 

I can live with the little creatures if I have to, and my relatively shallow fear means that I can tackle them without acts of great bravery.  And yet to my girlfriend, whose fear is close to absolute, successfully capturing and releasing a spidery is supremely brave.   And capture it she did, setting the little blighter free in the driving rain of our front yard.

To her, the spider was two feet wide, with slashing palps and mandibles dripping with toxic venom, its bloated abdomen bristling with hair.  It was capable of leaping onto her face.  It was capable of 0-30 mph in about a second.  And it was most definitely a sadistic, predatory monster that would have taken great joy in sinking its fangs into her vulnerable flesh.

Fighting that takes bravery.  It has prompted me to tackle the fears, and to ask you to tackle yours.

Face them head on, don’t let them have any power over you, and post your success stories (however small) here on this board for your Bravery Points.

—dbx

I experienced a sense-memory this morning.

They aren’t unusual.  I won’t be the first person of a creative bent to marvel at the power contained in a single minute smell or sound.  Like the strength of a déjà vu – probably caused by something as mundate as a random transmission error between eye and brain, or misfiring synapse – these tiny things can trigger sudden expected responses.  Is it mundane?  Or is it amazing?

I was in the train station at Sheffield, where I catch a train most mornings to work in Leeds about an hour’s commute away.  Like most stations, it’s as much outdoors as in: everywhere you look you can see trees and grass banks through the pillars down the length of every platform, or stone walls built a few hundred years ago, or snatches of grey sky.

The trigger for the memory, I think, was earth.  Maybe a fleck of half-dried mud on someone’s boot, or a pile of mushy loam brought in from the rain outside.  For just a second that rich smell mingled with something else – maybe the wet, cool air, or a particular pattern of pressure across my face from the breeze.

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Twelve or fifteen years ago, my Dad took me fishing.  I think it was on the River Wye.  If I have the right river, the source of the bubbling water running beneath those overarching trees was about 150 miles away in Wales.  Dad was part of a club, or friend-of-a-friend to some Duke or other, who controlled fishing rights of the water.  Anyone else would have been poaching those trout.

We trudged maybe half a mile from the van to the riverbank.  In those days it will have been an NDT van – the company Dad worked for testing metal.  The white van had no seats in the back, but a working space big enough for tools and equipment.  My brother and I would sit on fold-down shelves, facing inward and bickering or joking, strapped to the inner chassis by black seatbelts and unable to turn away from each other.

The road to the river was muddy; it had recently rained.  Birds twittered in the trees around us.  At the river, which curved at either side, I examined the different fishing lures we’d brought with us: tufty red ones, tufty brown ones.  They were designed, Dad said, to look like flies so that the fish would try to eat them.

The rod seemed a work of art.  The pole was polished to a chestnut hue but made by Dad himself from, I reckon, split bamboo.  According to Wikipedia:

“Split bamboo rods are generally considered the most beautiful, the most ‘classic’, and are also generally the most fragile of the styles, and they require a great deal of care to last well.”

The handle I remember was cork – because it absorbed the sweat from the fisherman’s hands.  It squeaked as he slotted it onto the bottom of the pole.  The line, fed as everyone knows through the wheel on the rod, felt like nylon but may, knowing my Dad a little better now, have been varnished silk. 

The reel made a unique chattering sound that I’ve never heard since.  To turn it by its tiny handle, Dad had to make a delicate pinching gesture with his hand.

There was some teaching of technique that involved slow sweeps, a flicking of the wrist.  The line is almost invisible.  The ‘fly’ lands on the surface of the water.  Underneath is brown silt and smooth stones, mostly obscured by light reflecting off the surface.  The fly makes ripples, the line does not. 

We wait.

I don’t know if he thought I might be bored.  It was very peaceful.  Probably once or twice we heard someone walking a dog on the other side of the trees and bushes, but if there was any real disturbance I don’t remember it.

Dad drew in the line.  He’ll try another spot.

We wait.

Maybe it was here that he told me that he made the rod himself.  I’m amazed by this.  He said that he’ll make me one, too.  A shorter one.  I say yes please.  Because I don’t ever mention it again, the rod never got made.  I don’t mind this.

No fish.

Maybe we tried another lure. 

I had a go with the rod.  It was harder to balance that I imagined, probably twice as long as I was tall.  I flicked the rod back.  The line got caught in a tree, like in a Goofy cartoon.  Dad took back the rod and retrieved the line.

Later we landed a trout.  It wasn’t large.  I looked at its glistening scales and weird translucent mouthparts.  It gasped with the hook lodged in its face.

I asked if it hurts.  The answer wasno.

I asked how come?

Maybe I learned then, or learned years later, that there are no pain receptors in a fish’s mouth – or if there are, the fish isn’t capable of processing that kind of pain.  I’m not sure if this is the case.  I looked it up online.  See what this internet wanker has to say on the matter:

“i never had one complain when i am getting the hook out. next time i have one in the boat i will be sure to ask it. but why would you ask this? … it really don’t mater because we are on top of the food chain and there are some things you just have to over look … if you worry about these kinds of thing than you are not going to eat much.”

Still, whether or not the fish feels pain they soon appear to forget about it and carry on feeding.  We threw the trout back and it disappeared with a flick of its tail.

*          *          *          *          *          *

My train arrived at 07:47 and departed at 07:51, direct from Sheffield to Leeds.

— db

A pigeon hit me in the face today.

I don’t mean with a bit of greenish-white poop from twenty feet.  I don’t mean a pigeon that is anything than the actual feathered avian kind.

I mean an actual pigeon flew directly into my face today as though shot from a cannon.

 

You think, ‘Fuck, I didn’t think that ever happened.’

You think, ‘Or is that bats?’

You are embarassed at the sheer blinding-white shit-your-pants-sudden pain that this small fluffy thing inflicted upon you.

You can’t quite believe it happened.

That’s what you think when a pigeon just flies up and, apparently not seeing you, apparently not having the good sense to watch where it’s fucking flying, or the decency to throw a polite ‘coooo’ your way before striking you, with all its velocity-amplified weight, on your left temple.

The sagacity of the thing.  Dirty little sky-rat.

 

 

I was actually dazed.  Have you ever been hit in the face by a football?  You know that all-your-face-at-once sudden crush and WHAP of being hit in the face by a football?

Exactly like that.

I got hit in the face by a cricket ball once.  It wasn’t nice.  It hurt a lot.

I’ve also been swimming with goggles and did that thing where you think the bottom of the tiled pool is a bit further away than it actually is.  That deep impression of hard rubber goggles around your eyes and the bridge of our bloody nose.

One time in the playground were we kicking a can of Coke around.  I think the idea was to distress the fizzy soda so badly that when we finally open the can, it would explode.  We kicked it around idly whilst taking, probably, about the merits of Final Fantasy VIII on the PS1.  Unbeknownst to me, my friend Lloyd, at least I think it was Lloyd, had hurled it up into the air with considerable strength.  My other friend Robert, at least I think it was Robert, stopped talking and look at me with slightly widened eyes.

‘Watch out,’ he said.

I didn’t know what he was on about.  So I didn’t watch anything.

I don’t think I’ve ever had real concussion, but I bloody well know what it feels like to be hit in the head by a pigeon.

It bent my glasses completely out of shape.

That or it bent my face completely out of shape.

Glasses are pretty robust nowadays.

–db

Choose Life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family.
Choose a fucking big television, choose washing machines, cars,
compact disc players and electrical tin openers. Choose good
health, low cholesterol, and dental insurance. Choose fixed
interest mortage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your
friends. Choose leisurewear and matching luggage. Choose a
three-piece suite on hire purchase in a range of fucking fabrics.
Choose DIY and wondering who the fuck you are on a Sunday morning.
Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing
game shows, stuffing fucking junk food into your mouth. Choose
rotting away at the end of it all, pishing your last in a miserable
home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked up
brats you spawned to replace yourself. 

Choose your future.

Choose life.

 

Is this a blog or an essay-station?  It’s a blog, so maybe I should blog.

*          *          *

If a city changes and your perception of the city changes with it, has the city really changed at all? 

*          *          *

Sheffield is a different town lately.  There’s an increased bustle around the marketplace, new stalls popping up all the time.  Food.  Culture.  This morning, the last day of September, is the strangest yet.  A market for electronic goods.  There are fridges and washing machines in the street, right now, under green and white awnings.

*          *          *

The big wheel that can be seen from my office window, looming over the surrounding buildings like the Eye of fucking Sauron, is to be dismantled some time in October.  The monstrous thing, so long a fixture of the city centre, will leave a big empty space where it once stood.  On a sunny day, the rotating spokes cast their moving shadows over all the buildings across the street from my window.  I often sit on a bench under the wheel in the morning, if I have time to snatch a few more pages of a book before work.  It’s almost like a giant creaking shield; we may well feel vulnerable in its absence.

*          *          *

The main shopping thoroughfare is routinely packed with charity workers.  They’ve all obviously been taught to apply new techniques to their particular brand of begging.  It’s as though the same workshop leader has been all around the different charities and said the same thing: ‘Say something funny to get their attention.  Flatter them and they’re more likely to talk to you.’

I found it strange the first time I fell victim to this new species of hyenaism.  The guy hopped in front of me, like they usually do, looking like chirpy little gnomes, and said, ‘Rugby player, right?’

I thought, ‘What?  Why would he think that?  I don’t look like a rugby player.  I look like I spend all my time reading and not doing sports.  What’s he getting at?’

Gnome

I’m usually busy when I’m in the thoroughfare.  Whenever I’m walking, assume that I’m going from A to B.  The only reasons for me to do this are, firstly, I don’t want to be at Place A and intend to get as far away as possible, as quickly as possible.  The other reason is that I want to get to Place B, and therefore have something to do. 

Why charity workers think this is the best time to harass someone is beyond me.

I said to the gnome, ‘I’m busy,’ and walked on. 

I caught on properly when I saw the same worker the next day (It was the food market.  I ate an ostrich burger).  He pounced on somebody else and said the same thing, ‘Rugby player, right?’

Another girl, for the NSPCC: “Well-dressed man.  Hello.’

‘I’m busy.’

A guy for OXFAM: ‘Tell me the truth, do you like my beard?’

‘It’s great.’

The latest, for St John’s Ambulance: “OHMYGOD!  No!  Brad Pitt, really!?”

Brad Pitt.

She missed the mark, I think.  Going for “flattery” and throttling “insulting” instead.  My own floppy-haired, pointy-nosed, girly-mouthed phizzog in no way resembles Mr Pitt’s.  In fact, it’s so far from Mr Pitt’s that the comment merely draws attention to just how not-Pitt I am.

*          *          *

Evangeline, the soul-singing Bible-basher who regularly wanders the streets pouring out her heart at the top of her voice, has taken on a new look.

She sports a red and white jogging suit, a red felt beret and–

–and an electric guitar.

With an amp.

Motherfucker’s organised now!

*          *          *

Someone sent this fax to my office:

 Incoming fax

 It doesn’t say who it’s from, or why they want to contact us, or what their business is.

So I sent this reply, to which I have not received a response:

Outgoing fax

I get these little moods.  One time, I put tiny pin-pricks in the bottle of washing-up liquid by the kitchen sink.  The holes are too tiny to let the viscous fluid leak out when the bottle is left standing, but as soon as a hand exerts pressure …

A couple of months ago I drew a giant smiley face on the counter in salt.  It had Tetley tea-bags for eyes.

The other day I made the following wonderful work of art out of sheer boredom.  This happens regularly and nobody’s figured out that it’s me yet.

 Tumbler Tower

 I can’t take responsibility for this one, although I wish I could:

Percy Plant

 *          *          *

One woman in the office apparently has a home filled with contents so pristine and uniformly matching that it’s been dubbed ‘the white house’. 

It must feel like that first step into Narnia.  Blinding, wondrous, otherworldly.

The sight of a single leaf on her lawn is supremely distressing and the situation must be corrected immediately.  Woe betide the birds that keep dropping small twigs beside the tree in the garden – but there’s no way to get them to move on.  This is very upsetting.

*          *          *

Before I die, I want to understand why it’s not littering to drop your fag end in the street.

*         *         *

A therapist asked me once how I feel about the dark.  I said, ‘With my arms out, like this.’ 

He thought that was funny, which made me feel a little better about myself.

*          *          *

The cat with the white-tipped tail that walked so nonchalantly into my flat the other week has not returned.

But a ginger one chased Oscar all around the bushes last night, the little shit.

*         *         *

But if a city changes and your perception of the city changes with it, has the city really changed at all? 

If you are different but the city goes on as before, is this the same thing?

*         *         *

You are one of 6.8 billion people living on Earth.  You occupy one of 195 recognised countries, on six continental landmasses.

There is a lot of world to see.

If there are tides in the soul driving us to travel, then there need be a moon pulling on the tide; any innate need to see the world must be the result of a cause.

Ishmael’s opening chapter in “Moby Dick” struck a chord in me years ago, and continues to do so to this day:

“Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off — then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.”

–db

An Unfamiliar Pussy

 

A film is playing on the TV and the slippers are on.  A cool wind gusts through the open patio-style door, through which the plants are moving grey-black shapes in the darkness.  A furry face pushes its way through the billowing curtains. 

‘Here he is, look.’

I’ve been waiting for my two cats to come in from the grassy area outside my ground floor flat.  They’ve been house cats for a year and they’re now getting used to the extra freedom I, through my guilt, have recently been granting them.  Lately they’ve been enjoying the exploration so much that they’re gone for hours.

The cat in the window leans inside, putting two paws on the skirting ledge.  A little nose twitches.  Then he turns to me.

‘That’s not my cat!’

No, it really isn’t.

A strange cat has just walked into my home.

This one has a splash of black pigment on its nose and lip, which are as white as the curtains.  For a second, I’m stunned that this has happened.  I haven’t been this shocked since the decorator painted my front door shut (No, really).

My exclamation has scared him, and the furry face disappears again.   

Maybe it was Oscar with a bit of dirt on his face?

He comes back.  Twitching nose.  Ears swivelling like little SETI dishes.  It’s definitely not my cat.

A feeling of indignation comes over me.  How dare it!?  Conversely, I’m also rather pleased.  Presumably from outside, my little flat seems appealing to the scruffy tom.

And before I know it, he’s stepped inside.  Disappeared behind the armchair in the corner.  In a flash I see the spot of white on the very tip of his tail.

I know this cat.  I see him in the car park occasionally, usually crouched under a Citroen peering out at me with his little yellow round eyes.  He doesn’t seem like a stray, although I’ve never caught a glimpse of a collar on him.  He could belong to anyone or no-one.

————————————————–

When I was a student I lived in a shared house in Leeds.  A skinny ginger-and-white mog one of us affectionately named Necrobutcher used to wander in from time to time, rub his strawlike fur all over our beds, cock his leg at my washing and eat half our food.  One time I was wrapping something up in clingfilm with Necrobutcher purring round my legs.  To his little green eyes, the strip of clingfilm in my hand was a glittering, magical object of wonder that he simply wanted and wanted immediately.  The little fucker leapt vertically, sank his narrow flick-knives into my hand, and promptly got the toe of my shoe in his ribs.

————————————————–

The slightly worrying thing the strange cat in my flat is that our bin-yard had its door kicked in by the little shits down the road one week, and stray cats have since taken up residency in it.  There was a presumably flea-ridden armchair – a whole armchair – in one dark corner that they liked to sit on.  Presumably the smell of the filth in the split bin-bags was alluring.  I’ve seen as many as four cats in there at once.

The door has since been fixed … But somehow they still get in.
I don’t know if white-tip is a stray, or if he consorts with these hobo-tabbies during his adventures.  But many of us have heard the song.

Fuck you kitty, you’re gonna spend the night–

Fuck you kitty, you’re gonna spend the night–

Fuck you kitty, you’re gonna spend the night–

OUT.  SIDE.

–db

 

So I thought I’d road-test McDonald’s new summer burger, being the glutten for greasy salty fast-food that I am and probably always will be.

As expected, the Summer BBQ Burger was a flat, cardboardy lump of slop.

Almost feel guilty about lovin’ it.

Japanese McDonald's ad

Served in a pristine, sharp-edged card container.  Pop that baby open.  Flaccid streaks of browning lettuce hanging over one side of the bun.  Spilled cheese having congealed against one side.  Smell of hot something

Mmm-mmm-mmm!

Do what most do and pile the cooling tasteless fries into the other side of the open box, right next to the burger.  Easy access.  Slurp of soda-diluted diet coke to prepare the palate for the dessicating onslaught of over-salty potato product.

McDonald’s use worm meat as filler in their patties, because it’s cheaper – and actually more nutritious – than beef. 

True story.

I wonder why the burger joints are slow on the uptake when it comes to fries.  Kentucky Fried Chicken did away with salty fries, for the benefit of their customers (or their image).  They’re nice enough without.  And you can still get free sachets of salt from the counter, or the big ol’ troughs where they sling in their plastic sporks, straws and napkins. 

Probably they even save money by not salting their fries.

Although … thinking about it … there is the risk of having students grabbing handfuls of packets and stowing away with them, back to whatever stacked-plate under-stocked ant-infested kitchen hovel they go to whenever they want to microwave something.

KFC don’t make their food from chickens.  They breed chicken-like mutants, genetically modified to be fat, boneless, featherless, limbless, eyeless, beakless ready-made-to-eat living products.  Occasionally a talon grows internally however and ends up in a 14-piece bucket somewhere in Ohio. 

True story.

My fries, with BBQ sauce.  It comes from taps, now.  There’s probably a reservoir of the stuff underground, some enormous vat of glutinous brown paste prevented from coagulating by a colossal, slow-turning turbine.  You push the lever on the tap and it dribbles out like turd.  You cannot help thinking this as it fills the tiny cardboard cup you’re supplied with in an ice-cream spiral. 

If you’re gonna spew … spew into this.

Can you blame us for returning?  Personally I’m not a fan of the Maccy D’s.  I’m a Burger King man. 

XL Bacon Double Cheeseburger meal, please. 

Grammatically it doesn’t really make sense.  Surely it’s double bacon and cheesebuger?  Or does that imply a double portion of the frazzled bacon-like substance that is usually melted into the Kraft cheese slice they slap on there? 

A meal.  Large.  With proper Coke.  “Fat Coke”.

Oh, we love the Coke.  There’s a Facebook group.

But then, there’s a Facebook group for everything nowadays.

Of course, you don’t get Coke at Burger King.  It’s all Pepsi in that place.

——“I’d like a Coke, please”

——“Is Pepsi okay?”

——“Is Monopoly money okay”?

I'll have the Happy Happy Happy Happy Happy Happy Burger, please

I had to laugh when a Burger King trailer got taken off the telly this week.  It’s fraud!  That’s a fraudulent advertisement!  MISLEADING!  THEY MADE IT SEEM BIGGER AND TASTIER THAN IT REALLY IS!

Seriously, you go to BK and expect a rich, filling, tasty, substantial meal?  Really?

What’s wrong with this picture?

Oh yeah, that’s it … you’re a dumbass.

So that they can claim to use 100% beef in their products, Burger King use cow eyes as well as horn, hoof and tail.  This is more cost effective than using just meat. 

True story.

I did hear that Gordon Whatshisface, that facile TV chef with Tourette’s, absolutely loves the BK.  He drives around in his shiny black car, leans out of the back seat, orders himself a Whopper.  It was in some magazine and last year the Sheffield City Centre outlet (now closed, probably for health reasons) had it copied multiple times and put into placemats, and left on the counters

They’re proud that a TV chef is a lazy, greedy, scum-guzzler like the rest of us.  Self-destructive addicts that we are.  It’s almost like they’re admitting they make shit food. 

“This guy makes good food!  And he eats our food! ”  It’s a noteworthy story because there’s a contrast.  Did this miss this point?  Did it fly by in a flurry of mutant chicken feathers?

Fair enough, I suppose – it can’t be that bad for you.

Plus, didn’t the first thing Tony Stark do upon escaping Afghanistan was get himself a good ol’ American beef burger — from Burger King? 

Fuck it, if it’s good enough for Iron Man, it’s good enough for me.

True story!

— db

8:45

I go into W H Smith at quarter to nine.  I must look lost because I’m pounced upon by a member of staff.

‘Can I help you with anything?’ she asks.

I say, ‘I’m looking for a 15 centimetre ruler, preferably in translucent blue, and a ball of string.’

The girl looks at me.  She is maybe seventeen.  I remember working with customers in a job I hated at around seventeen.  You cannot help looking at strange people in the strange way that they deserve.

She points to the correct isle.

‘Is there anything you want, sir?’

Is there anything else I want?  Anything else from life?

All I want is straight lines and twine.

‘That’s it.  Thank-you.’

Walking back to work I see a bus driver forced to get out of his seat to lower the ramp for a man in a wheelchair.  The driver looks thoroughly irritated.  The man in the wheelchair waits patiently, awkwardly, as the driver slams down the ramp and gets back into his high little chair in his little driver’s booth.

It rained yesterday and it will probably rain again today.

–db           

Image courtesy of stock.xchng and cybersnot