Prompt: Carry

Carry on luggage- The last hold-luggage holiday I was on was to the South of France with my parents in 2009. My parents go to the South of France for a summer holiday rather a lot- they’re off there again next week in fact, the spazzes. We stayed in Juan Les Pins in 2009, just down the bay from Cannes. I remember helplessly repeating ‘wan ley pan’ to a bus driver one afternoon, until a long-haired Frenchman in his forties leaned over and slurred ‘jou-an ley pan’ at him, then shot me a wink-and-click-noise ‘sorted’ thing.

The Carry On films- Parochial British sex-comedy films of the 60’s and 70’s. They still show them regularly on ITV and the even more downmarket Channel 5. I flicked past one late at night recently and thought to myself, with a surprising strength of feeling, ‘I’d rather die than watch that’.

Carrie Bradshaw- The wish-fulfillment little princess materialism thing is very unpleasant. Samantha was good though- that voice and manner are iconic. Kim Cattrall is kinda interesting.

Chocolate

I lived out some long-term food fantasies recently. I found myself freed up mentally for the first time to try these things I’ve always wanted to, after I did a diet that really worked in the first half of the year. I figured I could always phase in the diet again for a few weeks if necessary, after the deeds were done. It would be worth it.

A whole chocolate cake. Chocolate is the thing for me. I’ve always been very restrict-y about it. The furthest I’d go is a ‘freddo’ with my sandwich- a small frog-shaped chunk of chocolate costing 25p. I would never buy a regular chocolate bar and eat it. The guilt wouldn’t be worth it. So a whole chocolate cake was very much the white whale, and was my first port of call after it dawned on me that I could go ahead and have these things. ‘Disgusting’ you might be thinking, but getting this out of my system (so to speak) was a good idea I reckon, never mind how fantastic it was. Major forbidden fruit, to sit down with a pristine birthday cake and a fork. It’s so far out on a limb I might not have made it back.

In fact I settled on a prepackaged cake that was around 3/4 size your typical supermarket birthday cake. It was a rich good-quality one though, from ‘Tesco’s finest’ range. I sliced it in two and had one half for breakfast and the other for dinner. Halfway through each meal, a quarter-cake down, I had a lovely sensation of having just had a large helping of delicious chocolate cake and if there was no tomorrow could easily manage the same again: and the same again still awaited me! The half a cake was a perfect portion, it was absolutely fantastic and I have no real desire to repeat the experience.

A bulging bag of pick n mix. Not a few bits and bobs, but a bulging bag full. Tesco do it on the cheap luckily. I put a loaf of bread and some washing powder in my basket for respectability, before hoking around in the pick and mix containers with my little pink trowel like a nine year old. I went heavy on the chocolate-y items. Washed down with Dr Pepper, it was everything I imagined and more.

A Willy Wonka-style tile of chocolate. All for me. I went for the own-brand supermarket version. It appeals to me more than Dairy Milk or whatever. Something about the sight of tile upon tile of cheap chocolate, it’s as delicious as the chocolate itself. Or maybe I just prefer the taste. The more expensive ‘silky’ stuff can be a bit cloying.

A tray of caramel squares. One of those packages from a local baking operation that you see on sale in petrol garages and supermarkets. Very satisfying.

 

Changing Tack

I’ve started counting my daily calories. I’m using an app called ‘Diet Diary’. It’s as vanilla as they come, which I love. The icon is a cartoon cucumber and notepad, with the words ‘Simple Diet Diary’ in a comic sans-esque font. It’s the pure-hearted underdog of diet-tracking apps. It has only the few computational conveniences you want, and no more. I keep track of calories and protein. The app shows me my totals so far for the day, and I can copy and paste past entries. For the last seven days my average daily calories has been 2172 and my average protein 141 grams. The idea of recording calories for evermore isn’t such a wonderful prospect. It sounds a bit of a strangled existence. The thought of it gives me butterflies. But not counting them is also a headache. It may well be a thirty-days-to-build-the-habit kind of situation, by which point it will have stopped feeling uncomfortable. I’ll have to see.

Book Review

Barbarian Days- William Finnegan

I’m currently reading this. It’s a surfing memoir written by a 63 year old guy- a lifelong surfer. When I bought it, for my kindle, I was vaguely hoping for ‘What it’s like to be cool: from the horse’s mouth’. The author isn’t the outlaw I expected though. He’s a deeply reflective chap- a journalist for the New Yorker magazine of thirty years standing. I hadn’t bothered to look him up or even read a review of the book before purchasing, so sold was I on the title and premise. So it’s been a pleasant surprise. There’s highlight-worthy lyricism and insight on his full-to-bursting, counter-culture skirting life every other page. It’s great.

 

The Prince- Niccolo Machiavelli

A famous 16th century how-to, in short chapters, concerning holding onto power/influence once you have it. The main thrust: Where certain group dynamics are involved, life is such that you have to think and act like a bit of a bastard if you want to live constructively- it’s not possible to avoid it. When faced with social grappling, I tend to just disengage and get by on a feeling of martyrdom instead. Above it. But I’ve had valuable things snatched from my grasp a number of times, following that strategy. Perhaps it’s time to go over to the dark side and become a calculating kicker of asses. ‘Old Nick’, for the Devil, supposedly comes from ‘Niccolo’. I once saw a guy bench-pressing with this book opened face down next to him- man on a mission, clearly. I was meaning to read it since.

 

Submission- Michel Houellebecq

Reading this guy’s previous novels has been a bit of a religious experience for me at times. He does modern-life disillusionment with hair-raising power- he really means it [‘Course I’m too dim to be disillusioned about anything you’re probably thinking. But, you know, he draws you into his thing]. So I was disappointed to realise this one wasn’t working for me at all. It’s set in a 2017 where France is in the process of being remodelled around Islamic values, after the ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ has come to power democratically. It’s a higher-flown setting than in all his other novels- academics and politicians at the Sorbonne- where the permanently drunk yet revered narrator, Houellebecq, is a lecturer. I suppose that aspect pissed me off- those are perspectives I don’t share much with and probably resent a bit. And he compounds it by taking long chunks of each chapter to talk about the work of some obscure French writer, Huysmans, that seems unrelated to the other goings-on in the novel. It’s like he’s playing a joke on the reader. He speaks eloquently through other characters’ voices, while the sozzled narrator listens on, about what will be the shape of the new Islam-centric society. Patriarchal family units as a force of social control and six wives for anyone with heft, like the narrator and his colleagues. You get the impression Houellebecq is pretty down with much of that, but it would be nice if the whole thing wasn’t such a frustrating guessing game.

An Odd Trio

In response to the daily post’s writing prompt An Odd Trio

Today, you can write about whatever you what — but your post must include, in whatever role you see fit, a cat, a bowl of soup, and a beach towel.



I’ve considered the possibility of getting a cat. I’ve come to realise that I wouldn’t like to live with a dog. All a dog really wants to do, in its heart of hearts, is put on a Tommy Hilfiger gilet and go rowing*. But I just want to slink around the house mostly, so it wouldn’t work. I’d spook the creature out. I’d feel like an abuser. A cat would be much better suited. Me and the cat, being wee resentful dicks together. Soup I’m not a fan of at all. It’s surprising even, how awful soup is in every regard. There are so many reasons to dislike it: It’s very often the consistency of diarrhea; I scald my mouth every time I have it; this old man I know dribbles it down his chin onto his big gut and doesn’t notice; I’ve sickened myself once or twice on the gloopy tinned tomato version; the metal spoon feels unfriendly in my mouth when there’s only liquid soup on it; the grim, depressed-person spectacle of pressing down on the surface of the soup and watching it flood the spoon; the bit of bread like sodden tissue paper on a spoonful; the fact that it’s associated with hospitals and old people’s homes. It’s just a nightmare foodstuff. How can it be so terrible? It’s profoundly terrible. Strange, that. As for beach towels, I own one which I bought in Malta in 2007, when I went on a holiday there with my friends. It’s black with a depiction of a big yellow bus and the words ‘Malta Bus’. They had really old-school rickety buses running around the dusty roads there, with the interiors dripping in rosary beads and other Catholic jumble. I’ve had a good run with that towel, very fond of it.

Re: Paris attacks- Fucking psychotic fascists. I’m done listening seriously to talk of ‘faith’, of any kind. There’s nothing to understand. Richard Dawkins’ twitter feed has been the best thing to be looking at in the past few days, for me.

 

*Edit, next day: Nah the dog going rowing doesn’t really work. It’s not funny, just baffling.

 

Scary Woman Dream

I was in France it seemed, making my way along a city block on foot. It was a faded, local part of the center, where crummy real lives were being lived up above my head. There was traffic passing and cars parked along the roadside, but no-one to be seen on foot at that moment. I had stopped to have a gawk at the only shop-front in the vicinity: A old green awning extending a little crookedly out over the pavement, beneath which, in front of the window, were a couple of foldaway tables bearing nothing at all. The place looked like it had been cleaned out of goods. Even so, their door was ajar, business welcome. Further down from this was a tiled entranceway into the block, one of several, presumably leading to a stairwell area. I was nervous about something so I ducked into the entranceway for a second.

Then suddenly it was bucketing rain and I had made the decision to go for a drive around the city-center. On a whim I turned down into an underground car park. I took a 360 degree spin round the mini-roundabout down there. This caused the attendant in his glowing booth to stand up and, looking concerned, gesture that I should continue on to the next level down. I took the circling ramp down as directed and came off at the bottom into a claustrophobic little area- a cave of sorts- smooth concrete and halogen lit where I sat, but too small to be useful for car parking, and tapering off into irregularity and shadow at the end furthest from me. I could have continued my circling trajectory and aimed the car immediately back up the up-ramp (though it was unusually steep), and out. But there was a woman standing towards the back, facing away from me, in the shadowy bit. I was intrigued so I stopped the car and shut off the engine, bringing a total silence to this subterranean space. You could have heard a pin drop. The woman was up to something- fixing herself in some way, facing the wall. She was tall and sturdy and blonde. She looked ungraceful: her hair, which came down her back, was frizzy, and she was wearing drooping stonewashed jeans with heels. I could tell she was large-chested, even from behind.

As an excuse for remaining there I had begun smoking a cigarette with the window down-the smoke hanging in the air around the exterior of the car. Once the cigarette was done I needed a new excuse. There was a sink on the wall near to me, in a very brightly lit spot, above which was a simple public-toilet style mirror screwed into the concrete. I stepped out of the car and went over to use that, to wash my hands. When I looked up from my hands the woman was there in the mirror behind me, very close-up, horror-movie style. It gave me a shock. But then she began studying her chest in the reflection, with just that area filling the whole mirror somehow. She was tugging at and rearranging her bra under her thin pullover. This was a little arousing- it was a pretty intimate situation. I rotated on the spot a bit, still hunched over, and with a knowing half-smile extended my hand out towards the fixtures, offering to make way for her. Then I straightened up and looked directly at her. She stared right back at me. There was something off about her- she was beastly in some way- her skin was caked in stuff and perhaps her eyebrows weren’t all there. She continued to look at me blankly, and I became very afraid of her. She turned herself then, tottering back to her original spot. Now I saw that her back was slit open in a few places and simply creasing apart like card, revealing that there was nothing within. She continued over to her spot by the back wall to begin doing again whatever it was she had been doing before. Shitting myself somewhat, I walked all casual towards my car, which was now parked on the very steep up-ramp. I got in and locked it, panicking, trying to get the key in the ignition. There was a thumping on the back window. I didn’t dare look round, but I looked to my right to see if she was still over by the back wall. She wasn’t. Just a moment later, while I was still panicking to get the car started, I felt a pair of arms reaching low from behind the driver’s seat and encircling my waist, which was when I woke up with a fright!

Unprovoked Aggression

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Wicked Witch.”

Write about evil: how you understand it (or don’t), what you think it means, or a way it’s manifested, either in the world at large or in your life.

Ridicule and bullying are bad ones. Being on the end of it makes me murderously angry, genuinely. Not long after I moved into the place I’m in, the gay couple who live on the same floor as me decided to start making funny noises from behind their door every time I arrived back and was trying to get into my flat. The first time it was ‘no stop…stop hurting me’ as if someone was being abused. All very funny. It was just the once though, so I wasn’t bothered. But then again another night- mewling like cats this time. I had met and spoken to the two of them once before and the big tall one had made it apparent that he wasn’t impressed with me. So the second night of noises I was a little shaken. I shut my door and just stood in my living room with my head spinning. They knew I was here alone and that that kind of thing was going to make me uneasy. They knew all the ramifications of what they were doing. The anger that rose up in me at that, the injustice of it, making my life difficult for no fucking reason, drove me immediately out into the corridor to confront them. I could hear that they were leaving to go somewhere. To be fair, they are a pair of rather feminine, fitness model-type gay guys, so it could have been worse. The tall one tried to play the hard man with me out in the corridor, coming and squaring up to me- he had obviously expected me to be intimidated, the bastard. But he was rubbish at it. And it’s not difficult to intimidate me. So the situation was resolved easily. I just told them with conviction to fuck off, and they did.

I do want to say that I can’t be angry about this kind of thing because I’m as much of a dick as anyone. To be humble and balanced about it. But I’ve wracked my brain and no, I definitely wouldn’t victimise someone in a premeditated way, for sport. As a grown adult, I wouldn’t dream of it. The people who do that are another species. Or just daft. It is a fact of life though, it has always gone on and always will. So seething with rage at those people as I’ve sometimes done is shooting myself in the foot. Even if I took them on and won they’ll respawn in another form, to the end of time. It’s necessary to stand your ground on occasion obviously, but with smaller scale outrages, when they happen, the true enemy is the behaviour, and nevermind the person. And I think the only way to direct the rage against the behaviour is to keep as much distance between it and my soul as possible- don’t let it anywhere near me to infect me- by being the living embodiment of courteousness. That’s what I’m thinking now, anyway. Easier said than done though, clearly.