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 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, presumably leading to a stairwell area. I was nervous about something so I ducked into the entranceway for a second.
Suddenly it was raining heavily 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 like a car park, 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 just continued my circling trajectory and aimed the car immediately back up the up-ramp, though it was unusually steep. However my attention had been caught by something -there was a woman down there in the shadowy bit, stood facing away from me. I was intrigued so I stopped the car and shut off the engine, bringing a total stillness 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 long hair 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 hung thickly 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, above which was a simple public-toilet style mirror screwed into the concrete. I stepped out of the car and went over to wash my hands. When I looked up the woman was there in the mirror behind me, very close-up, horror-movie style. It gave me a shock. 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 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 was making a show of this to me. 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 craned round a little 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!
Today I woke up to- what a quick wikipedia has revealed is- ‘racing brain syndrome’. It’s something that can be brought on by ADHD or anxiety disorder, but in my case is due to sleep deprivation, I think. My experience of it is snippets of dialogue and things being said that have no context, are nonsense, and follow one after the other very rapidly. At night sometimes when I’m lolling towards sleep and having the racing brain thing, I’ve been jolted back awake by a sudden, loud, clearly spoken voice, directed at me, as if someone jerked the volume up to full for a second. Just a word or two. I’ve no memory of which words specifically. That’s been fairly terrifying when it’s happened. But also interesting. Not boring in any case. A little thrill. Maybe I’m going to go full-blown batshit crazy and ‘come to believe things that aren’t true’, to quote the pretty chilling description of schizophrenia on wikipedia. Nah, I don’t think so though, thank God. I’m just a common, or garden, variety dickhead who has a bit of insomnia.
After I woke up I got a bowl of fruit and fibre and returned to bed to read my magazine for a while- ‘Wired’ magazine, which I haven’t bought in years. I read about how the google driverless car has been tested on a couple of million kilometers of public road and has been involved in only 14 accidents, all of which were the fault of the human driver at the wheel of the other car. The guy concluded that driverless trucks won’t just be common in a few years, but will be a requirement by law. Awesome. I got up finally at 12.05 and checked to see what time the gym class I wanted to go to was on. It was to start at 12.30. I quickly ate a banana, had a Gentleman’s shower- bar of soap to the armpits- and got into my gym kit. I drove three or four minutes to the gym (because an uphill jog on the way back would be unpleasant after a class) and headed in the direction of ‘studio 4’ where the class was being held. I’m constantly worried, trying out these classes, that it’s going to be just me and a roomful of yummy mummies or something, once I turn up. But thankfully I spied a healthy mix of men and woman through the glass door of the studio before I entered. The class had already begun the warm up so I took a few paces into the room and joined in, as you do. It turned out to be a tough session and I think the guy pushed us too much towards the end. I was pulling huffy faces at the stuff he was making us do in the last ten minutes, even after we’d completed the class proper. I’m not a believer in going so hard that you can do nothing but collapse onto your back in a pool of sweat after. That’s how people drop dead at the end of marathons, taxing their central nervous system too hard, or something. I regretted the huffy faces afterwards though, I must have looked like a right asshole.
Please let me stop buying cigarettes.
I saw this ad on the back of a broadsheet newspaper several years ago, a Sunday paper I think. It was huge- the entire back page in fact. I couldn’t do much but stare at it for a few minutes, mouth agape. It’s Keith Richards from The Rolling Stones, in an ad for Louis Vuitton. ‘Some journeys cannot be put into words’ the tagline reads. You’d laugh to hear that said out loud, but in the context of the ad it’s convincing on some level. They’re flashing such intimidating credentials you’re in no position to argue. The ad is transparently an effort to lord it up over the viewer, and not much besides. Pretty joyless affair. Ok ok, Louis Vuitton, you win, I surrender. Pricks.
There’s a clothes shop I quite like called Pull and Bear- it’s like H and M, but originating in Spain, and the clothes are slightly better and £10 more expensive. Their masthead reads ‘Pull and Bear 1991’. I was a bit surprised at that. They’re going all ‘Gap 1969’ on our asses, romanticising the year. That’s jarring for me because for ages I was fully convinced the early 90s were nothing more than a joke. The entire time I was growing up that was the received wisdom, and I didn’t question it. MC Hammer, Vanilla Ice, ho ho ho. But now I turn around and it’s ‘Pull and Bear: Birthed in the cultural firestorm of 1991’, kind of thing. Probably there’ll be an ad with a languid whispery voiceover (or maybe a more assertive tone is the thing now, I’m not sure): ‘Pull and Bear: Nighting nighty one’. They’re completing an about-turn that started a few years ago. It appears I’ve been a pawn in some vacuous cycle. All just a bit of fun you could argue, but I’m pissed to realise that I’ve been holding fast to an idea, about the early 90s, that I had no input on. It was handed down to me by the fickle overlords of taste and I complied. I still hold it, this post was originally going to be me joking about ‘Pull and Bear 1991’ being silly, but I realised the joke’s on me. Someone more enlightened than me is going to come along and explain that 90% of my opinions are like that, that this is just a glaring example of it. You live and learn anyway. Blogging saves the day again.
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Your Number One.”
What was the #1 song when you were born? Write about how the song relates (or not!) to your personality.
It’s ‘I just called to say I love you’ by Stevie Wonder, or Steven Wonder, as he must have been originally. I don’t like that song at all. It’s miserable. I get frustrated even trying to sing that title line, with the dreary pace of it. You could get up and get a glass of juice in the dead air between ‘I just called’ and ‘To say’, then go ahead and make a sandwich and reply to a few emails before ‘I Love you’ finally arrives. You need the patience of a saint. I didn’t always hate it though. It was in the air when I was very young. In fact I was completely fascinated by it, this person calling to say ‘I love you’. It pulled back the curtain on a netherworld of adult autonomy and telephone use and making weird meaningful declarations to other people. And it wasn’t just some shit sentimental song, as I recognise it to be now, no- it was definitive; that’s what life was like out there mood-wise, I understood. Until the next song came along presumably.
I was in Birmingham, England yesterday, for no important reason. This is the polished bit of their city center, where the nice shops and the good shopping center are. Isn’t it nice. It was a 20 degree day as well, with a warm breeze. I sat at that cafe and drank two beers. Two icy cold Stella’s, in those classy rounded pint glasses with a stem. It was lush. My walk to the museum afterwards took me past all the heavyweight Victorian-era monolithic stone buildings, with their carvings and engravings. Belfast city center has ’em too, like Birmingham it was also a player in the industrial revolution. But Birmingham is more impressive in that regard I’d say. The museum was a washout for me. I was pretty tired, didn’t really didn’t have the energy. But it was a good one, I’d go again. A series of rooms took you past a real bounty of stuff on the walls, mostly religious, as is the way of it it seems, moving backwards through the centuries- the last room being chock-full of 14th century Church ‘triptychs’ and ‘diptychs’ produced by individuals who were probably certifiably insane by modern standards. I exited the museum and immediately slumped down on the steps outside, basking in the full glare of the sun for a few minutes. In my knackered state I had the less than inspired idea to tilt my phone when taking this picture of the town hall to my left:
It looks like a snap in a cheesy language-learning school textbook: ‘Marta and Elena took a bus to the city center. Marta loved the town hall, but Elena wasn’t so keen!’