There was a pile of recordable VHS tapes in my house growing up. They were stored in the cabinet below the TV at one stage, then later on they were relegated to the end cupboard in the little study room. My dad had an extra one stashed away at the top of his wardrobe I discovered. It was labelled ‘The hand that rocks the cradle’ and, as it happened, genuinely was ‘The hand that rocks the cradle’. I think there was a pattern to the stuff my dad recorded off the TV, because the only other full movies in the general pile were the ocean-set Dead Calm, Basic Instinct, and Someone to Watch Over Me, all of which are also about cheating, with maybe a ‘wicked woman’ to blame, and that being an exciting thing. In other news, I quite like this song:
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 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 actually surprising how awful it 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; when you get a 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! It’s profoundly terrible. As far as beach towels go, 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 these rickety old ex-American school buses running around the dusty roads there, with the interiors covered in rosary beads and other Catholic jumble. I’ve had a good long 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.
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.
When was the last time you really wanted (or needed) to say something, but kept quiet? Write a post about what you should’ve said.
Near Dublin city center a couple of years ago I passed someone in the street who was obviously in a terrible place mentally. He was a big overweight boulder of a man of about forty, with a buzz cut, in need of a wash, wearing knackered sportswear. He was stood on the pavement, at 10 in the morning, ranting and howling unintelligibly at the ground ahead of him with a ferocious energy that was startling. He was red in the face from the effort- it was a scary spectacle. I had just come out of a newsagents nearby and had stopped to put stuff in my bag when he took up his post on the pavement near me.
Maybe this guy is just a Dublin fixture, old Barmy Gerry or something, and any Dubliner reading this would laugh at how solemn I’m being about it all. In the heat of the moment I did in fact react something like that. I turned to a man standing at the entrance to the newsagent and gave him a nervous little smirk, like ‘What’s with this guy?’ The man at the newsagents just glared at me, which was what that reaction deserved. To answer the prompt, I should have not been a twerp and immediately said or done something helpful instead.
Anything macabre was good with me, I’m remembering. Yes, macabre. I like that word and I’m sticking with it. Macabre covers ‘scary’ but also the likes of Roald Dahl’s collection of otherworldly tales, such as the one about the poker player who goes to India to train with a reclusive yogi to see through cards and ultimately also levitate, which I loved. He fears his wayward use of the clairvoyant power will result in his death, which indeed it may have, you discover at the end. ‘The Book of the Unexplained’ was another- it was a big encyclopedia-sized hardcover thing, hundreds of pages thick, crammed with text and black and white photos. How it got to be in the house was a mystery to me. It was just there, downstairs in the little study room. There was no telling where it had come from as far as I was concerned. That made for a great experience reading it. One image in particular really spooked me- a small, grainy photo of a living room. You had to hold your face close to the book to make out the detail- but there on the carpet, in front of an electric fire, lay a pair of stocking-ed human lower legs- all that remained of an isolated pensioner who had spontaneously combusted.
When was the last time you were embarrassed? How do you react to embarrassment?
I’m embarrassed by myself a lot. It’s something I’d like to get under control. It’s often when I’m trying to avoid potential embarrassment that I really embarrass myself. For instance refusing to turn and face my friend head-on in the open plan showers after squash, week after week, unmentioned by both of us, for a whole year in 2010. I’d either get undressed quickly and duck round a merciful corner in the shower room before anyone else could get to that one, or shower with my arse to the room then hurry back to my towel. I’m fine, Joe Average, in that department- if what I read on the internet and what I’ve been told is correct. But Goddamn if I’m not a grower at times. I suppose that was pathetic though. I failed that test of my mettle that men, but not women for some reason, have to deal with in terms of how changing rooms are laid out. Failed it big time. Not an adult, for all to see. That friend is back visiting just now and he’s not so ready with the text messages any more, despite us being the closest of friends back in the day. The memory of that changing-room debacle has stopped me in my tracks several times today, where all I can do is just gasp ‘Oh God’.
Yesterday I felt like writing some poetry. I want that experience I’ve sometimes felt when writing, probably on fewer than ten occasions in total, when a satisfying line pops into existence out of nowhere- it seems to be not of your own volition yet there’s no question that it’s exactly what you were after. It hits the spot. Anytime that’s happened it’s been at least an hour or so into writing. It doesn’t happen walking down the street. My thought was that poetry might be a shortcut to that. Or that that’s maybe the essence of poetry? Which is why I was in the mood to try it yesterday.
Sitting there, my first thought was that I’d write a Haiku because I thought there’d be good bang for my buck that way. But I looked Haiku up on wikipedia and became discouraged. You need a cutting word at the end of one line, separating two distinct moods, and it usually incorporates some ideas about the seasons. I didn’t want to have to do that kind of work. My hope was that I would hit on something I felt deeply about and then the poem would arrange itself naturally into a meaningful or attractive form.
So I started to mull over what I could write about. Immediately my walk the other day came to mind. I was walking up the residential backstreets off the main road on the return leg of my journey and I stopped to change what I had playing on my earphones. As I was stood there on the pavement a diminutive old guy, who looked a bit down on his luck, passed me and said ‘There’s a good man, I know a good man when I see one’.
I’m not sure why I’m inclined to get poetic about this rather than say my dinner of boiled potatoes with tinned meatballs. Probably because it was a novel experience and because there’s an unusual interaction between two strangers in it which gives it some charge. A poet shouldn’t need to rely on drama or novelty though, that’s what drama and …novels are for. But regardless, I dashed out my first poem in yonks in 30 seconds. It’s awful of course, being a completely thoughtless effort. What I did learn was that I like the notion of using plain language in a non-banal way and I also enjoy rhythm, so finding a form where rhythm is key would be good. In retrospect, disappointingly, I saw that I had just surrounded the main incident with second-hand ‘writing a poem now!’ ideas. So trying to think outside the box when I start to get moony-eyed is going to be necessary. Finally I got a little mopey right at the end, with a change of direction in the last two lines, in the mistaken belief that doing that would make the poem ‘big’, rather than wank. That’s another hazard to avoid.