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Monthly Archives: July 2009

blinded by the light

Dreamt I’d been shot in the head and was undergoing invasive brain surgery. After a couple of minutes wondering why the pain didn’t go away when I woke, I realised I was having a migraine so I got up and ran downstairs to grab my magic pills from my rucsack. On the way back to bed I fell over Starlight, who wasn’t happy, and cried loudly to be let out.

I left the door ajar so she could get back in; really couldn’t be arsed getting up again a half hour later.

Thus debilitated I slept most of the morning, feeling like the pink and yellow tablets and the migraine were MMA’ing it inside my skull (sort of like a really bad hangover, mixed with the feeling of having broken glass ground into your brain) but decided to stop being a wimp and finish editing my next collection of stories.

No-one spotted that my front door was ajar from about three in the morning, so my laptop was still on the table in the front room when I dragged my moochy arse out of bed. And sitting here now, the feeling of completing the stories, and sending them off to Rapunzel to post on my website, is pretty good.

 

JR 2009

the ink dries in the well

‘When I’m with you,’ she told me, ‘everything outside disappears,’ she rolled over to face me, stroked my cheek with her fingertips. ‘All my cares and worries melt away.’ She kissed me on the mouth, ‘you make it right.’
‘I’m not here to rescue you,’ I said.
‘I know, silly; I know why you’re here, now. But we get on, don’t we?’
‘Yeah,’ I said. ‘We get on. Really well.’

We did get on, I thought. Maybe we got on too well. How do you play this, I thought, without becoming a player?

The bedroom door creaked open and I pushed myself up on one elbow to see Starlight, velvety grey in the half light, padding across the floor. She sprang up onto the bed and I sat up and stroked her and let her purr for a few minutes, before I picked her up and dropped her back on the floor with a soft thump.
She gave a small plaintive cry and walked back out of the room.
‘She’s jealous.’
I got out of bed.
‘Where are you going?’
I went to the window; ‘It’s raining.’
‘Let me see,’ she said.
I drew open the curtains and then climbed back in beside her and she backed into my arms and we lay together watching the rain.

The twilight and the sound of the rain on the glass and the glow of the streetlights seemed to focus on us. On this moment.

She shuddered.
‘Alright?’ I asked.
‘Just thinking.’
‘You think too much,’ I told her.
‘Mmm,’ she said. I stroked her thigh and felt the goosebumps rise when I kissed the back of her neck.
‘Will you write about me?’ she whispered.
‘Probably,’ I murmured, my lips brushing the fine hairs at the nape of her neck.
‘But you won’t mention…?’
‘No,’ I said. ‘I won’t mention that.’

35 Rhums

Went to the cinema on Friday with Michael to watch 35 Rums, or as the subtitles had it, 35 Shots. Almost every scene was pregnant with meaning, but every time a narrative began to emerge (and I counted about fifteen possible stories gestating in the background) it was smothered at birth.

Just what was the significance of the second rice boiler? Or the dead cat? Or the mad german woman? And why did the cafe close, then open again?

Fuck do I know. Watching it was like listening to Free Jazz. You know it’s supposed to be good for you, on some intellectual level, but you can’t quite identify when or where the benefits are occuring.

Nevertheless, I found myself wanting to know more about the characters.

theatre

‘This is James,’ Tim said, and I looked up, ‘and this is Iris,’ he added.

She glanced down at me, a kohl-reptilian flicker that lasted long enough to surmise that I was unimportant and that we would probably never meet again, and then she turned away from me to chat to Tim.

After a couple of minutes they said their goodbyes and she drifted off across the road. ‘She has the club upstairs,’ he told me, rolling a cigarette. I watched her go – ageless, elegant, merciless, still gorgeous; a fag-hag of the first order.

We were sitting in the street outside some cafe drinking coffee, chatting about my career as a writer. I’d written one non-fiction book that had done ok, but had turned down the chance to do a promotional interview on national TV and after that the publishers lost interest in me a bit; but he wanted me to write more. I couldn’t do what he wanted, and didn’t know how to tell him. We tried to work it out.

Tim went to the toilet, returning some minutes later mildly more excited than he had been. ‘Right,’ he said, ‘Let’s sketch out your career plan.’

A few months later I emailed him to terminate our agent-client relationship. Sad really, as he was a good guy, and excellent at selling stuff, but I couldn’t go any further down that path.

Sitting listening to the radio now and there’s a documentary on Soho where, last year, I sat at a table outside a cafe with Tim sketching out the future that didn’t come to pass. It’s a really cool place, Soho, very welcoming I guess, if you give it your heart.

But it’s not the world.
It says nothing to me about my life.

and jumped in the river holding hands

Rapunzel has posted a couple of new stories for me. They’re just essays, calisthenics, I guess, to get me warmed up for my summer of writing. I’m going to try and finish the gods. I want to know what happens with Astel, a character who hasn’t even appeared yet, though she’s featured in the short story Aphrodite. When I think of Astel, how she looks, how she dances, the shape of her hips against her skirts, her caramel skin, I just smile and go, yeah, she’ll do.

People who don’t get my stories say they lack plot, or they don’t really get the point, or the conclusion is missing or something. What they want is an answer. They want a punchline. A moral. They want fucking adverbs. But I like feelings; I like moments; I enjoy those clouded insights; the economy of fragments.

I love how we try to connect and usually we get it wrong and then sometimes we get it right. So that’s what I write about.

All my stories can be summed up in one word – wha?

the rain falls down on a humdrum town

Back in secondary school Ernie once clambered up onto the flat school roof, forty feet above the ground, carrying a large cardboard box onto which he’d painted wheels at each corner and rockets that spouted red flames.

He parked his cardboard vehicle near the edge of the roof, giving him a clear view of his field of play, and next to a pallet of bricks left behind after some building renovation work on the old bell tower. Then he started to rain bricks down onto the yard below where the quickly gathering audience of teenagers and teachers scattered to the safety of the bike sheds.

‘I can’t achieve lift-off,’ he shouted. ‘I must get rid of the ballast!’

The bricks fell intermittently for an hour or two, until there were no more, at whch point two burly firemen climbed up and persuaded him that this particular cardboard rocket was never going to achieve orbit.

To the cheers and applause of the student body he came down quietly, and was taken away. Everyone else was quickly ushered back into lessons, no-one having bothered to go to class before then.

There was a certain randomness in his madness; it was a benign sort of lunacy. Like the time, some years later, when he ate 42 chillis after a night out, and then was as sick as a dog for three days. It was a small, personal, craziness.

But despite this he was excessively neat and fastidious, wearing smart suits when he started work and carrying a soft leather briefcase, and he had the most fabulous memory for facts and trivia, especially about pop culture and the nuances of 1970’s electro-Kraut rock. I asked him about it once, how he was so neat and organised; ‘I have to be,’ he said, ‘I have to have structure and order and routine because, if I don’t, everything quickly descends into chaos and anarchy.’

‘And then I break down,’ he said with a smile and patted me on the shoulder as though to say it wasn’t a thing anyone should concern themselves about.

But it was.

It’s eight years since he last broke down, since the chaos took control, took permanent control, and I still miss him. I miss his wacky conversations and his deep knowledge of music and art and 1960’s TV programmes. I miss being able to call him up and ask a random question, knowing I’d get an answer and an hour’s conversation out of him.

I wish you’d called me, Ernie. I wish you’d called me and said you needed help.

You were beautiful, and I miss you.

waiter


Spending a lot of time drinking Earl Grey in cafes, as I do, I have this question: what the fuck is a barista maestro?

nadia

Probably my favourite album of all time is one that I borrowed from Johnno, by a guy I’d never heard of called Mike Nock. It’s called Ondas. It’s purely instrumental; piano, bass and drums, and it’s uplifting, melancholy, strange and rather beautiful.

Turns out that Mike Nock is a top jazz musician, from Australia, and he’s got a website: http://www.mikenock.com/

I don’t always get jazz, but some albums really stand our for me, Ondas, like I said, and The Shape of Jazz To Come by Ornette Coleman (why do jazz musicians have such cool names?) and I love Steve Lacy’s take on Thelonious Monk compositions.

Of the more contemporary jazz music, I’m still obsessed with Nico by Acoustic Ladyland, which is about three years old now, from the excellent Last Chance Disco album. And I’m a bit keen on Nitin Sawhney’s work too.

movies and things

Just discovered that a guy called Arthur Zwidzinski has made a film of Zippo. This is the second filmed version that I’ve seen, and I enjoyed the twist he’s put at the end, which supplies an answer not in the original story, and isn’t that far from what I envisaged.

See it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O8kdnyNuFE8

It’s a totally different take on the story from the version made by Norwegian Faisal Osman, which was shown recently at some European film festival and is mooted to appear at some others. See the still from Faisal’s version (right).
There must be something about that story that people like, because it’s gone viral. I sometimes google my story titles and I’ve found it dotted around on sites all over the world.

Weird.

There’s an American film maker called Linzi Knight (or is she Canadian?) who was thinking of filming one of my stories, and I’m hoping she still will. I’ve seen some of her stuff, and it’s excellent. Her background is in TV commercials, but then so was Ridley Scott’s, before he made Alien, the Duellists and Blade Runner.

I don’t mind someone filming or reprinting my stories, so long as I get 1% of gross, or a blueberry muffin, whichever is of greater value.

It’s all good, I reckon.

 

from 2009