Thursday, 26 August 2010

Market Research

A woman from the suburbs of Delhi rings with a number of consumer based questions. They are mostly about home insulation and utilities providers. I've already got insulation. 'Thats a no then' she says. She asks about my income bracket and how many times a year I go on a foreign holiday. More than four times a year? Less than four times a year? 'Once every four years' I reply.
'Thats a no then.' I can tell she doesn't believe me. 'And who do you book your holidays with?' 'No one' I say 'we just turn up'. Just turn up? Who is your holiday provider?' 'Me' I say. 'We just go to a campsite and pitch the tent.' 'A no then.' 'Yes' I say and she gives a stifled giggle conscious of the fact that if I possibly complain about her rude guffaws she will lose her job and not be able to pay for her children's school fees, nutrition, medical treatment or the roof over their heads. How can that be a holiday, she is thinking.... I think of the Pakistan flood. Suddenly a weekend's camping in a rainy field in Kent seems sad, sick and completely insane.....

Monday, 23 August 2010

What Can Possibly Go Wrong ?

Apart from the climate and world economy.... In a very parochial way -
quite a lot. And it all seems to happen in the last week of the holidays
when panic rises regarding imminent lack of free time or being able to
ever think one's own tiny thoughts again until half term.

First the internet is down. We need a new rooter (little red rooter).
Distraught at lack of access to social networking the kids make
a zombie movie. I have a cameo role as a member of the undead
breaking into the house, because actually in real life the door
handle is broken. "Help it's a very coordinated zombie" I shuffle
towards them, ketchup covered, clutching a screwdriver. Multi tasking,
I manage to complete a DIY job WHILST entertaining four twelve year olds.

Then some more pre termtime tension due to urgent need to contact
the Inland Revenue about a form left unsent... The phone is dead.
Turns out a zombie melted the cable in the panini press darling.

We return to our cardboard box after visiting the mansion of our
country cousins... The lamb was delicious we all agree, gagging on
another tuna pasta. Why do we think we can afford to go on a three grand
skiing holiday with them when bits of rusty metal-mimicking plastic are
beginning to break off the car and it stinks like an oil refinery?
Why don't they just come camping with us and save £ 2900? The question
hangs in the lavender and beeswax scented air and remains mysteriously

I try and sign in to blogger after many months away. It does a
Martin Guerre on me and I have to re establish my entire personality,
thereby wasting precious time I could be using to mend the cracked
bathroom basin. In denial people still use the basin, the ensuing drool
collecting underneath in a small plastic camping cereal bowl......

The borrowed guinea pig is beginning to sneeze in the August Monsoon.
Could be the first line of a poem I don't have time to write.
But it isn't.
I still have to gloss paint the outside window frames.....

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Infrequent book reviews

On my way to Ch***** School yesterday, having volunteered to run the cloak room for Quiz Night, I see a dead cat on the pavement. One of of it's eyeballs is hanging out. I absolutely know it was hit by a car not bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat by a Ch***** student. 'American Psycho' springs to mind. A nasty book written by a nasty man (Brett Easton Ellis) but with a sense of humour. The two are not incompatible. I would only ever read this book to examine the craft of writing. And then only once as it is so poisonous.

Another book about nutcases is 'Human Traces'(Sebastian Faulks). My definition of a good book is that you wish you'd written it. The man has a mind like a Victorian library, full of musty reminiscing. Hallucinating history. Yes there is imagination - but it is rooted in the vernacular. Yes, flashes of visionary brilliance but they are deeply conservative. It's an endlessly corduroy astounding feat of fogeyish intrigue. Very educational factually but there's a lot of it. Rather puffed up and schoolmasterish. And no, I don't wish I'd written it.
I probably wouldn't invite these two to a dinner party.....

Minimal but startling is good. Ann Enright is great for this. Energetic, surprising - often poetic. Minxish and life affirming. I would happily to do an egg on toast for her and for Ernest Hemingway....should he be wandering this way. Looking for a cat or some other dumb animal to shoot.

So, keep reading folks. Books don't crash like computers.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Not Wearing Rose Coloured Spectacles

Erm what's happened to the last few years.
They seem to have shrivelled up. My friends, some of them,
have retained a bone structure upon which to hang their
marshmallowed sagging jowells and look rather distinguished.
Me, I look like a potato. Pale and mottled with whiskery bits. If I dressed
in sacking I'd be chips before I knew it
It's not helpful if you want to be taken seriously. I have chicken's
hands. Yet I can still run about on Peckham Rye like an escaped Ostrich.
Across field and dale with no regard for wet or cold. The Marathon glory is years behind. Yet remains a possibility. Well - this is on a bad day. On that same bad day I entered my home and the term Crack Den sprang to mind. Was it the shredded carcase of a lampshade, revealing it's dreary low wattaged eco innards. Was it the Empty Quarter of the living room devoted entirely to bikes, skateboards, spanners and old socks (that had been used to clean the former). Possibly it was the kitchen floor. Plastic wood. There but for the grace of god - and held together by patches of gaffer tape. Or was it the stair carpet - with the colour, texture and smell of a long dead Labrador. It could have been the cobwebby bookshelf with orange Penguin Classics and a foxed, leather bound Shakespeare that in any one else's house would have vintage chic but in mine are just old. Perhaps it was the rest of the family, wan in the gloom, dressed in a selection of still muddy football kits - or the repellent combination of dressing gown-over-clothes. "Put on a jumper for goodness sake". This is a look that stems from the wearer's slug days in a damp Glasgow hovel. Pot of tea with a stained cosy and a pipe of something. Lentils in the cupboard. Down to the garage at 4.00 am for a packet of skittles. Actually it is much colder in Scotland and everyone wears dressing gowns and woollen tights and dresses (even the men), nearly all the time. When R visited last week from the Highlands she could barely walk through being weighed down by tweed. I had to push her round in a shopping trolley. Up to the West End. Down the Burlington Arcade to the Royal Academy in her Tam'O'shanter. Searching in the Wallace Collection for Damien and his sixth form skull that grinned smugly across the gallery at the Laughing Cavalier.

It pleases me. The revelation that TS Eliot "wrote nothing whatsoever for three years"... and saw "no immediate likelihood" of doing it. "The writing of poetry takes time and I never have any time." It makes me feel OK about the hours spent sorting pants. Or pondering the Zen of a 'buy one get one free' pack of granary baps that would do for packed lunch, in Somerfield - when only one is left. I feel lucky. He had to struggle in a suit. He would have welcomed a murky room full of bikes and the accompanying enthusiasm for them. I see mess. He would have seen the manifestation of creativity and I'm sure would have been liberated by Lycra. Oops - watch out for that tool box Tom. He would have felt the poetry in a half eaten tin of anchovies lending their aroma to some quark in the fridge. The chaos of rushing hither and thither - he would stay for coffee and stir it thoughtfully. He would use the imagery of vanilla pods sinking in a panacotta - rather than cry about it. Not that I've ever made one or cried about it. I leave that for the next phase of existence. Along with cycle touring in Spain and skate boarding up mountains. And writing poetry, innit.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Uncivilised Camping (get your copy here)

We'd been in the wilderness living like iron age tramps.
Except they probably had a table.

We had an uneasy combo of nylon, candles, paraffin and pyromaniac kids.
We were the only family who ate left over noodles for breakfast.

We were the noisiest. The person who painted her nails to come camping also had Blair Witch hysteria in the woods when searching for sticks, then bug in-sleeping-bag-wobblers at 4.00 am. None of them went near a badminton racquet or played a nice organised game of cricket. Instead they found an old door full of rusty nails to play 'a game that I invented but it's already been invented'. You rest the middle on a log, stand on one end and get some bigger heavier people to jump on the other end. Then you get catapulted up to heaven.

We made lots of fires and burnt all sorts of stuff. We didn't sit behind our wind break in green canvas chairs because we haven't got any. We cooked at ground level. We made muddy coffee in a pan. We drank red wine from tin mugs then we played raucous guitar in the dark. Then there was this rope swing....

We didn't bring our Xbox and portable TV but we laughed rudely within earshot at those who did.

We hung our pants out to dry on the fence.

We very soon had the entire campsite to ourselves....