Look how wicked and sinful we are being today: these tortilla wraps said ‘Once opened, eat within 1 day’ but I’ve had them a week now. And I’m eating sausages (terribly high in fat) made from pork (forbidden in the OT) and topped with cheese (also prohibited by religious taboo). So I shall probably die a hideous painful death. Or perhaps the biblical strictures and food safety warnings are complete rubbish, and I shall remain healthy and active for the next 30 years.
According to Simon van Booy, writing is essential for mental well-being. People keep diaries, or post snippets on Facebook, or hide abstract sonnets inside obscure library books that nobody will ever read again. We are all driven to compose a narrative of our lives, trying to integrate our own experience with the prevailing customs and laws of nature.
Writing brings wisdom; if we translate the day-to-day jumble of encounters and omissions to a matrix of neatly balanced phrases, it puts us in control of reality.
This morning I went swimming, then called in to my local supermarket to buy bacon and eggs. On the way I bumped into my old mate John. ‘How’s it going?’ I asked, ‘Were you working last night?’
No, said he, explaining that he had been away on holiday for a week.
We had a cheerful, rambling five-minute conversation during which it gradually emerged that the holiday cottage he had rented was actually owned by a friend of mine – who he had never met – and we both laughed in amazement at this turn of events.
False fingernails are very popular at the moment, and my boss at work wears a set of huge acrylic talons in a glass-like material flecked with glitter. When pointing out a mistake in my work she will prod the computer screen causing the liquid crystals to writhe in torment, blushing like a skewered octopus.
In fact, life is just a poem waiting to be set to music. ‘The Celebrant’ by Evelyn Dunbar – even her name conjures up the 1930s.
Journal Entry, 2017:
It’s May the eighth today; began without occasion,
No warning of the coming storm, a copperplate equation
It’s May the First on Magdalen Bridge; while
We were sleeping a flock of unseen birds
Assembled, cold and grey above the town
And waited for the light to strike
The music wrapped round ancient golden words.
Holes and spaces are necessary for ideas to function; many years ago I worked in a factory where the toilets had been fitted with expensive fire doors. Since the canteen was along the same corridor, health and safety dictated that there should be two doors between any toilets and the workspace. These fire doors were designed to fit snugly into their frames, in order to prevent draughts; for this reason, no air could actually circulate within the toilets and the extractor units were unable to remove the rancid vapours of humanity.
For several years I lived without a TV set (apparently it’s a kind of haunted fishtank, a box that sits in the corner of the room, full of little people going about their daily lives so that we can watch them and spend hours during work the next day telling our friends how dreadful it was) so I never watched things like Pop Idol or Big Brother. However, I did get hold of a TV in time for Gogglebox, which is a kind of Readers’ Digest for the modern generation.
In this programme, we watch assorted people in family groups, watching TV at home and commenting on the programmes. So far, I haven’t seen an episode of this show where the viewing families actually end up watching themselves providing the commentary on other shows; but if they do, I think Clive James might have got there first. Here he is, in ‘Postcard from Los Angeles’ (The Observer, 1979):
“I didn’t really want to get off. The in-flight movie had been California Suite, in which there is a scene in which Maggie Smith, playing an English actress flying to LA for the Academy Award ceremonies in which she will find out whether she has won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, watches an in-flight movie about herself flying in an aircraft through a raging storm.”
Although I spent many long years without a TV set, I did have the scripts of Fawlty Towers as well as Clive James’s reviews in paperback – which in some ways was better than the real thing.
It seems that we are obsessed by work; when meeting a new acquaintance, we say ‘And what do you do?’ And, depending on their reply (“oh, I’m just a journalist/astronaut/teacher/lorry driver/brain surgeon/freelance resource coordinator”) we immediately decide whether or not to waste any more time speaking to them.
When people do start a new job, they often discover that the advertised post is not exactly what was advertised (and the employer learns that the new recruit is not nearly as accomplished as he made himself out to be during the interview). Oh dear.
I have found myself in a few jobs that, at first sight, appeared ideal; decent money and interesting work. But then one discovers that there are office politics at play, which means that strategic information is withheld from new employees (possibly by disgruntled workers who had been told that they were going to be promoted into the post) leaving them unable to fulfil their duties properly.
And to compensate for the misery of an unfriendly workplace, I would spend happy evenings down at Partners, getting drunk on lager and listening to current pop songs. Whenever I hear ‘Even Better Than The Real Thing’ by U2, it carries me instantly back to the early nineties.