Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I arrive back home

I get followed by straw through the house, like a slug does by slime. Camping, ugh, and drinking, ugh.

I am weary.

I bet you aren’t able eat ten slices of cake in a row, The Otter had wagered, flashing a shiny fifty pee pence.

I am able.

I push away cuddles. At any moment, I warn, I might poo myself or do sick, and I’m not sure I will be able to warn you which until I see it.

I am candid.

I bat away questions about my tent. Still there. Still in the field. Still leaking.

I am done with that.

I find myself being looked at intently by Mr Crow, who flaps ungraciously onto the lawn, as he will. I reach for the Graze box, select something rather plain, and toss it his way. He croaks cheerfully, ferrying food to wherever that place is.

I am depended on.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Polymath

My friend reaches across discipline, plucking ideas, events and folklore at will to pepper his conversation. Listening is a pleasure, contributing is daunting, and I wish I could make notes so I could pass off his effortless pansophy as my own at a later date. I drink lager, which emboldens me to stop doubting myself and loosens my tongue, and I manage one or two profound observations which make him pause with delight as he approves them, or failing that I make simplistic profane proclamations, which disarm him with charm and primitive logic.

I make my excuses, and get into bed.
"It's unfair," I text. "I am at heart and head a basic man, but one cursed with the awareness to realise this. He makes me panic that I am trundling along, ignorant, coarse, phlegmatic. I am the most learned person in this bed though, so this is where I am."
[I mentioned I’d been drinking lager]

The next day, my friend heads to Oxford, to try and convince a famous Don to take him on as a protégé. I drop him off ten miles outside of Oxford on the hottest day of the year – "It's a pig of a city to drive into, and you'll have fun, walking, hitching, whatever" – and return home, with a sense that Something Must Be Done, rather than disappearing down the plughole of fatuousness without even a struggle.

I pluck books off the shelves – "this is the tragedy, the books are already here, at your fingertips" – and start to devour them in the sun.
"This is the stuff: learning! Experience, wisdom; you can only coast along with them for so long without refuelling."
I remind myself of the horrors of Gallipoli, why I prefer Gladstone to Disraeli, Kubla Khan, whether I should become a humanist or if actually I am one already, and who is who in Darfur.

Eventually though, I find I lie on my back, and watch birds and clouds. My brain slows, like an unwound clock, and I contemplate my insecurities as the moment stretches out to a half hour. Claiming a thirst for knowledge is all good and well, but suppose if it were me heading to Oxford, really I know it would be an Inkling existence that I would seek out, dillydallying in meadows and writing silly stories. I see the cat lazing in the sun, and it's not the busy ants I envy.

And that night I text "and so my occasional hanker for study is swiftly quenched and ignored once more; ultimately I am a creature of decadence, unstrenuous cogitation, of indulgent solace. And for now, I am okay with that."
[I had drunk more lager]

Tuesday, June 01, 2010


The slow moving traffic is afforded a grandstand view from which to inspect proceedings, as Darren leans over the railings outside The Saracen's Head [my apostrophe] and vomits onto the road.  I wait patiently, watching the last of the sun glint on the tower of the Abbey.

It is, I reflect, early for vomiting.

The floodlights from the Recreation Ground are already on, lighting the sky to the east, and adding to the overall disorientating trial of drinking since two.

Disillusionment and debate followed our meeting, and were invited to join us in an early boozer appointment. The meeting had been chaired by a man from Resources, there to discuss our 8% paycut. Discussion in the form of a non-negotiable announcement, you understand. No, he tells me, I do not get to go home 8% earlier. A union representative gave a meek "hey, you still have a job!" smile, to which one can’t help but respond "harrumph".

We love our jobs. Not just because they give us money, not solely because it keeps us off the streets where we’d just cluttering the place fetching old ladies out of trees and helping cats across the road and all of that, but because – and we would never say this out loud, not for fear of sounding self-important, but because we are too cool for school – we think it matters, we think we help. We don’t want a creeping worry about our bank balances to govern what we give back, we don’t want to have to give over our standards and our moral code for a wage.

"Certainly not because of some bizarre American housing bubble with a hearty dash of economies based on invisible money, caused by some smug fuckwits somewhere wearing those cocking contrast collar shirts (or some cocking deck gear from Hackett's if it's the weekend), braying about how clever they were to be born with a silver spoon in their salivating rah gobs. They let their greed do this before you know, with the South Sea Company in seventeen, seventeen something or other I think, but they hadn’t quite managed to tie up the entire population’s finance into their endless pursuit of the wealth gap and their smarter-than-thee financial showmanship. None of which, you should know, I quite understand,” I said, and downed my beer.

"I can’t believe you are still angry about global finances," Darren had said, sensibly resigned. "Come Christmas, are you going to start getting angry about the Gulf of Mexico?"

Outside, Darren straightens up and I point.
"I told you there were sultanas in that pudding," I say, indicating towards the splatter of the puddle.
"What’s your beef with sultanas? Let sultanas be," says Darren, wiping his chin.