some devil in us that drives us to and
fro on everlasting idiocies. there's time for everything except the
things worth doing. think of something you really care about. then add
hour to hour and calculate the fraction of your life that you've actually
spent in doing it. and then calculate the time you've spent on things
like shaving, riding to and fro on buses, waiting in railway junctions,
swapping dirty stories and reading the newspapers."
'coming up for air' by george orwell
spam nonsense is an avalanche of emails
containing a picture of some winsome hoo-er, purportedly from russia,
claiming that they want to sleep with me. nothing new there but the
wording is a little concerning. 'i want to fuck with
you' it says, the 'with' suggesting that it's not so much sex that they
have in mind but a kind of sinister harassment. i imagine silent phone
calls and dead animals nailed to my front
door... but of course spam itself constitutes something of a sinister
harassment, so maybe that's what it meant. bastards.
people have been making a fizzy passion fruit drink in a can for
many years now. i have frequently told hostess elisabeth that i'm partial
to said drink. and yet every single time
she happens to be in a shop that sells rubicon drinks and thinks she's
buying me the one i like, she comes back with mango. "this is the
right one isn't it?" she always asks.
now don't get me wrong, the mango is nice and i appreciate the thought
but the strange thing is the sub conscious reasoning we've uncovered
behind her constant mis-choosing. the mango comes in a blue
can, the passion fruit in a purple one. hostess elisabeth has realised
that as she reaches for the purple (correct) can, she hears my voice
in her head saying that i don't like the colour purple (no offence whoopi),
as it's a "a bit too goth", and
her mind then tells her to pick the blue one. the mind is a complex
and fickle organ.
all of a sudden we're off to scotland, en masse, for the second of my
unconventional weddings this year. hostess elisabeth's mother is renewing
her wedding vows and has planned quite a weekend of wingdings.
and all and sundry were invited: myself, hostess elisabeth, the venerable
gude, mr. roast, american john and both my
parents. something of a beano. minus american john (who has to fly in
from paris) we all fly from that oppressively tedious and grey warehouse
of an airport, stanstead, a building which seems to have sick
building syndrome written all over it. the traditional ritual humiliation
of daylight robbery for a tea and a croissant having been endured, we
proceed through security, and eventually onto the ryanair plastic bucket
of a plane. everything is insubstantial looking and of disconcertingly
cheap appearance. part of me thinks i should
be searching the fixtures and fittings for the fisher
price logo. it seems that 'cheap flights' mean that they cut back
on everything, including not having emergency
procedure cards in the (sweet wrapper)
pocket in the seat in front of you. the emergency procedure is printed
instead on the headrest of the seat in front and there is no pocket
to put your sweet wrappers into at all.
even the stewards seem 50% less gay; o it's all cut backs aboard ryanair.
the pilot comes over the intercom and i can't help but notice that he's
slurring his words. "is he drunk?" i ask out loud before realising
that in saying this i could significantly freak out other passengers
(why the thought failed to freak me out
is beyond me). the pilot introduces himself and it sounds for all the
world to me like he's saying "captain dragon ostrich"; later
others in our party claim to have heard the same thing. he mumbles incoherent
sentences of which only a handful of words are identifiable, and them
simply trails off into a kind of incomprehensible slurry of sound. as
we take off i hope that ryanair haven't cut back on the luxury of a
glasgow prestwick airport has it's own slogan: 'pure dead brilliant'.
the venerable gude is the first to ask the question "why would
anyone choose to slap the word dead
over an airport in huge purple letters?" later that day, hostess
elisabeth's mother, on the subject of eating huge breakfasts while on
holiday, says the words "aye well the stomach can only take so
much", perhaps an apt suggestion as a slogan for the whole country?
the stomach can only take so much
day in and mr. roast, the venerable gude, american john and myself head
off into the sun on a hike north along
the beach, with the idea that we might make it as far as the wonderfully
named 'troon', some unspecified amount of miles away. it all goes very
huck finn, with us throwing stones, grimacing over beached jellyfish,
jumping over sand dunes and stopping for ice cream (well, we all had
an ice cream except for the venerable gude, who of course had a civilised
cup of tea). sitting consuming our ice creams and tea, i notice that
while everyone else, whether sitting on
the beach, or the green, was facing the
sea, we were facing inland. i'm sure that says something deep and contrary
about us, i'm just not sure what exactly. we make like a towel and press
on. luckily the jaunt is cut short before it can progress from huck
finn to lord of the flies when we come across an impassable river blocking
our way up-shore we do our best to convince
the venerable gude to wade in but it's clear that it'd be chest deep
at least. we later discover that the river is called something like
'pow burn', which sounds to me like two technicolour exclamations from
batman. we trek upriver inland, cutting through a golf course, and come
across what looks like a massive meteor crater but is in fact where
they get all of the sand for the bunkers. climbing this gives a good
enough view to see our way back to the road near the airport and finally,
feeling by this time a little like ants under a magnifying glass, we
get a taxi back. a wholly satisfying boyish day; we stopped just short
of building a den.
a sign near
hostess elisabeth's mother's house reads 'no
tipping'. american john, being from the colonies, asked what this
meant and we duly explained. he admitted that his first thought on seeing
the sign was about cow
tipping and had begun to wonder how on earth
you could 'tip' a fly.
put me right back into the maelstrom of
the 'wedding' preparations, the various costumes, arrangements and foodstuffs
that go into such a do. having declined the offer to be an usher, i
struggle to take a back seat. that night everyone with an actual part
to play in the ceremony leaves for a rehearsal at the church round the
corner. hostess elisabeth, in her capacity as 'matron
of honour' (insert kenneth williams impression here) had been given
the job of escorting a little girl, rhianna, age 3 -and for 'escorting'
read 'herding... with extreme prejudice'.
it seems that during the rehearsal rhianna was scared to hold hostess
elisabeth's hand; call it some instinctive
survival skill early man used to protect himself from his natural enemies.
the girl has to be tethered to h.e., as she apparently does whenever
out in public, to stop her running wild. a strap is fastened around
the girl's wrist and held by the accompanying adult to prevent toddler
frenzy. i'm told she gladly holds up her
hand to be restrained and says in a loud voice "i need my strap
the little girl in question, having followed
me around the house, having watched me brush my teeth and then insisted
that she too brush her teeth, decided that she wanted to show me the
new frilly underwear she's been bought to compliment her wedding outfit
(why, i cannot fathom). the knickers themselves
look not unlike underbear,
and call me old fashioned, seemed a little too ornate and frilly for
a l i t t l e g i r l. but of course showing
me them wasn't enough. on no. rhianna then proceeded to change into
them while i was in the room. i stared intently
at the television. after she'd left the room i was left to wonder whether
i'd just committed some kind of sex crime...
there is a house on hostess elisabeth's mum's road called 'craigness',
which is probably a family name but it struck me that it could mean
the essential essence of what it means
to be a man called craig.
rhianna's little brother, grant, 2, is described quaintly as "a
right little magpie" because if you leave anything lying around
"he'll have it". magpie? or fucking little
t h i e f ? "your honour, members of the jury, i put
it to you that while my client did break into the house, was caught
red handed with the dvd player in his hands,
he is not, as the prosecution will assert, a burglar. he's merely a
cheeky little magpie."
in fact, just before we enter the church on the day of the 'wedding',
grant punches his sister swiftly in the
throat, thus ensuring that she'll cry throughout
the ceremony. lovely wee boy.
truth is that kids aren't in any way poetic,
they're merely savage little animals, except that no animal is a quarter
'coming up for air' by george orwell
in a nearby pub before the ceremony proper, i'm surprised and amused
to find out that that very morning american
john went into ayr, found a kilt shop and after inquiring as to what
"most americans buy" promptly purchased a kilt!
so that was mr. roast, american john and
myself all skirted up for the occasion. the venerable gude had to make
do with his infamous beige linen suit, which is kind of a cross between
'our man in havana' and 'the man from del monte'. to each their own
but before dear reader you castigate him for not joining in, believe
me when i tell you that the public at large are not
ready for his legs, nude, for all to see. think anaemic twiglets and
you're part way there.
the ceremony, conducted by the fantastically dickensianly
named 'reverend crum', went ok, barring of course the screaming of rhianna,
who, it must be said made quite a noise for someone whose trachea
was no doubt... compromised. the hymn singing was strange as i hadn't
been in such a situation for years, and like i always
recall there being, there was someone who was really belting it out
(perhaps hired to encourage the others?), drawing concerned stares.
somewhat more uncomfortable though were the prayers, another quaint
anachronism that i hadn't been subjected to for a dog's age. mustn't
make eye contact with other atheists present... mustn't
instigate a ripple of giggles...
then it was back to the savoy hotel (ayr) for the continuance of the
festivities and an ogle or two at the hotel's taxidermy collection.
it was at this point that it was sprung on me that, as hostess elisabeth's
'partner', i had to greet e v e r y o n e
in attendance along with the happy couple and family. we were stood
in a line reminiscent of a firing squad and shook the hands of all
and sundry. perhaps i should have asked for a blindfold. i suppose this
is an acceptance that i'm as close to family as i'm likely to get, barring
any unforeseen and accidental marriages ("oops, i appear to
have married you, i'm most dreadfully sorry").
those who know me can imagine the ordeal this meet and greet session
sitting near us for the meal (at top table,
larrdeedarr) was an old friend of the family, a man who looked spookily
like our own mr. liles, just twenty or more years older. he even had
the dissatisfied scowl of a liles.
there was food. there was cake. there was drinking. you know the drill.
just when i thought i'd escaped any further
participation i was dragged on to the dance floor, which apparently
all family members have to do, after the happy couple's first dance.
fuck knows why. tradition as ritual humiliation.
it is in this way that i find myself 'dancing' to jennifer rush's 'the
power of love'. sweet baby moses. i tried
to tell myself it could be worse but i'm afraid my imagination deserted
me when asked to come up with just how. then some elton john drivel
from the ruddy lion king comes on. o the humanity. i manage to throw
in a bit of my trademark leg-shaking to appease the baying crowd and
hastily retreated to the gardens outside.
mr. roast spent most of the evening getting accosted
for being quote "un unglushmun weerin a kult" unquote, to
which he replied that it was an irish kilt, because it was and to shut
them up. and if it's one thing scottish
men don't like to have done to them by englishmen, its be made to shut
up. hence there were a few close scrapes with some of the more inebriated
present. most notable among them was the one we christened 'muggybonehead'
who was bald, had a large tarbrush moustache and a face that no doubt
could, if turned to the purpose, cause spontaneous
involuntary defecation. i'd met him of course when i was shaking everyone's
hand and he'd looked at me like he wanted to eat
me. we later learnt that he'd been inside... twice.
the day after we all decide to go on a trip to somewhere called wigtown
(pronounced wigton), which unlike the name suggests has lots of bookshops
in it and is not, sadly, teaming with toupee
emporiums. the town is also near some standing stones that the venerable
gude has been itching to see. apparently.
mr. roast drives us there and not half an hour into the journey, along
the winding roadways and lanes, i start to feel something i haven't
felt for years: carsick. mr. roast, unknowing of the severity of my
feeling (or so he later claims) decided to try and make the car actually
take off over a few of the many humpback
bridges we encounter. i close my eyes and try to think happy thoughts
-i should have known that that wouldn't work, i'm simply not equipped
for the job. twenty or so minutes outside wigtown i pipe up from the
back that perhaps they might like to make
an unscheduled and very quick stop, unless of course they wanted
to be wearing my breakfast. in the middle of nowhere i stumble from
the road into the woods and try my best to void my stomach, but nothing
doing. all i get is buzzed by strange hoverflies
who stop mid air in front of my face to glare at me. we try the car
again but not five minutes later i call stop
again and this time chuck my guts up on
a hedge somewhere. the hoverflies are the only ones who seemed happy
with this turn of events, buzzing around and i suppose eating my sick.
so it's come to this, i've become a vending machine for flies. it occurs
to me now that it's a shame i was in no condition to attempt a 'tipping'.
i get back into the car but soon we have to stop again. then again.
by the last time we're on the outskirts of wigtown and i'm bent double
on a grass verge dry heaving, my stomach doing its best to turn me inside
out. i send the car ahead and hostess elisabeth and i walk into town.
it starts to rain. lovely.
wigtown is in fact full of bookshops but
for some reason we failed to visit any
of them. logic takes a holiday. instead we go for something to eat and
then trek out into the country, in the rain,
to see something called the martyr's stake
two local women were drowned for failing "to submit to the instruction
of episcopalian bishops or the use of the liturgy in their services".
idiots executing morons. blind leading the bloody blind...
on the way back, we take a detour to see the venerable gude's standing
stones. a game begins between hostess elisabeth and american john, the
rules of which consisted of pointing at every stone, every pebble, every
wall and rockery we pass and asking loudly "is that them?"
"is that them?"
"is that them?"
"is that them?"
"is that them?"
you get the general idea. in time we drive past a number of squat, rather
unimpressive stones, looking somewhat like giant gravel and the call
goes out "is that them?" and then venerable gude had
to admit that, joking aside, yes, ahem,
that was them.
i think hostess elisabeth was expecting something more akin to stonehenge
and couldn't stop laughing... even the plaque described the stones as
"dumpy". bless him.
at the market we see a hairdressers called 'arf ya heed'.
during hostess elisabeth's mother's barbeque,
myself, the venerable gude, american john and mr. roast escape to the
beach just as muggybonehead arrives. he shakes mr. roast's hand and
mumbles something about him not "weerin a kult" and we beat
a hasty retreat to the beach just as the
sun goes down. as we headed down there we pass four young girls and
one of them calls out to mr. roast "like yer hair", to which
he replies quite involuntarily in the campest larrdeedarr
gunner graham voice you've ever heard "ooh
thanks, so do i". he dips likewise into the pool of homo two further
times while we're in scotland. apprarently something about the bracing
landscapes of scotland dissolves his usual
butch exterior and brings out the effeminate dandy in him. once on the
sands mr. roast finds a golf ball and we indulge our boyish sides one
last time by throwing it at each other.
man, that venerable gude can move when he wants to avoid a golf ball
between the eyes.
on our last day, american john having already
left for paris, mr. roast, the venerable gude and myself drive out to
wanlockhead, which has the honour (?) of being the highest
village in scotland at 1531 feet above sea level. at some point on the
journey my ears pop, though that could have been the venerable gude's
swerving to try and hit the quails we saw
in the road. carsickness is averted by my sitting in the front seat,
and by the venerable gude, attempted quail squashing notwithstanding,
refraining from driving like a fucking maniac.
wanlockhead also boats a visitable (word?) lead
mine, which is our reason for going. we are met by stewart, our
guide, who hands us our hard hats (insert helmet themed joke here),
and away we go. over the next half hour i am forced to add lead miner
to the ever growing list of jobs i never
want. so far the list goes, in no particular order:
poor fuckers reeeally had it tough. stewart,
with his luxuriant and copious nostril hair, tells us all about it.
working in cramped conditions, often in pitch dark, with falling rocks,
the swinging picks of others and all sorts of other fun
to deal with, including the fact that they had to buy
their equipment from the company store. o, and of course the fact that
lead is poisonous too. lovely. no thanks.
we exit the mine and on our way to the miner's cottage and the beam
engine, we hear a dog (wolf?!) howl...
stick to the path boys...
nearby, in a dry river bed, we notice a pair of discarded knickers...
now i'm all for sexual abandon but trust me, the surrounding area would
be no place to be inserting yourself into anyone or anything...
perhaps the thin air up there had addled their brains. but there's no
time to ruminate on, or indeed try to persuade the venerable gude to
re-enact any furtive gropings in wanlockhead,
as we've got to shoot off back to ayr and onto the plane home.
on said plane home i'm sitting across from a woman who's so
fat (how fat is she?) she's so fat
that she needs an extension on her seatbelt.
jesus. to quote mr. roast: "how could you live like that?"
-originally he said it while talking about... daleks. no, really.
and talking of quotes...
quotes of the scotland trip:
gude: "i'm not the treading in dog shit
kind of person"
gude: "i struggle to see myself in a pinny" (on his reticence
to join the masons)
gude: "i think i saw my father's once" (when asked if he'd
ever seen an appendix)
run away winner has to be american john with his: "imagine how
many people wouldn't be alive today if piss
we were in scotland the local paper had reported that staff at prestwick
airport thought it was less than 'pure dead
brilliant' that missiles bound for israel, which israel are then to
unceremoniously pass on to lebanon are
passing through the airport. the idiocy
of things never goes away, it just hides in your indifference for a
all going to happen. all the things
you've got at the back of your mind, the things you're terrified of,
the things that you tell yourself are just a nightmare or only happen
in foreign countries. the bombs, the food-queues, the rubber truncheons,
the barbed wire, the coloured shirts, the slogans, the enormous faces,
the machine-guns squirting out of bedroom windows. it's all going to
happen... there's no escape. fight against it if you like, or look the
other way and pretend not to notice, or grab your spanner and rush out
to do a bit of face smashing along with the others. but there's no way
out. it's just something that's got to happen."
'coming up for air' by george orwell (published 1939)
i have learnt since being home: that when it comes to being man-handled
by a professional cage fighter, i bruise like a peach.
(audio) ''the eraser' -cd- by thom yorke / (comestible)
'dressed' fish / (visual) taxidermy at the savoy hotel / (sensorial)
a boyish jaunt
(audio) elton john / (comestible) haggis and whisky vol-au-vents / (visual)
flies on vomit / (sensorial) carsickness
a postcard bought by hostess elisabeth at prestwick airport: