Friday, February 29, 2008

Don't ask me...

I hadn't really intended to start photo-blogging, but sometimes things just present themselves...

Outside Tesco Express, this afternoon, The Moor, Falmouth.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Love hurts

Seen today, in Falmouth; right at the end of a low shelf, kind of keeping out of the way. Still a bit tentative about risking rejection again, I suppose.

I forget the name of the shop, but it's the gifty one on the left as you enter St George's Arcade.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Tomorrow is Today

By the time tomorrow comes it is always today. And seeing as it currently appears to be today, the musicy blog post that I promised 'tomorrow' shall now follow.

Actually, it'll follow after this booky bit. My real excuse for the post not appearing on Thursday was that I spent much of the day proof-reading (not much fun, but agreeably well paid) and then went out (rather more fun, though less well paid). The next day, I didn't much fancy staring at a computer screen - I wandered, I drank coffee, I read. Admittedly, some of what I read was on the computer, but mostly it was Alasdair Gray's The Ends of Our Tethers.

Of his other books, I've only read Unlikely Stories, Mostly, another, though much longer, short stories collection; near unreadable for one large chunk, but beautifully designed, laid-out and illustrated, and in the main imaginative, playful, funny, somehow just a little off-kilter.

The unreadable chunk even seemed quite forgiveable: there was a spirit of experimentation - typographical and otherwise - about it; and it seemed wholly in-keeping with the book and the personality of the writer that some bits might fail and some succeed brilliantly.

You see, there's a sort of unapologetically shambolic and erratic but brilliant spirit that runs through Gray's writing (what I've seen of it), and I assume through him. I kind of like that, and if his experiments sometimes don't quite work out... well, a) it's not like you had no warning, and b) trying something and failing is another story in itself, regardless of the events of the actual narrative itself. I'd much rather read someone with ambition and imagination trying and failing, than someone competently and deliberately keeping within their own disappointing little box, not even occasionally bumping up against its sides, or testing their own limits. That's what being dead's for.

As for The Ends of Our Tethers; overall, I'd say it was a short and irascibly enjoyable read.

Granted, the first story - barely the faintest ring of truth about it, but at least short (read, slight) and a little bit whimsical - set the bar very low for those that followed, and while limbo-dancing beneath it might have been the greater challenge, happily, the remaining twelve cleared it pretty comfortably.

Yes, you couldn't help feeling there was a sense of laziness, and cobbling together about it all: a couple of short shorts being little more than anecdotes of friends; an account of going on an anti-war march that was journalism rather than fiction; even the book itself was less fulsomely illustrated and much more conventionally laid out than normal. But having said that: with each of those borrowed anecdotes Gray had a point to make; the anti-war march piece was in keeping with the other stories, with an author who so often draws on autobiography (or gives that impression), and was suitably seething with indignation; and the book was still somewhat more pleasing to look at than your average paperback.

Admittedly there were a few pages where a character took some delight in fascinatedly cataloguing the different kinds of scabs, crusts, and dry skin that picking at his loss-induced eczema would cause him, and what he did with them, but the rest didn't stray into unreadability (and that bit only if you found The Singing Detective unwatchable). No, all in all, thirteen (well, twelve) more and less entertaining easy reads, depicting various combinations of bafflement: at men, at women, at himself, war, politics, inequality, ageing, and at the world in general.


Of course. Plenty. But I doubt he'll apologise for them. They're part of the fun. And Gray knows it: with a defiant ambiguity I can't help smiling at, the book's even been subtitled 13 Sorry Stories. And the bit at the back describing where the stories come from: Critic Fuel. Two finer bookends for this collection I couldn't imagine.

And in that cheeky spirit of wilful non-apology: actually, I think tomorrow might just be tomorrow after all...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Poetry, but at least it's not mine

Found this poem earlier today:

Keeping Things Whole

In a field

I am the absence

of field.

This is

always the case.

Wherever I am

I am what is missing.

When I walk
I part the air

and always

the air moves in

to fill the spaces

where my body's been.

We all have reasons

for moving.

I move

to keep things whole.

Mark Strand (1963)

It was on the inside panel of a CD called wherever I am, I am what is missing, by Laika. Haven't quite decided whether I like the CD yet, but quite enamoured of that poem. Sort of puts me in mind of one of my favourite songs, too:

I Love the Unknown - Clem Snide.

In other news:
Sounds OK* has a sale on, various obscure but interesting CDs for £2. Inevitably, I couldn't resist...

More music stuff tomorrow.

*second-hand record shop in Falmouth.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Dig, Lawson, Dig!!!

Actually, it was John Wilson presenting Front Row on Friday, not Mark Lawson... but anyway, I'm sure at least a few readers of this blog might be interested to know that he was interviewing a certain Mr N Cave about the Bad Seeds' new album. Listen again here (the interview's just about 13mins in). You'll hear a few clips of new songs, and the sinister-shadowed* one happens to be on pretty good form.

*thanks to a near impenetrable wall of unnecessarily tall goths, that was about all I could see of him at the Alexandra Palace, a dancing, stalking shadow on the wall. Quite impressive in its own way, though; as you might imagine, Nick Cave's shadow very much suits him.

You're Not The Only One

Not words of consolation to anyone else who might be here for reasons of procrastination (or to me, for that matter), but the title of a blog compilation book thingy that Patroclus linked to the other day. It's in aid of the charity War Child. Here's what the site says:

We would like you to submit (to us at a written piece about something you've been through from any aspect of your life that you want to share. It can literally be about anything: your relationships, your past, a road not taken, being a parent, an illness or your regrets etc. We've called it "You're Not The Only One" to reflect the camaraderie of blogging.

Erm, I doubt this post was really quite what they were after... but still, they said thank you, and stuck a link here. So if anyone else feels like needlessly taking up the time of people they don't know in the name of charity, follow that last link - deadline's 29th Feb 2008. Of course, unlike me, some of you will most likely have something actually vaguely suitable to submit...


The joys of house-sharing

No. 111: Staring out of your window at other people's shapeless, faded underwear drying on the washing line.

Is it just me, or is the sight of a pair of thick greyish tights hanging limply on a washing line one of the most drab, depressing sights in the world?

Plus, there's a sock hanging from between their legs. Which is just wrong.

Especially when the wind blows.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The contractual obligation post

Erm, I suppose writing my three posts for the week all on the same day probably wasn't really in the spirit of that promise thingy, was it? [Who are you asking, exactly? Oh, leave me alone, it was you who got me into this mess in the first place. Me? I thought I was just a postmodern affectation. Yes. Yes. We're not getting into that again]. And now here the third post is, consisting mostly of vaguely apologetic mutterings about not yet reviving Not 4'33". Great.

So, erm, yes, if I could just say one small thing in my defence... well, that would at least make the situation a little better, I suppose. Shame I can't really, then. Though quite who really cares anyway...

Still, to anyone who does:

Um, sorry. There definitely won't be anything on Not 4'33" for another few days, but things are still afoot. Also, yes, that is both entirely true and more grammatical than it sounds.

In other non-news: I was thinking about Sandinistas yesterday. Not because I have any particularly abiding interest in Nicaraguan Marxist revolutionaries, I was just, um, idly wondering what sort of things might live in sand.

Er, obviously, I didn't think they really lived in sand (necessarily). It was just a bad pun. And I was at least dimly aware that they were some kind of Central/South American revolutionaries, and that I should probably know a little more. At the very least whether they really did live in sand, for instance. So I googled them. The sand thing was a bit inconclusive.

Anyway, they're not the kind of thing you usually think too much about, are they, Sandinistas? So it was a bit weird to see this article in today's Guardian.

Sometimes you could almost be forgiven for thinking life isn't really so random after all.


I mean, God, you'd hate to think it was this way on purpose...

Filter Category: Mildly Amusing

Sometimes, when I'm in town and can't quite be bothered to go home yet, I come to the library, to check my e-mail, read blogs, google things before I forget them, all the usual kind of procrastinatory bits and nonsense. All of them apart from Facebook, that is. Try to go to Facebook and this is what you'll see:


This page has been filtered because it breaches the Cornwall Library Service Acceptable Use Policy.

Filter Category: Social Networking

Hmph, I say.

But that isn't why I'm writing this post. The library blocks quite a few sites. In fact, when I first moved down here, it was blocking the discussion boards on the website for my MA course. Which, seeing as I had no internet at home at the time, cost me an awful lot in coffees at Cafe Cinnamon Girl (when I could work out when the bloody place was actually open). Apparently, though, some of their decisions are quite reasonable; amusing even.

Anyone who has an iGoogle hompage will know you can add little boxes that display feeds and content from other sites. On my page, I have one called Chimp-o-Matic (I think that link's right; it won't let me go there); it displays random George W Bush quotes. Or it does when I'm not in the library. I can't say that I usually take much notice of that particular box these days, even when it works, but today, for some reason, it occurred to me to scroll down and find out what exactly it is that Cornwall Library Service has against the world's most powerful idiot:

Filter Category: Tasteless & Offensive



I can see the headlines now...

Monday, February 11, 2008

Hopelessly unsociable

The other day I came home to find the living room full of people. It's quite a small living room (a barely-alive room?) so that doesn't really take much. Anyway, S., E., possibly M., C.*, and someone whose name I forget but appears to be C.'s new boyfriend were all in there chatting. She introduced me to the new bloke, and I think I at least said, Hello, or words to that effect. Erm, I think I might have been expected to sit and be sociable, though.

But what went through my head was: "Hmph. I was really looking forward to putting some music on, lying down, and having a nice quiet read. And now there are people. Bloody people. They get everywhere. Hmm. Of course, if my room wasn't at the back of the living room, I'd just go straight there... So if I just continue straight on through right now I'm not really being unsociable, am I, I'm just refusing to accept an accident of geography. Yes. That makes sense." So I did. And throroughly enjoyed my nice quiet-ish read.

Later, though, I felt a little bit guilty. Sort of.


Earlier today, I was doing some washing up. Somewhere amidst the boredom, I got to wondering whether I should maybe apologise. I hadn't really seen C. since, though, so wasn't too sure if there was any need. Still, probably wouldn't hurt, I decided. I mean, I'm not usually quite as unsociable as that, am I? I just spend quite a lot of time in my room. When I'm not out. Yes, I should probably apologise. At which point I heard myself thinking:

"Ah. I wish I knew her e-mail address. A quick e-mail, that would probably be the best thing."

Apologising. To a housemate. For being unsociable. Via e-mail.

Suddenly, the image of someone trying to hide the Great Wall of China with a dustsheet came to mind.

After that, the whole idea just seemed a bit redundant, really...


I probably won't bother.

*my housemates, in other words.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

A wild desk chase

"There's a desk. In the High Street. Opposite the health food shop," said Miss-Cellany, when I answered the phone. The closest thing I have to a desk at present is a slightly too high, wonky-legged table. I don't use it. It gives me backache. Of course, so does writing in bed; but at least it keeps my feet warm. Needless to say, I sprang into action immediately, umming and ahhing with all the urgency I could muster.

Could I be bothered? Hmm. I'd been into town already; it had resulted in a sudden and unexpected soaking. And there was still writing work to do (yes, I'm semi-employed at the moment). What to do? Procrastinate for half an hour and then go anyway, I decided. Well, not so much decided; it was just what happened, really.

Miss-Cellany was right*. Outside an architects firm, or possibly an estate agents (it had something to do with property anyway), there it was: the desk. But was it going to be small enough?

From where I was, it was hard to see. And more crucially, a tallish dark-haired woman with glasses was standing in front of it. She seemed to be trying to get to the office door. Eventually managing to squeeze past the desk, she knocked. At least that would save me the trouble, I thought. A pause. No-one answered. So, it was clear: the desk was free for the taking.

Ah. But her taking, or mine?

Yep. Hers. Obviously.

[Sigh] It was probably too big anyway.

Hmm, that would have been a good place to end it - I quite liked the bathos. But what actually happened was that we got talking. She was setting up a new business, she said - music promotions. And she wanted to know what I did. I tried to remember, and, after what I noted happily was only a small delay, I told her. She seemed interested. I told her something about the Radio 4 sitcom that might now be an Afternoon Play. She told me that she knew a television producer and took my number. Most likely nothing will come of it, and if it does, I have every expectation that the producer will turn out to be Colin Rogers reviving the Resnick franchise. But I thanked her anyway.

Deciding that I'd better text emapple to say that transport wouldn't be needed after all, I remained standing beside the woman's car; the woman was still securing the desk in her boot. We continued to chat a little. Neither, it seems, was Serendipity yet done at the scene; or perhaps she just had another whim and came back - I don't really know how it works. Either way: "Oh, I do some work for a record company," the woman said. "They might have something for you. Maybe artist profiles, or something like that."

It could only be... yep, Aardvark Records.

Erm, it's probably about time I thanked them for this anyway...

[N.B. "[T]he cut and thrust of a pressure cooker environment" might have been overdoing things just a little bit... But still, very nice of them to say, though]

*not that I'd doubted her. I just felt that paragraph needed to begin with a sentence a bit like that.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Moving swiftly on...

Apparently, this is the 70th post on this blog...

[sound of a lone party popper. Followed by muttered self-recriminations along the lines of, "Great. I suppose I'll have to clear that up. Sometime."]

Bit of a letdown really, wasn't it?

UNRELATED ADDENDUM: I noticed earlier that undecorated is an anagram of undercoated. At the time, it seemed worth remarking on.

[Sigh] Less so now.

Still kind of a letdown, this, isn't it?