Bookmarks, Bookshelves and Writing Prompts

On my bookshelf there is a book of writing prompts. I did not buy this myself. It was a Valentine’s Day gift given by a former flame. Along with this she bought me a bookmark in the shape of the Loch Ness Monster and a pin badge in the shape of a typewriter which has the phrase: ‘You are my type’ for the keys. Evidently she was in a bookstore at the time and picked up whatever was at hand. I recall a distant memory where she was on a solo trip to Glasgow or Edinburgh and was spending a good portion of her time on trains and in train stations, so that might well be the case. My gift to her was a ticket to see some artist she was always raving about but whose name I never bothered to remember. In fact, it wasn’t a gift: she bought the ticket herself and demanded I give her the money for it. She had a habit of doing that. It’s why she’s an ex. 

The bookmark has its uses. I juggle several books at once and it’s good to know that I can have five or six or seven open at any one time and have some kind of marker to indiciate where I am. I could simply remember what page I am on, of course, but that is a level of cognitive exercise I am not prepared to do. As of right now, Nessie is marking the spot of Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces. It’s on the chapter about Apotheosis, whatever that means, in the same location it has been for weeks. I keep opening it to begin, but when I read that first line, everything else in the world becomes more interesting. As for my other bookmarks, a proper one that is magnetic and clasps over the page and has an image of a compass with the phrase ’You Are Here’ is nestled in Lingua Latina. A business card of someone I met during my time volunteering with the Red Cross is in my translation of The Journey Through Wales, at the start of Part II where Gerald is talking nonsense about Merlin and the alleged ancient Archbishopric of Caerleon. (Attentive readers might wonder why I have a translation despite my stated aversion to them, in this blog: I have the Latin version too, bought during my studies, but I enjoy the footnotes of Lewis Thorpe’s translation far too much to throw it away. Gerald of Wales was, by all accounts, a monumental tool, and Thorpe’s commentary on the matter is a joy to read.) A blue index card containing some notes pertaining to an interview I had some time ago sits in my copy of Aboriginal Myths, Legends & Fables and my organ donor card (Sign up, people! You don’t need them where you’re going.) marks the last page I read of The Bell Jar. The bookmark for this last one is quite unnecessary as all the chapters are rewordings of the same concept: ‘I did something and I was sad and then I made a terrible simile and made a clunky switch to a flashback and then I was sad again’.

As for the pin badge, it is on my shelf somewhere. Possibly behind the astronaut USB miniature lamp that plugs into my laptop but is so bright that it feels like you are in a staring contest with Homelander, my collection of foreign coins including a Caribbean One Dollar coin that was handed over to me by someone thinking it was a fifty pence piece, a walnut with the goo-goo-googly eyes sitting in a deck chair and an old photograph taken of my last day of high school in which I am very skinny, in a way I never realised I was and will never be again.

I had not looked at the prompt book since receiving it, during which time I flicked through a few pages and read some of the prompts aloud. The ex is to blame for that: she put me off from using it when, on reading an entry, she said something along the lines of: ‘Stop reading them out to me, I really don’t care.’ You were the one who bought it, love—you knew what you were getting yourself into. 

Until today, that is. For the first time since that Valentine’s Day some two, three, or four years ago by this point, I opened this prompt book. I opened it completely at random and the prompt was: ‘Describe the shape of your bed sheet’.

Okay: it’s brown and has squiggles on it.

What a stupid, useless gift that was. I’m glad we’re over.

Clean out Your Dead, We Have a Planet to Save.

‘Slap my corpse if you want; mutilate it if you will. It matters not to me — I’m dead, I’m not using it anymore.’

The Spectre of Jimmy Savile, 2020.

Cemeteries bring me peace. I think this is because, like every other member of my generation, I long for the Eternal Sleep. The dead have it easy—even easier than the rich, who have the money to never worry, and the stupid, who lack the brainpower to comprehend their own pitiful existence. Cadavers need not concern themselves about finding employment and paying the bills: they have their house, it is cold and wooden and full of worms, but it is theirs, and it is all paid off. The decomposing have no concerns about the ageing process or finding love. Or fret over being exhumed to face trial for historic crimes. Hey Jimmy, it happened to Oliver and it’s going to happen to you. Not that you care.

On this occasion I was in the cemetery for two reasons. One: to do some form of exercise to stave off the fattening process. A family member is getting married in the summer and, though I would prefer not to face them at all, I am set on not looking like a bloated thumb for the rest of eternity, nestled on the mantlepiece of his family home as he reflects on the happiest day of his life. The cemetery was some miles away, at the higher incline of this fair town, so a combination of distance and ascent would do well for the fat burning. All in all, the cemetery comes to about forty acres too, adding to the steps made and calories burned. Combine that with the weird tranquility that such a place generates and the fact that, for one reason or another, I hadn’t been to this particular cemetery for a number of years, it made for the perfect day out.

The second reason, which only came to me while on my walk there, was to search for someone. Now, as far as I can tell, nobody famous resides in this small town’s plot. Going around the place I did notice a ‘Viscount D’Arcy and Family’ in a large grave three or four times bigger than the ones surrounding it, but when I search that name all I find is links to some cheap sparkling wine. I assume somewhere along the way famous—or at least successful—people would find their burial in the Ipswich soil. Kings, dukes, counts, earls and barons might have their own private grounds, away from the common folk. But what of merchants and knights and courtiers and administrators and politicians? Once, though several centuries ago, Ipswich held relevance: it had a strong port and close connection to the Hansa, a strong merchant presence (Geoffrey Chaucer’s father made his name and wealth in this Suffolk hotspot). Today, not so much. Professor Hubert once wrote of Ipswich, in which he referred to it as ‘the home of those too dull to produce great works and of those too lazy to pursue their dreams’. I am inclined to agree with him. Another search tells me that a Russian prince is buried here, but as in Russia the title of ‘prince’ was handed out to every man with a pair of breeches and three-cornered hat, I do not take this to mean much. But all that is beside the point: I was not looking for a famous person, I was looking for a family member.

The problem with finding this person was that I was working with incomplete information. I knew his name, which is handy to know when looking for a gravestone. This ancestor happens to share the same name as my father and the plan was to re-enact the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come by showing my father the fate that is to come to him* if he doesn’t hand over my inheritance right now. I also knew the general location of the grave. All of my ancestors are buried in the same place, I am told, as if they had claimed a plot of land like a German would a bench next to the pool. The issue is that knowing a ‘general location’ in a large public area stretching many, many acres is not all that helpful. Central London is a general area. But if you ask me for directions and I say ‘it’s in Central London’ you’ll find me no help at all. I also did not know his age or when he died, a problem when trying to work around a mass plot of land in which there is no general rule for where to stick someone. Families reserve plots and then those plots might go unused for months, years or decades because the person refuses to die. A random sample of graves I passed had one headstone weatherworn to smoothness, no hint of name or age left on its surface; the one next to it a ‘beloved grandfather’ who passed away in 2009; a double-plot of husband and wife, one ‘tragically taken away’ in 1984, the other who ‘fell asleep’ in 1992; and a war memorial of a pilot who died in 1941. 

Then there was the mess. Not simply the broken branches and the dead leaves on the ground, a consequence of the strong gales sweeping across the region. No—it was the weatherworn headstones, in some places broken completely. Walking along the plots there were even parts where the ground had sunk, as if those buried had re-animated and tried to claw themselves out before getting bored, or due to their skeletal bones becoming clogged with dirt and becoming unusable, like calculus teeth. 

Between the disorganised chaos and it was impossible to find this ancestor of mine. That ‘general location’—walk towards the big tree, turn left at the church, it’s on a bit where the path begins to descend—ended up a separate cemetery in itself, filled with who-knows-how-many headstones of various ages and materials in various states of repair and disrepair. After two hours and several thousand footsteps of searching, I gave up. The grey slabs merged into one at a time, my vision tunnelled and all I could see was the green field, a brown bench, and a long, long, knee-high grey wall of alternating decades and centuries. This blasé attitude to burials turns honouring the dead into a logistical nightmare not even the likes of the Red Cross and UNICEF face when organising rescues in war-torn Yemen or in floods in East Asia. A better idea is to not allow the reservation of plots: bury them as they come in, then everybody knows who is where.

Or better yet—let’s stop burying people in their own plots altogether.

We now live in an environmentally-conscious age. This is different to all the other ages where people cared about the environment, because now ‘we’ are the ones who care, and ‘we’ are better at caring for the environment than ‘them’. ‘We’ don’t know who ‘them’ are, but ‘we’ know that ‘we’ are better than ‘them’. No man or woman needs their own plot for the rest of eternity. It takes up land, a precious, finite commodity and makes it unusable for the rest of time. Then that land is treated as a waste-fill—filled with concrete, woods, plastics, metals, chemicals and fabrics that do not decompose. To sully the ground is akin to marching down to your local grasslands and shooting an elephant. It was a controversy when Orwell admitted to doing it, and it’s an even worse controversy now. Don’t be an elephant shooter, don’t contaminate the ground. 

Above ground is no better. It is visible in those abandoned, broken stones. Eventually, for any number of reasons, the dead stop receiving visitors. For all of the freshly maintained plots, with their bright new flowers on a weekly basis, the clean, ornate, polished headstone with its words of endearment, there are as many that have all the markings of a derelict house. The ‘beloved grandfather’ is cared for now, but in time those grandchildren by whom he was beloved will age and die. Will their children and grandchildren hold the same sense of attachment to a man they most likely never met. Blood is not so important as time. Soon enough people will stop visiting, the flowers will wither and die, the message on the slab will fade away to nothingness. In short, his future will be that of the unknown person by whom he resides. Time always wins. And when something always wins, it’s time to change the rules.

Let’s have a clearing out. Exhume those bodies—most are puddles by now, remove those materials that damage the soil beneath our feet and let’s move to a more conscious method of burial. Cremation has its charms, though the smoke it chimes out is a concern. Machines do exist that convert smoke into energy via some process I do not understand and will never understand, no matter how many times an Indian child on Youtube explains it to me. The best solution is, of course, the natural burial: one in which the body is not preserved with any harmful chemicals; is buried in a biodegradable coffin or even a sac of natural materials; and is not surrounded by a layer of concrete. Bodies decompose, they return to the earth and, after a decade or two, the plot is reusable. Finally a finite source becomes infinite, the earth gains precious materials to continue the Circle of Life. As for monuments: permanent ones are no longer required, as the plot becomes communal. A small stone, a piece of wood can mark a spot if one so chooses. Or plant a tree, and watch it grow, a very visual symbol of the ‘death breeds life’ mantra. But a specific location is no longer a requirement. Now, the general location works. ‘He’s buried here, she’s buried there, they are buried everywhere, because they are now with the world and the world is everywhere’. A poet would make a sonnet about how things are all one. He’d find a way to couple ‘the world has turned’ and ‘to the earth, he return’d’ in a way that would make sense in trochaic tetrameter or iambic pentameter. There is no need for a permanent marker because a permanent marker suggests ownership: and the world is not ours. Not anymore.

Or do a sky burial: throw the bodies out in the open and let the birds have at them. That is cheaper, still. I like the idea of that one.

*The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is, in this author’s humble opinion, the worst element of ‘A Christmas Carol’. The Ghosts of Christmas Past and Present did all the work. By the end of his spell with Past, Scrooge is already on the way to changing his ways; by his time with Present, he has changed completely. Yet to Come does nothing beyond bully the man who is already psychologically changed. And if Scrooge were still his Scrooge-like self, then the visions he shows are of no use. Why would a misanthrope who hates people care if people speak ill of his passing or do not attend his funeral?

The Pain of the Typewritist

For those of you who are avid followers of my life and exploits, you are no doubt aware that some weeks ago I bought a typewriter. And if you’re not, you are now. Only recently have I managed to find time to do use it for any prolonged amount of time. When it arrived on that Wednesday or Thursday, I gave it a little try to make sure all the keys worked and it was functioning as it should. It was, so rest easy there. But time was short that day though so beyond that little test I wasn’t able to work with it beyond writing out cleverly crafted insults about people I know. There is something in writing insults via a typewriter that makes one feel more cultured, the insult more cutting. With a typewriter I felt powerful and witty. Like Truman Capote. But slightly less obnoxious.

Over the next few days I couldn’t use it much either. An odd thing occurred in my life where I actually had to leave the house for most of the day. In fact, I was out so long that by the time I got home it was no longer day at all. I thought for nighttime writing would do me well; the best writers write at night, so I just made up. But when I sat down to type out my upcoming novel, or continue my biography of Hubert J. Watergipridget, or simply write more insults about the shape of Joe’s beard, I found the keys too noisy. The keys were heavy, and the clanging of the mechanism noisier still. I do have thick walls in my house; at least, I never hear sounds from anywhere else even though my hearing is so sensitive that I can hear someone chewing from across the road. But even then, I thought the sound of the link slapping a letter onto the paper enough to break some kind of law. A law about noise most likely. With that in mind, I left it for another day. I then promptly forgot about doing it, instead spending more time trying to unlock the final few achievements on The Witcher 3.

But now, with that achievement unlocked and the Coronavirus quarantine forcing me inside, I have had the time to write. I thought of writing outside. The police drones flying overhead telling me to go back inside put  a stop to that. Back inside, I collected some paper — which I may soon regret if this toilet paper pandemic worsens — and set out on writing something. Something, preferably, about anything other than Joe’s beady eyes. I did my ritual of putting up a picture of George Orwell by my desk, so that if I ever looked away I would be met with his beady Joe-like judgemental eyes. ‘I punched an elephant to death — imagine what I could do to you,’ his eyes seem to say.

While rummaging around the shed, after having avoided the hourly changeover of the drone guard, I found a piece of foam. Why the shed had foam in it I don’t know. But then again it wasn’t my shed. I stood in that shed for another fifteen minutes as the police passed over. A well-timed run got me through a barricade and back inside I was to practise my writing. I wrote for an hour altogether. About what I cannot say. If I tell you, you won’t buy it. Like that copy of my book on Amazon none of you touch. I wrote, I wrote, I wrote some more. And then I stopped to have a bagel filled with some leftover German meatballs. Such is life under this new system.

While eating I began feeling a lot of pain in arm, scaling up all the way to my shoulder. It felt like I had torn a rotator cuff. My fledgling NFL career will never take off now. Typing on that machine, hitting those keys with enough force to get a firm imprint on the paper has really done a number on me. It’s an intense strength-training workout like none I’ve ever endured. What I’m saying is, it was very painful and even now I’m still hurting. In order to type these words I have kept my elbows firmly planted to the edge of the laptop. But writing about how the pain work has given me psychosomatic pain and now my elbow is tingling.  

I think what might have happened, in my clearly well thought out way, is that by adding that foam under it in an attempt to reduce the sound, I’ve stifled the ability of the machine to disperse the energy created from the keys. Instead of going through the body of the machine, down its little legs and into my table, it is being set back up my warm, causing all manner of pain and hell. Or more simple an explanation, it could just be that I’m so woefully out of shape that even the most basic form of exercise as moving my hand in an up-and-down motion is too much of an exertion for me. 

What I will have to do is remove the foam from under it and see if that helps. If the neighbours complain, screw them. They’re old anyway and the media tells me they’e the first to go. The time of the young is now.

Contrary to National Stereotypes, I Have No Desire to Discuss the Weather.

A few days ago, EntirelyForced posted a blog. This itself is not a shock. This is, after all, a website that leans towards blogging. What was a surprise, for this particular poster, was that I agreed with the bulk of his statements. Not all, of course; his penchant for wearing odd socks marks him as a degenerate for whom there is no rehabilitation. No—what I did agree with was his dislike of being questioned. But whereas his hatred emanates from a passive-aggressive relationship with his lanky, socially inept housemate whom he wishes to throw out the window, my issues flow from a different stream entirely.

For me, or at least the people with whom I have the misfortune to interact on a daily basis, the questions are always some low-effort attempt at small-talk. Or, worse still, they are done for no-talk; but instead serve as some weird necessity to fill every crevice of silence with the filling agent of noise. The questions are never so much questions: they are simply fillers, but all the same, an answer is expected to them.

Mr Forced might grind his teeth at such a pointless question as ‘Why is there a sock on the floor?’—but compared to my own situation, these at least lead to some minor conversation, from which a point and counter-point can arise. If either he or his roommate were creative, or conspiratorial, they could even invent some false reality wherein a sock demon appears from a portal in their sink to litter the house with mismatched, often dirty, footwear. There may even be two demons, one a force for good and the other a force for ill, who have chosen the hallway between the two bedrooms as the pitch for their battle. Just as God and Lucifer pitched their battle for the mortal world at the footsteps of the Brocken, so too do these two demons do likewise in a two-bed flat on the third floor of an unattractive town in an expensive county in a rapidly failing country.

As for in my day to day life of these pointless questions, there is no follow-on because the question is never a question in a real sense, it is a basic observation which somehow still requires an affirmative or negative response. Just this past weekend I can point to the following examples:

While standing outside in the wind: ‘It’s cold… it’s cold, isn’t it?’

While driving to the shops: ‘Oooh it’s a bit bright… hm?’

While I have a drink in my hand: ‘Do you have a drink?’

Watching the Shrewsbury versus Liverpool match: ‘Liverpool are the ones in red?’

While the washing machine is halfway into its cycle, and while they were standing directly in front of the currently spinning machine: ‘Is the washing machine on?’

While watching The Masked Singer: ‘Is this the singing contest with the masked celebrities?’

It is bizarre. But what is more bizarre is this: if I do not answer these non-questions, I am the bad person for not helping someone reach the answer—an answer that is so mind-numbingly obvious that the question itself is an insult. Perhaps this hatred stems from my hatred of authority, which manifests itself as taking umbrage when somebody expects something of me when I have no desire to offer it. But more so, in some ways, I point to the reliance on technology as the reason for these stupid pieces of word salad. Having in the palm of your hand the answers to all of life’s questions has stunted the intellectual capacity of everybody to such an extent that critical thinking—nay, thinking in general—has become a lost art known only to the few. I half expect that people now begin their day by asking Alexa if what they are doing is breathing.

To cure this malady, I think, at the very least, a rule should come into play permitting the person being asked the question to tap over the head with a spoon the person asking the question.

Nobody comments on these anyway. I am glad for that in my own way, because it stops me from having to pretend a stupid comment is anything but just that.

The Rest Day

Since time immemorial, and probably a bit before then, too, Sunday has been the rest day. A day for sitting around doing absolutely nothing. Unless you’re one of those who cannot manage their time correctly. If you are one of those, Sunday is a frantic day filled with preparing paperwork for Monday, possibly going shopping to buy food for the week ahead, that you will no doubt pass over when returning home in favour of ordering yet another takeout. I have a revelation for you: alternating between collection and delivery doesn’t prevent the workers from judging you. Others still might do their ironing or bake or visit family members or friends or catch up with their spouse or a partner in a way not quite possible during the day. The religious might use the day as a means of reflection, congregating as they do in their Holy House, with other people of like-minded theology; they might speak with others about their own brand of religion, or they may reflect on theology in silence. Yet more, and something far more likely in this binge-drinking party-boat we call the United Kingdom than the religious idea, might spend the greater part of the final day of the weekend to recuperate from their one-too-many drinks the night before. Remember people: two pints of water when you get home; it helps prevent dehydration in the morning, which is the real source of your hurting head and rotting gut. For any other drinks-related mishaps, I can only inform you that you are on your own.

As for I, this humble author, I spend my days doing none of these things. Instead, a Sunday is a day for attempting the most asinine of multitasking that I can muster. I alternate between the latest docudrama on Netflix, while noting down all the historical inaccuracies; either for use in an article that I soon abandon, or as a means of making myself angry for no other reason than it proves that I am still human and capable of emotion. Once I reach a moment where the bile is choking me, I switch over to playing a game or two, before the crushing reality that I am wasting my life and should devote myself to something more productive than playing the same game for the fifth time for an achievement that I failed to get the first four times and know I will abandon trying to get the fifth time. After that, I switch to sports—any sports. On just this particular day I have watched three football matches, part of a cricket match, the final of an indoors bowls game, basketball and an exhibition game of American Football. (As I said to a friend, even in an exhibition contest, Kirk Cousins finds a way to choke.) Once done with that, I returned to the docudrama. The acting is atrocious in this, which in itself is something astounding considering the woeful performances by those in the Roman documentaries. Still, it features Constantinople, the greatest city that ever was, and I cannot pass up watching a show about it. If only there were some good drama à la HBO’s Rome. But that seems far too much to ask; and at any rate, I do not trust anybody other than myself to write it. I will finish my current novel then do so.

I enjoyed myself so much that tomorrow I will do the same.

Trending Trends

I am a slave to trends. Though I may push the image of a contrarian on the outskirts of society, I, like every other outsider, wish for nothing else than to fit in. Conforming seems such an easier way to live life. Doing what other people say without fuss or bother, and being rewarded for it via maintaining relationships and a career for longer than five minutes before throwing it away out of some self-delusion of being better than everybody else. Unfortunately for me, this servitude to the last fashion or movement is only ever surface-deep, and the shallow veneer through which I live soon rubs off the moment I meet anybody who actually lives that life for real, often resulting in my abandoning of that subculture. The net result of that is that, eight months away from reaching a major birthday milestone, I can point to a stagnant career, a non-existent love life, a total inability to communicate with anybody in a public setting, and a grand total of one friend—whom I simply tolerate more than anything else. (He says far worse about me.)

Through childhood it was the alternative culture—the greebo (or grebo as some ultra-contrarians claimed it), the emo, the scene kid: alternating between baggy jeans—that would serve as sweeps, collecting dust and mud with every move of my leg because the trousers were so long and wide that even giant strides would not lift the fabric from the ground—and jeans so tight that on at least two occasions the simple act of standing up ripped the in-seam. At times I jumped into the hair dye aspect of it, at times turning my hair various shades of red and blue and green and gold, as if each week advertising a different African country. On one occasion, I dyed it blonde, only to realise halfway through I had not enough dye for the long locks flowing down to below my shoulders: the end result was a sort of leopard print or cheetah spots across my crown. When it came to the music, it all sounded the same: angry men shouting angrily over angry guitars. Sometimes a band would differentiate itself by throwing in an angry violinist too, no doubt fiddling vexatiously to childhood memories of performing Shostakovich. I am no great lover of music at the best of times. There is no curiosity in that art form. If I happen across one song I like, I will listen to it again and again; but never do I have the urge to look at the artist and search something else that they have made. I think, of all the songs I have ever heard, there are about ten that I could name both the title and the artist, and less than half that I could name a second song of theirs.

Around the time of my first year at university, Boardwalk Empire began airing on HBO. With that show came my jump into the three-piece suits and undercuts that went with it. I soon discovered that I had neither the physique nor the jawline to pull off such a look. I adopted the haircut hoping to come across as the modern day Jimmy Darmody; people around me said I looked more like Andy Dufresne. As an aside, the fashion of that time has come around again. Though people attribute to it the Peaky Blinder Effect. How these other contrarians would weep if they learned they were a decade late to the party. Fortunately for them, nobody outside of America was aware of Boardwalk Empire or any other HBO show until Game of Thrones came about.

Fashion-wise, I have mostly learned my lesson. I have a very limited wardrobe these days: a collection of striped jumpers, echoing a Krueger without the knife-hands; slim-fit jeans, only ever in a light blue; red t-shirts, all short-sleeve; and blue Vans, who don’t sponsor me though I wish they would to cut down on costs. As for the hair, ‘grade two on the back and sides, longer on the top’ is a serviceable, economical, always-on-trend bob; though even then, I only have it cut two or three times. Often I let it grow to the scientific length of: it’s annoying me now so I will get it cut. One of the very few things I can cling to in my advancing years and unfulfilling life is that my hair is still thick and my hairline is still at the front of my head and not somewhere behind my ears. Like the hair on the top of my head, the hair on my chin only goes when I can feel myself chewing my moustache. That one friend and I regularly state we will grow Author Beards, and not shave until we are published. I am sure soon enough Rasputin will think I look too unkempt.

I think that when I started this, this was meant to lead somewhere. Into some great description of what I am doing with my life now or something else I have latched on to. But if that was the case, what that point was escapes me. In the absence of discovering something else to type in its place, I think I will leave it at that. Perhaps there was no great theme; perhaps I simply wanted to talk about myself and project the image of a young boy with leopard prints in his hair.

As for music, I still find most of it terrible. If I ever need to drown out the voices inside my head, I flood my ears with white noise.

And endless screaming.

Abandoned Ideas

Once I had the foolish idea that starting a blog would lead to something. Unfortunately this idea came a decade after the Blog Bubble had burst and there was no chance of making anything of it other than a place where He and I make public in-jokes to one another. Going by my own stat page, He doesn’t read the parts of the joke I post. He doesn’t even know how to backlink properly. He always links the homepage of my website, never the specific blog. This means that, on the few times somebody does click the link, they land on the front page, see the blurbs of so many disparate articles on topics ranging from fawning over banana bread to paintings to German history to B-movies on the Horror Channel to the call for the mass exhumation of pollution in cemeteries to another post about banana bread that it scares them off. I should take lessons from this, to perhaps specialise on one or at most two topics. But I won’t do that. Whatever I possess in self-doubt, I match in pure delusion: my words are important, my opinion is always relevant and I should comment on everything that ever is or was.

As a result of this, there is on my laptop a folder called Blog Ideas. This is a meta commentary, as to write this, I added another entry called Abandoned Ideas and that title is now appearing on your browser of choice. (I am also going to hyperlink the title back to its own page, creating a circular loop that might destroy the world.) The number of ideas is currently at sixty, of which about a half or there about are written out and posted. I think of the finished articles that haven’t been posted there are two or three. One is about the use of VAR in football, which I did post at one point only to remove because there were so many incidents that my references were becoming outdated by the minute. Removing it to update it was a mistake as when I went to re-upload it I realised that it would look like I was chasing a hashtag. I don’t do that, which is why almost all of my content relates to nonsense nobody but myself cares about. The others are half-finished, either because I stopped writing half-way through and then when I returned to it I couldn’t remember the point of it; or because during writing it I convinced myself that the idea was stupid and stopped. 

When it comes to the other thirty, they are largely nothing more than the Ghost of What Would Have Been. A lot of these were simply the case of me finding the title better than the idea and leaving it there or deeming the idea to big to attempt to wing it. These were to have better research, more thought, more time. But when it became apparent that I was getting substantially less views than I wished, I decided that these would be left for another time or some other form of media where I didn’t have a live count of just how unpopular I was that I could refresh a hundred times a day instead of doing something productive.

I present a selection of these titles for your viewing pleasure. Perhaps one day I will make something of them. Or maybe you will get an idea and I can at a later date sue you for plagiarism and take you for everything you are worth. They are as follows:

1. A Homolinguistic Translation of Coleridge: This, as I try to recall, was one of the very few writing prompts that I read out aloud to my ex. It stuck with me because I was certain that ‘homolinguistic’ wasn’t a word. (My spellchecker backs up this thought as there is a red line under the word.) The prompt said to take a poem or other short form of prose that you liked and substitute the words with new words that kept the same themes as the original. I abandoned it before beginning as I am not a poet and have no understanding of rhythm. Going for Coleridge was also too big a task. Wordsworth I could manage, because he’s awful; but going for Coleridge was like picking up boxing gloves and two minutes later getting into the ring with Tyson Fury. Start small, go for the Joshuatron before taking on the big boys.

2. Who is Palmer Olnis?: I have no idea what the intention was. I only include it because the title confuses me. I don’t think that’s a name I came up with. It sounds fake enough for a name I would fabricate but I almost never add in surnames to my creations. A fake first name is easy to mask: at the very least you can claim it’s a nickname to wave away the stupidity. I used to know someone who went by ‘Badger’; it was three years before I found out her proper name. I might have taken the name from someone else. More than likely, if it was anything, it would have been five hundred to a thousand words of rambling before settling on the conclusion of ‘I don’t know’. That’s the type of thing I do.

3. Crusader Kings II Broke my Spirit: This I do know. I had started a game as Anglo-Saxon Wessex in The Old Gods era, picking Alfred of Wessex (King Alfred the Great) and working my way up from the Count of Dorset to the Emperor of Britannia with a realm that encompassed all of Britain and Ireland, Norway and Sweden, Spain, North Africa and the Levant. I had just popped the achievement Protector of the Holy Places for bringing Rome, Jerusalem, Medina and Mecca under my control. Shortly after this my emperor died and his infant son inherited, placing the Empire into a regency. For those unfamiliar with the game, this is terrible and takes large chunks of your control away until your character reaches his (or her) majority. During this regency period, my regent switched the succession rules from agnatic (male-only, to avoid succession crises) to agnatic-cognatic, bringing women into the line of succession. As my regent was my eldest sister, this had all the makings of a conflict of interest. She then had my infant emperor (her brother, need I remind you) assassinated. Due to some contrivance in the game, it was not her that inherited but her son. As her son was not a member of my dynasty, this constituted a game over. Thus, six hundred years of glorious rule (and more hours than I care to admit of gameplay) were lost. I uninstalled the game shortly after and have not played it since. Why I abandoned it? It was around the time Paradox was planning to release the Deus Vult expansion and some media outlets with no understanding of history were citing it as their endorsement of right-wing policies. I didn’t want to get involved. Games Journalism is general is something best left avoided.

4. A Review of the Imitation Game: The Imitation Game is the worst film I have ever seen. I truly despise it. I despise the historical inaccuracies, I despise the performances, and I despise all involved, most particularly Benedict Cumberbatch and Matthew Goode–and most of all the screenwriter Graham Moore, who responded to the criticism of inaccuracies by pointing at a Monet painting and shouting ‘that’s not what water lilies look like!’–for their smugness in the promotional interviews in which they say it’s okay to be as inaccurate as possible because the film honours a great man. Personally, I find the best way to honour a great man is to tell his story as accurately as possible and not by portraying him as some autistic savant who engaged in espionage and treason as some way of building tension. But the film won Oscars and BAFTAs and I’m sitting here writing the equivalent of a public diary— so what do I know? Abandoned for being too ranty. I find the ranting justified but it would have probably put me on a watchlist. Instead, I reference my disdain for it here and here, as asides to other tales.

5. Donald Trump, Mass Hysteria and the Death of Satire: I am sure I would have made this funny. But then He posted an article or sent me a message in which he mentioned Donald Trump and the idea lost its allure. In all likelihood, I think it wouldn’t have worked. Not because I don’t have the intellectual capacity to make astute, philosophical, witty comments about Donald Trump and how Twitter has a collective panic attack anytime he gurns at a camera. It wouldn’t have worked because the zeitgeist has decided that Trump is the devil incarnate—or, if you’re on his side, the God-Emperor we need and deserve—and no commentary, even satirical, can speak about him in any other terms than those two distinct lines. In the end it wasn’t worth the hassle. The Death of Satire aspect was going to be a witty pun on the Death of Stalin, the Ianucci film that had just come out. It was going to savage him just as much as anything else. Because his commentary that made In the Loop and The Thick of It so good has been completely lost since he took the American dollar. VEEP is garbage, as was everything past the second act in Death of Stalin. To his credit, he, somewhat at least, acknowledged the flaws of the latter when he said he wanted to make it a comedy but still remind people of just how awful the people he was portraying were. But that’s not what satire is Armando, and you more than anybody else should know that. 

I will leave it there. There are others. Many, may others. I doubt I will ever finish them. Or start them. Like Kafka, my name will go down in the Western Canon for ideas that I had but never finished just as much as it will for ideas I did finish. But unlike Kafka, I won’t go down in literary folklore as a big baby.

But by gum, I really, really hate The Imitation Game.

The Museum in the Marina

Not pictured: the animals filling the Ark with all manner of smells.

For the past three months the Orwell Quay in Ipswich has been the berthing place of the Verhalen Ark, a floating museum replica of Noah’s Ark. Inside this museum there is, among other things, models and displays of Adam and Eve (or Eva, as the signs on board say); Cain and Abel; Moses; and, of course, Noah and his Ark. During most of its time in the marina I walked past it while doing other things but had no interest in going into it, not least because of its £16.50 admission price. But when news broke of its time in Ipswich coming to an end I, like my five-year-old niece who suddenly wants the toy she isn’t playing with the moment her sister touches it, wanted nothing more than to step inside it. Of course, after returning from my visit, I turned on the radio and, like a script that uses a well-timed change of the channel to exposit information to the characters and the audience, the owner of the museum was doing an interview where he announced his intention to extend the museum’s stay in the ‘city’ for another three months. (I would link you to an article in which that interview is transcribed, but the ‘journalist’ assigned to it  makes a mockery of grammar and syntax with each poorly written sentence so I won’t give him the SEO help). [Longtime readers of this blog are well aware that any and all ‘mistakes’ that crop up in these are meta commentaries mocking the state of journalism].

While Eve was eating the Forbidden Fruit, Adam was doing squats.

There’re four levels in total, with an outdoor play area and a restaurant on the top level, a gift shop on the third level and a theatre on the bottom level. I went on a Sunday, between ten and noon and both the restaurant and theatre were closed. I had no plans on visiting either; it’s just something to note for the complete experience. A map of sorts is included with the ticket, guiding you to begin the journey of the Old Testament on the top level before making your way down to the bottom level and then back up to the third level into the gift shop and exit. On the other side of that map, which I only found out on the way home, was a list of questions. I didn’t bother reading them but I’m sure there are people who did. I won’t delve too much into the layout as to not give away the entire structure and contents: but it begins, naturally, with Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden at the top and ends with the tale of King Solomon with various other stories covering the other levels. There are some activities around the place too: one can pretend he is Samson and topple over some pillars in one part; and on another pretend he is David and topple Goliath. You topple Goliath with a trebuchet more than a sling, which seems like it is cheating.

How much time you can spend in there is up to you. I reckon I was in there about two hours all in all. I finished a cycle through in less than that but I went around a second time after it died down a bit. The first run through was filled with so many children that I think I accidentally stumbled into a Sunday School on a field trip. The little blighters kept getting in the way. Once they were out, I was able to go back up and look at some of the models in greater detail.

If there are downsides, it’s that the lighting on the lower floors isn’t the best. It’s not a case of pitch blackness or struggling to see your hand in front of your face. It is that the lack of lighting obscures parts of the models, which are the stars of the piece. They have great detail to them, but when the shrine is dimly lit, it is hard to appreciate the designs in the way they deserve. Also, the signs also have some less than stellar descriptions, owing largely to some poor wording which no doubt stems from the language barrier. The people involved in the project are Dutch, English is at best their second language, certainly their English is better than my Dutch: but still the translation issue was there. Most people probably won’t notice, less people probably won’t care as even the English have no understanding of how their language works. But I do, and I’m pedantic, so I noticed it. It is narrow, too. The signs say the Ark is wheelchair accessible, and there is a lift that runs across the floors, but the walkways are very thin and it seems like a logistical nightmare to navigate a wheelchair along past other visitors, into the various nooks and crannies in which some of the displays are situated, turn around and do the same at the other end of the Ark and then turn around again to get to the lift for the next section.

I’m not telling you to visit it; I’m not going to tell you to visit it: it doesn’t matter to me one way or the other. This is no advertisement. But this line telling you to buy my book on Amazon is. For that I now have to write ‘ad’ in my tags. But if do end up visiting, wear a thick jacket, perhaps even a scarf. It is cold in the Ark, particularly on the lowest floor. A sign even acknowledges this, alluding in someway that I cannot now recall about how the cold environment relates to the most evil tales of the Old Testament. I’m not quite sure science would back up this claim. Now, I might be a fat unhealthy slob, but I have no medical or breathing or underlying issues but at the bottom of the ship it was that cold air you associate with the deepest of winters: thick air that catches your breath and stays in your lungs and hurts to inhale or exhale more. Later in the day, I was still complaining to all and sundry about how the air had sapped my energy.

You won’t die, but it is chilly. Be prepared for it.

Or maybe you will die and they’ll take your body and use it as the cast for another one of its models.

We call that natural recycling.

The Time I Accidentally Defenestrated Myself by Falling Out of a Second Floor Window at a House Party.

With each passing day it becomes more and more obvious to me that fame will forever elude me. I have no issue with this. I have written many times about my desire to remain anonymous. What I do lament is that often with fame comes riches. Thus, as the logic goes, with no fame comes no riches. Worse still, I cannot fall back on other options. Time and time, someone who is not me wins the lottery, removing another avenue for riches. And time and time again, I tear apart my ticket and curse Camelot. Or whatever the European companion to Camelot is — La Camélot, I presume. (Actually, from what I gather, the Euromillions headquarters is in Helsinki. I have a Finnish friend and I refuse any attempt to replicate that language. Somehow, the Finns turned swilling mouthwash into a national tongue.)

Anonymity has its drawbacks, too. That is, having all these anecdotes that I cannot share in exchange for money. I could fill fourteen or so volumes of an autobiography with my exploits. Lovatt: an autobiography in fourteen volumes, I would call it. That’s one volume each on my lovers, and thirteen on those who have wronged me. If those pages remain empty and imaginary, this page will have to do. Up until the point I do achieve fame, at which point this page will disappear.

This particular story is of the time I fell out of a second floor window at a house party. I call it: The Time I Defenestrated Myself Falling Out of a Second Floor Window at a House Party.

I was fifteen at the time, in my final year of high school. Some readers might consider this too young for a house party. But remember this: I am English. I live in England. And we English are nothing if not drunkards. That drunkardness comes from an early age. The French sip wine at dinner from an early age. The English binge liquor the same way. Take a visit to England and see for yourself. Come and observe the people of Manchester, Newcastle, and Romford falling out of bars. They learnt that from somewhere, and the ‘somewhere’ they learnt it was as kids at house parties.

The party was at M’s house. Her house lay upon a hill with a very heavy slope. This slope put the house upside-down in a way. The house had three storeys. On the lowest, the kitchen and garden. Above that the bedrooms. And above that, on the highest level, the living room and the toilet.The night went the same way as any with fifteen- and sixteen-year-olds drinking. We drank, we drank lots and we drank fast. Some people paired off. R—, the devil with the gift we all wish to have, tripled off. As for me, I could not take part. Well, I could have, but that would have been what we call ‘cheating’. I was with D at the time. Double Ds, some would say. Instead taking part in that, I went to the toilet. Now, the precise drink(s) I had eludes me. Around that age I had an interest in Disaronno Originale. But even as a beginner drinker I don’t think that had the necessary alcoholic content to make me lose my senses. We were all most likely mixing at that point. Anyway, I went to the toilet, locked the door and ‘broke the seal’.

By that, I mean I broke the lock of the door. The door had one of those cylindrical bolt locks. The type that fasten to the door frame and have a small knob on which you pull to open it.

Somehow, in that drunken phase, I knocked the knob out of its slot and I could not see where it landed. A sober person—or a smarter person—would have in that moment called for help. The toilet was next to the living room, the one in which a bunch of drunk teens were rucking like Catholic rabbits. Someone would have heard me. But I didn’t think to do that. After running my hands on the floor for a short while I thought myself trapped. Still I didn’t call for someone. Still I didn’t make an attempt to phone someone. Or even attempt to craft a makeshift knob like a drunk teenager MacGyver.
Instead, the drunk me looked around, saw the window and decided that climbing out of it was the best idea.

I thought it a smart idea. And I put some thought into it before deciding to go through with it. First I opened the window and peered outside. If it had been a straight drop down I would have reconsidered and made myself content to die in my toilet tomb. But there was a balcony of sorts, a small roof protruding from under the window. It had a slope to it but I thought to myself that if I eased myself out of the window onto the roof I could slide down it. From there I would land in the garden and then walk through the backdoor as if nothing had happened. The locked door was not an issue that played out in my mind. Nobody, I thought, would question a locked door. Nobody would look at it and say: ‘somebody has locked this from inside and has run off.’ Besides, I thought, if that were to happen, I could deny it was me. After all, I would now be on the other side of the door.

I unlatched the window, raised myself up on the windowsill and began climbing out. The window was smaller than expected, and it was higher too. I struggled for a bit before getting my head, arms and upper body through the window. Once I did, it was a small case of edging myself forward. After that, lowering myself down to the roof. And then, returning to the party as if I had never been away.

I felt a tug stop me.

My first thought was that someone had broken down the door and was pulling me away. I looked back and saw nobody. I looked down. It was the latch. The latch caught my t-shirt. I was fond of baggy clothes back then, the slave to fashion that I was and am. I hadn’t thought of tucking in my clothes to stop me catching. Now, it had caught me, trapping me in a kind of window limbo. There I was, half-in, half-out, like the UK for the better part of the last three years. Advance or retreat, neither were options. The pegged cloth was keeping me from lowering. And too much of my body was out to push myself back. I had to lift myself to move forward. So I did. Pushing my legs, I managed to raise my stomach and lift the caught piece of fabric off the latch.

The next moment I felt a kind of weightlessness. I wasn’t quite sure what had happened. But I knew that I hadn’t landed on the roof with the grace of a Russian gymnast. Instead I was sliding down it with all the speed and grace of Nodar Kumaritashvili. Worse, I was veering headfirst towards the ground. Somehow, via divine intervention or momentum, I ended up flipping in midair. The next thing I knew, I was staring at the evening sky wondering why the only thing that hurt was my ankles. I was able to stand. This was good. It meant I had managed not to paralyse myself. I went back to the living room where everybody was still involved in their own business. One person noticed I was gone and asked where I was. ‘Oh, outside, getting some air,’ I replied.

I made an excuse to leave. I appealed to compassion. ‘My girlfriend is home alone,’ I said. ‘I should keep her company,’ I said. I made my best attempt at masking the pain in my feet until I was out of sight and hobbled my way to her house.

I did not get away with my crimes. It was my fault. Like a narcissist who needs the attention, I told someone the story. I told my best friend, thinking some form of loyalty and secrecy would keep the story with him until his dying days. Given he was a huge drinker even then, I thought those days would not be too far away. But no—he found the story hilarious so told everybody around us. Including M. Only R found the story amusing. The rest scolded me for my utter disregard for other people’s homes and properties. As punishment, they barred me from the next few parties. My punishment was unjust but I did not appeal it. At the very least, I didn’t have to pay to get the door fixed. Though I did hear that they had to remove it from its hinges because of me. My ankles were punishment enough. I did not get them checked. My parents called it karma in a way, that it was what I deserved for making a stupid decision.

I had to withdraw from the school’s athletics team because of that. I was a 200m runner in my own right and the second leg in the 4 x 100m relay team. What could have been if I was fit and we won. It could have been meleading the nation to glory on Super Saturday.

Alas, here I am, a fat mess who relives memories for an audience of one.

The Life and Works of Hubert J. Watergipridget

When I think of authors whom I truly admire there are a few names which spring readily to mind. Orwell, Lewis, Sassoon, Poppy, all greats who have rightfully earned their seat in the upper echelons of history. But there is another, and it is a name that is unfortunately unknown to many. That name is, of course, Hubert J. Watergipridget. Those who have taken a postgraduate course in English literature c.1930-50 may have come across his name, more often than not as a footnote to the work of some more famous and acclaimed writer; those who read for the love and not for the ‘science’ or academia may have encountered his name on a very rare occasion but, other than laughing at his surname, pass it by as just another in a long list of others who were prominent in the time.

Watergipridget’s influence in the realm of English—and British, Irish, and European—literature, however, cannot be understated. It is well known to many in the literary circles of Oxford, though curiously expunged from the narrative, that as a member of the Inklings Watergipridget influenced both Lewis and Tolkien to begin writing the fantasy epics for which they are best known. Rumours have long abounded that Watergipridget was in fact the inspiration—antithetically speaking—for the titular character in The Hobbit, having been seen by Tolkien bathing in a dirty hole using worms for floss ranting to the sky about a volcano full of gems. The reason for Watergipridget’s expulsion from the Inklings in the late 1930s remains unclear, though several theories have been postulated but never confirmed. One such theory argues that Watergipridget’s rather ‘fluid’ approach to national pride (Watergipridget simultaneously served as Minister for Information for the United Kingdom, Germany, and Italy, adopting pseudonyms, wearing fake moustaches and putting on accents whenever all three people were meant to be in communication with one another) met with the ire of the patriotic Lewis and Tolkien, causing the latter two to conspire to his have his membership revoked and his name scratched off the custom drinking glass set which had been bought for their meetings. Another proposes the theory that Watergipridget’s flamboyant Atheism and his reckless abandon towards blasphemy proved in the end to be too much for the devout Tolkien. In a letter to Lewis, himself a recent convert from Atheism to Christianity, Tolkien details an experience he witnessed, in which he saw Watergipridget, dressed as Mary Magdalene, farting profusely and exclaiming: “I am expelling the seven demons!”

Though the real reason may never be known, what is known is that after his dismissal from the group, Watergipridget went on a whirlwind tour of Europe where he directly or indirectly influenced many more authors. During a stop-over in Zurich he met with Joyce whom, depressed with the realisation that writing down words in an arbitrary fashion doesn’t make for literature, he presented with an eye-patch to cheer him up. “Pirates do not care for the laws of the sea,” he was heard to say, “so why should you care for the rules of grammar or structure or plain common decency?” In a later visit to Prague, he met with Kafka who asked him for advice on women (Watergipridget being a well-known womaniser) to which Watergipridget replied: “In my long and laboured experience of women, what I have learned most is that they love whiny little babies who constantly complain about the dominant impact their father has on their life.”

Watergipridget’s lack of reputation has caused hurt for his passionate fans and followers. Not only due to a great man not receiving the recognition he so thoroughly deserves, but because a lack of knowledge in his work has led to works long being out of print. Occasionally a rare copy of I Can’t Seem To Find My Hat, widely acknowledged to be his magnum opus, would appear on some auction site but would be snapped up by some book collector within seconds. For the rest of us, we were left with nothing to remind us but the memories.

Or that was the case until now. His manuscripts, originally thought to have been burned by Watergipridget as a result of getting a paper-cut from one of the pages, were recently discovered in the archives of Cambridge University Library. Among the collection of papers were not only the original manuscript to Hat and its sequel Oh Wait, There It Is but also a collection of never-before published short stories. After consultation between Cambridge University, its lawyers and the executors of the Watergipridget Estate (Watergipridget’s will name his pet parrot Bagu as his sole heir. Bagu, on his death, left no will of his own) to determine who owned the rights to publish the material, The School of English, led by the esteemed Henry Pretension announced that it would be releasing several of Watergipridget’s stories and poems in a collection entitled The Tiny Compendium of Ridiculousness. “There is no more fitting name for the series,” Pretension claimed in a press report. “He was a man of formidable, if not eccentric, wit; and despite his height of 4 feet 9 inches, he stood as a giant amongst the literary community.”

Hubert J. Watergipridget, despite his lack of profile, is undoubtedly one of the most important men in Western Literature. With the discovery of his manuscripts, a new age shall hopefully dawn and lift the veil on this most beloved, talented, controversial man.