This "blog", like almost all other blogs, has been on an unintentional hiatus - Life Got In The Way. Didn't it.
All 2014 posts up to this point are part of a failed project to write 365 words of tripe every day for one year. I managed to write for 39 days, then, of course, stopped.
To my invisible readership: please keep checking for updates - I will post shite again, soon.
Wednesday, 19 February 2014
I was initially suspicious of Alden's credentials, or maybe I was just envious. I knew that I wanted someone thoughtful, but his resume was just too predictable. If I wanted someone who got it and knew why we needed the tool, he didn't seem to be what I was looking for.
From his background - one that seemed so far from deprivation it was almost unbelievable that he'd have any idea of squalor or difficulty - he cut a figure that I couldn't come close to imagining. Not because I had been brought up destitute or seen much in the way of poverty, but because of the telling combination of his background and his name.
He'd been brought up and schooled privately near Oxford, so had pursued his higher education at Cambridge. After a BA (Cantab) then an MA (also Cantab), he'd returned to the county of his upbringing and begun his doctoral studies within a short train journey from his Pangbourne mansion. I knew it was a mansion because the first time I met him I asked whether he had a massive house - to which he reacted with the surprise of someone who didn't seem to have considered it an obvious query - and he said that he supposed it was 'quite large'. I knew that his house was one of the ones I'd seen in estate agents windows in Pangbourne, the homes that stirred in me an appreciation and a very mild longing. There was surely something better to be taken from life when your front garden could be a film set in Atonement and your tennis court a suitable garden feature for Tim Henman. Or maybe it was all subject to the hedonic treadmill, or perfectly normal if it was all you'd ever known.
The other thing I was curious about was why he'd chosen to be an academic. It seemed an outdated profession for the upper-middle, with investment banking and management consulting providing what seemed to be the most prized incentive. I assumed he'd been studious from a young age and was most comfortable in that environment. As it turned out, my assumption was way off the mark.
Tuesday, 18 February 2014
The best thing about the apocalypse was the constant smell of smoke and fire, or fire, or smoke. The second best thing was the absence of anything better than nothing.
I had plenty of ideas about what I could do with myself. The first, sitting on the ground doing nothing but staring at the ground was ruled out on the basis of the strain it would exert on my back. The second, looking for a tree that still held leaves - it was mid-May, but everything seemed to have disappeared - I dismissed as I knew it was impossible. The third, climbing a tree and looking at everything as it lay was accepted - I saw no reason to do anything but think and look from as high as possible.
As I climbed the best tree - and it was the best because it was sturdy and had easily accessible branches, obviously - I felt strangely apathetic. Everything seemed to have happened with the vague recognition you have, the way things happen when you stop reading newspapers and 'engaging' - I'd known that people were talking about things, but I guess I'd underestimated the importance of what they were saying. When I'd started to pay attention again, when things really were happening, I'd had a similar feeling to what I'd felt at university when I realised that people cared about things that I'd been paying no attention to whatsoever. At university, however, it was about things that I realised people had devoted their lives to but had largely passed me by; things that might have been less important in the grand scheme of things, whatever that is. This, though: this was pretty much the most important thing possible, surely? If the end of civilisation wasn't the most important thing to happen to humans then I don't know what is.
I shimmied my way along a thick brand, straddling the falling bark, before swiveling to find a more comfortable sitting position and looking out over the land.
I took a deep inhalation - the smell of smoke. It was the best thing about the apocalypse.
Thursday, 13 February 2014
I had to get on the phone and do my sales negotiation, which wasn't negotiation at all, really, unless talking shite counted in my favour, scoring softening blows on salesmen who were less inclined to charge high against people they liked. That is, if they did like me.
I thought a while back that I'd call my first novel 'My Best Friend The Salesman', because for a few months I was pretty sure that the only person I engaged and got along with on a daily basis was a salesman. It was possibly a sad time, but you can't really account for periods where you're alone and an adult and the only people you're around are your workmates. Not unless you just stay in your hometown your entire life, leaning on friendships built when you didn't have to make so much effort to meet people. If you're not willing to do that, I figure that at some point, your best friend will be a salesman.
I got on the phone, feeling relaxed that the lad I was dialing, P, who was not a really lad but a man, would be willing to converse about almost anything but the issue I wanted, or had, to discuss. I was still trying to work P out, which was quite difficult when I was clearly a source of his commission. He had made me laugh a lot - his voice, a refined Yorkshire accent, was the ideal vehicle for his rapid-fire participation in seemingly any choice of conversation however ridiculous, all couched in chummy sales speak, with constant repetition of my name and reassurances at the end that it had 'been emotional'.
E, F and K all thought he was a fucking idiot. E said that P 'thought he was really smart, but he was actually stupid'. Whenever P's name was mentioned, E was always quick to jump in and slate him. This irritated me, because not only had I not reached this conclusion about P, but I thought it was unfair to reduce someone to an uncompromising negative - I thought it was stupid. On reflection, the only person I knew who didn't think he was a fucking idiot was my best friend and person I'd liked most for a few months - the salesman.
Wednesday, 12 February 2014
I was getting the impression that P was not afraid to take a direct approach to conversation, even if it ran the risk of backfiring. I was curious about P's tendency to say things that were clearly hilarious and ridiculous, yet refrain from laughing, as though unaware of his comic value.
P went on, 'DF was the owner of an business that went under, an appalling business it was, a crooked and inept business. During his time there, he was very friendly with GG, who managed the Birmingham office of GFH. They were, let's say it, close. A lot of business went on between them, but not only that - they cultivated, let's say, a very cosy relationship.'
I laughed, enjoying the direction the conversation had taken. 'Oh really? So you think they were, at the very least, fond of one another?'
'Oh, I think that's very fair to say. At the very minimum, S. And I hope that you are not offended by the indication of homophobia on my part, because the point is, S, that although they had wives, they were very close.'
'P, I have absolutely no doubt as to the meaning behind your suggestion, and I don't think there is homophobia evident in your comments. You are simply suggesting that they were very close and this may even have resulted in a mutual beneficial and therefore mutually gratifying business arrangement which may or may not have deprived your company of revenue. And if I can also just add: I am immune to any degree of offence, unless of course it is a personal insult.'
'Absolutely. There was most certainly an arrangement and you can quote me on that if you like. And S, I once told them during a golf competition in which they were partners that I wasn't surprised to see that they were playing a round together. Playing a round or playing around, you see. To adopt a rather crude golfing analogy, oh, where can I go with this? Well, let's just say that it would be reasonable to suggest that they were touching one another's putters.'
Tuesday, 11 February 2014
When the freedom of choice arrived - the freedom to select interests on the basis of their appeal, an appeal felt innately, with as little bias from peers as there had ever been, S found himself in a peculiar position. He had previously enjoyed sports both as a competitor and a spectator, but now, while he still saw the appeal of some competitive sports from a personal stance unbiased by the need for peer validation, he was less convinced about the spectatorial value.
It was, he thought, understandable that some sporting performances offered an aesthetic attraction in their execution. It was understandable that some sporting performances fostered a sense of unity among spectators, whether as a physical collective or a nuclear grouping. It was less understandable that sport could breed a tribalism that was believed by its members.
By a certain stage, S wondered whether he had not witnessed most shots, outcomes and styles that might provide a novel source of entertainment. In football, he has seen wonderful free kicks and diving headers. He had seen scorpion kicks and lobbed goals from the halfway line. He had witnessed thrilling comebacks and last-minute winners. He had also experienced lows and highs in his mild support for different teams. He had often felt that the most sought-after highs presented a curious conundrum - he was never quite as ecstatic as he anticipated, even after years of willing a peak success. Now, when offered the choice of following and supporting sports teams and sportspeople he wondered whether it wasn't the intelligent choice not to do so.
There was value, of course, in taking an interest, in adding knowledge and feeling included. But he couldn't help but feel that the interest would be somewhat forced - a forced belief in something for which he could find no proof beyond the behaviour of others. It occurred to him that in this era of militant atheism, there didn't seem to be anything quite as strong in favour of undermining the belief in spectator sports for adults.
Monday, 10 February 2014
S thought L unresponsive at best, thoroughly rude at worst. It provoked a catch-22 psychological phenomenon. With L, the unresponsive acquaintance, instead of allowing for the free-flow of information that was adapted and honed as S spoke, he would be left wondering whether to speak at all, and if so, how to order his words. This would, most likely, lead to an artificial flow of information. Speech would be delivered in an unnatural, stilted manner inconsistent with his usual style. He wondered whether the unresponsive acquaintance may develop a view on his character that was shaped by his artificial delivery, thinking, 'This guy is so awkward. Every time he speaks he sounds as though he's reading from a manual, and struggling.'
They would never manage to develop a fluent relationship, which would frustrate S to the point that he would desire what he was unable to receive. This, of course, was a desire built on a falsehood - that gaining entry to L's club would be worth the bother, offering the goods of which he was deprived and therefore wanted more strongly. It was also likely to result in an outcome akin to the Groucho Marx quote - 'I don't care to belong to any club that would have me as a member' - in other words, the reduced thirst for a wine that flows freely. Now, however, entry to the club was barred and would most likely continue to be if he were never allowed to be comfortable and fluent.
With L, S regularly found himself in situations that made him feel smaller than he believed he deserved. He knew that any information about his own life was off-limits - he would receive no reply, which left him wondering whether he had been exposed as a self promoter and a narcissist. Whereas a positive response would have encouraged him to talk more freely, the silence or minimal feedback made him a worthless fool. It was possible that the whole situation was a hangover from relationships in primary school, where his sense of self worth was not yet established and an unresponsive cool kid was a lesson in how uncool he was. As an adult, much like his exit of the building of corridors with J, S would go home bolstering his confidence with the belief that he was more valuable than the unresponsive acquaintance allowed.
Trove of Nice
- ► 2013 (38)