31 August 2006

Not a book review (mighty long though)

I’ve taken the risky step of re-reading a book I loved when I was young and innocent and had hopes for my future. Always a very dangerous thing to do. What would happen if I didn’t like it? Would that mean that all the other books liked then are also rubbish? Would it mean that my taste is a fickle, fickle thing and not to be trusted? Or that when I was a teenager I was a complete muppet? The very thought.

I warmed up for this epic endeavour with a re-read of Sarah Waters’ Affinity which I didn’t like too much the first time round because the end is like being smacked very very hard in the face with a gravel encrusted shovel. And not in a nice way, like the twist halfway through Fingersmith, either. Affinity is a little less painful the second time round, but then most things are.

I’m supposed to be struggling through The Bullet Trick by Louise Welsh and I’m not enjoying it so much that I’m prepared to fully commit to it, but I’m not hating so much that I can dump it and walk away feigning indifference and swearing never to return its calls. So, I’ve put it to one side for a bit...

..And picked up the book in question: Hemingway’s The Garden of Eden. I had to go and buy myself another copy because I lent my careworn original to someone and can’t remember who. I do remember being almost violent in my recommendation of it so they probably took it away from me for my own good.

I first read it when I was about 17. Mainly (by this I mean solely) because it had the words ‘…a young husband and wife who both fall in love with the same woman…’ and when you’re 17 and live in a small village outside a claustrophobic, hicky little town people pass at speed on the M1 those words are rarely found on the back of a book in WHSmiths and therefore to be pounced upon.

So, the other evening I sat myself down, on the floor, in a semi darkened room and tentatively read the first couple of pages. Then I had a glass of wine. I read on. It’s still good.

The relief.

Hemingway worked on it whenever the mood took him (I know that feeling) between 1946 and 1961. I’m sure he would have liked to have worked on it more but he died. Nice excuse Ernesto. So, it’s not finished which lends it a kind of ambiguity that really suits the book. There’s also some controversy about the extent to which is it actually a Hemingway novel, given that the original manuscript was over 1,500 pages long and the book in my hands only has 247 pages, all of them soiled by the publisher’s blue pen. Again, this really works for me. It’s very rough and very lean. It was finally published in 1986, provoking a frenzy of sorts.

There's also a funny story about him appearing with his hair dyed red whilst he was writing it. Just for a couple of days, you understand. He tried it. He didn't like it. Fair enough.

I like to think I am ambivalent about Hemingway, him being so macho and abusive and all, and then I think about what he wrote and find myself going ‘yeah, I like that’ and ‘oh, yes, that’s good too.’ Also, Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises has the most fantastic paragraph in it:

‘The fiesta was really started. It kept up day and night for seven days. The dancing kept up, the drinking kept up, the noise went on. The things that happened could only have happened during the fiesta. Everything became quite unreal finally and it seemed as though nothing could have any consequences. It seemed out of place to think of consequences during the fiesta. All during the fiesta you had the feeling, even when it was quiet, that you had to shout any remark to make it heard. It was the same feeling for any action. It was the fiesta and it was on for seven days.’

I’m also a little in love with Lady Brett Ashley. A little. Who am I kidding?

30 August 2006

Little baby tree hugger

My daughter, who is now 15 weeks old or three months and a bit in old money, is obsessed with trees. Her granny said that 'most babies usually are'. Stupid granny. If she carries on like that she will never be called grandma, no matter how much she hates being called granny. As if my daughter does anything usual – she only does incredibly gifted or stupendously talented. Obviously.

We took her, daughter not granny, to Roundwood Park at the weekend and she gazed up at one tree for ages. She is particularly fond of oak trees for some reason. So, I took a picture of it for her. This was a complicated procedure which involved lying on the ground exactly where she had been in her buggy to get the view right, then wrestling with my conscience to reconcile aesthetic sense with parental responsibility. Neither won in the end – as you can tell from the photo.

Yesterday, she was very unsettled and as it was pouring with rain and we couldn’t go in the garden to look at the real trees, I whipped out the photo.

I spent twenty whole minutes wafting the photo as if in a restful breeze and making a remarkably realistic noise like said breeze rustling leaves peacefully. Nothing. No content sighs, no smiles, no falling asleep. At least there was no grizzling, but still. She’s a tough crowd; my kid.

Then I cracked and went; ‘brrrrrrrr’. With extra spittle and everything.

And for the first time she did it back. (I’d put an exclamation mark here if I weren’t so pathologically opposed to them – imagine one if you like.)

I have not been so excited since she passed her linking ring from one hand to the other and shoved it in her mouth.

‘Well,’ said the Divinity watching from the sofa and being no help. ‘You can certainly tell she’s your daughter.’


But she merely smirked.

29 August 2006

Smoking, it's bad for y'all, y'all.

Heaven help us all. Trugnugget is giving up smoking. You wouldn’t believe the tantrums. Poor chap is trying all the possibilities. Patches, gum, those funny stick things that look alarmingly like tampon applicators. Sadly, he was using them all at once to speed his kicking the habit– no surprise then when he experienced a tragic nicotine overdose and vomited. He really is quite quite stupid.

I, myself, “gave up smoking” a couple of years ago, (three was it? Can’t remember*) and didn’t use any crutches at all. Just stopped puffing on the old cancer sticks.

I did however find this tally very useful (scroll down almost to the bottom, it’s on the right). I think it the combination of seeing his numbers going up on naked blog, seeing the boggling saving of stopping, and knowing that out there someone else is giving up as well.

I have advised Trugnugget of this and I imagine he is there now, huddled shivering and petulant over his PC counting out pennies and other small change trying to count in the right order above 4. It’s 2 then 3, dear Truggers.

Of course, this good news for Trugnugget’s lungs is bad news for me – who shall I drunkenly bum cigarettes off now*, eh? Who?

*I am the worst ex-smoker that ever was. This is no reflection on the naked blog totaliser which remains, along with the rest of the blog, source of inspiration**.

**Is this a bit creepy? Are three links*** in one post too many? I don’t care.


10 August 2006

Wandering a way to work

There were so many distractions on the way to work this morning. It is a miracle (and also a tragedy) that I managed to get here before dusk.

I remembered that on my route to work I walked past Dennis Nielsen’s house. You know, the one where he strangled his lovers in their sleep and buried them in the garden. Anyway, I meandered along the avenue trying to identify the right house. You would be amazed how many candidates there are. Its possible that some actual live serial killing is going on in some of them as I type. They are going to build some new houses on the tiny tiny patch of waste land at the back near the lock up garages so they’ll have to dig it all up again so the new guard may be discovered sooner than they think. This is one of my big fears – to live in a house and find out, months later, that it was once littered with the corpses of unfortunate murder victims, many of whom suffered hideous torture. I fear that more than the serial killer I think. Dennis Nielsen was a civil servant. Which makes sense really.

I have never, in my whole life, seen so my dogs sniffing each other's arses before. In my whole life. I think today must be national Sniff a Dogs Arse Day in the canine calendar. I was pleased to see that our four legged friends are not subject to the same bigotry and prejudices as we are. There were small dogs and big dogs, black dogs and spotty dogs, shaggy dogs and wiry dogs all sniffing each other with gay (and straight) abandon. I did feel sorry for three dogs whose owner would not let them play with the other dogs. He was one of those Queens Park types that had wandered over to our postcode by mistake – perhaps had a heavy night on the old champers – and he had two of those dogs that look like they have dreadlocks and no eyes and one Irish Wolfhound who looked thoroughly depressed, as any good colonialist whipping dog should. They weren’t to fraternise with the poor people’s dogs for fear they became diseased. Or had fun.

I walked across the playing field/abandoned patch of grass and happened upon a woodpecker. Although the pesky bird insisted on flying off every time I got near it, I persevered and positively identified it as a green woodpecker (picus viridi). Why it was in the middle of a stretch of grass and not moshing half way up a nice tree I’ll never know. Mostly because every time I asked it, it flew away in either terror or disgust.

I inadvertently gathered a large amount of gravel in my turn ups and was forced to stop and clear my jeans of little stones and twigs twice. Then I had trouble folding them back up again so they were even and also so my ankle area didn’t look like a fan of Bronski Beat. Or Bros.

There were no aeroplanes in the sky whatsoever. This is more disorientating than it sounds because the skies of north west London are usually teeming with aircraft, and not just police helicopters. This is because, if you don't know, the police have foiled a terrorist plot and now the horse has bolted they are trying to nail the stable door shut with a bag of marshmallows and a lego pirate figure.

I was cold. You think this would make me quicker. But no. I savour being cold, after being too hot for so long it was a blessed relief. Although now I am finally at work and the air conditioning is on as though it were 103 degrees CELSUSIS outside. I am in fear of hypothermia.

Can you imagine? It's a wonder I'm not still out there somewhere marvelling at it all like some village simpleton.

07 August 2006

A Surfeit of Squirrels (7)

Me: Could you stop wailing and gnashing like that? I’m trying to concentrate.
Squirrels: Waaaaaaaaaiiiiiillllllllllll.
Me: What’s the matter? Why are you all writhing around on the ground like that?
Squirrel: Where have the trees gone?
Me: The trees?
Squirrel: Those three trees.
Me: The council cut them down.
Squirrels: Waaaaaaaaaiiiiiillllllllllll.
Me: Stop that. Please. It’s horrible.
Squirrel: Why did they do that? Why?
Squirrels: Waaaaaaaaaiiiiiillllllllllll.
Me: I don’t know.
Squirrel: You made them didn’t you? Because you hate us.
Me: No. I liked the trees, I’m sorry they’ve gone. Look on the bright side, eh? You’ve got other trees. Look, that one’s enormous.
Squirrels: Waaaaaaaaaiiiiiillllllllllll.
Me: Why don’t you write to the council and complain instead of harrassing me?
Squirrel: Because these little little paws have not yet evolved the ability
to hold a pen, have they? Stupid.
Me: Can you go and lament in someone’s garden? I’m bored of you now.
Squirrel: That council are out to get us.
Bastard: Dad?
Squirrel: Yes.
Bastard: Is it because you killed the Prime Minister?
Squirrel: Don’t be silly.
Me: It’s alright, little Bastard. Daddy didn’t kill the Prime Minister. I’ve seen him on the television lots and lots.
Squirrel: That’s not the Prime Minister.
Me: Yes it is.
Squirrel: No it isn’t.
Me: It looks like him.
Squirrel: Do you really think the real Prime Minister would have postponed a Caribbean holiday to keep on eye on the crisis in the Middle East? No. He would have buggered off and left Quick Draw McGraw in charge. Wouldn’t he?
Me: Oh. Shit.
Squirrel: Exactly.
Me: Who’s the guy on the telly then?
Squirrel: That’s some homeless guy called Hilary we found in the alleyway. We’re paying him in tequila and crack cocaine. He's a good laugh actually. We're taking him to Spearmint Rhino tomorrow night.
Me: Where's the real Prime Minister then?
Squirrel: We stashed his bloody corpse in the boot of your car.


Me: Waaaaaaaaaiiiiiillllllllllll.