Monday, November 29, 2004

My tonsils so bootylicious - 7 days!

Reunited with the White Wagon of Death, I thought I'd go and sell some of my books today.

I took them into Totnes, the White Wagon only once threatening to derail my plans, when for zero reason, the temperature gauge explored the little part at the top, marked red with a skull and crossbones to its side. I observed interesting clouds of white smoke billowing from the exhaust. I decided against pulling over, what's the point? Nothing can cure the horrors taking place beneath the engine of this clapped-out Skoda.

I carried my books to the bookshop, and left the woman to go through them and work out a price.

I wandered around Totnes.

I went into Green Life, a hippy organic food shop where Jenny works. Jenny was out of sight, but I heard her voice coming from a back room. Standing by the door, I could see just Jenny's arms, a computer monitor with graphs on it, and an old guy bent down next to her. They were talking about some kind of stock issue. I stood there running my sensitive, intelligent, eyes over the contents of a refrigerated shelved unit.

There was Cannabis Beer, organic wine, and foreign-looking brands of orange juice, with weird smiling people on the packaging.

I carried on standing around. Jenny was still busy.

I wondered if anyone was watching me on TV, maybe they thought I was here with a view to stealing some Cannabis Beer.

I gave up and returned to the bookshop. I had left 70 books, many of them in perfect condition, and all of them eminently readable. Now I was ready for the verdict and an offer of ready cash.

The woman looked at me and then looked at the pile on the counter. Then she looked sad.

"I could offer you five pounds..." (For US readers, this is 9 dollars)
"For 70 books? Okay, they go back into storage."
She said nothing as I packed the books away again.
I felt I should mention the incredible bargain I picked up in the Orkney Islands last year.
"Oh, I found one good deal when I went through my collection. Do you know James Ellroy, the crime writer?"
"Yes."
"Well, I was in Orkney last year and bought a hardback first edition of The Black Dahlia for £3.50. I've since found out it's worth £275... that's good, isn't it?"
"Oh yes."
There was a wonderful pain in her eyes.

Immature tonsils

I took Puffing Billy (the White Wagon) round to the doctor's. I needed an emergency appointment because my tonsils are staging a takeover attempt of my mouth. This happens quite a lot. Some days I sit around wandering if I have a giant tumour forming there.

I think:

"Jesus, what if I have a tumour the size of a pomegranate in there?"

Then I wonder why the size of tumours always seem to be described as pieces of fruit or nuts (and occasionally, golf balls) - peanut, walnut, golf ball, peach, pomegranate, coconut, pineapple, watermelon...

To take my mind off this, I looked up pictures of infected tonsils on the internet. I compared them with my own. I decided that my tonsils are hypertrophic.

This is why I was at the doctors, to display my tonsils and get the necessary remedy.

I saw a guy called Dr Mansell. His wide grin suggested that he had finished raiding the medicine cabinet for this particular day. Seeing him jogged my memory, he was the same man I'd seen last time. He'd mentioned dancing the hornpipe completely off the cuff. Like this,

"And have you had any pain in the lower stomach?"
"Not really?"
"I wonder, have you ever danced the hornpipe?"
"Not lately..."

Today he is smiling, smiling hard. He smiles like he can't stop.

"Mr Kennedy! Mr Ken-e-deeeeee! Do come in!"
I go to sit down.
"Sit down! Sit down! Please, please..."
I wonder what dance he will mention this time. Maybe it will be the Highland Fling.
"I'm going to show you something disturbing," I say.
He doesn't look disturbed. Actually, he does look disturbed. He just doesn't look any more disturbed by my preamble.
"I'm going to show you my infected tonsils..."
His face is now smiling so hard his face may split at any moment. He seems to be nearing some kind of orgasm.
"Open your mouth, Mr Kennedy!"
I wonder at the wisdom of complying with this request. If he asks me to close my eyes, too, I'm leaving.
"I open my mouth."
"WOW!" he shouts, "look at those whoppers!"
I close my mouth.
"No! No! Keep your mouth open! My word, Mr Kennedy, why are your tonsils so large? Only a ten year old should have tonsils that large! And you're over 30!"
"Well, some of my friends say I act like a ten year old..."

He gave me a prescription for some pennicillin.

He waved it in the air with a flourish. "Try these, see if they sort those whoppers out!"

I ran away.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Fear - 12 days!

I caved in last night. I felt fear.

Fear with a stamp of foolishness - I specialise in this. I mean, without waving my arms and making dramatic gestures, I believe I could bring most people onside with regard to specific types of fear and their utter validity. For instance:

You wander out of your tent in Africa and there is a lion there, a hungry looking lion.

My fears didn't involve any lions, hungry, sated, or twisted with fury. My fears were ungrounded and lay in that hazy place, the future. I believe this is symptomatic of my leaving Ireland in a short time. My winter store of the nuts of inner peace are being nibbled ferociously by the squirrels of doubt. To combat this attack I have deployed the guard of positive thinking and the crawling baby of curiosity. So far, the results are inconclusive.

Pre-American Face-Pulling Exercises

In just 12 days, I will be on a lower level of Dublin Airport, being processed for my trip to America. I will have my eyes scanned, my mug shot taken, my fingers printed. Unconfirmed reports suggest they also weigh your balls and check your ass for bombs.

I have been staring in mirrors again.

This time for sound reasons. I am attempting to train my facial expression for the time spent being processed.

My current favoured balance is:

10% healthy fear
50% respect for America's great history
20% a look of wide-eyed positivity
20% stupidity (specifically, being way too stupid to do anything dangerous or illegal, but not quite stupid enough to do something truly stupid like kicking holes in the side of the plane, mid-air)

I also have a checklist of things to avoid (but not avoid so hard that you look like you're desperately avoiding them) These are not merely limited to facial expressions, but also take in inadvisable personal behaviours.

These include:

Sneering
Looking like I know loads of important information that will make the US authorities look like utter mugs when I put it to use
Staring into the far distance
Unprovoked streams of evil laughter
Constant Blinking
Constant Perspiring
Having a face that is a mask of frozen terror
Involuntary blurting of extreme Islamic slogans
Mouthing the phrase "I will die today" repeatedly
Patting the pockets of my poacher's jacket, saying, "Fuse wire, check, timer, check, plastic explosive, check..."

I think that covers just about everything.

Contribution to World's Store of Knowledge AND a Tiny Bit of Politics - #1

While waiting for a client today, I wrote an entry on Brian Haw for the Open Encyclopaedia, Wikipedia. Brian Haw has been leading a personal protest in Parliament Square, London, since 1st June 2001. He is protesting at the US-led invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and subsequent suffering caused to the civilian populations of both countries. You can learn more about Brian Haw at his website.

To see how my entry fits into the wikipedia, view the entry on Parliament Square and click the Brian Haw link in penultimate paragraph. Or go straight there.

Monday, November 22, 2004

I'm sorry, but I love to sleep... - 14 days!

I had a thought yesterday, as I trudged home alone once more from the Internet cafe. It was about work, and how tired I am.

I figured it was time to play straight with my clients and let them know the score.

A press release would do the trick:

"I am sorry to note that the rollout of your product to the Japanese market is going to be delayed significantly as I have spent the last 7 days lying in bed and playing with myself."

Attached would be a photo of me asleep in bed, my bed covers bearing the legend,

"I've slept through all my deadlines"

I am not usually one for masses of sleep, but lately, I've figured it's the easiest way to make it through the time before I leave for the US. It will also save the airport officials from searching through the bags under my eyes for contrabrand. Currently, I could safely stash an AK-47 and enough grenades to make a suicide bomber blush in their, ooh, voluminous folds.

Me and my Giant Belly

On the subject of voluminous folds, it gives me enormous pleasure to note that my belly has been significantly reduced in size. While figures are only available for the month ending October 2004, and have yet to be seasonally adjusted, this did not stop my imaginary Minister for Jason's Voluminous Folds / Fat Belly from issuing the following statement this morning:

"I am pleased to announce, that after a dogged 8 month campaign, that my department is finally starting to deliver the Belly Reduction that was promised as part of our controversial Jase, Don't eat so fucking much plan, which opposition groups attacked at the time for its supposedly hopeless optimism.

Our optimism was not misplaced, however, and our targets were met and exceeded at every stage of assessment. I would like to highlight these successes by listing just a few of them point by point:

1) Not stuffing your face with chips when you're sad - 95% Success

2) Not eating giant pizzas and washing them down with Coke while lying around watching porn -
85% Success

3) Not eating crisp sandwiches each day because you can't be bothered to cook -
90% Success

We are now confident that the long-term goal of an overall reduction in Belly Volume of 200% is within reach. Today, I am pleased to announce the target date for Total Success in Belly Reduction. That date is Feb 3rd, 2005, and I look forward to returning to this House on that date to announce further success."

Stay tuned, people, The Minister for Non-Fizzy Hair and the Committee on Not Slagging Yourself Off will be putting in appearances in the coming weeks...

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Leaving on a jetplane - 16 days!

I am moving on from Ireland, folks.

What can I say about this great country? The restorative effect of being here since just August of this year has been truly brilliant, and should the cost of Just About Bloody Everything go down during the next few years, who knows, maybe I'll be coming back to live once more.

I am now just 16, sweet sixteen, days away from boarding my flight and getting out of here.

I suppose my landlady will be grateful. She has convinced herself in double-quick time that I constitute some grave risk to both the other tenants in my house, and may also be an international criminal. This conclusion is based upon just two pieces of information:

1) the old guy in the dressing gown upstairs who complains about noise every time I suck in a breath with a little more enthusiasm than is decent
2) the fact I have taken to wearing a long coat and flying in and out of the country on a regular basis

So this distress will end. I am grateful for that.

What will I miss about Ireland?

Hmmmmm....

... everything being expensive
... in my part of town, the aggressively pert bodies of the local hyper-ambitious females
... Leo, the good man at the Internet cafe, with his inexhaustible supplies of grace and enthusiasm and all manner of tasty trivia
... Leo Connolly, my soul brother, a true Bohemian and keeper of the flame
... rain
... the enormous puddle at the corner of Mount Pleasant Avenue
... the sex noises from the little black guy next door, who supplements his R and B DJ sets by remorselessly pounding the pussy of any foreign girl with poor English skills who wanders into his orbit
... the washing machine that is constantly spinning, particularly between 3 and 5 a.m.
... the people upstairs who seem to chop wood and push furniture around their room all night

I think that's about it.

What a city! What a country!

Friday, November 19, 2004

Time has started moving again - 17 days!

Good news. I shall not have to switch to the Islamic calendar.

Faced with the complexity of a system that advises...

"... although it is possible to calculate the position of the moon in the sky with high precision, it is often difficult to predict if a crescent will be visible from a particular location. Visibility depends on a large number of factors including weather condition, the altitude of the moon at sunset, the closeness of the moon to the sun at sunset, the interval between sunset and moonset, atmospheric pollution, the quality of the eyesight of the observer, use of optical aids etc. Since ancient times, many civilisations and astronomers have tried to predict the likelihood of visualising the new moon using different 'minimum visibility criteria'. However, all these criteria are subject to varying degrees of uncertainty."

... something has snapped back into place, thankfully, and time appears to be moving again.

Countdown to America - 17 days!

Just seventeen days to go. I had considered cheating and bringing my outbound flight forward a few days. Now I have decided against such a course, having secured my tickets and not wanting to invite any intervention from the Fates.

I would like to take some culturally significant, lightweight, presents to the US, from both England and Ireland, but I can't think what would be a good choice.

Here are a couple of tasteful options:


I think it will take more thought.

Buying things for me

I am not an easy person to get presents for. Previously, people would give me books, CDs, and DVDs, etc, or take me along to a store and have me select something. Since giving up books, CDs, and DVDs, and actually going further and selling most of my accumulated media, this problem may be even harder to address.

I think it may be best to receive nothing at all this Christmas, but still celebrate as normal. I know it may sound churlish, but in many ways the best Christmas I had was when I stayed with Muslim friends in London one year. We gave one another presents, but the rest of the day was thankfully free of Christmas songs, silly hats, family arguments, the Queen's Speech, and turkey and stuffing.

It is not yet clear where I will be on Christmas Day this year.

Here is my current thinking on this:

The US? (85%)
Ireland? (5%)
UK? (9%)
Rest of the World (1%)

I include the Rest of the World option in case I am on a diverted flight or kidnapped. My life to date has been sadly devoid of such intense drama, although I did once burn some toast.

Questions no-one asks except in magazines

Who would play you in the film of your life?

If I had a choice, I would be played by a flying squirrel.


Wednesday, November 17, 2004

19 - nu-nu-nu-nuh - 19

I have broken my own previously unstated rules with the title of this post.

Some of you may have noticed that there are very few cultural references in what I write here. This is no accident, but part of a principled stance against connecting with the world and its inhabitants through TV, books, films, music, paintings, ads, products, celebrities, etc. I suppose I've some pretty basic reasons for heading down this route:

1) I've grown tired of meeting someone and sounding one another out via CD collection and literary intake
2) I wondered what would happen to me if I pretty much stopped reading novels, watching movies, watching TV, etc

I suppose I don't subscribe to the notion that it is possible to disengage from the world. By cutting out the input from books, TV, and movies, the natural consequence is I find myself engaging with a whole load of other things, all located within my daily life, all close enough to reach out and touch (as well as be touched by). This is what I want!

So far, the results have been so positive that I am seriously considering a Personal Media Blackout during 2005.

The other rules of my blog are:

1) Only write about one day at a time
2) Don't let events that happen encourage me to write about the past

So why break the rule today?

Well, I was feeling contrary, and I have an issue so pressing that I thought, "What the hell?" and my problem is best encapsulated with reference to a two digit number, stuttered or not, 19.

You see, I am going to America on the 6th December, but the countdown doesn't seem to be progressing. Every time I sit down and work out how long there is to go until take-off, it seems, if anything, to be moving further away.

This morning I looked at my wristwatch and there was the little date - 17th

From there I worked out how many days were left in November. Now I always use the calendar on my knuckles for this*, rather than any of those sillly rhymes that help some people, so looking along I saw that November has 30 days. Okay, how many days are left...

The answer: 19!

Oh no! Surely it was 19 yesterday... and the day before... what has happened?

Am I, to make another cultural reference, trapped in my very own Twilight Zone?

If there are still 19 days to go tomorrow, I am going to cancel my flights or switch to the Islamic calendar - something has to give.

*This method is to use your knuckles and whichever ones are higher up are the hills and represent the months with thirty-one days. The lower knuckles are the valleys and those represent the months with thirty days or less. Start with the knuckles on your left hand and put your right and left hand next to each other so that your thumbs are touching. January is the first month and is represented by a hill which is the far left knuckle. This means that January has thirty-one days. The last knuckle on the left hand is July with 31 days, then carry on to your right hand, the first knuckle being August, again with 31 days, and so on. When you reach December, stop, and just be thankful that you have some knuckles spare.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

I'm dressing like a born again Christian...

I have had some dealings with a born-again Christian. He is from the Congo. He is called Patrick. He told me it was "God's blessing" that brought us together. Time will be the judge.

Patrick - a study in indoctrination

Gender: Male
Tattooed: Unknown
Hair: N/A
Hairstyle: N/A
Age: 25+
Occupation: Man of God

I have agreed to help Patrick assemble a small website for his religious project. This religious project involves uniting people by playing football and talking about God. I don't think he means to combine these two activities. Maybe you talk about God at half-time or when the ball has gone out of play.

From talking to him, I gained the distinct impression that Patrick admires himself quite a lot, so I made sure a large picture of him featured prominently. I had a vision of Patrick assessing my initial design ideas, dubious about the central role given to an image of Jesus Christ.

"I like it, but there's something not quite right, Jason. Hmmm, maybe we scale down Jesus Christ and move him out to the side a little. Make him about a quarter of the size of me..."

"Well, we could, but I don't think the page will look very balanced..."

"Okay, okay. Hmmm, for now, let's take Jesus Christ out, take him out completely. I don't think Jesus Christ is working..."

He advised me that two pictures were needed, and these should fade between one another. One depicts the "business Patrick", the other, the "cool Patrick."


We flipped through some CDs of photos, selecting appropriate shots. There were lots of pictures of Patrick with his shirt off. He didn't comment on these.

Here is the rough design.

While chatting to Patrick, I was alarmed to see that he was wearing exactly the same coat as myself. Since when did I start dressing like a born-again Christian?

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Coming to America

I'm coming to America.

6th - 15th December 2004 - New York City and beyond.

The countdown starts here.

Nonsense Wiki

I have started a Wiki to accompany this blog. I wanted something that wasn't arranged chronologically, so that I can slowly weave together the various obsessions I've documented here. You can view my wiki here, and below is some of the first entry I have made, concerning Mr Extreme.

Mr Extreme - a study in Gore-tex

Gender: Male
Tattooed: Yes
Hair: Black
Hairstyle: Contentious
Age: 30+
Occupation: Veterinary Surgeon

Encountered: Simon Fanning's 32nd Birthday Party, Rugeley, Staffordshire

Mr Extreme arrived late at the party. Is this any surprise, when you consider that this is a man who lives life at its extremes? What need does a man have for a wristwatch when he is leaping blindfold from 36,000 feet above the Staffordshire countryside, with only an outstretched handkerchief to slow his descent.

Answer: he has very little need of a wristwatch



And so he arrived, bursting through the windows, grenades strapped to his chest.

"I feel so extreme. I feel so alive!" he yelled. "And you are all dead, because you only feel truly alive when you are close to death. And how close is death when you are stuffing your dead mouths with Doritos and salsa?"

He shuffled over and began loading his own hyper-alive adrenalin filled skull with Doritos and salsa.

"These are good. These are really good. They will give me energy enough to prepare my next daredevil stunt in an hour or so… you're going to love this..."

He carried on eating. Suddenly, he had a change of pace. He looked around at the astonished guests.

"What's wrong? Have you never seen Extreme Eating?" He smashed the empty plate against the wall and started munching on the shards. Blood spurted from his lips. He grinned.

"We used to do this all the time in Afghanistan… until we ran out of plates. Then we started throwing ourselves from cars..."

The party continued. Mr Extreme would interrupt every now and again, with extreme comments. Then he started getting restless. About 45 minutes had elapsed and he kept anxiously darting his eyes from side to side. Then he disappeared upstairs. A few minutes later, a strange noise started up and we heard shouting.

"COME AND LOOK! CHECK IT OUT! COME AND LOOK!"

The guests filed out to the bottom of the stairs.

An amazing scene had been constructed.

The stairwell was littered with huge boulders, the front door was wide open. At the top of the stairs, Mr Extreme was sat in a compact kayak, his paddle at the ready.

"Please, file outside," requested Mr Extreme. "I should be the only person in harm's way for this..."

We went outside, stood around waiting in a suburban cul-de-sac. We could see Mr Extreme at the top of the stairs.

"I've blocked your toilet and sink, Simon. I've stuffed rags into them and the plumbing bill we be massive, I assure you. But my guess is you'll forget all about that when you witness the extreme act I am about to perform on your birthday. Yes! I am going to whitewater canoe down your stairs and straight out onto your driveway! How EXTREME!!!"

Mr Extreme turned and pulled away a piece of industrial plastic with which he'd sealed the thousands of gallons of water into the bathroom. Moments later, the door began to buckle, the wood cracking, water spurting through.

And then, with a huge roar, the door exploded and tonnes of water rushed out, sweeping past Mr Extreme, lifting up his canoe.

With a primal grunt of satisfaction, Mr Extreme began battling his way down the stairs, his canoe leaping up almost vertically from the boulders, his upper body lost in a tremendous spray of foam. With increasing violence he was swept towards the doorway, and with a whoosh, he flew through, past the bemused guests.

Outside on the street, his canoe wedged with a tremendous crack under the wheels of a parked car.

"Aaaaagh!" screamed Mr Extreme. "I think I've cut my legs off!"

He turned to us and grinned.

"Not really, folks! But how EXTREME would that have been!"

We filed back into the house and left him there.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Where have all the jokes gone?

Ladies and gentlemen, I feel I must offer a formal apology.

I have just received a terse communique from the Joke Quantity and Quality Monitoring Board, alerting me to the fact that I have dipped dramatically below the threshold required of a blog marketing itself as "making other humans go ha ha."

They have pointed to several worrying instances, particularly concerning my last post, that documented events surrounding my 32nd birthday (132, if I lived on Mercury).

I quote from Marcus Faltoyano:

"Myself, and a team of clowning consultants, have placed a JQAQ Query on your weblog, as we feel you are not presently fulfilling your comic mission statement of "making human beings ha ha by writing things down." We are particularly concerned by a glaring lack of frivolity in your most recent post, Birthday, and we would draw your attention to evidence from the historical record that you allowed your own moods to let you overlook surefire comic material that came within your orbit on Nov 8th 2004.

We know for a fact that you could have easily made some references to Mr Extreme, the danger junkie, who you first encountered on Nov 6th, when he parachuted into the sleepy cul-de-sac of your good friend Simon. If his chute snagging on a pylon, leaving him stranded 30 feet above the ground, and spending the entire party having food and drink catapulted to him is not funny, then, as my good friend, Mr Laughing-Trousers, might say, "What is?"

If you were still struggling to meet your Joke Quantity and Quality obligations, you could also have factored in your unlikely encounter with 4 trapeze artists on Saturday, on the Virgin Cross Country service from Plymouth to Gloucester. There was a woman with sort of 60s hairpiece hair, most odd, all brushed flat against her head, but in sort of panels, like she had several partings placed around her scalp for demonstration purposes. With her were three, alarm-bell ringing, nerdy kids, they seemed a spread from about 10 to 16."

I was walking down the carriage with a Mars bar, that's how it started. The smallest of the slow-to-announce-themselves-as-trapeze-artists, a really smooth-skinned brown-haired boy, speculated about the cost of my choc bar.

"I wonder how much a Mars bar costs..."
"50 pence," I said. "But you can have this one for 60p..."
"Why 60p?"
"Well, it has to be worth 10p not to have to walk to the buffet car..."
He looked at me like I'd just come to Earth. I'm used to this look.
"But it's used. I want a discount if it's used."
"All I've done is carry it from the buffet car to my seat..."
"Yes. You've used it..."
He has got a point.
"Okay, what if I throw in a 10p, discount, call it 50p..."
He laughs in my face.
"50p, I could get a brand new Mars bar for that... no way!"

I spent the afternoon solving a crossword with these guys, then playing cards, and listening to their stream of babble, jokes, and snippets of their personal histories.

After a few hours, they told me they were trapeze artists.

They were on their way to give a performance on static bars at the Cinderford Artspace, as part of a project they teach on called Engage

Unfortunately, I forgot to ask the name of their troupe, so I sent an exploratory email off to try and find an answer, but no reply has been forthcoming. It would be great to think they were called:


Monday, November 08, 2004

Birthday

Today was my birthday. I am now 32. In Earth years.

However, if I lived on Mercury, besides being very hot and extremely suntanned, I would be 132 years old.

My birthday will not be remembered as a great success. History will not recall the grey sky that loomed over me and my dad as we plodded towards Tamworth in his BMW he is so proud of. He keeps alerting me to the fact that we are sat in his new BMW.

"How's your seat?"
"It's fine."
"It reclines..."
"It's okay."
"These seats, the engineering..."
My dad says this a lot about cars. He says "... the engineering..." and then his voice will trail of, as he contemplates a heavenly vision of serious men drawing and designing and making things.
He moans about the excessive noise generated by the low profile tires.
I sit there and tune out.

Where are we going on my birthday?

The Grim Housing Estate

My dad has laid on a birthday treat. We are rushing headlong towards the grim housing development where my brother lives. He isn't there at the moment, but his girlfriend and their child are.

I felt such a surge of joy as I stepped out into the winter morning... there's something about grim housing developments, grey skies, and birthdays, it really moves me.

I had been pining for newspapers, and my dad pointed out the local shop.
"Try there, son."
I emerged a minute later, looking very downhearted.
"It would appear that the locals don't read The Guardian or The Independent."

We spent a few hours sat around.

There was one thing that interested me, and that was the baby's toys. One toy in particular was great...

Here is a picture of a similar toy to look at, in the current absence of photographic evidence of the toy I am about to praise.

Lara's music toy had three buttons, each one the head of a creature. There was green cat, red dog, and blue bird.
When you pushed in a button the first time, it would say, "I am green cat/red dog/blue bird (delete as applicable) and I love to sing!"
I thought this would be a suitably baffling response to dramatic life events.
"I'm sorry, Mr Kennedy, but it would appear that your in-grown toenail is terminal..."
"I am green cat and I love to sing!"
*
"Mr Kennedy, we're going to have to repossess your home and all your possessions..."
"I am red dog and I love to sing!"
*
When you pressed the button again, a jolly little tune would play, tinkly keys, baby handclaps, and la la melodies, bliss. This would be useful in violent confrontations.
"Before you hit me, may I just ask one favour. Would you mind awfully if I played you a hummable little tune on my electronic kiddie music toy?"
I dance alongside a bald-headed giant with a scowling face and crowbar in his mitts.
"Okay! I'm blue bird and I love to get knee-capped..."

The van that blocked the wonderful view
When we left, my dad thumbed at a particular flat.
"The people in there, downstairs from your brother, all they do is sit there all day."
My dad said this as if it was a capital crime. I suppressed the urge to mention my own fondness for sitting around.
"They've put in a complaint about your brother, because he parks his van there."
I looked at my brother's white transit van, parked on the side of the road.
"They said it blocks their view when they're looking out."
I looked around at the grim housing development. Surely anything that blocked your view of it was a mercy.
"Hmmm, what's the problem? What can they see when the van isn't there?"
"They can see the bus shelter."
I looked over at the bus shelter. It was no more or less interesting than every other bus shelter in England.
I explored feelings of mild astonishment while I searched for a solution to this neighbourly dispute.
"Why doesn't Kirk go and get the view of the bus shelter airbrushed on the side of his van? They could have a permanently blue sky with a shining sun to gaze upon... maybe even have a bus coming to pick up passengers..."
"No," said my dad. "The bus would again block their view of the bus shelter..."
"You're right. But there should at least be a few passengers waiting, for extra interest..."
I was really pleased that my dad went along with my flight of fancy for once.
It was the best moment of when we were together.

Friday, November 05, 2004

The White Wagon of Death

Okay, okay, you can stop munching on broken glass now...

For those with an advanced sense of despair, here is another picture of me to push you into the abyss.


Today was dominated by the White Wagon of Death, Alasdair's stupid car.

It gave its first warning at around 11 a.m. this morning, when a burning smell wafted from the engine when I climbed out (from the driver's seat, not from the engine. I'm a swell guy, and I like to take chances and try new stuff, but I rarely travel inside the engine of a car, even at times of full moon).

I didn't think much of the burning smell. The car is a 15 year old Skoda Favorit and, like all teenagers, it can be expected to have the occasional tantrum. It may even have been indulging in the smoking of an illicit cigarette. I tapped the bonnet and issued a half-hearted warning on the dangers of boys and unplanned pregnancy, and then set about my first Boring But Essential Task of the day: the disposal of the Huge TV.

The Huge TV

I took the Huge TV from the boot of the car.
(For US readers, boot = trunk. May i also alert US readers of my blog to the fact that I say "to-ma-to" and you say "to-may-to.")
I am selling the Huge TV because I want to raise money for a trip to America.
Alasdair is sad, because he has been making secret use of the Huge TV while I have been living in Dublin. He has even gone so far as to burn the Huge Box that the Huge TV was being stored in.
He has yet to advise on whether this burning was part of a magic ritual that include naked dancing and animal sacrifice.
I am carrying the Huge TV into Kirsty's house because her parents are buying it.
As I explained in an earlier post, they had embarked on a lengthy process of husband-and-wife negotiations in order to overcome their natural suspicion of the incalculable risks posed by the purchase of "second-hand goods."
They had wilted in the face of the deal of a lifetime.
I deposited the Huge TV on the floor.
Just 10 minutes later, I received my payment - a whopping 50 GBP.
To convert this into your local currency, please use this service.

Kirsty is wearing strange grey trousers, pointy boots, a black top with prominent zips on the sleeves, and a short black jacket. Kirsty is my ex-girlfriend. It is decided to leave the White Wagon of Death and proceed to our next destination in the small blue Fiat that we shared as a couple. Oh! The memories! All those times we've sat there and eaten some chips together, or driven to sex therapy, what phenomenal good times we had inside that little blue smiling face of a car... and now I get to sit in it all over again...

I am mentally rehearsing some possible lies, should my next Boring but Essential Task become complicated by my non-payment of Council Tax for the period October 2003 to June 2004. I presently owe £191.63 and have zero intention of meeting this financial obligation... as I ponder this, Alasdair starts up...

"I'm reading OK! magazine... So listen to this... Britney Spears, well, she's certainly shown her trailer trash roots... oh, look, well... why do they need to print a photo of a pregnant celebrity in a swimsuit... and why do they need to print another 15 photos of pregnant celebrities from the past..."
Kirsty decides to defend the magazine's editorial policy.
"Well, Alasdair, if there wasn't an audience for pictures of pregnant celebrities in swimsuits, they wouldn't be printing them..."
I can't join in with this madness. What bothers me is HOW the magazine determines the existence of a market for photos of pregnant celebrities... they'll have them up in stirrups for the Christmas issue.

"Sandra's coming..."

We arrive at the offices of Teignbridge Council, the designated location for my next Boring But Essential Task. I am here to acquire a form that certifies I was on the Electoral Register in Devon for the last two years. I require this paperwork for the benefit of the Irish authorities; they won't let me access state healthcare until I provide it.

I have to wait for a while behind a girl with most of her knickers sticking out the back of her jeans. I have a mental image of that amount of underwear sticking out of the back of my trousers, and quickly move on to the business end of the fantasy, where I am being beaten and set on fire by a group of pitchfork-wielding locals.

"He izz a sexxx pessst..." hisses a toothless old crone.
"He had half his pants sticking out, and with only one intention, to slide his dingle-dangle up a lassie's skirts...," cries a man with wild staring eyes and a foaming mouth.
"We're wasting time... burn him... burn him...," chips in a tiny man in glasses, the air of a chatered accountant about him.

I am left with a single question - Who was the last woman to see my pants?

The girl and her knickers move away and I'm next.

Everything starts well enough... the receptionist says hello without grimacing and apologises for keeping me waiting. I then explain what I require and she is utterly confused. I try explaining again, using different words in a different order. The effect is not good. The receptionist's eyes are fully glazed now, with a hint of fear in her face. Is she going to whip out a crucifix and try to repel "Satan's emissary"?

Instead she reaches for a telephone.

"Sandra, can you deal with Mr..."
"Kennedy..."
"Mr Kennedy..."
"Oh, thank you, Sandra... thank you so much..."

I am deep into one of my trademark scowls by now.

"It's okay... Sandra's coming..."

I flip forward 10 years into the receptionist's life and see her hammering against the door of her padded cell yelling, "Sandra's coming..."

There's nothing to do here while I wait. Kirsty and Alasdair are outside, sat in the car. I'm stuck here, surrounded by plastic plants and stands you can revolve full of council information leaflets. The subjects are riveting, "Do not be a victim of car crime" "How to validate the credentials of someone claiming to be from the Electricity Company" "Postcode your property with Ultra-violet Pens" etc... At this rate, I will be asking Yasser Arafat to shuffle over, so I can slide in and join him in a deep coma...

It ends. Sandra Smith appears in person, probably drawn by the sophisticated drawl I delivered into the phone, and the fact I promised her some flowers in an email last week.

The Old Woman and the Performance on the Escalator

We went to Torquay. There were things to do.

On the way down a flight of steps, there was an old woman holding a young boy. They were at the bottom of an escalator. Suddenly, the boy started thrashing his legs and being, well, I thought, being insane. Sure enough, he threw the old woman off balance and she fell backwards to the floor. Her shoes came off and travelled up the escalator. As did the boy. The boy sort of did funny "swimming on dry land" movements. The boy screamed in horror, the old woman screamed in horror. It was a kind of impromptu meditation on the nature of horror, through the medium of screaming. It was highly effective.

I was feeling disturbed. I wondered if the boy or the old woman would start getting their legs chewed off. That disturbed me more. I was only planning on buying a jumper today. Now there was a good chance I would see someone's leg chewed off.

Someone stopped the escalator. The old woman was helped to her feet. Her purple shoes were returned undamaged. We asked if she was okay. The boy was returned undamaged. I rubbed his head in a way I hoped was encouraging.

The crowd shuffled away.

Brown jumper (for US readers, jumper=sweater)

Having passed 30, I now feel the cold. I also have difficulty maintaining... oh, no, I'm not supposed to mention that.

I'm trying to do something simple here. I'm trying to validate buying a brown jumper.

No, I can't defend it. I did something bad. B-r-o-w-n J-u-m-p-e-r, the shame of it will outlive me...

"Donald, there's a shocking man at the door..."

It's time to return to the main theme of this rambling post, the White Wagon of Death. We'd arrived back at Kirsty's, said our goodbyes, and set off. There was a bad smell coming from the car, but things seemed okay.

But...

... things were not okay... they were bad

The temperature gauge rose alarmingly. Steam hissed from the bonnet. The engine made odd noises, like all the moving parts were at war. I pulled into a side road to investigate. When we lifted the bonnet and checked the water, it was empty. Steam poured from the main part of the engine. I got a rag and carefully unscrewed the cap for the water.

"About 100 people burn their faces off each year doing this..." I commented.

There was no water.

"Alasdair, go and knock on people's doors. Ask for a jug of water."

Alasdair went away and started banging on doors. I caught the sound of him speaking to someone. I felt sorry for the people he was disturbing. Alasdair is a shocking man. I imagined the respectable retired couple who might live inside the house he'd disappeared towards.

"Donald, there's a shocking man approaching the door..."
Donald is there, poring over an article on the Bucket Killers in the Daily Mail...

"These Bucket Killers are sick, sick, individuals. Often, they will pose as drivers in distress, playing upon the sympathies of honest, decent, folk. They approach wearing a smile that and ask the unwary if they may have a jug of water. Then they make their move. From beneath their outwardly respectable clothing, they produce double-edged tungsten steel samurai swords, and proceed to hack off the legs and arms of their gibbering victims..."

Donald wanders out to be confronted by the sight of Alasdair.

"Hello, there, could we have a bucket of water, please, our car has broken down just outside."
Donald feels his bowels loosen momentarily. Jesus Christ, it's the Bucket Killers... he wonders if death will be swift, or will they stand over him, blocking out the sky and mocking his last moments on Earth. He silently removes a long knife from the rack and slips it into the waistband of his elasticated slacks.
"Of course, of course. Hmmm, I have a bucket somewhere..."
Donald produces a black plastic bucket and fills it with water.

I'm getting bored when Alasdair emerges again with his "Donald". This red-faced grey-haired pot-bellied man approaches the car, his eyes darting from side to side.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

About face

Wednesday was the day of the photo shoot.

I will not keep you in suspense - here I am drinking coffee in a garden centre between Ipplepen and Newton Abbot in Devon.


In the morning, I went over to my ex-girlfriend's, Kirsty. It is good that we can be mature and share the same space without hair-pulling, insulting one another, or poisoning each other's drinks (although, coincidentally, i did wake up in a ditch with only my pants on this morning, 50 miles from where i was staying...)

Kirsty is my designated photographer now, just like I have my designated hairdresser (who has now come to understand that when I cry afterwards, this means he has done a poor job). She is very good at understanding the distress of standing around and having my image captured causes me. As has been noted previously, I have tendencies towards scopophobia, the fear of being looked at, and for me, being photographed is the most horrible unforgiving stare of all.

So why do I do it?

Well, I am, you know, still rolling around on my bed in frustrated lust, and am therefore still seeking that special humanoid. In order to be fair to prospective blind dates, I feel obliged to supply fairly current photographic evidence of my physical being, especially as the brass rubbings I'd been sending out up until September have met a lukewarm response.

To try and make sure that I wouldn't look better in my photos than in reality, I undertook some careful preparation. Firstly, I went on a massive drinking session with Leo before setting out for Dublin on Tuesday morning. This made my eyes puffy, my throat swell up, and generated a strange red blotch midway up my nose.

I followed up stage 1 with stage 2 on Tuesday night, eating four greasy slices of cheese on toast, topped with Worcester Sauce, and then sleeping for just 3 hours on a dusty carpet in a freezing house. This made my eyes even more puffy, my eyeballs a fetching shade of crimson, and my neck swell up so I looked like a full-blown mutant.

Perfect!

In contrast to looking like a reanimated corpse, I was very careful in selecting some clothes for this occasion, packing my bag with my furry-collared corduroy jacket and my Paddington Bear duffel coat. Let my flesh have an off-day, but please! dear God, don't let anyone say that Jason is lacking in the style department. I don't mean to brag, but for my money, I must have been one of the sharpest-dressed men in the village I'm presently staying in - (population: 120 average age of resident: 85)

I am going to draw to a close here and not reveal the full flawed glory of the photoshoot. It can wait until tomorrow. Until then, you will just have to munch on broken glass to simulate the sensations my red-eyed menace of a face will inspire in your hearts.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Miracle of modern living #1

Hallowe'en must rank as a landmark day, in terms of the level of personal happiness I managed to sustain throughout its duration. (And no, people, I didn't mix the blue pills with the red pills again...)

My day began in the afternoon. I always find this a convenient starting point for my day, as it alleviates any need to experience what cultural commentators refer to as "the morning."

I was woken by my mobile ringing. It is presently earning its keep as an alarm clock, so the fact that it rang came as a great surprise. No-one calls me. And on a Sunday? My sleepy brain prepared itself for someone who had dialled the wrong number.

There was a drawled hello at the other end. Someone was saying my name.

I struggled to recall who it might be. There are scenes in films where someone is underwater in a suit, perhaps they were in a car that fired off the end of a pier after a car chase (this seems an occurence that is hopelessly over-represented in cinema). Anyway, they slide out of the window and thrash around hopelessly. A close-up shows a stream of air bubbles escaping from their terrified mush. Their tie has floated out of their jacket and points the way to safety. They kick off towards the dim light from the surface... but will they make it???

This is how it feels when I'm struggling to speak to someone first thing in the morning and trying to recall just who it might be.

Gasping, I break through the surface, scoring an impressive, albeit, private victory.

"It's Carla!" I yelp in a strangled voice.

It is Carla. Another mystery solved. She is sorry to disturb me. Why do people say this? If they were really sorry, wouldn't they not call in the first place? What do these people say after violent domestic disputes?

"I'm sorry I shot you, truly..."
"No you're not! You just shot me six times!"
"I know, and I feel absolutely awful about all six, especially the head shots..."

Carla is continuing to have computer problems. They seem to have originated from some strange example of manhood she brushed against in the seedy virtual cattle market that is the world of Yahoo! Personals. Ever since, her computer has been acting up, in particular, horror of horrors, Internet Explorer, bringing her research work on environmental issues to a crashing halt.

"What can I do, JK?"
"Have you got a hammer?"
Carla laughs.
"Just thump it a few times..."

The conversation rumbled on for maybe an hour. I closed by making a few passing remarks about the debauched night with Leo and my humous-puke spraying of the walls and bed linen. She laughed at the uproar, in particular the hour I spent in the shower the next morning removing my hardened humous-puke skullcap (now there's a phrase you don't hear too often).

“Well, this is what happens when Bohemians are allowed to freely associate…” I ventured. (Sadly, although committed to openness and honesty, I can't divulge full details here of just what went on that shameful evening, it is simply too distressing).

On a more practical level, I recommended that Carla download Mozilla Firefox, and try browsing the web with that.

I did the waking up stuff and then reported to the Internet Cafe, where I set about completing my latest money-maker, a simple Flash animation for one of my clients. In order to fund my proposed trip to Vermont, I have sought to take a lead in adding value to their website, and so devoted around 5 hours to a simple animation to promote "drying solutions for the filling industry." If you purchase a drying solution for your filling operation on the strength of this, please mention my name, as I may receive a bonus.

Jenny came online. Her and her boy were messing around, carving pumpkins way up there in Vermont. Like the rest of the world's population, they seemed to be getting along just fine without me.

I started thinking about Hallowe'en in Dublin, and what it might mean. My thoughts quickly turned to the 2 rows of buzzers beside the front door of my shared house. I pictured an endless procession of scarred, fake-blooded, flour-coated, kiddie demon fingers, each hammering away on the buzzers amid strangled cries of delight.

“Have you bought candy?” asked Jenny.
“No way! What utter misery… I’m not going home.”

I should've tried to drum up a little enthusiasm, maybe.

After a few hours chat, Jenny went and Carla returned. The download of Mozilla Firefox had solved the browsing problems, allowing work to resume. This was a reason to cheer, I thought.

Then Claire came on… I explained I needed her to buy my PC; she has been using it for free since I left it with her in July. 100 pounds is the price. She agreed to buy it, and then added, “A friend of mine looked at it and said there’s no way it’s even worth that, but I’ll give it you anyway as that’s what we agreed.”

“Fine. Can you hold on a moment, I’m just looking up ‘ungrateful’ and ‘churlish’ in the Cambridge Dictionary Online…”

I sent off my bank details and she will start making instalments this week.

Next up was my TV. It’s in a box in Devon. Bloody TV, weighs more than Venus. It’s probably sunk into the concrete floor of the garage by now, tunnelling its way to the centre of the Earth.

I can see Alasdair calling…

“Jase, your TV, it’s destabilising the infrastructure of the entire village. Some civil engineers from the council came round yesterday…”
“Well, that’s okay, officials, they won't do anything…”
“But they brought the police with them, and they were asking for your current whereabouts…”
“You didn’t tell them?”
“No, but I thought I better call…”
“You dunderhead! They’re listening…”
I hang up and head into Dublin at a rate of knots. A party of Japanese tourists video me hurling my phone into the Liffey and stiff-arming it towards Temple Bar…

Kirsty came along. Ex-girlfriend. I ask her about my television. I explain that it may require a crane to lift it on to the back of a flatbed truck, but could she possibly store it on her driveway and advertise it in the Free Ads.

“Free to anyone who can lift it and has a reinforced floor...”
"How much do you really want, Jase?"
“It’s fifty quid,” I advise her.
Kirsty disappears.
Kirsty returns.
Her parents are considering buying it now.
“They are talking, but there’s something on they are watching… they will talk properly in 15 minutes.”

I struggle to imagine her parents ever talking properly, in my mind they communicate largely by way of a clumsy semaphore, employing the Reader’s Digest and Radio Times as makeshift flags.

Kirsty pops up again.
“Dad wants to know if it works properly.”
“Of course it doesn’t, why would I be selling it? Tell your dad he can have a 50% discount because the screen’s been kicked in and it doesn’t work anymore…”
“They are clearing things and measuring whether there’s sufficient space…”
They are going to sleep on it.
"Yes, I imagine they will need to call a family council of war and pass an Act of Parliament before taking such a momentous decision..."

Carla phones me. Once again, I’ve no idea who it is. This must be disheartening, not just for Carla, but for everyone who rings me. I answer the phone as if it’s the first call I’ve ever received, and I dimly recall the identity of the person speaking only after they have given their surname, their relationship to me, and supplied at least three anecdotes from past interactions. 90 seconds later, there’s a flash of realisation. “It’s Carla!”

“I had to call you again, sorry, but there’s something exciting. 360 degrees of sky has gone loopy for your blog. She doesn’t even mention mine, she chooses not to reflect upon its qualities, etc…”
Carla moans about her own blog being passed over. I tune this out.

Ringing off, I head to the blog, my tiny hamster-heart pumping the blood around my body quicker than is strictly necessary. Maybe this made sense in ancient times when people ran away from mastodons across glaciers, clothed only in their woolly mammoth singlet and caribou-skin pumps, but today, in 2004, it’s not really appropriate for browsing a blog…

Whoo! This is heavy praise. Fulsome. I’m winded from the thrill. I read it once. I glow. I read it again, a word at a time. I glow intermittently, like a lighthouse. I leave as much time between reading each word as is possible without losing the thread (for the historical record, this is about 3 seconds)…

I have to quote, I have to – here!

"I am particularly pleased to have found Extreme Unction, not only because it is extremely funny, but because it is written by a man, and there are very few manblogs I like. Apart from Mike Moore, and let's face it he's more of a pie factory than a man."

Catch that buzz? I picture myself, the mighty Jase, a shining star of the digital underground, 1000s of open-mouthed, finely-featured, kulture-headz, all slurping on the fizzy juice of my freshly squeezed thoughts. I think about all those things that are really popular, they all started out small. I then think of all the things that started out small and are still small, perhaps even shrinking. This worries me. I gaze wild-eyed around the Internet Café, anxious that no-one spots my mini-crisis unfolding, failure looming… they seem indifferent. Ha! Indifferent to history, history, right here, happening in their midst!

“Peasants,” I whisper…

I make a comment on the blog. Carla has already made one, too, hers references me as being potentially one of these little hobbits, recently discovered on a remote island.

I find this doubly irritating, because:

1) I am not a hobbit (despite appearances)
2) I have a loathing for all things Tolkien… I thought this stuff had been seen off by punk, all that terrible prog-rock, stuff like Jethro Tull, fully grown men playing flutes with a green-stockinged leg perched atop a papier-mache toadstool.


My comment was less incriminating. In fact, it was a study in modesty... and I'm so modest I'm going to resist the incredible urge to quote it here.

Jenny came back. They were retouching their monster outfits before an evening of collecting candy.

It was time to pack up.

Just before I left, a girl in a Marilyn Manson mask and a sheet ran in to the Internet Café and let out a spectacularly charming and non-frightening, “Whoooooooo!”

She closed the door carefully as she left. Charming teen-ghosts, I thought.

Today really has been perfect!