Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My Writing Space

The desk was imported from my previous life as a fey young man in Manchester. The green exercise books visible to the left of the laptop belong to ‘Bottom Set, Year 9’ pupils. Maude has a range of delaying excuses for not marking work and returning it – they should expect her opinion on what they did on their holidays some time approaching Christmas. I used to resent this colonisation of my writing space, but the covers of the books display some pithy and inspiring observations.

Blake Morrison keeps his father’s pacemaker on his writing desk. I have followed suit in my own fashion. The wire you can see Blutacked to the top of the laptop screen has nothing to do with a webcam. It is, in fact, my father’s hearing aid. I speak into it as I write and imagine that he is being entertained. I really thought that he would have asked for it back by now, but I suspect that not being able to hear my mother properly has its advantages.

On the wall above the desk (just out of view) hang two collections of images: ‘Titans’ to the left and ‘Herberts’ to the right.

The ‘Titans’ know the pain I am going through. Their images also exude a certain insouciant style:

Les Dawson

The ‘Herberts’ (under wraps for legal reasons) are stimuli for occasions on which authentic vitriol is required, or when a particularly unpleasant character needs to be drawn in all its vile detail. Dickens used to grimace into a mirror, I unveil the ‘Herberts’. Images of the leading lights from the local arts community dominate. Some have spent time on the punchbag, but now commune with fellow Herberts. Others on display are a little obvious, but ‘Herberts’ with the power to rile nonetheless:

James May
a generic image of a pharmacist in a white coat coming on like a trained doctor
Eric who lives across the road
(that last one is a sketch, as I didn’t want to risk being caught taking his picture).

There is a pile of books just out of view to the right of the laptop which relates to my research on the pit ponies of North East England. I am especially interested in the ponies once used in the undersea mines off Seaham. Aurora saw some of the pictures and donated her own pony to this tableau. The poor blighters of Seaham were taken down as foals and lived an entirely subterranean existence. When the pit closed, they were deemed too fat to come back up and were left down there to die.

I’m sure that my screenplay ‘Revenge of the Zombie Killer Pit Ponies’ will attract serious development funding any day now.

Friday, September 11, 2009

No Notion

I am rarely transfixed during a meeting. It usually takes me all my time to stay alert.

I was once put on report in a sixth form Politics class for falling asleep during a dull monologue by a teacher with wispy, nicotine-coloured hair. I thought the punishment was unfair and suggested that many members of the House of Lords nod off with impunity during debates – that gained nothing but an additional detention. Ever since that formal caution and the ignominy/infamy created by the pool of drool beside my face on the desk, I have been able to find something to focus on to maintain my attention. Usually a detail of someone’s dress is enough or, perhaps, some eye-catching nasal hair. If there is nothing of visual note I occupy my mind with a test of mental agility – usually with a theme from popular culture.

At a meeting recently I managed to simultaneously look interested in what was being said while listing possible words to use in a word replacement game invented by Sandy some years ago during a game of poker. Sandy had trouble maintaining anything approaching a ‘poker face’ and preferred instead to try and distract his opponents. He usually only succeeded in distracting himself. His most memorable distraction attempt featured Smiths songs and the word ‘anus’:

‘This Night has opened my anus’ or
‘This anus has opened my eyes’
‘How soon is anus?’
‘This charming anus’ etc….

I was surprised then the other day to find what was actually being said to be of interest.

Not the content – there wasn’t any.

It was the shameless repetition of a single word that struck me and I even began a five bar gate record of how many times it was used by the same person. The meeting was only an hour long and I counted 6 uses of the same word (a colleague claimed that she clocked 7). 

The favourite word of the person without an idea to speak of was: ‘notion’.