Overwhelmed by both a sudden injection of big-budget big bucks and the exotic distraction of tax-saving excursions to tax-haven locations, John Lennon famously reflected on the change in cinematic circumstances during the filming of ‘Help!’, the second Beatles movie. Strumming away in the Technicolor upgrade of the Bahamas, Lennon wryly remarked, ‘I’m an extra in me own film.’ Well, I’m making my second cameo appearance on my own blog since December, and I’m afraid I’m only passing through again. The kind words and encouraging response to the last post may have failed to elicit a written reply on my part, but all comments were much appreciated, as were the numerous re-tweets by long-term supporters. It’s nice to feel loved, virtually or not.
Before I go any further, I apologise. This was never intended to be – and indeed, never has been – one of those blogs that exist solely as a narcissistic outlet for an author assuming his or her life is as fascinating to the readership as it is to him or herself. I’d hate for this instalment to be regarded as the point at which a blog with an unlimited remit shrank into a narrow sequence of hastily scrawled postcards from the edge. I’m trying my best not to make this a regular habit, honest.
Of course, just as a novelist’s autobiographical journey tends to infiltrate the back story of their lead character (however hard they fight against it), identification with the subject matter under discussion on here has regularly led to vague asides – or more explicit references – to my own back story. Even a piece I wrote about the Israel/Palestine thing a year or two ago (I forget when) was given a little more emotional substance with the tale of my Uncle Joe and this long-gone figure’s membership of the Palestine Police in the years leading up to 1948; ditto the revelation of the family lineage linking me to the Enola Gay’s flight over Hiroshima in 1945. I suppose it’s only natural that many of the news stories to have caught my eye and provoked a post are stories I’ve made some connection with, thus (hopefully) elevating them above simple journalistic reportage, of which there is already more than enough out there.
I know this hasn’t always happened; plenty posts have simply been vociferous responses to events that have angered or infuriated me, fuelled by nothing more than anger or fury. And, it goes without saying, there’s always the mischievous spirit of satire on stand-by to intervene when the ludicrousness of politics – identity or otherwise – has risen its daft head yet again. Having said that, whenever my own life experience or that of friends and lovers has bled into a post with a wider surface context, I personally feel I’ve usually managed to get the balance right (as Depeche Mode once observed) and have successfully steered clear of self-indulgence.
To return to the second paragraph, I don’t believe my life is especially fascinating – though I will concede, however, that being able to view it with a degree of out-of-body detachment helps me ‘manage’ it. Watching a decline and fall through the mirror is undeniably unhealthy, yet curiously compelling in the same way one’s gaze can never be entirely averted from the bouncy genitals of a streaker. You can’t help but look, despite yourself. The fact is I tend to interpret life experience as material for ‘Art’ (no less pretentious word was available, alas), and I’m talking both good and bad life experience. In the case of the latter, it’s the kind of thing that makes uncomfortable reading for those who know me; but as I only appear capable of coping with crises if I respond to them with pen, paper or keyboard, there’s no alternative in the great battle for survival. I’m certainly not enjoying scrabbling around for tiny fragments of hope down here at Rock Bottom Central, but I do feel as though my life is out of my hands right now and I just have to deal with it in the only way I can – until the day comes when I’m in control again.
If it is true that dwellers of an urban environment are never more than six feet away from a rat, it feels right now as though I’m never more than six minutes away from remembering recent events that led me to where I currently reside – no book, music, movie or TV show can remove that from the room. Therefore, reading, listening and viewing habits work in empathetic conjunction with the mood of the moment. It’s no contradiction that sad songs speak loudest to us when we’re sad; the last thing we need when feeling like shit is being ordered to get up and boogie. Moreover, it’s both amazing and comforting that the most trusted voices to have serenaded the listener throughout adult life have something to say for every occasion. Indeed, we are reassured when the voices that have been there for us when times are good are also there for us when times aren’t; and we know we’re not alone when our friends sing of suffering. Just listen to Marvin Gaye’s contribution to 1974’s ‘You Are Everything’, an otherwise gooey duet with Diana Ross; when he sings ‘Oh-whoa, darling/I just can’t go on, living life as I do/comparing each girl with you/knowing they just won’t do/they’re not you’, you know he’s not only been there, but he’s bought the company that made the T-shirt in true Victor Kiam fashion.
Silly YouTube videos may well be the babies I nonchalantly dump in children’s homes once I’ve popped them out, but they make some people happy and – for the moment – they are serving a useful purpose that other outlets currently aren’t. They are in no way a pointer to revived spirits, merely a means of keeping idle hands away from the Devil’s gaze. Nevertheless, they have survived unscathed and perhaps act as an unexpected manifestation of the obstinate resilience we all seem able to produce when confronted by our deepest fears. Hell, I’ll take whatever I can get.
Sometimes, however, the smallest, most innocuous interventions make a difference. Old Mother Cable may conveniently sidestep his shameful role in the scandalous selling-off of the Royal Mail as he attempts to big-up the latest Lib Dem ‘revival’ by posing as a political moral barometer; but the postman (or woman, in my case) can still deliver the goods in the face of privatised indifference to the customer. Anonymous surprises through the letter-box can momentarily put the brakes on any recourse to Alanis Morrissette when the helplessness of the dispossessed is desperately seeking a soundtrack; and the anonymous have nothing to fear. I may be a wounded animal, but that animal isn’t a dragon. All this proves is that, whilst the systems with which we make contact may be myriad in this century, the oldest (well, after smoke signals and carrier pigeons) hits the mark even now, despite Vince’s best bloody efforts.
I shan’t bore you with further details, though – oblique or otherwise. Yes, I’d like to get back to the wider world and escape the confines of the internal compound (trust me, it’s crap in here); but it ain’t easy, however many open goals the media leaves on my doorstep. Bear with me if you can and I’ll try to phone home again next time I’ve got some spare change.
© The Editor
7 thoughts on “PETUNIA PITSTOP”
You’re right that, whenever you have some negative experience, everywhere you look there seems to be a random conspiracy to remind you of it – I had a relatively minor life-blip last week and, at every turn now, I suddenly see related items apparently determined to drag me back to that moment.
I’m no counsellor, but my view is that you dilute the impact of those reminders by deliberately broadening your actions and forays, often the more bizarre the better, which then has the effect of emasculating the original ‘devil data’ by swamping it with more interesting issues to ponder.
But we each tackle our demons in our own way and mostly we at least get to a point where they are managed, if not eliminated. There’s too much to put into life and get out of it to let the demons win. I’m confident you’ll get through it – until then, whatever the pace of your inputs here, we’ll be pleased to see them, respond to them or even vigorously disagree with them – it’s the being here that counts.
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I have to admit I’m currently not missing the self-imposed pressure of writing daily – or near-daily – posts on here, but I said to a friend the other day that I did miss the camaraderie of engaging with the regulars, comparing the generally convivial atmosphere to that of a virtual ‘coffee morning’, what with the running gags (1970 vintage jackets etc.) and updates on the ups and downs of everyone’s lives. It felt necessary to me to produce this particular post, and the fact it was nowhere near ‘immense’ a task as writing the last one is perhaps encouraging for a more permanent return. Wish I could say when, but we shall just have to wait and see how things continue to develop. I do visit daily (in order to vanquish the spam that tends to pile up when things are quiet), so I am keeping an eye on the old place and hope to stick the kettle on again soon.
The ups and downs of everyone’s lives, well, personally, currently 7500 words (nearing dissertation length now) through a draft document, so your slow down on the blog update front has gotten me off my fat arse and writing something of my own. Not for public disclosure though, it’s a protected statement under whistleblowing legislation, featuring chapter-length prose on ‘toxic bullying’ ‘nepotism and questionable appointments’, ‘breaches of accounting standards’ and the like.
How much confidence do I have that my concerns will be taken seriously in the corridors of power? None. Zero. Still, it wouldn’t sit well with me if I didn’t throw that particular (metaphorical) brick in that particular (metaphorical) window.
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Congratulations for getting motivated, it needs all of us to articulate truth to power, so the more of us who do it, the better chance of change.
My own experiences (e.g. with HM Treasury etc.) is that you may initially get a negative response formally, because the ‘power’ never likes to admit it’s been blind or wrong, but you will often notice, some short time later, the very changes that you had been advocating very slowly and quietly taking effect. Of course, you’ll never get the credit for it, but that doesn’t matter in my ego-free zone, it’s getting the result that counts. More power to your keyboard.
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“an unexpected manifestation of the obstinate resilience we all seem able to produce when confronted by our deepest fears. Hell, I’ll take whatever I can get”
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Just segueing into Saint Etienne’s ‘Hobart Paving’ for starters, followed by main course of Divine Comedy’s brilliant Beckettian ‘Tonight we Fly’
We need to live in a state of suspended animation…..detached….detached.
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Good luck, best wishes.
Words are inadequate.
But God speed your journey and return occasionally with a sitrep, winge, or even some encouraging waffle.
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