Friday, March 23, 2007
I have just spent £8.99 on a notebook. Next to it on the stationer’s shelf was something similar and perfectly adequate for a fraction of the price. But as the point-of-sale information helpfully pointed out, this cheap alternative would not be a Moleskine, the legendary notebook used by Picasso, Hemingway and Van Gogh.
Notebooks are important to writers. Travel author Bruce Chatwin wrote that "To lose a passport was the least of one's worries: to lose a notebook was a catastrophe". Oscar Wilde declared that “One should always have something sensational to read in the train.” When Moleskine production ceased in 1986, Chatwin bought up all that he could find. Now the little notebook with the famous pedigree is back.
Perhaps I had been reading too many Paul Auster novels where notebooks take on mystical powers over their owners. Or perhaps, like would-be creative types before me, I simply read the blurb and thought “Aha! So that was their secret.” That all that was standing between me and artistic greatness was choice of stationery.
It is very nice though – with its smart black cover, bookmark and strip of elastic to keep it shut. It even has a little pocket at the back for keeping things in. I know what I am going to keep in it: THE RECEIPT THAT SAYS THAT I HAVE JUST SPENT £8.99 ON A NOTEBOOK!
Whatever I write on the first page needs to be something pretty profound. I cannot sully its virgin expanse with a gag about George Bush being a bit dim. But my mind is as blank as the paper. I caress the cover, trying to channel my more famous predecessors. Then, perhaps in the way that Picasso got the idea for cubism, inspiration strikes: “I have just spent £8.99 on a notebook...”
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
We are in position on the sofas. I have a copy of 7000 Baby Names with Adolf, Gaylord and Iaian already crossed out. My girlfriend has a similar tome lent to us by another well-meaning friend. We have agreed upon a complicated system of vetoes that would make the UN look like a model of concordance and productivity.
It is actually quite fun. We just call names out in no particular order and the other person has to give a gut reaction, generally based on the criterion “Was I ever bullied by a person of this name?” We mix it up a bit, throwing in the odd silly name to get a laugh. This also helps in case my girlfriend laughs at one of my serious suggestions – I can then just pretend that there was no way I was ever really contemplating calling out firstborn Stanley.
Most of my gut reactions are what the kid will get called as a nickname.
“Guy?” suggests my girlfriend.
There was a lot of homophobia at my school.
We also quickly settle on “pony” as shorthand for any girls’ name like Camilla or Fenella which sounds like it belongs to the sort of person who might have a pony.
“Briony?” asks my girlfriend.
“I really like it.”
“Nope. Definite pony.”
My girlfriend flicks through some pages and tries again.
“What about Trudi?”
“Trudi?” I laugh. “That’s what you’d call a hamster.”
“My grandmother’s name was Trudi.”
“Er... Obviously a hamster you were very very fond of.”
I quickly try to pass a resolution that comparing a deceased ancestor’s name to that of an imaginary pet rodent does not infringe middle name rights of the other gender, but I think Stanley’s definitely off the table now.
Monday, March 19, 2007
I know that 6997 Baby Names isn’t quite as snappy a title, but please, for the love of God, will you remove the following boys’ names from your book:
– Adolf. The poor kid is going to hear That Question for the rest of his life. Yes, “Do you spell that with an F or a P-H?” Oh, and the Hitler stuff. OK, so Stalin didn’t ruin Joseph for everyone, but then Jesus’ stepfather kind of balanced things out a bit there.
– Gaylord. Hahahaha. Even now I am laughing about how funny it would have been if I had been to school with a kid called Gaylord. It is a million times worse than Adolf. At least if you got a little bit of stick about the whole Third Reich thing you could retort by saying, “Actually, it means “noble wolf”, and what about Adolphe Sax who invented the saxophone, or Adolf Dassler, who founded Adidas? Everyone loves saxophones and trainers, so that is nearly as good as being Jesus’ stepfather.”
– Iaian. What? Seriously, what? Iain condemns you to a lifetime of “That’s I-A-I-N”. Iaian would leave you with irritable vowel syndrome. What next? Iaiain? Iaiaian? Iaiaiaiaiaiaiaiain? Each time you gave your name over the phone it would sound like you were singing Old MacDonald. At least there is only one way of spelling Gaylord.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
I am walking in the park with my girlfriend, admiring the signs of spring and generally being happy that so many people are out enjoying themselves. Suddenly, a stray football heads towards us. A group of men shout and indicate that they would like me to kick it back to them. I really really want to kick it back – it is immensely satisfying to connect your foot with a football and give it a good hard thump.
However, they are very masculine looking men – a couple of them even have their shirts off, and it’s not that warm – and I don’t want to miskick it in front of them. It is also possible that my girlfriend may have inferred from past footballing anecdotes that I captained the England schoolboys team and that I have never corrected this misapprehension.
The truth is that I did play football for my school. My primary school. Whose team was selected entirely from the top class. Which contained 12 boys. I was the substitute. Who was often lucky to get a run out at all. It wasn’t even some kind of FA academy school that I went to either, where I was being kept on the bench by a young Alan Shearer.
The truth is that despite my enjoyment every time I kick a ball I am probably not that good at football. So, as the ball bounces towards me I am aware that there is a lot riding on this kick. I keep my eye on the ball, head over the ball and strike through the ball, like it said to on my Kevin Keegan poster.
It goes flying through the air, swerves, beats the keeper, top right corner: GOOOOOOOOOOAL!
My trainer, that is. The ball slices off at about 130°, narrowly missing a surprised woman walking an even more surprised dog. One of the bare-chested men sighs and runs to collect it.
I mutter something to my girlfriend about being used to playing in proper football boots, and hop off to collect my shoe.
Friday, March 09, 2007
Go here and see how, like me, you could contribute to a book of funny blog posts for Red Nose Day.
Now I'm just off to play golf with Brucey and Tarby.
Thursday, March 08, 2007
Britain witnessed a lunar eclipse last weekend. Lunar eclipses have traditionally been seen as bad omens and, lo and behold, the very next day Take That were number one again.
Madame Tussauds has been bought by the company that owns Legoland. So, the makers of countless model people with shiny yellow faces with simplistic features that all look the same except for unrealistic interchangeable hair has been bought by Legoland.
Children as young as 11 could have their fingerprints taken to be stored on passports. Though with 11-year olds these days I just hope there’s enough room on the biometric chip to also store their weight, criminal record and how many children they’ve got.
A 54-year old woman in London desperate to become a mother has resorted to advertising on buses for an egg donor. I expect that she'll have triplets. It’s always the same – you wait ages then three come along at once.
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
– Who are you and what are you doing in my bedroom? Mummy says I shouldn’t talk to strangers.
– I’m not a stranger; I’m you. I’ve come from 30 years in the future.
– What’s happened to your hair?
– Yes, your hair is quite fair in 1977, but it will get gradually darker with time.
– No, I mean the grey bits.
– Shut up. Those aren’t grey. They are some left over blond bits. Anyway, I’ve come to tell you about the future.
– Cool. Have you got a spaceship? Or a jetpack?
– Er, no. I drive a Renault Clio. Diesel.
– That sounds rubbish.
– It’s my girlfriend’s.
– Girls? Eurrgh!
– Yeah, you’re going to change your mind about them. Anyway, you know how you love cartoons? Well, I’ve come to tell you that in 30 years’ time you’re going to spend a whole day watching every episode of a series, then you’ll get a job writing a new episode. Isn’t that exciting? Isn’t that the coolest job in the world?
– What about my dream of becoming an accountant?
– I’d like to help companies do their accounts and VAT returns every quarter. Or maybe be a management consultant.
– But being a writer is great!
– It sounds worryingly unpredictable in terms of workload and income, with lots of crushing disappointments on the way. Do you even have a pension?
– A final salary one like Mummy and Daddy have because they are teachers?
– Er, no. I sort of give some money to someone every month and they, er, I’m not really sure. By the way, that book you wrote about the cave was rubbish. I’ve deconstructed it on a website in the future and everyone agreed that the characters and plot were very poor.
– I’m only six for fuck’s sake.
– How do you know the word fuck? I didn’t know the word fuck at the age of six.
– Because I’m just a literary device, and you think it would be funny to make a young child swear. Frankly, if that’s the kind of thing I’m going to grow up to write I’d rather be an accountant.
– Fuck off.
– Ow! Mummy!
Friday, March 02, 2007
It is said that all stories should have a beginning, a middle and an end. This can be traced back to Aristotle, who, in The Poetics, wrote, “A beginning is that which is not itself necessarily after anything else, and which has naturally something else after it; an end is that which is naturally after something itself, either as its necessary or usual consequent, and with nothing else after it; and a middle, that which is by nature after one thing and has also another after it.”
Here is last weekend in the form of what screenwriting gurus now refer to as The Three Act Structure:
ACT I – set-up
“These cupboards will look great. I wonder why I don’t do DIY more often.”
ACT II – conflict
“SHIT FUCK SHIT SHIT SHIT FUCK AAAAAGH!!!”
“Are you all right?”
“DON’T COME IN!!! Er, can you get me some plasters? And some Polyfilla? Lots of Polyfilla.”
ACT III – resolution
“These cupboards look great. I wonder why I don’t do DIY more often.”
DIY is the closest that men get to the experience of childbirth. To keep the human race/Homebase in existence, as soon as it’s over our brains release a chemical that instantly makes us forget how awful, painful and bloody the whole thing was and instead makes us lovingly coo over our babies/cupboards and immediately start planning to have another baby/knock through into the living room.
Of course, when Aristotle said that there is nothing after an end, Ancient Greece had yet to form the concept of the sequel. This weekend: Spur Socket – The Fusebox Strikes Back.