Locked-down And Out In London

17th April

 

“Another day in paradise.” I hear a neighbour say.

It’s no longer worth noting what makes me cry. But I do wish Diego Maradona could’ve had a better second half to his life.

I haven’t been working quite so hard this week, which means the fear starts creeping in.  I have to be treated like a baby for large portions of the day, stroked and told “everything’s going to be ok” over and over again.

Large portions of spaghetti also help.

Having been forced to seriously consider, I now know my five essential items that I simply cannot live without: spaghetti, olive oil, candles, garlic and salt. But then this means I don’t have coffee on my essential items, and I really need coffee. So it turns out I need less that I thought, but more than I would hope, to survive contentedly.

I wear a shirt my father gave me. He stopped wearing shirts a long time ago.

I go for a run and see a total of three guys jogging topless. My first thought is: this virus is spread by bodily fluids and yours are leaking out all over the fucking place. My second is that it is April, in England. It’s really not that hot…

This week, I’ve mostly been reading articles in a Rolling Stone anthology and Orwell’s Books v. Cigarettes. I read a lot of Hunter S Thompson when I was a teenager and therefore figured I’d sort of “done” it. But I just re read the Fear and Loathing piece and you don’t see it any more. I certainly don’t. That madness. Features have become so dry, for the most part. Everything seems so dry and mediocre.

It all rings out like a bum note that everyone can palate.

Last summer we went to a talk at our local bookshop —£5 including a free glass of wine, cheap night — with the grandson of the original Faber, who was flogging his new book. He had some good stories. And he went on talking about all these luminaries and the lives they had and the parties, and not once did he mention any of his experiences at the place… I think he worked in the marketing department or something. I never usually ask questions for fear of so many things, but there was an agent there who kept asking questions about rights and royalties that she should’ve known, and he was getting quite irritable. So I put my hand up and asked him if he thought it used to be more fun being a writer and a publisher? Whether people were wilder and had better parties?

He didn’t think so, and said he loved working in an office with people who loved books so much.

I mean, we all like books, mate, that’s why we’re here. But it’s all got rather clinical, hasn’t it? Let’s be honest. But he wasn’t. I guess it would’ve been a sad thing to admit to himself; but we would’ve all shared in that sadness. We are the generation of The Numb But Productive. For which, I blame rent and house prices. You can only be a drifter for so long before you become homeless. It’s a thin line and in my time I’ve trodden it bare.

Maybe we’ll have great parties again when this is all over? When will this all be over?

I offer help to several people this week, albeit a compromise between their needs and wants, and am surprised that every one of them has told me the help I offer is not good enough. I mean, we love mankind, we surly do, but I have to say I have been surprised by people’s inability to compromise during a pandemic. We have got so used to being able to get what we want whenever we want it that anything less than that is…not good enough.

Personally, I find that attitude not good enough but I’m probably lost up my own arse as well.

A man skips all afternoon in the communal gardens. When someone starts skipping you know it’s bad. Butterflies float around; they seem lost, like they’ve turned up to a party and everyone’s left. The insects know that something dark is going down, they’ve seen it all before.

Apparently I only continue to spread misinformation about barbed penises. My sister informs me that foxes indeed do not have barbed penises, but some other terrible mechanism I won’t be googling. Where did I get all this misinformation? I didn’t just make it up and believe it for ten or twelves years, did I?

Never hold on too tightly to your beliefs, they might be a barbed penis.

 

IMG_1153
Still Smiling (Sometimes) In My Father’s Shirt

If On A Winter’s Night A Computer ..

I wrote a piece for The Millions about how, in 1979, Italo Calvino predicted the AI author in one of his best-loved novels, and what the reality of that prediction now means for us writers, poets, journalists and translators.

Detailing how Calvino used an algorithm of his own to formulate the books plot, and how Game of Thrones writer George R R Martin is now competing with a bot-version of himself .

https://themillions.com/2019/02/if-on-a-winters-night-a-computer.html

6e2f8a2342ecc51fd674fa27a4d5f9de

 

Pregnant Witness

Screen Shot 2017-09-20 at 15.18.26.png

There are two guys fighting on the street.
One is in a car
mouthing off,
revving,
head twisted back,
one hand on the wheel —
the other, I assume, is on the hand break.
The second man pursues the creeping vehicle up the hill,
speaking in tongues.
The first talks in spits and swerves his wheels.
I can’t hear what they are saying;
I’m sure it’s very important
but I am watching the pregnant witness
who looks out the window opposite.
Glasses on, she can see their very animated picture,
but she opens the window to better hear the drama
because her life is empty of it.
There is no darkness in her
refurbished house in leafy suburbia.
I would like a life like that
but I’ve too many shades on me, it would seem,
a spinning prism is my diadem.
So I’ll watch the pregnant witness
watching the two men screaming on the streets;
she’ll get some junk mail later
and that’ll be as bad as it gets.

Screen Shot 2017-09-20 at 15.18.35.png

Photo: Martin Parr