Monday, 3 October 2011

Wasting Time Or, Beginning A Brief Memoir in the Style of Jorge Luis Borges but with a Dash More Reality and Just as Many Footnotes

Part I
If anyone needs me I’ll be at The Office (aka, the Eaton Cottage, Public House, a purveyor of Time Wasting[i] and fuzzy-headed navel gazing). It’s a cosy, provincial establishment in a cosy provincial ‘town’ (I write ‘town’ in an unabashed London-centric snobbish way as I absolutely, totally disregard its regal city status, it’s just not big enough in my opinion). But anyway, here I am supping on a pint of Jackal with an HB pencil and a notebook. My audience (a total of one official follower at present and one other, if anecdotal statistics are correct) have been asking for another entry.[ii]
I have some things on my mind. They’re not really ‘lollish’ matters and maybe they’re not for blogging but I think that one of the best ways to relieve pressure from a serious subject is to ‘make lol’ of it. Make lol of a problem in a tangential and free manner.[iii] Talk, write, ramble. Tangents are our conversational footnotes and they must be explored. Or some other wank. But yes, I have something on my mind quite serious. So serious that I’m not sure if it’s serious at all? You can see that I’m confused.
Question! (In the style of Destiny’s Child?[iv]). How do you make the following things funny? :-
1.     Mental illness
2.     Childhood trauma
3.     Poverty
I think I’ve probably made you feel slightly uncomfortable already. Personally, taking the mickey seems to be the only way I know how to talk about the topics that pain me most. Humour makes the muddy, the embarrassing, the upsetting things in life more accessible. It doesn’t solve our problems but it can be a good starting point to looking at them when we are in danger of being overwhelmed. It’s a defence mechanism clearly, but a good one, in my -and my therapist's- opinions[v]!
So, last year I wrote to the ‘Sabre-Toothed Mother’[vi] and asked her to write back to me with all the information she had about my DAD[vii]. This wasn’t altogether fruitful as by this point she’s as mad as a box of foxes[viii] and I don’t get much new information beyond the few sporadic bits and bobs I’ve gleaned in the 28 years previous (albeit at the best[ix] and most inappropriate of sporadic times).
Anyway, back to the point. 1982 and I was born. This much I know. Ok, I know a lot more than that but in between then and about 2008 what I had garnered about myself and where I came from seemed to be not only sparse but contradictory and unreliable… the more I was learning the more contradictory and unsettling things were becoming, less and less like something I could make a joke about and more like something that was just sitting very heavy and uncomfortable in my stomach.
For years I had been indoctrinated to believe that I shouldn’t care to know about that side of myself; conditioned not to ask questions about that topic and far worse.  Unfortunately now at the point when I was realising all of this the relationship between my mother and I had deteriorated to the point where we were barely speaking. People and situations around me were encouraging me to believe that if I wanted to look into things I should do it before it was too late.  So now I finally plucked up the courage to write to HER and waited with a cold, itchy fear to see what she might add to the list what I knew about my FATHER[x] (more or less in the order that I learnt it):-
1.     His name was Alan.
2.     He was from Scotland. From a place near a place marked on a children’s pictorial atlas with what I remembered as some sort of chequered black symbol (this may be wrong) but later when I was old enough to work these sort of things out, I went back and looked at the symbol my MUM had pointed out and saw that it was Glasgow.
3.     He had blonde hair and a red beard.
4.     He was short and stocky.
5.     He got into fights.
6.     He got into a fight outside a pub and was arrested.
7.     He had a brother who was stationed in the army in Northern Ireland.
8.     He was mentally ill and had paranoid thoughts.
9.   He was only 24. His birthday might have been in October.
10.   Some other stuff that’s so, like, bad I can’t even say.
11.   THEY[xi] sent him back to from whence he came… the place with a black and white symbol that I couldn’t remember, so that his family could look after him.
12.   He was from a tiny ex-mining village called Allanton, near Glasgow.
13.   He had two children before me.
To this she added:
14. His surname was Grey.[xii]
How is that as a list? It isn’t much but it could get me somewhere. The problem is I can’t make my mind up where I want to get to. In the search to answer questions I want answered, am in danger of messing up other people’s lives or just bringing myself more sadness? How important is it to know where we come from? We don’t need to know everything… but there seems to be an amount that is just enough to get us started, help us to be secure in the knowledge we come from somewhere.
So far, just a lot of questions resonating to the sound of silence. To be continued, obviously.

[i] Don’t worry: Waste Time. (Aka, Wasting time is just what happens when you’re living your life. The sooner you realise it the more your time wasting will become productive and less restless). But waste time in an interesting manner. I might start capitalising the phrase ‘Waste Time’ as they did excessively in fiction in the 18th century, when the rules for capitalisation were not the same as now.

[ii] They might wish they hadn’t after this.
[iii] Speaking of tangents, I’ve just bumped into two old friends who are visiting the town they’ve just moved away from and that I have just moved back to. This sort of coincidence constantly puzzles me although more rational friends explain them away. I might have forgotten what my original point was, but the fun of tangents is that you’ll remember in the end. You just need to have faith. And patience.
[iv] Incidentally, Knowles never actually asks a direct question in the song, ‘Independent Women’. Instead she instructs the listener, ‘tell me what you think about me’, before offering up a list of the material goods she has bought, including: shoes (they’re on her feet), clothes (she’s wearing them), rocks (she’s rockin’ ’em), in a confused and old-fashioned feminist/capitalist mish-mash, {for more of her work in this genre see, ‘Say My Name’, ‘Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)’}. I wonder if Beyonce has ever delivered her independent manifesto to Jay-Z in person? I would particularly like to know if she’s ever told him, ‘If I wanted the watch you're wearin'/ I'll buy it’ and even better, ‘When it's all over please get up and leave’. Overall the lyrics seem like slightly ill-advisable things to say to your boyfriend and quite reminiscent of Newman and Baddiel as the feuding professors on ‘The Mary Whitehouse Experience’ (‘you see that crust of bread’…)
[v] And my therapist’s too.
[vi] ™ Me, to N. Poole, circa 2010.
[vii] Difficult word to write but what's in a name, anyway? I guess this question is at the crux of this entire matter… except it’s not so much what’s in the name but what’s in the blood.
[viii] Not to be confused with a ‘fox in a box’, which apparently means a pretty young woman that dies on a gap year. Unless you read ‘gap year’ as spending the majority of your adult life herding cats on a council estate.
[ix] When I say best, obviously I mean worst. This is an example of what’s known as ‘sarcasm’, but it’s highly contextual so if you didn’t recognize it as sarcasm, DON’T FEEL BAD ABOUT IT.
[x] Maybe I’m just inserting footnotes for the sake of it now. Maybe I don’t have any faith in my reader. Was the font not exaggeration enough? Do I need to insert a footnote to exemplify my meaning too? Do I? It’s like I could have just gone to a party and enjoyed a few drinks and been a little extrovert, made a few people laugh, but no, I had to throw chemical enhancement into the mix and now I’m dancing on the table to prove my point! My point being: it’s a word loaded with a lot of meaning.
[xi] The difficult words are coming thick and fast now.
[xii] Before she proceeded to go into a maudlin two-page monologue.


  1. Keep those lols coming C! Notebook and Pencil? What century is this? Footnotes work well to break the readers' empathic engagement with the subject matter. Folk Tales and Fairy Stories engage with genuine human needs and desires. Detective stories take as their central character one who is tangentially removed from those same emotions and relies on logic and deduction to examine them in the lives of others. What kind of story do you want to live? There is no "Elementary my dear happily ever after." Looking forward to the TBC... obvs!