Thursday, 31 August 2017

A Prognostic Exercise

Chris Martin, of Coldplay fame, caught my attention last Friday in a conversation with Graham Norton with the phrase 'whelmed', i.e. what you are if you're not over or under. I felt that way then and I think it will still resonate with me when we reach the present now, almost ten months on, because as I've no doubt mentioned elsewhere I write way, way, way in advance, not that it crosses my mind at the time that it might be as prophetic as The Simpsons.
I'm amazingly cool and calm about political and world events and national news: nothing shocks me. Trump triumphed and I'd called that, and before that Brexit, not that in declaring it here you'd have any reason to believe me because there are those who claim these things after the outcome. Shift allegiances or sit on a hedge and wait. Timing is everything.
I wouldn't be surprised if the backlash continued and the Right continued to rise; I wouldn't be surprised if we still hadn't invoked Article 50 but Scotland had held or were about to hold another Referendum, which was again hotly debated; and I wouldn't be surprised if the European Union was shakier in its foundations and Merkel's face had a sterner frown as Germany's abilities to mediate fades and people fall out of love with the tough but soft approach. Globalisation finally had its day.
Perhaps Trump, by now, will have erected a better fence rather than a wall to protect what he calls America's interests. Perhaps for some reason unknown to me he will have been removed from the Presidency, though just possibly he might have become more diplomatic, more Reagen-like and less Bush, except without a Maggie but with a Nigel. And no doubt, he will have got himself into more scrapes, because let's be honest he's not the greatest orator, and I seriously doubt that will have improved, that dramatically. Though more drama, I'm sure, will have been had.
And more, I think, could be under threat: livelihoods, homes, things that seemed permanently established now crumbling, and not because of an unstable economy but because of modernity. This drive to supposedly better ourselves and the world we live in with yet more technology. And with this I include, and more importantly, our freedoms too: how we curtail them, almost willingly, as well as how we want them (and let them be) further policed.
Hello cashless and social media, online-driven society, which, true, we long ago gave a golden handshake to in greeting, but the pressure over the last couple of years has ramped up. There is literally no off switch. Yet, whilst some might revolt against global liberalness, the fading out of how goods are paid for and exchanged, in layman's terms, is noticed but nothing done about. The upgrades to swipe, scan, and tap sweeping through many nations like a particularly virulent flu epidemic, of which there is no cure, or more accurately an incentive to find one because you're supposed to believe (as many do) it's a benefit that outweighs any negatives.
So, scamming will be on the rise, again; banks will continue to have poor online security and variable interest rates; energy companies will do their ofgem bit and tell us to switch though the difference will be minimal but the inconvenience high; and politicians will still be vague or deliberately speak what they know to be untruths.
In some areas we'll still be bombarded by choice; in others, more fundamental ones, choice will be stripped away. Email will be virtually obsolete and citizens will take greater risks and accept less responsibility for their very dubious actions. Everyone will grow more and more careless, regardless of where they are or what they're doing, and news will be issued so fast nobody will know if it's true or fake, or possibly even care.
Oh, I paint an imperfect picture, don't I, of 2017? Not that it really matters as in present time we're over halfway through, and this is just one projected view which is not, in all likelihood, a reliable one. But I've started so I might as well finish, and we're nearly there...
In summary of what will possibly prove a very useless exercise, (hindsight's a wonderful thing!): there will always be those who think we're making progressive or retrogressive leaps, and others who will see it as being thrown to the lions.

Picture credit: On the Threshold of Liberty, 1937, Rene Magritte

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Bermuda-type Triangles

There are mornings I just want to read and read but the minute hand on the clock won't permit me to, even for one second longer; there are afternoons I want to write but find the words escape me; and there are days where I thought I would have a lot to say yet when the time comes to actually sit across from someone, those saved topics have gone. Gone where? I don't know where, just somewhere similar, I imagine, to the Bermuda Triangle. A land of no importance, where subjects that meant something disappear because they no longer matter, or hardly seem worthwhile to impart since the situation in which they arose have since departed.
Everything then about and around my person is blank as if the experience has been erased and my mind wiped clean with one of those microfibre cloths that removes anything that could be called a mark, a spot or a thumbprint. I'm at a new starting block or in the middle of a path where nothing has changed. It's all just ticking along for I've not taken a step in any new direction. Ideas have been mooted, thought about and not acted upon, and so they don't, in all honesty, deserve a mention. Why waste my breath. Let the other person talk if they have more they want to say: to share or to confide.
Yet there are times where I want to listen, really listen, to whomever I'm with, but my mind gets distracted by elements often beyond my control, and so I come away wishing I'd been able to pay more attention to what was uttered. The conversation has, by then, already partially blurred: I remember the dialogue in snippets as if it's been cut from a bolt of cloth with a pair of dress-making scissors, and the instances where I strained to hear and had to watch a jumble of joined-up words flutter in the space between us, and then fly off because at that speed I can't lip-read.
And it's moments like these you can't get back, that can't be recreated because the moment then was good for that person, though not, as it turns out, for you. It's rare for two or more people to be in the exact same place at the exact same time, and for either to be conscious of it, or not as the case may be.
Yet, even this, these thoughts on a screen page, feels circuitous as if I've said it before, put it down in type on another blank page. Although, perhaps I approached it differently, from another perspective, so that this, though familiar, has a new but not over-familiar tone. Maybe we all have themes we return to and find ways to exhaust.
Some novelists have an uncanny knack for that, though they themselves don't realise it until a reader or a critic identifies the vein that pulses through their novels. It's so hidden within their depths, like a capillary feeding an artery, that they're not aware of it even when it's written out, because it's not intentional and because they always discover more to explore and say in different ways, in various settings, and so, to them, it always feels original.
You don't have to be a writer to have a theme, but it does seem that whilst you can easily place it in others you can't pinpoint your own. Sometimes we can be too close to the subject or it's so much a part of us that we're blind to it, even its re-occurrence. Somehow, and don't ask me how? or why?, it doesn't scream loud enough for us to notice, not in the things we do or don't do, or the things we do or choose not to say. And I'm sure quite a few of us have more than one, which then overlap and create havoc.
What, however, has this got to do with talking and listening and Bermuda-type Triangles? Nothing whatsoever, unless these thoughts, printed here, have been spewed back at me from an unfathomable, otherworldly sphere: suddenly lost and just as suddenly found.
When language strays though, much like it's been doing today, everything is harder and doubly so if you're in company or bracing yourself for some. Your speech already fumbled, your mind numb. There's little or no comprehension, since words clearly don't want to be heard or put together, and yet there's a non-verbal agreement to come up with something, which, in my opinion, is a weighty prospect when your thoughts are wont to strike random notes and fantastical notions.

Picture credit: La Jeunesse Illustree, Rene Magritte

Thursday, 17 August 2017

In its Own Way, Right

The face appeared one fine November morning, and gazed at itself as if it had awoken from one hundred years of slumber. The person it belonged to saw and realised the importance of the moment and yet couldn't exclaim because they were sat in a hairdresser's chair, and the stylist was conversing about this and that over her newly washed hair.
At some point between being reclined over a basin and led to a cushioned seat in front of a wall mirror, a metamorphosis or a split had occurred, and with no contortions or twitches, facial or bodily. Was it when the protein boost treatment, that she hadn't requested but later paid for, was applied? For after that, after her hair had been towel-dried, her expression seemed different, wide-eyed, and yet more imp-like than child.
The separation occurring in two shakes of a lamb's tail; quicker than milk and cream, or oil from nut butter. The real face behind the usual mask rose to the surface and, rather than peeking shyly out, brazenly took control. The mask subsided, almost as if not doing so wasn't a choice, as if some agreement, long ago, had been struck, and the moment had to be when she was unawares, so that she would finally see herself, fleetingly, as others see her: the glowing skin, the mischief in the eyes.
The surprise, that made her wide-eyed, would be enough to awaken that slumberous knowledge, even if it at times it fell into a doze, because the coma, at least, would be broken.
But the quiet containment that she wasn't a horror, that at times she 'had something' came much later when the transfiguration to her of her features was less potent, still there yet shared with the usual mask.
And what that 'something' was she couldn't declare to herself in the mirror then, or even when the face chooses to show itself now. Yes, there are words to describe the pallor, the effect, the expression, and yet they only half-explain the realisation of that instant when it happens and the beat it lasts for. The more accurate terms come to the brain when they're not needed and then don't stay or reappear when they are, and so if I was to say that the 'something' was cherubic or a prettiness that had crept over the features that wouldn't be it. It was that and more and something other.
A relaxation in the brow and around the mouth, a devil-may-care look in the eyes. A simpleness that for the most part wasn't present, that the usual mask for no apparent reason often disguised, and yet the face, in its place, wasn't pure innocence either; it seemed, in fact, more mischievous than sensitive or naïve. A puckish expression which having tired of its underground chambers had returned to stake its renewed interest in life-participation on a casual basis, perhaps, in time, working itself up to a job share.
But although this mirrored revelation was caught, the circumstances were far from ideal, for at the height of its reveal, the conversation, already engaged in, was in a two-way flow, which was also in competition with the background: pop music and other stilted conversations going on around as other customers too had their hair shampooed and snipped. The person in the chair had to be sly to not appear narcissistic, particularly since that wasn't who she was at all, and yet this fresh perspective was fascinating, like a view she never expected to see from her apartment but somehow suddenly could.
She wanted to stare, to inch the chair closer to the mirror and examine every pore; touch this fine-looking skin and make sure it belonged to her and not some mirage that would vanish in a pool of illuminated glass, and yet because she was not alone she was prevented, as were her hands which, beneath the black gown, were forced to cling to her thighs. So, all she had were her eyes, which seemed unable to tell whether it was a trick of the light or the simple fact that she was farther away from her reflection. The mirror image had everything and did everything she did: the same shapes, the same contours, the same gestures, and yet was not what she usually saw when she appraised herself before she walked out the door.
The face she glimpsed, and would continue to recognise, was attractive enough, and in its own way, right.

Picture credit: Not to be Reproduced, 1937, Rene Magritte

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Disorganised Notes from the Oubliette

My body clock has gone a little awry and consequently my mind is screwed. It's been darting here and there and everywhere like a dragonfly all day. What about this? Should I do that? Why am I thinking of him or her? I need to go there; I need to do that. What possessed me to respond like that? as if the person I was talking to was an irritating bluebottle or had caught me in a unscrupulous act when it wasn't like that, I was unprepared for that kind of chat that's all. Why? Why? Why? can't I be this or that, laid-back and not so nervy, lively and not so drab. Plain, plain, plain with nothing of interest to say for myself or that I think will be of interest to that particular person. So contained I feel as though I'm turning to stone as I sit or stand.
I am stone with my mind flitting like this through my recent and archived history. Everybody knows you can't undo stuff that's done so why think of it? People, including the merest of acquaintances, ask me questions I hesitate to answer so that my mind scrabbles around in the few milliseconds it's allowed, which makes my answers when given sound weightless. Insubstantial bubbles of air with faint words suspended inside that will drift away with the lightest of breezes. My internal workings cobbling something together which when stuttered or said with a falsetto laugh comes across exactly how I didn't want it to: phoney and furtive.
I have nothing to hide, literally nothing, and yet now it seems I do. A secret life. Mysterious ways. Possibly even a double – one that wears glasses, and one that is bare-faced and sparkly eyed; one that is serious and one that can hold witty conversations, so that if by chance I encounter an unobservant friend, they never know which they'll get.
Some people aren't you know, observant that is. They don't notice small details or perhaps see past them. My point is some places and some acquaintances only know one version of me and not the other, so that if one day I'm the other, the version they don't know, I'm almost embarrassed to appear that way before them, and therefore would do anything to avoid that encounter. Anything, such as ducking behind shelves or suddenly disappearing into a shop or down an alleyway. Maybe that's why in my passport photo I look like a Russian spy.
And yes, you might very well ask why? Why this weirdness? All I have to say in reply is: comfortableness. I'm aware of certain people's preconceptions: if I look a certain way they'll judge me a certain way or behave towards me differently, and worse might draw attention to the fact I have glasses today or are without them. I'm a shrinking violet that's what it is, who accepts compliments graciously but never believes them, and a boring person to boot. Grey like Norman Major, who apart from once being described as such was also once the Prime Minister, and once lived a few roads away from my primary school, and so actually I don't really mind the comparison. I'm the one making it after all.
Still, it's a relief when acquaintances are used to both. It's just with some that transition won't come, so there's always that element of ambush or that sinking feeling when you know you've be spotted. The conversation done and the getaway achieved, you then rehash it and reprimand yourself for not doing it better, or more convincingly. How lovely to see you etcetera. Next time, next time, yet you know if it happens again, when it happens again, it will be exactly the same, though once you'd warmed up you guess it went okay. Room for improvement, hopefully in a room you don't wish to escape from or in one where you've already figured out where the exits are. How daft to judge a conversation on that score?
What must they have thought? Skittish creature. Yes, and more I'm sure. And yet there are times I blame them for putting me in that awkward position, because it ruffles my feathers and they remain ruffled long after, not that they would know that of course. I'd like to think I'd approach them but would I? Maybe if it was a day on which I wanted to be seen and wanted to converse, although even so, I just don't know what truths I might then blurt. 

Picture credit: The Soothsayer's Recompense, 1913, Giorgio de Chirico

Thursday, 3 August 2017


Last October, a novel came into my hands that reaffirmed what I already knew: that answers can change to questions asked again. Again as in some months, even years on, from when the subject was first broached. If you ask again and again and the answer's always the same then you know not to ask again don't you, but if you just accept the first given answer and let the matter drop, then surely as the asker you're doing the answerer a disservice, unless your position as the asker too has somewhat changed. Your feelings are no longer the same or your situation has altered and therefore whatever it was you were originally offering is not available, not on those same terms, which means if you asked again the question put would be different and the answer just as uncertain.
Answerers, if the question's unexpected, can be too hasty in their response, give their initial reaction to a proposal when it might not be what they actually meant, as by doing so they lessen the time they might spend deciding with their stomach a-flutter, their mind in knots, as well as the time the asker is kept waiting.
Whereas no response is either a open door or a door the asker will choose to close because it's unfair. Their life in limbo, always hopeful that one day their appeal will be accepted, until the day they become aware of their own stagnancy and realise they've been taken advantage of, forever kept in reserve.
Some answerers, however, do give the question the time it deserves. They might pause whilst delivering their response, have a affectation that buys them thirty seconds such as removing spectacles, if they have them, and cleaning the lenses, or pinching the bridge of their nose as if a headache beckons, which in turn enables their brain to formulate a reply which would be right at the time of asking. But that's not to say that the answer given would be the same if the same question was asked in an altogether different moment.
Then, there's how it's asked – with what words and in what tone, which should be considered if the question is being asked again and if you believe the answerer, if it's the same answerer, remembers the situation in which the original was proposed. Though if it has been forgotten, then it could work in the asker's favour, but it's dangerous to assume that's the case because in such circumstances the answerer may recall yet imply, for their own purposes, otherwise.
Nothing asked twice or thrice is ever the same, though it can take on a robotic quality as if the asker knows, before it's even been asked, what answer to expect since it's been asked that many times, so that if a different answer happened to be given they might on that one-off occasion miss it.
There are some answerers, however, who refuse to entertain the same question however it's asked, believing that to do so shows a weakness in their character, even if at the repeat performance they felt differently. And there are askers too whom on being rejected once wouldn't dare to enquire again, even if the opportunity was undoubtedly there or their feelings remain unaltered.
Everything has to, in a way, be perfect for it to come together. The question needs to be put favourably to receive a favourable response, and for that the mood needs to be spot-on, and that's not something you can ever, truly, be an accurate judge of. For it's not just the mood of the answerer the asker has to be ascertain along with their own, but also that of the environment where the question will be placed, and will be forever fixed in both their minds if the question popped or answer given is poorly managed in their opinion.
The moment has to be right, for when it's not (for either party) then it either passes with no action taken or someone winds up dejected, which may in future prevent them effectuating the same scenario again or behaving differently. It's always risky even if each are sure of how they'll ask should the chance arise or how they'll respond should they be asked, because anything might occur to throw that pre-thought off course.
People change, as do the answers given.

Picture credit: Cartomancy, 2004, Frances Broomfield