Of Mattresses and Men

The new mattress is by and large a success, though it does have the bad habit of tipping us towards the centre, so we’re having to retrain it by lying towards the edges to flatten it out a bit. I once wrote a story about a mattress; called ‘Mem Mat’ it was about a sign I’d seen in a shop window which puzzled me greatly. What could ‘Mem Mat’ mean? Some sort of doormat? Finally the penny dropped and I realised it was a mattress made out of so-called memory foam.

I’ve never liked the idea of these. I don’t want a mattress that remembers my shape; I want to be free to assume any shape I damn well please. I want a forgetting mattress, a mattress with dementia, if you will. So I was never tempted to buy one. But the sign ‘Mem Mat’ stayed with me and sprouted into a short story in which – no, if I told you that I’d have to kill you. But happily, the story is published here and you can read it.

Everyday Fiction, god bless them, were the first people to publish me with a short story DIVORK (also available on the website). I’ll never forget the feeling when that email came back with the comment ‘this is almost perfectly publishable.’ They are quite an exacting website and wanted a couple of minor alterations but that was fine, and they went on to publish two more of mine, Mem Mat and Olympic Summer. It’s been a while since I’ve sent them anything, mostly because the stuff I write is longer than 1000 words nowadays, but maybe it’s time I di.

Speaking of Science Fiction (and with a quick nod to Chris Conway whose song Science Fiction Eyes is one of my favourites) it is quite shameful how it is disregarded in more literary circles. As OH never tires of pointing out, the concept in Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife is exactly the same as Asimov’s much earlier Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and you can pretty much bet that any speculative idea you come up with has been done, and most likely done to death, in the world of SF. So a little humility in that regard is called for, I think.

I will never forget though, the difference it made to me to be published, to be able to answer with a ‘yes’ the inescapable question, the question Monty asks Marwood in Withnail and I – ‘are you published?’

Yes! Yes, I am published. Have to leave you now to send off some more stories. Toodle pip.

Kirk out

Is That a Zen Sky?

Yesterday was the solstice so I set the alarm for sunset, prepared a glass of wine and a song to listen to, and stopped work to sit and watch the sky darken. This was a slow and undramatic process as the sun was behind layers of dark cloud and nary a glimmer emerged; however it was a very contemplative practice to simply sit and observe and try to get my head round the fact that I’m on a tiny patch of a revolving globe and that it’s this globe that moves, not the sun.

Many truths are counter-intuitive and hard to get hold of. Sometimes the moon seems so close you feel you could reach out and touch it, or leap up and sit on the point of its crescent. Have you ever been in the country, miles from any street lights, on a clear night? The stars seem so close it’s almost threatening; yet we persist in acting as though we are separate from them rather than being in the middle. Anyway, last night at sunset I drank a glass of wine and listened to this track and read this poem which is one of my favourites.

My new CD came yesterday too. It’s a meditative one called Zen Sky and I can almost write as I listen to it, though normally I never listen to music while working because it’s too distracting. I also downloaded a really fun EP called Fake News; all of these recordings including the solstice song are by our friend, the multi-talented local musician Chris Conway. There’s no end to the instruments this man can play or the styles he can perform in, and Zen Sky features the low Irish whistle, an amazingly evocative instrument.

So that was yesterday; today I unaccountably woke up feeling crabby and resentful. Where do these emotions come from? I went to bed feeling fine and had a reasonably good night, but this morning all these unpleasant sensations had blown in like a squall from the coast. Normally I can keep a lid on the feeling that other people are far more successful than me, that they fit in more easily – or at all – that they somehow make money without making themselves miserable in the process, and have a path in life, a direction, a purpose. Well, I suppose I have a path and a direction but without (as yet) the money or success, so from time to time feelings of envy will arise, and the Christmas round robin is an excellent catalyst for them. One which arrived yesterday featured distant relatives we haven’t seen in a while who live on what appears to be a ranch in Surrey with a lake, a small wood and a massive house. What makes it worse is that they are very nice people!!!! (gnashes teeth.) Well, this is my problem and I’ll have to deal with it.

*Sigh*

I wish they weren’t nice people and then I could hate them. I do hate the round robin though

Kirk out

Hablando Salsa

If music be the food of Spain, play on! There’s a definite Hispanic theme to this week since the other day it occurred to me that having first had salsa but no tortilla chips, I now had tortilla chips but no salsa; and whereas making your own chips might be a bit of a tall order, making salsa was surely straightforward. Pausing only to consult absolutely no recipes whatsoever (I’m a When all else fails read instructions kinda gal) I decided that the key ingredients were: onions (check) tinned tomatoes (check) and chilli powder (double check.) Incidentally last night I made a rather shocking error when I assumed the yellow powder OH had bought was turmeric and put some in my tea. It dries up mucus so I have it for that purpose occasionally; however this turned out not to be turmeric but HOT curry powder. Ouch! But I digress; having assembled the salsa ingredients I fried the onions, added some tomato puree and the chopped tomatoes, stirred in some chilli powder and left to reduce for about half an hour. When cold I put it into jars and stored in the fridge. It’s good stuff and barely extinguishable from the shop-bought variety. Incidentally it’s interesting that in my lifetime mass-produced foods have gone from being a poor second best, to something we try to emulate. And yes, I know I should have written ‘distinguishable’ but my mouth is still on fire…

The other Hispanic event is that I’m awaiting the arrival of Chocolate Bossa, a Chris Conway CD. In my youth I never particularly liked bossa but just as you have to go to France to know what Brie should taste like, you have to live in a Hispanic country to understand the music; and since I lived in Spain I’ve developed a feel for salsa, flamenco and bossa. And all that jazz. I hope it comes soon.

Kirk out

Negative Capability Brown

This phrase came to me as I was walking back from town with a Primark bag swinging from my hot and sweaty hand.  I don’t like shopping at Primark but I do it because a) I don’t like shopping on-line and b) I can’t afford anywhere else.  So I went in for a couple of vests and came out with an utterly delicious garment that I can’t find a name for.

Whilst whistling through the park and thinking how odd it was that the grass is so dry when a mere six weeks ago it was under water and the paths were so flooded they were indistinguishable from the streams, the thought came to me.  Negative Capability Brown.  I have no idea what it means but I’m damned well going to find out.

OK let’s start with negative capability.  Coined by Keats, it means in essence the ability to immerse yourself in someone or something to such an extent that you become it.  I take this to be equivalent to ‘absorption’ in meditation; a forgetting of self and an immersion in the other; whether that is another person, a song, a flower or a book.  So, putting that together with Capability Brown, what do we get?

I’m not sure.  A landscape gardener who becomes the garden, perhaps?  I’m not sure that it works because 18th century gardening was all about imposing order and vision on the landscape, whereas the Romantic idea was to immerse yourself in nature and become one with it.  So Negative Capability Brown would seem to be a bit of an oxymoron.

Anyway, enough of this banter and on to yesterday’s event, a sort of ‘pop-up’ memorial to Gaz Carnell of Fingerprints.  A dozen or so people met outside the cafe to remember him; I did a poem and Chris Conway did a song; both of which were called ‘Fingerprints.’  There are videos but I can’t upload them at the moment; in the meantime here’s a picture of the garment.  Is it a dress?  Is it culottes?  It ain’t dungarees…

No, I can’t do that either because the laptop and the phone have had a hissy fit and are refusing to communicate with each other.

Kirk out

 

 

25th Wedding Anniversary

IMG_0597

Well, today is our 25th wedding anniversary.  Yes, the OH and I have been manacled together for a quarter of a century and I feel as if I ought to do some sort of ‘summing-up’ post but I really can’t because as OH points out, if you sum it up, that’s the end.  A life is only summed up at a funeral; a calculation is only summed up when it’s finished.  And yet it is a kind of calculation because if you add up the days and the weeks and the years and put them one after another eventually you get to 25 years and then you have to stop and think… and what do you think?  Bloody hell! is the obvious thought.  And then bloody hell once more, but when you’ve thought bloody hell enough times you begin to be coherent.  And that’s when it gets hard.  I mean, what can you say about two and a half decades of conjugal manacling?  Well, you can say without fear of contradiction that there’s a history there – a history which means, for example, that I only have to say the word ‘Gerald’ for OH to know that he is being pretentious (see the gorilla sketch on ‘Not the Nine o’Clock News’) or ‘the mushroom pate’ which encapsulates the history of our first meeting or references to herbs such as ‘it doesn’t comfrey you know’ and ‘go the extra chamomile.’

Half a day has gone by and I still don’t know what to say about the last 25 years.  Still, it’s been a good day so far; the tribute to Gaz was lovely, featuring my poem and Chris’s song and a dozen or so people who came along (not bad at half a day’s notice.)  One person however was not having the best day as she had to get to work and had ordered food which took a while to come; then when she tucked into it I spilled my water all over it.  No sooner had this been mopped up than she discovered her dog, a rather nervous rescue animal, was missing.  A short panic ensued till the dog was discovered at the back of the cafe.  Anyway, an enjoyable if emotional event.

Before that I went to the hairdresser’s by mistake: I was just walking down the road and saw a sign advertising half-price cut and blow-dry, so in I stepped and on discovering that the half-price offer was very cheap, sat down in one of the chairs and prepared to be cut and blown dry.  I’m really pleased with the result.

And tonight we’re off out for a meal at Pizza Express.  All this and a free CD from Chris Conway as well!

What more could one ask?

A quarter of a century not out.

Kirk – erm – out

It’s Your BMI, Baby

Dang, women just can’t get it right.  You try to be a model and even though you’re a size 10 they say you’re too fat.  You work as an air hostess and even though you’re not overweight you get sacked – because you’re just too fat.  So you go to the doctor for help – and the doctor says you’re too thin.  You ask your family and friends and they all say you’re too thin too.  So what’s a girl to do?

I don’t have a clue what my BMI is – do you?  I don’t even know what it means.  I mean, I know it stands for body mass index but I don’t know what a healthy one is or what mine might be.  I know how much I weigh and I could probably work it all out from there if the height charts weren’t all in metres, but why bother?  I know what the healthy weight for my age and height is and I can tell by looking how much fat is on my body.

I can feel it too.  Hmm…

Anyway, I have a suggestion for Chris Conway’s next gig – which incidentally is next week: he should do a version of the National Anthem but in a minor key.  We would all stand in respectful silence and then have a chorus of ‘Share and Enjoy’ or alternatively something from ‘Star Trek’.  What do you think Chris?

Here’s the photo from the gig: Weds 23rd at Firebug, Leicester

Kirk out

Anthemgate?

It’s a bit glum here in blogland, with louring clouds and imminent rain – a downpour scheduled for 2 pm did not occur, so it’s only a matter of time before it happens.  It may even begin before this post ends – watch this space…

But the main news is about Jezza and his failure to sing the National Anthem when asked.  This has been portrayed as rude, disrespectful, a threat to national security, a means of destroying the planet and a serious threat to the viability of the known universe – the papers have all-but exhausted their hyperbole on the leadership election and have run out of things to say about Corbyn: it did, however, lead me to wonder what i thought about the whole Anthemgate issue.

On the one hand, he wasn’t being hypocritical.  On the other, it could be considered rude: and I wonder what I would have done in his place?  As I have mixed feelings about the monarchy, I’d probably have sung the anthem but in a quiet, plaintive sort of voice which said I didn’t really mean it – a typical Anglican sort of compromise, really…

Corbyn attended his first PMQ today, having asked voters to send in questions they wanted answered.  A bit of a gimmick?  Perhaps, but a good way to signal that he intends representing ordinary voters, whom he also named as he gave their questions.  It’s so good to hear, finally, someone opposing the government, saying things we have longed to hear for years instead of wishy-washy comments saying the government were A Little Bit Wrong But Not Too Bad Really.

The anthem thing reminds me of John Redwood failing to sing the Welsh National Anthem:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RIwBvjoLyZc&feature=youtu.be

also the Mr Bean sketch where he tries desperately to join in with a half-remembered hymn and finally gets an ‘Alleluia’ in the right place:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6a75BDoJqg

And today Chris Conway was reminded of this incident:

‘At a chums wedding in a Greek Orthodox Church we few English were called upon to recite the Lord’s Prayer in our language after a very full crowd had done so in Greek. A school chum I was stood with (the late and much missed Robin) and I looked at each other and we couldn’t recall it. So to make a sound we recited something that that we did know that sounded holy – “Space…The final frontier. These….” ‘

Very funny Chris.

And this in turn reminded me of a recent decision in the Church of England to allow everyone to recite the Lord’s Prayer in the version they prefer.  This leads to many people doing the new liturgy but a substantial minority intoning the King James words – on a bad day it can sound like ‘Share and enjoy’ from the Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dM-t3I5uFro

Nope.  Still not raining.

Happy Wednesday,

Kirk out

A Friend of the People

I am currently writing a short story about visiting an elderly mother in a home.  My mother was in a home for several years before she died: even though it would have been totally impossible to look after her in our house, still you can’t escape the guilt.  It’s a dilemma many people face, including, I suspect, a lot of readers of magazines such as The People’s Friend.  I have been aware for a number of years that such magazines pay well for stories, but I have not been able to come up with the goods, as it’s just not my natural style.  I have now, however, been able  to adopt this style – a bit like learning a foreign language, I suppose – and last week I sent off one story to Woman’s Weekly.  This week I am working on something for The People’s Friend about the subject of old people in homes.  They have lives and interests too – in fact Chris Conway has a really good song about this, called ‘Superheroes Never Die’, which is on this album:

http://chrisconway.bandcamp.com/track/superheroes-never-die

It was written after he did a gig at an old people’s home and, rather than enjoying his selection of old-time music-hall numbers they told him they liked stuff like David Bowie and Pink Floyd.

So my story is called ‘Always Winter and Never Christmas’.  The first reader to tell me in a comment where that comes from will get a –

they’ll get a –

a –

a mention!

Kirk out

I am Now Serene

Science Fiction was all around today as I attended a ‘Serenity’ event to raise money for Women’s Aid.

http://www.womensaid.org.uk

I had only the vaguest idea of what the Serenity bit was all about, as I have never seen Firefly or Serenity (both by Joss Wheedon) and besides, I arrived after the film had started, failed to find a seat, bumped into several people, had a hissed conversation with Mark and then left to sit in Town Hall square and gather my thought, ready for my poetry slot.  Town Hall Square was a nice mix of relaxed people and drunks.  Although I guess the drunks were relaxed as well.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0379786/

There were six or seven poets after the film had finished and Chris Conway arrived before his gig slot to hear us, which was nice.  I did three poems, ‘Doctor’, ‘A Martian Sends an Email Home’, and ‘To the Looking Glass.’  The first two are obviously sci-fi and the third is about women, so I thought it fitted in nicely.  Mark also did a couple of poems and the whole event was admirably organised by Tabby and Dave Wood.

Alas, I didn’t stay to hear Chris Conway’s set: Daniel has a perforated eardrum, so I came home after that just in case he was feeling ill again.  He’s a bit better today, but he will have to see the doctor tomorrow.  Chris was very forgiving, especially as we’ve been to three of his gigs in the last month…

Lots of people were dressed in weird costumes which related to the film; one woman even wore a pink dress with a crinoline; and there was a plethora of orange-and-green woolly hats.  I, however, wore only trousers and t-shirt as I ascended the stage to perform my stuff.  It went down well, though it’s always harder in environments where people are not used to poetry; however several people were complimentary afterwards and I left behind some booklets to be sold for Women’s Aid.

And that was today.  I notice Djokovic has won Wimbledon, which is a bit of a surprise.  A good year for the East Europeans then…

Kirk out

 

25 Years and Three Days

I’ve fiddled about rather today, thanks to a late night last night at Chris Conway’s 25 year anniversary gig.  This was quite well-attended, considering that some unmentionable sport was on; I particularly enjoyed the time-shifted updates Chris gave from time to time (England 0, Normandy 1; England 2, Germany 0 – and latterly, England v France entering the 900th year of extra time) updates which touched on the tribal nationalism of football.  The appeal of the game completely passes me by and always has; I’m not much of a team-sports person anyway as I prefer individual games such as – oo, wait! tennis!  Isn’t Wimbledon due to start next week?  Let me check – yes!!! It starts on Monday!  Deep joy.  Three days to go…  The question is, will I be able to break my live TV fast and only watch it on iplayer?  I should, but it’ll be a test of nerve.  I’ll have to avoid the news so that I don’t know the result – a bit like that episode of The Likely Lads where they spend twenty-nine minutes trying to avoid hearing the result only to be told it in the thirtieth minute.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0089881

It’s rather a beautiful day down here in Clarendon Park; I’ve just been for a bike ride and Kasabian are due to play some time soon on Vicky Park, so the whole area is fenced off like some kind of gulag.  Tomorrow I am going to a singing workshop so that should be fun.  Oo! and while I was at the Musician I discovered that the divine Webb Sisters are going to be there in July.  If you don’t know what they sound like, here’s a clip.  I’d love to go but the tickets are £12…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lJRKg07W1zU

Have a good weekend,

Kirk out