Thursday, November 29, 2007

What Presence

Edwyn Collins in his studio by Henri Kyriacous

‘I’m learning to sing again’, Edwyn Collins tells a devoted full house of fans in the bijou Arts Theatre in London on Sunday night. This isn’t some crass pronouncement from a maturity-free Aimless Wino type celebrity with metaphors where morals should be. No, Edwyn had literally forgotten how to sing and walk and talk too. In February 2005 he suffered two brain haemorrhages, triggering a massive stroke. Nearly three years later, the resolutely clenched fist on the end of his motionless right arm testifies to the brutality of the assault on this man’s body.

I knew Edwyn slightly in the early 80s when we used to hang around with the Postcard crowd. Mr T knows him better since he’s much more adept at both hanging around and keeping in touch. Edwyn’s illness began just six months after Michael Donaghy died of a brain haemorrhage. I was in Michael’s poetry class and knew him neither long nor well but I’d been to his 50th birthday dinner just months before. It was a shocking thing. I knew how serious this was for Edwyn and had followed his progress on the website, where his wife and manager Grace had been posting regular updates.

Mr T got us tickets for this intimate gig, one of a series Edwyn has been doing to promote his album, Home Again. The last time I saw Edwyn was in September 2001 when he and Roddy Frame did an acoustic gig together at Festival Hall in London. They alternated songs and played a couple together. It was chaos. I wrote this in my diary,

Both were very rusty and three times songs completely broke down because they’d forgotten them and had to abandon them. Edwyn did it twice and Roddy once. Unbelievable. Is the art of performance dying?

In typical Pants fashion, I then went on to predict the crumbling of the civilised world. It hasn’t quite come to that, I admit, but at the time I judged I’d a right to expect that at a sit-down concert in Festival Hall, the people on stage could at least get through a whole song. If it had been at Dingwall’s I would simply have gone to the bar for the duration and ended the evening in a much happier state of mind.

They clearly hadn’t rehearsed. Roddy Frame could play the dictionary without rehearsing. Edwyn was obviously the subversive in this scenario. Twice he’d restarted a song only to get to the same place he’d capsized the first time. He shrugged. He collapsed into fits of his celebrated hacking hyena laugh. He looked to an increasingly exasperated Roddy to pick up the pieces. It rattled Roddy so much he folded too. The unthinkable happened. Roddy Frame had an unexpected encounter with fallibility. Backstage, Roddy sat scowling while Edwyn dismissed the fiasco as ‘a bit of fun’.

Cut to the present day. Despite the experience of seeing Michael Donaghy in an open casket, felled by this condition, I haven’t prepared myself fully for how Edwyn might be. Knowing that Roddy Frame is playing with him, I joke to Mr T ‘Well it can’t be any worse than last time.’ I’m actually expecting him to be playing the guitar.

It’s a tiny theatre and we’re very close to the stage, in a side seat, perched like birds of prey. Edwyn propels himself out of the wings opposite us with considerable effort, his left side willing his disconsolate right side forward. I quietly vomit tears. For the first few minutes I shuffle through a library of redundant emotions, looking for a suitable match as Edwyn begins, falteringly, to sing.

Edwyn delivers a blinding fifty minute set where he makes not a single error excepting the occasional moment of dysphrasia, another legacy of the stroke. He’s had to learn all his songs again, from scratch. He has the lyrics in front of him, on a lectern. The dysphrasia produces a classic Mondegreen. He introduces a song he calls Wrong Track Mind. (When I buy the wonderful Home Again next day I’m briefly disappointed to learn the tune’s called One Track Mind). Edwyn hasn’t lost his instinct for piloting. He constantly subdues the audience’s expectations with rehearsed phrases that remind us he’s still a work in reconstruction. ‘I’m getting there’, he tells us, ‘slowly’.

Roddy Frame is the second-best guitar player in Britain (after David Gilmour obviously). He has a tuneful but not quite distinctive enough singing voice and, for reasons no one can fathom, has never written a particularly memorable song (except Somewhere in My Heart which is recallable for all the wrong reasons – tonight a member of the audience only half-jokingly implores him not to play it). It seems as if Roddy knows too much and is just too careful about getting it right. Edwyn, on the other hand is the Mozartian lout with a hotline to the zeitgeist.

What Roddy’s done best for years is make everyone else sound good. He couldn’t honour his old friend more. It’s not until tonight I realise what genius timing he has. The band powers into Girl Like You. Roddy manages to simultaneously give Edwyn the beafy support he needs to carry his big hit and build breathless anticipation for that killer riff over two choruses, without creating any semblance of conflict. It’s remarkable. Mr T and I briefly visit backstage. I tell Roddy I like what he’s done with Girl Like You. He shrugs and says, ‘I had fun with it’. Edwyn doesn’t recognise me at all, unsurprisingly. He pauses over Mr T’s face and says, ‘you’re that Australian guy, aren’t you?’

There’s something about Edwyn Collins’s demeanour that tells you he accepts unquestioningly who he is now, a man interrupted. That takes staggering courage. The album Home Again, which you must immediately go out and buy, not only contains a treasure of beautiful songs, but a selection of lovely drawings of wildlife. Just as he’s learned to walk, talk and sing again, Edwyn’s learned to draw left-handed. He tells Pete Paphides on this Times Online podcast which you must immediately download and listen to, ‘I like animals and birds’. I guess that sums up the Collins philosophy. He’s a mountain-because-it’s-there kind of guy.

And elegant, still so very, very elegant.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

We need to talk about Kevin

The Rudd celebrates the end of a long drought - from the Sydney Morning Herald

Australians are waking up to the first new government in eleven years right about now. Labor has won the election. It was a result that, although widely predicted, few dared hope for. I know how great it feels and I'm very much looking forward to enjoying the new mood when I return to my birth-mother country early next year. That there's a pointless full stop, (and I hope this doesn't come across as gratuitous tautology on my part), after 'New Leadership' on the banner above, indicates a refreshing lack of slickness. After ten years of British New Labour's 'style over substance' approach to public interface, I find the lack of attention to presentation cause for celebration.

I imagine the conversation with brand for u on this campaign that went,

b4U: What's your goal for your new brand?

Team Rudd: We end up running the Government.

b4U: Yes, but what's vision behind that?

Team Rudd: More people vote for us than the other guys.

b4u: Whatever. That'll be $500,000 (please, thank you).

Money well spent.

There was, to be fair, a certain cringing at House of Pants over the Kevin07 campaign. I can only say in defence of the incoming Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, if your name does happen to rhyme with the calendar year in which you're making your first stab at high office, you should go with the linguistic flow. Kevin's just nerdy enough to get away with it, and sodding well did too. Sis Pants, who incidentally suggested the title for this post, tells me that locally the Ruddster is known as The Milky Bar Kid. As long as he continues the Kid's tradition of giving rather than taking, we'll get along fine.

When I talk to Ma Pants in the morning, I know she'll be thrilled with the
Ruddslide. She's a total Ruddite and won't mind me saying so. What we know so far is that the new government will withdraw Australian soldiers from Iraq and sign the Kyoto agreement. Already I feel as if I'll be going to live in a place that is so much more like the home that I recognise. I didn't know the place that imperilled and brutalised human beings fleeing persecution. I didn't understand the place that allowed working conditions to be eroded to a level below decency for the first time since the Great Depression. I do know that a change of government could make all the difference. It has before. And now there is hope of halting the march of greed and self-interest that made Australia all icing and no cake.

On ya Kev. The whole country woke up, smelt the low-fat latte, and saw that evil bastard Howard off. Not only did he lose the election, he lost his seat as well. Don't think you can start moaning about 'unfair dismissal' either Johnnie - you took away that right, remember? Let's hope your local Centrelink takes a tough line on lazy prats like you and hassles you to do voluntary work.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Wednesday will I be famous?

Pants with Pa Pants taken by Ma Pants a rather long time ago

I know, I know. It's all about me again and the presumption that I somehow represent elegance. All I can say is I have only my fantasies now. This is me and Pa Pants who died just before I came to live in England. I don't know where we are. From the background, you might imagine it is in Pa Pants's birthplace of Egypt, although I'm certain I didn't actually go there until 2001. Besides, I don't think they had Holden cars in Egypt. The picture is probably taken in Queensland, Australia, and since I am in my party dress, the location is most likely close to my grandparents' home in Coopers Plains and around the time of my fourth birthday. I don't remember the dairy farm country of the Brisbane environs looking like this so I'm wondering if Ma and Pa Pants perhaps contrived a photo in front of a large billboard. That would have been a very 5os thing to do.

The dress was dark pink (and white, obviously). Ma Pants probably made it because she made all my clothes in those days. I also remember with great fondness the little baby pink angora bolero I'm wearing which probably means it was passed down to a succession of dolls. By the time my younger sister was born we were into more serviceable clothes. We were outdoor kids and I don't remember much about the clothes from then on until I was old enough to make or buy my own. This photo was taken just before my sister was born.

Another era is drawing to a close. Ma Pants was about the age I am now when Pa Pants died. When I left Australia for England, I was about the age she was when she took this photograph. I was living in Queensland too, in Brisbane. I was in a band and itching to get out of Australia. Pa Pants had died on Christmas Eve, 1981. Of all times to go, he had to pick that one. But, after the initial spoiling of Christmas for everyone for several years, the family got into Christmas being more special because it was a time to remember Pa Pants. We can half fill our yuletide cup as easily as empty it in my family. We're fairly resilient in that respect.

The following Brisbane winter of 1982, which I probably misremember as unseasonably cold, was salvaged for me by the ticket to London which was burning a hole in my pocket. Crazy spending ensued prompted by the frenzied sale of old furniture from my old house. The country was going mad for 'colonial' style furniture which I'd bought for next to nothing while the rest of the country was hoarding Swedish teak. I sold everything, including the house. When I say 'crazy', what I mean is I bought a state-of-the-art recording Walkman and a stupidly expensive pair of pink leather pixie boots. They wore out in a matter of months in the harsh London winter.

I remember those last days in Brisbane on temporary work, skipping through the city plugged into this new fangled device, listening to ABC's The Lexicon of Love. As a child veteran of 50s cool jazz, courtesy of the Pants parents and my own autodidact pop education and praxis from playing school orchestra 'cello and clarinet and folk guitar, I really felt I'd matured artistically and was ready to conquer the world. And I just couldn't wait to get started.

Cut to the present. On any given Wednesday, like today for example, I travel to my temporary job in Ilford, which is nice and pays very well. From Ilford Station, I cut through a big shopping mall rather than walk down the dim, cold streets to my workplace. The mall is draped with pretty lights and Christmas grottoes and has been since the beginning of November. I don't even bother to protest about that any more. I do wish though that we could have had fairy lights in the trees in those dim, horrid years of the 80s when it would been really appreciated, rather than now when many of us can at least escape Britain cheaply and the feast of lights just shrieks 'global warming'.

It's fair to say I'm a little sad with the way things have turned out for me over the last twenty-five years. I love my life and I've never been unhappy in England. Frustrated yes, unhappy no. I don't do unhappy. I wish I'd been able to contribute more to the society in which I live, but it hasn't wanted my contribution. It hasn't wanted the contribution of most of its citizens. I know this because I've spent most of the last fifteen years gathering public opinion only to have it dumped into reports that would be either ignored or cut to fit a corporate agenda.

This morning, shuffling through this could-have-been-anywhere mall, I heard good old ABC, distilled as walk-on-by musak. Shoot that poison arrow through my heart, world...

Monday, November 19, 2007

Breaking News!

Pythagoras discovers the octave.

Like, where were you, man?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Talk to the claw

The Maharajah of Katpur by Michael Weigall 1986

My neighbours moved out today. You can't imagine what a relief that was - not I hasten to add because I didn't like them, far from it - but because they and I have been on exactly the same sales trajectory with our properties for the last 15 months. We had the same mendacious landlord and the same sweet but slightly off-the-ball lawyer. That they completed today makes me believe it is possible.

I've spent the better part of this week trying to fit the vast amount of information required by the High Commission of India onto its one page visa form. I've printed out half a dozen so I can keep practising my miniature calligraphy with the aid of a philatelist's magnifying glass. I hope to be able to make my final submission next week. I've already been subjected to one major scare over this when the High Commission shut down its Special Delivery postal service for a time. I had heard this was the only reliable way to get yourself a tourist visa other than to start queuing immediately after you stopped queuing for Wimbledon. You'd roughly the same chance of success as well, so I'm told.

Barney, my hypoallergenic owly-cat is yet another complication in my plan to spend a month unwinding in India on the way back to my final resting place in Australia. When I sifted through the dozen boxes that had been in the loft for the last eleven years, I came across eight of the extraordinary Cat Empire postcards I'd loved and collected in the 80s. To me, they're just very clever dressing up photos of a very compliant cat who may or may not have been assisted by the powerful sedative Moggydon, incidentally the drug I intended to use to knock Barney out for the time it took me to regain my peace of mind.

Unsurprisingly, Barney perceived these found artefacts quite differently. And they say relationships with men are difficult. In short, a messiah paid a personal visit and the repercussions are still being felt at House of Pants. Never mind my entreaties that the 'Maharajah' to my certain knowledge was an (admittedly talented) alley cat from London called Merlin who operated under at least fourteen other aliases. I admit, out of sheer frustration, I screamed at my ludicrously expensive hybrid pet and that is wrong. I apologise in advance of a delegation arriving from the RSPCA's GenMod Team.

However, those damn pearls are so blatantly fake. I know this because I have a set of real pearls and they do not look like that. I showed them to Barney and he bit them. This is where I totally lost my rag. I shrieked, 'that's diamonds, you fuckwit.' What do you think Barney did? He sunk his big owl beak into my sodding finger, that's what. The small diamond thereupon is unaffected, proving my point. However, I suspect it will be quite difficult for me to play a flattened ninth chord for the forseeable future.

I had hoped that after all the trouble to have Barney classified as an interactive Bagpuss by D.A.F.T. (Department of Animals and Furry Things), I could just pop him in the top of my backpack with the zipper slightly open and no one at the border would be the wiser. I assumed they'd be so busy scanning the microscopic writing on my visa, they might not notice that my backpack was making its own way to the taxi rank.

The problem, as I've explained exhaustively in the past, is that Barney is not the ideal combination of owl and cat. For example, a cat sleeps twenty-three hours a day. What a blessing that must be for its lucky owners. Barney keeps owl hours which means he's on the internet all night gathering all sorts of misinformation. Having discovered the Cat Empire has its own national orchestra, there is no dissuading Barney that it has about as much global relevancy as UKIP. No biggy. It just means that we have to make a slight detour to Katpur to pay our homage to the 'Maharajah'. I can live with that if it means the little guy has something to tell his genome inheritors.

Fake pearls notwithstanding, you have to admit that Merlin (undoubtedly now deceased as this photo is over twenty years old), is rather elegantly attired. Barney has been at me to post an Elegantly Dressed Wednesday image that reflects his 'community' for some time. Until he came into my life, I had no idea that cultural diversity could embrace such a broad church, as it were. I'd like to be able to tell you that I feel enriched by the exposure to new points of view but when I continuously spend the early hours of the morning resetting all the spam filters on our shared computer after Barney has spent the night googling the words 'pussy' and 'lick', I'm afraid my natural inclination to tolerance quite deserts me.

Anyway, he's sulking now after our tiff. He's hardly touched his smoked salmon roulade with cream cheese cake dessert. Slowly but surely, we inch towards destiny, however hideous it might turn out to be...

Monday, November 12, 2007

gods of small things

A little over a year ago, I received a very charming, not to mention welcome note from Charles Johnson, the editor of Obsessed with Pipework. Three of my poems had been accepted for publication in the autumn 2007 edition. Not only that, he had even added the postscript ‘more poems at any time, please.’ I would have sent some too, except I thought I was going to be leaving the country any minute, as opposed to a decade yet to be determined.

When you send out poems you accept that the publication date might be further in the future than your head can find its way around. The knowledge that three little pieces of work over which I'd endlessly slaved had secured themselves a place on the page cheered me no end. My record is roughly equivalent to that of a mother leatherback turtle in getting my delicate babes into the world. Not only that, my poems are in the tenth anniversary edition and they’re the first three. Even readers with an attention deficit condition will probably get through at least the first poem. It’s about a bird and it’s very short.

Fellow blogger Matt Merritt also has three poems in OWP of which my favourite is Small Hours. Any poem that references Gary Snyder is going to get a nod from me. He was kind enough to mention me on Polyolbion too.

Nice occurrences are necessary to offset the immense, (and recklessly under-anticipated on my part), turmoil of selling up and moving on. So stressed am I that I have switched to Greenall’s Gin (cheaper and 40% proof) and started checking out the alcohol strength of wine. Did you know that some Chilean wine has an alcohol content of 14%?

I managed to persuade my kindly neighbour to get up in my loft today and fetch down a dozen boxes of books, notebooks and photographs that had been stored there for the last eleven years. He looked like a rather large chimney sweep when he emerged. I spent the afternoon sorting through the boxes to discover that I have two copies of several favourite books. I have three copies of Elizabeth Jolley’s Foxybaby, which I don’t particularly like and no copies of Palomino, which I love.

I also own two copies of T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets. I brought the heavily annotated paperback copy I had at university with me when I came to England in 1982. One day I’ll butcher it in the name of art. The other is a grubby second edition I picked up in Spain for 300 pts, which shall remain no more molested than it already is. I also discovered that I had a very large collection of out-of-focus photographs. I say had because I culled them with half an eye on the EastEnders omnibus this afternoon. To say the cut was arbitrary would be lending it more gravitas than its due.

This week House of Pants received double acclaim. I draw your attention to the newly inserted large pink feline thing on the sidebar. I have been awarded a Roar for Powerful Words from the Shameless Lions Writing Circle. The honour comes from The Inner Minx – thank you Minxie.

With reward comes responsibility. (Is there anyone out there who can do something about this btw?). I must now identify three elements I think essential for powerful writing. I can only perceive this from the Pants POV so here it is,

1) Believe you’re right about absolutely everything.

2) Outwit any opposition immediately (not as difficult as it sounds).

3) Love the written word more than life itself (I hasten to add this does not preclude enjoying life to the brimful, obviously).

It now falls to me to pass on the roar to five other bloggers. Well… you know I’m a bit of a bucker of systems at the best of times and even I know enough maths to realise that by the time this thing gets down a few layers, you will find it quite difficult to find someone who hasn’t got one. I’m not being mean or anything (Barney – shut the fuck up! A little friendly advice to anyone who has US$4,000 disposable income lying around – DO NOT BUY A HYPOALLERGENIC HYBRID PET WITH IT). Where was I? Right. By the power vested in me (however dubiously), I bestow a Roar for Powerful Words upon,

Baroque in Hackney – Ms Baroque spends her spare time teaching lions how to roar.

Reading the Signs – As a cartographer of experience, Signs has few equals.

Now I must return to turning over the dust of my own life. Put simply, there are still plenty of grubby boxes left to sift through...

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Little Black Dressed Wednesday

Portrait of Pants by Barbara Bennett

The abandon with which I am currently exploiting Scorn and Noise's distinguished idea of celebrating Wednesdays with elegance probably deserves some kind of public flogging. (Please someone, I have so few pleasures in life). Pardon me, my manners have deserted along with my previously strict adherence to personal hygiene. I have forgone all sense of decorum by my shameless self-promotion, not to mention my attempts to raise awareness of artists whose work I own. Be assured that I am aware that I have a problem and I will seek counselling if hell is ever in imminent danger of freezing over. You have my word.

The problem is, (and this can't have gone unnoticed), in all things blog at least, I seem to have lost that je ne sais quois that made me want to kick against everything. Now that the world and I have agreed a trial separation (custody of kids goes to the world, obviously), I find my appetite for ranting to be roughly equivalent to that of the sex drive of a ninety-seven year old.

I have considered trawling the archives and recycling a continuous stream of 'best of Pants' posts, rather like one's beloved BBC does with its digital channels. The BBC delights in rolling out wonderful, wacky gems from its self-assessed 'golden era' that hardly anyone watched at the time but everyone remembers with great fondness, and rightly so. It then rather cleverly goes on to create shows in the same mode to capitalise on this touching nostalgia for false memory. Life on Mars - much as I loved you - you were that show.

Early Pants posts inhabit the same void. They were wonderful but no one was tuned in to them. You have my word for that - or you could visit the archives and post me a reality check. Or you could post me an actual cheque - I never knowingly refuse money.

I so easily slip off the point these days. Anyone who visits my comments might be aware that a well-known writer recently popped by to track down a long lost actor of his distant acquaintance through this blog. He'd googled her name and come up with That's So Pants (what must he have thought?), as another friend of this actor had commented that I looked like her in a photo I'd posted. The consequence of this exercise is a significant percentage of the blogosphere is searching for one Berys Marsh.

The other day when I was negotiating my half awake self through the increasingly chaotic transport hub of Stratford, East London, I thought I caught sight of my old friend Barbara Bennett who did several portraits of me in younger days. The one above is a pastel drawing. She also did a painting of me in that dress and a couple of casual pencil head portraits. I love these pictures and not just because they're of me (although I can't deny it's a big factor).

Barbara is a great capturer of the moment. I didn't prove so great at it. I lost Barbara's number some years ago and what I should have done was run after her screaming, 'Barbara, Barbara.' It's not that I care what people think, after all. It just didn't occur to me. And she slipped away.

In my own defence, that was the day I got onto the train at Hackney Wick only to have the driver announce,

'This train is full of vomit',

or so I thought. (Seriously, it isn't outside the realm of possibility on Silverlink Metro).

Actually what he said was,

'This train is for the moment... slowing down to comply with' ... blah, blah, wrong kind of leaves on the track, classic autumn lame excuse for slow running... blah, blah.

So I was chuckling away to myself about this lovely Mondegreen and trying to avoid getting trampled in the changeover crowd when I thought I saw Barbara and reacted more like an extra in Minority Report than my true self.

This EDW I present myself (again, boring, sorry) but also this great picture of me which I think does capture both my natural haughtiness (genetic fault - can't do anything about it) and my permanent sense of just not being comfortable, no matter where I am. It also sets in stone my weirdly lazy right eye (thanks Barb - history so needed that). For the record, that's a fan I'm holding, as opposed to a pan pipe.

So, I'm hoping that this post will put me back in touch with Barbara Bennett again. I'm going to leave Britain soon and Barbara was one of the first people I met when I came here. I hate goodbyes so much that I haven't even thought of how I'll handle all that. You can tell how crap I am at it. In less than two months I will leave Britain after twenty-five years of living here. How am I ever going to do this thing?

If only I could still fit into that little black dress...

Monday, November 05, 2007

Agent Prevaricator

PC backlash starts in Leicestershire - Pants

This weekend I’d timetabled in sending out letters to literary agents (in between episodes of X-Factor and reruns of The Lion Man, obviously). I got as far as downloading the most recent list of approachable reject slip compilers and set about trying to compose an interesting and engaging covering letter. I am still sitting here bewildered nearly forty-eight hours later.

I’m not the least bit interesting, a condition which becomes immediately apparent the instant I begin to talk about myself. I can’t get on with this whole notion of ‘selling oneself’. It’s gauche, surely, and obviously well beneath the dignity of any principled soul. A Chinese friend once told me she found job interviews impossible because in Chinese culture it’s considered bad manners to big oneself up. One is not ketchup!

Besides, writers aren’t supposed to be interesting, with the obvious exceptions of Hemingway and Ian Fleming. Perhaps if you’ve an ‘eming’ in your name, you’re entitled to some sort of exemption from dullardry. Most of us sit at our desks as day segues wearily into night, creating vim, vigour and vitality in our characters, rather than ourselves.

It’s also not that easy to value your inner assets when all around you make it perfectly clear that they think anything that comes out of your mouth should be being monitored for its pollution content.

Last Saturday night in the pub, I said to Mr T, ‘I wonder if there’s a link between googling and chaos theory.’ Mr T gave me a blank look. That in itself is not unusual and I was not put off by it. The very next day I sent off an email to an old Australian friend who is a reader in Mathematics at a respectable university. I knew that he had at least a passing acquaintance with chaos theory as I can remember him talking engagingly about it at a dinner party.

The O.A.F. wrote straight back informing me that, to his knowledge, there is no link between chaos theory and googling, although Google is based on a mathematical concept. Such is the esteem with which my peers regard my intellect dear readers. Imagine my surprise, coming to terms with the astounding news that search engines are composed of algorithms as opposed to thousands of little Google elves running around the blogoverse trying to string a series of seemingly unrelated words together.

Undeterred, I wrote the following back to the O.A.F.

My interest is not so much in how people locate information they are searching for on Google but rather what they do with the information they find while searching for something else. Crudely, I thought chaos theory was about exploring patterns in random data. It occurred to me that following up Google threads changes the course of events for millions of people on a daily basis, whether they're diverted for just a few minutes or stumble upon a piece of information that completely alters the course of their lives. What interests me is that, although wildly chaotic, Google users following threads in this way is both a pattern and traceable. It also occurs millions of times a day. I thought someone might be studying it.’

My reasoning was based on the popular illustration of chaos theory, you know the one that proposes a butterfly flapping its wings somewhere in a Thai jungle will eventually cause a tornado in Kansas. To my mind, googling is a unique way of finding out things that you didn't even know you were looking for. In that sense it has altered the course of history, no? These are connections that would not exist if it weren't for google searches. There’s a PhD in that for someone, surely. I haven’t heard back from my O.A.F. so either he’s feverishly developing my theory into some Nobel-worthy thesis or he’s waiting for the injunction to come through which will prevent me from ever contacting him again.

Anyway, where was I? Dear anonymous agent. I say anonymous because that you will almost certainly remain. I'm not the least bit interesting. I’m sending you my book anyway, because it is interesting. If you want to talk to me about it, I’ll be in India. I might not be able to take a call because I might be on the road. They say it’s best not to ride a camel and talk on a mobile at the same time. Send me an email. I’ll pop into the internet cafĂ© when I get back from tiger spotting.

I know what's going to happen though. They'll think I'm so boring they won't bother to read on...

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Smashing Pumpkin

Art by Mike Wade

There was a delectably dressed toddler in Ilford Town Centre late this afternoon dressed as a pumpkin. He was unselfconsciously parading his wee self about the mall to the delight of all assembled under the pretty mauve fairy lights festooning the pedestrianised high street. I could indulge myself in a moan about why we in Britain waited until gratuitous energy consumption by western nations was highlighted as a major contributor to climate change before discovering that lights in trees during the darkest days of winter make everyone feel better. You cannot imagine the effort of my restraint.

It’s Halloween and I’ll not be mean. Easy for me to say because I’m locked away in a second storey flat with a door entry system and so long as the five other residents in Greater House of Pants aren’t daft enough to buzz trick-or-treaters in, my supply of Marks and Spencer Humbugs that I received as a going away present from my next to last job should remain undisturbed.

I’d love to have taken a photo of the little boy in the pumpkin costume for Elegantly Dressed Wednesday. It honestly didn’t occur to me until I was on the second leg of my homeward journey but, even if I had whipped out the Kodak as a reflex gesture then there would have been complications. I’d have needed to explain to the mother what a ‘blog’ is and how her child would come to no harm as a consequence of appearing on a blog with a relatively small readership, especially since his sweet little made-up face would be indistinguishable from any other given pumpkin on the night.

But then I faced the agonising dilemma of how to present elegance on Halloween Wednesday. Unbelievably, because it’s so unlike me in my present chaotic state of mind to remember anything beyond what I have to do on a daily basis to put organic rye bread on the table, I remembered that I had the wonderful painting of a Halloween pumpkin by my friend Mike Wade stored away in my vast collection of incredible artworks. You are invited to enjoy at leisure.

It got me thinking. There’s a surprise. In my native Australia, we eat pumpkins. They are considered a food rather than a decorative item. Pumpkin soup for example was a staple of dinner parties in my fevered and impoverished student years. It was often served in the shell of the pumpkin as few student houses prioritised a soup tureen when stocking the common kitchen. It was more likely you’d spend your few spare coppers on labels advising fellow housemates,

This is my food so fuck off.

I could have bought a pumpkin and fashioned it into pumpkin scones. The first lady of fascism when I was a student at the University of Queensland, (a very fine tertiary establishment in a state then run by a transplanted Boer with a mandate numbering a dozen or so crony farmers), ‘Lady’ Flo Bjelke-Petersen, is probably most famous for her creation of this memorable recipe. I always preferred traditional scones as it happens. They taste floury in a way nothing else worth mentioning does. Scones don’t taste right without strawberry jam in my view and the colour/taste clash would make even Ugly Betty wince.

If I’d hoed that particular patch, I might have forked out five quid on a premium orange pumpkin as the poor spring and summer in Britain has forced pumpkin farmers to spend the last three weeks or so hiring out every spare tanning salon in the land in order to mature their pumpkins to the optimum hue for carving and internally lighting. Who knows if it would have been edible.

Halloween is one of those important festivals where everything has to be just so, don’t you know. So integral is Halloween to our cultural calendar that almost everyone struggles to recall why we have it in the first place. If you’re interested, here it is in a Wikishell.

I was fortunate enough to score some delicious sweet potato in my Abel & Cole box yesterday so I roasted that in honour of All Hallows Eve. I didn’t gouge it out and fill it with candles. I would have needed the collaboration of one Willard Wigan for that. It was a modest sweet potato that I carved into griddleable slices and popped on the Breville. It was orange though so a virtual trick or treaties to all you sweeties.