My daily go-round has a menacing stereotypy: I walk the dog with such regularity it’s hard to know which of us is on the lead. I’d like to be able to say that the business of publicising a new book – with readings, interviews and so on – is something of a departure, but it ain’t so. I’ve been trundling to Bristol, Bath, Brighton and Birmingham year in year out for almost two decades now, so that these journeys have the quality of an annual progress by some cut-rate monarch viewing his papery pop-up dominions.
A curious incident on the South Downs: driving my eldest son and his stuff down to his new rented accommodation in Brighton, prior to his second year at Sussex University, we pulled the van off the motorway and drove up towards Devil’s Dyke. I wanted to show Lex the Dyke, and also his youngest brother, Luther, who was along for the ride. My own father used to take me up here on the weekends we spent in Brighton at my grandparents’ house on Vernon Terrace, and he would always tell the folk tale about how the Dyke was dug by the Devil to flood the Sussex Weald, but that he was surprised in the middle of the night by an old woman cotter lighting her oil lamp, and taking it for the dawn he jumped all the way to the North Downs where he landed forming the Devil’s Punchbowl on impact.
To Sebastian Horsley’s funeral at St James’s in Piccadilly. I first met Seb in the early 1990s, he was living in Mayfair in order – or so he maintained – to be near to the prostitutes. He had the dead-white face of a Weimar cabaret compère, and the lisp of a studied aesthete. When we went out to the cash point together to get money for the dealer, Seb revealed that he had a loaded revolver back at the flat. I was furious – I’ve never liked guns, and guns and crack cocaine (as history seems to bear out), are seldom a good combo.
En route for the tiny and remote Hebridean island of St Kilda I found myself grappling with a tiny and remote problem. I have told myself time and time again that there are no technical solutions for writers, only imaginative ones – but that doesn’t stop me from falling prey to these delusions: this computer/typewriter/research will catapult the work in hand to new levels.
My tiny netbook had burnt out after I’d stupidly shut it while it was shutting down then left it to burn out its mother board. Or so Nomi, the guy in the local cyber-café-cum-phone-unlocking hangout, told me. He ordered a new mother board from Hong Kong to replace it, and when the job was done (160 shitters), we checked that it booted up and I tucked it away in my rucksack.
Apologies if you were directed here by a Google search, only to discover that you’re reading about a walk through the London sewers. But then, should I feel sorry? The Black Controller recently pointed out to me that Google canalises knowledge: forcing the surfer into a narrow bore of information, which is constituted by its assumptions about what you want to know, based on the frequency with which they’ve been hit before. Put simply, the more you surf, the more of the same old shit you skid across. No wonder the virtual world seems so pissy-samey.
To the Barbican for our annual works outing to see the Michael Clark Company‘s latest offering. True, I am not a great connoisseur of modern dance, but I still have an instinctive feeling that Clark is a great choreographer (instinct, and Mrs S to apprise me). Woody Allen once wrote a savage spoof of avant garde ballet, attributing the most pretentious and ridiculous sentiments to these gyrations and curvets, but I sense nothing of that coming from Clark’s work, which seems all at once to fold the narrative into the symbolic, while wryly skipping around both with sheer kinetics. It helps, of course, that his troupe dances to the Velvet Underground.
Don’t shit where you eat is as good a maxim as any other – but I just can’t keep it in. A few weeks ago the genial young man opposite got a new jam jar. It’s metallic green in colour – but then aren’t they all, and just as obviously has profile tyres and an allusion to a spoiler, rather than the spoiler itself. It also has a disconcerting habit of soliloquizing: “System armed!” it croaks when he locks it, employing tones suitable to a grizzled CIA interrogator applying electrodes to a recalcitrant Islamist. “Stand back, system armed!” it croaks when a pedestrian walks by – presumably because they’ve triggered some kind of sensor.
I am sorry, oh so sorry, that I ever suggested Baroness Thatcher should’ve been torn apart by urban foxes back in the early 1980s, before she could lay waste to generations of the British working class. I hope this won’t disqualify me from becoming the leader of the Labour Party – a post which I have absolutely no desire to occupy, and therefore probably should.
Uncle Vladimir said: recount a dream, lose a reader. But for those of us who remain committed transcendental idealists the opposite remains the case. Indeed, I’d sooner hear about someone’s dreams than anything else. I’d far rather they took me by the hand and led me through the warped corridors and funhouse apartments of their dreamscape, than bored me with details of their propery acquisitions.
A migrainous day: suitably, perhaps, as the research I’m doing at the moment jumps off from Oliver Sacks’s Awakenings – a book that deeply impressed me when I first read it, and continues to do so – and he is notoriously a sufferer. My mother had skull-splitting three-day migraines that sent her, reeling like a Mafioso gunned down, to the mattresses. Mine are somewhat different, and only appeared after I’d banged my head on a wall in frustration during a holiday in Lanzarote.