Monday, December 22, 2008

A contrary place that has it's own face and smells of chips

Thankyou to the lovely Bimbimbie for my 2nd ever blog award, dedicated to services for people observing. Although that in certain 1/4s sounds like stalking, I prefer to call it selective walking. What is interesting is since I created this little true to life narrative, the people within it seem determined to live out their roles in it with far more elan. For instance, today fat sweaty girl from Big W, who if you remember is despite eloquent diction perpetually out of breath, was walking around today eating a giant souvlaki and a bag of chips, spreading work place morale and cheer throughout her work day while breathing on people souvlaki breath. I've never had a job where I've been able to wander around with lunch just unobserved and fancy free, well, apart from my job at the ABC where a one hour lunch break was described as "skimping". Then, blue eye shadow girl was in Sanity, but I was running late, and I couldn't discuss her musical choices with her in a lightly flirtacious way. I'm so picky with peoples music choices, so meeting people in a CD shop isn't going to work for me. I don't know if I mentioned before an attractively perky female Sanity staff member responding to my request for Catatonia CDs by saying "No, but we've got Shania Twain!" - not the same. Anyway, to get back to the 2nd award for a moment, people observing, yeah, I guess I do that a lot, but it's more just the fact that, especially now, I have absolutely no work related discipline when it comes to writing. I am cursed with both a relatively creative brain and the attention span of Sarah Jessica Parker. I should be working on my writing exercises, but I'm more interested these days in the little emotive dramas that play out in front of me every day - although today I will admit that, while I was watching dramas play out, I did stop to wonder about the accuracy of such fleeting glimpses into peoples lives. The one thing I always look for these days is the average couple - not the beautiful dreamers, not the smoking couple outside the newsagent with the gooey eyes and perfectly gelled hair and the flirtacious laughter at each others every word, or those parents with a beaming childs hand in either of theirs, strolling through with utmost confidence. I'm talking about the pram pushing couples who linger around the bus mall, the ones in poor quality tracksuits, the ones who are a bit flabby and worn out, the ones who push the pram really slowly for lack of anything to do, the ones who's every second word to each other is a rapidly spoken swear word. Sometimes, just sometimes in the fading sunshine of Rosny, you can see the outline in the face of a once beautiful person who had faith and dreams, but their faces are now coarse and harsh and emphatically riddled with acceptance. I wonder sometimes what the story is, because those couples never seem happy. Like my friend who has a husband who had an Internet dating lady round to their house, I can't see the join, I can't see the wonderful parts of the relationship that I should see, I don't know where the happiness is in standing in the mall swearing at each other while a hapless kiddes sits strapped in tight in a pram chewing a Farleys Rusk, looking up without a care in the world from the confines of it's secure and snug world. Did the hope die out before they met or during? Or was there no hope there to begin with? And are the happy families so happy at home, or is it a front? I wonder, because my only concern is trying to get a computer off a kid who's only using it to draw concentric circles on Microsoft Word when I went to check my Fantasy NFL score, if when those people walk away, truly, my observations on them are entirely correct...

My cousin, the one who died in 2006, he had a girlfriend - I might have mentioned this before, but she was perfectly nice, although afflicted by Ayrshire face and the lesser known condition of Ayrshire hair in which you can tell that patently there's no part of the hair that is naturally blonde but you aren't sure what the original shade was. With the insurance money that my cousin left her, she's started a business with her new boyfriend, and she tells everyone about it, including my cousins grieving burdened with the eternal duffle coat of sadness mother. I don't think this is a case of poor morality so much as poor judgement, as she think she's doing the right thing, keeping his memory alive, and were I to make a judgement on her having never met her, I wouldn't be so morally ambivalent. I'd probably be on a Phar Lap sized high horse. His sister went to marry this bloke who was really nice to me, he let me stay at his house and play his Amiga (how boss was Manchester United in Europe...when you went the other team) and then just before the wedding he got cold feet and ran off with a stripper. And his other sister married this bloke who was also really nice to me, sat up with me until 4 in the morning drinking one night, diamond...ran off after a midnight flitting. In each of these cases, all the people who left my cousins have stories to tell we never hear, maybe even blogs with new families and bright eyed children in them, but to us, we went from liking them to hating them in the case of one phone call. At school, there was this kid, called Gary or Glen or something, and we all thought he was great, then one day one of our other friends said that GlenGary had robbed him, stole money from his wallet, and that was it, he was cut out of our friendship group. In all of those cases, the future echoers clambered out of the woodwork telling me they always knew they were no good, the way they ate their Violet Crumble was incredibly suspicious, but it's mostly nonsense to say that. Observation is potent and powerful but in all of those cases, I've let those people into my lives, I've drank their beer and played their Amigas and made them laugh and they've cut the crusts off my toasted cheese sandwiches...and you don't pick it up, although in the case of GlenGary, moral ambiguity was not a particularly big factor in it until much later, because the person doing the accusing was suspect and prone to gross exaggeration...if you don't trust anyone, you live in a basement obviously and never emerge blinking into the sunlight, but it scares me a lot to make that initial call to trust someone, and even with relatively potent ability to distinguish physical characteristics of someone or come with a cogent lookalike for them, sometimes you just have to doubt whether you really are observing anything properly at all...

The pram pushing couple are back, or at least, identical clones of the previous couple. Bad baseball caps, bad stringy hair, child in a pram with a bewildered stare screaming at the top of it's lungs, man with tattoos swearing at the child, moral superiority coming from all around them as they head straight into Chickenfeed to buy pegs and cheap tins of baked beans. Little voice comes into my head, a training course voice from a flickering VHS cassette hissing with tracking, saying never presume anything. Expensive car pulls into the car park, couple storms out, arguing in the sunshine, as I sip my expensive energy drink in polite gulps. The clothes are better but the language is uglier, and soon everyone is watching them. Same car park I was offered crack by a sweet 16 year old private schoolgirl who was washing cars for Amnesty International. There's a text message on my phone, an elongated and difficult morality tale in txt spk about someone we all knew heading to court later next year. I'm only sure of myself today, I'm only sure of my own self and my own lack of physical fitness, nothing else. The rich couple storm off into the distance, furious as they head to the petrol station, where they are served by the perennially wistful and melancholy stares out the window, goes through her routine sales pitch, and then is back to her self doubt and desire for a better world, once the Chokito is bought. I think a lot about how people see me, about whether anyone is making an observation on me based on the way I wear my brightly coloured Chelsea top or my choice of energy drink. I remember there was one kid at school, oddly not me, who was just roundly laughed at for wearing shorts. I have no idea why, he didn't look any different to anyone else in shorts, but that was what he got picked on for. Any chance to join in someone else being bullied. The well dressed couple, and now they are getting closer to me I can see he's had work done, his face is stretched like a nailed down tarp on a windy day and his hairline just has too emphatic an end point like it's been sewn on by a Grade 9 home ec class, disappear into the distance but their voices echo. Had I made a judgement on them on appearance, they would have been seemed very pleasant, like a middle aged couple driving a nice car through the boulevard of life, a nice couple who host a nice civil evening of conversation and canapes, but then, as it happened, when you leave the house, they hook into each other the minute your moderately priced car leaves the driveway and turns the corner. And you never know they do it, because they smile and put on a great spread and dress well and your kids like their kids and they play together in the rumpus room...you observe them, you talk to them, you sip drinks with them, sometimes you call them a cab because they are too giddy to drive, and all you can go on, even with potent observation skills, even when you know that they like Blur and you like Blur and none of you like Phil Collins, is the bits of their life you see. I still don't know what the girl in the petrol station sees as she stares wistfully out of her frosted glass prison...it's certainly not, from my perspective, interesting thoughts on the ups and downs of petrol prices...

Of course, this is speculation, experience talking, or possibly an ice cream headache - I have friends I trust implicitly, or at least, ones that haven't let me down yet. Across the road from me today at Gloria Jeans was three second school leaver theatre - one skinny girl, one big girl, one girl who would probably have to sit at the skinny girl end of the see saw to balance it out, on the periphery on the conversation. As I walked past they were toasting each other, all decked in un-necessary hair extensions and wrapped in their own mocha world. I like little bits of life like that, I like the certaintly in that moment, that trust that people have in each other that they truly will be friends forever. It's sweet, and it deserves more appreciation sometimes than my own cynicism. That said, there is a restaurant in Burnie which has a picture of me and my friends from the times on it's wall swearing the same allegiance, and well, ya know...there was a girl in Ayrshire I remember called Sarah, who had a big face and murky blonde hair and a voracious appetite for shock in her language and a best friend called Joanne who looked like Rocky Dennis who would say that she had equally as much sex but it must have been with the visually impaired. I thought she was pretty gangsta as it happened, because I was a very naive farm boy (not that I lived on a farm or anything, I lived in a very comfortable house, but if you went from Penguin to the Wild West that was Kilwinning, well, stack on the hat bumpkin, your life is about to change). Anyway, so Sarah would always talk about how great her life was and how much drugs she iz taking and since my scopes of reference were always to believe people with wide eyed optimism and smiling countenance, I thought, well, she probably does run the west side of Kilwinning with her saucy quips (Rocky Dennis hopefully run the south side, where the guide dog home was). She certainly dressed the part, she talked the part and she had mad eyes, which just clinched the deal. One day though, I was walking through the playground, probably on my way to buy some Polo Mints or something, and she was slumped up against one of the concrete blocks (one thing about Ayrshire, we're mad for concreting) just in tears, just completely collapsed and in tears, head and badly dyed hair in hands. No one else was around, and I was certainly not in a position to lend a sympathetic ear as we had never really talked - she had talked, I had listened and wondered just how easy it seemingly was to buy smack at an affordable price - but it was one of the first real times I had seen through someone. It sounds stupid, but I stopped believing in her at the point, for I had made my observations, I had learned as much about her as she let me, I had bought into this image that she was an untouchable bad arsed gangsta with an army of ugly movie lookalikes at her disposal...and it was just all rubbish. For there she was, desolate and hiding, and just as vulnerable and weak and scared and nervous as the rest of us. She never knew I saw her, and by Technical Drawing two hours later she was back to telling us all about her wild sexual adventures on a swing, but I had drifted off by then, wondering what else was image, what else was hidden, what else was store bought...and to be honest, I still do wonder...am I right about...

Of course, as you would have observed, one thing about me, awards and prizes just make me doubt myself even more, which is, strangely, the west of Scotland way...damn Ayrshire...it's a contrary place that smells of chips...

12 comments:

the projectivist said...

i've long suspected those people at Sanity don't have to pass a music trivia test (something like Spicks and Specks should become part of their interview requirement)

Catatonia = Shania Twain!
ummm...no.


i make judgments about people based on their choice of sweet.
violet crumble, cherry ripe, polywaffle and chomp (officially the worst chocolate ever).

Tom Evans said...

Extraordinary post. It's like something out of Joyce - all stream of consciousness. Don't take this the wrong way but... you're not quite normal are you? No one could write such paragraphs that wend and wander between the prosaic and the pretty without apparent self-awareness. Most of all, I'm disappointed not to locate the girl with the blue eyeshadow in this post. But don't write more, god no, try far far less but with all of that spurious beauty.

Sorry, just passing by!

Baino said...

Wow, outdone yourself with this one Miley, fantastic, couldn't put the thing down! I do the same, make up little scenarios about the suit picking a newspaper out of a bin or the frazzled mother with a kid on one of those spiral extenda leads . . as long as we don't judge . . observations are fun. . .

Trish said...

This is really brilliant. It takes a very special gift to be able to write so eloquently about stuff all of us witness every day but are completely blind to.

I don't know what possible reason you have to give yourself to feel any doubt at all. I know we all think we're crap, but I'll just add my voice to the chorus - "you're not".

Charles Gramlich said...

Drifted off by the time she got to the wild sexual adventures on a swing? Lord forfend.

squib said...

his face is stretched like a nailed down tarp on a windy day

Annoyingly brilliant as always Miles :)

Miles McClagan said...

Apparently one of the old interview questions was where in the store would you put a Meatloaf album (in the bin?)...what about people who eat a Chokito? That was always my choc of choice, if you still get them...delicious...

Blue eye shadow girl is still around, and normality is definitely not on my agenda, and it's definitely in my nature to try less hard! It's a failing! It's why I stopped ice skating...thanks for the kind words!

I don't judge anyone, or I try not to - it is an Ayrshire way to have a natural suspicion of people, but that's different to judging them I guess...there's not enough kids on leads around here though...such a shame!

It was a strange day, Xmas makes me feel difficult and awkward...it makes me feel, as with new year, quite crap! Thanks for telling me otherwise, sometimes I need it!

I just didn't believe her anymore...no one can be that flexible on a see saw either...

Annoyingly brilliant...my best review yet! I need a T...

Miladysa said...

Awsome Award Winning Post my friend!

I wonder what you would make of me? LOL

Merry Christmas Miles x

Mrs Slocombe said...

Hey I just got one of those as well..that's nicely cyclical isn't it?...I think that Tom fella may be on to something myself

Miles McClagan said...

I love awards, and you support the right team in Manchestah, so it'd all be good!

I love cycles too! Which bit, that I'm not normal or I should shut up and write less? I'm capable of neither...

Bimbimbie said...

Life is a bit of a complex play really. Each of us being player and critic simultaneously ... I like your wends and wanders.

Personally I try not to judge on first appearances ... no, I just leave that to my gut instinct ;)

Merry Christmas to you Miles *!*

Miles McClagan said...

I really wish I had called this blog wend and wanders, that would work a lot better! I was worried about my gut instincts when I wrote this though...it's quite the question!