Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Better be quick as you lie, she thinks you care, why don't you prove her right



I had time to kill this morning, which is frightening in Rosny. I once was in New Norfolk at about 7:30 in the morning, dumped off by a lift from a car which drove off into the sunset with the driver laughing as I stood shivering and bewildered in the middle of the road, and I remember feeling like the loneliest man in the world, even with a breakfast burrito for company. There's no such problems in early morning Rosny as the shopkeepers unfurl their day one lifted up shutter door at a time. In the context that I have assigned these individuals a character, a personality based on brief interactions, that when panda eyed girl beams as she buys herself a coffee it can be a little disconcerting, a human face on another wise imagined stereotype. A girl at one of the relatively trendier clothes stores is fighting with her shutter door, and can't quite get it up all the way forcing her to limbo under it awkwardly. Single men shuffle awkwardly around the edges of Coles, confused as to why certain chocolate blocks are on the other side of the store from the rest of the confectionery, and hoping that their answers to the question of how their day is can be amusing enough to buy them a casual flirting token from one of the cuter checkout chicks. This happens every day, a set routine in which a new day, which begins with such promise, will generally turn out to be something just as boring as yesterday, unless you have a broken door shutter, which I guess counts as a break in routine. Just before I go to work, a stack of trollys almost hits me and my coffee, and I'm not sure which will suffer more. I shoot the trolly boy a suitably angry glance, but then I feel ridiculous, like an old man telling kids off for their 8 track rock and roll music. I know that I shouldn't care, it wasn't his fault, but this is my world, the tiny annoyance enough to play on my mind, the grievance mine to nurse and grow. As I shuffle off with my head down, Panda eyed girl is loud on her mobile phone, she's telling me and whoever is on the line just how good the some she got last night was, and such is the glee that the some she got was good - and lets face it, if the some is good you should be speaking about it - that I ended up so glad for her I wanted to tell someone else. It was at least something memorable for her to recount, something more memorable than an encounter with a bewildered Bad Boy Bubby style trolley boy, and I'm sure her blog will reflect that at least the last 48 hours had some meaning for her...

The radio at work, a sturdy blue ghetto blaster with authentic 80s cred, is spewing some awful nonsense, a work experience DJ with a horrible fake laugh is responding to even the most basic phone in call like he's heard the one about three muftis going into a bar, and then he throws to Beyonce...or Katy Perry...or something else mundane enough to fill in another three minutes until he can speak again. To my right, a fill in of our own is on her moral high horse. She doesn't just sit on the moral high horse, or even just ride the moral high horse, she brushes it's tail and feeds it sugar lumps. I don't even listen - her librarian glasses and her uprighteous upbringing mean there can't be a connection. When I tell her the Sea Monkeys she got me for my birthday have died, she says she's going to cry. Well I cried when I broke the leg off my Ju-Jitsu Heman when I was 7even, so it could all be relative I suppose. To my left, my computer spews forth e-mails of differing lengths, including quite a detailed one from one of my friends, a questioning, stall setting e-mail that asks me to set out details of my life quite specifically. I don't reply to it - the three line ones about cricket seem a lot easier to deal with today. My head hurts not from the parade of pushy troublemakers, morality jockeys or stress, although maybe it's in trying to pick which songs to keep on my IPOD (Ming Royale or Lauren Laverne?) or maybe it's walking really close to blue eye shadow girl today. Why is someone telling me a story about a real horse? Do I look like I care...there's a paper mountain eating away at my free time, and a 1/2 eaten sandwi...and all the while, in a presentation folder on top of my copy of the Herald Sun, featuring the inconsequential blatherings of some gangsters wife who wants to kill someone else or eat a pie or god knows what, is a copy of a speech to be given at tomorrows funeral, a liftime of accomplishments neatly laid out on single spaced A4 paper, to be delivered in iambic rhythm tomorrow with enough pauses for rememberance and laughter typed into the delivery...the most important and poignant speech the man who died will ever get, and he never heard it...no wonder my head hurts...it's weighed down by poignancy, and it's not for the Sea Monkeys...

Many years ago I was in this pub - this particular pub, let's just call it Irish Murphys - was in it's most festive autumnal years, long before the dickheads started manning the door with all the social charm of Cardinal Richelieu, when you could quite safely get a drink without getting beat up for wearing a silly hat. I can't remember why I was late - I was probably waiting on Kingston Pizza, that would explain a lot. When I got into the pub without incident, apart from the thick dense smokey fog which eminated from the tired and trite rock band asking if anyone knew this one a lot, I took a sharp left and sat down to join my friends. At the table, two people sat opposite each other like contestants on Mastermind, staring intently into each other eyes...well, the girl was staring into his eyes. The boy was cowering, completely cowering in his section of the wooden bench. His shoulders were slumped, his neatly pressed hooped jumper just about pulled over his head. For someone normally so, well, blokey, a combination of barely suppressed lust, an abundance of alcohol and perhaps the mood induced when a pub band of limited ability have a crack at Smoke On The Water had rendered his tough talk to be a redunant axiom of macho posturing...or to put it slightly more Irish Murphys style, he was full of shit. She sat gazing into his whimpering eyes, the spell only broken when she introduced me to her friend, a quite horrendous ginger nightmare with a dangling silver cross who looked at me like a bug that had run from under the fridge. The feeling was very much mutual, although the bugs under my fridge probably don't say everything is nerfuckinshit every 5ive seconds...so there they sat, her trying to make conversation, him straight batting everything with wide eyed terror and one word grunts, me trying not to throttle Ginger, her trying to impress another one of my friends with tales of Warrane life and limb, the band trying to impress anyone with some of their best chords...and then my friend, in a moment of drunken inspiration, decided to break the ice with a passionate exhortation...to me. I figured he thought if he went round the room he could build up to finally talking to his best girl...when he said, with all drunken sincerity that out of all his friends, I was definitely in the top 12, I realised that the art of telling people how you really was perhaps best left to the fine folks at Hallmark...certainly not to the barflies of Irish Murphys that's for sure...they just tell you how bad you look in your silly hat then pour you a Guinness that's sloppy...thats when they say it non verbally...

Of course, I can hardly talk, I'm hardly running up to blue eye shadow girl with chocolates, I'm hardly sprinting round to Mum and Dads to listen to tales of walks on the beach and hours on the treadmill. I'm not one for over expressions or telling people what they mean to me, I mean, I had a farewell to the sea monkeys, but you know what I mean. I can do it when I need to though. My gran, my only real grandparent, was pretty much bedridden for the last few years of her life, a sensible woman driven mad by the ravages of time, an overactive imagination that had her thinking ice cream van drivers were plotting against her, and so little to do that she would stand by the side of her door all night long waiting to spring on anyone using the toilet. She would slow flashes of great insight at times, which rendered her more eccentric moments even more saddening. She knew exactly why she hated Glasgow Rangers, and who the Prime Minister was, and when a doctor came around to test her mental faculties and asked her to remember three words at the start of the assessment that she had to repeat at the end, she not only remembered them, she put them into a short story. Her room was sparse and clean when I went back to Scotland in 2001 on holiday, the first holiday I had in Scotland without the agonising pain of wanting to live there. We made sure we spent at least an hour a day talking to her, maybe making her a weak cup of tea or nodding at some of her more eccentric ideas and plots being made outside her window. It was pretty obvious to all of us though that this holiday was going to be the last one where she alive, such was her physical frailty, and at the end of the holiday, we had one last cup of tea on the edge of the bed - she asked about how great Henrik Larsson, a soccer player, was, and I said he was pretty great. After about an hour, it was time for me to vacate her house, to go to the airport. Without thinking, when I got up from my little wooden seat, I said goodbye Gran, and I realised that I had said with real emphasis, a really meaningful goodbye. As drizzle danced down her window in formation, she said goodbye back, and it was more poignant than a flowery one hour speech. It was a classicly understated West Of Scotland goodbye - a far better farewell than when one of her daughters, just before she died, told her that the roll she had bought at the bakery for her was a lovely looking roll, only to be told curtly in that case, I won't eat it but you can enter it in a beauty contest...

Did I mention Panda Eyed Girl got some? She would want you to know...

7 comments:

Doc said...

Some is good, but some by proxy ain't bad either.

I know what you mean about the funeral speech. My dad is still warm in the next room and mom tells me to write his funeral speech. I was floored, but I did it.

Have a grand day, quit listening to the radio, and watch out for trollys.

Doc

Jannie said...

"I'm not one for over expressions or telling people what they mean to me"

Ahh, the strong silent type indeed.

Ann oDyne said...

that comeback on the 'lovely roll' was so good that now I miss your Gran too.

my ancestors came here from Athlestane and Mortlach and Haddington in 1853.

Scots wha hae!

Miles McClagan said...

Well the funeral speeches were done with a lot more aplomb that I could have managed. Bit of a nightmare. Luckily though no one was pushing trolleys...

More the strong, silent, hope to god someone talks about football type...

She was good at comebacks my Gran...very glaswegian...I have no idea about my ancestry, Dads side of the family is lost to me forever!

Baino said...

Tough call reading a eulogy, I've even written them for friends who couldn't manage it. The hardest was for my Dad but as you say, it was short, poignant and pretty good if I say so myself. Shame he didn't hear it but it gave comfort to others so I guess it had some solace to offer, As for being among his best 12 friends . . unless I was up there at the top, I think I'd rather not know

squib said...

had her thinking ice cream van drivers were plotting against her

Whoah, if that's the first sign of senility, I'm in trouble

Miles McClagan said...

It was really difficult for everyone yesterday...I know I couldn't do it. I tried to pass some of the more uncomfortable time by thinking what I'd say about my Dad...out of all the Dads I could have had, he was in the top 12?

My ice cream boy used to hate me because I was catholic and I wore an Ireland top...or did he...maybe I'm senile as well....