Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Pep talks, Panda Eyes, Pub Bores and Persson



Another windowless, airless office, another workplace pep talk, another day where words drift in and out of my head, replaced by a song from a long time ago that I can't quite place...Sneaker Pimps? MC Lee? Ann Lee? No, definitely the Sneaker Pimps, and yes, I definitely do promise to do better. There's no part of anyones life where they aren't accountable to someone - even the richest Sheik surely has someone relying on them at some point. Surely? Typical, I was born into the wrong family. I had to get the genetics of my Dad, one of lifes great sitcom characters. Thats unfair, and yes, I really should be nodding in appropriate places during this pep talk. I can't be bothered though, although my faux nodding is always conducive to the pep talkee thinking I've taken something on board. The pep talkee concludes with so much blokey colloquiliasm I suspect I've put on a football jumper and we're ten goals down kicking into the wind. Buzz. No thoughts. He's lapsed in full Ron Barassi coach speak. I leave not sure about work, but certainly ready to chase the loose ball. The radio, as always, is playing all the usual. DJs shuffle from station, a much hyped duo moving into Tasmania seem to my ears to be just like every other radio station except they have trendier haircuts. I've never had a trendy haircut, my one week experiment with a spike Burnies biggest disaster of 1985 by far. My e-mails are piling up, one line responses of no consequence, and I can scarcely make an effort to reply. An old man in a car doesn't indicate when I drive home, and I nearly crash into the back of him as he drives in his bewildered state. Liverpool lose a lead, in the time it takes the man at the BBC to type it on his computer. Nothing means anything and yet it all adds up to something, my day, pointless as it is, mine to live, mine to drift through, perspective given by those who aren't around to see today. I work with one of those - an older woman who is always active, always at clubs, always out with friends...sometimes you can tell all she wants is a day in a hammock listening to the Cardigans because you needed something to drown out Amy Grant on 9ine minutes of the 90s. The trendy DJs meanwhile are making great capital out of a joke involving picking up the secret recordings of a microphone at a big event. They laugh so hard at their own joke, it jars me as I pull into my house to cook sausages at a high temperature and watch that blonde girl on Setanta Sports who doesn't seem to like Liverpool very much. They ultimately laugh at their own joke for so long, I suspect that the pep talk they got must have been very very good. Maybe they are just more responsive to exhortations to get out there and get amongst it...

The magic pen table is back. They aren't singing songs though with the words magic or pen in them, it's one girl in a blue top making the pens do their magic. The depressed blind seller has been shuffled on unless there's a table timeshare going on. The girl at the magic pen table seems to be demonstrating how the pens are magic simply by making them fly and harassing kids who don't seem very impressed. Kids today aren't impressed by anything. In 1991 we were impressed by Amy Grant, so I know we'd have gasped at a pen that could whizz about. The kid walks off, and the girl, who is possibly stoned, continues to shill her heart out for the sake of the pen company, marvelling at the sheer complex wonder of a world in which she has a pen that can also fly about a bit. She's kind of making me miss the depressed blind seller. Blue eye shadow girl is filling out a form, doing the grunt work for everyone as always, and a nerdy kid looking at tins of biscuits is directly in my way. I'm in the middle of quite a self determined maturity phase (ooh get you, it only took 30ty years, you want a cookie?) but I still find time to make a nice scene just to let him know he's in my way, but I lose the battle for his attention to a chocolate wafer in a tin. Panda eyed girl has been demoted to stacking shoes in a pile. Not much phases panda eyed girl, she's like a 10en year old, she just seems to swagger back no matter how they demote her. I don't suspect anyone likes stacking shoes into a triangle, especially one you just know some bogan is going to come along 5ive minutes after construction and deconstruct the pile quite literally, by knocking it over looking for the left sandal, and not in any kind of post modernist philosophical way. She's twirling her hair vapidly, around her finger, staring at the shoes with a strangely out of it grin. Dads on the mobile to me, telling about a woman at his school who got attacked by cheeky students but the school won't give her any cash for her distress. He's not telling the story well though, because he wants to get to sports. We have a long and animated discussion about sports, and when I get off the phone, Panda Eyed Girl has begun the arduous task of making shoes and sandals into an attractive look. With all the gimlet eyed determination of someone in a bar trying to convince me that the music I listen to isn't real music, and I should be listening to real bands like the pub band in the corner playing Train covers, she intently studies the problem before deciding on what would have been my solution, chucking them on the floor and hoping it looks passable and going to lunch, twirling a lock of her badly dyed hair around her index finger as she goes. Next to me, two bogans are giggling over the quality of an Eddie Murphy film, and I can't decide who I want to give a pep talk to first...

I don't respond that well to pep talks. When I was fifteen, I was given my most infamous pep talk by my parents. I was failing school, too nervous to make friends, too lazy to do anything but sit on the computer, too homesick to do homework, or at least that's how I felt. I thought in that bleak nuclear winter that the only person to understand me was someone famous, who I nearly wrote a letter to, but luckily pulled back, I mean you don't want to be the kind of person who starts thinking about living alone in a shack. I was failing maths, a patient, slightly dwarfy maths teacher patiently explaining this to me in a corridor where we sat like two outcasts on a park bench, and obviously I had to explain this to my parents. I admit my thoughts about this were jumbled, but I didn't tell them, and then they found out after some horrible duplicity involving trying to knock the phone line out of the wall...I got a hell of a pep talk, but the trouble is, it's all words, once I get the hug or the handshake at the end of it I tend to go back to what I was doing. I don't have a favourite quotation, I don't have anything to fall back on as a motto, maybe the odd song line that I relate to but that's about all. I went to school with a girl called Jennifer. She was the girl who had to follow me in giving a humourous speech once and died on her arse, exhorting the crowd to laugh so desperately she collapsed into a series of what is the deal with and what is quite literally up with that schtick lines that just went nowhere. For an hour. She sat me down once, and I should point out it was well known by this point I had no belief in God at all - I hadn't brought it up overtly, but it was still somehow well known. She took it upon herself with all her social worker stylings to tell me about God, and angels, and more worryingly fairies. Her pitch was flawed, it was too slick, and I suspect she wasn't buying it herself, but with a lost soul to save she wasn't about to let it go until she had got all the way through. Like those Mexican wrestlers you saw in the 80s with the pot belly they'd wheel out to wrestle Andre The Giant, it was a lost cause, and eventually she asked me if I had any questions. I resisted any kind of smart alec answer, murmured indifferently, and by the second syllable of my grunt, she was off down the corridor to save a girl of loose ethics. I've never saved anyone, not even from drowning, and that seems to happen to everyone I know - mind you, our holy roller was stymied in her attempt to save the girl of loose ethics. Whatever hearing she was given, it fell on deaf ears. Twins by the age of seventeen was a sign that she didn't really think of our lord, but to use an old music hall gag, she was keen to shout oh god...

I walk around Kingston a little bit later. I've never even taken inspiration from nature, although I appreciate the sheer stillness of the place at times, a lot more than I would ever admit. They've set up a little window at the petrol station, so the depressed woman in the shirt who just stares out of the window has to share an enclosed space with an Ugly Betty clone with thick black glasses and a much more personable tone. My friend, the one with the debt problem, sends me a text message, it seems to indicate we'll catch up soon, but it sounds like the kind of message someone gives you at the end of a family re-union or a one night stand. I delete it without too much thought or emotion. A woman sits in the hairdressers, which is still just about open and still called Cyber Hair, the hairdressers of the future. A fantastically unattractive woman in a blue coat that encases her massive frame like a body bag is getting her hair primped and preened, a pep talk of sorts, one for the soul that I don't suspect will work. I walk along a little concrete pathway, where the pizza shop used to be, now devoid of both pizza and slackers like it used to be, now replaced with a permanently shut and locked up accountancy firm and extended windows for the bottle shop to advertise. There's this little kid in blue T-shirt who's being ignored, and he's fidgeting with the trolley his Mum is pushing, grabbing at the ends of it and trying to shake it. His Mum, with a vintage 80s blonde mane slash mullet, snaps, and decides when it's time to go home he'll be straight to bed without any Wii. Ah, in my day, it was straight to bed without any A Country Practice. His face crumbles, he lets go of the trolley, and stares across the cavernous, empty car park, before breaking into three or four slow, funeral march steps, his little trainers undone at the lace, his head staring directly at the ground. I think for a moment about easy it is for kids sometimes, for a whole world to crash because they can't play Wii, and when they get the Wii back everything is alright, motivation not in words but in what they have. Of course I also realise at that moment I'm beaming because I've got some Aero chocolate mousse in the bag which doesn't do much for the maturity kick I'm on. Just at the moment I'm amount to take my chances walking across the dangerous old man won't indicate death trap car park, I catch the kids eye - I'm beaming, obviously because I have mousse, and he's shuffling, because he doesn't have Wii. He looks at me quite upset, because obviously I'm happy, and he isn't. Then, he sticks his tongue out at me and pulls a spazz face, which is well warranted because no one should beam as much as I am beaming at the moment unless they are chronically strange or trying to convert people to God. His stride lengthens, his head lifts, and just for a moment, having shown up a stranger, he's a new kid...

I guess I'm good at pep talks after all...as long as they are non verbal...

6 comments:

Doc said...

"ooh get you, it only took 30ty years, you want a cookie?"

Hell, you've earned it, and the chocolate mousse. And I'm with you. I'm antipep-talk.

Doc

Jannie Funster said...

You are truly a gifted writer, Miles. How cool is that!

Please don't get too determined with your "self-maturiy phase," far too many get old and stodgy before our times - like you just the way you are!

Charles Gramlich said...

I think sometimes folks wish they were rich so that they'd have no responsibilities, but you are correct, they'd just have a different set of them.

squib said...

I mean you don't want to be the kind of person who starts thinking about living alone in a shack.

oh no! I'm that kind of person!

ditto what jannie said re: gifted writer

the projectivist said...

If you were a dessert Miles, you'd be my favorite, Lemon meringue pie. Clouds of white sugary marshmallow that melt in your mouth, followed by the citrus bomb filling that just explodes with zesty freshness on your unprepared taste buds. And finally, the comfort of that old favorite, the biscuit base. Where would the other elements be without it?

Miles McClagan said...

The chocolate mousse was delicious. I love treats - there are obviously catholic guilt issues, but what the hell respect to the Aero people!



There's quite a famous case from the UK in 1960s about some woman who won the football pools, 3 mill or summat, and just ended up miserable and cleaning toilets. Once I read that, it soured the whole rich people are wicked theory...never mind the family stalkers!

It's not too bad as a thing to be OK at! I'm trying not to let if affect me too much. I've just stopped dreaming that Carolyn Wozniacki is going to ring...maybe though...

I used to think about living in a shack - I thought it would be a good place to do my memoirs. Then they invented the Internet. Hooray!

I love a meringue - it reminds me of the Scottish joke "Ahm a right or ah meringue" (which translated can be Am I Right or Am I wrong?). Miles McClagan - Biscuit Base. I like that!