Friday, February 20, 2009

Boy paints terrible cat, world keeps on spinning



She sits on her chair all day, on her phone, barely registering the people around her, on her own cloud in her own world. She speaks in exaggerated tones of self importance - every e-mail dissected into a million fragments, every utterance so important it's frightening. She used to be Miss North West Coast I think, but she'll never request that somebody kills her. What she doesn't realise is that her looks are fading, her glory days long behind her, the indulgences of her youth now gathering like clouds on her face. Instead of acceptance though, you'll find her in nightclubs or the football club fundraiser or standing at the taxi rank in the rain with Mr right now, on the way home, hoping the kids don't hear her coming in. I know this, because she's telling another one of her overblown twisting sentences down the phone line, about her latest pick up, some guy officially his name, a story I've heard many times before. I might be mistaken, but as she sips her trendy water bottle, I sense unhappiness for the first time. The story isn't told with it's usual relish. The grind gets everyone in the end - everyone has that moment of realisation that no matter how much they talk up their social situation, it just isn't enough. By the end of the day she's lost all trace of joy, describing human beings as cockroaches because if you stamp on one another one just gets right in your face. Apart from pondering the kind of home she lives in where cockroaches are attacking her once beautiful nose, maybe flying out of cupboards at weird angles, I find it sad no matter my opinion of someone when they sit shorn of self confidence and are stabbed through with regret. However, my mood of empathy is short lived, for tonight she will be the fabulous karaoke queen that she always is - out on the dancefloor on the prowl, Midori in hand, pulling shapes to a thunderous disco beat, and maybe making some lucky amateur footballer from the country feel incredibly special while the kids sit in the living room watching a DVD with the sound up. Then in the morning, she'll get on the phone and tell everyone about it, and while they can hear her voice and the inflections that sound as upbeat as a Presets album, they won't see the lack of light in her eyes as she talks, they won't see her sigh deeply as she forces the smile onto her face, and most of all they won't see her put the phone down and stare blankly out the window, another day passing bay in the midst of devastating last days of hedonism regret...

When we used to visit the old folks homes, under the guidance of Renee the girl who felt honour bound one day to criticise me for spending all my time playing pool while she polished her halo on the minibus, I always got really uncomfortable, not just on the cramped seats of the minibus that felt like they were ripping my excellent posture to shreds, but at how depressing it was having to go and talk to people who looked haunted and resigned to their fates and regrets. Oh sure, you'd come across the odd sparky old person who would make a dirty comment about the nurses arse or who attacked arts and crafts with gusto, but mostly what I remember was the complete stillness of the room, the lack of energy that permeated throughout the place was quite scary to me. The air conditioner would grind it's gears and no one would speak except for the nurse on 20ty cups of coffee who would try and spark dialogue and tell the old folks that what they had drawn didn't look like three lines and a cross but really was a cat. Sometimes the old folks would begin a story with some Grandpa Simpson like exaggeration to it and then in the middle there would be some devastating overly personal twist to it that they would immediately backtrack from or not even realise what they had said and by the time they had gone back onto why you couldn't trust gammon steak as a food source because it was invented by Goebbels, you would shift quite uncomfortably in your chair and focus really intently on your blue poster paint project. I really hated it when they would talk about lost loves or people left behind - that was when I had to break out the green poster paint and really try and paint a decent cat. And I would ultimately out into the mid July Burnie winter a little sad that not only did my cat look rather more like a rocketship, but that time has already passed for those left inside, and all they had to look forward was bingo at 7 and custard at 8. Then I'd cop a mouthful from Renee about how I didn't understand the nature of old people and had spent too much time in silence and obsessing about the relative merits of Clagg glue. Alas and alack, I was just a nervous sulky teenager with a 6ix word vocabulary and an inarticulate heart with which to express my feelings. I really regret that I didn't say shut up Renee nearly enough, so here goes...shut up Renee! There that feels better. The mini bus would then pull away at a slow deliberate speed, and as it did, you would sadly leave behind what you learned in the car park, and go and make exactly the same mistakes the old folks did. By the time I got home and logged onto to the AMIGA to play a game of Sensible Soccer, life lessons had already drifted out the window just as soon as Ferencvaros went one down to Galatasary and I had to fight really hard on the joystick for an equaliser...

We've got visitors over from Dads home town of Paisley right now - the town where Dads Dad lurks around bowls clubs with his pint and his well nursed grudge, or so we think - and they hold court on my deck about the credit crunch. I think the credit crunch is just an excuse for companies to sack people they don't like, but that's just me. Back home, the visitors cousin has just lost his job, and aghast they tell us tales about how no one in Britain can afford to buy a fitted kitchen anymore. Nothing says hard times like wee Wullie no getting his kitchen fitted. Paisley is where my football team St Mirren plays. It's one of those places where newspaper based fear means no one goes out at night, and it's full of little fish and chip shops where there's one fat woman with albino skin bossing around like 7even little blonde girls who could be hot if they weren't smelling of chip fat - sort of Snow Cellulite and the Seven Blondes. It's also where I saw someone through a major tantrum because the newsagent ran out of copies of The Sun, an entire day ruined simply through an overstimulated brain making up problems. St Mirren are fun to go and watch, if you like moaning that is - after about 10 seconds, an embittered air settles on the ground. One time, I stood outside Love Street our ground for ages waiting to get in ahead of a Challenge cup tie against Forfar - which in soccer terms is the equivalent of waiting to go and see Tiffany support Marilyn - and apparently there was a bomb scare, and across the road from me was we in Scotland call a Jakie, an alcoholic if you will, in a grey camel coat shambolically sitting on a white girder eating chips and revelling in the way the crumbs settled onto his muzzly beard. Naturally, my middle class superiority instincts kicked in. Oh my god, I swooned, the deprivation of this place. I had fallen for the newspapers spiel I must admit - and from the fact everyone who lives in Paisley seems to tell you how bloody awful it is. I had already composed some sort of decaying urban society monologue in my head, and had decided that this man, who was in his 40s was a ship builder who had lost his job. I even toyed with the idea of throwing 20p in his cup, but thought better of it because he had wild eyes and the paper taught me that was a bad sign for my own safety. Just as this patronising drivel came to an end, the prettiest of the blonde chip shop army - very much the Happy - came running out and gave him a kiss which came straight out of the opening bit of a porn film. As he kissed her, I'm sure he shot me a look of abject pity - after all, I was about to pay 15 pounds to go and see St Mirren, and he was pashing a girl who had a thing for the abjectly drunk...who had more to regret...I should have written a letter to the Paisley Daily Express really...

The visitors leave, Mum has to show them the Eastlands shopping centre. You come all the way from Scotland and all you get is Panda Eyed Girl selling you a lousy T-shirt. Apparently they've been moaning a bit about things, so I don't see how Big W is going to improve their mood. We're an honest people, don't ask us a question. I know of at least one waitress in Burnie who was told the reason a meal wasn't finished was because her face had put the diner off his dinner. I'm trying not to be a jerk at the moment. I'm trying not to throw my hands up in despair when someone cuts me off by walking across me, that kind of thing, the kind of thing that makes you wonder why the hell you did that, does it really matter in the grand scheme of things? The visitors leave behind copies of newspapers and some sweets from home, the newspapers suitably hysterical that the world is ending, particularly in Paisley. Maybe it is, and all I have to worry about is that my pillow is really lousy. It is lousy though. Tonight I'll mostly be stuck in a car driving back from Launceston, my recurring nightmare write large in big day glo letters, but even that doesn't seem so bad. Somewhere out there on the dance floor a rapidly middle aging woman will throw desperate shapes to the sounds of MGMT - I wouldn't judge, but it's killing her. Down at the end of my street, there's a guy in a green shirt with a charity tin that he shakes with vim and vigour. The fact is though that he only shakes the tin to pick up girls. He's not fussy, and has no moral dilemmas about doing this - I'm not even sure he is a charity collector, and I know this because if a Male tries to give money he looks in the other direction but a middle aged housewive in sweat pants is more than encouraged. I should introduce the two of them to each other. All over Hobart tonight, people will do things they regret, but other people will act questionably and never feel bad about it in the slightest. And I will go to sleep fully aware that the tiniest, the most miniscule little thing will probably strike me at about 3hree in the morning, some stupid inappropriate piece of gossip from 1996 I can't take back. I'm just like that - I'm on the moral clock all the time, damn being Catholic. Maybe one day I'll be sitting in an old folks home discussing Clagg Glue and suddenly blurt out something, and be aware that I've turned into an old age Simba. Until that day comes though, I'm at least going to give that whole don't be a jerk thing a try. Who knows, maybe someone will pick me while the Presets play...

No, I'd really regret that...the Presets are already soooooo last year...

7 comments:

Mad Cat Lady said...

Don't paint terrible cats - paint happy ones.

sparsely kate said...

Ok Miles, you have to tell me the approximate age of this sad woman who goes to nightclubs. Just so I can confirm whether or not 34 really IS too old to do that stuff anyway. In case you know, the urge takes me to have a night out. I don't want to be anybodies mutton, you know what I'm saying?!

Oh, I still buy my kids Clag glue. The smell of it brings back instant school day memories.

Charles Gramlich said...

Beautifully captured the character there.

Baino said...

Ah . .well being a middle aged single woman there is that temptation to desperately seek something out there but I've never had the gumption to try. I did give a sandwich and a cigarette to to a regular or Hyde Park once and he threw the food in the bin, took the fag then abused me.
The Scots sound ultimately dour . .'apparently they've been moaning a bit' and I thought it was the POMs who were the wingers! I still like the Presets even if they are so last Tuesday . . . Nice piece tho. Bit sad.

Miles McClagan said...

It would look the same no matter what I painted...as in, not a cat...

She's 41, but I should say, if that's what you want to do with your life, go for it, but she's so sad about it and unaware people are laughing at her for it, it's quite depressing. Clagg glue, that's awesome, between that and a Crayola castle, I could easily go back to Grade 2...

Thanks mate - I do what I can!

Well as a country, we think we're being honest, but we're pretty much just moaning. Hyde Park is massively dodgy. Oh the times I had there. Plus dad stayed on a bench there for 2wo days. Or so he says...

squib said...

all they had to look forward was bingo at 7 and custard at 8 Love that!

Are we talking about Hyde Park in London, or somewhere else? (we have a Hyde Park in Perth you know)

Miles McClagan said...

I love custard at 8 - there's something wonderfully settling about it. Yeah, Hyde Park in London - bloody awful place, so Dad tells me, from his roustabout days...