Friday, 25 November 2011

The Latch - A Ghost Story

So there I was swaying in the breeze contemplating the growing pile of fag butts in the plant pot and how I really ought to dispose of them for the sake of my karma when I realised that the click I had heard was the front door closing itself. I had no key. “I have no key’ I thought. I am ill and standing in the garden locked out feeling nauseous from the guilt of not being able to give up smoking. I knew for a fact that I had left the door on the latch. But this was no Victorian manor house I found myself suddenly exiled from – this was a late sixties purpose built ex local authority brutal semi. I still had my slippers on and my phone was inside. I remembered that I had seen the magnificent Tania sauntering home after the school run and wondered about walking around the block to her house in order to phone my wife. Oh the times I had fantasised about such an occurrence but in these reveries I did not have slippers on my feet and an eye of what I speculatively presumed to be suppurating head-lice bites. I was not looking my best. Still Tania worked with the homeless she would understand. And so I shuffled out of the gate making doubly sure that I left it on the latch. Not that this was any guarantee of my being able to rely on the sanctuary of my garden in the face of the devilish activity in my home that had just then come to light.
One often saw people in their slippers on the forgotten estate. The only problem is I had never counted myself amongst their number. And so I resolved to walk boldly as if slipper wearing on a rain sodden day was the most natural thing in the world. I knew that there was a moderate to high chance of happening upon another parent returning from the school run so I fixed my gaze ahead and set a gentle smile about my lips. As the gate closed behind me I’m sure I heard my mobile phone ringing. The cat stared down at me from the top of the outhouse as if to say “well aren’t you going to answer that?” now that I came to think of it the cats had been running madly around the house just prior to my morning cigarette. I sometimes thought of myself as a sailor on a round the world yacht as I stood on the deck smoking. Staring at the sky wondering what the day had in store. And like another dreamer my yacht was permanently anchored on an island half the world away from where I regularly reported myself to be.
I made it through the residents’ car park without bumping into anyone and now stood at the side of the road where the estate ends and the proper Victorian streets begin. These are the really covetable streets I thought. These are the houses that bring parents to the area. I stood at the top of Tania's street. I had actually forgotten the name of the street. We used to see a lot of each other prior to our children attending school. Once she had been round our house and set the kitchen on fire by placing the kettle on the hob and leaving it while we played out the front with the children. I remember her clutching her youngest daughter in a blanket whilst I tried to fling dampened towels onto the blaze. It had all struck me as being like a scene from a melodramatic engraving. We got a new cooker and redecoration out of this misfortunate episode but somehow our friendship was nerver put back the way it had been before. It had somehow illuminated the class divide between us. She in her Victorian Aga styled town house and us in our functional cube.
I stopped at the window with the wooden blinds. That was always how I recognised Tania's house. I couldn't tell you now what the number is. I could see the flicker of movement through the slats and went up to the door. I decided to knock on the window. Hello” said an unfamiliar voice. “Oh its Mikey” I replied nervously. I was always replying nervously. “It’s who?” said the voice. “It’s Mikey I’m a friend of Tania's from church.’ Quite why I had said this I don’t know. It seemed to conjure up an idea of a friendship on a secure footing but equally if someone had said it to me I would have found it deeply suspicious. But I wasn’t like other people and so frequently found myself trying to second guess what the best thing to say would be and invariably when it came time to speak picked the oddest statement from the hastily complied multiple choice.
The door opened and revealed a small pretty young woman. “Hello” I said again “is Tania Home?”
Oh she’s just about to leave I think, what do you want?”
“Erm oh it’s nothing important it can wait.”
Tania's impressive frame emerged into the light from the kitchen at the back of the hallway
“Hi Mikey are you okay? How are you all?”
“Oh Hi we’re fine I just thought I’d pop round on my way to the shops to see if you had thought any more about the... the.. “
“Really sorry I’ve got to head off. We really must get a date in the diary for a dinner round ours. I still owe you one.”
“Okay that would be lovely,” I said shuffling trying not to show my slippered feet, which was clearly impossible. Tania strode past me and touched my arm. The power touch. I stood there momentarily between her and the woman I calculated to be the cleaner. “Thanks” I said to the young woman and raised my hand to say goodbye.
Back in the garden the space under the trampoline was at least dry. From time to time the cats would come out and sniff my hand. I curled up and tried to keep warm. My new coat would be a mess was all I kept thinking to myself. I could remember when this decking was pristine and now here I lay in the middle of gently rotting leaves and algae. This is the hardest part of having time to think. You can, if you are not careful, become rapidly aware of the tendency of everything to decay. If I wash my hands today they will be dirty tomorrow kind of thing. The boys scooters were next to me both missing various screws that had fallen off and rusting around the wheel arches – the football was peeling and under inflated. The log I had positioned to stop the trampoline moving was askew and now just another piece of mouldering detritus.
I somehow slept and woke to a faint click. At least I had remembered to put my hearing aids in. I looked out from my new cave like abode and caught sight of movement behind the garden door. We had chosen to have half glazed doors on the front door that opened onto the garden. “It’s nice to have a view,” I had suggested utopianly. Was the click the cat flap? I asked myself. The cat flaps that portal between the animal world and human consciousness. The cat flap – a conversation between man and beast. I crawled out trying not to catch my new coat on the decking as I did so. I gazed in shock as the front door gently opened a half-inch. My wife was right to constantly complain about what a bad job they had done of installing the new doors. We had had them back countless times to readjust them. Initially this had been to simply stop the rain from literally flooding underneath them but after several bodged attempts they needed frequent further adjustment. Finally I suggested they turn the drip bar the other way around and this did the trick. Now the doors were all ours and negotiations with the company Doors by Dores had unofficially ceased.
 I pushed the door open and sniffed. Everyone smells a house on entering. It’s the fastest way of assessing if all is well. That time T had burnt down the kitchen I had smelt burning plastic but felt safe in the knowledge that there was nothing plastic in our home that could catch light. I hadn’t accounted for someone mistakenly putting a plastic based kettle on a hob though had I? The house smelt familiar with a very faint under note of dampness. This was not a nuance I had ever detected before. Our house was well built with no mysterious areas that could evade practical maintenance. This is what had attracted us to it but now we found ourselves longing for a home with uncharted corners. I winced as I remembered how on viewing the house I had met the son of the deceased owner. We had a pleasant conversation and I had held my own as an adult house buyer. He had been keen to show me the outhouse and indeed it was a surprisingly practical space in a small block outside the street side front door. “We put everything in there” he chuckled. And I, with my brain racing ahead to visions of myself installed in there on a woodwork project had chuckled back “yeah Dad!” Now this is not the most delicate of jokes I could have chosen to make to the son of a dead man endeavouring to sell his fathers house to a flimsy excuse of a grown up. Still he did laugh and I found myself wondering if this had been a conspiratorial reflex.
The cat was pawing the cupboard doors making a swish swish noise as she did so. Nothing unusual in that I thought. She’s always wanting to get in the cupboard under the stairs. The cupboard under the stairs was not your usual kind of low level design, being more of a walk in coat cupboard at the front then curving around under the stairs where we kept the boxes of more delicate objects that had seemed better suited to our Victorian childfree high ceiling flat in a conservation area. I opened the door to let the cat in. It sometimes worried me that the cat would get crushed under a box that I had not packed away scientifically enough but still I pushed such thoughts away as I watched her tail disappear behind the bag for life of summer footwear at the back. This space was then without doubt the last mystery of the house for although I had many time unpacked and repacked it in search of some suddenly indispensable item, it always reverted to a state of unfathomable depth once the door was closed. Not knowing what was in there was a constant potential source of irritation I was reminded of this as I placed my new coat on the peg. The cat mewed somewhere from within the mound of boxes and heaped up layers of living. “Okay puss” I called instinctively feeling an urge to crawl in and make sure she was okay. My phone was still on the side in the dining room and so I pushed on in the darkness. It sounds silly but the space was cramped and yet big enough to feel like I was scrabbling into the heart of the house. I caught a glimpse of Lilly’s eyes in the far corner where I packed the Christmas tree away. It would soon be time to dig it out again so why not now.” I mean I’ve come this far so why not?” I asked myself inwardly dreading the process of packing and unpacking the various bags and boxes.
Suddenly the cat yowled and I saw a flash of red. There were no lights under here so what did I see. I thought of the antique lamp stand with the ancient wiring. This had always struck me as a hazard and now it sat in a box where it had been packed on the day of our move. A faint rustling caught my ear and from the corner of my eye deeper shadows danced in the farthest corner right under the stairs. I ploughed on past the box of cheap toys and long since abandoned games consoles. This was the one part of the under stairs cupboard I had never been into and if I was honest I had always been too frightened of even reaching a hand into that space. The cat brushed past my face and in seconds I heard the swish swish of her pawing at the doors. She wanted to get back in. Swish swish. Swish swish like someone cleaning at a step with an incriminating stain. Outside the leaves stirred in the breeze as I found myself entering the darkest part of the house. On and on I went down and down into the darkness of the mystery. The dampness was stronger here. The earth under my hands told me why. A frog, a newt, a slow worm all gently moved aside as I crawled. A small Mercedes matchbox car sat beneath my hand and I lifted it to my face to smell. Soon there was grass under my knees and the sound of small chattering voices. You may think I was going mad but I lived this. I scrabbled beyond the realm of either or and felt dimensions expand and contract around me. Fear had passed and tears streamed down my cheeks as I lay on the green grass of the traffic island outside my first love's house. Nicky’s dad choked on his own vomit. We moved away from house to house each time the dimensions a little more generous and the address just that bit more respectable. Here I lay again now with Nicky beside me on the grass. Our toy cars spread out around us. This was the heaven I had longed for but now found myself wondering if there was any way back to the place from which I had crawled. I panicked and tried to scramble to my feet catching Nicky on the side of the face as I did so. Confusion flashed across her features as I ran. I ran and without looking found myself in front of an oncoming beautiful Mercedes coupe. The pain was all enveloping but strangely gentle. I’m all right I thought as I glanced across at Nicky on the grass. She was now smiling again. Cursing as I did so I shoved the various boxes and bags haphazardly out of my way until I could here the swish swish of the cats paws on the door. Pushing them open from within I emerged back into the house. I picked the cat up and held her on her back like a child. She looked around the room and purred. I set her down and she sprang off through the cat flap into the front garden. It as about time I got on with some work and I padded into the kitchen and picked up the kettle.

Put Your Coat On

When did this all start? You know? The whole wearing a coat to school is so not cool. Except this is never articulated under any circumstances. This is stoicism writ large. Do school children act as one brain? Somehow all knowing that they must return to their respective hives and refuse to done the mantel of conformity. “I’ve cracked it.” I thought as I walked my younger coat-wearing son down the hill to school – children don’t wear coats because they are not TV advertised at all hours. Come on M&S I mused; let’s have a cool coat advert for the parents of the kids. But then on returning I enviously espied a pair of addidas gazelles on the feet of an older kid. These are not remorselessly branded onto our eyeballs by the glowing screen in the corner so why do I want them so? Ahh well advertising is branding now isn’t it? Things don’t need to be on the telly to be advertised. I mean those evil product development geniuses embed the advertising into the product. The product is a slow release covet-me bomb. Puffa jackets almost became covetable but the halfhearted stance of the kids towards them was reflected in the simultaneous desire of all of them to wear them half way down their backs. Even my lad perfected this without rehearsal. I can imagine at his age I would have had to practice getting it to hang off me like that. Have marketing people simply become very expert at appealing to the need for children reaching social awareness (most people then) to be individual and non-conformist? Er big resounding yes I would say.
 I mean Steve Jobs is revered as a man who released all our collective dreams he gave us the means to express our deepest creative urges. Um how exactly? Well he led by example. He showed that if you have a dream you can live it through hard work and vision. Believing in your self. Oh yeah right. So the fact that the Internet is broken is nothing to do with the marketing folk realising that they now needed to make products aimed at people who need to express their individuality through their consumer choices? Have you been watching too much Adam Curtis? Admittedly I really want an I-pad 2 but I have already found out that they won’t run I-Web so that particular Jobs-facilitated dream must be put to bed. So are you saying we need to go back to the wax-coated codex format? This is an adequate way of sharing ideas that can change and be added to by those that come into contact with them. In some senses wikipedia is like this. It’s free to be modified by anybody. Imagine if the gospels were written as a wiki and then became thought of as Gospel truth well that is kind of what happened.
Ah I thought that we’d arrive at this point. The point where you say that we are free to inhabit a world of metaphor which is beyond the realm of either or. That is spirituality – except what we get served up as spirituality is a schematised ritual of an idea that someone half remembered  - writ large. Oh. I see. I think. 
Well back to the coats. I was actually pretty warm as I walked down the hill and thought you know what you’re making a big fuss over nothing. Your eldest son was right not to wear a coat. He just intuited that and you turned it into a big semiotic mess. Right. Told me.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Record collections

     For the past two weekends I have been trying to resolve the sale of my wife’s and mine long playing records. This is a compact way of describing the process that has been slowly unravelling since we met and so that is the plot I shall try and detail. As I type my wife has just congratulated me on “sorting the records out”. That’s more money than I thought she declares gaily dismissing three quarters of my life’s memories. Stick to the plot. Last Saturday I packed the four crates into the car and ordered the boys into the car for the drive a mile down the road. This took longer than a non-parent record collection indulging individual would anticipate and consequently we were fractionally too late for the loading bay outside the shop. After two circuits the space had become available when the Astra van pulled off. The boys and I spotted no cameras pointed at the bay and decided to take a chance. The moment we got in the space a large whale of a bus surfaced and sung loudly. Swearing I pulled off vowing to return. This weekend refreshed and having inflated the tyres I did indeed return and this time before four and without the boys. Having parked in the loading bay I begin hauling the records into the shop and up to the counter.  The sales assistants are not as friendly as the owner had been on the phone. He had been effusive and rang me to ensure I was coming. Fair enough I thought he’s running a business. The conversation about when to come back to see how much they are worth is awkward and involves me struggling to pitch my commitment, after all I am well aware that the money is not really anything more than an added bonus to retrieving what amounts to a large area of storage space in our sixties estate house. Added to this a skinny young man begins asking me what sort of records I’m selling as he prepares to mount his fixed gear racing bike outside. Again conversation is dislocated- I er mmm – sort of thing. “Oh that’s a shame I would have liked some of them” he enthuses. Records delivered I Slide into the driver’s seat and move into the traffic being careful not to get in the way of any whale like buses.
 Work is frantic at the moment or at least the affect on my brain of lecturing to students who are now aware of the value of their education at a university that spends the 2nd to lowest amount on staff in the country is frantic. Consequently on Wednesday I get a call from the owner wondering when I’m going to come in to collect my booty. “It’s up to you if you keep the records we can’t sell”. “I think I’ll collect them thanks”. The owner is understanding and as he has done all the way through this protracted transaction he puts me at my ease. I really do not feel that I am being conned out of a gold mine. I set off after work with plenty of time to park around the corner knowing that the loading bay is off limits after 4 o’clock. Why don’t more people write about the neurosis of parking and camera guilt? Or do I just read the wrong papers? I suppose parking is like admitting you don’t cycle your fixed gear racing bike everywhere. I mean I could have hired a little cycling wagon to deliver the records. I find a space and am anxious because I know I have no change and earlier this year have had a parking fine dispute rebuffed because in Southwark you are not allowed time to go and get change. But wait a stranger is approaching me with an idea for a transaction. It seems he has just bought a ticket that he won’t be needing as his girlfriend doesn’t like the look of the restaurant. The parking official watches as we discuss the deal and to my amazement seems to approve.  “I’ve got no change, “ I explain. “Don’t worry” says the stranger “at least someone will get use from it.”
 Once in the shop I saunter up to the counter and introduce myself. Tom, the owner is keen to show me the break down of how he has come up with the figure of £85 for the records in my collection that he thinks he can sell. I believe him and recognise that this is a business transaction, which means both parties have to be happy. Tom is after all allowing me to keep the tow crates of records he won’t, in his opinion be able to sell. I like Tom, he is clear and at the same time not devoid of sensitivity. Tom understands. At least that’s what the thought growing in my mind seems to say. Tom is keen to show me the box of records he is keeping. I notice straight away the promo copy of pillows and prayers with its stapled extra tall cover sticking out the top. The record that would have been an eBay sensation… then tom flips to my copy of setting sons by the jam. These are records I remember buying. This was the album directly after the sublime All Mod Cons and I remember being vaguely disappointed with it then. Girl On The Phone will never grow on me despite containing the lyric “ she knows the size of my cock”. I mean that is a very strange choice for an opening track. I just had to check that really was the opening track and notice that it was recorded in 1979. I was eleven and I already knew what I liked. What I liked was the Modern World a far more romantic indeterminate album. With these thoughts flashing through my brain in under a second I wave my hand and demand that Tom stops showing me. Tom understands. I now realise that Tom is used to dealing with bereavement. His tone is gentle and functional. I am laying my records to rest and tom is helping me expertly through the process. I never got around to alphabeticising them and would have to look through them to know what records I had. Owning records is not always about obssesively cataloguing them. One day I would systemise my collection but until then at least each time I played a record was like diving for treasure. This diving has been increasingly rare in my days of parenthood. Parenthood is a very different process to adulthood. I seem to have spent most of my parenthood trying to pack up or jettison all the shackles that I gained during adulthood. Thinking about it most of my records were from childhood. I did start to put records onto my computer and every now and then will be surprised by the 60 min version of See Emily play popping up on my I pod. If I were to break down the time it would have taken to put my records on hard drive I would have had to reduce my sleep to a mere 2 hours in order to find the time for the thousands of farts I do every year. Setting Sons was the only record Tom managed to see me and now its after image burns into my consciousness like the reverse image of Jesus Christ in a Victorian novelty gift book. It was a rubbish record. On the Canadian release they had Strange Town as the first track. In England this haunting piece of urban alienation fell between albums. I used to like it when singles could be caught between long playing releases. It made life more interesting when you had to seek things out.
I make further small talk with Tom being careful not to be too sentimental. Neither of us needs to point out the obvious emotional resonance of this exchange. I mean Tom has seen my records and has guessed that I bought them when they came out. “I’m just happy that someone will get some enjoyment from them,” I tell Tom who reports that yes there are people who like to come in here and browse of a weekend. I leave with £85 and two boxes of unwanted albums that will all sell for lots on eBay. Girl on the Phone would never have grown on me. Now I can start again. Find myself in a strange town - which was the one Jam record I never owned. Perhaps Tom has a copy in stock.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Football dads

 I have become a football dad. Okay I was already one last season but that was football-dad-lite and came free. For a start it was, whisper it, a church league. There was always a prayer before kick off and one of the hazards was a certain coach who seemed to enjoy asking me, in a Columbo style line of questioning, to remind him which church we went to. My son’s team, despite being an overspill squad, won the league in what turned out to be a nail biting close to the season. This season he is playing for an eleven a side team and I am suddenly one of the squad drivers. Last week in the car park one of the boys remarked on the soft suspension and I became aware of just how low I had let the tyre pressure get. Now coming from a family of panickers I always get a sinking feeling when confronted with something as simple as a flat tyre. It feels like fate has caught up with me and has decided to show me I was never meant to be a vehicle owner (Our family panicking is well founded and not totally irrational – my dad once tried to fix the gas cooker in the camper van we had borrowed off the metal work teacher. We all found his resulting lack of facial hair rather amusing but inwardly each of us decided never to try and fix anything ourselves again.) Added to this I was low on petrol last week and failed to go to a garage between then and todays game. In my defence I don’t drive to work and on the days I work at home I spiral in a panic wondering how on earth I can do anything in the window of time between dropping the youngest son at school and the eldest returning home progressively early. So off we set to the rival pitch in the southwest (we are southeast) hoping the tyre will hold out and the petrol won’t run dry. I decide that my habitual favourite, Brian Matthew is not the moral boosting sound the boys need on their way to the game so put on my cd of wry Swedish Utopian-pop by a group called Komeda, “There’s a place where you can go if you want to have fun… microwave, computer for the child” No no no that is just depressing I think and catch a glimpse of one of the boys yawning in the rear view mirror. My father never had trouble with slippage between his choice of music in the car and the need to gee up the players. He seemed to have a great time coming to my matches in a fake fur coat and giant red hand knitted scarf – all very tom baker. My abiding memory of my father at my matches is of him sharing a good joke with the fathers of my teammates. They were laughing at grown up stuff from a world that I would one day be initiated into. I felt sort of proud that I had a dad who was there to watch. That simple really. At other times I would accompany him on the longer drives with Horsham Town FC. He was always very proud of how, when the players complained that he was driving slowly, he was able to explain that his grey Wolseley actually was cruising at 60mph.
      Last season, in the church league, I discovered my untapped depths of primordial passion and quickly learnt that simply shouting "come on the Fire" (their overspill suffix) was sufficient but even that was deemed too much by my son. My own father was the same (as my son) and frowned upon parents who bellowed and instructed their sons that they were playing like fairies. I also learnt that hassling the referee in the appropriate manner does get results. If he doesn’t give a free kick the first time with enough vocal criticism he will think harder next time. To be honest the team was a real Bash Street Kids mixture of personalities with a real sense of camaraderie. This, however, is not why they won the league. No the coaches son was probably the main reason. My boy was not without his moments of inspired performance and I swear I heard his teammates referring to him as “A freak” due to his sudden inclinations to run past several members of the opposition and score from an impossible angle. My Son The Freak I thought proudly.
This season he is a centre forward in an eleven a side team. You don’t get the ball much when you’re a centre forward in an eleven a side team but he is very happy. He did win a penalty this week and fired a couple across the goal – all very useful but we are yet to see The Freak emerge.
We actually (We!) joined the squad a few games into the season and consequently had no idea that yesterday’s fixture was a minor grudge match. Half way through the second half we took the lead due to a freak free kick going through the legs of their hitherto goliath-like goalkeeper. He cried and we cheered. The anguish spread to the rest of the team, one of whom fouled and then slapped our other centre forward. Wrong choice. He then leapt and pivoted whilst swiftly removing his shirt in the same movement. I am not fluent in the semiotics of football attire and have since learnt that this manoeuvre means I want to knock your block off but not bring dishonour upon the badge of my club. After the game the coach congratulated the boy on the grounds that she would have refrained from taking her top off if someone had slapped her. She is a great coach and somehow brings imagination to a rigorous structured approach. My son is lucky to have found his way into the heart of the team. He says they are good friends after only two games. Indeed, the leaping shirt removing player had greeted me with an “hello Arthur’s dad” from the touch line before kick off and after the game I struggled to find a good line in why he should not have tried to knock the block off the member of the opposition who had slapped him. The sight of all the parents piling onto the pitch, one mother bundling up her son with the primal scream of a simple “noooooooooooo” had been the nearest I’ve been to being in a Mike Leigh film and yet I failed to find the script for myself as the avuncular newcomer who spread a message of peace through the under twelve football world. Oh well its training today so you never know.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

primordial experience

Why does the search for the primordial experience feel harder to find these days? This was a question I half formed in my mind as, en famille, we marched with a growing throng of other villagers towards the annual bonfire (resists the urge to add bun fight). I mean all the ingredients are there – darkness, smells of cooking flesh, general hubbub of anticipation, big fire (not as big as last year – never is – will be a single match by the year 2065), alcohol, explosions and lights from neighbouring villages, mud squelching under foot, barricades… but still it feels like a simulacra of the real thing. We all know what we’re doing. Think of those kerazy surrealist dudes who took up automatic drawing with gusto only to find themselves falling into a pattern of knowing precisely what they were going to draw within a few months. Well that’s like fireworks night or rather bonfire night. I stood there remembering the previous years when I had felt all poetic like I was part of a genuinely pagan ritual (except perhaps the queuing at the bar designed for a dozen people). I made films and took photos. The fireworks had seemed to add up to something beyond the realms of the rational and even then as I had watched I saw their history flash within my mind’s eye – Chinese people inventing them (in lab coats!!?) up to a factory somewhere in the former Soviet Union producing them today. Yes I knew they were a concocted item making cash flow but still as they exploded into the night sky the wonder came upon me. Yes the specificity of the chemicals and the cardboard construction married to the mysterious living lights was a perfect symbiosis of the brain’s two hemispheres. But that was then.
This year I was, if you must know, pretty happy attending the cricket club bonfire without pursuing lofty spiritual enlightenment. No I was happy to be in my sensible Wellington boots holding hands with my boys thinking about the flask of mulde wine in the bag over my wife’s shoulder. This was the nearest I could get to being in Midsomer (without the ever present threat of murder due to the associations the name of one’s locale produces). Simple pleasures. We were well prepared and there would be no overwhelming existential moments at the bar as yet another even foot successful banker/lawyer got served ahead of me. There was lightness to the proceedings - The lady at the entrance with a bucket collecting the fivers and the chance happenings upon friends and parents of children at the same school as our own. There was no over formalisation and no need to hang on to each other in the darkness. Sounds like a vicar’s dream of how church could be. A friend suggested that the temptation on the bucket lady must have been very great and yes ha ha but no I don’t think she even so much as looked in the bucket. Now I know you’re thinking such is the affluent nature of the area we somehow happen to live in but in the darkness it all slowly began to morph into a far more human experience. I guess I’m groping at trying to make something more Breugel than Picabia. The darkness is a great leveller. By the end of the evening life felt connected, even somehow realigned. The bonfire bun fight (okay okay) had acted as a vast human processing machine designed by Dickens. All the niggling irritations I had on the way down like "why are the green-wellied morons infront of me walking so slowly?" had vaporised. Now if I were designing a relaxation cd I might well ask you to imagine packing all your worries into a roman candle and light the fuse and stand back gazing in awe as they momentarily reveal their incandescent fleetingness before disappearing completely. Might have to work on the voice over. I’ve got the music covered.
But how did this happen? I don’t remember noticing. The fireworks were exceptional. So perhaps this was it. There were new varieties – we were all struck by the Catherine wheel crossed with a rocket that created mini solar systems drifting into the night sky. Or the crackling ones -started orange and fizzled into blue, which put me in mind of unwrapping a sweet from a box of quality street in a non ironic manner. Later I described this one to a parent acquaintance as she knew exactly the fireworks I meant from the sound I made (like a rapidly frying lardon) and added “very technical”. Ah you see we find the experience beyond literacy to be quaint but it’s there in all of us perhaps it even is us and we, my friends are, the parasitic wasps. Mmm. Also as we watched the wondrous melange of son et lumier I thought how jolly marvellous it was that we celebrate something that might have happened with what it might have looked like if it had. Of course we aaaallll know that this fulfils the needs of having a post harvest festival gathering around the fire as the nights draw in but it is uniquely British in terms of being a genuine act of surrealism. It would make more sense if Guy Fawkes actually had had the chance to light the fuse and we were recreating the scene above parliament that day but no, a man gets hung drawn and quartered (I’m guessing) and we go about taunting his effigy with how things might have been.
 We return home and the x factor unites the nation with a similar display of pyrotechnics. Poor Frankie Cocozza, I muse, a lamb to the slaughter. Poor poor Kitty – you can’t dance luv. All these people, I’m sure are on bonfires around this beloved nation of ours. And somehow, for one night only, it all makes sense.
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