So, an evening in Brighton. A pint of warm Deuchars at the Cricketers, which is where Graham Greene drank. Two men wander past and I overhear that Brighton has 800 pubs. I don’t know if this is true. The MeCCSA 2020 opening ceremony is at the Brighton Museum and Gallery, and we drink a few wines and then go to the pub. Before that I’m in The Mash Tun where they are stewing the mulled wine and the whole place smells of cinnamon and nutmeg. Not altogether unpleasant, but still. Brighton seems a bit shabby, maybe Winters are harsh here with the salt air. I end up eating a burger in The Ivy.
As usual, the calendar year winds itself to an exhausted and inconclusive end. Here are some things I learned in the year 2019
- Childcare is hard
- As you age, hangovers increase in severity, but it’s not a straight line correlation. It’s actually a curve whose gradient increases exponentially until the gradient is infinity (y=severity where x=time of life, commonly known as ‘age’)
- Conservative voters are unconcerned for the future of the youth and in doing so express their selfishness its pure, vital terms
- It is possible to tire of coffee made using a v60 cone
- A tiny bit of salt in coffee does actually smooth out the taste
- Your surroundings affect your mood and having a child, with everything you own constantly strewn everywhere, slowly chips away at your sense of self
- KonMarie your stuff
- Western ‘commentators’ love to misunderstand and demonize “the Other’ as part of an age old enterprise, see bullet point above
- It is possible to tire of craft ale
- Craft ale has become mass market ale
- I am not suited to WhatsApp groups
- The far right is on the rise, globally
- The Age of Empire is in retreat and Brexit can be understood as the UK retreating to lick its wounds on its safe little island
- The 2016 referendum will be remembered in history as the event that broke up the UK, finally, and returned England to its retirement years
My year in sandwiches. Disappointing. Don’t think I had a single one that I really enjoyed. The general quality has really gone down and so has the variety. Depressing.
The Joy of the Debut. There’s that fearlessness, and it is to do with the invention on the fly, the trammelled ways have not yet been put in place. It can be gauche or breathtaking in equal measure and it is art’s taking your first unaided steps, the tottering around. Is it because it is unbounded by expectations: I think so. There’s a freedom of limb, of mind, of voice that rarely returns. After this the world of people wanting something like this, or something like that, and you can’t catch this quicksilver again. It’s like bottling magic, impossible, that swagger that comes from looking at the task with the calm eyes of
But then they take it away.
And it will never return?
Is this the middle way, then, bleary eyes, and a hangover that won’t quit? I search for something in your eyes that might equate to sparkling passion but all I find is a direct debit chit and a parking receipt to a National Trust car park. I wonder who I am – am I a John Raymond Baxbury stumbling to a spiritual death, a Chaucerian character caught in some animal facsimile, a greying fox hunting around bin bags and slipping on bin juice on a Sunday morning, my head hitting the wall with the death dull thump of a rotten apple? ‘Life’s what you make it,’ goes the song. But the middle way has its onerous burdens beyond the pop song.
_____ groans and heads back to sleep. It’s far too bright outside.
A friend asked if I wanted to go along to a gig later this year. The band that are playing are called Inhaler, so off I went to look them up. It turns out the band are fronted by Bono’s youngest son, who in voice and looks bears an uncanny resemblance to the big man. I listened to the band using a well-known streaming service. They haven’t put much material out but the songs that I did listen to are almost mid to late period U2, although the publicity machine around Inhaler claim the more street-cred generating Echo and the Bunnymen as a formative influence. I looked through the pictures of the Hewson clan, and realised that despite a boyhood mania for U2, stretching to playing their albums on repeat to the extent I can barely listen to them now, I hadn’t ever been remotely curious about Bono’s children. The web of course, has been curious on my behalf and has millions of pictures of them, as they grew up, went to parties, got papped and hung out with other rich kids. The mania over their ‘career choices’ had entire newspaper stories built around them.
It got me thinking about Bono Jr and his bands’ passage to this sound, this delivery, this cadence. The story is familiar enough to echo the lore, plausibly. Four guys meet at a school in Blackrock, Dublin. They make guitar music. They are signed to a deal. How is it possible to have avoided thirty years of music influence and end up sounding like post-POP U2, when U2 went ahead and ditched the experimentation and went solidly for the coin. The hauntology of vaporware, absent. The compression and sparsity of grime and drill, not there. Even the strides that guitar music has made aren’t there. There’s arguably more modernity in the 1975.
It seems all so boring – the band photographed lovingly by Anais Gallagher, daughter of Noel Gallagher, and forming a sort of already finished, already massive, road-ready and heavy rotation ready successor to U2. Rock dynasties. I mean, I guess plenty of young men follow in their father’s footsteps, and not all young men will have Paul Hewson as their father. But it’s an oddly modern tale, Bloomian anxieties of influence without the anxiety, just the cool, calm collected wearing of an inheritance like a comfortable silken slipper.
Some kind of fealty to my inner projected self is necessary, if only to stop the whole world becoming unmoored. But the courage to face up to what’s there and say, ‘no, this is not quite right – not right at all’ and then move onwards is something I seek. If not an Adlerian ‘courage to be disliked’, then a more neutral strength to steer my immediate atavisms and more humdrum urges to a more real truth. ‘I don’t need to be that person’ is the summary, but the empty and open question after is ‘well, what next?’
Michel Foucault talks about selfwriting and correspondence as being the cornerstones of a self-examinational toolkit that itself is crucial to a life well lived. It’s not always easy to take the time to write, or even to have the impetus to have anything to say above the basic mundanities of every day existence but perhaps that is enough. Certainly, that is the quotidian reality of much of our time spend on this planet.
I am in Landover, MD, in an empty hotel lobby with pop rock playing quietly, and I can see three television sets from where I am sitting. The overwhelming background noise is provided by an ancient refridgeration system that is, from what I can see, only keeping some bottles cold. Manchester City have just secured their second English Premier League title in a row, the first team in a decade to retain the title and doing it with record stats both times. Pep’s talent and drive seem unassailable, but you might argue being able to bring Sane, Jesus and Mahrez on from the bench gives them an advantage, as well as being funded by oil money of the kind that buys you whatever you need. You still need to do something with it all though. This isn’t Rich Kids of Instagram.
I should take a walk, but it’s raining, and there’s really nowhere to walk to, at least, not without putting in a half hour on pavements not designed for humans to actually use. Still, I should do something with this rare day of what you might call ‘leisure’. These days will not come easily, any more and those vanishingly rare days of wanton and directionless excess receed into the past. The mind is no longer capable; the body no longer willing or able. I must resign myself to having burned the candle at both ends, rather, such that there really isn’t much candle left.
The debate about songs that sound like other songs has been around since there was more than one song, and even when there were three songs, a bro would turn up to argue about anxiety of influence. Ever since one person got up and made a speech to the town square, there’s been an eager video content guy wanting to monetize the TEDx out of that bastard. I digress. I did, however, notice that ‘Anxiety’ by Frank Turner sounds very much like ‘Where Is My Mind?’ by The Pixies. Then again, if they’re not complaining (the people that is, who receive royalties, and might find their share diminished) then who am I to argue? It’s just that with the other song on the album that sounds a lot like ‘Supermassive Black Hole’ by Muse, you wonder what’s exactly going on here. Then you, gently, realise that you don’t … care? I look around. Do I look like a copyright lawyer? No. We continue on, past the rubicon. We cross this sucker all the time! We go from a soft soap interview to “Liam Neeson Apologises Profusely For Race Remarks…” and then back again and it just increases the money in the circle jerk. He’s still bankable. We pause, to congratulate – to salute something – not sure what – so this, a smile to stage right as a ghost appears to grin through broken grimy teeth. He’ll come for you soon enough.
This is coming along (my chapbook) but one or two revisions are troubling me. And maybe its too easy to be cynical, negative. But finally I have a few things and they’re on the way to the Kindle Store.
The principle, of course, is old – as are so many of these things. They all come from something ancient. The idea is to limit yourself in a way easily accessible to you as a person. The idea is to be quiet, to practice a kind of omerta, but of course it has none of that import, so it just resembles a flippant vow. A silent vow, of silence. And how could it assemble any gravitas? All the gravitas I’ve seen in my life has been rich people telling people far less rich than them what to do. So there is no gravitas, no HBO contract for two series of naval gazing and sad nudity, no. It’s actually so basic, and so startling simple as to render me dumbstruck : the purity of it is amazing.