Awkward?

This post is the long-awaited sequel to Ground Zero, covering the continuing adventures of the Blog Soul Brothers, following their first meeting this past Sunday.  Taking my cue from Peter Jackson, I am planning to expand relatively modest source material into a nine hour CGI epic (OK, there won’t be much CGI – but I suppose I might inveigle on my brother to bring some of his critically-acclaimed Paint skills to bear).

When we left our heroes, they were enjoying a responsible half (each – budget limitations did not force us to share a single half) in a public house located in London’s trendy Islington.  What happened next will astound you!  (And people say I’ve learnt nothing from Buzzfeed).

Given that we had both made the trek into London and that I could not be certain we could sustain an entire day in conversation (not, in fact, a problem: I’m now fairly sure the act of talking could carry us through several days, if required – or even if not), I thought it might be an idea to organise some sort of structured activity for the evening.  Given the literary nature of our brotherhood, I naturally thought of the theatre – and while options are limited on a Sunday, the Finborough does offer a performance and via my (paid) friendship I could score us a pair of free tickets (I am an attentive “date”, but may be doing things on the cheap).  Thus it was we made our way, via the UK’s most famous resistance movement, to sun drenched Earl’s Court.  It is at this stage that the attentive reader will be starting to think (probably with some justification) that I have massively oversold what happened next.  Let’s just say that I was directing that particular sentence at those whose bar of amazement (and wouldn’t that be a great name for a piece of confectionary?) is set pretty low, and leave it at that.

I will admit that I had not massively researched the play in advance, beyond the convenient nature of its timing, and so it was that we attended the World Premiere of A Third by Laura Jacqmin.  The staging was very interesting, with the theatre re-cast as the interior of a New York apartment.  Most of the audience were perched around the edge, but some had to sit on the apartment’s furniture.  Having been set up by my brother (who nabbed the last edge seat), I found myself sitting at the dining table (though I didn’t remain here for the whole performance).  The “third” in the title refers to an established couple bringing in a third person (initially singular but later plural) to boost their enjoyment of the activities associated with, what I will in future (thanks to Adam Rutherford) be referring to as, gene flow events.  In consequence, all of the cast (of four) spend a substantial amount of the play in their skimpies (though the play also boasted the most costume changes I’ve ever seen at the Finborough) – and, given the very modest size of the theatre, the audience is very close to the “action”.  At various times, I found myself little more than an inch from some of the cast, and at one stage was moved from the dining table to the couch so that two of the characters could get physical (to quote Olivia Newton-John) without me becoming the unwanted meat in their amorous sandwich.  My brother found this very amusing, though I was far from the worst located of the audience when it came to close contact with the cast (and being at the edge was not as secure a defence as some had assumed).  Part of the joy of the play is watching the rest of the audience and their reactions to what is happening: the staging makes us all really rather complicit in the events portrayed.  It also became important after a certain stage that my brother and I did not look directly at each other for fear of collapsing in inappropriate laughter.

The play is rather good and deliberately funny in many places – and I had a chance to enjoy much more comfortable seating than is theatrically traditional.  The moral, if one exists, is probably that you want to be very sure you are the sort of people who can handle it before you invite a third party (or parties) into the marital bed (not just wish that you were such folk).  One of my main takeaways was the sheer size of the feet of one of the actors – they were massive: long, wide and tall.  I’ve seen smaller examples gracing CGI giants, and the rest of his body did not seem proportionately huge.  How the poor boy acquires shoes – or even socks – I don’t know, I suppose he may have them made specially.  Or perhaps he is allowed to keep his foot-based costume after each acting job?  Was it this hope of a regular supply of footwear which drove him to follow Thespis, I wonder?

Writing this post, I have been struck that my choice of play could be considered a slightly awkward one, given its thematic content and the fact this was the first time two people had come together in the flesh (as it were).  I would like to reassure readers that there was no underlying motive (and I have cross-examined my subconscious very closely on this topic) in my selection and I am not attempting to force anyone into a ménage-à-trois (or even à-quatre) against their will.

If I am honest, the real revelation of our evening at the theatre was the joy of going with a friend.  I have always gone stag to the theatre in the past, but discussing the play afterwards with my brother – first on the tube and then on the Southbank over a hot chocolate – was an absolute joy.  I suppose it probably helps that, as a writer, he is full of interesting insights and questions – but I had no idea what I’d been missing out on all these years.  I may start dragging him to the theatre on a much more frequent basis.  Perhaps this largely anti-social stance to culture of mine has been a dreadful mistake?

All good things must come to an end (as I believe the Second Law of Thermodynamics insists – it also has little succour to offer bad things) and so a little before eleven, we caught our separate carriages (as supplied by BREL and Siemens) home.  Conversation had to move to the form of SMS text messaging and my inadequate thumbs were pressed into service.  I am slightly surprised (and disappointed) that giffgaff have not emailed me to check if my phone has been stolen: in a twenty-four hour period I sent (and received) more texts than usually occurs in an entire year.

Is this the end for our heroes?  Did Southwest Trains defy expectation and actually deliver them to their respective homes in a manner congruent with its timetable-based promises?  Did anyone think to drop an unaccountably vitreous item of footwear before the clock struck midnight?

To be continued…

Ground zero

The Place:  Beneath the clock, Waterloo Station, London
The Time:  11:04 am (BST), Sunday 28 June 2015

The moment that all of creation had been leading up to (in common with all other moments) finally arrived on Sunday.  My blog soul brother and I finally met face-to-case, mano-a-mano (quite literally, hands were shaken) and what had only been virtual was physically instantiated.  Men (and women and many of the great apes) will count their manhood (or woman or ape-hood) cheap who were not there to witness that momentous occasion.  The earth itself was rocked upon its very axis – can it be a mere coincidence that today a leap second must be added to the day to restore temporal equilibrium?

As I waited ‘neath that clock (I will admit that one of us was slightly late – our thanks to Southwest Trains for making this possible – but even the most skilled of CIA interrogators would be unable to extract the name from betwixt my unwilling lips) – so resonant with previous historic encounters – I will admit that my heart rate was racing.  Had one (or both) of us been using a body-double for our blog presence?  Would we be able to live up to our screen personas?  Could I reasonably offer to remove a smut from his eye in this day of third rail electrification and modern diesel multiple units?

At this point, in an attempt to build quite unnecessary suspense, I will take a brief digression into the realm historic.  As research for this post, I discovered that our first encounter had taken place in late March when my brother followed GofaDM and I alluded to this fact (and his apparent lunacy) in the following post.  However, it was only early this month that our literary bond was truly formed and the level of inter-blog interaction reached its current peak – a level which has (at times) now exceeded the comment nesting capabilities of WordPress and forced us, fugitive, into the arms of Gmail (and beyond).

OK, I shall release you from your tenterhooks and return from this narrative suspension.  My blog soul brother and I get on ridiculously well in the flesh – and did so pretty much instantly.  It was like meeting up with an old friend, but even better as it was an old friend who has yet to hear most of my anecdotes (and vice versa).  Despite his protestations as to his conversational skills (allegedly atrophied by writerly isolation), he was more than able to hold his own against the word torrent that I am capable of generating.  We must have spoken pretty much without cease for three hours outside the Royal Festival Hall (I’m sure the commemorative plaque is being fitted even now) enjoying first the fresh air and then hiding (and filming) the unforecast and rather heavy rain.

At this point we had to make our way to Angel to join the walk which was very much the inciting incident for this narrative.  In Iain Banks’ novel Walking on Glass, one of the primary characters – Graham Park – walks from Holborn up towards the Angel on 28 June – and both being fans of the author, a replication of this walk organised by the writer of The Banksoniain (an Iain Banks fanzine) had given us the excuse to come together.  The walk was moderately diverting, passing through many scenes in the book and in the life of Mr Banks (and also fragments of the life and works of Douglas Adams – and, indeed, mine own).  I learned a number of things, but primarily that when it comes to climbing the mountain of literary obsession I am still back at basecamp (actually, I’m probably still at home preparing a day pack and selecting inappropriate footwear).  We wound up at the Hope and Anchor (which Iain referred to using a name rhyming with Hopeless Banker) in the northern reaches of Upper Street (not far from a bar which once barred entry to my brother-in-law).  I rather doubt that our fellow walkers imagined that we had only known each other for a small handful of hours when the walk began: I suspect some thought we were an item (and that I was punching well above my weight).

When historians come to write the history of the twenty-first century, I think they will recognise this first meeting as a turning point for humanity.   Of late, geologists have been pondering when (or if) to switch to a new geological era – the Anthropocene – but I think this discussion has now been superseded.  On 28 June 2015, we passed from the Holocene into the Blogocene era.   It was truly an historic day – and at this stage, it was far from over!

The Blog Soul Brothers will return in:   AWKWARD?

Marx’ missive anniversary

I’ll admit that I have not fact-checked the title, but there must be a fighting chance that Karl penned some sort of letter on June 28th.  However (and there’s one in the eye for Michael Gove), there can be no doubt that tomorrow is a red letter day for GofaDM.  One (of the many) alternative titles for this post was “When blogs collide!” for, in little more than twenty-four of your earth hours, my blog soul brother and yours truly will finally meet “in the flesh” at a location rich in historic resonance.

The most eagerly anticipated encounter since the Rumble in the Jungle, though hopefully with less bloodshed (I certainly don’t plan on going down in the eighth) and probably with a smaller live audience.  Every lifeform within the light cone of central London must surely be holding its breath (or local equivalent) for the first truly great event of the third millennium of the Current Era (and those beyond must be desperately seeking the tachyon).  A day that will go down in (and possibly on) history.

In my forty-nine (and a bit) years on this unfashionably damp lump of rock, this rendezvous is without precedent.  Given the extraordinarily wide-ranging interactions we have enjoyed via WordPress, in some ways I know my brother better than people I’ve known for decades – where more traditional conversation rarely takes such Byzantine pathways through language and the human experience.  There is definitely something to be said for each participant in a conversation being allowed a thousand words or so before their interlocutor is required to participate (and perhaps some preparation time and access to a small Reference Library): I, at least, can achieve a much higher level of superficiality and/or foolishness under such circumstances.

Heretofore, our passionate, literary affair has been pursued entirely in text (and some judicious application of his legendary Paint skills on the part of my brother), like some modern day, blog-based Abelard and Eloise.  Like them, our interaction has scandalised a community – and almost spawned a new Widget for WordPress (I believe A+E spawned more traditional issue).  I trust that unlike them we will both be left physically intact and free from constraining convent walls – one can take historic parallels too far.

Given the hype, today I find myself in a frenzy of preparations for the main event.  Is it too late for plastic surgery?  What should I wear?  At my age, I generally only meet new people when suited and booted – but this seems overly formal.  Following this week’s Thinking Allowed, should I affect the black roll-necked sweater with a Gitane(s) perched insouciantly between my lips (a plan which will be fine unless I light it, at which point my pretence at left-bank, intellectual sang-froid will be cruelly exposed by a coughing fit).  Alternatively, having massively enjoyed Victoria Coren-Mitchell’s recent series on How to be a Bohemian (if you missed it, you should really seek it out on iPlayer) should my dress embrace the avant-garde?  Should I go with the round glasses or the square?  (For the Playschool massive, I will admit that I have no arched glasses – yet).  Traditional advice would suggest that I should “be myself” (or avoid that altogether), but who am I?

On reflection, the ship of first impressions sailed long ago and Vlogging a Dead Horse does rather reveal my lack of sartorial depth.  That is the problem with so extensively blogging my existence, there is little that the determined reader cannot deduce about the author by this stage (though I continue to remain an enigma to e-marketers – and myself).  So, I think I shall dress for comfort (rather than style – as if this latter were ever an option) in a manner compatible with the forecast weather conditions.

Unusually, readers may be offered two different points-of-view on the epochal events of tomorrow.  Or I suppose we could live-blogging the whole day?  (If that is even possible with WordPress). This could mean that I have a little less licence than usual when preparing the narrative for the GofaDM audience.  Alternatively, we might just both agree to lie outrageously about what happens in the desire to build the legend.

Eternity, here we come!

Muse musings

In days of old, it was not uncommon for artists to have a muse who would inspire them to achieve even greater heights in their chosen field.  The artists tended to be male and the muses female, and often of less than difficult virtue, so I suspect there may have been an ulterior motive and gland games were probably involved. It seems high time, after more than four years of GofaDM, that I provide some explanation for the term “gland games” that I tend to bandy about – usually in the context of my own lack of interest therein.  Readers may wonder what I have against having a little fun with the lymphatic system or a couple of rubbers of Contract Bridge with my pituitary.  The simple answer is nothing, except in the case of the ratites (birds of the infraclass Palaeognathae) in which the males use lymphatic fluid to raise their standard (as it were).  The phrase “gland games” comes from the 1984 movie The Last Starfighter and so I have been using it for some thirty years now.  It is coined by the beta unit – a simulant left behind to cover for the ostensible hero while he is off fighting Xur and the Ko-dan armada – while seeking to repel the amorous advances of the hero’s girlfriend.  In my view, Beta is the true hero of the film – he gives up his artificial life to save the day and create the conditions for victory, but his sacrifice is completely ignored by the rest of the cast.  If, in the future, our artificial children extirpate the human race it will be incidents like this that will have driven them to it – you mark my words! Suitably invigorated by that little diversion, let us return to the A-road of this post with the risk of falling asleep at the wheel much reduced.  Many of you may have wondered whether some muse sits behind the scenes, perhaps in a state of some deshabille, helping to inspire the relentless production line of foolishness that is such an integral part of GofaDM.  In all honesty, I must report that this person does not exist – or not yet, though applications from suitably qualified candidates will be considered. To date, GofaDM has relied solely on the slow decay of the brain of its author.  He has to hope that events in his life or things he has seen, heard or read will spark some slight glimmer of light in the slowly darkening twilight of his mind.  On a good day, a couple of neurones will stir from their torpor to induce some threshold level of axonal excitement and another post will burst forth to plague humanity.  On a really good day, the Muse will descend, from her Mount Parnassus based pied-á-terre, in guise of fire and deliver the precious gift of inspiration – but as regular readers can attest, such visits are rare indeed (usually, I just find a card through the letterbox to say she called while I was out). However, recently matters have changed.  I have started dipping the tip of my toe into the shallows of the ocean of social media and as a result the comments section of this blog is alight with input from beyond the author’s own empty head (well, assuming anything exists out there – but this is not the time for such philosophising).  I have even started commenting on other blogs – in a clear attempt to sabotage the opposition and reduce them to my level.  The written thoughts of others can be amazing and they go to such strange places: places I could never visit unaided (or not without the ingestion of proscribed substances or huge red wine intake).  The joy of the blog format is that ideas come in much more manageable chunks than when reading a whole book (for example) and can develop through interaction – something I believe I was hoping for in An Opening Salvo, but have done little to encourage heretofore.  I cannot see how the sentence “a statuette of the crucified Christ has yet to laser me in the forehead” in reference to St Rita of Cascia would ever have happened without this interaction, and the world (or my corner of it) would be a lesser place without it. As a result of finding my blog soul brother – check it out now! – in the last couple of weeks, inspiration has come not as single spies but as battalions (to abuse both Hamlet and Fatboy Slim in a single sentence).  I am now viewing even more of my life with a writer’s eye thinking: can this be shoe-horned into a post?  I even fondly imagine that my writing is improving with less of the purely diary-based filler and rather more of the conceptual killer.  If nothing else, my productivity has improved significantly which could be viewed as a good thing (I would suggest this viewing is probably best attempted from a distance – I believe EGS-zs8-1 is lovely at this time of year – and through heavily smoked glass). If any other reader wants to join in – and is not afraid to shoulder some of the blame for the consequences – I can assure you that I very rarely bite (and if I do, these are all my own teeth).