Chulerías

Despite learning Spanish twice during my life – once at school and then again, a decade-and-a-half later, for work – and acquiring a reasonably varied vocabulary, I did not encounter the title until yesterday evening.  It does not appear in my dictionary, and so I have had to rely on the web’s favourite translation aid.  As a result, I fervently hope that it does mean “cool stuff” and not something obscene and/or offensive (I can’t really afford to upset some 400 million readers at this stage in my writing career).

Even before encountering the title, my life yesterday had a somewhat Spanish flavour – despite no ham being involved.  The new day started with a new book, The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón which I am reading in English translation (Southampton library does not provide a long enough loan – even with maximum renewals – for me to tackle it in its original tongue).  At times, it does seem to be rather directed at me as a newly admitted writer and it is clear that Don Basilio would not approve of my style and its adjectival liberality.  At other times, its protagonist reminds me of my brother – but I am only up to page 70, so this may change.

Last night, I had my first full experience of live flamenco – at the Arthouse Cafe, as regular readers might have guessed.  I had seen a little flamenco-inflected guitar many years ago at the Meson Don Felipe in the Cut in London while I munched on tapas and consumed a glass or two of blude-red wine.  On that occasion, it was just a guitarist perched precariously above the doorway leading to the facilities.  Yesterday, Jero Férec and his Flamenco Group – fresh from Ronnie Scott’s – provided not just the guitarist but two singers and a dancer.  Yet another amazing guitarist – and even more depressingly youthful than those that had come before him – and another musical style for me to enjoy at the Arthouse.  The two singers were also extraordinary and I, at least, thought I caught more than a hint of the Umayyad caliphate in their slightly unearthly vocal performance – many years ago, I heard a small amount of a flamenco mass on CD, but it hadn’t prepared me for the reality.  As part of the evening, I also learned that any previously attempts at rhythmic clapping were mere child’s play compared to the rigours of the flamenco beat: performers’ hands must be red raw after a performance.

On any normal night, the guitar or singing would have been the highlight – but to my surprise that honour must go to the dancing.  Usually, dancing does very little for me – it usually seems at best pointless and often laughable.  Last night, no-one was laughing: we would have been too scared.  Despite being the very image of imperial Spanish hauteur, the dancer had a prosaically English name: Ollie Giffin.  His dancing was commanding and somehow very adult: tap which is perhaps a distant cousin appears rather infantile in comparison.  The dance is intensely physical and at time the rhythm seems impossibly fast for a tall man in relatively high-heeled wooden-soled shoes.  He did have very sturdy thews which may have helped but, on a sample of one, I can’t be sure whether this was critical to his mastery of the dance.  It is not just a physical experience for the dancer but also for the audience as the vibration is transmitted through both the room and your body.  I strongly suspect that flamenco is an art-form best experienced live – with something vital lost in its recording (while I believe gaming controllers can provide haptic feedback, I doubt this has yet been exploited in the context of dance music).  I feel rather privileged that I can experience some of the thrill of downtown Seville, just a brief stroll from my home.  You can catch a flavour of the experience from the Arthouse’s Facebook page or via the link supplied above.

Incredible though the dance was, I do worry about young Ollie’s feet.  The shoes looked less than comfortable and I fear that the combination of the violence of the dance and his sockless condition (his choice, I assume) would render his feet a mass of blisters, cuts and partially-healed scars.  He did, wisely I would imagine, restrict his dancing to brief, if very intense bursts.  Still, I have once again established my suitability, in all but the purely physical sense, for the role of somebody’s maiden aunt.

The title I came across when researching Jero after the concert.  When even younger than he is today – still just at school, even – he released an album and it provided the title for this post which truly covers “cool things”.

Am I a writer?

This is terribly poor form, of course.  If I see a newspaper posing a question, I usually read no further: why are they asking me?  I am clearly an idiot.  Couldn’t the journalist (or sub-editor) in question have found an expert, rather than relying on the readership to do their work for them?

This is also not going to develop into a Poll – while these can be created within WordPress, it seems like quite a lot of hassle to set one up and I am not 100% sure that I want to know the answer.

No, once again we’ll all have to face the existential angst that lies at the dark heart of GofaDM and its author.  You will be fellow travellers on his quest to find some small speck of identity to grasp and call his own.  It’s his own fault, of course, he has rejected all the readily available identities that the modern world is willing to offer: he is clearly far too picky, no wonder he lives alone with an idiot.

Clearly, at the purely trivial level, I am a writer as a result of all the ‘stuff’ I seem to have written in this virtual space over the last few years (this would seem to be post 649 for any stats fans out there).  Indeed, I way well have written more material during the lifespan of GofaDM than many who would self-identify as writers.  However, unusually for this blog, we are not going to be satisfied with the trivial: we are going to worry at the cheap veneer with a fingernail to catch a glimpse of what may lie beneath.

Why, you might ask (and so indeed do I), has a chap who denies his writer-hood, produced quite so much text in recent years for no obvious reward?  My occasional dictum of “better out than in” might apply – once it is on the virtual page it has exited my cranial space to allow room for more significant work to go ahead (but, in practice, the space just appears to be used to generate more of the same).  A possible insight came on Thursday night when I bumped into someone I knew at the Nuffield Theatre (though this is almost unavoidable – I am becoming worryingly widely known there).  At some previous encounter I had, in a fit of marketing prowess, encouraged him to follow this unending river of utterance.  He evinced some enjoyment from this activity (perhaps through politeness) and remarked that it was clear that I enjoyed producing it.  He wasn’t wrong, I do enjoy hurling my words out into the void – in fact, it might still be fun if they never left my laptop but were left entirely for my own amusement (don’t worry, my innate cruelty means I shall continue to make my writing all too public).

Perhaps to answer the question we should look back into history – did the childish or youthful author show indication of what was to come?  I had thought not.  I found the obligation to write for English Language O-level terribly annoying and was glad to take it a year early and no longer have to suffer the need to write creatively.  English Literature, on the other hand, I enjoyed: I had no issue writing about the work of others – just generating my own ex nihilo.  As noted not so long ago, I thought my first tentative forays into what would become GofaDM were back when the nineties was still a mewling, puking infant in its mother’s arms and I wrote comic obituaries for colleagues when they departed for pastures new (and no, I was not working on a diary farm).  However, while chatting with my brother (no, he’s not my real brother – more my co-opted brother, try and keep up!) I suddenly remembered earlier excursions in the written form.

When I was at university, mobile phones lay in the realm of science fiction and calling home was a rare activity to be saved for emergencies.  Instead, I used to type – on a portable, manual typewriter – regular missives to my parents.  I seem to recall these had a stream-of-consciousness feel about them, and probably represent the source for my chronic over-use of parentheses and hyphen.  I suspect they may have contained the seed which one day grew into the monstrous, lexical plant you see before you.  I have a rather nasty feeling that these letters may still lie (like an unexploded literary bomb) carefully preserved in my parents’ loft: just waiting to be unleashed upon the world to its horror and my acute embarrassment.

This takes my career as a ‘writer’ back to the mid-eighties, suggesting thirty years of inconsistent authorial endeavour.  I think I am forced to admit that my brother is correct and confess that ‘I am a writer’ (and I may need some sort of patch to control the symptoms).  Some of my recent stuff has slightly impressed me on re-reading, even away from the ‘jokes’ (well, The Warder of the Brain did anyway).  My recent productivity also seems to have risen but that may just be down to having time on my hands (it is surprisingly tricky to remove, I may have to try swarfega).  My forms of writing are a tad limited: I can do business prose, write a half-decent essay on the arts for the Open University and then there is the rather limited palette I use to paint the canvas of this blog.  As a writer, I feel the need to expand my horizons and so have decided that I will write a short story (it may be VERY short) and it will not be about me or my life: though I may choose to write in the first person and it will have to be drawn from the well of my experience – probably using a manual winch and a bucket.  At the moment, I think it may have memory as its theme – but it currently lacks any characters, story or, indeed, words.  As and when it moves from the noosphere into the world of the real, I shall publish it here to universal apathy.  Consider this your one and only warning.

Look at that!  As I suspect also happens in the newspapers, I have answered my own question.  A less interrogative title could easily have been used, but instead the author hides behind false modesty – and we rightly despise him for it.