Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers!*

Photo by Emily Morter on Unsplash

In my last blog (Working Title) I attempted to answer the questions posed by Petra in her Writing Questions for YOU post.  Not unusually for me, a few dozen words became a few hundred and I ended my own post having answered (in a peculiarly roundabout way, I admit) only one of her questions.  I promised (threatened) to answer the others and, unfortunately, this is the best I have yet managed.  The questions seemed to me, serious ones, so I have given them some consideration and answered them as honestly as I can.  This is not my strength, so please forgive me if I meander… 

The first question asked whether dreams have ever provided inspiration for stories and, if so, how?  I have two main problems with dreams as inspiration:

  1. In general, I do not remember them, and
  2. I am never totally convinced that everything is not a dream: that my entire life is not merely a figment of somebody else’s fevered nocturnal machinations, in which case it is just possible that my dreams are reality and the reason I don’t remember them is because they are incredibly tedious.

I don’t believe that I have ever knowingly written anything based on a dream, but I have written about dreams in a post, way back in November 2019 (All You Ever Wanted to Know About Dreams, But Were Afraid to Ask), so if you truly seek the answers, they just might be there.

The next can of worms (I’m sorry, ‘question’) involved writing about other races and genders. Well, I truly have never questioned the ethnicity of any of my characters. (Does that make me racist?) They just are. I cannot claim to be content with that, but in my small world, everybody is the same under the skin, and skin is just that – something to keep the rain off. I am perfectly happy to talk about racism; it is inherently, futilely evil and pernicious, but writing about it within the kind of posts that I write would simply trivialise it, and I have no desire to do that. There are many who are perfectly capable of articulating the sheer iniquity of it, but I am not one of them. Most of my characters, at heart, are me and they are whatever colour, whatever diaspora you choose for them. I very much hope that you like them when they are likeable and dislike them when they are not.

As for gender, well, I have to admit that the gender of my characters often changes during writing.  If you have ever read any of the Dinah and Shaw Little Fictions, you should know that Dinah is almost certainly me, but then again, so is Shaw…  I think in most respects we are similar – we laugh at the same things, get mad at the same things, cry at the same things regardless of reproductive arrangements.  In a few respects however, we are completely different and that has to be celebrated.  If you can consider those differences in a way that both sexes find amusing, well, that’s comedy gold isn’t it?  If you ever find a way of doing it, please let me know.  (The late, great Victoria Wood handled it effortlessly.  Unfortunately few of us, if any, will ever possess such talent.)

I am a passionate believer that, fundamentally, we are all the same and that we should, therefore, all be afforded exactly the same opportunities in life – which we patently are not.  I have no idea how we can put that right.  Antagonising a certain type of person will just entrench their views; preaching only ever appeals to the already converted.  If I can make somebody think by making them smile well, at least it’s a start isn’t it?  I’m not keen on confrontation and I would never seek to deliberately offend (although I have no doubt that I may have inadvertently done so a thousand times) and I think that seriously limits me, but it does mean that I have never published anything that I truly regret.  I regret having published things that I now realise were just not good enough, but that’s a whole different bucket of frogs. I’m annoyed that I can’t do better, but ashamed?  I don’t think so.  There’s always time though…

One thing I seldom, if ever, stick my nose into is religion.  As far as I can see, there is more than enough room in this world for anyone to believe whatever they choose to believe.  I completely understand why religion is so emotive, I understand the passion.  What I don’t understand is why the passion so readily becomes violence.  I cannot believe that hatred of ‘others’ is a true tenet of any religion.  You may say that I’m a dreamer etc etc.

Finally (at last!) the question of style. Do I Work on Style? Well, patently not. Take a read through my ‘back catalogue’ and you will be absolutely assured of my lack of it. I fear that ‘This Man Had No Style’ may well be my epitaph. As for genre, well, other than the constant attempt to grapple a little humour from everything I write, I don’t really think I work within one. I hope that, other than being filed under ‘drivel’, I am not that easy to categorise.

So, that’s it.  I have tried to answer the questions honestly.  I hope you will forgive me if I promise not to do it again.

When you know the answers, I think, perhaps, you keep them to yourself…

*Focus (1972)

On Inkbiotic’s Sunshine Blogger Award

sunshine
A deliberately generic picture of the sunshine…

 

When I was much, much younger, I walked around a room accompanied by a lady with a clipboard and picked out my favourite gas fire. For my efforts, I was awarded with a Mars Bar and I can confidently state that that was the very last survey in which I ever willingly took part. However, based almost entirely on the basis that Inkbiotic finds me funny (I don’t know if anybody makes expandable hat bands, but if they don’t, I will suggest it to Marks & Spencer) and after the shortest of pauses which allowed me to look up ‘metaphor’, I decided, sort of, to take this one on in the best way I can…

So, What recurring dream do you have? Do you know why? Well, I have actually discussed the subject of dreams myself in my early blog and it would have to be the one where I suddenly realise that I am naked whilst walking to school. It’s a very common dream I think. (Please tell me that it is.) The only rational explanation that I can give for having this dream is that I am asleep.

If you could choose any name for yourself, what would you choose? Sexy would be a good one wouldn’t it? Not because it would suit me (Dog-Eared would do that much better) but it would just be such fun studying the faces of school teachers, employers, bank staff as they had to greet you with ‘Hello Sexy’. It would almost be worth the humiliation of constantly having it pointed out to you that you are not. In Junior School (I’m not sure that such a thing even exists now. Ages 7-11.) I wanted to be my best mate and I would have gladly taken his name. I think that by the time you are sixty, nominative determination has well and truly kicked in and so, I fear, I am now thoroughly Colin (Child in Gaelic) and that I shall remain.

What’s the weirdest fact you know? That’s a difficult one because my head is full of them, although the weirdest thing about most of them is that I know them in the first place. My dad had a friend who was ‘addicted’ to nature programmes on the TV and he told us once that he’d seen a documentary about a snake that, when hungry, slowly ate itself. My dad pointed out that if it did that, it would simply turn itself inside out, to which Charlie (real name) simply replied ‘It’s a fact!’ Now, whilst I am prepared to bow to such logic, I am pretty certain that it is not verifiable, so I am going to offer you something that, I believe, is: if spread out, the surface area of the human lungs would cover a tennis court (and, presumably, make breathing very difficult).

What’s a secret about you that no-one would ever guess? Easy. Am I telling the truth?

Do you prefer to stride or amble? Why? Stride. The most annoying thing in the whole world is a pavement blocked by an entire family of young, fit amblers.

Name a small thing that made you smile today. Photo’s of my grandkids always hit the button. Mind you, so do photo’s of Donald Trump’s hair in the wind. And Melania’s face whenever she’s with him. And the fact that Boris Johnson might one day be our Prime Minister – no wait, that’s not a smile: it’s a nervous tic.

What made you want to write or keep a blog? I have always written. I used to write for numerous humour magazines that no longer exist (worryingly, I appear to be the only thing that they had in common). Initially my blogs were basically magazine articles on a single, unified theme. Slowly they have evolved (although I do still like to throw in the odd old-school ‘skit’ from time to time.) Over the time that my blog has been going, I think that I have become a little more reflective and have probably revealed more about myself than anyone would ever want to know. You are my psychoanalyst! Get your notebooks out, we could be here for some time.

What was your best decision ever? Well, my wife reads this from time to time – if there’s nothing on the telly – so, I have to say that except for getting married it would be growing a beard. I have a very fair skin and, pre-beard, it was always sore. After shaving, I resembled an inside out pig. Now, I no longer feel sore, although I do still look like an inside out pig, just with a beard.

What could have gone wrong today, but didn’t? My life is a minefield: I could have ricked my neck getting out of bed; stubbed my toe getting into the shower; washed my hair with bleach-based toilet cleaner; put both contact lenses into the same eye; fallen down the stairs or, worst of all, put my pants on back to front – all of which are in my armoury, but none of which I have actually done today. I haven’t tripped over a kerb, crashed my shin against a coffee table, dribbled my lunch down my shirt nor my coffee down my trousers. Also, I haven’t spent the last hour staring blankly at the computer screen wondering what I was going to say.

For a week you can have any job you want and be good and successful at it, what do you choose? When I was young I used to read a comic strip called The Perishers and it had a character called Marlon. He could never decide whether he wanted to be a world-famous brain surgeon or a man that went down sewers in big wellies. I feel a bit the same and, despite the lure of Chief Taster at Cadbury, I have decided to think big. I would be Prime Minister of the UK of course. In my lifetime, I don’t remember anybody else ever doing that job successfully for a week. Of course, without the guarantee of success, it would be the last job on Earth I would ever want. Imagine being the person who believes they know better than everybody else. Imagine the people you would have to spend your days with. However, time it right and you could eradicate poverty, sort out the education and health services and totally outlaw savoury ice-cream. Why is that even a thing? It is for people who have lost all joy from their lives. Ice-cream has to be sweet. It should be drizzled in syrup and covered in sprinkles. It should have a Flake. It should form rivulets along the sides of the cornet and a puddle in your crotch. It should leave your fingers sticky for a minimum of twenty-four hours. It should not taste of snail and anchovy.

What’s the most inexplicable thing that’s ever happened to you? I cannot begin to explain… Honestly, the most inexplicable thing that ever really happens to me is that people put up with me. I would love to tell you that I have seen a ghost or met an alien, but I have not. I have, however, seen the future so, don’t worry, you will forgive me in time…

As for blogs I would recommend, well, Inkbiotic is my daily ‘go to’ and – I have had this independently verified – the best thing since sliced bread. I also love Tony Self’s The Self-Talk Show, which is a scattergun of mad ideas and V’s MILLENNIALLIFECRISIS which poses all sorts of questions and offers all sorts of insights, but there are many others.

P.S. The questions answered by Inkbiotic were posed by Land Manatee (who I am just about to check out) but I have just inadvertently brought up a photo of a real manatee. Now, all I know about this creature is that it is what the ancient mariners believed to be a mermaid. Well, I cannot tell you how these guys were passing their time, but something was making them blind…

An Homage to Inkbiotic

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So, my must read of the day, every day, has become the short bulletin from the life of Inkbiotic, which succeeds in giving me a daily jolt of random thought that is both surreal and at the same time frighteningly real. It is sad, it is beautiful, it is joyful and I love it!

Sadly, my own attempts to distil the minutiae of my own mundane life into a piece of interest, have proved less successful…

Monday: Something is going on with my trousers. I’m not sure what, but nothing is staying where it was left. I’ve tried to sort myself out; straightened my undergarments; realigned my trousers; re-tucked my shirt, but without success. Something is still not right. My shirt tail keeps appearing over my waistband. There is nothing quite so unsavoury in a man of my age as the unsolicited view of an unclothed section of midriff. I’m not quite certain what to do. Should I start wearing high-waisted trousers like I did in the 70’s; can I buy longer shirts? Perhaps I should tuck my shirt into my pants as I appear to have done all the time through my black & white photographed childhood…
Drink: flat tonic water. Snack: dry-roasted peanuts. Soundtrack: Puncture Repair – Elbow.

Tuesday: Problem Solved. Was wearing pants back to front. This is what happens when you dress in the dark. Also, shirt had no tail. Should throw it out but, other than a severe shortfall in the tuck-able material department, it is fine. Threw it in wash basket. Will decide on its fate when it is washed.
Met a man at work today who said I could call him Geoff. The conversation went as follows:
‘It’s not my real name, but I’ve just moved up here and I’m going to tell all my new friends that it is. It’s not illegal is it?’
‘I don’t think so.’
‘Good, because I’m due back in prison in six weeks…’
He didn’t say why. I didn’t ask. It didn’t seem wise.
Drink: orange squash. Snack: Milky Bar. Soundtrack: (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais – The Clash.

Wednesday: Realised that shirt is not mine. Presumably one of son-in-law’s. He is taller than me. Shirt tail must barely pass his chest.
No work today, so sorted out pants drawer. Put those without labels at the bottom, thereby reducing chances of wearing them back-to-front. Not quite certain why back-to-front pants have such an impact on day. Like a lead weight on spirits (also, hard to be certain you haven’t trapped a woodlouse in the gusset).
Drink: coffee – black, decaffeinated. Snack: honey & yoghurt. Soundtrack: Woman Overboard – Judie Tzuke.

Thursday: Swivel chair has become too low for comfortable typing. Laptop at shoulder height. Pulled lever to adjust chair, but screw fell out. Could not find Allen Key to fit screw, so rammed screwdriver into little hole in screw head. Worked brilliantly until screwdriver skipped out of hole and pierced seat cushion which then appeared to be bleeding. Realised, after a second or two, that screwdriver had, in fact, encountered other hand on way to cushion. Bleeding finger currently swathed in many layers of toilet paper. Did not even bother to look for plasters. They will not be found. Almost certainly eaten by Pixies…
Drink: whisky. Snack: Mars Bar. Soundtrack: You Stay Here – Willy Porter.

Friday: ‘You can call me Geoff’ in to see me again today. Wanted to tell me a joke he had just heard – although he had forgotten part of it, so he was forced to improvise, delivering the punch-line half way through the story. He left the shop laughing loudly to himself. Apparently he is moving, so I won’t see him for a while. He wouldn’t say where he was going, only that he is going to be known as Ray when he gets there. I am not moving, so I can continue to call him Geoff. He asked if I could guess his real name. I couldn’t, so he wouldn’t tell me.
Why does an inside-out sock make your toes hurt?
Drink: red wine. Snack: chilli crisps with Marmite. Soundtrack: Next Year People – Colin Hay

Saturday: Ate single Fruit-tella at eleven o’clock and have been stuffing face ever since. They contain some kind of drug, I am certain. I probably have more sugar in me than a jar of Golden Syrup. Have only stopped eating because I feel so sick, but the craving is still there. Have hidden them at back of desk drawer, but I know that I will go back to them soon. May have to give them away – but no-one will want them as only pink ones left (despite the name, Fruit-tella do not have flavours, just colours).
Asparagus for dinner. Why does wee smell within fifteen minutes? How is that even possible?
Drink: rest of wine. Snack: chilli crisps without Marmite. Soundtrack: Blackstar – Bowie

Sunday: No work today and no Fruit-tella. In desperation I have eaten a bag of Skittles and two rolls of Love Hearts. My teeth are doing somersaults.
Tidied garden in sunshine and put anything not rusted over winter into shed. Tidied shed and put broken stuff into bin. Took bin to dump. Asked man at Skip 1 where to take broken garden fork. ‘Metal’s Skip 6,’ he said.
Took fork to Skip 6. ‘What you doing with that?’ asked man at Skip 6. ‘Wood goes in Skip 1.’
‘But, he said…’ I said.
‘Metal Skip 6. Wood Skip 1. Simple.’ Said the man at skip 6.
Tried to remove handle from tine-denuded fork, but to no avail. Compromised by throwing it in Skip 3 (General Waste) when no-one was looking.
Found a boiled sweet in the car on way home which has removed most of hard palate.
Drink: whisky. Snack: wrinkly black olives. Soundtrack: The Rattle Within – Richard Thompson.