Musings arguments and gig reports from your favourite Goth lesbian transsexual vegan recovering alcoholic and drug addict sceptic rationalist atheist comedian chameleon and caricature.

Thursday 25 November 2010

Another Country

There are times that I'm transported back to being a small child again and I get the feeling I used to get when my friends older brothers had their friends round and we'd get playing, because I could never resist a play with the older kids, and it would go too far and someone would use their superior strength to hold me still and no matter how I struggled I couldn't escape, and the frustration was palpable.  These days  like I get that feeling when I'm battling with putting a duvet cover on, and I never fully trust anyone who doesn't approach this task with caution and a little bit of their heart going "Right there's the outside chance of making a massive cunt of yourself here, be careful, the last thing you want is to end up with the duvet on the floor and you trapped in the cover."

It's my second worst feeling.  Even thinking about it now has brought a little bit of it back to me.

The worst feeling from childhood is that one that still sometimes comes to visit in the middle of the night, where you said something ridiculous and even years later you want the ground to open up.

As a kid my worst of these was listening to my brother, who was my hero when I was little and he'd been studying physics and was telling me about it, and about some of the effects of it.  And I misunderstood one of the things he'd said, switched a word, and because I was little, about 5 or 6 I believed anything was possible.  And if I didn't have proof, I had the disclaimer of children, and tabloid story editors everywhere to lend a story of authenticity "In America..."   See the American dream of "In America anything's possible, doesn't just run as far as their neoliberal politics that anyone from anywhere providing they work hard enough can become President."  It runs as far, in the minds of children and Tabloid journos that is a literal "In America Anything Is Possible"  It is a continent that defies the laws of physics, logic, chemistry and biology.  If you've got a story that you've made up, just say "It happened in America" and suddenly, for some reason it doesn't sound instantly like bullshit.  Especially if you add "I read somewhere, that in America"  Suddenly you don't even need any proof.

Let's hope politicians never figure out this trick, or Nick Robinson will have a load of work cut out for him, and then David Cameron will have to pretend that he's got the news paper it was in somewhere in the back room and keep putting Nick off until he forgets about it and something else comes along.

But this story didn't happen in America, or as my nephews call it "Themerica"  Which I think is a lot more apt, The Merica, definite article, Only one in existence, and befitting of its stature.  This story happened far away from there in the playground in Withnell Fold Primary School one lunch time, when we were using sticks and watching Jamie Philips pull the legs off spiders, and I retold the story that my brother had told me, only I'd misheard one word, translated it to another and thought that this made sense.

That word was "accelerate"  I'd switched it to "expand" and now my story about how "if you dropped an aniseed ball off the top of Blackpool Tower it would accelerate so fast that it would be like being hit by a bus" suddenly became "If you dropped an aniseed ball off Blackpool Tower it would expand to the size of a bus."  Some took the piss straight away, some decided to tell the teachers this new fun fact, and the upshot of the whole incident was that for years afterwards people would bring this up, for the first few years it would just make me burst into tears, then later fly into rage, and now I just wince a little inside from time to time when I get struck by that memory.

For me that feeling of humiliation and embarrassment is indistinguishable from the feeling you get when you've been caught out on a lie, or when you've told a lie you can't possibly sustain.

The one where you're asked a question, and they've phrased it in a way where you can't say you don't know, "Of course I fucking know... I'm not stupid!" and in your head you're going "I don't know, oh fuck quick make something up."  It happens to me far more than I ever thought it would, I think it's because I listen and then try to second guess what other people have meant by what they've said.  I'm really bad at reading nuance in what people say, and telling tone of voice and I don't pick up on subtlety at all.

In the TV series and Books Dexter by Jeff Lindsey, the Eponymous hero says "People fake a lot of human interactions, but I feel like I fake them all"  and sometimes that how I feel, and then when it turns out that in spite of all the effort I've gone to to make sure that no one notices that I'm having to put human interactions though some sort of translation process before I understand them, and I make an error and am found out I feel massive humiliation, and completely out of control.

I'm suddenly 14 again and waiting outside the Warner Bros Cinema in Walton Le Dale in Preston with my then Girlfriend Caroline, waiting for my dad to pick us up, and I know he's not coming because I haven't asked him, and she's assumed that I have, because that was the deal, and I'd not realised and as we'd come out from watching Wayne's World 2 she'd said "So when's your dad coming to get us?"  And I felt like I should have known and can't say "Oh, I didn't realise that that's what we'd decided"  So instead I said "He should be here soon."  and we stood and waited, all the while knowing that he's never turning up, and that this lie can't sustain itself.

You'd think as I get older I'd learn from these lessons, but I don't, it's almost Nietzschean that in forgetting our history we're condemned to repeat it.

I think a lot of the source of my melancholy comes from my relationship with my dad.  I love him to pieces, he's wonderful, and he's the best person at emotional blackmail I've ever met.  There wasn't a Friday what went by as a teenager where I'd be interrupted from watching My Two Dads, or Blossom, or whatever else Channel 4 had on their 6:30 Friday US comedy import show half hour, with my dad calling up the stairs "I'm off to Tesco, do you want to come?"  And I'd go "No thanks, I'm watching something."  and then his voice would change, he'd sound really sad and go, "Oh, I thought you liked coming with me to do the shopping." then a long pause, just about enough to make me feel massively guilty before following it up with "Are you sure you won't come?"

And ten minutes later we'd be wandering round Tesco chatting and having a laugh and making jokes, it was great, I loved it.

I get consumed with nostalgia thinking back to these things and I wish I could travel back there briefly to re-do some of it, make it better, especially as I started to get into adolescence, it's almost tragic when we look back at how impermanent things are, no sooner have you got a handle on it than it drifts away.  It's part of the Modern world, and modern in it's true sense, with the move from rural to city living.  Marshal Berman takes a Marx quote as his title with the title of his work on the ever changing nature of life that sums this up "all that is solid melts into air"

I think I was about nine or maybe ten years old when my dad and I went camping in Anglesey, we bought a tent from Outdoor Action in Blackburn, a shop which a few years later I helped out with a November Camping Sale, by telling one of their staff a great slogan would be "Now is the winter of our discount tents, made glorious summer... With our discount tents."

To be honest the second half of that was theirs, for some reason they didn't like the brevity of just having the first sentence.

The tent we got by the way ended its days at the 1997 Glastonbury Festival, when a combination of tiredness, rain, and heavy wind stopped me from being able to put the tent up and half of it got blown away, and in the tiredness and coldness and misery of that evening, I dumped what was left of it in a bin and went home, less than 12 hours after arriving and having not seen a single band or anything.  I got a National Express bus back from Bristol and arrived home a good 6 hours before my parents who'd gone out of their way to drive me down there.  Furious doesn't even begin to cover it.

But that was the last journey of the tent, the first was to Anglesey with my dad.  Just me and him.

We had books to read, we had a little gas stove and we intended to go on walks and climb Snowdon. Which we did whilst I told hi all about the Romans, and Asterix, and The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy and probably repeated verbatim any comedy sketches I'd seen on TV in the last few years.  We had a great time. I even had my first taste of Guinness.

We Climbed a mouontain, and I got some bad blisters.  and we went home.

It was lovely.  We decided that we'd go again in the next half term.

When the next half term came though even though it was only a few months later, I'd reached that age where I wasn't going and doing stuff with my dad!  I was far too grown up for that.  there was countryside to be explored, bows and arrows to be built, rivers to be jumped, and a lackadaisical attitude towards health and safety never better exemplified than when Alex Kirby fired an arrow which we'd made and then decided would be cooler if we melted a plant pot over the sharp end and turned it into a arrow/napalm dispenser, Said arrow was fired into the sky and hit me in the stomach, not cutting me but doing extensive damage to my brand new Adidas tracksuit top.  This was only beaten in the danger stakes by Jamie Philips attempt to shoot a butterfly with an air rifle and taking a beat on it and tracking it as it flew between him and us, pointing a loaded gun at each of us in turn.

I can still recall the sound of my dad's disappointment when he realised that our week away camping wasn't going to happen, and that the youngest of his children had now grown up to that point where doing stuff with their dad was no longer cool.  Sometimes when the mood catches me right I think back to this and cry.  These days I'd love to go camping with my dad again, and climb some mountains, but I get the feeling he's no longer able to do that.  But I'll always have that memory of when we did, and it's one of those precious moments of which you may only have half a dozen in your whole life, but it's more precious to me than anything.

That night by the way, the night when my dad realised I was too old for camping, apparently he managed to get trapped in a duvet cover.

1 comment:

Sciamachy said...

I loved that! One of the best things about being a dad is when your kids make mistakes that show great imagination, and even though my kids have taken to crying with the embarrassment & calling themselves stupid, I still love it. I embrace the mistake & make it part of a story or something. It's all good & part of growing up.

BTW - might help with the duvets!