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Resting Pedant

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I am still knocking around [Nov. 9th, 2008|04:22 pm]
Resting Pedant
[mood |dusk]


Paul Kelly's little films about defunct London cafés:





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(no subject) [Aug. 21st, 2008|04:41 pm]
Resting Pedant




I just had this regular thing that comes around every few years, where I let slip my completely unshakeable conviction that Charles and Ray Eames were two intense, bespectacled brothers and then some arse jumps in to put me right, and then I say something like "Oh yes it's like with George and Ira Gershwin, because they're .. um .." And then I realise that I'm not quite positive that they really were two brothers, and maybe Ira was George's wife. Not that Ira is ever a female name, but maybe it is.

And now I have it all clear, but this will recur around 2012, and I will record it here if I still have a Livejournal. In fact it may be the next entry, at this rate.
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(no subject) [Aug. 10th, 2008|12:10 am]
Resting Pedant



All alone, lying on the floor listening to music. Everything's a bit of a mess. The phone went a couple of times, but I left it.

This morning I managed five episodes of Orson Welles's Harry Lime radio serial, which is all free at the Internet Archive. He is a much less unpleasant character in these than he is in The Third Man. Half the time Welles sounds completely unfamiliar with the lines, as if he's being handed them phrase by phrase as he speaks. Every episode begins with Lime being shot dead, as at the close of the film. Then, in a tangled-up, self-referential, auto-critical sort of outburst, he explains that this is sound of him being killed in Vienna "as those of you know who saw the movie The Third Man". "Yes," he continues, rather obviously, "that was the end of Harry Lime ... but it was not the beginning."

So, I've just been lying here really, wondering how I would have got on back then. Back when the waistband of the male trouser was worn closer to the armpit than the testicle, as is favoured today.

*

(Everything's a bit of a mess in this room, I mean. I wasn't generalising about my life.)
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jargonauts [Jun. 9th, 2008|12:43 am]
Resting Pedant

If I have a wish for the coming week, it's that fewer people will use unpleasant words, and nasty strings of them, in my presence. Sometimes I think about leaving human company behind to live among creatures who communicate in quiet whirrs and beeps, with a note of fragrance underneath.

Once, before my voice had broken properly, I admit that I picked up all the music papers specifically to read about cowering shards of inevitability this and a deliquescent intimation of mortality that. Long words all pressed up together made my heart beat a little faster, but now I prefer miserly writers who really ration the syllables. Henry Green and Muriel Spark are amazing like that. Will Self and Jonathan Meades are not.

But it's the jargon that's getting me down. Last week everything was robust. We've got a robust plan, that seems like a robust strategy, and I thought you gave a robust defence of your views. And still with the sourcing, everywhere. When did people start sourcing things anyway? What's the difference between local ingredients and locally-sourced ingredients? Part of me wants to carry a huge gong everywhere for highlighting the bad words, but most of me knows I must accept the bloat and move on.

Across the piece - this is big with my colleagues at the moment. First it was just politicians on the Today programme, but now everyone's promising to carry out new ideas across the piece, and sometimes across the piste. I think it means really well, but I don't know for sure. Two people from nPower came to the door on Friday to make me change supplier and it was mostly quite nice, quite soporific, with the woman saying, "What it is, it's really simple," over and over, and pointing at a book of extremely complex flow charts with questions inside diamonds and rectangles about my energy consumption. But then she said, "What it is, it's really simple - we can save you money on your electric across the piece," and that's fuckery, to borrow Ms Winehouse's nice new word.
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(no subject) [Jun. 2nd, 2008|12:14 am]
Resting Pedant
[mood |Sergeant Dokes of Dexter with his implausible, womanly pursed lips, on my mind.]


I went to Cambridge, and sat waiting for someone in a huge new Pret à Manger the size of a Victorian workhouse. I got talking to this bloke - or barista - who, it turned out, was half-Israeli and half-English and had just returned from living in Mexico, where he experiences considerable success as a wrestler. In Mexico he wears a mask which covers the left side of his face in the Union Jack and the right in the Stars and Stripes, 'to get the crowds going'. When he wrestles in England (and where in Cambridge you might do this, I did not ask) he wears some other less controversial mask whose details I forget. He grapples under the name Tico 'The Tornado' Gonzalez, and if you think I'm making it up you had better visit Pret à Manger in Market Street and tell him so. He only looked about twenty. I don't understand where people that young find the time to have done things like this.

After we had talked for a while, a manager told him to return to the counter because a barista must always be ready to etc. Disappointingly, the Tornado did not stand on his throat or scream in his face.

Then I drove to Ely with my wife, past a restaurant called the Slap-Up Tandoori. How good can a restaurant with that name, sitting alone at the side of a barren stretch of dual carriageway, be?
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(no subject) [May. 15th, 2008|11:53 pm]
Resting Pedant

I've got some amazing marmalade at the moment. I lie in bed salivating about it when I should be asleep.
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(no subject) [May. 13th, 2008|11:50 am]
Resting Pedant

Ah, Brighton Festival. Yesterday evening I did this thing where they strap a small device with a screen to the handlebars of your bicycle, give you ear buds and a little microphone, and send you out (oh god) into the community (jesus) to be art. You could stop wherever you fancy, and somehow the magic spirit box was able to tell you the names of others who had already visited the same place. Then you could choose to answer a question asked over the headphones, or press names on your screen to hear responses from the people who had just been there.

I wanted to foam with contempt for the whole enterprise because I sometimes mistakenly believe that this is what makes me happy, but I ended up eulogising the sea and the piers, and doing the story about when Tim locked himself inside an empty police car on the way home from the pub outside the Open Market and started the sirens wailing, and nobody could get him out. I realised in the telling of it that I don't know what's happened to Tim, and I got quite choked up.

Naturally there were some vomit-inducing recordings to listen to. "What do you lie awake thinking about?" "I think of my father being eaten by dragons, and my fight to stay above the surface, and worry that I will never provide enough for my beloved children." But there was non-drivel too - people speaking in tantalising ways that made you wish you could actually meet them. The special bicycle-mounted machine made me ride very fast from the library to Lower Rock Gardens against a soundtrack of wheedly, tinkling music, and then asked me to talk on the subject of Leaving And Never Coming Back. I fell into the confessional mode. It was impossible not to involve yourself.

And this is exactly what these bastard community artists want.
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I think it’s short for argument-bargument [May. 3rd, 2008|10:35 am]
Resting Pedant
[music |incredulous Boris talk]


Funny week. I had the radio on constantly, and Scenes From An Italian Restaurant was played three times on different stations. Halfway through the third listen I heard a beautiful, melodious voice at my shoulder saying actually, this is a pretty amazing song. Yet I was the only person in the car at the time. That was on Wednesday, when I had to drive to a remote spot in Suffolk for business reasons. I found a B&B that looked just fine through the lens of the internet. What’s wrong with the internet in this respect? Ask for a picture of a navvy bumming an antelope and it immediately returns many precisely matched results, but for B&Bs it’s a bag of snakes.

The only things in the room were a single bed, a wardrobe filled with children’s clothes, and a combined TV/video on a pine chest with a few films inside. Freaky Friday the remake, Slap Her She’s French, Road Trip. On top of the pile was an unboxed tape labelled INTERESTED IN MAKING MONEY? DISCUSS THIS PROGRAMME OVER BREAKFAST WITH PAUL. It began with a man addressing the camera while he walked around what I’m pretty sure was High Wycombe town centre. Something about selling electricity to your friends. I started fuming about it but then I fell asleep. I am unable to talk about what happened in the morning.

Yesterday I visited one of my oldest friends, who has moved from London to one of these places on the Kent coast where just five years ago there was nowhere to buy an Orla Kiely cushion or an old wardrobe painted white; I mean, an armoire. We had lunch at his house, looking out at his lawn from the kitchen. It was just me and him and his little boy, eating Covent Garden tomato soup and expensive white bread, talking about books and films. Come at about one and I’ll make you a light lunch from the 80s, he might as well have said. From twelve to fourteen I went to his meticulous house every Saturday, and it was a tin of Heinz tomato soup at noon with rubbery slices of Sunblest, Penguin biscuits later. I usually left at about six in the evening, while his mum was laying the kitchen table for the next morning’s breakfast. He had a Sharp record player with a vertical turntable and a stylus on both sides, so you could play a record all the way through without turning it over. I still feel close to him, in a pointless sort of way. It would feel phoney to confide in him. We just talk about books and films and music, approximately twice a year.

Anyway, I was sitting in his kitchen, in this place I had never been to before, thinking what is it that this reminds me of, and it was only when I was leaving that I realised everything smelt just as it did in his childhood home. Nothing pungent or unpleasant - just that domestic cocktail sort of thing that you only pin down by contrasting it with the slightly different versions in other houses. How did he hold on to that? I think I was just smelling an old picture in my brain.

On the way back I went to a branch of John Lewis, where I was mistaken for a member of staff in the electronic gadgets dept. “So do you have any DSes then?” I can’t even express how much this fucked me off.
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(no subject) [Jan. 9th, 2008|02:24 pm]
Resting Pedant

I ate such a disappointing lunch just now. It's going to make me feel sad for the rest of the day.
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You have a point; an idiotic one, but a point. [Dec. 29th, 2007|01:21 am]
Resting Pedant

My brother-in-law sent me two blister-packed toothbrushes and three pairs of blue nylon socks this year. He does all his Christmas shopping at a Wal-Mart somewhere in South Carolina. As November approaches, I think he just scoops things at random from the shelves into a Jiffy bag and posts them to England by surface mail. These are the only truly unguessable gifts I receive. A very small amount of exoticism clings to them, because they come from a different supermarket giant to the ones I know here.

He has led a complicated and troubled life and can be fantastically irritating, what with the merciless Christianity simmering underneath every utterance, but I find myself very drawn to him because he is a tireless searcher. Navy, marriages, the Unification Church, truck driving, school teaching. Last year, for some bogus-sounding reason or other, he was frying chickens at a place called Zaxby’s (where they call the salads Zalads, because “calling them salads would have been an understatement”) and now he is back selling cars again.

***

All About Eve at the Duke Of York’s on the evening of the 24th. It was such a pleasure to sit in the dark, cackling with all the people who have no other home town to return to, or no inclination to go there. Then I made my mother update me on her enigmatic, uninventable neighbours. The compromised bigot is now suffering some sort of agoraphobia, and cannot be in any large building without a clear view of the exit at all times. She is despairing, because this rules out almost all her favourite haunts, such as M&S in Western Road. Also, she now goes to great lengths to avoid making left turns when out and about because it makes her “feel sick inside”. A new man has moved in on the top floor. He lives entirely by candlelight to save on his electricity bills and arranges his money on the kitchen table in permanent annotated piles – gas, TV licence, pub. She has her own names for all these people: Stormin' Norman, The Great Raymondo, Ron Moody, Luz Clarita. I keep expecting her to sit me down and tactfully break the news that she's signed a huge book deal or done an awful play for Radio 4.
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