Hear about the guy who went to Borders, looking for the self-help section? He didn’t have the confidence to ask which floor it’s on.
A friend of mine, who lives in tower block on a rough council estate in South London, complains that his neighbours piss in the lift. No doubt they use the toilet to travel up and down the building.
A Soul Bean story:
Mr Fallopian, my landlord, was drunk when he came to collect the rent.“It was a brown envelope – you remember,” I told him on the phone the next day.
“I don’t remember.”
“You were dancing, sir – Armenian.”
“Frank, I’ve told you before – I am not Armenian. Come around in the morning, we’ll talk about it.”
I turned up at his house at 10am the next day.
“Welcome,” he said, ushering me into his living room.
I noticed on the mantelpiece a picture his late wife, Mrs Fallopian, wearing a black headscarf. Like the Mona Lisa, her eyes followed you around the room. But, unlike her, she was not smiling. Nor was she at risk of being stolen.
Mr Fallopian was in the kitchen making tea. On his bookshelf I noticed a copy of The Complete Works of William Shatner. Inside there were pictures of the actor with Mr Spock, numerous aliens, and during shoots of TJ Hooker.
“Sugar?” he shouted, as the kettle whistled.
“Honey,” I replied. “If you have any.”
We sat at a creaky table by the first-floor window and said nothing. He stuffed his pipe.“About the rent,” I ventured.
He lit up, sucked at the pipe, and exhaled.
“So, you’re a writer.”
The aroma of tobacco surrounded us.
“Yes,” I said. Rent was not on the agenda.
“I have something you might want.”
“A hook for your novel.”
“The first line?”
Mr F explained that years ago he was writing his own novel but couldn’t get past the first sentence it was so good.
“What wasit?” I asked.
“She had to defrost before he could stick it in.”
As he spoke these words, the smoke he blew out seemed to fill the room with a divine presence. Mr Fallopian smiled, knowingly. He told me he remembered having turned up drunk and apologised. This sentence was his gift to me.
I couldn’t wait to tell Lou. She hadn’t spoken to me for weeks. She wanted to have babies. I told her we couldn’t until I was published. To cheer her up, I sponsored an elephant in Kenya. It was named Bambi, of all things.I read out the sentence to her:
She had to defrost, before I could stick it in.
Lou said it was misogynistic. She assumed the narrator was a man who worked in a morgue. I told her it’s someone sticking a turkey in the oven.
She left me. I fell into a pit of despondency. I failed to pay my rent. And Mr Fallopian evicted me. Now, I’m back to living with my mother. She tells me to get a job, but I can’t. I blame the sentence for my misfortune. But she tells me: “Your sentence started long before that son.” She does keep up Bambi’s adoption payments though, and it gives me some comfort to have made an elephant happy.
The New York Times, reports on debate raging in India around the counrty’s yoga rule. This requires schoolchildren “to take up the sun salutation, or ‘surya namaskar’ as the common yoga exercise is known in Sanskrit… revealing lingering questions about how secularism is practiced and challenged in Indian politics.”
It’s interesting. Perhaps the UK government could force children targeted by its curfew orders to do yoga. Sun salutation, however, is not recommended here. That’s how our political parties win power. There is also the danger that our teenagers will turn into middle class housewives. “Have you done your feng shui homework Jasper? I hope you scored well in your Pilates.”
H. is doctor, and no relation to Kafka’s K. “Breakfast?” he said. I’d eaten porridge. Also, had to deal with a bank charge related to the hypnotherapist I visited two weeks ago. She clocks £80 for an hour. How would I judge whether the therapy had worked, she asked. The thing is, if you’re paying that much, anything will. “Dance on shards of glass? Sure, if you say so — it’s lacerations of mind that worry me.”
I met H. at Oval station and we strolled into the crisp and cold London morning. Feeling unduly bloated, I said: “Is it possible my belly has expanded overnight?”
“Have you eaten a lot of porridge?” said H. — I was dead impressed. Unaware of my morning Ready Brek ritual (it’s been two weeks, now) H. pointed out both it and the boiled eggs, which I’m into at the moment, as culprits.
Anyway, we ended up at the Tate Britain where there is a sculpture/installation called State Britain, by Mark Wallinger. Wallinger has recreated the ongoing demo against the war by Brian Haw outside the Palace of Westminster. Haw has been there since 2001, when he was protesting against sanctions on Iraq. In May, the government introduced legislation to ban such demos taking place within a kilometre of Parliament Square.
The exhibition recreates every detail of Haw’s original set-up — colour and black and white photocopies of dead children, handwritten slogans and blow-ups of anti-war graphic art from the internet, tea flasks, a milk carton, rainbow peace flags. It is a haunting an powerful work.
H. and I observed a mother with two very young children, four or five years old. They were quizzing her. She, gently, explained to them how “some soldiers had are sent out to kill other soldiers”. There was a picture showing the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and Jack Straw having dipped their hands into three bowls. “What’s in the bowls mummy?” one little girl said. “It’s not very nice,” mamma bear said, “but I think it’s blood.”
Click here to read Times reviewer Tim Teeman’s poo-poo the work. “A pro-war, pro-Blair work of art,” he writes, “now that would be radical.” Honestly, Murdoch press (don’t worry Tim, I’m sure the Tate’ll run a Campbell-Mandelson retrospective soon).
Yesterday, Mr Blair failed to show up to a debate in Parliament about the war; and today’s worthy (and headline-grabbing) defence of adoption rights for gay people in the face of opposition from the Catholic church is sure to distract us from asking why.
H. and I walked the short distance from the Tate to Parliament Square. Brian Haw was there, with his hat on, reading a book.
“This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we are in,” Mr Bush said today. More accurate would be: “It is not right to have entered in Iraq, but this is the shite we are in.”
Cycled to a friend’s house today. He criticised me for riding without a helmet. “It’s like not wearing a condom,” he said. “Oh, I have condom on,” I said. “Never cycle without one.”
In Britain politicians always call for ‘racial tolerance’. ‘Britian is a tolerant country,’ they say. What we should be doing is accepting, not tolerating. I tolerate politicians. Why? Because I don’t accept them.