Friday, 24 June 2011

Tomatoes, buses, cancer and loss

Richmond's Obelisk
For the same reason I never buy tomatoes prepacked in a plastic bag, sometimes I take the bus into Richmond.

With the car parked close by there’s no … gap. A simple step into a mobile cubicle, a cozy journey, and I’m outside the static pile of rooms I call home.

Car-less, there’s a gap. A distance. Independence. Freedom. A sense of isolation that only the wild adventurer in me can overcome. Will I find the return bus stop? Will I get on the right bus? Will I have the correct change? The correct change … even now, crouching here in my sun-drenched conservatory, I shudder at the thought of standing before ‘the fierce gatekeeper’ - Charon, if you will - with only … notes.

Anyway ...

I’m in Richmond, free of car. Sat on the warm worn sandstone steps surrounding the Obelisk. Eyes closed, basking in the sun. My hair’s now so thin on top I can feel the rays bouncing off my dome. It feels good and I smile.

“I’m ninety-three you know.”

The voice comes from a bent old man leaning on walking sticks. His heaving chest tells me he’s out of breath.

“Are you Okay,” I ask in the loud-but-definitely-not-patronising voice I reserve for potentially aurally challenged wrinklies.

“I’m under Doctor Bagshaw. Cancer,” he tells me.

“I ... I’m ...” I’m speechless. Behind those rheumy eyes is a person. Under that concave chest beats a heart that has thumped away since the end of World War One. It was thumping when Hitler invaded Poland. Thumping when Churchill roused a nation. Thumping when my own heart first lurched into life. Thumping when I stopped other men’s hearts in Angola. Thumping now.

“You have to smile,” he says.

And off he goes - the length of his stride wouldn’t challenge an arthritic hamster - left stick, right stick, left foot, right foot … slow and steady.

It occurs to me I must have been sat quite a while for the old gentleman to have sneaked up on me like that.

The skin on my face and head is hot, dry and tight. I’ve caught the sun.

Here’s that feeling again - will the bus arrive in time to save me? Or will my dry bones be discovered crumbling onto the stone steps, one day prompting archaeologists to wonder if Obelisk worship was common around these parts.

As for prepacked tomatoes: there’s something too corporate, commercial, convenient, you must-have-this-six about them. Picking loose ones is more dangerous, free thinking, closer to nature, independent.

There: they’re out. A curtain of words drawn to hide away the thoughts of my brother’s death from cancer.

People. What are we like? You have to smile.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Plan to straighten Earth’s tilt meets opposition from druids

The renowned physicist Professor Apex’s annoyance at having to adjust his clock every spring and autumn led to the, by now, well known plan to straighten the Earth on its axis.

After months of negotiating with the ‘Russians’, Saturn V rockets, one at each pole, were last night finally moved into place and secured horizontally, pointing, of course, in opposite directions.

A Super injunction, served on behalf of the Solstice Druids Souvenir Stonehenge Co-operative, halted Prof. Apex’s plans seconds before he was about to ‘push the button’.

“Don’t they realise,” Prof. Apex fumed at this reporter, “that the tilt of the Earth on its axis is causing all kinds of problems? Clocks have to be put back and forth every year, summer is winter in the southern hemisphere, birds are contributing to global warming with all that unnecessary migrating. It’s costing the world billions.”

A pro-tilt spokesman stopped playing his bongos long enough to say, “We like the tilt. Jobs rely on it. Sublime summer solstice. Oh, yeah baby.”

A police spokesman confirmed, “They’ll all f*cking bonkers. If that daft tw*t gets his way and straightens the f*cking Earth, who’s to say we wont all fall the f*ck off?! And if that gormless f*ck-wit wearing bed-sheets doesn’t stop playing his f*cking bongos I’ll shove ‘em right up his f*cking henge.”

An anti-tilt rally is being organised to coincide with the winter solstice in Rochdale at which Prof. Apex has vowed to continue his fight.

Tilt supporters remain unmoved.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Perfectly timed awkward questions

Inspired - or reminded - by a post over at Gen's Life: About a year ago I was looking after some kids by the river in Richmond.

One of the little darlings was a slightly autistic young chap - let's call him Henry - of around six years old. One of his 'things' was reading. He had to be reading something when out and about.

On this occasion he was reading one of the Harry Potter books. All well and good - until he finished it just as his mum called to say she was running late.

The little guy got agitated and starting rocking and getting quite upset - not about his mum being late, about having nothing to read.

Luckily I had a copy of my humorous science fiction book in the car. I couldn't recall any naughty bits or horrible violence - actually, I barely remember writing it - so, after a moments pause, I thought, why not? And handed it over.

Henry dived right in. He was happy again, none of the other kids had drowned in the river. All was well.

An hour or so later Henry's mum arrived. She noticed her beloved son reading, apologised for not leaving more material, and asked what it was. I explained, with a little pride, it was my own work and Henry seemed to be enjoying it.

At that, Henry looked up and said, "Mum, what's 'bollocks'?"

Ah. I'd forgotten that bit.

Henry's mum took my book, gave it back to me, and, taking her cherub's hand in hers, left.

In case you're wondering, Henry's mum and I are Okay now. Though she does seem to carry a lot of children's reading material around with her.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Reviewlette: Darwin's Children by Greg Bear

A virus - Sheeva - has created a generation of kids who communicate with flashing freckles and smells. (And by that I don't mean they talk to their patchy pigmentation, or gossip with their flatulence.)
These children are getting ill, some are dying, and it's all because ... well, that would be telling.
The kids are scaring both officialdom and the general populace, so are being herded into, what amount to, concentration camps.

It's a good read. We get to know the characters quite well. The story moves along nicely ... but, I had the feeling I was missing something. After reading it was I told I should have read Darwin's Radio first. *facepalm* That's where we learn about the Sheeva virus and so on.

Nevertheless, I quite enjoyed it. Quite.

If you've read it, or intend reading it, let me know your thoughts.

In the meantime, I'm going to p-pick up a P-Penguin classic and chill.

Oh, I nearly forgot: I recently signed up with the free site, www.dailylit.com. I read about them in the bloggsphere somewhere.

If, like me, you haven't read some important classics, they'll feed you bite sized chunks in your email each weekday morning. I signed up for Moby Dick - I know, I should have read it years ago - and now get a page or two per day. It's divided into about 290 parts, so very quickly and easily digestible. There's a link on each email so you can ask them to send the next bit if you want to go a little faster. A feature I've used quite a lot as I've discovered Moby Dick is frikkin brilliant!

Anyway - I think it's a great idea so thought I'd share.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Greg Bear's Quantico

A story about the FBI and the threat of bioterrorism in the near future.

Sorry to say I didn't finish it. Made it to about 50% then lost interest. Confusing use of surnames made me forget who was who.

I've read lots of good reviews for this and was really looking forward to being transported. It was not to be.

I'm beginning to wonder if my tastes are changing.

Anyone else read this? What did you think?

I'm going to try another Mr Bear ...