Perhaps I should not have been a fisherman, he thought. But that was the thing that I was born for. (The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway)
I do not fish. I have fished, I have been fishing, but I am not a fisherman, though I’d like to be. I’ve caught fish, several times. I’ve caught mackerel from a pier and trout at a farm. I once caught piranha in the Amazon jungle, baiting hooks with steak and lowering them into the water, then flishing them out, quick-smart, as soon as there was activity below. The piranha, eager for blood, leapt out of the water after the steak and I hit them hard with a makeshift cosh. We ate some and used the rest as bait for catfish. We caught a couple of those too, enormous and tasty over an open fire. (more...)
In a tiny Tuscan hilltop town not far from Chiusi, there is a modest trattoria which I will call Lilla, perching on the downslope of one of the steep streets that draw the eye towards Siena. Some years ago, I had reason to spend a while in the town, and being there, passed many lunchtimes eating alone in the restaurant. (more...)
Decidedly it will never have been given to me to finish anything, except perhaps breathing. One must not be greedy. (Malone Dies, Samuel Beckett)
Too many people are opting out. It was always expected that there would be some, about a million every Orbit, give or take. These, it was thought, would be at the extremes. Everlasting life solves many problems, but there are still people who aren’t happy, who would prefer not to be than to be. This natural attrition was accounted for from the beginning, once the ideal population number had been identified. That’s why we have the Creation Programme. Every time a person decides to stop, we make someone else, randomising small parts of the genetic code to ensure diversity and strengthen the common resistance. Not that we see diseases much anymore. We raise the new Creations by rota. Most of us have to bring one up about once in 150 Orbits, which is a relatively small burden.
It’s an easy, plentiful life. We all had the Renovator implanted during the Changeover, and it’s fool proof. It protects us, rejuvenates us, purifies us. Our ages are irrelevant – we mark Creation dates for the first century, but ideas of seniority are nearly non-existent. The Renovator keeps our bodies and minds young. Originally, it was designed with 24 set as the ideal age, but that was later lowered to 20 for reasons of genital intercourse and physical stamina. There’s talk of bringing it down further. (more...)
In 2007, a group of us attempted to walk the circumference of the Olympic Park in Stratford. It was surrounded by a blue fence, the colour of the off-licence plastic bags strewn across the canal towpath and main roads of the route. ‘Demolish, Dig, Design’, promised lurid posters, their priorities clearly signalled. Peeking over the fence, the park looked to be in ‘demolish’ mode. In 2012, we tried again. (more...)
This is not a confession. This is not a story or a parable, a manifesto or a warning, a love letter or a fantasy, self-help or recruitment drive.
If it mattered when I first tried a cigarette, I could tell you where, who with and what brand. If it was important, I could consider the year or so between my first, childhood cigarette and my second, adolescent one and draw conclusions from it. I could speculate about whether I enjoyed the smoke, or whether I enjoyed the fact of smoking, or whether I enjoyed that I did it with others and enjoyed that they liked me when I smoked. I could even wonder if I hated it, worried about whether I was doing it right, found the dizziness that went with it thrilling and terrifying. (more...)
Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
(‘The Hollow Men’, T.S. Eliot, 1925)
Boxers are liars. They have to be, eventually. They lie about their condition, for promotion, about their intentions, about their bodies and about their reflexes. They lie about punches, about which ones will hurt and which are just for show, about which are diversions and which the real deal. They lie about injuries, about cuts, about bruises, about their hands and about their guts. And eventually, they all, nearly, end up lying on canvas, unwitting art. (more...)
In the first 28 years of my life, I went to the opera, oh, six or seven times. In the year or so since, I’ve been to 15 different productions.
My knowledge of the music is not deep. I can tell a Wagner from a Verdi, a Massenet from a Rossini, and I can spot a Puccini swell in my sleep (for those who can’t, imagine what Andrew Lloyd Webber would sound like if he was much better). But as my addiction grows, and addiction it is, my expertise stubbornly refuses to follow. A spattering of listening provides paltry relief against a void of ignorance. (more...)
In the analysis and discussion of recent events in England, many have struggled to identify causes, and provide explanations and understandings of behaviour that most hardly recognise. This frustrating search for meaning has seen media outlets, politicians, and by extension ‘the public’, develop a vocabulary for the situation, a slowly consensual (among those who comment, at any rate) set of words for things that have proven difficult to describe.
Who was doing these things? The BBC used the word ‘protestors’ from Saturday evening, when the first gathering of people became violent, up until sometime on Tuesday, after the worst of the violence seemed over. Then ‘rioters’ or ‘looters’ became the norm (as it was throughout with many other media outlets), delegitimising the perpetrators, rendering them, correctly, unjustified. Most blamed things on ‘youths’, describing, roughly, those between 14 and about 20 who seemed to form the core of the violence. The insistent degrading of the word ‘youth’ in the shocked rhetoric of commentary served to extinguish its inherent sprightliness. (more...)
There’s a dirty little game to pass the time in libraries. It takes two or more participants, an interest in foreign spines and a nose for the obscure. One player shuffles off for a stroll in the stacks – the darker and dustier, the better. They return, sometime later, with a long, punctuated number, or a list of several. The other takes the paper, follows its codes around the library, and returns even later with a grin and a new found love of the works of Robert Fuchs and Carl August Titz.
It would be difficult to play this game in Kensal Rise library. Romantic nooks are in short supply. Illicit liaisons, book-based or otherwise, are impossible. But mainly, it would be difficult to play because there are very few books. The library is sparsely populated in every sense, though the day’s papers, a few computers and a dedicated children’s section add a little colour. For more than two decades, councils have been trying to close it, and since 2004, it has been a stated objective, outlined in the ‘Vision for Brent’ of that year. It seems the time has come. (more...)