Yesterday I went to Macdonalds. I tend to go to Macdonalds only before going to the theatre, which is rare, maybe once every six months, and I am going to the theatre tomorrow night, so I don’t know what I’ll do then. I can’t go to Macdonalds again. Last night’s trip was a freak accident. I was out in town and weak with hunger, so I stepped into the Notting Hill Macdonalds for my usual: the Big Mac meal with orange juice as the drink (£4.99). These days you wait a lot longer in Macdonalds. It is no longer what you would call a fast food. First, you have to order your meal on one of their big screens, choosing, amongst other options, whether you want table service or are willing to waddle the three steps to pick the meal up from the counter yourself. It takes quite a time for your number to pop up on their screen as being in preparation. Then you wait for it to be ready to collect. Staff scuttling out from behind to produce table service is one reason why it takes longer these days. That, plus the queue of Just Eat and Deliveroo delivery persons coming in. When mine was eventually ready the fries were cold, so I sent them back. They gave us a tumbler of cold instead of hot water, so that had to be changed too. Yes, I am quite the patrician in Macdonalds. When I got to the table I was too irritated to pretend to trick myself into enjoying the food. It ended up tasting just like it tastes at the end of the meal when I have understood what I am eating. i.e. not nice. Nor did it satisfy me, though at least it gave me strength to go into the next-door Tesco to buy more terrible food for later that night.
It is not often that I don’t finish a book I’m reading, even when I’m not really enjoying it. One book I could not finish a couple of years ago was The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro. I started it because he was a writer I didn’t know what to make of. I had read two or three other novels by him: Never Let me Go I had liked; The Buried Giant I had not much liked; When we were Orphans I had like the first half of. The Unconsoled is a Kafka-like narrative. A famous pianist arrives in a city to perform a concert. At first he does not seem to know he has a wife and child there. He is buffeted this way and that into appointments and meetings which he goes out of his way to accomodate, though we suspect there is some blindness or memory-lapse in his behaviour, as he suddenly lands in a space or relationship he was supposed to know but has to rediscover. I never saw how it resolved. I suspect it never did. I suspect there never was a concert. I say it is like Kafka. Kafka is sudden, brittle and violent. This is distracted, biscuity and melancholy; more english in its tone. It is a more frustrating read, often tiresome. But like Kafka, it deals with other people as shattered, fragmentary figures. You re-meet someone after many years and it is as if literally they have fallen off the edge of a cliff. People, like in real life, are different every time you encounter them. They are misrememberd, have new motives, have a dark side you never noticed. Every time someone walks through a shadow towards you it is a novel confrontation with a reassembled creature. That’s a bit like a better lived life, life if you lived it properly, because that’s how people really are. It’s is only our lazy, approximate minds that makes us think they are consistent, and, following on from that, the state of popular culture that propagates this myth.