November 29: cups and saucers

I just learnt the word Ident. Does everyone know this word? It is that little film on the tv between programmes that promotes the channel. The BBC has swimmers, amateur footballers, mugs for tea. They probably cost millions of license-payers money to make. The mug one struck me as it is meant to be about tea breaks, and amongst the receptacles there isn’t a single cup and saucer. I am a fan of the cup and saucer for both tea and coffee. Especially as we now tend to drink our beverage in an easy chair rather than formally round a table. In casual settings you need a saucer to catch the spill. The cup and saucer is so much more elegant than the tubular mug. For me, there is no competition. Perhaps the dish-washer might break a fragile cup and saucer, but they are now made sturdy to withstand the tyranny of the machine. Needless to say, I own no dish-washer myself. I am happy enough with the proces of washing-up. It gives the hands a punctual warm massage every few hours of the day. Anyway I just bought a nice-looking breakfast cup and saucer (larger than the tea cup and saucer) for the morning pre-coffee tea. If, when it comes, it looks the part, this could be an xmas gift idea. For the festive season, an xmas tip from peoplearerubbish.

November 25: sneerer-in-chief

When I ask my students do you watch telly in the evening, they say no. So what do you do then? I say. I know they don’t read. They say they watch netflix. I say, that’s watching telly. They say, no it isn’t. I say I don’t have netflix and they look down their nose at me. I tell them that all they are doing by saying that they are watching netflix rather than telly is indictating to me their class and preocupation with status. Our conversation is really about their attempts to position themselves in society. This, I suppose, is a structuralist analysis of the exchange. At their age they are right to look to find their place in the pecking order, even if the only order that interests them is socio-economic rather than intellectual. I, by contrast, place myself top of the sneering hierarchies. Sneerer-in-chief. It comes with the blog.

November 14: on the go material

The most challenging things in life are those that are neither black nor white. This is true in ones material life as it is in our dealings with people. I did a little game the other day where you give the three words that you hope best define yourself. After ten seconds of thinking I thought Clever; jovial and another one I forget. Later that evening I thought about it again and came up with Compromising; uncompromising; compromised. In the run of life you need to be able to compromise; there comes a moment when you must not compromise; modesty forces me to add compromised.

As I say, a lot of our difficult work is done in the intermediate zones. Take clothes for example. We all have clothes that are not yet dirty clothes but no longer clean. These are what I call my on the go clothes. But the question is, what do you do with the on the go? The shirt you will get another wearing out of; the trousers that are weekend wear. A jumper you can just sling over the back of the settee ; it is a classic on the go garment, and its presence on the settee back is accepted and acceptable, but shirts and trousers are not. My present solution is to put on the go material onto what I call my bushel. My bushel is actually one of those strange chairs that are meant to be good for your back which you kneel on like an upright altarboy on his hassock. This I no longer use for my back, I use it for my on the go. It’s not perfect but it’s the best I can manage. It’s a compromise.

November 8: what war were you preparing for?

I have never been a wearer of so-called combat trousers. The idea that urban life is a combat where you need to keep your battle tools about you tucked into a variety of pockets and crannies woven within the folds of your trousers doesn’t appeal to me. What is this combat you fight? I wish to say. Then there are the hoods you cover yourself with as if your identity is a secret the evil state would wish to hound you for. Or the trousers you wear low slung to show your earlier experiences in a state penitentiary. These are all adolescent urban fantasies, and if your identity is being tracked it isn’t by the bumblers in the government, it is by the people you willingly give your life to, at Facebook and Amazon and co. You yearn to belong to an urban warfare, yet you cannot understand the stakes. And then, when for once a mild degree of war-like discipline is required, you cry because you can’t get a pint or a haircut next week or a public space where you can do your pull-ups. What war were those pull-ups intended for? This may be the closest we get to one.

October 14: bowing to the synchronic

Language is is fraught with difficulties. As an individual I want to use my own words. I don’t want to say yo or yay; I want to say hiya. I don’t want to say the movies; I want to say the pictures. I don’t want to be the slave of the on trend. These are the words of my youth; they are part of me. I am living the language diachronically, through time. But some words you cannot live diachronically; you have to live them synchronically, as though they are only of today. I cannot say the word darkie for black person even though it was a word my mum used for all the right reasons and also a term I remember Muhammed Ali using. Today we are forced by our culture (which is more powerful than us, and rightly so) to use the term person of colour, even though this term makes no sense to me, as if the two blocks in the world are white people and others. We must, however, bow to the stupid synchronic.

What I can do perhaps is maintain a critical discourse on usage, whilst remaining in its thrall.

October 11: i kid you not

I heard the expression I kid you not used as I was travelling on the train this morning. i have not heard it for quite a time but I suppose its day has come as it takes its place with those other modern pre-affirmaton statements like I swear to you; I’m not going to lie to you. These prefatory insistences pepper modern speech (I’m sure you have noticed). Emphatic and declamatory, I live them as a boorish and boastful preface to mostly banal utterance. They are rhetorical features, I suppose, looking to convince us with stardust, all form, bullying the listener into better attention. What I would prefer is a complex utterance told modestly, rather than this, where we often get dull material given the big intro. It is so much nicer to devine complex material delivered seamlessly, articlately, without shout.

September 18: idlers

Ouside the flat where I live there is a spot much favoured by idlers. they come at night and position themselves there just outside my bedroom window. It is on a corner, so it is a spot where there is no parking, which explains why the position is free at night and why the idler places himself there. There is no denying that there are drug dealers afoot in the area who might undertake their transactions in an idling automobile, ready for a quick getaway, but mostly these are just regular guys doing what a lot of regular guys do, getting out of the house at night, going into their favourite space, which is their car and driving off to another alien spot (outside my bedroom, as it turns out). Here they keep the engine running. For comfort? That warm throb must keep them happy. One is wary of confronting the idler by night. Who knows what kind of idler he is? And any night encounter is risk-laden. This nocturnal activity is an index to the life of the common man (it is almost exclusively men). They have to get out of the house, even when they should be tucked up in bed. The house or the flat is an oppressive locus. It needs escaping from. Once we found someone asleep snuggled up to the throbbing engine. Often they sit there listening to their music. Very existential and all that but I just wish they wouldn’t end up doing it five yards from my bed.

September 4: proximity

I am preparing to go back to the physical reality of working with other people after about six months on screen. For me, this can not come a moment too soon. I shall surely grumble at getting up earlier and travelling on public transport but, on balance, I am happy to go back. I am maybe in a minority. Many people enjoy the virtual contact with others and will try and retain it, perhaps permanently. Notions of personal space and intimate space have stretched and perhaps elasticated for good. This proxemic sense has either become more or less acute depending on your point of view. In the Renaissance the art of body arranging was infinitely more refined. Their dances were a codification of hierarchies and allegiance.But equally one would think nothing of sharing a bed with another man. Montaigne always shares his bed with Henri de Navarre (the future Henri IV) whenever he is in town, just as a gesture of friendship. Personally, I do need physical human transaction, though I am not what you call a particularly touchy-feely type. I put this down to having shared a bed with my big brother when I was a teenager, whiuch might put anyone off.

August 22: carcassonne

I have four impressions when I see or hear the word Carcassonne. One: my own visit to this smallish town in south West France about twenty-five years ago. It is an ancient walled city with some gift shops inside but nice if you walk round the medieval walls on a sunny day. There is also a modern town beyond the medieval one. Two: my neighbour Tom tells me he plays a game on line called Carcassonne, which I suppose is about capturing medieval fortresses.  Three: at work in my room there is a framed poster of Carcassonne as it was in the 1960s (to judge by the one or two cars visible in the picture). It is less spoiled by modern tourism and you see the vegetation encroaching round it where now there is a big car park. Four: in recent days I have seen an advert by the French Tourist Board on TV trying to get tourists to come to France. The image they choose is that of Carcassonne. some images of the walls; some of trails of tourists in shorts; some of gift shops. It doesn’t look as alluring as it does on the poster in my room or even in my own memory from 25 years ago. What you think of something is a mix of memories, some personal, some collective; representations; transformations or translations into other modes or iconographies; interferences from extraneous elements (the sunny day I went round the walls; the evolution of the French tourist industy). It’s no wonder one can never be clear about stuff.

I don’t know what I think of Carcassonne now. If I go there again, maybe I’ll go in the winter.

August 15: the answer should be implicit

I did another survey. It must be survey season. This one was Mori Ipsos. There was a phone call out of the blue. Would I do a survey on my personal finance? The man had a fruity voice. Why not? I was hoping to get paid but no money was mentioned. They phoned me back at 4 pm but it was n’t the man with the fruity voice; it was a woman with an accent I could never quite understand. I had to keep asking for her to repeat the question, like an proper old-timer. I answered no to most of her questions.They had said the survey might take about 45 minutes. I’d wrapped it up after 20 minutes because of my negatives. Did I have a credit card? No. Did I have Life insurance? No. Did I have a smart phone? No. I said I bet that’s the first time anybody’s said no to that one? The woman grinned back, thinking what a freak! What kind of a pension did I have? No idea. Would I be taking out an annuity whenI retired? Haven’t thought about it. What kind of car insurance did I have? Don’t have a car.  Do I invest in stocks and shares. Nope. Do I have an Isa? No Siree. Then finally, do I think I manage ny finances well? Answer Yes. There was a pause on the end of the line. How could I manage my finances well if I didn’t have all their shit? The answer should be implicit, I think. Oh, and their first question was: what am I? Male? Female? Other? A different tack from the ONS.