Sweary Man Jackanory

Nick Cave is reading me a story. It's nice of him. We've never met. He didn't ask. He's doing it through the medium of seven CDs. It's a book he wrote about a salesman. It's very good. He's done a soundtrack with Warren Ellis, which is also very, as you might imagine, good. During the reading it swells at appropriate points. His voice is mixed so that narration is right here and dialogue is over there. The salesman hasn't sold anything yet.
Obviously the story concerns sex and death and Kylie. It is already much better than his other novel and I am only one and a half sevenths of the way through. His other novel was twenty years ago. It was dark and rich like Christmas pudding and like Christmas pudding I couldn't finish it but plenty of other people will tell you it's worth a purchase. Which, I agree, it is. You don't have to finish anything. You shouldn't carry on after you're done.

Brain Seasoning

Recently there was a request for some writing. It said:
Do us a line to go in an architect's christmas card. You know, instead of Merry Christmas. He's going to send it out to all his clients.
I will illustrate it.
About eight words perhaps.
It came from the Inkymole office, in the form of an email. Whenever an email arrives from an address ending in inkymole.com, my computer starts to sweat and makes a very loud clanging noise like the bells from News at Ten, and I put down my cupcake and inject myself with magic capability juice, a gallon of which I have on permanent standby, and get straight down to five or six consecutive minutes of brain-work, to figure out what the email wants. After this I know what I am required to do and can Guinness myself unconscious for a few days in preparation for what I like to call Actually Doing What I Know I Have To Do, an activity which I find is most exciting when the deadline is within sleeping distance.
In this case, I had to distil all the feelings of Christmas into eight or less words that also evoked the history, controversy and enchantment of the entire discipline of Architecture while making the clients, Axon-Beckett, seem like reasonable people, whom you might not shy away from consulting next time you were wondering how much it would cost to build an upside-down underground pyramid to house your family in when the end finally comes.
So I wrote down a page of Christmas words, then a page of Architect words, and looked at one, then at the other, and so on, for a day. And nothing happened. Then I put a page in front of either eye and tried to look through them, in the hopes the solution might drift in like a ghost. It didn't. I was disappointed. Especially because I was doing this in the pub, at the bar, and no one would even talk to me, let alone offer any assistance.
Then I looked up every quote from every architect ever and tried to think of an uber-quote-with-jingle-bells-on. I texted 118118 and asked what do architects say to each other at Christmas? But there was only a reply saying you haven't been charged.
So I walked slowly round Manchester, which is mainly made of buildings, many of which were designed by architects. While looking at the buildings I stroked my chin with a miniature Christmas tree and waited for words to engulf my brain like a swarm of something nice.
But nothing happened, so I dipped the miniature Christmas tree in red paint, thinking I'll go and write on the wall of a building, there can't be a better way to combine all the elements of the brief.
Then, just as I was about to start writing "Wots Ur Xmasterplan?" on the side of the Hilton Hotel, the five words above popped into my noggin, and I scuttled home to email them off.
And while I was typing them out I thought goshyplops, these words are terrible. Terrible. They will make me join the Writer's Register, just so they can strike me off. But the deadline is here. The deadline has been here for a while, actually, and I haven't even offered it a glass of water. I've been too busy producing nothing. I wonder if it will be generous enough to interpret doing nothing as striving. Hm.
But it turned out it was acceptable for everyone involved.
The end.

I Think It Just Kicked In

I saw Beak. It's the bloke from Portishead and two other blokes. The audience was blokes and a few missuses. Someone in Manchester's tag is "Bloke", you can see it up the stairs outside the car park next to Retro Bar. It's a good word. Onstage behind them were two fixed spotlights, which mostly stayed on, so mostly what the room in front of me looked like was black man-shapes and hairy white outlines and a few pink glowing ears, dancing slowly. They were good, the band, and the ears, and the beers, there were free beers at the end, because it's the time of year it is.
I was evaluated, during an evaluation week, which was two days in France with a day's travel either side. The conclusion was: you are very suitable but you have not got the job. I wish they'd told me that before I gave up the Crooked Vultures ticket I had, to attend. I never told them of this wounding and hilarious sacrifice. There's lessons everywhere. Tomorrow I might give up a free ticket to the moon so I can attend a painting-white-lines-with-your-bollocks recruitment weekend, if only I could find out where it's happening.

Fruit Blues

One of the kitchens I work in has an unstoppable radio. It's bulbous and grey and I stab it with the big cabbage-cutting knife and it takes no notice. It's a non-digital radio and so in the daytime it can either be silent or make a terrible sequence of noises. The most heart-maiming of these noise sequences is a thing called The New Single from The Prodigy.
"The New Single from The Prodigy" used to be an exciting idea. Like "Broadband". Or "Manchester". But nowahours: Are you shitting me? Am I being shat?
Often it comes on while I am making the "Apple, Grape and Celery" salad, which I've never sliced an apple into, ever, because there's never been an apple in the building. There's apple on the menu, there's a delivery every morning, but there's never an apple on any shelf. It's a soul-pummeling visual metaphor for the lack of depth and flavour in Liam Howlett's recent output. The buffet does not deliver what the menu offers. But people still pay for it.

Stubble and Thin

The man next to me on the bus was unprepared for the schoolful of kids who rushed in to squawk and fill the aisle. He started murmuring to me and himself about what can be done. Weren't there exclusive buses for the yelping shits? Aren't there still?
I unfogged the window and said yeah. And I dunno. He muttered something about maybe strangling one or two, while a solution was negotiated. He asked me what my thoughts were.
I said my thoughts are not my mind like the clouds are not the sky, then asked him if he played violent computer games. He didn't. He'd assumed they were for kids.
Not so, I said. They are big fun. Their killing takes your mind off your own killing, plus there's bad acting and explosions and rewards. You should definitely start.
He asked me what ones I played. I explained I didn't. That doesn't mean I don't want to. And I used to, a lot. Bang. Recently I've been thinking I should start playing Chess. I wish it was an outdoor sport like it is in New York, y'know, have you ever been?
But he didn't like Yanks, apparently, and left the bus more agitated and quieter than he was when he got on.


It was the type of selection weekend where you have to stand out and fit in and demonstrate a lack of over-confidence. I passed, so next Sunday is the start of evaluation week, where, who knows, you could be asked to demonstrate that you have the initiative to let someone else take the initiative, while also guiding them towards a desired outcome without actually giving them instructions, within a strict time limit, wearing a blindfold, in a potentially bruising environment, just before dinner. Should be a piece of piss.
I injured the soft bit of my right foot and both thighs don't quite work properly so now I walk funny. And slowly. Because if I try to get along at my normal speed it hurts a bit and I look like maybe I'm recovering from some rear-end trauma. The main disadvantages of going slowly are: it takes longer to get to places, and: people with clipboards have more chance to point their faces at you and stand in your way. On the way home from work a man being paid to collect money for a charity said "hey you look laid back today man", and instead of replying "yeah let's keep it that way" I said "thanks" because "yeah let's keep it that way" was not the first thing to occur to me, it was the second, and by the time it popped in I had left the man and his clean irking face behind.

It's Not As Good As It Would Be If It Was A Little Bit Better

If we all had magazines for heads then instead of talking we would just reach up and turn the pages. We could rip out pictures and articles from each other and stick them on a wall or put them in a drawer, and look at them to check that we still liked them and agreed with or had figured out what was written or pictured.

Face It In The Morning

The flat's on the eighth floor of an eight-floor building. The Spar is at the bottom just by the side entrance and sometimes in the afternoon I buy only half the beer I know I am going to need to drink that day so that at the halfway stage I have somewhere to go, and maybe some rain on the face and an impulse purchase. Sometimes when I go to do this I leave the door to the flat unlocked in the hopes someone on the same floor might wander in, in their socks, with a glass in one hand, holy macaroni just seeing who's around. I never leave the ground floor side door unlocked though because there is a don't-let-the-burglars-in notice. There was a theft recently because someone'd propped it open while going to Spar. When they returned with their bags all the flatscreens had gone and they were left with rectangular light patches on the walls with two holes where the bracket screws had been.
Once when I got back the lights in the hall were off and I couldn't remember whether or not I'd switched them off before I went out, so I didn't know whether to be worried, so I was worried and started composing plinky unease-themes in my head while I was taking my coat off, and I went through to the kitchen and the TV was on, I couldn't see it but I could hear a local weatherwoman predicting slight chances of everything for tomorrow, and I thought anyone who's intruded here will have the upper and the lower hand and will be able to completely outwit or overpower me, whichever is needed, it won't be hard, so I got a big Japanese knife out of the drawer and held it in an unusual way that I thought might make me look like I knew how to wield a knife, and I got to the front room and the adverts were on and all the shadows were in their usual places and nobody was there.