Tuesday, 10 April 2012

March, the mad scientist.

Well, hello you. If you’ve been wondering where I’ve been throughout March, bless you. 

I’ve been busy, you may be assured of that. Life isn’t likely to get any quieter any time soon, but I am determined to make the time to write something. Initially, I thought I’d better account directly for my blogging absence. A vivid, pulsating chronicle of the last few weeks in my own life would certainly make a change from the usual over-worded torrents on The Beatles or Pink Floyd. As it happens, events are still ongoing and in flux, so I shan’t…yet. Too many things going on in my life and in my head — and not quite enough of old Paulie to go around for it all. ‘Change is a monster,’ as Marc Bolan once said, ‘and changing is hard.’ Sadly, the notion that nothing remains constant has been something of a motif in my dealings with the cosmos these past few weeks.

Nothing says change quite like an intimation of mortality. In the last year or so I can think of far too many occasions where the perceived invincibility of my friends and family has been called into question and tested sorely. I have watched with impotent despair and no small degree of fury as several people I love have been subjected to a plethora of morbidities: chronic dementia, attempted suicide, cancer, incipient organ failure — the latter three to people markedly younger than myself. There are simply not the words in my vocabulary to dignify, by description, the mental and physical anguish that these particular changes have wrought on all concerned. In some ways this is a pity, as there are undoubtedly stories of the highest human interest to be told among such life-changing events. I fear, however, that my attempts to chronicle these tales, with or without names changed to protect the individuals concerned, would render them facile and cheap.

The other day on Facebook, someone I knew posted up the announcement that their mother had died. Well, you can imagine my immediate reaction was two-fold. Sorrow at the news rose first, of course, but I was compelled not to add a comment to the thread because of the other feeling I had: a sense of disapproval. I think I’m just not the type of person who takes Facebook seriously enough. I certainly believe that vouchsafing such a deeply personal and emotive moment in one’s life is not something I would do somewhere online I mainly use for posting up silly photographs, watching other people’s amusing video links and indulging in flirtatious banter. It would diminish the event in my mind, rendering something truly sad into something merely sentimental — a transient statement on a Facebook news feed ticker inviting mere trite, instant opinion from people when quiet sorrow and gentle condolence might be more suitable — not to say a bit of personal contact. Rush, bustle, hustle, scram. No time to reflect. In this regard, the Internet can make even the saddest things seem a little naff. After all, I’d say 99% of people I know on FB are contactable by more direct, personal, welcome and satisfactory means — have been, and always will be — and the ones who aren’t don’t need to know the details of your private life. I’m sure it’s the same for you.

I speak solely for myself, of course. I know for some other people, the Internet represents a prime, if not the only place to express one’s personality and emotional state in unambiguous terms — particularly if they are the socially shy sort of type in real life. Hmm, there’s me using the term ‘real life’ like it’s a separate thing entirely — which I appreciate for some is simply not the case. After all if you spend all day on Facebook, that’s what you did in your day, if that doesn’t sound too Irish an expression. I’m forgiven if it does, for obvious reasons.

Several dozen levels along on the sliding scale of human cataclysm, I did a little bit of A Bad Thing the other day. While transferring music files from my laptop over to an external hard drive memory, I replaced a Big File with a Little File instead of the other way round, and lost the difference. A schoolboy error which lost me 500-plus albums on my external hard drive — just under half the total stored upon it. Gone. Weeks and weeks of diligent CD burning up the spout. Sure, I could put them all back on, but that would involve doing it all over again. I should have learned by now — the BBC Micros, ZX Spectrums and Commodore 64s of my actual schooldays never prompted you with an ‘are you sure?’ before you did something grand and silly, so really, I’ve no excuse. I turned left when I meant to turn right and couldn’t go back. Some good arose from this microtastrophe — it has made me reassess all the albums on my iTunes and decide which ones I really need to keep and which ones are just marking space and memory best used for other things.

The other week, my landlords informed me that they will soon be selling up the property we rent and so, sadly, after eight years of comfort and complacency, we needs must consider somewhere new to live. Although we knew that day would come, it never really seemed likely...but now it has, as inconveniently as ever it could. The lessons learned from my hard drive decimation disaster carry over from the digital realm into the domestic as I find myself paring down my creature comforts to the absolute essentials, much as I did my music files. Annoying, but it’s one of those things that happens in life, I suppose.

It’s not all about having things taken away though. In happier news — trust me, I’m delighted about this — I was excited to note last weekend that the German Sausage Man has returned to Bromley High Street after nearly a year out of commission. I have mentioned him before. He was there this time last year, genially selling his wares and then by the Summer — peng! — he had suddenly disappeared. I was disappointed as I felt I had cultivated a congenial working relationship with this gentleman, who rewarded my recurrent loyalty to his stall with the odd bratwurst-shaped freebie. It turned out, as I learned, that his absence was enforced by a vehicle collision that wrought comprehensive damage to his stall and spun the entire kit and kaboodle a full 45-degree angle off its moorings. “I was inside at the time, so you can understand my surprise,” he concluded, rather phlegmatically. Now there’s a harsh lesson in life’s inconstancies. I’m glad to see him reinstated in the High Street where he can educate Bromley’s gastronomically challenged (a lifelong vocation should he feel the need) and bring much freude to whatever the German words are to describe the local culinary cognoscenti.

I will leave you now. I promise not to be away for quite so long again.

“March, the mad scientist, rings a new change — in ever-dancing colours.” — Ian Anderson, Jethro Tull 1975.


Currently watching:
Firefly (Joss Whedon, 2002)
Serenity (Joss Whedon, 2005)
The Long Good Friday (1979)
The Godfather Trilogy (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972-1990)

Currently listening to:
The Harvest Years 1969-1973 (Edgar Broughton Band, 2011)
Bandages (Edgar Broughton Band, 1975)
Thick As A Brick 2 (Ian Anderson, 2012)

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