Sunday, 31 January 2010

The Banned List #4

Disgruntled Poets

I'm going off piste with this one, but I really do think that Disgruntled Poets (sp. Disgruntatum Poeticum) should be on the Banned List.

Only today, via carrier pigeon (email is so last year, dear) I received the following missive:

I'll beat the bleeping bleep out of you, you slimy, illiterate, talentless bleep... be warned; I've done time and been birched for sorting out bleeps like you who got under my skin ...

Five minutes later, another exhausted-looking pigeon arrived.

You think you are so bleeping witty but believe me when you are picking your bleeping teeth off the floor or lying on a hospital bed wondering were (sic) your bleeping kneecaps went to you wont (sic) be bleeping laughing...

And so on.

So far, so predictable. But I have a question that needs answering. In all my years of writing, performing and teaching, and having met hundreds of truly gorgeous, delicious, kind, funny, unusual, inspiring, modest, anxious, confident, sweet, talented, clever, boringly normal, barking mad poets of all genders, I have only ever met four (count 'em, four) Disgruntled Poets.

And all four of them have been men of a certain age.

I wonder if we could devise an equation to identify them? After all, they do not immediately appear Disgruntled. You are fooled by perfectly normal behaviour then suddenly - YIKES! - you are drowning in pigeon shit, parchment and feathers ...

Sunday, 24 January 2010

The Banned List #3

An occasional list of things that should be banned in creative writing ...

1. It was an easy mistake, but it brought terrible consequences ... Prior to the shocking event ... In one brief, awful moment, fate wreaked its terrible revenge ... In one doomed moment ... That fateful night ...

And all of the above in one page of story with not even a hint of what this dreadful event is except that it will, quite undoubtedly, be dreadful. Alas, any narrative tension or element of surprise the author was hoping to create has vanished.

When I come across writing like this, I image the soundtrack accompanying it to be of thundering, menacing chords on a pipe organ - Dah-duh-DAAAAAHHHHHH! Of course, when the vampire does rip out the throat of the protagonist, it comes as somewhat of a relief. Thank goodness! He's dead! Hurrah! Now, finally, I can stop anticipating this dreadful event which I was - frankly - bored silly waiting for.

2. The personification of inanimate objects. Well, I object. No, the cast iron stove did not wrap its warm, comforting arms around her. Nor was he pulled to the floor by the cruel hands of gravity.

3. Over-direction in bizarre detail. The hand which was attached to his heavily tattooed arm prodded the garments of his wonderment. With this left hand he then reached for his keys, whilst holding a bottle of lager between the thumb and forefinger of his right hand, raising his left eyebrow quizzically at the door which faced due west in an apartment block built in the 1960s by Polish labourers, the handle of which had to be turned in the opposite direction to which you would normally assume as the lock had been fitted back-to-front, producing a sigh of exasperation from our hero (and our reader).

We Live in Dangerous Times

So, the security level has been raised to "severe". This means, says a Government spokesman, that we suspect a terror attack is about to happen, but we don't know when or where. And we don't think it's iminent either.

That's us told.

Demon Aunt phoned. "MFI don't know what they're talking about, do they?"


"I think they're just putting the willies up us."


"Yes, they're eavesdropping on everyone's conversations these days, you know. We're all under suspicion."

This is true. I cannot be the only person to have noticed wardrobes with badly fitting doors ostentatiously reading newspapers in parked cars; loose-handled pine veneer chiffoniers lurking in doorways; unhinged ottomans in internet cafes quite clearly hacking into email accounts. I am sure that my bookshelves have cracked the code in my diaries. It explains the knowing looks ...

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Lust of the Flesh #4

Each morning, on Skye, my great-great Grandfather (and probably several Greats before him) ate half a teacup of coarse oatmeal for his breakfast. Boiling water was poured over the oats and the saucer laid on top of the cup for a few minutes to let the oatmeal steep. Then, whilst the oatmeal was still far from cooked, it would be eaten with a pinch of salt. My Demon Aunt (she of the famous Malteser Biscuits: Take seventeen family bags of Maltesers, crush them, add ten bars of melted chocolate, 2lbs of melted butter and a few biscuit crumbs, press into a tin, cover in more melted chocolate and decorate with Maltesers) said that the uncooked oatmeal would continue to swell in the stomach and kept Grandfather full all day.

So, there is a genetic connection for porridge being a Lust of the Flesh, but it is more than that. Other more fashionable breakfasts might have their moment in the morning sun - sliced banana and Greek yoghurt, Bircher Muesli, smoked salmon bagels - but nothing beats the silkiness of porridge, the almost jelly-like quality as it forms an island in a sea of milk or cream. Demerara sugar melts across its surface in golden puddles. It slips from the spoon, slides down my throat ... a hard-to-beat combination of a saintly good-start-to-the-day and sinful sensuality.

N.B. Never cover a lover in porridge - it's a bugger when it sets.