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Jingle Jangle

17 September 2019 | Diary

Ellison mentions a book called the Jingle Jangle Tales. I don’t know what it is and I don’t care but it makes me imagine Crump-esque novel based on real and imaginary Jimmy Savile crimes, “Jingle Jangle” being one of his puerile catchphrases. It really could work. Jingle Jangle Tales: What Jim’ll Did Next.


16 September 2019 | Diary

There’s a big black tomcat who sits in the window of a flat downstairs. All he ever does it sit there on the back of a couch, watching people come and go with his big, golden eyes.

We call him Owly because (a) he looks a bit like an owl, and (b) we’re a pair of knuckle-heads.

Anyway, I’ve not seen him for a while. I hope he hasn’t died or run away. But why would he run away when there’s so much owling to be done?

That’s what we say he does, owling. He’s owling out into the street, burning holes into walls and through hedges with his piercing golden gaze.

“I saw Owly,” Samara might say when she comes in from work.

“Was he owling?” I’ll ask.

“Yes,” she might say, “Almost took my eye out.”

I hope he’s alright because who would do the owling? I don’t want to get roped into it.

Shadows on the Wall

15 September 2019 | Diary

To an arts centre (let’s not name it because I’m about to be a swine to it) for nine experimental short films from Japan, circa 1981.

In the event it’s only five films but that’s okay because I’m not sure how much longer we’d have been able to take it. And it’s not just our party of misery guts; half the audience is restless and squirming and quick to whisper to their neighbour about, tee-hee, maybe being the first ones to stand up and leave.

The problem is not that the films are naff (though they are naff, the point of screening not being to applaud their brilliance but to glimpse some creative acts whose points of origin happen to be a long time ago in a far-flung land) but that the screening room is so impossibly uncomfortable.

It’s hot and so poorly ventilated that we must all breathe air that has passed through the lungs of sixty other open-minded cinemagoers first, the oxygen value rapidly diminishing with every shallow gasp. I’ve suffered through many a Fringe sauna and leaky poetry tent in the name of ART but this screening room took the absolute cake.

Something does strike me about the films though and that is how pure and playful they are. They’re such small deals. Many short films now, though perhaps critically “better” than these five, exist either to launch careers or to show how sporting some famous director is to slum it in the upstart world of shorts.

But these are mere capsules of honest fun, almost like home movies. They are minor acts of affecting change in the world, like using your hands to cast animal shadows on the wall when there just happens to be a lamp at an obliging angle. Like my diary, I think. No biggie. Just shadows on the wall.

Why Did I Look?

14 September 2019 | Diary

I peep onto Twitter because some people have messaged with regards to the record player query.

I haven’t looked at Twitter for a while and I quickly regret it. It’s full of people talking absolute whazz in a deplorable tone. They’re not deplorable people (many of whom I know in real life and would gladly kiss on the mouth) but there’s something about social media that pumps up the blood pressure and the only way to stop it from bursting through the top of the cartoon thermometer is to tap out something horrible to the world and then to click “tweet.”

In response to my record player question, someone has said something like “fine, be a hipster if you like” and I see where he’s coming from but it’s the tone. Nobody has ever spoken to me like that at this blog or by email. I remember Tom Hodgkinson saying something about how newspapers with social media or comment sections have a responsibility to act as pub landlords, the publican being able to curate their clientele by barring the trouble-makers and designing a place that doesn’t actively attract unpleasantness. That’s ultimately what I’ve been trying to do with this website and New Escapologist.

Tomorrow I’ll send the newsletter version of this diary to 150 people, a microscopic number of eyeballs in Internet terms, but, thanks to today’s Twitter “experience”–if that doesn’t degrade the meaning of the word–I’ll be extra glad to do it. I think of Jaron Lanier saying “what if deeply reaching a small number of people matters more than reaching everybody with nothing?”

I suggest on Twitter that maybe it would be a safer and happier platform if people could opt out of the likes system. Those choosing to opt out would never again court popularity over quality, nor would they be made to feel inferior for not winning “enough” likes. Naturally, nobody likes or RTs or probably even notices my tweet, lost as it immediately is in the maelstrom.

When I’m done dirtying myself on Twitter (some of the tweets are perfectly helpful and friendly), I go for a walk. I notice that someone has moved the bricks, not out of the bin shed but at least into a position where some of the higgledy-piggledy bins can fit more properly into their nooks. More info when I have it, bin shed fans.

Wasp Fancy

13 September 2019 | Diary

You’re holding a beer mat to the mouth of a pint glass with a wasp trapped in it when the voice says, “give me your wallet and phone.”

“Okay,” you say, “but there’s something you ought to know…”


12 September 2019 | Diary

Reader Eric emails:

I’m enjoying your recent content, even the posts about your moth problem.

Even? Let’s assume he means “especially.”

My mother-in-law emails from Canada with reference to the wedding cake incident:

I agree, she should have tackled you! It is her fault. Love, Mamen.

And yet an apology from my wife does not seem to be forthcoming.

After some thoughts about the size of things, Reggie comments:

In real life, that chap is no doubt the same size all Hollywood actors: smaller.

Invisible to the naked eye, sometimes.

With reference to my slamming of Stranger Things 3 and its looking like a Laser Quest, Neil asks:

Fancy a game of laser quest?

I do not!

And finally, Neil shares with us his Touching the Void-like first-person account of his stairwell nightmare:

At this point I was pretty sure that I was going to be spending the night in a stair well.

His whole account is here:

Thousands of Tiny Perforations

11 September 2019 | Diary

To a pub quiz with our usual team but in a different pub. We’ve been wanting a change of scene–but not so big a change that would see us doing anything together other than answering general knowledge questions. That way madness lies.

Neil arrives a little flustered. He’s been trapped in a stairwell. He tells us how the emergency exits were all locked and how various alarm buttons did nothing. He was even shouting “Help!” through a tiny window. It’s a thrilling and hilarious tale that ends with our brave friend somehow escaping into a car park and climbing over a locked gate to the street.

If that had been me, it’s safe to say that my wife would now be going back and forth on whether Futura is a good font for a MISSING poster.

Tonight’s quiz is run by a softly-spoken Canadian and the questions are just right. A good quiz question is ideally a catalyst for conversation, more like a riddle to be chewed over together than just something a person will immediately know.

This said, we’re happy to advance a few places in the table when Samara correctly answers nine out of ten questions in a round about murder and death. Who have I married?

I remember that we have in fact quizzed in this pub before. It was about four years ago and we were asked “which product was invented by Richard Gatling?” We began to discuss whether, it being such an obvious answer, “the Gatling gun” could be a red herring and that something like “semi-automatic weapon” would be more strictly correct. Laura, however, was very insistent that Richard Gatling invented the teabag.


“The teabag. Honestly. I know this.”

“Are you sure?”

“YES,” she’d said, “I. Am. Positive.”

She was so adamant that Richard Gatling had invented the teabag that we played this as our answer, leading to various jokes about thousands of tiny perforations.

Since then, of course, we’ve all had a Gatling Moment. Mine was to insist with religious fervour on a belief-based-on-nothing that a Scottish boy had once sold the world’s most expensive egg to the queen (rather than, more reasonably, a stamp). And Fergus once insisted with much thumping of the table and resisting all attempts by our negotiators to talk him down from his bell tower, that a tennis ball is bigger than than a baseball.

The bricks are back

10 September 2019 | Diary

Good Lord, the bricks are back. Someone must have seen them blocking the entrance a little and moved them. But instead of thinking “let’s get these out of our lives” and moving them to the bulk uplift area on the street, they’ve returned them to their previous place in the bin shed. They must have thought, “hey, that industrial rubble isn’t where it normally sits!”


09 September 2019 | Diary

We’ve been watching Stranger Things 3 on Netflix. Or, rather, I’ve been watching it. Samara, being less in denial about mortality than I am, gave up after three episodes.

It’s utterly hopeless. The makers must have forgotten that being cute, funny, and spooky was not only their strong suit but also the whole point.

This year is all about CGI monsters and people running breathlessly around in featureless corridors shouting things like “shut up and run!” and “I’m taking this car!” and “stop talking!”

A Terminator-like super-soldier has just turned up to whet nobody’s appetite. And why does the Mayor look exactly like one of the journalists? I honestly can’t tell which one is which.

The whole thing utterly incomprehensible and feels like watching some people you don’t know playing Laser Quest. Duffer Brothers? Duffest Brothers more like. Am I right? (Yes, I am right).

The Bricks

08 September 2019 | Diary

I decide this morning that I will move the bricks.

Yes, “the bricks.”

For some time, there’s been a pile of bricks in the bin shed we share with neighbours. In fact, it’s five bricks cemented together to form a single chunk of hard-to-move brickwork.

In case you’re interested–and why wouldn’t you be?–this hunk of orphan masonry is a leftover from the fire last year that resulted in a wall falling down.

The bricks just sit there, taking up space and preventing our full complement (fleet?) of wheelie bins from fitting into the shed properly. This routinely means bins sitting in front of other bins, making it hard for our less agile and less determined neighbours to reach the ones on the back row. In turn this means bags of unprotected garbage piling up and various rancid messes.

But today I decide to act!

By hook or by crook, I think, I’ll move the bricks out of the bin shed so that the bins can fit properly at last. No more rubbish will pile up and everyone in our building will be safer and happier. Soon there will be a chain reaction of goodwill leading all the way, I daresay, to the revocation of Article 50.

All I have to do is move these bricks.

Lifting them is out of the question but I brace myself, marshal my energies, and I drag them out of their smelly nook and most of the way out of the bin shed. I pause when I meet the little slope that leads up to the street.

I wheel the excess bins to their rightful spots, mission somewhat accomplished.

As I ready myself again to drag the bricks up the final furlong, something has changed.

I realise that I have successfully pulled, not only these heavy old bricks, but also the muscles in my forearms. They have turned into useless jelly.

Worse, the bricks in their new position partially obscure the entrance to the bin shed. I wonder if there’s even room for the refuse collectors to get through when they turn up on Tuesday.

I’m uncertain what to do at first, but the correct course of action soon becomes clear.

I run away.

Tonight, I look down from our bedroom window at the bricks–still there, silent and brick-like in the night–and I wonder if my arms will recover before bin day in time for a second drag.

Oh, why did I have to intervene? Why did I drag the bricks? Why does the fate of the whole world have to rest with meeeeeee?