Saturday, 21 March 2015

WOTSONTELLY. A TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE MIND.

It is an effete, comfortable form of anarchy, here, where I live.
 As in Ishmaelia, there are just  understandings; no rules, no community terms and conditions; I just assume that people who have found their way here will, whatever else they do, conduct themselves properly, and they do. It is Quentin Crisp's axiom, the one about the grace of good manners versus the tyranny of etiquette, which guides me on.

There is  a pair  of apartments on the top floor which are used, decreasingly, as holiday lets.  They were there when we came  and are very useful for accommodating - and distancing - visiting friends and family enemies; they are let only occasionally to people who have been coming every year, in whose  lives they have become a fixture which I do not care to disturb;  people have repaired their marriages here, educated their children in the elements and in the Stone Age and in the flora and fauna; some, alone now, bereaved, come with sisters or grandchildren, pilgrims to a place of happier days, vanished now but memorialised and fleetingly revived  by place;  they can visit until everything is no longer.

Even there, in the apartments,  a semi-public space, there are no chiding little laminated books of rules about rubbish and lights and baths and heaters;  if people can drive five hundred miles, traverse Inverness, Sutherland and the Badlands of Caithness it is safe enough, I think, to let them get on with things as adults;  unless they are eight Chinese students, in which case they should be beaten and killed and buried in the garden, well, seven of them, anyway.

And so it is that we are untramelled, also, household-wise;  mrs ishmael does what she does and I do what I do, each to our abilities - hers greater than mine - and our needs to be doing, some of it drudgery, some of it projects of imagination and tricky execution and it all happens without negotiation or contract.  

It is the same with diversion and distraction. In the mornings she will listen to the local, PBC Radio Abo, it is unimaginably hateful to me - cod accents, stagey linguistic anachronism and  that hissing,  Presbyterian bigotry and racism,  the moral compassing of the amoral Gordon Snot, that sort of snooty, son of the Manse preachiness -  and the English on that show  are even worse, they all sound like David and Ruth Archer, relentless, sinister bullies, determinedly earnest and sanctimonious, people Living the Quality of Life Dream, living in a hovel, with a rusty Land-Rover, vile children and a couple of sickly goats which they should be banned from keeping.  They all go back South, these people, lacking the inner resources required for island life, vulnerable beyond the fortifications of the M25 and the M42. The Radio Orkney news is generally along the lines of There's a big puddle on the road to Stromness; sheep  are fetching X poonds at the mart; for the fourteenth year in succession, Mrs Annie Scragg has won the neeps'n'tatties pie-making competition at the Mucksville Women's Guild; fairmers have expressed concern aboot the geese annoying the coos and eatin' the seed and the weather is set to be sunny, windy, wintry, fine, warm, very cold with sleet  and snow, calm with gale force winds.

I have felt and seen hypodermic needles injecting anaesthetic into my eyeballs and so I know of what I speak when I say I would rather stick pins in my eyes than listen to Radio Orkney

 The evening show is worse;  they have music on it, local music. I saw it once, in a community hall, that Jimmy Shand Polka music;  I thought, not for the first time, that I had wandered into a horror film; there was a skeletal old woman, must've been eighty, thumbing away, deftly,  at a huge Fender Precision bass guitar, a wee fat man wrestling with one of those fucking awful Hohner piano-keyed accordions, not a concertina, a big, shiny fuck-off thing, the only appropriate setting for which is in an Austrian Nazi oom-pah band - quite how that is traditional to the Northern Isles I'm buggered if I know - and there was a weedy teenager, snapping a Polka beat from a tiny wee snare drum.  It is a matter of taste, of course but I  enjoy many, many types of music, from all over the world and have even heard some amazing world  musuic right here and yet I couldn't find a space in my mind for this stuff. I couldn't move, I felt as though I had been turned to lead.

She doesn't listen to that show, the evening one, mrs ishmael but the morning one, the horse and cart technology of PBC local radio stations,  is part of her daily routine which occurs in her bathroom, her sewing room, sometimes in the laundry but away, at any rate, from me;  it is usually a background to her tasks and just as long as me and Harris don't have to hear it there is no disagreement.

It is the same with breakfast TeeVee, Harris and I don't watch it, never have but mrs ishmael has it on with her breakfast, in the kitchen. They could be broadcasting the Second Coming but I turn nothing on until mid-day, at the earliest. I think it indecent, mass shit media before lunch, and deleterious to the mental health.

I remember when it started, TV AM, a vanity project for some of the vilest, vainest, greediest, most disloyal  people in showbusiness, 

Hello, good morning and goodbye.

 David Frost, Michael Parkinson, Robert Kee, Angela Rippon, Anna Ford, even Esther Rantzen was slated to ship with this ghastly crew, dropping-out only because she was pregnant. it was to be home to star presenters who were also the stations directors, owners and managers, a beacon of televisual brilliance.  Some of them were quickly replaced, for a time by the dreadful Jonathan Spanker Aitken, and it was only when all of these  arsepeople had left or been removed that TV AM and Good Morning Britain started to make any money at all. The BBC, originally behind whatever the curve is, actually stole a march on TV AM, settling quite quickly into that hideous and worthless sofa show which remains an excresence on the face of every TeeVee morning.  I have never watched it, anyway, and the fact that mrs ishmael does is just something I don't think about.

This morning, however, as Harris and I were meditating on the coming day, 
 
mrs ishmael burst into the room and without permission or preamble turned-on the telly. It's the eclipse programme, they're having an eclipse, she said, dashing back to her toast.  Within seconds I was struggling to make the accursed remote control work and yelling at the TeeVee, as was she, in the kitchen.  Did you hear what they said? we both enquired, as we collided in the hall. They said It is a huge battle between two cosmic giants.  Stupid fucking bastards. Yeah, I know, that's what they said. I can't listen to that shit. No, nor can I, but it's always like that, that's why I don't watch it, doesn't need to be a fucking eclipse for Breakfast TeeVee to be shit.  

She went off to work then, anyway, and before I could smack and punch the remote control into operation I heard some professor of astronomy from the University of his Garden Shed, I heard him say,  there on the telly, in front of everybody, Do you know what, we simply cannot underestimate enough how important these events were to ancient peoples.  I don't care how many degrees and doctorates this bloke has, this is the statement of a fucking imbecile and there was a time when someone like Huw Welshman would have tactfully corrected it, A slip of the tongue, there, children, look you, isn't it, from Professor Gob, he of course meant to say overestimate, not underestimate, slip of the tongue, could happen to anyone, isn't it. But we don't want you going back to school confused about over- and underestimated.  That time, when the BBC cared about qualities and values more precious than ratings, is no more.

Funny how the most pompous of TeeVee's ambassadors turned out to be nothing more than  greedy vulgarians - Jon Sox, Michael Grade, Belbin Bagg, Michael Parkinson and David Frost. 

 And nation shall speak shite unto nation, that is their contribution, 
their motto, their epitaph 
and their requiem mass.

25 comments:

Mike said...

Just reading this, with my little black pug sitting on my desk. When I scolled down as far as the picture of Mr Harris (looking angelic), he started howling - he thinks Mr Harris is a girl! Time to get those locks trimmed. Unless I have a gay pug on my hands?

call me ishmael said...

He is utterly fearless, Harris, rounding-up a small herd of coos which broken into the garden a while ago, grrr-woofing and snapping at their huge heels, they are big bastards, those things, impervious to sticks and stones and to my entreaties about having gone vegetarian, Comrades, I yelled at them, we are brothers in the fight against speciesism, or sisters, is it, I dunno, please don't destroy my garden. Harris soon had them jumping back over the wall. I would be careful about calling him a nancyboy.

walter said...

I moved to aberdeenshire over twenty five years ago, had the croft and the house, but no rusty land rover, worked has a welder in the oil industry ,and retired last year, passed my eleven plus in 1960, hated grammar school, went to secondary school , then i went to an approved school, the best school out of all three,Worked has a apprentice bricklayer for two years hated it became a welder, In my last employment i won prizes for innovation and this year the prize is named after me ,S o you can say Scotlands been kind to me

call me ishmael said...

And you to it, mr walter.

The islands, though, are un-Scottish, the Northern ones, anyway, and Inverness differs hugely from Aberdeen. There are of course regional differences in the South but they are a bit more gradual, less sharp than in Scotland. I avoid the Central Belt but otherwise I love Scotland, that's why I am always saying it is the best part of England.

I often miss England, the northern Welsh part, especially, but it is there, anytime I choose to go and I abominate any who would put frontiers between us all, it's not as though we don't have enough politicians, shitting in our faces, not as though we need more of them, making mugs of us, over a non-existent history. These 12,000 years, since the Ice Age, this land, from John O'Groats to Land's End, is your land, this land is my land.

Bungalow Bill said...

Robert Kee was mysteriously recruited to one of these shows. Otherwise a model of rigour, he must have lost his mind. Frank Bough and Selina Scott, they were the first of the now inevitable duos weren't they?

Frank was subsequently found to have a taste for rubbing chilli on his cock while snorting coke from prostitutes' inner thighs, or some such. That's what happens to these people in the end, they spin off into absurdity and oblivion. Holograms all of them, of course.

mongoose said...

Could you not see the eclipse out of the window - rather then bothering the telly people.

call me ishmael said...

As I said, mr mongoose, it was mrs ishmael's fault, all of it. Me and daytime telly, we have no relationship.

Off, now, to fair Dundee for the week, a-dongling and a-laptopping, like pilgrims of old, like crusaders for commerce, like seekers after i-truths. Across the raging firth, through the Badlands of Caithness and down the switchbacking northern, coastal A9, across firths and hills, Cromarty and Moray, over the vaulting Inverness bridge, a hundred miles through the spring highlands to lush Perthshire, through the mustered raspberry farms into Dundee, there to wonder at McGonigal's bridge over the Silvr'y Tay, the site of the new V&A museum and.......that's about it, really, for Dundee, the journey, as here, in Ruin-watching Ishmaelie, more purposeful than its conclusion, better, as we used to say in the old days of adverbs, to travel hopefully than to arrive.

lilith said...

That PBC pronouncement is up there with "Is it necessary to have elements of Christianity in the Nativity?" Radio 5 bint enquires thoughtfully.

Honest, not invent.

SG said...

I wish you a safe journey Mr I. From the polls, it would appear that a journey south is like a journey into Mordor these days... Beware the roaming bands of SNP orcs and uruk hai.

call me ishmael said...

Thanks, mr sg, all well so far, apart from the hotel being an expensive knocking shop, not a knocking shop precisely but a place for johns to bring whores, the logo being: Need a room fast? over a picture of an expensive couple, snogging; no place for any sort of Presbyterian.

call me ishmael said...

The awful thing about that, ms lilith, is that one knows exactly why she said that and how she got there, everything now being a pick'n'mixable commodity of compassion. I blame Sir Bob, tne Wifebeater, runner-up only to Gerry'n'Cilla in the Best Parents Ever awards.

SG said...

Yes - I've stayed in few places like that in my time Mr I. In the meantime I recommend this for the road - pure Ishmaelian philosophy:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9KJSnd8VzQw

Directed by Sam Peckinpah - Music by Ernest Gold...

SG said...

Mr I - I just checked the link I sent you & it is not what I intended. Though nothing too bad. i will attempt again!

SG said...

This is what I intended to send you:

http://www.veoh.com/m/watch.php?v=v21816133KTTDQSGP?h1=Cross+of+Iron+(1977)

Fucking dangerous these I-Pad things...

Though the earlier one was relevant to some other dicussion back up the road somewhere...

tdg said...

One of the apartments should be for a writer's residency, conditional on the writer's being able to profit from the owner's literary critical intelligence. It would become legend.

Anonymous said...

Agreed Mr tdg.

Mike said...

Thanks for that link Mr SG, a good film. I got caned at school for having a copy of Willi Heinrich's book of the film. Wasn't deemed literary, but its stood the test of time - I sill have it on my shelf.

call me ishmael said...

Writers, mr tdg? You know what I think of writers. Set the dog on them, I would.

There used to be a gobby, Canuck ponce on the old BBC 2 late-night arts show, Michael Ignattief.Described himself on his passport as a Thinker, 'swhat he did for a living, Thinking, unlike the rest of us, who just do thinking, cheeky cunt.

Everybody does writing; even if they don't write it down, they do it in their heads, in that incessant, raging monologue. In the beginning proper there was no word - but the word, when it formed itself, was the beginning of understanding and continuity, writing is the tool of the word, the writer merely its snooty, beholden, indentured servant, its Jeeves, its Ignattief.

call me ishmael said...

I know Cross of Iron, mr sg, derived, I feel, from the Sven Hassel books, mr mike. Not literary either but compellingly pro-warrior and anti-war.

SG said...

Sorry Mr I. I am sure we've been round the Heinrich / Hassel loop before - somewhere back up the road. Maybe worth revisiting though...

tdg said...

Well, everyone is a carpenter, but you would not buy your cabinets from anyone. Writing is frozen flirtation: one needs it only because the fresh supply is so scarce, at least to the geographically constrained. We would all sit around your fire if we could, but life enforces it otherwise.

call me ishmael said...

I'm not suggesting you burn your library, mr the dyers garden and if my house was ablaze I might well risk my life to retrieve several books which have become accidental treasures but it would be the books which drove me into peril, their feel, their age, their eternal entrapment of a younger I, and not their authors; their authors, after all, could be anybody, for all I know; the books, however, are become talismanic, reliquaries of what I, uniquely, brought to them. I am rarely interested in authors, I don't want to know about them, I am not a fan, fans are a function of showbusiness, and nor do I want fans, Christ, the idea makes my blood run cold and so whilst -like so many of yours- it is a comely phrase, frozen flirtation, and I would not try to disposess you of it, nevertheless, it would not reside in my understanding of what happens here.

As to all being carpenters, I must resist that assertion, also; all are not carpenters, some are all thumbs; all are not musicians, some are tone-deaf but all who are conscious, even when asleep, relentlessly frame, in words, a self-referential monologue with which they wrestle, editing, revising, proof-reading, amending and reconsidering; isn't it the case that in their heads, everybody, everyday writes the book?

tdg said...

To set one's words down on paper is presumptive, presumptuous even; narcissists and other psychopaths may be more so inclined than others. But if the words are good, so must be their source: the quality, after all, cannot come from the printing press, or from having everything but the bare words stripped from the language: the voice, tone, manner etc. To want to know the author is not to be a fan of his, or to be concerned with impertinences about his private life, but simply to want to know the power of which any piece of writing could only be a mere sample. Indeed the opposite seems to me to be akin to preferring pornography to sex.

Of course, that there is really so little in a book makes it easier to fill in the gaps with illusions the author in person could rapidly evaporate. Perhaps Wittgenstein's company (say) was much less compelling than his manuscripts suggest. But it is far more likely he was as astonishing as everyone who knew him thought he was.

call me ishmael said...

You are probably correct in all of that, mr tdg, you are vastly more expert than I; it is not, however, a role, a relationship on which I focus and were I to make a qualitative judgement I would not suffer another word of mine to enter cyberspace, nor jot nor tittle.

These commentaries arise from the need to inform and sometimes amuse myself, their composition levels my head and eases my mind; whatever else I did, I would write these things, I always have but that does not make me a writer in your terms. You may visit to read what I write but I visit to read what you write, you and others.

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