Monday, 28 May 2012
I did a reading at Belfast Bright Club last night. It was an unusual experience. Here is what I read. Despite my claims there is not one part of this that is autobiographical: Dark You’re going to hear a lot of stories about “darkness” or “the dark” tonight, some erudition and insight, thoughts that have value and a weight of knowledge behind them. I won’t be doing that. I’ll be doing something else, something worthless and trite. These people will be attempting to impart some of their hard-earned knowledge so you go away improved and better than you are. I’m sort of the opposite of that. You may become slightly damaged. So come on: let’s just get through this. So, what is the dark? Is it merely an absence of light? Or is it something tangible, something in and of itself? A kind of cosmic dry-rot; inky fingers expanding the infinite night of space and bleeding into our lit world, cupping each object that it meets, lending it weight and gravity? It’s the first one isn’t it; obviously. You’d be a fool to think otherwise. Scientists now claim that 83% of space is comprised of a mysterious “dark matter”, though they cannot properly explain what it is or what it does. They just know it’s there, which sounds oddly like an act of faith for a rational scientific brain. But then they also seem to think that space is pale green and that the moon smells of gun-powder, so what do they know? For the record: space is black and the moon smells like a fucked fridge. If you’re looking at darkness then you’re looking at a solar eclipse. It’s a freakish, centre of excellence for darkness, darkness where it shouldn’t be, pressing in like an old woman with ten tins of cat-food in the queue at Spar. And at her time of life you’d think she’d want to be getting a more balanced diet. Cause that stuff just goes right through you. There have been four solar eclipses visible from the south of England, where I’m from. Viewers in Northern Ireland had their own programme. So what I thought would be interesting would be to look through my diary and see what I was doing on the occasion of those four eclipses. Well you never know. We were excited, we were hungry for eclipses. It was 1996: Brit pop was massive and there was a fresh-faced young labour government just around the corner, and everything was infused with a sense of purpose and renewal. I was 17 years old and breathless with excitement about the anticipated darkness at noon, as I was much given to quoting from Arthur Koestler at the time. I wouldn’t do it now: he was a horrible man! 12 October 1996: Dear diary, the woman in the tuck-shop smiled at me today. I couldn’t bring myself to make eye-contact with her and I’m sure I flushed violently. What is it about her? The waxy crackle of her laminated apron? The peroxide wisp pushing through her hair-net, like a new bud? The way her front teeth cross over, like chaste and virginal legs? I don’t know. When she gave me my change there was a pube in it! A lady pube! Could this be a love token? Apparently there’s an eclipse on today but I didn’t open the curtains so I missed it. I have been wanking for so long that both wrists feel like glass and my cock looks embarrassed to be seen with me. My balls are as small and pale as aspirins. I have put the pube in a locket along with her stolen I.D. card. As god is my witness I WILL learn Polish. Was I ever that young? The next eclipse occurred in 1999. This one was particularly special as it featured in an episode of Eastenders. If you recall, Ian Beale had grown a small moustache and had hired a private investigator to follow Cindy, his ex- wife, who was up to no good. Ian and his moustache proceeded to have an affair with the detective who was played by Clare Grogan out of the pop group “Altered Images”. Do you know, from this distance, it seems faintly ridiculous, but I assure you, for people living at the time it seemed all too real, disturbingly so. Let’s have a look in the diary and see what I was up to: 11th August 1999. Off to Cornwall to view the solar eclipse to its best advantage. Still limping from a pissing contest that became all too literal and very hands on. I still maintain that I am the best white rapper in Surrey. My words are bullets and my lyrics are fists, though they were ineffective on this occasion as Chris had kicked me in the balls. It’s hard to spit rhymes when your nut-sack is in spasm. Sandra didn’t speak to me the entire way down in the car so I put my sunnies on and listened to a French pop mix-tape. By the time I got to Phoenix she was raging. She chucked me out of the car and I had to get the train home from Yeovil. It was, literally, as if the sky had gone black and, though I missed the actual one, I did suffer a total eclipse…of the heart. There are fully seven exclamation marks after that last sentence. It was an awkward period in my life. The next eclipse was on the 29th of March 2006 and I was twenty five years old and trying to make it in the buzzing metropolis: Belfast. Those were wild times: I’d passed my librarian’s exam with flying colours and it seemed that the world was my oyster. Better than that in fact because I’m actually very allergic to shellfish, my oesophagus closes over and I start to choke which is why I have to carry a medical alert propelling-pencil with me wherever I go. My greatest fear is that I might, one day, accidentally ingest a bit of whelk and be found by an illiterate. And that’s a very real threat in Belfast. I wonder what shenanigans I was up to in 2006 when, and let’s not forget, I was definitely only 25 years old. Dear online- blog. (I’d moved with the times) Life sure moves fast in the big city and if you don’t stop to smell the espresso every once in a while you’re going to miss out on an awful lot of shoddy public art. I’m working at the Fogarty, Bogle, Lundt advertising agency, in the graffito ratification department, which is a big deal in Belfast. When does an inept painting of a Bambi-eyed man in a balaclava stop being a fucking eye-sore and start being an E.U. sanctioned world heritage site. This afternoon we were brainstorming a third thing to write in the dust on an unclean car after the perfunctory “clean me” and the lyrical “I wish my wife was this dirty”. Steve assayed “my other car is also cocooned in shit” but we thought that was a bit route-one. The search continues. There was supposed to have been an eclipse to day but I missed it as I was wearing sunglasses. Indoors. At night. Shouting urgent sexual threats, into a mirror, dusted with cocaine. I am a golden god. This next part is not actually an extract from my diary but comes, unexpurgated, from notes made by my psychiatrist in session. She didn’t tell me she was making them and when I challenged her she told me that she used them as answer-phone messages to make her doctor pals laugh. I don’t think they were laughing with me. The date was 4th January 2011 and I was a sober, single thirty years old and living the life of a carefree bachelor in insecure housing. “I’m not really sure my mother ever truly loved me. It was the little things: the forgotten birthdays, the emotional distance. Leaving me on the steps of an orphanage in a wicker basket with a note pinned to me: I was thirteen years old; it was a hamper if anything. It still had laundry in it. The orphanage didn’t want to know so I walked home and she beat me for losing the bed-linen. I was a sensitive child; I picked up on these things. Fair enough, children get lost in the super-market, but every week? For four years? That’s starting to look like carelessness. When she put the camouflage leggings on and did her make-up with a burnt cork I knew I was in trouble. My father was also distant. Not emotionally, he just lived a long way away. Two bus-rides. Who can be arsed? He told me he was in oil but it was only years later that I found out that he was actually a portrait of the Duke of Clarence. He had a glazed expression. My mother said he was my father but he could have been framed. I think all of this has coloured my relationships, though I am rather more hopeful about my latest girlfriend, Mr. Bobo. She was my imaginary friend as a child but we just sort of drifted apart. We met again at a party recently and the old spark was still there. She had come with some other guy as a terrifying acid flash-back but went home with me with me. There was an eclipse that night, a supposed portent of doom, but I have a good feeling about this – this time it’s for keeps. So, the solar eclipse. A bad sign, a harbinger of doom, an unholy portent. Our ancestors ran screaming from these manifestations of god’s ill favour. The very word “disaster” means “evil star”, which may or may not be relevant. And yet, as I think I have proven conclusively, on almost every occasion that there was an eclipse, I was having a wank and nothing bad ever came from that. Good night.