Saturday, December 28, 2002

Two stories have set me blinking in indignation today. The first is that a strange sect masquerading as a 'scientific' cloning company claims to have successfully cloned the first human being.

The second is that steel from the now defunct World Trade Center in New York is to be used... to make a great big warship. Maybe I'm wrong, (no, really, maybe I really am - I can't remember properly) but I seem to recall that shortly after the catastrophe, the Twin Towers were lamented and the description of the buildings leant heavily towards values like peace, creativity, freedom, beauty and so on. Obviously the same sense of peace and freedom which led US law enforcement officials to jail two foreign students for being 'work shy'.

And there's one more star in heaven tonight - or one more star-maker - as news comes in that photographer Herb Ritts is dead at the age of 50.

Thursday, December 26, 2002

What? A white Christmas?!
No, we didn't get one here in Northern Ireland. But Arkansas (right), Missouri, Pennsylvania and New York all had a freakish snowstorm sweep across them yesterday. We could do with some of that. There are so many warm nuggets of colour and food and drink in this house that I long to look towards the window and see snow-light, to step out of doors and hear the crunch of snow.

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

The onset
I just went out to the back garden and could tell as soon as I stepped outside that it's much, much colder tonight. The pergola is dusted with frost, and when I went to the bin, I spent a while cracking the ice around the lid so I could open it.

This is where I start to feel the onset of Christmas. There's a very bright star in the eastern sky; of course it's not that which the Three Kings saw... but things are starting to coalesce. :o)

Monday, December 16, 2002

The Little Friend
When I heard, on a winter day late last year, that Donna Tartt's second novel would soon appear, I longed to plunge back into The Secret History with new eyes, and take heed of signs, and wait, and wonder. At last, She was publishing again. At last, I would read something by Her which I hadn't read before. Her new book would be as rich and studded with jewels as Her first, and hitherto only, novel. It would change my mood for weeks on end. It would devour me over a period of perhaps three days, and I would devour it many times thereafter.

Come then, and let us pass a leisure hour in storytelling; and our story shall be the education of our heroes.
This prefatory quotation from Plato, slipped ironically into the first pages of The Secret History, certainly cannot be applied to The Little Friend. It is a large book. At more than 500 pages, bound in black, and excitingly solid and bulky, it is just heavy enough to make you think you might be carrying a box of riches in your bag. You will undo the clasp, open the lid, and gaze, wide-eyed and short of breath, at the dim glitter inside.

But this is a slow book, and its richness is as thick as a midge-filled summer afternoon. While occasionally you may be allowed to canter through a few pages at most, the rest of it may as well have a "Do Not Run" signboard, presided over by some stern, angular matron. The syrupy paragraphs drop slowly and heavily through your mind, one, two... three...... and another..... Some of them are light and sweet, some as dark and tinged with bitterness as black treacle.

It's not such an easy lay as The Secret History. It won't lie down with you and engage you in sweaty abandon for days on end, only to spit you out light-headed and spinning afterwards. It will hold you firmly, talk slowly, smile in a small way, and though you may want to pull away and do something else, you'll know you have to keep listening. This tale does not tell itself simply, but then, in the American South, a story may be months in the telling...

Sunday, December 15, 2002

Donnie Darko
Jake Gyllenhaal
Yes, there is a film (its young director's first) called Donnie Darko. No, I hadn't really heard of the thing until about two weeks ago, when my friend Jonny mentioned it to me. It's about... well, it's very difficult to say exactly what this film *is* about. It follows Donnie Darko through either the first or last years of his adult life, depending on how you look at it.

Feeling increasingly alienated from the world around him, Donnie, played by Jake Gyllenhaal (right), moves through it in a sensitive, troubled, and increasingly playful way. Testing the boundaries of the reailty he lives in, as directed by a big evil bunny, and fascinated by increasingly bizarre events which lead him to kickstart the mind-bending denouement, this is a film which made me laugh, well up with tears, go all hormonal for Donnie, and all motherly for him and the rest of the misguided characters (played by a wonderful cast), all at the same time. Nobody's talked about it here in Northern Ireland, where it would usually be regarded as an irrelevant piece of childish weird shit, instead of the quirky masterpiece it undoubtedly is.

Go see.

PS. - Dec. 19th - Apparently, it caused a huge stir in America when it was released. Due to the release-date being only a few months after September 11th, and the prominence given to a jet engine and a house.

Friday, December 13, 2002

A lack of jobs is entirely caused by too much hunting by too many people in the first place. So, because I need a job, there should be a complete ban on other people hunting, especially those with more impressive stallions than mine.

Thursday, December 12, 2002

Jobless, again
Even I am starting to think that I'm hopeless. Today, in the middle of the afternoon, someone from my agency called me to tell me that someone in the very building I work in had decided to say byebye to me and quite a few other recent temp workers today - because work was slowing down before Christmas. So, my manager lived down the corridor and he didn't have the guts to tell me. And I've been employed now for a grand total of, oh, 9 days.

I could swear here, really. But there really fucking wouldn't be any fucking arsing cunting point.

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Driven to Distractions
It's time I lightened the mood on here, at least. So, after a somewhat shitty day at work, here's a nice handkerchief belonging to a Shaker Man, woven by George Constantine in about 1936.

And a brilliant doorway with corridor beyond (at Chatsworth House, UK), with a little violin hung on a door. Architect thought to be Jan van der Vaart, in the 1670s.

Does any of this not ring true?

That's because the handkerchief's actually a watercolour. And beyond the doorway out of the room, there isn't a corridor at all. Just another painting.
I need more...
Time to myself, people to talk to in work, things to look forward to, ability to capture lovely memories with photographic clarity, lunch money, sleep in less time, cheese...

Monday, December 02, 2002

Something missing
That's how today has felt, really. Not in the sense that I've had nothing to do - quite the opposite. I got up earlier than I've done in ages, rocketed out of the house and into town, had breakfast and then started my new job. And kept at it without any real sort of break (except for lunch) until I got back home a while ago.

But the job involves doing *nothing* (and I mean nothing) apart from sitting in front of a computer in a small room with one other person, wearing a pair of (rather painful) headphones, and transcribing letters from the tape. So you can't even talk to the other person because you have no time and no hearing, and the only break is when you cross the room to print stuff out, or leave the room to get another tape.

I'm going to see how it goes tomorrow, but I think today's provided enough experience of the job to give me a great big "I won't like this type of work, not even slightly" signal. It would be much better, and I'd actually sort of like it, if I was in a slightly bigger room and had a variety of duties. I think I'll be calling my agency tomorrow though!

Sunday, December 01, 2002

It's one of those days. This is the first day of advent, and just like the first day of advent last year, this one definitely doesn't feel like it. The weather is there - gales and rain - enough for you to believe it's December. But I feel dislocated. For a start, I'm now (very suddenly) not jobless. Friday afternoon, and a call comes through from my agency telling me I'm starting work on Monday (tomorrow) on an audio typist position inside the Central Services Agency, whatever is precisely is! I'm sure I'll know all about it this time tomorrow, but right now I don't have a clue. It's the usual night-before-new-job feeling.

But this time, it's compounded. Jonathan arrived from London on Friday. On Saturday, we just went around town, had lunch in Apartment, went for a drink in Bar Bacca and then for another few in Irene and Nan's. My plan, before getting drunk, was to then go home and spend a quiet evening indoors with him, eating and drinking and just generally catching up. It would have been an oasis of calm and relaxation before he left the next day, as well as a bolster before starting work again after such a long time (nearly one whole year) unemployed.

But we ended up getting drunk and going to the Kremlin, and not doing much catching up, and getting even more drunk before getting home and collapsing. I woke up this morning with a hangover from hell, knowing that Jonathan had to leave the house at 4pm, knowing I had work tomorrow... *sigh*

And now he's gone, it's raining outside, the house seems very very quiet, and the news is bad. A few minutes ago I caught myself looking at digital photos I'd taken while he was here, and wondering where he's disappeared to. God, listen to me. (Peri)pathetic indeed. But like all other emotions, melancholy rears it head sometimes, and when it does, writing about it needn't be bad. I just feel I need a few days' holiday to get myself back together again - and this on the eve of my new job. But never mind. I know I'll feel better when I've got the first week of it over. Routine always settles me, sooner or later...