Hide and Eek

I’m not saying I’m against having bonus tracks on CDs. It’s just… why hide it? Why go to that effort? Why not just stick an extra track at the end and say “Here – this is an extra song. A bonus, if you will. It will come on, as track 12, immediately after track 11, so that you don’t even have to look for it. Please do enjoy it with our compliments.”

Perhaps if I were a less forgetful and also less jumpy person, it wouldn’t bother me as much. But it’s quite honestly getting to the stage where a hidden track has almost led to me crashing the car more times than I can count on my fingers. It’s the CDs with an extra track at the end – where, after the “last” song, the CD doesn’t automatically go back to track 1 again. Instead, it stays on the final track, playing only silence. Then, about ten minutes later it reaches the bonus track, which you’d miss if you just went back to the beginning.

It happened me again tonight. My problem is that I am easily distracted, and will often become lost in my own little world. A lot of the time I depend upon modern technology doing things for me, because otherwise I would forget. Simple things, like the microwave beeping every 30 seconds to tell me there’s still something in it. Rio the Clio making a subtle but effective siren-like noise to tell me I’ve left my lights on again. That type of thing. So, were it not for the fact that my CD player not only automatically begins to play when I start the car, but also goes back to track one by itself when the CD is over, I would probably drive around in silence a lot of the time, simply because I would never remember to press play.

You can see why it might be a problem, then, that on some of my CDs there is a ten-minute period of silence before a hidden track. I just don’t realise that the music has stopped; I carry on driving, lost in my thoughts. Then, suddenly and without warning, on comes the hidden track. By this stage I have forgotten that I was ever listening to a CD. Or that I had it on full blast. It doesn’t help when the artist in question has chosen a particularly upbeat track with which to surprise me. There is no soft piano intro, no gentle acoustic strum. No, it is a full-on Big Band extravaganza, with drums, electric guitars, and a loud blast of a harmonica. In short, it is like an announcement of The End Of The World. In my car.

There I was tonight, sitting at the end of the Waveney Road at a dubious will-I-won’t-I sort of Give Way junction. I was on my way to deliver Granny’s birthday card, and wondering if the Spar in Galgorm sold decent flowers. A bus was ambling towards me, and I hesitated for a moment before deciding I could easily nip out in front of it. I put my foot down, released the clutch, and began turning left. At that precise moment, the sound explosion of the hidden track filled the car. “Flamin’ Nora!!” I squealed, quite bizarrely. I have never used that phrase before in all my life – I can neither explain nor justify it. The steering wheel slipped beneath my hands and I veered towards a queue of stationary traffic, whilst my feet panicked on the pedals and caused the car to start some sort of roaring, bouncing expedition. I was the whole way out to Galgorm before I stopped hearing my heart pounding in my ears.

I bet they don’t consider this sort of thing when they’re producing CDs, you know.

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Geography. Kind of.

Sister’s big plans for the weekend have fallen through, and she has decided she wants to accompany me to Dublin. “I’ll have 3 CDs of Sixties music, my SatNav, and sandwiches,” she promises. “I’ll be good – in fact, I’ll probably be hungover. Can I meet K8 the Gr8 and Grannymar?”

 This is good, because it means I can take Rio the Clio and drive back the same night, since I’ll have someone to keep me awake on the way home. This in turn saves me about £50. Also, I’d forgotten she has a SatNav – think about this, boys and girls. For the first time EVER, it will be an actual impossibility for me to get lost! Things are looking up. Never mind the fact that I have Grannymar waiting to mother me/introduce me to her toyboys, and K8 the Gr8 willing to make me look cool by being my friend. And I don’t have to wear a girly dress!

Sister and I have even pre-programmed our destination into the SatNav, a process causing great confusion and some distress when we realised we had to travel 395 miles. Fortunately, that particular Alexander Hotel turned out to be in Blackpool. “Hang on, I think I’ve got it now,” said Sister, staring intently at the SatNav screen. “There’s a wee green dot, there. Is that it?” I joined her in peering at the screen. “I’m not sure,” I mused uncertainly, “Is Dublin not down a bit?” Sister shook her head and waved me away impatiently. “No, it’s at the top, somewhere near the red dot,” she insisted.

With a combined geographical awareness of this strength, we are sure to have a flawless journey.

Gibberwacky

 “Gibberwacky” may not appear to make much sense, but that is because it is, like, profound and stuff. You could try reading this poem first. It still won’t make any sense, but you’ll have a deeper sense of appreciation for my artistic genius.

‘Twas midnight, and the sleepy Hails
Did yawn and fidget in her chair.
All blurry were the words on-screen
And ’twas getting hard to care.      
                     *   *   * 
“Beware the Gibberwack, my dear!
The grammar mistakes, speling gone rong!
Beware the punctuation errors, and shun
Apostrophe’s where they don’t be’long!”    
                       *   *   * 
She took her coffee mug in hand:
Long time the sleepiness she fought.
So rested she upon the sofa
And kept on blogging; she blogged a lot.  
                        *   *   *    
And, as in drowsy thought she sat,
The Gibberwack, like sleeping gas
Came sneaking through the open door
And left her quite aghast.      
                *   *   *
Alas! Alack! The Gibberwack
Left Hails with drowsiness filled.
And when her eyes re-opened
Her coffee all was spilled.      
                *   *   *
“And, has thou slain the Gibberwack?
Why no! He took you out!”
The Gibberwack had got her words
And she knew not what she wrote about.  
                          *   *   *
‘Twas midnight, and the sleepy Hails
Did yawn and fidget in her chair.
All blurry were the words on-screen
And ’twas getting hard to care.

The Zoo of Life

“I quite enjoyed Saturday,” said Mum, thoughtfully. “I found quite a few graves.”

“Err, great!” I replied, wondering yet again about the normality of some of the conversations that take place in my family. You have to bear in mind that this phone call took place right in the middle of a lazy, sprawled-on-the-sofa-talking-rubbish sort of evening with Sister and Kat, in the middle of which I had taken a break from my essay on The Merchant of Venice to perform a Google search on the phrase “are elephants really scared of mice?”.

Incidentally, they’re not. The question arose tonight because Sister was looking through a child’s colouring book and discovered a picture of a happy mouse sitting on the back of an equally happy elephant. “That can’t be right,” she said, “What about that scene in Dumbo?”. My argument that Dumbo was a work of animated fiction fell on deaf ears, and so Google was once again called upon to resolve the situation. Apparently elephants are actually frightened of “unlocatable noises”, but not of mice themselves. One article (which appeared to be taking itself seriously but was really quite funny) went on to explain that “another wrong assumption is that elephants are afraid that, while they are asleep, a mouse might crawl up their trunk and suffocate them.” Yes, come to think of it, there may even be helplines for traumatised elephants, too frightened to go to sleep. Elephants are famously pessimistic, after all, and are renowned for sitting around worrying about what might happen in the dead of night. “Even if this were likely to happen,” the article continues patiently, still on the whole mouse-crawling-up-trunk issue, “it would most certainly trigger an enormous sneezing fit which would prove disastrous for the mouse in question.” Mice are also advised against getting too close to elephants while they are awake, because the elephants will lash out and kick at them. “Overly cheeky mice will not usually be able to evade the blow,” our helpful source informs us, “for elephants are agile animals, capable of moving with unexpected speed. What is more, an elephant’s foot measures several mice in size.” Another fair point. Mice are warned in no uncertain terms that “the effect of an elephant using its foot against a mouse” can be potentially lethal. The internet is becoming a real Mouse Survival Kit, isn’t it? No rodent should be without it.

I’m pretty sure I was going somewhere with this. Oh, Mum and the graves. Actually, the elephant thing turned out to be a whole lot more entertaining, so let’s just leave it at that. I was only trying to point out that I’m a little concerned about the random comments I hear in any given day. Elephants in need of Valium, Mum’s slightly disturbing idea of a good weekend… and it’s not even restricted to my family; it’s everyone I come into contact with. Earlier today, for example, I was chatting to McBouncy when Kate arrived in from a morning of driving to here, there and everywhere. “Your dad was looking for you,” I told her as she threw down her keys and struggled out of her coat. “I know,” she said, looking harrassed, “I had to pull over to speak to him because my parrot has no brain.” McBouncy nodded in a consoling manner. “Are you sure?” she asked gently, “because it might just have very little brain, and you can fix that.”

“No,” said Kate firmly, “My parrot has no brain.”

Friday is Freedom

Sometimes it’s so liberating to get to the end of the week.

Such was the case this Friday for Kate and I as we wandered dazedly around the showroom, switching out lights, locking doors, shutting down the computer and so on. We said goodbye at the door after discussing our need for rest, our plans for the weekend, and even managing a shared laugh at exactly how much had gone wrong  that week – from feeling sick, to supplier problems, to half the sewing machines breaking down. Hooray – it was Friday! We were going home to rest, we could temporarily forget about out of stock fabrics, the man had come to fix the sewing machines, and things were generally looking up.

We set the alarm, locked the door, and got into our cars. As I was leaving the car park, the alarm we had just set suddenly -and quite annoyingly – went off. I rolled down my window and called to Kate, who was rolling her eyes in annoyance and walking back to the building. “Did one of the dogs get in?” I asked. She shrugged and waved me on.

I drove home, relieved to be headed for the sofa, dinner, and a hot bath.

No sooner had I sat down than the phone rang. “Hey!” I answered, stretching wearily on the sofa. There was a short pause, and then Kate’s voice spoke quietly into my ear.

“We locked the sewing machine man in.”

She sounded so jointly horrified and and amused that I could not reply; I just laughed and laughed and laughed.

It wasn’t only that we’d been so weak and weary that we’d forgotten about the sewing machine man and locked him in the workroom. It wasn’t just that his bewildered stumbling around in the darkness of the workroom looking for a light switch had triggered off the burglar alarm. It wasn’t even that Kate, annoyed at being inconvenienced in this way on top of everything else, re-entered the building and reset the alarm with a great deal of muttering to herself, oblivious to the predicament of the hapless sewing machine man upstairs.

No, it was the image of Kate, having returned to her car and driven to the front of the building in order to turn, suddenly seeing the fire exit door bursting open and the poor, imprisoned sewing machine man staggering out in a desperate bid for freedom, forever disillusioned with his job, his trust in interior designers shattered into small pieces. I could only imagine the panic on his face as he saw Kate, one of the cruel, crazy women who had needlessly locked him in a darkened room and left him there without explanation for the weekend. I could also picture Kate’s look of horror and embarrassment, being of a very gentle, generally unintimidating disposition, as she realised that she had effectively become so self-absorbed that she was capable of forgetting the existence of an innocent, hard-working man she had spoken to only minutes before.

I’m still giggling now, thinking about it. Poor guy. Victim of weary women at the end of a wearing week.

Troubled

I am slightly embarrassed to tell you that this particular blog post started out in life as a private email to K8 the Gr8. She never received it, as I realised halfway through that it’s a bit late now to be worrying about my fellow bloggers thinking I’m an eejit… might as well just publish it on the WWW, eh?

The thing is, I’m a bit nervous about the whole Blog Awards thing. Firstly, there is a conference on next weekend, which nearly all of my friends have paid £50 to attend. This means I still have nobody to accompany me to Dublin, and that’s a wee bit daunting in itself. However, I am a girl who moved to Glasgow all by herself at the tender age of 18, and travelled alone to New York a few years ago, so I’m pretty certain I’ll be able to cope with an overnight stay in Dee Sowt.

The real issue is that I have no idea what to expect, and that scares me a bit. I’ve seen photographs from other blog awards ceremonies, and they seem to be very posh affairs, with dashing gentlemen in tuxedos and lovely ladies in fine silk dresses. I have never been to a dressy-uppy event in my entire adult life (as I am not a dressy-uppy person), but I was willing to do so for the sake of meeting my favourite bloggers and seeing my name on a shortlist. I even spent time planning exactly what I can stop eating in order to be able to afford a dress. Then, however, I received my booking confirmation email, and it has thrown me into a panic by saying that there is no dress code.

Being a complicated person, I can’t take that to mean “there is no dress code,” and cheerfully turn up in my casual clothes. Instead, I am spending many happy hours obsessing about the number of different ways there now are for me to make a complete fool of myself.

Firstly, what if there is no dress code, but it’s generally accepted that everyone dresses up in ballgowns, pearls, diamond shoes etc., and I land in the middle of it all wearing trainers and a John Lennon t-shirt?

Secondly, what if I do make an effort but look positively shabby next to all the glamorous people who attend awards ceremonies as often as I dream about it?

Thirdly – and possibly most horrifying of all – what if there really is no dress code, and everyone’s dressed casually, and I have felt that there was in fact an implied dress code, and I turn up in a dress I’ve sold all my belongings (cat included) to pay for, and everyone in the entire building stops talking and turns to stare at me as I walk in, and they all start to laugh and point as I realise my error, until eventually the loud, mocking laughter becomes a deafening roar that will chase me as I flee from the building, only to trip on my new high heels and fall flat on my face in a water fountain, with my knickers showing?

So, you see, I have issues. The email I didn’t send to K8 was a few rambling, panicky sentences along these lines, broken in the middle by a short, unannounced “HELP ME”.

I now issue that plea to the world at large.

Being Open-Minded

Do you sometimes feel as if you have to like certain things because they’re ‘classics’ or ‘legendary’? Pulp Fiction, for example. Or, I don’t know… Mozart. Or yer man Thomas Hardy, who wrote ‘symbolically’ about fields and moors and brick houses. Sometimes I’ve caught myself nodding sagely and saying “Oh yes – a classic!” when, to be perfectly truthful, I think that the subject matter in hand is nothing but a steaming pile of pretentious artistic manure.

Now. Have you ever watched Being John Malkovich?

I bought it because (a) it was in the bargain bin at Video City for £2 and (b) I knew it was a much-hyped movie, nominated for Oscars, blah blah blah. I felt that I should probably watch it if only to add to my repertoire of ‘films I have watched just because everyone else has watched them’. Anyway, Sister and I found it loitering at the bottom of the DVD rack on Sunday night, and decided to give it a try. Film criticism is not really my niche, so this may not be the most eloquent review the movie has ever received, but here goes:

What, in the name of patience, sanity and reason, is all that about?

It’s like a group of stoned teenagers were bored one Saturday night and one of them said hey, you know what’d be, like, totally cool, man? If we just wrote down , like, all the crazy thoughts in our heads and just, like, y’know, film someone like acting them out! And all the other stoned teenagers looked mightily impressed and said Dude! What a totally awesome idea, man! And so Being John Malkovich came into existence. For the first time since my hippy-dippy student days, I really felt like I was missing out on something because of the absence of dope.

Halfway through, I said nervously, “I don’t understand the point of this,” and was relieved when Sister expressed her agreement. We couldn’t switch it off, because we were certain there had to be a point to the film, which would probably become clear in the next scene… or the next… or the next.

As the end credits rolled, we looked blankly at each other. “Do you feel,” asked Sister carefully, “as if you have just taken some hallucinogenic drugs?”

It really was that bad. A puppeteer gets a job in an office on the floor between the 7th and 8th floors. Where, incidentally, the ceilings are so low that everyone walks around stooped over, which makes the whole thing feel slightly insane for a start. Anyway, he falls obsessively in unrequited love with his work partner, and they discover a wee door in his office that leads to, erm, the mind of the actor John Malkovich, allowing you to sort of travel as a passenger in his mind for 15 minutes. No questions whatsoever are asked about this amazing discovery; instead, they decide to sell trips to Malkovich for $200 a pop. Of course, the puppeteer’s wife tries it and decides she prefers being in a man’s body – and then she falls madly in love with the same woman that her husband is obsessed with – and the two women have a love affair whereby the work partner schedules dates with Malkovich when she has arranged for the mad wife to visit his mind!! Naturally, the puppeteer goes berserk when he finds out, and, mad with jealousy, locks his wife in a cage with a gorilla. He enters into Malkovich’s mind for a rendez-vous with the work partner, who thinks the wife is still in there. Until, that is, the puppeteer realises that – being an exceptionally gifted puppeteer – he can actually take over Malkovich, control his movements, speech etc. It just keeps getting weirder and more alarming, and I felt much more disturbed than entertained by the time it was over.

Being John Malkovich

Going round the bend, more like.