Saturday, 31 May 2008

Check out this resonance. Um. Dude?

Today, I moved house. And a grueling, hideous experience it was. Testament, however, to the sustaining power of a single flapjack (lunch. Or was it - strictly speaking - breakfast? Hell, let's call it brunch and be done, eh?)

What a great deal of burdensome items one acquires, eh? "Burdensome", there, becomes depressingly literal when one is lugging them back and forth from one side of the town to another.

But it's also (potentially all the more depressingly, of course) metaphorical.

In an old notebook, the young intellectual hooligan had scrawled some tiresome load of gibberish. One piece of faint lucidity, though, was a reference to language in the mind of a child. I'd focused on the word 'fat'. And had hearkened back (in typically reactive manner) to a time, in one's youth, at which the word 'fat' was pure, fascinating, absolutely fresh and evocative.

Before it became dulled and overlaid with myriad contexts, over- (and under-) tones, associations ... and blunted by familiarity. Until what was once a source of childish glee and fascination (oh, for I was a gleeful and fascinated child) became just a normal, plain, dull old word.

Physical possessions can be like words. Some of them so familiar and frequently seen and used that they lose whatever resonance (man) they might orginally have produced. But others - especially the ones crammed down behind chests of drawers, or hidden in pockets of seldom-worn coats (exhibit A: one gig ticket; one business-card from an expensive restaurant) - well, boy, do they resonate.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Making Important Political Choices

I remember my first sensation of political distinction. It took place - as did so many formative episodes - at the bastion of enlightened liberalism that was my school (13-18 year olds).

It was during the run-up to Labour's landslide victory in 1997 (oh, the days) - and our splendidly waistcoated History teacher proposed a school mock-election.

With due solemnity, all were handed their ballot papers. Our choice: Conservative, Labour or Liberal Democrat. Hands trembling, I made my (momentous) decision - fearing all the while a Gestapo-like intervention.

It prides me to this day that my mock-vote for mock-Labour - canary in the coalmine of a deeply right-wing private school - was one of only 20 or so (in a school of six- to seven-hundred).

A little later, I was to distinguish myself similarly by professing enthusiasm for the nascent Euro. What a hero, eh? Early signs, dear reader, early signs ...

What was it, do you suppose, that prompted these bold adolescent gestures? A series of well-reasoned, analytically-based deductions? Months of agonised rumination and soul-searching?

No. Two overwhelming factors: a love of novelty and a desire to eschew the majority belief. Some might say perverse; I prefer pioneering.

These days, post-Crewe-and-Nantwich, the political climate is a mite different. Charlie Brooker, in the Guardian, writes with horror about the prospect of being "forced to question [his] cherished anti-Tory prejudice", on account of a mounting revulsion for Labour.

I know what he means. But, for me, it's less about revulsion and prejudice than (perhaps all the more shamefully) boredom and a desire for something a bit different. I'm not pro-Cameron, incidentally. But I'd definitely say I'm pro-change. The unfamiliar discomfort, though, arises with the fact that - while the prospect of political change is hugely appealing (a new set of faces and personalities, a bit o' drama, the ever-heartwarming spectacle of a lot of people getting into a flap) - the actual notion of a right-wing government is not.


Sunday, 25 May 2008

O Peterborough!

All roads lead to Peterborough. Or, at least, the A1.

To the good people of this "thriving city - a regional centre for commerce, industry, transport and leisure", I am indebted. I think the fine city of Peterborough may well be the spiritual home of intellectual hooliganism in the UK - if not worldwide.

Inexplicably, you see, I receive about five times more web traffic from Peterborough than I do from any other conurbation in the UK. (Now, if only some of those eager Peterboroughians would write some comments, I'd be truly ecstatic ...)

The Peterborough City Council website provides me with a veritable wealth of information about this enlightened urban paradise. As well as a prominent invitation to "do it online". But we'll forgive them this mild indiscretion in light of their informative - occasionally lyrical - features on "Historical Peterborough", "Peterborough in the future" and, splendidly, "Smoke free Peterborough".

That said, I have some reservations about the Council's logo - a curious graphic that puts me in mind either of an udon noodle or a hideously deformed bird - and remain still less than convinced by their 'tagline':

"Growing the right way for a bigger, better Peterborough"

This is language disturbingly redolent of that employed by the altruistic email authors who write to me so frequently with their offers of "medicaments", "girth boosts" and reliably lust-enfrenzied female companionship.

Growing the Right Way!! A Bigger, Better 'Peterborough'!!

Oh dear. This was supposed to be an ode extolling the virtues of Peterborough. Not a release of winking (yes, winking) adolescent indulgence in dubious Peterborough-warping euphemisms.


Anyhow. People of Peterborough, take this, if you please, as a 'shout out'. Respect. I love you and your smokefree city. Now, for God's sake: hit me with those comments.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Emotions, Sensations & Phenomena That Should Have A Name But Don't

Herewith, I begin an ongoing series.

(As opposed, of course, to a non-ongoing series - arguably the best kind of series for one such as myself to begin.)

As a (very clever) former tutor of mine once pointed out to me, our language is impoverished when it comes to scalpel-precise vocabulary with which to describe complex emotional states or sensations. Considering the breadth of human emotions - not to mention the fact that the entirety of our conscious experience is filtered through the gauzy web that is our state of mind - we have astonishingly few words with which to communicate emotion and sensation.

In a bold - dare I say audacious? - protest at this sorry fact, I propose to draw attention to the countless gaps in our collective abstract vocabulary. To whit ...

Tragically Nameless Sensation #1

Imagine yourself - dear WorldWideWebster - in a shiny, squeaky new shopping mall. On a Saturday afternoon. So quietude and personal space are, shall we say, at a premium. Elevators are like the conveyor belts of a well-stocked sushi-bar; crossing a public confluence requires the navigatory panache of a Marco Polo. And you're here because you're searching for - let's pretend - legwear: a nice new pair of trews. Stylish and restrained - to wear to work, perhaps.

You're not having much luck.

With a reduced capacity for higher-level mental activity (as typically induced by the heaving shopping mall environment), you find - all of a sudden - that you have wandered unwittingly into a secluded retail oasis. You have strayed, o mall-wanderer, into a "boutique" shop. Silence slams down around you. The Bell Jar phenomenon. Light glimmers disconcertingly on chrome/glass fittings. You are outnumbered by shop assistants. The only other shopper is wearing a suit.

With a false, nausea-tinged nonchalance, you leaf your way through a tastefully minimal rack of clothing.

You glimpse a price tag.

"May I help you, sir?"

This, dear reader, is the point at which you experience Tragically Nameless Sensation #1. A mixture of embarrassment ("sir"?), animalistic terror (fight or flight impulse), shock (the price tag) and pride (no, you may not help me. But I certainly do not wish you to know that.)


Is there a neat term with which to describe this sensation? Or - if not - are there any suggestions as to an elegant neologism? Use the comments, if you please, and give me your enlightened suggestions ...

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