Monthly Archives: February 2012

It sees us…we become snacks!

The scene of the travesty was a run-down, ramshackle gym on the outskirts of town. Little did the slightly overweight, balding man know, but on that day, on that street, cruel fate had no intention of allowing his fitness regime to continue.

The session began as normal, a light run. He got into his stride and quickly zoned out all around him, but then into his peripheral vision came a ghastly apparition with foreboding trailing in its wakes. Beneath the thick cake of foundation and lipstick he suspected that it was female in origin…yes…the presence of hazardously unrestrained breasts confirmed his conjecture. An overly elaborate hairstyle was held in place by an ocean of product, and her form was bedecked head to toe in designer gear.

‘You don’t belong here,’ the other patrons seemed to whisper; bonding in their joint disapproval. ‘Ours is a simple place of exercise. Take your posing ways elsewhere.’

Arrogantly she ignored my / his / their demands, stepped onto a running machine adjacent to the balding man and set off at a vigorous sprint. It quickly became apparent that she was not going to be able to sustain such a pace. Her already rosy cheeks glowed bright red, and within a minute or so thick sweaty black mascara began running into her eyes.

‘This is odd,’ the balding man thought, ‘Surely she will stop, clean herself up and regain her sight?’

No, it appeared as though she was going to brazen it out.

Moments later she had morphed from fashionista into a clown with panda-esque tendencies. A quick swipe and smudge across the face gave her the mask of Zorro which then, with the inclusion of lipstick stained teeth, warped and distended into the voracious snarling sneer of a cold-blooded killer.

Without the industry-standard parachute harness brassiere demanded under such circumstances the clown-thing’s breasts now became weapons. The balding man ducked and dived. Through floor to ceiling mirrors he saw that all eyes were fixed upon the hideous transformation.

Into the mix came a rasping, hocking gargle. Every few strides brought forth a ‘Hoekgrr…Hoekgrr’ sound.

Our hilarity turned to panic. What if she collapses? The paramedics are going to think we did this to her. There’s no other rationale explanation.

By now the balding man was surging at full pelt. In his heightened state of fear he couldn’t understand how the heaving, lolloping, semi-blind monster was managing to keep up with him.

‘HOEKGRRRR!…..HOEKGRRRR!’

When the ordeal finally came to an end it squinted at a pedometer and grimaced in satisfaction. The balding man returned home and discovered that he had lost more weight than usual.

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The future, and still no levitating chairs…

Goddamn you ‘Tomorrow’s World’! Where is the sweet-smelling utopia you promised me in the late 70’s?

In its place is a vision of dystopian angst where a man sits in traffic being bombarded by moronic tweets. He could have made something of his life if it wasn’t for all the constant interruptions. To his left and right he sees that his fellow motorists are in similar catatonic states. His brain twitches and splutters with occasional life ‘…What was that great idea I had yesterday before someone sent me a link to a monkey throwing faeces at a nun? I’ll never get those eight seconds back…What other important stuff did it shunt it out of my head?…Can’t get my relatively high-powered car above 15 miles an hour…must invent time machine…warn past self…can’t…form…rationale…help me…’

Arriving at work he finds that a shadowy conspiracy has altered the rules of established logic. The doors to the server room and all of its valuable data have been left open, but the stationary cupboard is being protected by a hexadecimal key-code. Even if he solves the code he’ll still have the armoured drones to deal with, but he really needs those post-it notes. He considered sacrificing one of his team members.

‘Don’t be ridiculous,’ he chides himself, ‘think of the admin.’

Poor chap – his primitive cranium simply hasn’t had enough time to adapt to the sudden super-stimuli of modern life – all those endless images streaming at him, the conference calls where someone forgets to go on mute and reveals that their multi-tasking abilities consist of lying about working from home whilst doing the hoovering, and the blinking pilot light informing him that his synapses are melting. Too much information.

A friend recently extolled the virtues of a new voice-activated i-phone feature whereby you can ask what the weather will be like, and then it tells you! ‘You used to have to go out and buy a newspaper. It took at least ten minutes. Now it takes ten seconds.’

‘Yes, but what an enjoyable ten minutes they were,’ I replied, ‘getting a brolly, maybe whistling a made-up tune and enjoying a brisk walk, perhaps engaging in conversation with a real / non-chat-room-based woman, focusing on one thing. Now you’ve got to fill up those ten minutes with other meaningless crap! Everything’s so efficient nowadays, so why do I have less time?’

…Which was possibly a massive overreaction, but he seemed to take it all in good spirits.

And besides, being focused isn’t always a good thing. In some cases it can lead to obsessional fanaticism….

Over the road from my house there is a small car park.  It isn’t clear who owns the land, and it is invariable empty. However,  anyone daring to park there is subject to the remorseless wrath of a little old man who sneaks out of an adjacent flat when he thinks no one is watching and dished out non-inforcable parking tickets which are written in biro. The tickets include a fine (mine was £100). I’m not sure who the fine should be paid to, or whether it should be with real or biro money.

Enough of my friends have been fined over the years for me to consider it high-time to invoke counter measures, so last week, just as it was getting dark, I deliberately used the car park, walked round to the back door if my house, went upstairs, turned off the lights…and waited.

With the exception of a thermos and infra-red camera I imagine it was alot like badger-watching. After less than ten minutes he appeared, bold as brass; a slip of paper in his hand. I waited till he was out in the open and reaching for the windscreen before I pressed the key-fob that activated the headlights.

For a man of advancing years he sure can shift!

A few days later I was taking a brisk walk / buying a newspaper / checking the weather. It was only down the road so I left my slippers on and took a cup of tea with me. Passing a bus stop I heard someone say ‘That’s a good idea.’ I looked up and came face to face with the village’s self-appointed traffic warden. We struck up a conversation and I was informed that he was on the way to see his grandson.

‘Why don’t you drive?’ I asked innocently.

‘I don’t own a car.’

In an alternative universe I unmasked myself as his adversary, castigated him for terrorising the neighbourhood and doled out some brutal old-school street justice. But back in reality I took a certain amount of joy in his eccentricity and wished him a pleasant evening.

Arriving home I was seized with panic and dropped to my knees – ‘Please God, don’t let me end up like this. Don’t let this be my future – grumbling under my breath that next door’s hedge is getting a bit unkempt and writing them a stern letter that I post anonymously at 4am.’

It’s a definite possibility that we’re all pre-destined to travel along the conveyor belt to senility. I’m already moaning about the quality of modern pop music and I’m only in my thirties.

I concluded my prayer with the words ‘Please help me to refrain from pettiness. Amen.’

The very next thing I did was check my e-mail. I’m hosting a school reunion shortly and someone had written to inquire about parking spaces. ‘Will there be enough room or should I get a train?’

‘Don’t worry about space,’ I reply, ‘there’s loads of it. I own a car park.’

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Inappropriate One-upmanship

Some monumentally bad planning from Channel 5 saw a recent documentary on Whitney Houston cut from a distraught looking Aretha Franklin to an advert for Wonga.com where an elderly puppet uttered the immortal words ‘She looks better in a body bag.’

Here’s why gaffs like this are essential for holding together the fabric of space and time…

On Christmas Day 2001 my father and I were standing at his mother’s grave having just laid a wreath. Dad was an intensely private person and, in the five years since her death, had never openly discussed his feelings about her. Now however the moment demanded that something be said. It was just the two of us. It was cold and silent. A statement of considerable poignancy was required, but nothing was forthcoming. I decided that he should be the one to voice it and resolved to wait him out. A minute passed, then five, then ten. Finally he spoke. These are the words that he chose:

‘You know, when I pop my clogs I want you to bury me in a luminous pink cardboard box. If pink isn’t available get me something equally garish, whatever you think will make the mourners feel most awkward.’

The intention was clear: this is too vast for either of us to fathom, so let’s go to the other extreme.

‘I can’t have people thinking we’re too stingy to buy a proper coffin,’ I replied in kind, ‘perhaps we could go for a halfway house and just paint you pink.’

‘Oh I wouldn’t worry about that. I only have two wishes in life – one is to spend your inheritance, and the other is to die leaving you all in debt.’

I decided to up the ante. ‘When I go I’d like to be liquidized and drank at the reception. I could ask my kids to mix in some Imodium so that I am literally a pain in everyone’s arse.’

Dad mulled over what I’d just said and a wry smile spread across his face.  ‘Actually scratch that. Load my cadaver into a catapult and fire it into the air. Wherever it lands I’d like to be left to rot.’

‘Or we could fit your body with animatronics and have someone remote control you to rise from the grave screaming ‘Rrrrrrraaaaaahhhhhhh.’

The conversation went through several more, increasingly inappropriate rounds of one-upmanship, after which we apologised to Grandma, bowed and left.

We lost my mother to cancer last year. This isn’t a cue for cyber-sympathy and I wouldn’t use a blog as a forum for sorrow. All I will say is this. My dad didn’t think he’d be up to doing the eulogy so, without really thinking it through, I offered to take his place. On the day of the funeral I breathed deeply, stood up and faced the large crowd that had come to pay their respects. The eulogy had been put together by the whole family. There were fond memories, achievements, extracts from letters and even some humour. After a shaky start I found a rhythm, and actually started to enjoy sharing all the wonderful stories, but midway through a profound sadness washed over me. As I was trying to compose myself a woman in the front row rose to her feet, set up a tripod and started taking photographs. As I looked at her in disbelief she mouthed the word ‘smile.’

Nothing so perfectly illustrates the hilarious absurdity of death (or life for that matter). Afterwards the same woman engaged me in a conversation that was more like top-trump-grief. ‘No one could ever be sadder about this than me,’ she informed. Over her shoulder I saw an old school friend making the international symbol for fancy a pint? (which in my opinion is the only genuinely helpful thing a person can say to someone when they’ve lost a loved one). ‘Congratulations,’ I replied, ‘you’re the winner!’ She seemed pleased with her triumph, so that’s good. A few days later she emailed me some photos of the coffin with the subject header ‘Hope these help.’ There was a great cathersises in pressing delete so, in a way, they did. Dad told me that I should have replied with ‘Not well at the mo – here’s a picture of my poo.’ Maybe it was an opportunity wasted, but it didn’t seem suitable at the time, and I’m sure her heart was in the right place. Anyway, we dined out on it for weeks.

So, I’m sad to see Whitney go, but Channel 5 have made me feel that life’s gonna tick on just fine, and I thank them for that.

And finally…

I once had the misfortune of working with a highly unpleasant misogynist called ‘Scoffer’ – a combination of his surname ‘Scoffield’ and the eating habits that had resulted in him becoming almost perfectly spherical. When in his late forties he suffered an epic fatal heart-attack (which presumably was the objective of eating six meals a day) a number of the psychologically abused women spread a rumour round the office that a vending machine had fallen on him.

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Kim-Jong-il look-alike’s career in tatters…

The media rarely considers the plight of celebrity impersonators when reporting on the death of a communist dictator. As such the recently unemployed 61-year old Kim Young Shik has become just another of North Korea’s silent victims. He is said to be in mourning at the loss of his raison d’etre. On the other hand the BBC reports that he’s saving an absolute fortune on haircare products. Every cloud…

It’s stories like this that make Valentine’s Day bearable. That and standing in Paddington station watching the look of horror on a man’s face as his girlfriend gives him a teddybear the size of a washing machine. I did my best, but it’s impossible to convey ‘I feel your pain’ in looks alone. For a moment there we experienced the bond shared by all men when we realise that, despite our most earnest endeavours, we’ve stumbled into a trap.

Onto matter book-related, Tim Carter-Wale at systemfx has come through with the latest draft for the front cover of ‘Froth’ – a book of short stories. The colours, design and concept are all fantastic, and constitute a marvellous realisation of my frankly inept brief. The book itself is in the proof reading stage and I’m hoping to get it published online in April.

The other development is that I’m circling around the idea of re-submitting a couple of manuscripts to literary agents. It’s not something I’ve entertained for years as pitching work is a sobering experience at the best of times. Imagine a cocktail bar filled with devastating looking women (reverse sex as appropriate). You go up to the first, choke back your crushing doubt and murmur, ‘Can I buy you a drink?’ She looks at you as if you’re disgusting and spits a savage ‘No.’ You turned to the next, ‘Can I buy you a dr…’ ‘GOD NO!’ You turn to the next. ‘Can I b…’ ‘You must be joking. Avert your gaze wretch.’ The rest shun you without response.

I can only dream of soliciting so impassioned a response from an agent. Oh to be deigned worthy of a ‘sod off.’

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Mish-Mash

My pet chickens need feeding and all I have in the fridge is a spicy chicken pizza. Mmmmoral dilemma. It’s probably no one they know, but best to be on the safe side. In the absence of any grain I find myself pushing a trolley round Tesco Express.

‘OK, you’re a chicken,’ a rather attractive woman overhears me say out loud to myself, ‘what do you like the look of?’ A key-lime pie takes my fancy, but it’s completely impractical. My beak’ll never pierce that lid, and what am I going to do with the ramekin afterwards? Channeling poultry doesn’t appear to be one of my skills.

Back at home the hens seem non-plussed with the selection of cakes I set out before them. The guilt at having forgotten to stock up on their favourite nosh drives me to boil up some rice. A good ten minutes is spent wondering whether or not to add seasoning. Eventually, on the proviso that they’ll taste better if I ever decide to put them in a pie,  I reason that I can stretch to a bit of salt and pepper.

In a scene straight from ‘Come dine with me’ I apologetically serve up the chow. They wolf it down affecting clucks of contentment, but they’ll probably slag me off in the taxi back to their coop.

It wasn’t my idea to get the chickens, but I’m glad that they’re here. Their entire day consists of asking ‘is this edible?’ The answer is invariably ‘yes’.

I order more bird seed online, which instantly infuriates me. Modern life is too easy and too well defined. There’s a slick way of doing everything – ordering seed, buying pre-packaged grub, uploading blogs. Even previously off-the-beaten-track holidays are now pretty much nailed down as experiences. Just once it would be nice to find something ill-defined and reckless (if only so I could complain about it not being better organised). I pledge to go out foraging for sustenance and a female of child-bearing age, but my hunter-gatherer instinct has taken the day off, and I find that women generally object to being clubbed on the head and dragged back to your house by their hair.

So anyway, that’s breakfast out of the way. I check yesterday’s post. The copyright office informs me that my next book ‘Froth’ has now been copyrighted, but that my William Shatner-based satellite navigation – the ‘Shat-Nav,’ has not. The reasons for this rejection (written in biro) are that:

1. William Shatner has already copyrighted himself.

2. The uneven timbre and spacing of his voice may well misinform motorists, leading to peril.

Besides cooking for farm animals I’ve also published ‘The Melting Pot’ on the site ‘Smashwords.’ This means that, in addition to the already published Kindle version, it is now available on i-Pad, html, pdf and several other digital formats:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/131778

Spread the word. I thank you…

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Writing about ‘Baddies’…

‘Rapscallion’ – surely a contender for best word ever (closely followed by ‘nefarious’ and ‘skullduggery’) – all synonymous with villainy.

The starting point for all this was a short story competition about bad guys. I’d decided to come at it from the tongue in cheek, pendulum-swinging, overly-convoluted-diabolical-world-domination-pencil-moustache-Mwhahaha-school of thought. The thing about meglomaniacs is they’re always so well organised. I can barely get out of bed in the morning and there they are building secret lairs in volcanoes and radar-jamming space stations. It strikes me therefore that a better arch nemesis than a super-spy would be a management consultant who, rather than killing henchmen and bedding women, clogs up the supply-chain with bureaucracy and makes it really difficult to order plutonium. In place of a climatic showdown my story ends with a sheepish looking technician shuffling into the command centre, mumbling ‘the software in your death ray isn’t backwards compatible,’ and that’s that – pfssss.

This bit of nonsense got me thinking: What makes someone really bad? I’m talking about attributes rather than catalysts. Is it in the traits they possess or in the ones they lack? If I had been born without empathy would that make me callous or merely emotionally efficient?

‘The banality of evil’ is a phrase often uses on history programs when referring to the Nazis. Many of the officers who ran Auschwitz argued fervently at their trials that they were only administrators, and that they couldn’t be held accountable for the genocide taking place under their noses. The inference is that evil is an absence rather than a substance. This is obviously an extreme example, but in our own little ways we’re all walking the earth mercilessly  projected our beliefs and expectations onto each other, leaving the gas on, the seat up, not remembering birthdays; little omissions and cut-corners. At what point do they tips the scales and spill over into malevolence?

The reason for all this naval gazing is a book idea I’m working on that centres around a protagonist called Methusaleh – a hebrew name meaning ‘when he dies, judgment.’ He comes to the conclusion that, because every action has a plethora of unseen repercussions, it is impossible to be truly good. As a consequence he decides to go full steam ahead in the opposite direction and have a ball. He does not wish people ill-will. He is simply morally ambivalent.

Speaking of malevolence and ambivalence I’ve just made my first foray onto Twitter – a God-forsaken place filled with the murmurings of the undead. The first tweet I encountered read: ‘OMG – Just stabbed myself in eye with pen LOL.’ Does my wanting them to disappear from the gene pool make me a bad person?

https://twitter.com/#!/Martin_Cororan

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Auroring success…

It’s a little known fact, but it wasn’t the extreme cold that caused vikings to venture south to Angle-land a-raping and a-pillaging, it was the high cost of living.  £19 for two pints! It’s no wonder they started hacking people to death!

Just got back from visiting the good people of Norway, the highlights of which were:

  • Seeing the northern lights (smug photo attached).
  • Marvelling as a nation-wide price-fixing scam flagrantly amasses all of Europe’s wealth.

The best way I can think of to describe the Aurora Borealis is that it’s like watching ‘The Wizard of Oz’ backwards. You start with the innocuous little guy turning some levers, but peeking behind the curtain and seeing the inner workings you realise that it’s actually a humongous supernatural being. The overriding sensation is of witnessing something that wasn’t meant for human eyes.

Of course it’s all well and good getting poetic and zen after the fact. First comes the imbecilic attempt to find this phenomenon. Having rucked up in Tromso, a town 400 kilometres within the arctic circle, and being thoroughly British, we sat astride our steed (hatchback) and drove off into the frozen tundra without any provisions; safe in the knowledge that, if we got into trouble, we could commandeer a local and point at things whilst shouting at them in English.

In an attempt to make conversation with some recently acquired hitch-hikers I carefully selected from an array of ice-breakers, turned to my friend and asked: ‘At what point do we revert to our native language and kill them?’

Passing a graveyard he compounded my gaf by uttering ‘Isn’t that where we buried those French tourists last night?’

We arrived at a secluded fjord; cameras clutched within trigger fingers, and ready to bludgeon each other into paralysis at the slightest provocation. We were in God’s country – silent, serene, magical, unique.

‘How long do you think it would take to get bored of a view like that?’ one of the hitchers asked.

‘I’m bored now,’ the other replied.

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