Tag Archives: reading

Life is Hyperbole

Many years ago when I first moved to Reading I lived in a shared house with three other twenty-something males. Three of us had relocated for work purposes. The fourth who, for reasons of anonymity we’ll call Dan (although coincidentally that also happens to be his real name) told us that he didn’t need to work on account of his parents’ acrimonious divorce and their subsequent attempts to out-spoil him. He sat at home most days drinking Stella, eating bucket loads of chicken wings that he bought from ‘Mr. Cod’ (virtually next door) and howling obscenities at the television.

One day we returned home to find him in a state of mortification. The gig was up. His parents were onto him. No further funds would be forthcoming. He was to do the unspeakable and find a job. After several failed attempts he got himself paid work as a security guard at the local shopping centre.

Less than a week after he started the job I discovered my two other housemates in the lounge laughing uncontrollably. Unable to speak one of them handed me a piece of paper. It appeared that Dan had not enjoyed his time as a security guard, but too ashamed to admit he couldn’t hack the work, had decided that his departure would be more palatable if the reason was a little more elaborate. As such he’d written a letter to the head of security posing as his sister and stated that he could no longer come to work as he’d been involved in a car crash and had, had one of his arms amputated.

My housemates’ mirth was not caused by the excuse, but rather the reply he’d received from the head of security – one of the finest works of literature I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Amongst it’s many well-crafted stanzas two sentences stand out: “We were even more concerned when he contacted your next of kin and discovered they were unaware of your accident. If you could get someone else to hold the phone against your ears perhaps you could call them (presuming you skill have ears)?” And “As your uniform was found in the locker we can only presume you were planning to leave anyway before this most tragic of events.”

I remember he was very angry that they hadn’t paid him, but could think of no legitimate way to complain.

Engaged in the black art of self-promotion as I am, I am constantly bewildered by the sheer volume of exaggeration and out an out lying that takes place in everyday life. I’m not talking about the adulterous / of-course-I-didn’t-burry-her-in-the-woods type exaggeration (i.e. things worth lying about). I’m talking about the little things, like describing a cappuccino as ‘awesome’ or any use of the term ‘LOL’ (surely a killable offence (if that’s not hypocrisy?)).

The latest bee in my bonnet (hyperbole: I don’t own a bonnet) is the emergence of companies that charge to generate fake comments / likes / views / re-tweets etc online. I’ll admit, when I first started promoting my music (Martin’s music) I did try one of them – paid the princely sum of £8, and 48-hours later one of my songs had been listened to 5000 times, but no one had liked it (I hadn’t paid for that) and none of the people were real. Their avatars had been lifted from other users and they had not really listened to my work. They were simply bots clicking on a link. Having decided that it wasn’t a virtuous thing to have done I deleted the song, re-uploaded it and by the end of that day it had been listed to 30 times and liked 8. I felt satisfied. This was an honest picture of the world. I had connected with 30 individuals and properly connected with 8 – Hardly setting the music industry alight, but a true reflection of reality.

I read an online article about a rapper who had over 100K Twitter / Sound cloud followers, all of whom were fake. It posed the question: How does he feel when he reads computer-generated comments that declare ‘You are a rock God’ and ‘Dope’? Or beholds the giant list of fans, none of whom have ever listened to a single note of the tunes he has so lovingly sampled from proper musicians (!) but who have cost him an arm and a leg to acquire?

It’s as if he has taken the Turing artificial intelligence test and the computer has failed him! And he isn’t even an isolated example. The practice is becoming widespread. Now, whenever I see a Facebook link with 20K likes I think: There’s a good chance that’s not real.

I went for lunch last week at a bar I hadn’t frequented in over a year. The place had been renovated. I struck up a conversation with the owner about the changes. Turns out that the previous owner woke up one morning ten months ago, rang the brewery and said ‘So, it’s like this – I’ve had enough – the keys are on the bar’ (click), and off he went, owing in access of fifty grand. No one had seen him since. That’s excited and not made-up.

Another thing that really happened was that I was sitting at a beachside café with an old school friend last weekend. I mentioned that one of my greatest regrets in life was my failure to corral a bunch of co-workers into getting drunk, attending a matinee show by Britain’s premium children’s entertainers ‘The Chuckle Brothers’ and heckling them. My friend replied:

‘Oh I met them once. Tried to get them to go drinking with me, but they declined – gave me a signed photo of the two of them sitting in a cockpit. I did however get annihilated (hyperbole) with a Tommy Cooper impersonator – Guy was phenomenal – Never broke character once!’

Rant over. Mother Teresa put it better than me: ‘Life’s a dream, realise it.’

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A look beyond the veil…

…Somewhere within these few lines and verses is the meaning of life. Of this I am certain, although at present I am at a loss to extract the distilled nectar…

I was heading into town on foot with a list of largely mundane things to do. My mind had wandered…I need to hire an accountant to do my tax returns

I passed under a railway bridge and did an awkward shimmy to avoid a woman approaching in the opposite direction.

…Really? This is what you’re going to spend your Sunday thinking about? I harnessed a phrase so often used on other men in their late thirties whenever the subject of rising house prices rears its inevitable head: We used to talk about girls.

My rumination was disturbed by a loud screeching noise. I looked up and saw that a flat bed lorry containing a large (and full) skip was skidding and jack-knifing all over the road. In a flash I saw that its next arc would bring it round to bear on the woman and myself, crashing through the flimsy fence that separated us. My mind took in other snapshots – the curved wall of the tunnel – no escape – the expression on the driver’s face – a rictus of panic.

I am going to die – the thought as clear as day – A weight like that would pulverise me. I probably wouldn’t even feel it. No time for…Cars on either side of the road shrieking to a halt – petrol fumes – adrenaline coursing – the woman’s arm shooting out, almost grasping mine…

…And then, somehow, the driver regained control of the vehicle. He glanced down at me from the cab and shouted something. I only caught the last word ‘….reprieve!’ His face was a swirl of nervous energy – the relief and mania of not having turned his lorry into a murderous juggernaut, and then he was gone.

In the dim light of the tunnel the woman and I exchanged exhalations. I momentarily entertained the idea of speaking (we almost…we should go for a drink – maybe get married). The moment passed. I offered a smile, which was reciprocated, and then we went in our separate directions.

What now? I couldn’t just go and buy bin liners and washing up liquid as had been the plan – Oh no – I had been spared for higher office (or something). Something profound had just happened, and yet at the same time, nothing at all had happened.

The first thing I saw when I got into town was a coffeehouse I’d been boycotting on account of their exorbitant prices. Well stuff that now, I thought, I’m on bonus time. Bring me the baddest brew you’ve got and here’s all my money. Several glorious infusions later I found my calling – I was to pamper myself rotten. I bought the ingredients for an epic meal, a good bottle of plonk and a hillock of cake (to use the collective term).

Back at home I visited the bathroom and regarded its porcelain namesake (Who the hell has time to draw a bath in this day and age?) Me, that’s who! – piping hot, bubble bath – I only wish I’d had rose petals on hand and a Celine Dion compilation.

Well that was mind-blowing, I self-congratulated as I emerged from a miasma of steam to discover that I had no clean underwear (the result of a recent road-trip). Commando it is then! A pair of trackie-bottoms were on hand – crisis averted!

With a meal of heroes in my belly I stepped out into the garden to enjoy the summer sunshine. The lawn was looking a little unkempt so I decided to mow it – Find an album you’ve not listened to in a while, stick on some headphones – mooch around in the warm rays – perfect.

I set to work, thinking all the while about what had happened earlier that day. Worshipping at the church of self was all well and good for an hour or so, but surely something worthier needed to emerge as a result of so spectacular a reminder that life is fragile and fleeting?

Maybe, but not right now. Right now I had great food, great tunes, I was out in the sunshine. It didn’t have to be profound. This is good, I thought, this is being alive.

Something moved in my peripheral vision. I looked up and there at the gate stood an old woman. By ‘old’ I mean ‘at least eighty.’ She was waving and mouthing something at me. I let go of the mower’s trigger and took off the headphones.

‘What was that?’

‘Nice cock,’ she said – brazen as you like with a wry little smile.

‘…pardon?’

‘…Nice cock.’

I looked down and saw that the mower was obscuring my pelvic region from view.

‘How would you know?’

‘Oh, I’ve been standing here for quite some time.’

And with a wink and what can only be described as an incredibly leisurely pace she went about her business…

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…So long and thanks for all the mammaries

My usual dentist was away on maternity leave and had been replaced by a woman so voluptuous that it was almost suspicious, (the gratuitous drawing of attention to her figure is an essential detail!) Having talked me through the process of removing a broken tooth and replacing it with a temporary crown she leaned over, whereupon one of her pendulous breasts slapped firmly against my face; engulfing my right eye and settling against my cheek.

She seemed not to have noticed and diligently went about her work. With my one good eye I tried to signal to her assistant (‘Is this normal?’) She too appeared ambivalent, (either that or she didn’t speak eye-mind).

For 40 minutes (seemed longer) I lay under the warm weight of her heaving bosom – a strangely emasculating experience if truth be told. I hadn’t needed any anaesthetic as there was no root to offend, but by the end of the procedure my face was completely numb.

Afterwards the dentist (surely we should’ve been on first-name terms by this point) asked me if I’d like to keep the mould they’d made of my jaw. I couldn’t see any practical use for it, but it was going in the bin otherwise, so I said yes and took receipt of a macabre looking little plastic bag – Exhibit A:IMG_0822

‘How soon before I can eat anything?’ I asked.

‘Oh, straight away,’ she replied.

Having failed to ask for her phone number I left the surgery and went to a local supermarket in search of lunch. At the check out, whilst trying to retrieve my wallet, I succeeded in fumbled the aforementioned item out onto the conveyer belt.

Even I had to admit that it looked like something you’d find in Jeffrey Dahmer’s fridge. It would be an exaggeration to say that the cashier screamed, but she did press the help (panic) button, prompting the appearance of an equally bemused looking colleague.

‘I haven’t murdered anyone if that’s what you were thinking.’

Evidently they were…

On an entirely unrelated topic I’ve just started uploading some of my songs to:

https://soundcloud.com/martincororan

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A town called Mortality…

It was with a certain degree of trepidation that I boarded the train at Reading and took the three-hour journey north to the once industrial but recently gentrified city of Sheffield. There I met with seven similarly wide-eyed souls. Nothing had physically barred us from returning, and yet it had taken a group of relatively motivated individuals fourteen years to get their acts together. There was understandable excitement, but also a little nervousness. Will it be how I remember it? Was this a good idea?

Cautiously we ventured out. The students (who had all been toddlers and foetuses when last we’d lived there) regarded our sensible, practical clothes with vaguely amused condescension, whilst the older locals were complicit in their acceptance where previously their had been only judgement.

We found our old stomping group much changed, but also strangely familiar. Large towers had arisen, and some intimate settings had been swallowed up, but the sense of rediscovery was palpable – What did that shop used to be? Oh look, that’s still there! 

Emboldened we sought out our most cherished haunts. First there was ‘The Broomhill Tavern,’ originally famed for having light fittings strong enough to swing off, then the fantastically named ‘Springvale Beer Engine,’ before finally our hall of residence ‘Tapton,’ a building that, when seen through objective eyes, was a garish (and now derelict) 1960’s monstrosity. But our eyes were anything but objective! To us glorious snap-shots in time had afforded the bricks and mortar an awkward kind of  grace. Speaking to a security guard we learned that demolition plans had once again been blocked by the surrounding neighbourhood. A great symbol of our past was to cling to existence a little while longer.

An Italian restaurant was the scene of our most shameless reminiscing. It was here that we proposed a series of increasingly self flagellating speeches and basked in the glory of having stayed in touch over the years; growing through various trials and tribulations, joys and disappointments, births, deaths, marriage triumphs and failures.

Returning to the place that was the making of you evokes feelings that go way beyond nostalgia. There is delight that streets not walked in over a decade can still be considered home, marvel that rose-tinted recollections really were as good as you remember them, and yet at the same time it’s as though it all happened to someone else – in my case a slighter, hairier, less cynical self. Having said all that, and despite its blandness, I find that the word ‘lovely’ seems to sum it all up just right.

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Grovelling personified…

Once a week I write to Mariella Frostrup at Radio 4’s ‘Open Book.’ At first I begged her to grant me an interview on the show, but now I mostly compliment her on her hair. I thought about sending one that read ‘Can you see me? I can see you,’ or perhaps ‘Did you get that finger I posted?’ but people rarely take stalker-humour in the spirit that it’s intended.

Latest Google searches to find me: ‘Pot urinals,’ ‘Guerrilla night-clubs’ and ‘Sally Gunnell bikini.’

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“You are my Kryptonite…”

…Was universally agreed last night as the answer to the question ‘What’s the worst chat-up line you’ve ever received?’

The relevancy of which is that the lady in question had also tried to order The Melting Pot via Waterstones, but had subsequently been refunded after they were unable to source it…all despite my having gone to great lengths to get a wholesale agreement in place with a company called Gardners. I checked on the website and it seems that the agreement has been cancelled without my knowledge!

This kind of occurrence is the biggest obstacle to a self-publisher – the bulk buying view – where a company will say that’s it’s not in their interests to buy (or even take on sale or return) from a single seller due to it being inefficient time-wise. I’ve mentioned before that I sometimes approach a bookshop in or around Reading (where I live), agree a sale, but then have to post the books via a warehouse hundred’s of miles away rather than just take them in myself!

…And relax.

A guy from the Isle of Man ordered the book on Amazon a few days ago and was kind enough to write and say he liked what I was trying to do. I always massively appreciate strangers taking the time to do this, and it more than counters any frustrations I feel at the logistical constraints of fulfilling orders. This particular reader also relates back to the Waterstones rant and goes a long way to explaining a bizarre phone-call I received from a bookseller a few weeks ago – which went like this:

‘Hello.’

‘Hi, I’m on the Isle of Man.’

[PAUSE] ‘I’m happy for you.’

‘Oh…sorry…One of my customers would like a copy of your book. Can I buy one?’

‘Of course you can.’

‘Great! Bye.’

‘Wait – how were you planning on ordering it?’

‘I thought you could send it to me.’

‘I can, but I don’t know who you are or where you live.’

‘I’m on the Isle of Man…’

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Spot the impending tragedy…

It’s amazing how often the London underground catches fire! Following general gridlock / alarms several thousand people were kicked out of Paddington yesterday morning; thwarting the efforts of the sneaky soul who kindly fly-postered the Bakerloo 12032008001.jpgline the night before.

To date my exploits have brought me into close proximity with such acolytes as The Henry Kelly of Going for gold fame, and Oscar-winning-Turkish-assassin Kevin Spacey.  

12032008002.jpgStaying on the famous people theme a lady in the office says that she knows Nurse #3 from BBC’s ‘Casualty,’ (or ‘Spot the impending tragedy,’ as it’s known in the Cororan house-hold). We’ve conceived an idea based on the exploits of Sid James from the ‘Carry On’ films. He famously used to supplement his meagre actors salary by surreptitiously placing bottles of whisky in shot and collecting advertising royalties. In similar fashion we hope to get the book into view on the set. The current thoughts are along the lines of ‘man and book impaled on spike,’ or ‘traffic warden-book-anus incident.’ 

…Following this through to its natural conclusion I think I’ll try and get The Melting Pot on the set of ER where it can be used to deflect a bullet fired by a lesbian heroin addict before being shredded by an exploding helicopter…

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