1. i’ve momentarily lost interest in writing on my temp memoir, so will try to blog a bit to keep my kill hand in. My memoir has the same problems as The Better Maker – autobiographical, rambling, dissipating, pointless, shit. i wondered why The Lumber Room blog posts covering the temping years were, on the whole, good, and the memoir is wretched; and it occurred to me – with my blog posts and my short stories i have a structure of sorts, a sense of shape & purpose, which informs and colours and gives meaning. Though i don’t plan blog posts or stories, i have a starting point and a general sense of some of the things to include; and both tend to be about 500-2000 words long. It seems part of my character to only be able to think & create in short bursts. Although i know what to put in my memoir, all i have are lots of facts – i can’t sustain any informing shape over the length of 80-100,000 words. i’m trying to think my way around this.

2. Meanwhile i’ve been watching the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes series, gloriously available on youtube until some polisher bans it.

sherlock holmes5

Naturally, i am highly pleased to see a dapper upper class gent smoking a churchwarden and taking cocaine and foiling or at least retrospectively solving brutal crimes. Brett has spontaneity & jagged energy, and a mesmerising strangeness; the latter really suggests the “superman” who inhabits a wholly different mental realm to the rest of us non-churchwarden-smoking dolts. i’m vaguely aware that there’s some kind of new Sherlock Holmes TV series but i don’t want to see it, as i’m sure this strangeness will have been removed as unbefitting the new socialist republic in which all men are equal. Also, he will probably be gay now, rather than merely asexual.

i was arrested by the sight of Holmes in a deerstalker hat. My father used to wear these when i was growing up in the early 80s; he also smoked pipes, before finally succumbing to (no doubt hereditary) insanity and blowing all his money on koi carp & dodgy second-hand cars. i can’t help but feel that pipes & deerstalker hats were a better use of his time, but there it is. The hat always looked bizarre on him, as he borrowed parts of Holmesian Englishness without making any real attempt to learn anything about English culture or language (so after living in England for 30 years he still spoke worse English than most of my students, hadn’t read a single non-medical book in his life, and knew absolutely nothing about English history). Still, it’s strange that my first thought was “my father wore those”, and the second “i should get one of those, it will keep my ears warm in these savage German winters”. Indeed, i am slowly turning into my father.

3. i find this hideous transformation quite reassuring, as i preserve my own elberryness but start to treat my job as a vocation rather than a way to pay the rent, and i become increasingly tyrannical & despotic, wielding vast & monstrous powers over my grateful subjects. i like this continuity. Ours is one of the ages when a man can legitimately feel he lives wholly differently to his father and grandfather (another might be the Reformation). And certainly modern life feels extremely different to the world in which i grew up – though one could argue that the 80s were totally different to every other time in human history.

dd

4. The other day i was reminded of The Railway Children film, which i saw about 30 years ago when birds and beasts and flower were one with Man, and death was but a dream. i had a general sense that it was set in the 50s or 60s – certainly before i was born but not too long ago. Actually, the book was published in 1905.

railway children

Time seems to move in sudden jumps, so i look like Johnny Depp for years then wake up one morning and find myself looking like William Burroughs; and so with human history. The late 70s and early 80s were, to be sure, a long way from 1905: i think of Tolkien’s remark about the countryside he grew up in outside Birmingham, that in 1905 or so it was closer to the 16th Century than to the world after the Second World War. And for me, the world of 1982 seems much much longer than 31 years ago – for me as elberry, 1982 is closer to the 1930s than to 2013. As a child i had no sense that The Railway Children was from some vanished world, though this may in part be because it’s set in Haworth, about 20 miles from my hometown.

haworth

Haworth aside, 1982 seems a long way from 2013, especially where i grew up (on the edge of the country). This was a world where policemen wore conical blue helmets by god, where traffic was somewhere between rare and light, where university wasn’t for the gormless, unless they were rich, where politicians, public services, and companies would never try to sound like gum-chewing 16-year-olds (i bite back a snarl every time a website addresses me with a howdy or hi there), where libraries were full of books, where porn was just a rumour (apart from the time a kindly philanthropist threw a pile of hardcore German mags over the wall of our schoolyard), where most technology was largely mechanical, where most mothers were housewives, where most children knew who their fathers were, where the working class still existed, where hair was long and shaggy and unkempt, where people still vaguely half-believed in some watered-down Christianity and the priests didn’t condemn their own religion for not being sufficiently welcoming to fundamentalist Islam; and so on.

5. It’s natural to automatically sneer that everyone imagines the world of their childhood was superior to the present, a totally different time. In some ways 2013 is better, but in most ways it’s shit and i want to send it back and get a new one. For me, the main differences between England in 1982 and 2009 (when i left) are the technologies and the culture; in the latter, the drunkenness and criminality and base vulgarity one saw from time to time have become more or less standard; or perhaps still a minority but so noxious that an increase from 0.05 to 1.0 % of the population makes an enormous difference to daily life. Not a problem in Munich, where there seems virtually no street crime (nor did i see any in Kassel or Kiel). But the technology remains: principally computers and cars. Both are useful, both can be objects of beauty & deliverance:

Duesenberg SJ

However, both have also had disastrous effects on the human beings they are allegedly designed to serve. i imagine books have already been written on the way the internet and computers change our view of each other & ourselves; there’s also the effect on daily work for the average office drone: because computers are stupid and can’t understand anything they haven’t been explicitly programmed to understand, many people (e.g. me from 2004 to 2009) have to work within the inhumanly rigid and narrow parameters of our computer masters, which for me felt like being crammed into a little ease for 8 hours a day, for the minimum wage to cap it all. Computers have greatly encouraged the machine culture in which we now live; because computers are now so central to everything, nothing works unless you do it in exactly the right way, and even then there’s probably a bug which will leave you screaming in impotent fury.

Then there’s cars. Their obnoxious noise, generally lumpen ugliness, and mindless power are a good symbol for progress and the modern world. The world seemed different during the 2007 fuel protests, the roads almost empty, the air notably cleaner and clearer. Likewise in Venice or the pedestrian centre of Cambridge, the mere absence of cars makes for something like magic – the only sounds are human and natural.

6. In many ways, the time & place of my birth were exactly right. i was born in the north, half-Indian so subject to a similar sense of alienation & likely persecution as in my last life, and spared the apple polishing frenzies of London and the accursed south. And likewise the time – i grew up in the modern world, but for me computers and cars were unusual; the world was quieter, slower, more human. By the time heavy traffic & computers & the machine-man had become the norm, my character was already essentially formed. i can never get rid of a deep sense that machines should be only occasional presences in human affairs; that they are in fact unnecessary & pointless.

And my life after school: i studied a science at a grim northern university, hated it, and dropped out, ending up – more or less by accident – in Durham. At the time i thought it was just one of many older universities. Now, i realise it was one of the few places in the world i could have developed my intellectual faculties without interference from Literary Theory (the representative of atheist materialism, socialism, and militant feminist, racist, & homosexual agendas in the university), while living surrounded by old stone, above an ancient river, by a Medieval Cathedral. It would have been a grave mistake to go to Oxford or Cambridge; so perhaps only Durham would have done. The street on which i lived for 2 years:

bailey

cathedral from bailey 2

This was necessary for me, to survive in the whore modern world – to develop in tradition, in that which Southron polisher scum have left behind as contemptibly quaint. For this tradition is the source of one power. i could say, the informing & mastering influence i seek for my fiction is, in life, to be found in tradition & old custom, and i seek this force not merely for aesthetic reasons, but because it is the only way to focus and direct life to a diamond point.

sherlock holmes7

Advertisements