Sunday, February 18, 2007

Three things making me happy this morning (and a secret one).

High on Tetley tea and a gradual recovery from some strange and unnameable lurgy, I am feeling very pleasant this morning, the kind of pleasant that, in fact, surpasses the meaning of pleasant, since pleasant usually denotes a somewhat tepid experience without that deeper bite of life.

I am thinking of the things that make me happy.

I am having amusing fantasies. I am thinking about some of the bands and songwriters I never get tired of listening to. Then I am imagining a large bustling kitchen, with blue and white chequered tiles above the cooker and bowls of Frosties on the table. Tea is swilling in the pot, toast is popping up golden from the toaster. It's ten o' clock and I am a child sitting amidst my strange new family.

They are a vocal bunch, bubbling with eccentricity and odd hairdoes and voices which make me skip and dance across the linoed floor. If I were to imagine what their names were, I'd say Joanna is my sister, with her dangerously uneven fringe and her pleated dress. Then there is my dad, Micah P, with his craggy cheeks and unkempt mop of thick black hair, streaked with white. Then there is my mum, Kate with her flowing wavy black locks, her wild eyes and her rather hideous beige jogging bottoms. Then there would be old Kurt W, my Uncle, in his red and white shirt, his sloppy paint spattered dungarees and his slow big hands. And of course, there is my wayward brother, Peter, who only turns up at the house occasionally, when he has run out of underwear and fags. He adjusts his trilby on the front doorstep, running his hands through the tufts of his hair, tucking his dirty shirt in.

I wake up blearily in the morning to Joanna and her long red hair, her elegant fingers, who is throwing tiny wooden dolls out of my bedroom window, shouting 'Danger !Danger! Danger!' at the postman below. The postman shrugs and struggles to drop off the heavy parcels of cigarettes through the letterbox for my father to smoke, so he can age his lungs into further disrepair, scouring his vocal chords until they sound like the low grind of old farm machinery.

It makes me happy to imagine what breakfast time would be like in this family, and the words and sounds that might be spoken. I think the women of the house at times might try my nerves, Joanna with her dreamy babbling and endless improvisational harp-playing when I'm only asking if I can borrow her hairbrush or for her to pass me the tomato sauce; my mother staring upwards as raindrops gather on the edge of gutters, singing high-pitched verses about bursting clouds and a place called wuthering heights and washing machines, oblivious to the fact that she has left the all our clothes out on the line.

It would be at times like these that I'd slip onto my Uncle's lap and curl up like a dog, listening to him humming darkly as he chews on tobacco and strokes my head with his large forefinger and thumb. Or else I would join my father outside in the shed, where he would be whittling away at pieces of wood, shaping them into cats and elephants and one that looks like the Eiffel Tower. He would give them me when they were done, and I would line them up on my window ledge.

Late into the night, I would sit there, playing with them, staring up into the night sky. The faint strains of Joanna's jumpy high pitched squeaks from the next room would echo around my head, words about meadow larks and sparrows jumping about my ears and brain. As I peered up at the stars outside, I'd whisper softly along with her to my own melody. My own voice would be soft as honey, oozing quietly through my teeth, as her notes and words skittered upwards, a cacopany of syllables and cadences and brilliance filling the night air.

I like this fantasy. I like to imagine different families of different figures. Some would be happier than others. Some would be a recipe for disaster. How would it be to grow up with Einstein, St Francis Of Assisi and Charles Bukowski all under one roof? Roald Dahl could be my gardener. I could grow up in a dark and brooding family with Sylvia Plath as my older sister, wandering out to the garden at night, disappearing into the bathroom for worrying lengths of time. She would steal my favourite clothes and never return my eye shadow. Morrissey would be my older brother, slouching in the corner of the sitting room in one of his moods, specs on, fringe stuck high into the air. He would sit there with a condescending look in his eye, a huge pile of books at his side, reprimanding me for making too much noise. Then he would make my eyes grow big with wonder as he quoted me lines from Oscar Wilde or A Taste Of Honey. Or what would a line of uncles who were composers be like? Debussy, Shostakovich and Bach all under one roof for Christmas?

This morning I am also thinking about all the words that make me happy. There are so many of them. However, for some time now, I have seen a pattern emerging, wherein most of my favourite words seem to begin with un. This includes: undone, unborn, unlit, unsmiling, untie, undress, unnerve, unloved, unseen.

Oh to live in a world where everything moves like these words. Where all is undone, unseen and unsmiling. I go all silent and hushed inside when I read these words, quiet like a church when the service is over and all the people have left for home.

I also think that the word unkind has one of the most wonderful sounds in the English language; it is impossible for me to say it without it having the ring of ineffable kindness about it. Isn't that wonderful, for unkind to be such a kind word? The sensitivity and gentleness of it is beautiful.

The third thing that is making me happy this morning is The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien. I was introduced to this book when I was in New York last year, and I first became acquainted with it in a mood of sleepiness, as it was read aloud to me on several occasions as I drifted in and out of somnambulistic states of dreaming. My apprehension of this novel was therefore done through the haze of half closed eyes and ears, and upon reading it properly for the first time recently, I realised that perhaps it was more than just tiredness that kept my perception of this book hazy and dream-like. This book is like a haze of a dream, or perhaps an acid trip taken at a young age. It is a act of bizarre genius, which makes me indefatigably, irreverently, happy. It also makes me see my bicycle, Jeopardy, in an entirely new way.

These seem to me to be two perfect passages of writing:

Maccruiskeen put his baton away into the hole in the wall where the Sergeant's had been and turned to me, giving me generously the wrinkled cigarette which I had come to regard as the herald of unthinkable conversation...


I sat there for half an hour, bereft of light and feebly wondering for the first time about making my escape. I must have come back sufficiently from death to enter a healthy tiredness again for I did not hear the policeman coming out of his bedroom again and crossing the kitchen with his unbeholdable and brain-destroying bicycle. I must have slept there fitfully in my chair, my own private darkness reigning restfully behind the darkness of the handkerchief.

Wonderful. Apparently, O'Brien (not even his real name), who was a shy man and a raving alcoholic, was so embarrassed when they refused to publish his novel in 1940, that to save face, he told friends that the entire novel's manuscript had blown, page by page, out of the boot of his car whilst he was driving around Ireland.

1 comment:

Olivia said...

Too weird! How is it possible that we were both travelling in such a similar fantasy realm at almost exactly the same time? You must come to the Fat Duck with me and all our shared surrogate family, or, failing that, at least to Micah P. tomorrow night. All the gang are going (you know . . our real friends) xx