Tuesday, June 23, 2020

I wake up too late but still tired.

I put the duvet into an Ikea blanket box and return the sofa/bed to some semblance of a sofa. 
I make a strong Aeropress. 
Brian says that before you make an Aeropress you need to weigh the coffee on a special coffee-weighing scale, and check the temperature of the water with a special coffee thermometer and use a special coffee kettle with a swan shaped spout to measure out precisely the right amount of water. 
I stick two spoonfuls of coffee in the tube, top it up with the boiled water stir it, and squeeze it into the cup. 
It tastes, as a very wise man said many years ago, like a cup of coffee. 
I fire up the PC and open up Blogger and re-read, for the twentieth time, the second part of my third series of essays on Mark's Gospel.
In the last days of Cerebus the Aardvark Dave Sim gave the comic-book entirely over to pages and pages of what he called Torah Commentaries. They were widely regarded as evidence that he had gone entirely mad. I hope that my Gospel commentaries are not taking me in the same direction. The point of Dave Sim's essays was that he'd worked out exactly what the Bible really means. The point of mine is that I still don't have the faintest idea. When I was at Sussex University I wrote an essay for a course called The Modern European Mind. I think it was on Hegel and Methodism. "This is all very well, Andrew," wrote my tutor "but where are you in all of this?" I suspect he would say that about my blog as well. I have since heard the Sussex University Modern European Mind course described as legendary. I am afraid I regarded it as one of the pointless compulsory courses I had to turn up for even though I would sooner have been studying Chaucer and Malory. In truth I probably regarded Chaucer and Malory as one of the things I had to study so I could carry on playing Pendragon and Runequest in the evenings. I eventually did an MA in Medieval Studies at a completely different university, largely so I could spend another two years playing Runequest and Pendragon with a completely different set of people. 
I put on my black shirt and bright yellow tie and black Australian style leather hat. 
I bought the hat at the Trowbridge folk festival in 2016 and have worn it ever since. Either it suited me or it fitted me ironically. Two or three times a day complete strangers shout "I like your hat!" or "Yea-hah, cowboy!" at me. Sometimes they open the windows of their cars in order to do so. Mostly I say "Thanks." Sometimes I say "No-one has ever said that before!" I wonder what would happen if I shouted out comments about strangers clothes? "Hey, nice high vis jacket." "Hey, nice hoodie." "Hey, nice bum crack." I think that some people literally have to speak every thought that passes through their head out loud. As opposed to writing them down and publishing them on the internet, like normal folk. Before Trowbridge, the same people used to shout "fucking fattie" out of the same cars. That is probably the real reason I now wear a bright yellow tie and a black hat. Once, and only once, when a stranger shouted "You're fucking fat!" at me, I had the presence of mind to reply "Well, you're fucking stupid, but I can go on a diet." Women get this kind of thing more than men and black people get it more than white people, so I am not particularly complaining. 
I walk to work. 
"Work" is a branch library. Five years ago it was shiny and new, but now it is starting to look a bit lived-in. Like my hat. There is a great big sign outside. As I walk under the sign I always imagine that this is the credit sequence for my TV show. Andrew Rilstone: Librarian.
I take books out of crates. Someone asks me how to print a document from an email attachment. I put some of the books into different crates and some of them on the shelves. Someone else asks me how to print a document from an email attachment. I take some books off the shelves and put them in a third kind of crate. A third person asks me how to print a document from an email attachment. At lunchtime I do my Story-time for small children and their parents. We start with a little ditty of my own composition:
Now it's time for story time, 
doo dah doo dah
Now it's time for story time
doo dah doo dah day
Occasionally I have wild fantasies that we will sing The Car Song or Goodnight Little Arlo instead. I own a ukulele but have not quite reached the three chords stage. I have a sharpie ready for the day I can write "this machine kills fascists" on it. 
There is a small overpriced coffee shop near the station which was recommended to me by Brian.
If I had all the money I have spent on posh coffee over the years I would spend it on posh coffee. When I gave up working in the games industry some fifteen years ago owing to an unfortunate misunderstanding with a mobile phone game company in Manchester the main reason for coming back to Bristol was that it had a coffee shop called the Boston Tea Party. Shortly after my return the Boston Tea Party opened a branch at the bottom of my street. I felt that was karma. 
I return to the library after drinking coffee with a bacon sandwich. Someone is trying to print an attachment from their email. 
In the evening Louise and I watch the end of season 7 of Game of Thrones. We binged on it last time round, watched the whole lot in a single weekend, so we are working through it more slowly this time before season 8 comes along. I have long since lost track of most of the characters: I think in terms of "dragon lady", "the dwarf", "the assassinny one", "the gruff beardy one", "the other gruff beardy one". It is all ladies riding dragons and pirates marching into throne rooms and very bloody fights and ladies with their tops off and men with their front bits out and prophecies and scrolls. When it is all over I may even read the book. I suppose next we will have to go back to American Gods. I am so far behind on the Marvel TV Universe that I may have to declare myself bankrupt.
Some days I go to places with names like the Folk House and the Arts Centre to hear folk music. Some days we go to a little pub theatre and watch little pub theatre plays. Sometimes we even go to the Old Vic. I have recently discovered a club which stages performance fairy-tales in an art-house cinema.
This is what I do. This is my life. It seems to fit me. When I have had enough I can go back to my flat with my books and my comics and my computer. 
I have not played Runequest or Pendragon in twenty years.

I read a book called The Elfish Gene. The title made me very angry. I wish I had thought of it first.
Imagine a book by a fanatical tee-totaller; a recovering alcoholic who keeps telling you that his life was ruined by alcohol and that no-one should touch the demon drink under any circumstances but that if you do the ten year old Laphroaig is definitely worth the extra money. 
The guy seemed genuinely ashamed of having played Dungeons & Dragons: because it was un-hip; because it made him do embarrassing things; because he honestly thought that he had wasted his youth. In between these tirades, he has an absolute knack for explaining what Dungeons & Dragons was and what made it so compelling. 
The main comic trope in the book is wild exaggeration. I am quite willing to believe that he used to invite a large gaming group to his house without warning his parents first; I am not so sure that his mum once had to provide impromptu scones for 250. I am well aware that there was still quite a bit of corporal punishment around in the early 1980s; I don't believe that his school was slightly worse than Abu Ghraib. I often have the same problem will Bill Bryson.
Attacking and accusing your former self is a disreputable tactic. It allows you to self-righteously abuse other people while seeming to be modest and contrite. You tell the congregation how ashamed you are of your former wickedness; but really you are telling the people who still order whisky and coke or check out the top shelf in the newsagents how wicked they are. Mark Barrowcliffe gets laughs from portraying himself as a socially inept sexually immature obsessive, but really he is saying that people who still play The Bad Game are immature and inept. I expect he shouts out at people with funny hats. 
The idea of the comic book geek and the gaming geek is already a bit obsolescent. It reminds me of the tabloid press's habit of talking about "motorists" as if they were an obscure, specialist, sub-clan. Doesn't everyone drive a motor-car nowadays? Doesn't everyone have at least a couple of arcade games on their mobile phones? 
There was a bit of fuss in the newspapers because some art-house directors said that super-hero movies were not proper cinema; which is kind of true. If proper cinema is the kind of cinema that is shown in art houses then superhero movies are not movies of that kind. What interested me was that the art-house directors had all seen enough Marvel Movies to know that they didn't like them. Even a decade ago, the idea that anyone outside a tiny-little comic-book bubble would know who Thanos or Ant-Man even were would have been inconceivable. We've gone in half a lifetime from a world where comic-books were found on spinners in dark corners of disreputable newsagents to one where obscure third-wave Kirby titles are getting big-screen incarnations; where the Prime Minister can reference the Incredible Hulk and expect to be understood. I still find it strange that ordinary mainstream human beings know who Spider-Man is. By 2021 we can expect to hear expressions like "the Fourth Host" and "the Boom Tube" referenced in Guardian op eds. 
There is a comic called the Superhero Tots, or some such. As a result even my little god-daughter knows who Darksied and Granny Goodness are. 

I spent the whole of 1978 in a dark cinema watching Star Wars. I may have come out long enough to see some of Blake's Seven in black and white. If Punk Rock and Youth Rebellion were breaking out in the street outside I was completely unaware of them. While my contemporaries were marching through Trafalgar Square trying to free Nelson Mandela I was riding down the Spinward Marches trying to free Princess Some-Name-I-Have-Forgotten from the lair of Some-Monster-Whose-Name-I-Cannot-At-This-Juncture-Recall. 
Truthfully, this doesn't do full justice to the horror. In my Punk Years I was actually listening to the Wombles and watching the Val Doonican Show on a black and white TV huddled round a metallic brick filled storage heater. 
And the Black and White Minstrels. It was the 1970s. Everyone watched the Black and White Minstrels. 
Most people imagine that everyone in the world is cooler than they are. Even as grown-ups we imagine that everyone else in the office spent the weekend drinking cocktails and listening to experimental jazz, when all they did was hoover the dining room and watch Strictly Bake-Off on I-Player. As a schoolboy I devoutly believed that I was the only person in my class who didn't spend his weekend drinking cans of lager, vandalizing phone boxes, joy-riding motorbikes and doing the mysterious sex-thing with the equally mysterious girl-things. It was certainly true that some of my peers went to the park by themselves and played football. (This was before paedophiles.) But I am sure their weekends really consisted of television and church and grandparents, just like mine. One famously delinquent boy in my class who had a skinhead hair cut, a pierced ear and the unique accolade of having been caned by the headmaster, let slip into a conversation that he attended the Boy Scouts. "But it happens to be the hardest Boy Scout troupe in Barnet" he assured us.

I listened to a Wombles LP a few months ago. It's really very good indeed. I doubt if the Sex Pistols have aged as well.

If you are enjoying my essays, please consider supporting me on Patreon (by pledging $1 for each essay)

Patreon supporters have access to the full e-book version of this essay, with additional material. 

No comments: