Friday 21 April 2017

#190 Seven Wonders of The Isle of Dogs

I've been living in E14 for a year now and decided to honour that with a short story about some of its features.

As I was walking along the quayside, I met a man of a local sort. A tatty rugged beard had he, which interfered with the frayed edge of his ageing duffel coat. To say I met him was to put it liberally, for it was he who approached me, as I sat staring off the quay, out over the river. 

“It’s a strange place, this… island” he began as I glanced leftwards at his crooked grin. “At first sight, remarkable only for its exceptional normality. Some towers. The river. Six Tesco stores”. “Six?!” I asked him, cynically. “Aye, they built six here” he continued. “Presumably some kind of tourist trap, funded by foreign nations, it is. If a sightseer is ever foolish enough to wander this far from the west end, their country doesn’t want them back! They become disoriented, ever trudging from one Tesco to the next, trying hopelessly to work out where the hell they are”. I chuckled, half-heartedly at his imagination. The old man continued with his story. 

“Six Tescos. That’s all they see. The outsiders. They never get to know the island’s treasures. One or two, perhaps but not all seven”. “Seven?! I asked him, astonished. “Invariably, yes” he told me, nodding solemnly. “Every world has its seven wonders”. I waited impatiently for the results of this curious list to which he had obviously been leading up. 

“What then, are the seven wonders of the Isle of Dogs?” I asked him “Where are they hiding?” “I cannot say” the man explained “for each person’s treasures are different but if you’ll permit me, I may share with you my take on the matter”. I could tell my attention was being toyed with but could do no more than wait for him to carry on. The man clocked this and revelled in it. Reaching into his coat, he producing a long brown pipe, which he lit in no hurry. I didn’t mind the tobacco smoke. 

“Where was I?” the man enquired, teasingly. “The seven wonders…” I prompted, on cue. “Ah yes” he said, smirking at his newfound popularity. “Well now, the first is The Llamas of Mudchute” “Llamas can’t be a wonder!” I blurted, “that’s ridiculous”. I immediately regretted the outburst but the man didn’t react to it. “The Llamas of Mudchute” he repeated, definitively. “Ok what’s next?” I asked him. “The tunnel to Greenwich” he said, proudly. I had to admit, it was a respectable feat of engineering. “Third” he continued “is The Rooftop Gardens of Crossrail Place” again, I didn’t argue. I’d visited the gardens myself and had been most impressed. “The fourth wonder” said the man, having got into his rhythm “is The varied architecture at Harbour Quay” “Hardly a marketable name” I pointed out. “That’s not my problem” the man said. “Great architecture speaks for itself”.

I couldn’t comment on my new friend’s intellect but he had a wit about him that suggested it surpassed his attire by several orders of magnitude, although that was no feat. Like the island itself, there might have been a tad more to him than met the eye. “Fifth” he carried on “The doughballs at Papa John’s” At this I almost fell over with mirth and frustration combined. “Doughballs?” I asked him, in the tone of a parent. The man had possessed the upper hand in the conversation until that point but seeing the look on my face, he knew for certain that he had to do better. “Sixth” he continued, hastily “is The Fountain at Cabot Square”. That was more like it. I had spent a moment now and then sitting at the fountain’s side, particularly at night when the jets were lit up like shimmering icicles against the blackness of the sky. “Seventh” he announced “is The Cranes at North Dock”. Ah, the cranes. Stonking great sculptures of metal, which loomed up out of the concrete, the relics of a time long past. 

I thanked the man warmly and made my way off. I was nothing but surprised to be rid of him so easily. Folk as odd as that chap generally had a tendency to linger but he trotted off in the opposite direction just as efficiently as he had arrived. I decided to share the man’s list with my housemates, in case they felt like reading it. Who knows? Maybe they’d have their own wonders.

Monday 17 April 2017

#189 Liberation, on paper

I never used to care what I wrote here.

That's not quite true, I started paying more attention to things like how I ended the posts and whether they were too wordy. I'd write about more or less anything though, as long as it wasn't too weird or offensive. After all, what kind of blog would this be if I didn't write from the heart? Or the balls or wherever it comes from.

The problem was that there was a load of other stuff that I also wanted to write about. Personal stuff. Unrefined rambling, as opposed to semi-refined rambling. So I wrote a book. Then I finished it. I wasn't done though.

When I discovered Medium, which is like Youtube but for writing instead of videos, I started posting on there too. I'd duplicate what I wrote here. Facebook friends would follow links to Medium or Blogger but not both. I wouldn't link both because it was the same post on each site.

What to do?

The great thing about Medium is that it has a community feel to it. In theory, a complete nobody could write an article about climate change. Then Arianna Huffington could write one too and the two could read and comment on each other's posts. Technically, this chain of events a) could also happen on Blogger and b) isn't likely to happen on either site but my point is that it's easier to browse and share articles on Medium.

I didn't want to stop writing Something More Weekly. I'd been racking up a few hundred views a month, if I believed Blogger's stats, which I didn't but they still made me feel good. I'd known for a while that most blogs had a theme. That was alright with me. I could say "Sod most blogs" and I did for four years.

Once I started to browse other people's posts, it brought reality closer to home. I'd been writing every week for almost half a decade without reading any other blogs. They all had their categories. Topics. Identities. It was like each person was writing for some kind of purpose.

How messed up is that?

I felt like I wanted some purpose of my own though. I knew I wanted to get better at blogging and to do that, I'd need a sharper focus. I began to separate my posts. Those that were about the outside world, I put on Medium. Those that were about me, I kept on Blogger. I made a third place too. Somewhere to write freely. Anonymously. About anything.

Three channels. The ego, the superego and the id. An outlet for everything. I can write what I want, when I want, where I want. At last.

Sunday 9 April 2017

#188 Magic cookies

For as long as I can remember, I've viewed 11pm as the perfect bedtime. In spite, or perhaps because of my adoption of such an uncompromising personal standard, I've never quite managed to stick to it.

That is, until recently.

The distractions, temptations and complications that can cause an ideal bedtime to be exceeded are, for most people, familiar. For the rest, it's no stretch of the imagination.
To credit one or two solutions alone, would be to oversimplify the world we inhabit but sanity, ego and attention spans require a limit on detail. I'll therefore attribute my achievement to two things. Both of them are brown.

I didn't realise this until recently but it's not only white noise that can be used to help people sleep. There are all kinds of colours of noise. I read that no particular kind is best but after listening to a few, I picked brown. The sound doesn't just drown out background noise. It also settles my thoughts.

To incentivise myself to get into bed in the first place, I've started using cookies. It's like training a dog. At 10pm I'm allowed a cookie. Then I have to go to bed soon afterwards. There have to be other factors at work here but things are going well so far.

Over time I hope to reduce the size of the cookies until eventually, the behaviour has become a habit and I don't need them at all.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a cookie to eat.

Saturday 1 April 2017

#187 That which offends you

I learned a new word this week: sex-positive. It's one word because it's hyphenated. It means accepting and embracing safe, consensual sexual behaviour. I came across it in a "bloggers wanted" advert. "Who doesn't like sex?" I thought. I think it's more about the notion that it might be ok to like it, even if it's not within the confines of a heterosexual marriage between a couple intent on having offspring. You don't need to procreate to copulate.

I liked the look of the advert but replied that if I'd ever have to write about what I still consider to be a personal topic, I'd want to do so anonymously. It's not that I'm against freedom of speech in that area, at least not in principle. I just don't think everyone's ready for it. In fact I'd go further than that and say I don't think I'm ready for it. Would I write a blog post about the importance of using protection? Sure but I'd like some myself.

Having written a couple of weeks ago about a surge in the popularity of modest clothing, as part of an application for something, I went the other way a bit this week in some comments on a friend's blog post about the morality of dressing provocatively. I basically said that as long as a person is safe wearing what they're wearing, where they're wearing it, then I don't have a problem with people expressing themselves. It's not something that offends me. 

I got quite a churn about my comments from one of the other readers in a response to a later post. It was as if my nonchalance somehow threatened his right to be annoyed. The blog has a group of hardcore followers so I enjoy watching them messsage back and forth about such things. An advantage of being able to take a laid-back perspective is that the comments don't offend me either.