In the desert, you don’t remember your name

I was ten years old and sitting in the family car as it drove across the flat expanse of desert in far north west Australia. It was night time and my father was behind the wheel. We were listening to the ABC broadcast of the Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy on the radio.

I leaned my forehead against the window and stared out at the land that spread flat, without landmark, as far as the horizon.

There was a lightning storm in the distance. Above our car, there were bright stars, but far off, enormous chains of lightning flashed across the sky, sending blue pulses of light bursting across the desert. The chains connected across kilometres of sky, with separate chains overlapping and combining.

As I watched the lightning, I tried to understand what was going on in the radio play, but my young mind couldn’t comprehend the story. But, I could picture the author, alone, under the same stars I was under, and dreaming about the galaxy that lay beyond.

I can’t remember exactly where we were going, where we came from, or why we were driving at night, but I remember this scene vividly.

This post was in response to the Daily Prompt, which was desert.

Advertisements
Standard

Trafalgar protest

End racism.

Trafalgar protest

Image

Novels I would like to write

I am doing the 12-day plan of simple writing exercises, and day one is ‘write 10 potential titles of books you would like to write’. Here we go:

  • London before Brexit
  • Searching for the barrel
  • Without a plan
  • Anxiously laid-back and a cat
  • Grumpy old man and the ravers
  • Famous people who have met me
  • From London to Paris and back
  • How not to travel
  • The last journo on earth
  • Without a care

I’m not sure what half of them would be about, but I just regurgitated them onto this page.

Standard

A (pint) glass half full (of beer)

It is Friday afternoon and I have finished work. I turn my computer off, walk down two flights of stairs, sign out at reception, walk out the front door, across the street and use the gold-plated steel handles to pull open the heavy wooden door to the Best Pub in London.

The sound of dozens of voices in conversation, the smell of the wood, the sight of the beer taps. I scan the lineup of drought ales and choose Doom Bar.

The bartender takes a pint glass from the stack and places it under the swan neck tap, so that the sparkler is pressing against the bottom of the glass. She pulls hard on the mechanical lever and the golden ale foams up as it hits the bottom of the glass hard and splashes up its sides.

Each pull of the lever is half a pint, so the bartender takes the second pump a little slower, then adds a slight third pull on the lever to balance the size of the head with the level of the ale in the glass.

I pay my £4.80 and take my first sip. Hello weekend.

 

I wrote this post in response to the Daily Prompt, which is glass.

 

Standard

Take a ride in London

My black and red fixed-wheel bicycle leans against the wall of my room, one of four in our ground-floor council flat in Patmore Estate that houses three Aussies on a working holiday in the UK. The damp that is invading the room is causing the cream wallpaper to lose touch with the bricks it covers. I have covered the walls with souvenirs, to remind me of places I have visited, music I’ve seen and the times I want to remember. Each afternoon I drape my cycling clothes over the frame of my bike so that the next morning I can pull the same clothes on and walk out the door only minutes after getting out of bed. I pull on my leggings, then a pair of shorts plus a long-sleeve black thermal top, which I cover with a t-shirt and a red zip-up sweater. I shove my work clothes into a brown leather satchel that my father gave me and clip on my helmet. The bicycle’s wheels are fixed with the pedals, giving me more control of my speed. Riding fixed-wheel means you have to be more alert to the condition of the road; a pot hole hit at the wrong moment can send a severe shock up through the knees and puncture the tyre.

I press the button to open the reinforced blue door that is the entrance to Building 2 of Drury House and walk the bike down the steps. In winter the chill hits, but by the time I cross the garden and reach the end of my street, I’ll be warm. There’s a school on the corner and I turn left. I ride towards the Thames, under the bridge that carries trains to and from Queenstown Road Station. To my right, behind the 10-foot-high brick wall is the New Covent Garden market. As I pedal out from under the bridge the old Battersea Power Station comes into view between the red brick buildings of the estate. There’s scaffolding around the white chimney stacks to allow the workers to disassemble, then reassemble, the towering stacks. The building will become a luxurious residential development, with apartments contained within the existing structure. That, along with the tube station that will soon connect Battersea to the Northern Line, will transform this quiet, yet central area of London in the coming years.

I turn right at the intersection of Nine Elms Lane and put more weight into the pedals. The road is flat and straight with good bitumen. I try to keep up with the cars and trucks as they drive along the riverfront towards Vauxhall. My legs start to tire as I reach the traffic lights in front of the Vauxhall Station, but I don’t have to wait for them to turn green, as there’s a bike path that takes me towards the bridge. The road rises and there is a burning ache that runs through my legs, but it is a feeling I have learned to enjoy and force myself to push through. I re-enter the road, dodging between buses, cars and trucks as I cross the river. I need to turn right immediately after the bridge and the traffic is backed up halfway across it. I slow and pick an entry into the right lane, cycling between the two lines of traffic until I get to the lights at the end of the bridge.

The traffic is heavy and the vehicles lined up at each set of lights use all the time available to cross the road before the lights turn red. I know that when I am able to go, the traffic coming from my left will still be streaming across the intersection, so I take off slowly and wait until the last car clears before starting my ride along Millbank towards the Palace of Westminster and the Abbey. This is where the feeling hits me each day. I join about a dozen other cyclist at the traffic lights at the western entrance to Parliament Square and look up at Big Ben. This is my life, this is my normal commute to work, I live in a wonderful and beautiful city and it has become my home.

As a teenager, my friend Alex and I would sit on the balcony of my family’s house in Rockhampton and discuss our dreams of living and working in London. Fifteen years later and I was here. Alex had done it years prior and I thought I never would, but here I am and I’m under no illusions; I’m not here through my own good planning. It adds to my sense of wonder that I was able to make it at all and somehow eke out a living.

The destination is the opposite side of the square and as the crowd of bicycles takes off from a they fan out across all the lanes. Cyclists rule here. The traffic is so dreadful in the city that it is futile for a driver to become impatient, or enraged. Bicycles are always faster than cars in this environment.

I ride down Birdcage Walk and turn right onto Horseguards Road. I challenge myself to ride as fast as I can until I reach the red bitumen of The Mall. St James’ Park exists in to my left and on the right I pass a succession of Government buildings sandwiched between here and Whitehall – The Treasury, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Downing Street, Horseguards Parade. I don’t notice most of them though and I try and tackle the uphill section of the road without slowing.

Right onto The Mall and under Admiralty Arch, until I reach the Trafalgar Square roundabout. The traffic is always backed up here and I squeeze the bike along the left side of the road until I reach the cyclists at the front. If I an make it across the roundabout and head up the rise past St Martins before the light at the pedestrian crossing between the Square and Charing Cross turns red, I can save a lot of energy, but rarely am I able to do this and am forced to wait, halfway up the rise, as the pedestrians cross.

It is all uphill from here. I have to use all my weight to restart my single speed at the lights and slowly gather pace as I journey up Charing Cross Road, past the entrance to Leicester Square and the Hippodrome Casino, the second-hand book shops on the ground floor of the towering brick buildings on my right, which curve around to the left and block the view too far ahead. I pass the Palace Theatre on the corner of Shaftesbury Avenue, then reach the Tottenham Court Road Station and cross Oxford Street. I am now on Tottenham Court Road and have been able to build up some speed as the bitumen has widened and there is less of a rise. I open up the legs and attempt to keep up with the traffic, dodging in and out of red buses, black taxis, cars and trucks. Even on the coldest mornings I have worked up a sweat.

From here it’s a sprint and there’s not much on my mind apart from making it to Warren Street in time to have a cigarette before entering the building and having a shower.

Riding to work changed my outlook on London. For the first year I lived in the city, I was further from work and took the tube at peak hour. I squashed into the cramped carriage with the rest off the London workforce, like sardines packed in a tin can, and stood in the heat for an hour. The only upside being that there was plenty of time to read.

Cycling opened up the city to me. I started the day with energy. I began to understand the layout of London. I could place locations in context. I saved significant amounts of money and got plenty of exercise. It made me happier, and I don’t believe it was a coincidence that life became better for me once I got a bike.

Standard

The friend zone

You’re a cunt. That’s what she told me the first time she met me.

It was after a few hours, and a few beers, sure. And we had discussed how Australians are possibly the only people who use the word as a term of affection, but you don’t often hear women use it.

Why did she call me a cunt?

It was apparently because I had friend zoned her. I said it was ok to be friends with a girl, and she called me a cunt.

We met on Tinder, a dating app which needs no introduction. It’s trashy, but I’ve never met a trashy girl on it. She shared a picture of Charles Bukowski and I had no choice but to talk to her.

The bar in Soho where we met was called the French House and it only served half pints. We sat a a wooden table upstairs, which had a tabletop which rocked back and forth between us.

‘A woman could not get away with writing stuff like Bukowski’, she told me.

‘You’re right, there would be so much more judgement, but Bukowski was an ugly human, there’s no doubt.’

This pretty and petite brunette from Slovakia was six years in London and about to embark on a five year post graduate course in coupling psychotherapy. She likes literature, I like literature. She likes beer, I like beer. She likes indie rock, I like indie rock. She likes motorbikes, it like motorbikes – but I didn’t get a chance to tell her that last one.

The novel she was carrying was about Ginsberg and his beat generation pals living in a hotel in Paris, doing nothing but drinking, socialising and being creative.

‘You could never do that today,’ she said, ‘it’s too expensive.’

‘I know, it’s shit isn’t it, romance is dead. How do literary heroes survive these days?’

‘Let’s start up our own hotel.’

‘I’m in.’

Things were going ok, but this is where I may have moved into her friend zone. I smoke, she doesn’t. I take drugs, she doesn’t. What else can you add to this list? Probably a few more things.

Soon we moved to another bar deeper in Soho, the Toucan, and sat downstairs. The bar ran along one wall and there was room for just two other tables apart from the bar stools. It had a bohemian feel.

She told me about her Aussie bogan friends and about some guys she dated. There was the budding rock star she became tired of, the Jew who wanted to marry a Jew, but wanted her for the time being, the loud and overconfident midget and the guy who hadn’t kissed her after six dates.

She asked me about my Tinder experience and I tried to play it cool, but the sad little tale of heartbreak I had been carrying around for months blurted out. I’d drunk too much.

‘You just friend zoned me,’ she said. ‘but I’m going to help you get her back. I’ll be your emotional support.’

‘I’m never getting her back, and I don’t want to be in your friend zone.’

This was an infinitely unfair situation, considering she had just told me about the guys she dated, but I dug myself into a bigger hole by unloading my Notting Hill Carnival experience from two days earlier, when I picked up a girl.

Yep, in the friend zone now, which is a deep shame. This city is filled with millions of women, but few like this one.

‘There is nothing wrong with being friends with women,’ I said, and meant it.

‘You’re a cunt,’ she replied.

We exited the bar, and as we did I was suddenly very glad I was in London, and glad I ended up on a date with this girl.

Standard

I’m sorry Mary

Image

I had 60 quid to last 10 days and spent 30 of it seeing The Delta Riggs play in a small room above a bar at Camden Town. Why? Because I love booze, women and rock’n’roll and damn everything else.

Rock’n’roll is old. The Delta Riggs don’t care, they believe in rock and fuck those who don’t. I don’t care either, I just want it delivered with soul. The band isn’t from here, but the room is crowded and while some think it strange I know all the words, the tall blonde girl shaking next to me doesn’t.

Elliott hangs off the microphone, long limbs draped over his face, and growls out the songs. The opener, Mary, is about trouble with a woman, just like most good rock songs. ‘Elizabeth, I think your sister’s gunna leave me’ says Elliott, after previously telling Mary ‘don’t you come around here woman’.

The tall blonde wanted to meet the band after the gig and I told her to follow me. She didn’t need me to lead the way and she took her friend up the stairs ahead of Elliott and I followed.

There was someone smoking in the room and I asked if I could join in. The blonde girl was sitting on the couch with some of the hangers on. I hadn’t lost the girl to the band, I lost her to the hangers on. I sat on an amplifier drawing on a smoke and the bass player walked in. ‘Nice shirt’, he told me, before taking the attention of the girl I had been talking to.

‘I’m not cut out for this rock’n’roll lifestyle’ I thought, as I stumbled out of the room and back downstairs to the public bar. There was cheesy, singalong modern rock songs pumping, the kind of stuff I love when I am drunk. The tall blonde walked through the crowd as Mr Brightside blared from the speakers, I caught her eye and she hugged me. She only went upstairs because her friend was a wannabe groupie.

Standard