Pasta: Point of No Return


I seem to have become rather awkward of late. Ungainly, even. I knock things over, drop things, break things. Don’t leave your best crystal out when I come to call. It may end poorly.

The other evening, I left work and bought some things in the supermarket on my way to the car. Some pasta, some pasta sauce, some bread, you know the kind of thing. On the way to the car, I let the pasta sauce slip. Well, I don’t exactly know if I let it slip or not. It slipped and let that be an end to it.

I park up a little street. It’s on a hill. There are a few houses. Again, you know the kind of thing. I was nearly at my car when I felt the pasta sauce jar slip. I would normally have caught it again. I’m rather good at dropping things and catching them before they land. Mostly, though, I just remember the things I fail to catch. I didn’t fail to catch the jar, per se, I never tried to catch it. My hands were too full with all the other stuff I was carrying to even try to catch the slipping-away jar. If I had, I’d have probably dropped several other things in the attempt. Where’s the joy in that?

So the jar slipped away toward the ground, in super-slow motion, as they do, and then it smashed on the concrete and spread itself in a forensic spatter all over the pavement. I looked around. My car was only a few paces away. I could be in it in a matter of seconds. Slam the door, rev up and away unbeknownst to anyone ever.

But that’s not me. No really. I make messes and then I clear them up. That’s who I am. But this wouldn't be a story if I had cleared it up. This is a story because I couldn’t clear it up. I simply did not have the tools to do so.

Instead I did what Bruce Willis did in ‘Die Hard 2’, whatever I could.

I got a plastic bag from the boot of my car and started to pick out the shards of glass from the red mess on the footpath. I don’t know about you, but I have never managed to pick up shards of glass without cutting myself. This time was no exception. It was hard to tell where the pasta sauce ended, and the blood-letting began. After a while, I had all I could get from the mess without losing a finger so I stepped back to view my handiwork. Not so good. The ground was still a turgid display and there wasn’t much else I could do about it. The windows of the houses across the street gazed blankly down on me. I couldn’t get up the nerve to go door-to-door requesting buckets of water and/or a mop. I put my glass shard ridden bag back in the boot of my car and slunk off home.

It was due to rain that night. The rain would wash the rest of the mess away. Rain is quite good for that.

The next day, it hadn’t rained and my mess was still there when I parked up. It was more congealed now, a little dehydrated even but still there. A testament to my ungainliness and my lack of civic responsibility.

The next day, it still hadn’t rained and now I noticed that there was a security camera on the wall right above where I dropped my sauce. (If you’re just starting to read here, you’ll be confused). Great. Now I know there is somebody with a PC somewhere nearby who has footage of me picking up bits of sauce-ridden glass and hopping about and swearing when the inevitable cuts ensued. I know that, in actuality, they’ll probably never look at it. That somehow makes it all seem a bit worse.

What next?

Well...

Having typed this with no idea of a resolution or a moral in mind, I’m going to wrap it up and go and fill a couple of two litre bottles with water and drive down and wash that stain away once and for all.

These things just tend to prey on my mind. I guess that's why I started writing this in the first place. Hoping for some release. But there isn't one. Not from reflection. It requires some small action. No matter how stupid an effort it takes, it is always best for me to do rather than think.

Post Script – Mission accomplished. I didn’t get there until a few minutes ago. Sunday morning. There was nobody about. I brought the stiff yard brush and two bottles of tap water but only needed to use one. Nobody saw me. I don't think the security camera is working. The stain was dried and almost gone but I got rid of the last of it and then went to the shop and bought a Sunday paper and a baguette. The girl in the shop knew me and slipped me a copy of the magazine from yesterday’s paper too. This was entirely better than sitting at home eating Cornflakes. I feel set for the day now where I didn’t before.

Post Post Script – A hundred years from now, if somebody is thumbing through these posts and casually wondering who the hell I was, I feel there may be a significant clue in this one.

Saint or Sinner?


Sometimes you think you’re doing great but, from someone else’s point of view, you’re really not. That’s the little moral to this week’s tale. I thought I’d get it out of the way right at the start.

On Tuesday evening, I was driving home from work and I decided to drive up through the town. Usually, I skirt around the outside streets, cut through a car park, you know the drill. 

But it was a sunny evening and there was less twists and turns to the ‘straight through the town’ route and the car window was open and, sod it, I don’t know,  I just went.

It was after six and not too busy so I trundled up the main street, taking my time. The light up ahead was green and I was going to make it easily. Then the van in front stopped and indicated that it was going to reverse into a parking space. Okay, so I wasn’t going to make the light. Who cares? No rush. I’m good.

The guy started to reverse in to the space and it was clear that the space was a little tight for his van. Do-able but not a complete cake walk. The first attempt was pretty close but not good enough. The guy pulled out and tried again. This time his line was much better. He was going to make it. Big van in small space. Nice one, dude. Kudos to you and yours.

But, just as the guy was nearly in, he stopped and made like he was going to come out again for another attempt. But he was practically in. He had a couple of feet at the back, he just couldn’t see that he had them.

I could help.

I managed to catch his eye in his wing mirror before he pulled out. I waved and mimed that he should continue to reverse back and I would guide him in safely from my vantage point. He reversed in, slowly, slowly and I kept waving him in, seeing clearly that he had room to spare.

He got in, nice and neat. No problem. He waved at me and I waved at him. The sun was shining. What a good lad I was.

The a car came towards me from the other direction. Her window was down and my window was down. As she went past, I turned to her and smiled, my best winning smile.

And she called me a name.

Imagine the worst name you might call someone. Don’t imagine too hard, you probably don’t like the word. Yes, that one. And she put a verb with it, imagine the worst verb you could put with the worst word. She went there.

I was taken aback.

“Sorry?” I said, completely baffled.

So she repeated the noun and the verb for clarity and then drove off.

As I drove on my way, it dawned on me what must have just happened. The lady was coming the other way, waiting for the reversing van to give her room to pass. And all she could see was me waving her on and smiling condescendingly. Waving, waving, waving, although she didn’t have enough room to fit through the gap, there was I smugly insisting she did and blithely demanding that she get on with it.

The kicker is, I didn’t even bother to look at her when I did it. I just sat there smiling and looking at the back of the van.

What a 'noun/verb combo' I must have seemed to her.

Sometimes you think you’re doing great but, from someone else’s point of view, you’re really not. 

Whoops, I repeated the moral.

That’s bound to piss someone off.

Good or Regular?


There are quite a few things I could write about here this week but none of them seem to fit.

Some of them are not sufficiently thought out yet ('never stopped you before, Armstrong) and some of them are perhaps more other people’s business than my own.

This leaves me with a quandary or sorts. One that arises from time to time. Not necessarily what to write but rather this: should I write anything at all?

Blogging is an odd business, particularly these days. It often feels, to me at least, like I am riding a unicycle while everyone else is bombing around the place in nifty convertible sports cars. 

A ’Blog’, these days, almost seems to mean a place where fashion and trends and consumables are discussed and subtly peddled. The original concept of a ‘Web Log’ of thoughts and memories and reviews and general… stuff all seems rather passé in this world of sophisticated social media.

In short, nobody cares about old fashioned blogging and quite right too. It is an anachronism and often another outlet for ill moderated Sunday morning writers to pretend they have a credible outlet for their wares.

I don’t mind too much about all that. My reasons for the weekly blog are largely selfish and they are the only reasons that would keep an endeavour like this trundling along for so very long. I like to arrange my thoughts into words and I don’t value those words enough to keep them entirely to myself, as one would with a diary. Therefore the minimal ‘show and tell’ of the 98% defunct blogging system keeps the motivation going. An update every week. A loose brief. What is exercising me this week? On it goes. Who gives a shit? It keeps me off the streets.

But that’s not the crux of what is exercising me this morning (and only because I can’t write about the other stuff). I’m actually questioning where the line of responsibility should be drawn in delivering a weekly blog post particularly, as I was just saying, when nobody actually gives a flying fuck about it.

By now, if you’ve read this far, it’s probably becoming clear; I have nothing to write about this week. I am dry. I am ‘up’. Nothing. Nada. Diddly squat. So, here’s the thing. Am I best not to write anything at all, save it up for next week, or is it better to squeeze any kind of old shite out to keep the wagon train rolling along for another while.

Many of the blogs I admire, granted they are by great writers, only post something new when they have something  particular they want to say, where no other medium will suffice. This may result in maybe only one post a year or so. But the blog is a tight, marvelously written thing of insight and true feeling. I'm thinking or people like Julian Simpson or Sarah Pinborough, who use blogging in this way, rarely and only when it counts. There are, of course, people who carry it off with aplomb, week in and week out. Gary Bainbridge springs to mind here. 

But what about me? Should I continue to write every week, even when I have nothing to write (quod erat demonstrandum) or should I become an occasional contributor, only turning up when I feel I have something worthwhile to say?

To not write is the thin end of a wedge. If it’s easy not to write this week then it’s easier again not to write next week and nobody cares so why bother anyway? I’m getting fat sitting here and typing this waffle. Cut down on your pork pies, mate, take a turn or three around the park and get over your good self. It’s certainly an idea.

And when I look at my blog writing with any semblance of clarity, I would say it’s probably a good two years since I’ve written a single post of any individual value.

That settles it then, doesn’t it? Pack it in. Go and play somewhere else. Come back now and again when it feels great.

Except it doesn’t settle it, does it?

The clue to why it 'doesn't settle it’ lies in my pitifully self-indulgent rant of two paragraphs ago and how I chose to qualify it. I’ve not written a ‘single one’ of ‘individual’ value. Therein lies the rub. The value of the blog, for me, lies not in any individual week’s posting but in the cumulative value of the fifty-or-so posts that make up a year of my life.

Each post is like a tiny tile in a mosaic. The mosaic of my year. It might be a bit off square and poorly glazed and in fact it most probably is but stick it on the wall and stand well back and, alongside its comrades, it creates an image. The image might not mean anything to anyone else. In fact, it’s highly likely that nobody will ever actually step back and look at it. But I will. And it gives me some little twitch of satisfaction. So the mosaic is important to me, rather then any single tile. And the mosaic requires a tile of some sort every week, regardless of the quality.

It also gives me a freedom in writing which I value. It helps me realise that it doesn’t matter if I’m boring this week. It doesn’t matter if I’m not funny or moving or apt or clever or arsey or inciting or… or anything.

What is it, after all? This thing I’ve just typed. It’s just another tile in a mosaic. If it’s for shit, it won’t spoil the overall picture and the overall picture won’t ever be viewed by anybody anyway.

So who cares? Who actually cares?

I do. I still care and that’s why I sit here and write it.

So all is well. On we go.

The blog is done for this week. Another brick in the wall and all that.

Sunday afternoon, here I come…