I’ve taken on a gig writing about culture and whatnot for sofa.com, purveyors of fine furniture and certainly the best place in the visible universe to buy a sofa, and have already written about Vincent Van Gogh’s chairs, Impressionist Interiors, His Girl Friday, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson, Dusty in Memphis by Dusty Springfield and other things. Do go and look, and comment if you wish.
One result of this is that I keep thinking of things to say that are not quite right for the sofa.com tone but nonetheless require an outlet. (You can therefore expect various ‘director’s cut’ style postings in this site for a while.)
For example, while writing this piece about John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s ‘Bed-In’ Protest I was fascinated by this video of Al Capp ‘interviewing’ John Lennon.
Al Capp, a cartoonist and right-wing rent-a-gob, was a cranky old git with a jaundiced view of the world. Lennon was also a cranky jaundiced git but still young enough to have some confused ideals. (I suppose the modern equivalent would be Russell Brand being interviewed by Katie Hopkins, which suggests that bores on both left and right ain’t what they used to be.)
The problem with the Bed-In was that its goal was to achieve World Peace. But as any fule who has been on a half-day business management seminar in a ring-road Holiday Inn no, goals should be ‘SMART’ – that is, Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-based.
World Peace as a goal falls down particularly on the last three of those elements, so, on the SMART metric:
- running ultra-marathons to raise cash for Sport Relief a la Eddie Izzard = good mad egotistical celeb charity goal; but
- lying in bed for a week to achieve world peace = bad mad egotistical celeb charity goal.
Yoko Ono, incidentally, is still very much going strong with social media campaigns for world peace, mostly themed around the lyrics to her late husband’s song Imagine. Oh, celebrities! There is a quote attributed to Randy Newman: “I used to be against world peace. But then Bono came out for it and the scales just fell from my eyes.”
The visible universe now extends a long way. Kepler 186f – apparently the most Earth-like planet yet discovered, and capable of sustaining life – is about 500 light years away.
So that must mean ( as friend of The Dabbler and Paddy Power Political Book of the Year nominee Terry Stiastny pointed out) that if there are any Kepler 186fians peering back at us through their alien telescopes, they’re seeing the early 16th century. So to the Keplerans, America is pitch dark at night, the Earth’s population is about half a billion and Henry VIII is still on his first wife.
Time is a jet plane, it moves too fast. But there are also terrible lags. Over time you come to recognise your body’s natural rhythms. I’ve known for a while that activity-wise my preferred pattern is to go to bed around 11pm, rise early, work like fury in the morning then spend the afternoon sleeping, reading or just gently drooling as I gaze zombie-like into the middle-distance, before perking up a bit again in the evening.
Now, following Christmas, I have been forced to accept something I’ve sort-of known for a while, which is that my constitution cannot stand eating a heavy main meal at lunchtime – a three course boozy feast must be evening or not at all if I am to avoid dreadful digestive consequences. Combining this with the above, my ideal working day would be: up at six, work until about nine , have a decent cooked breakfast, more work until around two, no lunch, good sleep, cup of tea and perhaps a slice of cake at four, then a bit more work, then a proper evening meal.
But who amongst us can attain such an idyllic existence? I can, dammit. In 15 working days’ time (not that I’m on countdown) I will be fully self-employed. A recent realisation that I could soon be forever freed from the tyranny of office hours and the working week gave me a feeling of untold joy. You only get the one life – imagine being able to live it to your own clock!
An old friend emailed me with thanks for giving him and his family lunch. “It was good to have a proper chinwag,” he wrote. Then added in parentheses: “Don’t think I’ve ever written ‘chinwag’ before. Looks racist.”
An open letter to Michael Rosen:
Dear Mr Rosen
I wonder if you can help me. I’m on a quest, you see, and it seems to me that you might be just the man for the job. I’m trying to ascertain whether the Open Letter is the most irritating format for a newspaper opinion piece, and if so, what exactly it is that makes it so.
Perhaps it’s the patronising, supercilious tone that makes an open letter so dreadfully grating (you seem like the sort of clever chap who’d know).
Or I wonder if it could be the faux-naivety…Really, it’s not my area of expertise, this sort of thing. Though I have noticed that if you follow up your faux-naïve questions with a lot of statistics then the reader will get that you are the real expert on the subject, or at least 86% will, as Fabian and Fubster found in their 2008 study Op-Eds, Commentaries and Open Letters: Towards a More Sustainable Future.
Or could it be the phoney tone of ironic bafflement, perchance? Or the pretend politeness of the way I address you as ‘Mr’, which supposedly allows me to get away with making incredibly insulting assumptions about you, you flea-ridden halitosis-breathing streak of piss?
It could be the sheer pomposity of the form that makes it annoying to a degree that would make Tantalus himself grateful for his comparatively mild tortures. But I think the real clincher might be the way I’m going to finish with a prissy little question and then add a condescending Postscript intended to belittle you.
Wouldn’t you agree?
PS. My three year old really enjoys We’re Going on a Bear Hunt – do keep it up!
While harvesting links for the Dusty in Memphis post, I was showing my daughter C some old youtube clips of Dusty singing You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me and I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself, thinking, correctly as it turned out, that the melodramatic element of such ballads would appeal to her. In the course of conversation – or rather, interrogation – I had to explain that the videos were black and white because they were made a long time ago, and also that Dusty was now dead. C was strangely quiet for the remainder of the song and then suddenly burst out with a sobbed: ‘I don’t want to die!’
For a ghastly while I thought that she might be suffering, at the age of just five, from the same Larkinesque thanatophobia that first struck me at about 12 and then returned to blight most midnights during my mid-20s, before disappearing almost entirely in my 30s only to be replaced by new fears about my children dying. But she has shown no ill-effects since. My death anxiety was primarily based on the vertiginous thought of eternal nothingness. C’s outburst was probably just because she loves life so much: she is a quite exceptionally sunny human being and her presence banishes the darkness from any January room.