Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Nice And Simple

I need a new profile picture as the current one seems to be of a man who is very unsure of himself and life in general or has maybe just found something unpleasant in his pocket. New year, new profile pic. Out with the old, in with the new, and all that. Except I can’t find one that I like, none that I own anyway. I know which one I want though. A friend has it. It’s me in a black hoodie with a maniacal look in my eyes and a sky that wouldn’t look out of place over Mordor. Except the weather is probably better in Mordor since the photo was taken at Glastonbury Festival where God, for the last few years, seems to have taken exception to all of the pagan fun going on and has punished us with rain and mud.

Glastonbury is a long way off yet but I have to look forward in order to keep myself sane during the joyless month of January. If I could hibernate for just a few weeks I would, just until payday. I’d wake up and find that the mood of the nation had recovered from the post-Christmas comedown and its related cash flow issues and I’d be happy because then I could start socialising again. Not that I’m in a bad mood. I’m a bit hard up until I get paid and have settled nicely into doing nothing. I won’t entertain any notion of frivolity until January 28th. I have a friend who’s planning a birthday night out in London just after that time but I’ve declined my invitation even though it’ll be fun. Ask me again on the 28th. I’ll still say no though.

As it is I can generally be found sitting at home, reading. I’m already on my sixth book this year, such is my inertia right now. I’m reading Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and it’s brilliant. Apart from the heart-rending story itself I like the economy of language. I like it when writers resist the urge to show us how many smart words they know. That’s why I don’t really appreciate, for example, John Updike. I always get the feeling that he’s writing partly in order to show the world how clever he is. He makes me feel inferior so maybe the problem lies with my own self-esteem. That’s probably it, although I don’t feel so mediocre when I read Philip Roth. Or Paul Auster, even though he’s another smart-arse.

I’m really bored, can anyone tell? I’m sitting here, rambling on about nothing and no-one in a completely inconsequential manner. I feel compelled to write, but why? I have absolutely nothing to offer, it’s just the ramblings of a man lacking the wit to utilise his considerable thinking time in a creative manner. Sigh. Roll on February. My brain will start working then. You’ll see.

So. What fun things can I do this year? What can I start planning once January is banished? A few music festivals in the summer. A weekend in Iceland in the spring. I might buy a car. I haven’t had one for four years now. That’s about it and I’m happy with that. I don’t like having too many things to look forward to. I get nervous. I always worry about what will go wrong, and the more events I have planned then the more things there are to fret over. Best to keep things nice and simple. That’s me. Nice and simple.


My good friend James has just emailed me the profile picture that I mentioned in the first paragraph. I didn't even ask him, he just read this yesterday and knew exactly which photo I meant. What a lovely guy, eh? My profile picture now shows me looking suitably diabolical. Excellent.

Monday, 7 January 2008


I have a friend, a friend of a friend really, who has been behaving in quite an intriguing way. This is what is known about him or her:

His or her undergraduate degree studies took place in a few different countries. Then a master's degree was completed, also abroad.

He or she has a regular job that they are frequently absent from for long periods. When asked what their job entails there is a fair bit of umming and ahhing, as if he or she is unable or unwilling to talk about it.

During these long periods of absence from work he or she often goes abroad. Alone. Areas visited include unfashionable and recently war-stricken Baltic states, and China. China is an interesting destination since the person in question has previously expressed a distaste for that part of the world and its people (I'll leave aside the issue of how any enlightened person can possibly dislike an entire nation's people. I'll never understand that).

The question is: Is this person a spy?

One further point of interest is that this person had an interview with MI5 a while back. They claimed to be unsuccessful in their application for whatever is was they were interviewed for. Well, they would say that, wouldn't they? Exciting, huh?

I must admit to a feeling of apprehension right now. I don’t want to get anyone into trouble here but once I click on the "publish" button this piece will be out there the blogosphere for anyone to see. I don’t believe that intelligence agencies trawl the blogs of people like me looking for actionable information. In fact hardly anyone reads my trivial meanderings but what if I was to activate some kind of intelligence device, one of those things that are triggered when certain sensitive words are detected. Words like Mossad or Osama or Jihad or glorious revolution. That would probably do it. And I’ve already typed MI5 so I needn’t do that again. Oops, I just did. What then? This friend isn’t actually in my email address book or a Facebook friend but they could be one of my friend’s friends…

Might I be initiating a fantastically improbable chain of events that could lead to the overthrowing of a dictatorship? I’ve seen it in films, y’know. Probably. Maybe I might be keeping that dictatorship in power. Could I be endangering my friend’s career?

For the record, then, I’m really sorry if this piece causes the demise of a popular uprising or any submarine to be torpedoed or my friend to be poisoned by some exotic toxin administered via a needle cunningly hidden at the tip of an umbrella. I hope that’s okay.

I’m not enjoying 2008 yet. 2007 was possibly my happiest year ever, I was very rarely down. But since I woke on January 1st I’ve been miserable and this has to change. One factor is that I’m skint, as many of us are at this time of year. The other main reason, I think, is that I’ve promised myself that I’ll do all manner of positive things with my life this year and, basically, I’m scared. I’m going to have to leave my comfort zone and it’s a daunting prospect. I need some inspiration to get me started. Maybe I should read something motivational. But not today cos I’m looking forward to an early night with a DVD and a cup of tea. I’ll do it next week. Along with week one of sixteen of The Official British Army Fitness Program that came with The Guardian yesterday. Hmmm, actually there’s more chance of me getting home tonight to find Stevie Wonder playing a show in my living room than that happening, but the intention’s there nonetheless. That’s what counts and if I put my fingers in my ears then I can’t hear anyone telling me otherwise.