Friday, 30 September 2016

travelling notes (vii)

Cycling is the beating heart of travelling. Basically, you have no business going to a new country if you don't find time to rent a bike and spend at least a day circling through the city streets and swishing past furious drivers who teach you a million swear words you've never heard before. 

Sunday, 25 September 2016

You Want It Darker

Every new song by Leonard Cohen is like sex on calmatives. It’s hard to describe. You feel velvety and relaxed. You are slightly drunk, but that’s okay: you’ve just taken another sip of Chablis 1997.

“You Want It Darker” is fantastic, and yet what more can you say?

Once, in Edinburgh, we were listening to Cohen’s new album. This was 2012, and the album was Old Ideas. We were staying at this lovely house by the sea, eating Indian food, discussing Pussy Riot, having long walks by the waterline and playing a silly little game where you have to close your eyes and stand on one leg for as long as you can.   

This was bleak summer morning, typically Scottish, smelling of possible rain. We were all sitting in the big living room doing nothing at all, and I suggested listening to Old Ideas. Which is what we did.

Someone was staring out of the window. Someone was fumbling through a collection of vinyl LPs. Someone was reading a book, possibly myself. Someone was just listening. It was all very calm. And in the meantime, Leonard Cohen was singing “The Darkness” and “Lullaby”. And then, when it was all over, none of us said anything for quite some time.

Until Tom uttered, in a way that was either profound or hysterically funny, but was probably neither:

‘Well, that was… soporific’

Soporific! I go with sex on calmatives, I go with Chablis 1997. But really – is it any better?..

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Perfect Crime

We all have one perfect crime inside us. There is no telling at what point in life it will come to you, but rest assured: one morning you'll wake up with a plan that will be so gorgeous, so perfectly uptight that you will call it destiny.

The crime could be anything. Anything at all. The point is – you will either do it or you will not. Most people don't for reasons that are too dull to mention. Those who do – well, this is where it gets interesting. Those who attempt the crime actually get away with it. Some steal sweets. Some commit treason. The bigger the crime, the more they get away with. 

And there's nothing wrong with that. Remember what the barber said at the end of The Man Who Wasn't There? ‘I used to regret being the barber'. Think about it.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

travelling notes (vi)

And by all means, avoid the news. They will keep following you with their newspapers opened on Syria and Ukraine, in public transport and in crowded city streets, but you should resist. At the end of the day, they might catch you with a mute TV screen in some God-forsaken Irish pub - but even then. Guinness tastes best with your eyes closed. 

Monday, 12 September 2016

travelling notes (v)

Never trust Puerto Ricans with adding milk to your coffee. Do it yourself. 

Friday, 9 September 2016

One More Time With Feeling

There's not much that you can put into writing. If we are being entirely honest, few of us can go beyond that one percent that art has mined and milked all through its history. Nick Cave documentary, the one he agreed to do simply to avoid talking to hacks, is not something you are supposed to grasp. It's not even a film. It's a state of a fractured, pained, broken mind.

So what I'm going to say is this.

You don't really want the world to change. You wanted that once, when you were seventeen (unless you fell in love and begged the planet to stop), but with age you just want to keep it as it is. More than that - you don't want people to change. You want to hold on to them and the memories that were somehow significant. Like that first time I heard "As I Sat Sadly By Her Side". Like that concert in Moscow. Like that freak incident in Brighton when I saw Warren Ellis.

For me, the biggest thing about the documentary was that I did find it all yesterday, amid the songs that should have never been written and amid the images I should never have seen. The man I recognised, because the man persists, and shrouds himself in harrowing metaphors, and lives on, and fights against the 'elastic time' we all, somehow, try to resist. I found that man. Beneath the sorrow and the cracks in the voice, he came back. 

So for a moment you create this illusion, and the world doesn't change. That's good. And also, there's all this white colour.

Monday, 5 September 2016


If there's one thing I decry, it's the loss of the process. We don't appreciate it. We have fucking lost it. Again and again I'm reminded of the 'orgasmatron' in Woody Allen's brilliant Sleeper; you enter this box with a person of opposite sex and walk out seconds later experiencing orgasm. At some point Allen's character, a man from the past, revolts against the machinery and the lack of something that is basically the whole point. The process. Or, as he calls it, the romance.

But in a world revolving around outcome and result, people tend to stack process at the back of their mind. And hence they scream blue murder every time someone gives away the ending or the plotline. 'Spoilers!' they say, genuinely freaked out. 'Spoilers!'

Well, bloody hell.

I myself enjoy being ensconced in an Agatha Christie novel on a cozy evening in late November. Would I like to know who killed Roger Ackroyd and who set The Mousetrap? No, I wouldn't, but that's a detective story, and in a detective story the ending is all there is to it. The problem is that these days people are no longer able to watch Sidney Lumet's 12 Angry Men without lamenting the fact that they know where it all goes.

Forgetting that it's not about WHERE you get. It's about HOW you get there. 

It seems the future so grotesquely predicted by Woody Allen is coming soon. Physical pleasures not so much, but mental pleasures we no longer have time for and so the middle part has to be cut out. Enjoyment for the joy of it is longer an option. It's boring and it's time-consuming. Enjoyment seems to have acquired its hefty price tag, and it's somebody else who has to pay. All you have to do is act all hurt each time a trailer shows that a character dies. 

Well, people die, for Christ's sake. Have I now spoilt it for you?..