Waiter

   “HOW IS YOUR meal?” I asked with a rehearsed smile on my face, tensing my routine muscle group. Much of the food had disappeared.

Four of them sat there, stuffing their mouths, three men and a woman, possibly all related on account of their manners. The restaurant was winding down for the night they were the second table still to leave. I had a tenner bet with Douglas the KP that they wouldn’t tip.

“Actually..”

Part of my mind froze at this beginning to a sentence, it never ended well.

“..my steak was a little overdone and her soup wasn’t hot enough. Other than that…” A lingering note of sarcasm resonated from his blue cheese doused lips and wet chin.

“I do apologise. May I take them back and replace them? Or you can order something else?” My pad and pencil were ready, my memory wasn’t to be trusted.

The elder gent surveyed the table and his possibly maybe neice/ daughter before responding. “No, but I would like to have some sort of reduction on the bill. I won’t pay for poorly cooked food, it’s expensive as it is.” His ensemble looked at him then down at the table in mutual embarrassment.

“Certainly. I’ll speak to the manager.” My manager had left early for the night.

I explained to the chef what happened and he said he recognised the moaner from another joint he works at part-time. Guy always comes in complaining about the food, eats it all then asks for a reduction. To quote Ally, head chef, “He’s a fucking chancer. Give him a complimentary pudding.”

I whirled back to the table and offered a free desert as well as 20% off the bill.

“20%?” said blue cheese face in disgust, outraged eyes searching for something around me. “Try fifty! Two meals spoilt out of four, fifty seems fair to me. Doesn’t it?” he said wiping his face with napkin, eyeballing me. The rest looked at me apologetically, sorry for the company they kept, but not sorry enough to say anything.

“Of course sir! I’ll just clear your plates.”

“And don’t forget the desert!” he said as I left with my arms laden.

I returned to take their orders for the pudding. Two of them professed to be very full already, but this idea of a revolt, of not taking a free pudding would not stand at table 16.

I gave Ally the check and went to grab a drink while I could. Cold water felt like ecstasy after eight hours of non-stop running.

Before I took the puddings out Ally specifically pointed out that the one on the right, a crème brulee was for “the fucking chancer” and him only.

I served the deserts which were wolfed down within a minute.

Only once they’d left (without tipping, but leaving me £10 richer) did I question why the brulee on the right was for the moany bastard.  I asked Ally what he’d done as he stood outside the kitchen door smoking. His lips curled up in a cheeky smile. “I can’t say. But it’s worth losing 50% of the bill over.”

 

WHERE DO YOU stand/sit/lie/dangle on swearing in fiction? I’d assume it will align with how you feel about it in other aspects of life.

For some swearing is a turnoff, end of, there can be no need for it. There is the biblical end of the spectrum whereby to No Profanity Signblaspheme is a terrible thing, it should be avoided always. And there are much more liberal people who don’t mind it providing it has some relevance i.e. profanity is congruent with a character or situation. I’ve always looked at it from the point of view that swearing is just a word or words, nothing more nothing less, comparable to ‘the’ and ‘and’ except they tend to be used in anger or to convey some sort of emotional state. Swear words are expressive. You can swear at a friend with intent or simply as an extension of a sentence. Clearly one of those is not pleasant, so we tend to refrain from swearing at each other for understandable reasons.

Like them or not, swear words pack a punch if used well. Irvine Welsh’s fiction is rammed full of swearwords and he doesn’t hold back in interviews either. Now imagine Trainspotting without any swearing – it would be distinctly strange and inauthentic. I don’t advocate swearing for the sake of it, to get a reaction from the reader like a twelve year old trying to piss off their parents. But within the construct of a fictional world swearing is vernacular webbing for some characters and represents their world(s).

It grates when people complain about swearing in fictional adult settings. Some cite swearing as ignorant, lower class, ugly and even disrespectful. ‘Coarse language’ is a part of English and always will be. When people go to other countries one of the first things you’ll learn is a swear word (providing the hosts are good – I jest, somewhat) and they’ll want to know your native ones also, it’s a very natural thing is the old rude words thing.

So – swearing in fiction? Acceptable? Deplorable? Inescapable? Necessary? How do you feel about it?

room mate wanted

   I LEFT FOR work as usual –  all empty stomach and in a hurry. My slumbering flat mate, head dangling off the sofa, was oblivious. He was there out of pity, not kindness, and with every day I grew to despise him. My time at work was spent concocting various ways to get rid of my legal squatter. A vice like bitterness squeezed me, knowing he was dossing about in the flat, eating noodles from dirty bowls using crusty forks, watching Jeremy Kyle, mocking the people, yet utterly unaware of his own parallel to the car crash drama. Afternoons were filled with weed, computer games and poorly aimed attempts at pissing in the toilet. The carpet around the sofa was pitted with cigarette burns, never an apology.

It was Friday today. A societal sigh of relief for many. Knowing what I faced when I got back, I would have worked for free over the weekend.

Shooggling my keys in the front door lock as a warning of my imminent arrival, I routinely dumped my bag just inside, threw my jacket at a hook, missed it and left it to crumple on the floor, glad to be shed of my outer skin.

Peering in the living room, Tommy was nowhere. There is a god… Then I heard the bathroom fan and an inner melancholy returned.

‘Tommy?’ I yelled.

No answer. I went over and tested the handle: open. Of course the light was still on, but Tommy wasn’t in there. Ya beauty!

Not one for singing, I burst out a few lines of The Killer’s, a true testament to my happiness at having some alone time. I grabbed a tinny I’d hidden from behind rotten cabbage and moulding broccoli in the fridge. Vegetables scared the shit out of Tommy, it was the only area relatively safe from his selfish chaos.

I switched on the TV which was usually in standby mode.

Beer in hand I plonked myself down on the black settee. For the first time all week I actually felt relaxed in my own flat. As the digibox’s blue LEDs booted up I took stock of the silence and my surroundings.

What in the fuck?

A ragged rectangle was missing from my black faux leather sofa. Not a small patch, perhaps caused by carelessness, an entire side was exposed, the nylon innards on display. Tommy had attempted to hide it by sticking two grimy cushions on top, like I wouldn’t bloody notice.

Fuming at his latest antics, I stewed until darkness fell, half-heartedly watching Storage Hunters on Dave: pointless scripted-reality pish. Genuine guilt washed over me at watching TV at all anymore. At some point I fell asleep, bored of life.

I woke up to hear Tommy and one of his functional junky mates, talking loudly, the usual nonsense, flicking lights on.

‘Aye his stuffs here. He’s probably asleep…fuckin’ arsehole!’ They cackled.

‘What’s in the fridge?’ This voice sounded like a guy who’d once introduced himself as Eggy. Fucking chancer.

Mentally I pictured what was actually in the fridge; rotting cabbage and broccoli, about 50ml of milk, not even enough for a cup of tea but surprisingly still in date, a few bits of bacon, one egg and a strange green black mouldy spore that sat at the back which was as close to a flat pet as we’d have.

Disgraceful. What would my mum think? Old friends? This was a sham of an existence. On Sunday, Tommy was leaving.

I heard footsteps on the floorboards entering the living room. The lampshade-free bulb went on.

‘Oi, Tonsil! You awake? Me and Eggy are wanting to watch a film, some Serbian horror thing, sounds mental.’

A small scene played out in my head during this dialogue, involving me shouting as loud as I could and ripping his head off followed by Eggy’s.

He strolled over past the sofa and squatted down to turn the DVD player on and put his disc in.

I inexplicably opened my eyes at this point to have my post-nap eyes first glimpse of the world involve Tommy’s exposed crack as he sorted his DVD out.

‘Fuck sake Tommy, get a belt!’ My vision adjusted to the light as a familiar feeling of depression overwhelmed me. Wait! Hold on! I looked back at Tommy who was now standing up and dabbing at his phone. He was wearing the most disgusting trousers I’d ever seen. Since when did he wear leather trousers? They looked ridiculous! BANG! It hit home in a nanosecond. I looked down at the sofa, just to double check. You bastard!

‘Alright Tonsil!’ said Eggy strolling through a can of cheap cider in hand.

I was just about to kick them both out for good in pure rage, when a moment of nap-induced clarity led me to look at the calendar pinned to the wall opposite. Four days until the end of the month. About the only thing I could count on was the standing order I had made Tommy set up for the rent. As soon as the rent hit my account he was out, no comeback. £300 was the least he owed me. It might buy me five therapy sessions if I was lucky, about half of what I needed after living with him for nearly a year.

‘Hi Eggy, have a seat..’ I smiled as I said it, vigorously patting the nylon next to me.

moss it crowd richard ayoadeThat is by far the longest title for any post of mine. I offer no apologies.

   RICHARD AYOADE of The IT Crowd fame, gives Krishnan Guru-Murthy the ‘Tarantino’ interview treatment, effectively “shutting his butt down” but in a much more humourous, intelligent and gentle way. Anyone who has been interviewed or had a glimpse of the media behind the scenes knows that interviewers often ask the dumbest questions. Guru-Murthy is actually one of the better ones but Ayoade shows how pointless and empty most questions are deflecting and “parrying” with great ease the mundane and predictable questions that come his way. Enjoy the squirming. http://youtu.be/jjC3ycS_2js

Video  —  Posted: October 22, 2014 in Have I Got News For You? - Well Do I?
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reality and dissapointment  

   NOT EVERYONE IS a fan of working out. Not everyone is keen on it, although judging by TV viewing figures and packed stadiums, irrespective of body fat percentage, people love to watch athletes. Now, if I mention the word bodybuilding yet more people will tune out. It conjures up images of ridiculous muscular gargantuans that make Action Man look like a wimp. Steroids is inevitably one of the next synaptic matches made and yes they are abused. Let’s go beyond that.

Below is a documentary about Kai Greene a bodybuilder from humble beginnings who doesn’t do flash, or bragadocious chest thumping. There’s no ‘here’s my three storey, here’s my fast car…now check out my delts!’. Here is a man who wants you to see what lies (in both meanings of the word) beyond the lenses: video and camera. The super slick glossy images you see on mag racks or TV are what we are peddled daily. We are sold perfection, the sort that can only exist in heavily edited form whether that is photoshopping or selective words and footage. It creates a false reality. One that tells us, that to go from A to B is one way, while eschewing the daily grind, the boring minutae of each hour we are awake. According to the media, life is easy. We only see a snapshot of someones life, the part they have worked towards and it is staged. This is not how people live but I really feel this leads to people being very naïve about life and expectations of an easy ride come with it.

Why is it important to see the seldom seen? Well, I wish there was such a grounded look at a niche life like bodybuilding or writing readily available to everybody. Because the reality is so, so seldom what we see – illusions are what we fall for irrespective of what it is. Your job is sold at the interview as one thing, the real job is never the same. Your McBurger once opened in it flimsy cardboard, does not look like the picture on the menu. Kai Greene shows what a façade can do to our perceptions. This documentary focuses on bodybuilding but can be transposed to anything or anywhere, which is why I feel it is such a powerful and inspirational piece of media. See for yourself.

cartoon worm speech bubble

   FOR SOME REASON or another I had an earworm (def:  a song or melody that keeps repeating in one’s mind – but in my case just words) of ‘Jim Jarmusch’ rattling about my head for the last two days. Not films he’s directed, nor any tangible elements from his flicks, just his name bouncing around. I have no fucking idea why. I haven’t seen any of his films since Broken Flowers, several months ago. Nowhere in my recent readings has his name cropped up, not in mags or books or even the internet.

Yet the name ‘Jim Jarmusch’ continued to repeat randomly in my head for several days. Now, here’s the weird thing. I’m not religious at all, nor spiritual. I am logical and as rational as my free will allows, if we have free will (that’s an entire other debate!). So this evening I sit down to write and as I await my three year old laptop to splutter alive, I see some events guides that I picked up several days ago. One happened to be for the Edinburgh Film House who show indy flicks and generally arthouse stuff, steering clear of vacuous schlockbusters.

I flick through it thinking of taking my girlfriend to something, I read back to front often, I don’t know why, and then BAM! – Edinburgh Film House had an entire run of Jim Jarmusch films on that ended just recently. Apart from the fact I am annoyed that I never knew they were screening Ghost Dog, one of my all time favourite films and monstrously underviewed, it was another of those very strange coincidences of reading or hearing about something, something uncommon, that then becomes linked days later through your actions. This always freaks me out a little bit. But the rational part of my brain makes sense of it by thinking of everything as loosely connected in any given society. This particular earworm was my strangest ever as I simply had a name echoing down the corridors of my mind.

Still, it’s happened many, many times and I’m always amazed to a degree, pleasantly surprised, mildly baffled but not wanting to put some cosmic spin on it. Universes don’t align and there’s no destiny. Things simply happen, randomness is entirely non-random – either way, I like it. Jim Jarmusch! Jim Jarmusch!

Wooden-Computer-Keyboard

   I TOUT MYSELF as a creator of fiction. I sometimes lie to myself that I am a writer instead of my actual job. Not that my personality and identity is rooted in what makes me money.

I realise that my short stories and creative pieces in general have been diminishing. This is like a politician telling the truth – unintentional. For some reason or another, be it the seasons changing or my current lifestyle, my special part of the brain which produces many good ideas and the other part of the brain which produces motivation have ironically collaborated to put a squeeze on my output. I am of course blaming something else for my inadequacies.

As if the supply chain is regulated by Russia, and I live in Ukraine, I ran out of gas at some point and ignored the fact I was getting cold. Despite my blackberry harbouring many good ideas, lines, characters, plots, jokes and all the rest, externalising my stories has been arduous and very difficult.

I’m not going to bleat on about ‘writer’s block’, because my experience isn’t really that, I simply don’t seem to have the mental energy to extrapolate and successfully mine my conscious. This shall change – for I am off on holiday for two weeks. Stay tuned…actually that doesn’t really work for the internet, how about, stay online? Hmmmm…

fly away

A CHANCE MEETING,
Once full screen, now we fade
To black,
what else?

Confused hearts, dark, continuing
Until another sun rises,
Time goes on, but I’m no blonde,
Can our good intentions,
Be relied upon?

You made my mind unwind,
Once,
Now be so kind,
As to put it back, together,
Because,
If you really know me,
You will– remember.

IMG_0461

   IF YOU COLLECT vinyl or are old enough to simply have vinyl, you’ll probably agree that the sound of a record is different from that on a tape, CD or digital file like MP3 or wav. Digital music lacks richness, something only analogue can deliver which I guess explains why many music listeners still stick to the record player. It isn’t even about the sound system you have. A record that isn’t scratched will sound fuller and more pleasant on the ears regardless of device it is played on compared to digital.

What happened to the sound? Modern mass produced music all sounds the same – and there’s a reason for this. The production methods used by producers and the labels result in a loss of range in the music piece once it is finalised and fully edited.analog vs digital

Due to the format, vinyl has a greater range in volumes from the lowest to the highest in relation to each section of the song. New tracks however have a much narrower range and are compressed so that the overall sound of the track doesn’t deviate much from given parameters meaning you hear less rises and falls in tone and pitch. As a result the sound is cleaner and more polished but sacrifices variance of sound so that regardless of genre, mass produced music will sound the same sharing a similar audioscape. On LPs individual pieces of music are more distinct so you can make out the instruments more easily for example.
Radio has something to answer for as well, because from an audio perspective it is beneficial if all broadcasted tracks have the same master volume, meaning when you are tuned in you don’t need to adjust your dial due to differences in sound from play to play.

‘Hygienic’ production also leads to you being hugely disappointed at the live version of some bands having heard an album that had pristine vocals and instrumentals. Production can make anyone sound good – well – autotune will never sound good but you catch my drift. Plus, there isn’t the same excitement of rifling through the CD’s in a charity shop as there is with vinyl, stuff that has been around long before I was even born like Frank Sinatra’s stuff from the sixties.

   honest feedback

   I’VE HEARD OF people having beta readers, the book equivalent of a screen-test, who read a story and help the author to sort out issues they didn’t see themselves. Or simply to read a piece and critique it, say what they liked, what they didn’t.

The trouble is, people with beta readers are usually published authors. What do you do to get feedback on your finished or near finished stories? Family and friends are good and often willing, but also tend to be biased, so feedback isn’t always brutally honest like it needs to be.

But if you’re farming out your writing to someone else it raises all kinds of worrying issues such especially that of trust with your material. I don’t even like my writing leaving my laptop!

What’s the answer? Is there a ‘safe’ way? I don’t know.