Monday 18th May 2009

Added on 18 May 2009

A Dementor At My Table

The Strange Case songs all went up on our MySpace page last week. Richard, my band partner, circulated the link to his friends. The e-mail got forwarded on and on again. Eventually one of the people in the chain replied to everybody who’d received it, complementing the music and Richard on his singing and guitar playing, at the end of which she wrote, "And who’s the old guy...?"
On Friday afternoon Two of Two had his birthday party. It wasn’t actually his birthday, so this was a Queen’s Birthday kind of a thing. The sun was shining, so we went for it. On the way there, we had four boys aged eight or nine in the back of the car. There cannot be demons in Hell that could make so much high-pitched noise as four boys in a confined space, over-excited about going to a party. I don’t want to exaggerate, but it was without question the worst fifteen minutes of my life.

If your own kids are acting up in the back of the car, you have a certain recourse to action. Perhaps not as many options as the Victorians had when their kids started causing uproar and destruction in the back of the Peugeot 307, but you can still threaten to cry havoc and let loose the dogs of parental retribution, even if much of what you threaten realistically has no currency. However, when three of the kids belong to other people, you’re completely screwed. You can’t threaten anything, you can’t shout, you can’t park at the side of the road and order them to get out and do fifty crunches. You know that everything you say is going to be reported back at other dinner tables that evening. Two of Two’s dad’s really weird. He threatened to put us on a plane to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Inevitably, however, something will cross your lips in stress at some point during the fifteen minutes, and will be reported back to the Other Parents in the following way: And then Two of Two’s dad made this bad driving manoeuvre and said shit really loudly, and then we all kept saying shit for five minutes afterwards because we thought it was funny. In fact I’m going to continue to say shit in every sentence, and you can’t blame me because it’s none of my shit, it’s the fault of an adult and that adult would be Two of Two’s dad. Why don’t you call him and give him shit about it....? Hey, you call this dinner? What is this shit?

In the end I just took them to the party rather than putting them on a plane to Chad or Guinea Bissau. I spent the next two hours waiting for one of them to get seriously injured, but the closest that came to happening was when I heard one of the kids say, ‘Hey Two of Two, come and see my BMW,’ and I almost tripped the little bastard up.

As the sun went down and the kids charged around on the hoof, the parents sat around the party tables, eating cake and drinking vodka & Pimms, talking about the MPs expenses scandal, the disintegration of society, the raping of the planet, and how many coffee cup holders they have in their new BMW 4x4.

On the subject of International Mums, last week I found myself sitting next to some mums watching football practice. The two women next me - a Pole and a German, chatting in English - started off on the subject of school fees, standard playing field conversational fare for your average International Mum, and I switched off. Quickly, however, they had moved on to religion, the absurdity of the Catholic Church foisting sacrement on children who are much too young (their words, not mine, just in case, you know, I get mistaken for a West of Scotland, Rangers-supporting Presbyterian), and whether or not there is a God, and whether that God expects children under ten to know what they’re talking about.

I thought, holy crap. These women didn’t actually seem to know each other very well, and there they were, cutting to the chase of the nature of existence and creation. I felt compelled to join in. I  interrupted them to say that I thought that actually there were a committee of gods, and that was why the planet was in such a mess. It was hard to tell whether the look they gave me was contempt, pity or a complete lack of understanding, but that was the end of the conversation.

Another mum arrived and started talking about the Chelsea-Barcelona match. If I can just be bold (and perhaps stupid) and paraphrase Samuel Johnson: A woman’s talking about football is like a dog’s walking on his hinder legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.

After my disastrous Gods intervention, I sat out the football conversation as long as possible. Then they started talking about the penalties not given, and how there shouldn’t have been a Norwegian referee and how all referees for big games should be Spanish or Italian or English or German, because they’re the only ones who know what they’re doing.

Three minutes and seventeen seconds in, I finally exploded, with all the pent-up, Scottish, anti-big business fervour I could muster. I spoke at some length on society’s decline in moral standards, and how most of it could be traced to overpaid sportsmen and Chelsea football club in particular.

I’ve known these women for four years and most of them probably haven’t heard me speak before. They all stared at me, and once again it was hard to tell what they were thinking. I said my piece, none of them commented any further or progressed the discussion, and an awkward silence settled unhappily over the sideline. And then one of them lightly brought up the subject of the apparent agony of childbirth, confident that I’d leave them to it, and I was thus expelled forever from the conversation. And as they spoke darkly of tortuous agony and unsympathetic mid-wives, I kept my usual counsel - it’s worse for the men - to myself.

The day after Two of Two’s party was my forty-fifth birthday. It rained all day. The night before, The Parent Currently Known As Mum told me about the old guy e-mail exchange, just to make me feel warm and fuzzy about being another year closer to death. Then she gave me running gear and a book written by a fellow who had walked across China. I asked if she was encouraging me to have a mid-life crisis and she pointed out that I’d already had several of those.

What comes after a mid-life crisis? A mid-to-late life crisis? Or do you move straight on to the late life crisis without anything in between?

5 Things To Try This Week

5. Read Bulgakov’s The Master & Margarita in under seven days. I’m into my third month. I’m enjoying it, but I usually only manage two pages at a time. When I finish I’m going to put out a press release. Douglas Lindsay, 45, today shared his delight at finally reaching the end of the latest in a short line of Russian literary classics. ‘I never thought I’d see the last page,’ gasped Lindsay, who is apparently physically and mentally exhausted after the ordeal.

4. Have a mid-life crisis. Hell, have two.

3. Jump the shark.

2. Eat asparagus. Seriously. It’s the season. Sure, the asparagus season is one of those seasons which is guaranteed to last a good deal longer than one’s capacity to remain interested in it - like the apricot season and the Scottish football season - but eating vegetables in season gives you that organic, ethnic, eating off the land, feel good vibe. Even when it’s as boring a dumb ass vegetable as asparagus. Our first asparagus of the season was a disaster. Too stringy. I was telling my Ethnic Polish Friend, who pointed out that I should have peeled it, and that of course it was stringy. Who knew? She laughed at me and asked if there was video she could put on YouTube. I’d have felt stupid if I hadn’t known that it would still have tasted rubbish.

But still, give it a go. And here’s a top tip, you don’t need to peel green asparagus, so buy that one. It’s less hassle and it doesn’t look as if it’s been chemically blanched.

1. Write a song to win next year's Eurovision Song Contest. Really, how hard can it be?

Barney Thomson Report

This week’s update (changes in red):

Proof read Book number 2: complete
Re-write Book number 3: not done. (Not even started)
Proof read numbers 4,5 & 6: not even started
Start final draft of number 7: Under way, at last, and progressing nicely. Having left it for a few months gathering creative dust in a drawer, I thought maybe there’d be a lot to do, but it’s in pretty good shape. There are a lot of marketing executives, and I was worrying that maybe they were all blending into one another, so I’ve given them all the names of 20th century literary figures. I don’t know where that thought came from. It gives rise to this kind of exchange:

"We’re the literary giants these days," said Orwell. "We’re the great writers, we’re the guys writing all kinds of shit and shaping the views of the British people."
"Ah," said Barney, looking sceptical. "That’s why you’ve all given yourself the names of 20th century literary figures."
"We have?"
Barney stared at him over his doughnut. "Yes," he said, "of course."
"Cool," said Orwell, "whose name have I got?"

Speak to bank about massive corporate financing package to relaunch the series: not done
Launch Barney Series as ebooks: continuing negotiations with ebook distribution company. The negotiations are not about money, like normal negotiations, they’re more about me trying to understand the process, because it’s a mystery. I’m the old guy who doesn’t understand computers.

Strange Case Update

The new songs are all up on the MySpace page. Work continues to get everything together to release the album both digitally and in regular cd format.

Sandy Lyle Watch

(The continuing saga of the best golfer never to win three majors.)

Sandy finish tied-34th in the Regions Charity Classic for Old Men this weekend. He had a solid first round 68, three off the lead, to be tied for tenth, but then drifted back with an anonymous one-over second round, and then just as he was poised to shoot 61 and leapfrog to the top, the third round was cancelled. Either due to bad weather or because all the old men were sitting inside playing draughts and eating prunes.

This week is the US Old Man’s Senior Open. I'm making light of Old Man's golf, but I'll be eligible to play it in five years' time. If they'll have me. However, since my best ever round was a 96 at the par-68 at Millport, and not off the medal tees, twenty years ago, I'll probably struggle to qualify.

Sandy’s world ranking remains at 615.

Next Week:

Lots more about asparagus.