I Got Ants in My Pants and I Want to Dance

It’s time to write a little reminder note to myself to remember to watch my two children walk across the fresh-cut lawn in bare feet.

When I read interviews with writers bitching about how hard it is to write, rewrite, how the writing profession is like some kind of density of misery with no space for relief, I wonder what’s the point of writing if all it ever does is make you feel bad, bad about it, as well as put a bad taste in your mouth.

Today I overhead 2 people reminiscing about their youth. Remember when we….Remember how we…. Remember that girl who lived in the next town…. Remember those fantastic empty relationships with anything or anyone…. We drank so hard, I remember nothing….

I wouldn’t go back to those days if you paid me.

I just finished Edward Carey’s amazing Observatory Mansions. It is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. Pithy, clever, unusually constructed, non-linear, comic, dark, depressing, bathetic, easy on the pathos, not trite with honesty, and wholly human in its depiction of fictional characters. I loved Francis Orme for his wickedness and his compassion for saving his dead brother’s remains. I have already requested his novel Alva and Irva from the library and look forward to reading his YA novel Heap House set to come out in September.

Last night I pitched our tent in the back garden as a way to get away. And next week, I’ve booked a 2-day camping adventure for my family at Lake St. George. We haven’t gone anywhere in years. Not since the children arrived with their soft toys. Sometimes I tell my wife, let’s pack our portmanteaux and move to Normandy. I could teach English to existential street kids. But we have no savings. And my wife doesn’t speak French. Neither do I, but that wouldn’t stop me.

It’s raining here in Maine. Grey sky like liver and clouds like onions.

I must go and clean my house. I never knew household chores could be such work. I think I was swapped at birth with a working-class baby. I want a castle, no disposable income, and some national trust to turn my castle into a tourist attraction while my family and I live in 10 rooms and I proudly state that all I can do is write, stoke the fire, catalog the inherited treasures, and never get involved with casual work.

Here’s some Iggy. And if this song doesn’t make you dance wildly, then you really have no lust for life. And shame on you.


His Master’s Voice

Do you ever miss gramophones? Or maybe I should say, did you ever do Miss Gramophone? Because if you did, she’s just called at my office and left two very young LPs who are in need of a good needling.

The last gramophone I had was left behind on the beaches of Normandy. It was D-Day. The sand was littered with corpses and 45s. Thinking back I wished I’d gone with the First Airborne and got dropped over Arnhem. I mean, Operation Market Garden sounded wonderful. I hadn’t visited a market in years and there were legumes that I needed. But I was able to keep my gramophone dry and free of sand by shoving it in a body bag and dragging it across the beautiful sands — well, they would have been if the Krauts had stopped shelling.

It was a lovely sunny day and some of the Yanks had even brought bikinis. When I’d finally made it to a nice sand dune, I took out my shovel and spade and constructed a moat. That, I thought, would stop Das Boot.

Then I lovingly placed my priceless copy of the Little Sparrow down, lifted the needle, and Piaf filled the air with sorrow. It helped the boys on the beaches. Then I set up my espresso machine, strung up some radio-active ions, let off some grenades, shot off a few rounds of my mortar, emptied my cartridge — as well as my bladder, it had been a long trip from Dover — and put up a sign: “All welcome. Will not discriminate against any nationality. German also spoken here. Come one, come all. But if you must, do it behind the bunkers.”

Then it was Edith all night long until the flares went up and the generals arrived to make sure there was enough killing being done. Our little party ended soon after. But I got the Purple Heart for bravery in the face of fire. And the generals all got their body counts. And some even got as far as Pointe du Hoc, but had to turn back because someone had seriously neglected to polish their brass.

Trust me, it never happened like this in the history books. But only because I took the fifth out for drinks and they all forgot what really happened and made up the real story.

Do you know there are days when I wish I had the power to move to a remote peak somewhere in Scotland, let the wind get under my kilt, sharpen my dirk, and then head to the local newsagents where I will act out Macbeth to every paying customer. But the proprietor will call out his three grimalkins and they’ll scream at me, “Thane of Glamis, ain’t yea ever heard of the Royal Academy?”

I will pretend not to hear the Weird Sisters — and they are weird, I tell you: one is dressed like Mary Queen of Scots, the other like Little Po Peep, and the third like the Damsel in Distress, on account of the ladder in her tights — by idly thumbing through the top shelf of the magazine shelf until I have located a prop.

Which, in this case is Maxim. I will hold it up and declare: “Not all who wander are lost. Some are merely in need of a good distraction.” Then the shop’s bell will jingle and in will come a load of rowdy kids who to my horror are reading Ian Rankin. I will shout: “My dearest love, Duncan comes here to-night.” To which the kids will give me a queer look and call me a fag and then buy their sweeties homemade fudge.

When an old lady with hair like a hayloft, a nose like a pitchfork, and a mouth like a horse ambles in to buy some rashers, I’ll cry, “Fair is foul and foul is fair, but put back that bacon, it’s rancid!” The old lady will give me sixpence, twiddle my sporran, and then hold up the joint with a pair of very nasty darning needles.

When I next try to impress an out-of-work shipbuilder from Dundee, he’ll reply, “Where’s the thane of Cawdor? We coursed him at the heels, and had a purpose.” Which will really upset me since that’s the other play. (Although, Duncan will insist it’s Macbeth and that I don’t know my Yorick from my own dumb skull.) At which point I’ll make him wail, “Bonny tweed, I’ve been kneed in the groin by a lowlander.”

Now the proprietor will have enough. He’ll hang a sign in the window saying “Intermission. Back in 20 mins” and we’ll all go into his backroom for a cuppa with Tom O’Shanter, who I don’t understand until he says: “Thou would be found, deep drown’d in Doon,/ Or catch’d wi warlocks in the mirk,/ By Alloway’s auld, haunted kirk.”

And then I’d reply, “Yes, I’m a thespian. and I’m doing a little impromptu theatre and picking up my groceries at the same time.” and Tom will say, “You’re a winnock-bunker in the east.”

Here’s a proven cure for a cold: Either the Flight of the Valkyries or Tristan and Isolde. They will definitely lift your spirits. Or you could follow an old Irish remedy my gran gave to me. Which is: put 2 spuds in soft cushions in front of the TV. Allow them to heat up from the radioactive waves. Meanwhile, prepare some butter by warming it gently between your thighs. Then when it’s runny, gently carry it over to the spuds by using an electrician. (Caveat: It’s dangerous to play with live wires.) Place the spuds on the ailing bit of you and then douse with melted butter. But make sure the door is fully closed, the curtains drawn shut, and your trousers neatly folded over the chair and pointing away from the keyhole.