Monday, 27 July 2015

Say hello to my little friends...

People have spoken many lies about me. I'm not sure why. Perhaps it comes with being such a cool, interesting, centre-of-attention kind of celebrity kind of guy. Perhaps it's because I used to spend a lot with a certain type of Christian - the type who are convinced the world is full of sin and so invent stories to back up their convictions. Or maybe everyone tells lies about everyone and that's just how things work.

Either way, it doesn't really matter. What are far more interesting are the true things people say about each other. Of all the true things said about me, the following remains my favourite.

I was 18 and, having spectacularly failed my A-Levels due to the discovery of snakebite and black, was working in a pub in Bradford. The pub in question  - The Ring O'Bells - is now, sadly, gone, replaced by a Tesco which must surely be haunted by the ghosts of beer and late 80s karaoke. It makes me sad that it is gone. It was the first place I ever performed a song in public and now it's just a little brick shop. Where will they put the blue plaque when I become incredibly famous? Near the fish fingers? That seems disrespectful.

Here's my band, outside the pub, before they destroyed it.
Note the awesome cut and paste job which seamlessly works
our band name into the pub name. I am in white.

Anyway. 18. Young, thin, spotty and terribly stupid. The bar was quiet so I was amusing myself by making a wine bottle opener do a little dance. I imagine you've done this - you pull the corkscrew bit down and make its 'arms' wave about as if it were praising Jesus or trying to stop an aeroplane landing in Die Hard 2: Die Harder.

I probably gave the little fellow a voice, too, because I am amusing. Maybe I made it sing a little song. Maybe, more disturbingly, I was having a conversation with it. "What are you doing with your life, Rob?" it would croak, like Danny's little finger in The Shining. "I'm not sure," I'd reply, tears pricking in my eyes. "What should I do, corky? Please don't say murder. Murder is your answer to everything."

Whatever it was, it drew the attention of a young woman called Sadie. She worked at the pub too and she was as scary as she was sexy, which is to say 'lots'. Faced with my hilarious corkscrew-based improvisations she gave me a look of hatred and/or affection and delivered this assessment of my character: "Everything's got legs to you, hasn't it?"

It's stayed with me, that phrase. Everything's got legs. However I've changed over the years, this has remained constant. Every object is, potentially, a new and excellent friend, a receptacle for a tiny part of my personality. Every pencil does a dance, every fridge welcomes my entrance to the room with a song. Computers, obviously, come in for a lot of attention, being not only inanimate objects but also whores, idiots and bastards who live to thwart me. I talk to them a lot.

Cars, in particular, seem alive.  I actually made myself cry, once, as I said goodbye to a car I had just sold to a dealer. As I drove away in my new car, I gave the old car a desolate, confused little voice. "Where are you going daddy? Will you be back soon? I hope so. I love you daddy!" It was an anthropomorphic step too far and I nearly drove into a fence with grief.

Look at that little face and tell me he's not alive.

This love of cars, though, seems to be a more socially acceptable form of my condition. People love their cars, give them names, refer to them with personal pronouns, that kind of thing. And so, when we drive, we see not metal and plastic, but personalities. Extensions of people. And, I'll be honest, what this reveals about us makes me despair.

It's not just the BMW drivers, though obviously I hate them. Man, the personality of the drivers shines out of those metallic bastards. And that personality is, invariably, 'inconsiderate twat who thinks he owns the road.' I assume the thought process is quite natural:

i)     I have a BMW because I earn lots of money
ii)    I earn this money by being in charge of people and telling them what to do.
iii)   By extension, this means I am very important in every aspect of life and can tell people what to do everywhere I go.
iv)   By further extension, my car is a cool sexy kind of guy called 'Captain Shark-Dick'
v)    Thus, indicating is for wankers and I can drive as fast as I like and get pissed at you for being in my way.

So yeah, I hate those guys. But there's other, more subtle stuff. Like this.

I hate traffic. All those tossers, getting in my way with their stupid cars. Selfishly driving places and thus making me late home. Don't they know I'm trying to watch all the episodes of Doctor Who, in order, from the start? Yes,  including the ones that got wiped and now I have to watch fuzzy photographs taken by nerds in the 1960s. That's going to take ages. Why are you all in my way?

And, of course, the entire issue about which I am becoming mindlessly enraged is a product of many people doing exactly the same thing I'm doing.  Our lovely car, Henry, is not an innocent victim of other, more brutish cars. He's a constituent part of the problem.

 He's part of me alright. He's the part of me that can't see my own complicity in how stupid the world is. The bit that doesn't draw a connection between my own bad mood and how unreasonable everyone else is suddenly being, including traffic lights, people on the radio and weather. The part of me that theoretically opposes capitalism while constantly filling my house with new things. I got a Facebook message the other day and four different electronic devices all tried to let me know about it, all jumping up and down like children, bleeping and clicking for all their worth. Four! There's no need for that. Yet here I am, tutting away at the behaviours of the very same companies that rely upon my consumption to keep them afloat.

What's that, wine? Drink all of you? Because it would
make you happy? OK, wine. Anything for you,
The other thing I've noticed about traffic is the stupid desire we have to be just that little bit further forward in a queue. I take great, spiteful satisfaction when some speed merchant lurches excitedly around me, as if in the pre-credits sequence of a James Bond movie, successfully pulling ahead, only to then sit still in the same queue, but a few feet forward. What a dick, I invariably think.

But that's all of us. Scrabbling ahead, desperate to be further forward. Desperate to win. And somewhere within us knowing that we only win in relation to others. We're further forward in the traffic, but we're still in the traffic. We still are the traffic. Our victory is only defined against those not doing so well, and they're not doing so well because of us.

That's why those BMW drivers irritate me. Because I know that, for some of them at least, their Fuck You attitude behind the wheel is the same as their attitude behind a desk. "I'm ahead of you. that's all that matters." A culture of entitlement and superiority, validated through cars and suits and how nice your house is. And that's who we all want to be. Behind that desk, calling the shots, being a selfish dick. I'm assuming that's why so many people voted conservative in the last election. Not because it makes our lives better - it manifestly doesn't - but because we think that maybe, if we could only get a little further forward in the traffic, then we would be happier and life would be better. So let's support the traffic.

Or something. It's not a perfect metaphor.

I don't know why, for me, everything has legs. Maybe I'm just a child, and I hate grown ups because they don't like to play. I guess I'm also scared that, as I finally have a bit of money, I'm creeping towards being that idiot who genuinely thinks he matters more than others because he has an awesome sofa. I do have an awesome sofa. I haven't given him a name yet, which is something I'll be thankful for should I ever have to throw him away. It. Not him. Damnation.

However. There's a bit of me that likes to remember that all the stuff that surrounds us is important. Whether we give them voices or not, our possessions talk about who we are, the choices we've made and how they affect the world we live in.

My things are always doing a dance and singing a song, but often I'm surprised at the true stuff they say.