in anticipation of going out

18:54

Mark Steel is on the radio in Paisley doing his usual low-level piss-taking routine, tickling the locals with his research and turning trivial facts into jokes. To be fair, he’s quite entertaining and informative, but I’m not sure if it’s very funny. News on soon, then The Archers. I’ll probably leave the radio on – it provides some background company while working on my own even if I don’t actually pay any attention to what’s coming out of the speaker.

At some point in the next few hours I will be walking to town (i.e. the centre of Cardiff) to meet my wife, who is out after work, celebrating a colleague’s retirement.

I thought I could write a piece about expectations versus actualities – in this case, writing down what I expect to happen on the hour plus walk to town and back and then, after the event, writing down what actually happened.

But, I can’t imagine what will happen on that walk, partly because I just can’t – you know, it’s just a blank when I try to sift through the possibilities – there’s nothing there. The other reason I can’t imagine what will happen is because I don’t want to imagine it. Part of me had the idea to speculate and write it down, but a stronger part of me simply doesn’t want to know.

I wonder if that’s the deal we’ve made with life – you know, just get on with it, take things as they come, don’t think too much?

I heard on the aforementioned Radio 4 earlier that the accent a person speaks with has absolutely no correlation with how intelligent they are. So, just because you speak with a posh accent doesn’t mean you’re clever and/or just because you sound like a daft sheep-shagger doesn’t mean you’re thick.

Fair enough, at first glance. But if you think about it, have you ever heard a bloke who speaks with received pronunciation asking for a couple of quid to clean your windows? Or have you ever seen a sheep-shagger collecting an Olivier award?

The conclusion, for me at least, is that being successful, at least in monetary and mainstream terms is not a measure of how clever you are. You can be stupid, sound posh, and be successful or you can be intelligent, sound crass, and be poor.

It doesn’t really mean anything, all this, you know. It’s just words, it’s an attempt to connect, to share some common vision – to prove that we’re not alone.

19:15

Anyway – The Archers has just finished  and some review programme has just come on where some middle-class reviewer is talking about a Norwegian Crime Thriller which of course ‘is not just a Crime Thriller’.

It (and this) is getting boring.

19:53

Still sitting here, Radio 4 still on, now it’s an adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac. Lots of cleverly constructed dialogue but nothing new of course – it’s a story that’s been told a million times before and in a thousand different ways. Good old Cyrano has provided overpaid employment for many hundreds of scriptwriters, actors and directors.

Maybe that’s the answer, you can be too clever for your own good. Just find something that is considered ‘good’ by the arbiters of culture, and copy it, being careful to add a little twist so you can claim it’s your own work. Maybe that’s the real intelligent thing to do – who needs original thought and innovation?

Here’s a sketch of what’s supposed to be a beggar.

beggarA Beggar goes Pop!

Despite the speech bubble, the thing in his right hand is a crutch, not a gun.

Anyway – it’s just a doodle related to the cover of my next novel – ‘Bums’. There’s more about that elsewhere.

21:55

SEAGULLS

I’ve been told there’s no such thing as ‘seagulls’ – they’re just ‘gulls’ apparently, but a lifetime of conditioning will not allow me to accept that, And while we’re on the subject of the nomenclature of birds, since when did some birds of prey become known as ‘raptors’? Anyway, I don’t really care about all that, but we were stalked by seagulls just now, on the way back from town. We bought some chips on the way up the main road and ate them as we walked home. A seagull circled above our heads, then another, then another,and so on, until there were at least seven of them; and as they circled they descended in slow spirals.

We covered the chips up and they dispersed, looking for another incorrectly filled recycling bag to shred no doubt. I thought about taking a photo but by the time I got my phone camera ready they’d gone over the rooftops. I took a picture anyway – of a seagull-less sky.

seagulls-notSeagulls – Not!

Then I saw half a bag of discarded potatoes on the pavement. I guess the seagulls weren’t interested in them because they weren’t cooked.

Fussy birds.

spudsVery bad photo of half a bag of spuds

Ah yes – it was a nice walk to town and back – a lovely evening.

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Heads or Tails?

Heads-or-tailsBranwen is an A* pupil who has been offered university places at both Oxford and Cambridge. She’s agonised for days about which one to choose. She’s weighed up all the pros and cons and it’s pretty much 50-50.

She decides to flip a coin. If it comes up heads she will choose Oxford; if it’s tails Cambridge will have the privilege of her attendance.

In a parallel universe a Branwen who is identical in every respect down to the last sub-atomic particle has, of course, exactly the same dilemma, and does, of course, exactly the same thing.

This scenario is not science fiction but is based on theories that are taken very seriously by very serious scientists

The Branwens in both universes flip their respective coins. Remember, they are exactly the same. Every thought, every emotion, every breath is exactly the same for each of them. Since there is not a sub-atomic particle of difference between them they are, in effect, exactly the same person.

The coin spins in the air and clatters to the floor of the little coffee shop where Branwen’s working for the summer holidays. She leans down to look more closely at the coin, supporting the small of her back, it’s still sore after the fall from her bike yesterday.

The coin lands heads side up in one universe and tails side up in the other. Now we have two versions of Branwen. Branwen A heads to Oxford while Branwen B takes up residence in Cambridge.

Branwen B loves Cambridge and settles in straight away. In her third year she meets Joseph, a politics student. They fall in love and get married. Joseph wants to devote himself to a political career. Branwen gives him the emotional and financial support he needs to do it.

Ten years later Joseph becomes a Member of Parliament and over the next twenty years ascends the political ladder until he becomes Prime Minister.

Branwen A can’t settle down in Oxford and drinks too much alcohol for her own good. She skips lectures, neglects her coursework and misses exams. In her third year she is asked to leave.

Branwen A goes back to her home town suffering from a breakdown and lives the rest of her life dependent on medication and benefits. Joseph meanwhile, loses interest in politics and becomes a corporate lawyer.

Now, along the way both Branwens make thousands of choices, for example, whether to get a bus to the market or cycle, or whether to wear the red or the green coat. You could say that every time Branwen makes a decision a parallel universe version of Branwen makes a different decision.

This leads me to conclude that if you’re sitting there with your head in your hands lamenting that you should have gone to Cambridge instead of Oxford, or you should have got the bus that day you cycled to the market and got flattened by that idiot in the taxi, then you should stop fretting. In a parallel universe you did go to Cambridge and your husband’s the Prime minister. (For the sake of balance, in yet another one you are the Emperor of the Galaxy.)

Note: I may come back to this. Actually, in another universe I do come back to this and write the most brilliant philosophical piece that leads to the Nobel Prize and world peace, while you win a hundred million on the lottery.

Sorry it’s not this one.

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