I’d intended to do something cultural and improving today, I really had, but following yesterday’s shenanigans, my bones were feeling rather cross about the whole thing. So I didn’t actually end up going out until this evening, meeting some folks at a Greek restaurant in Ealing.
I’ve found myself in Ealing more and more recently. This is usually the choice of other people – I’m not a particular fan of the place. I recall well one recent occasion when I bumped into a friend and a friend-of-a-friend there, the latter of whom was unable to resist the temptation to shout abuse at random people. The rules of gentlemanly conduct indicate that, if the abused party is male, he must wreak his vengeance upon the male companions of the female abuser. This is one of a number of reasons why I left before the club.
Ealing is a bugger to get to from Colliers Wood. The problem is that the Tube and rail lines in South West London were constructed primarily to make money, and the way to do that was 1) to sell land in the suburbs and 2) to get people in and out of the City. If people could reach one suburb from another, then good for them, but there’s no money in ensuring that people can get from, say, Colliers Wood to Ealing in under an hour. What this means in practical terms is that I have to hike into Wimbledon, get the District Line to Earl’s Court and then get another train back to Ealing Broadway.
This weekend, what that meant was that I found myself running smack into a bunch of people coming back from Notting Hill Carnival. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m glad they had a good time, but is it really necessary to give a blast on those whistles every ten seconds? I mean, I’m sure they’re great, but doesn’t the novelty wear off? Aren’t they worried that someone might take it upon themselves to punch them in the larynx? Not that that particular urge overtook me, but I’m just sayin’ is all.
Mind you, the fact that I was reading Kurt Vonnegut’s depressing novel Breakfast of Champions probably didn’t put me in the best frame of mind for dealing with humanity. It’s definitely a book you should read – basically, it’s a meta-novel about the futility of the human condition with childish drawings. It centres around a failed science fiction writer and a car salesman having a mental breakdown in a crappy city in Nowhere, USA. What really makes it, though, is the narration, which is utterly deadpan and dispassionate. It’ll devote as much time to describing, say, what guns are as it will to describing the characters. Every so often the author will draw attention to the fact that this is all fiction, throwing in descriptions of how he came up with a particular character or event and even directly intervening in the story. It has laughs, but they’re more the sort of slightly-too-loud, bitter laughs you get when you try to cheer a suicidal drunk up. As I say, a fine read, but don’t read it if you’re feeling down.
I’m not feeling down, but nonetheless it’s a book that won’t make you too kindly disposed to greater humanity.
I was witness to a slightly bizarre confrontation on the Tube back. Next to me were sat a couple of macho South African gents. The sort who sit with their legs so far apart that they’re practically doing the splits, you know the sort of thing. It’s particularly irritating to sit next to them, because as soon as you’re seated they’ll try to open their legs still further, invading that sacred space that is Where I’m Sitting. Damned if I’m going to have my knees pushed sideways.
Anyway, these two gents were discussing various things – sports and women’s arses, mostly. At Southfields a young fellow leaving the train decided to loudly break wind as he was leaving the carriage. Now, I’m with most people over the age of fourteen in not particularly seeing the hilarity of gaseous excretion, but the South African gent two seats along stood up upon hearing the young man’s chuckle and snapped, “I’ll break this bottle over your head, you little cunt.” The young chappie, had he not already given vent, looked on the verge of losing control of his bowels at the sight of this gentleman towering over him. There followed a to-and-froing in which the young chap attempted to reason with the large gentleman, an argument which hadn’t subsided by the time the door alarm started going – so the large South African decided to leap off the train to settle matters. I kinda wish I’d done likewise, if only to see how the whole thing turned out. Oh well.
I once knew a girl from Ealing/Who danced with such exquisite feeling/That all you could hear/Was young boys cheer/And fly-buttons hitting the ceiling. True story.