This is going to be a very long summer. Three months, in fact. Three months of wasting space and oxygen, cluttering up my parents house. I’ve finished my first year of university, an experience that turned out being exactly what I expected and something completely out of the left field, all at the same time. I don’t need to describe the drunkenness, the camaraderie, the general lets-go-mental, carefree aspects of it; university, college, whatever, is a very fun, unique, and fast-paced lifestyle. Even those that have never been know that. No other point in life is quite the same as this odd brand of pseudo-independence, being an adult schoolchild living away from mummy and daddy, drinking enough alcohol to put Hemingway and Hunter Thompson out of action. If I was thirty and living like this I’d be condemned, demonized.
A lot of uni is dull, boring, sometimes even lonely, spending hours and hours sat in your room playing Football Manager or watching TV over the internet or staring at ceiling, visiting the kitchen every now and again to have conversations about nothing at all and drink apple juice out of the carton. Lectures never last longer than hour, after which you are free to do whatever you want. Many choose sleep. I spent much of this time either with friends or walking around Cardiff, alone with my iPod, exploring, thinking, wishing I hadn’t left my bus pass on my desk. There’s the expensive and yuppie-infested Bay, all gastropubs and restaurant chains running along the waterfront; expensive, but not as upmarket as it thinks it is. Further into the city, there are the student and immigrant hubs of Roath and Cathays, mazes of old terraced houses stretching off from high streets made of chippies, takeaways, pound shops, discount tanning salons and local pubs frequented by local people. In my deliberately biased opinion, these are the best parts of the city. Or Cyncoed, the upper-class suburb where I lived; though not in one of the many doctor’s/footballers/general-rich-fuckers mansions that sat behind ornate electronic gates. I was on-campus, in student halls, cooking baked beans on toast for dinner. To give you an idea of Cyncoed’s affluence, I need only tell you that one of the houses has a tower with battlements (the moat was presumably drained and buried before my time). There is nothing to do here.
As I said, despite their lack of a Nandos, or houses that Dubai would deem a bit twattish, I found Roath and Cathays to be my favourite parts of the city, the areas I spent the most time in. They both have a unique atmosphere, a result of students like myself living right next to people from China, Korea, India, Pakistan, Africa, the Middle East, all bringing with them bits of their home countries to this small area of a small city in south Wales. Which is small. It brings the place a weird kind of energy you don’t find where I’m from in Quaintshire: the whitest place in Britain, and where I’m going to be spending the next three months or so. Playing Football Manager. Meh, it’s not all bad.
So now I’m learning French. My girlfriend is fluent having lived there for a few years when she was younger, and so she has become my own personal French tutor (FOR FREE!), a luxury unavailable to most students of linguistics. I’ve always wanted to learn a language apart from English so I’m a smug little bastard.
That said, learning French is fucking hard. Despite my interest in foreign languages, learning them does not come naturally to me. What I learn literally goes in one ear and comes out of the other, probably forced out by my brain’s subconscious xenophobia. I grew up in Wales, so I must be fluent in Welsh right? NO, YOU ARE WRONG. Only fourteen people in the whole country are fluent in Welsh and I only know one of them. Rydw i’n hoffi sglodion. That’s it, all I can say. Everything else is as alien to me as it is to you. And for the record, yes, vowels are illegal here.
My record with German is even worse. My German teacher flat-out hated me which made it difficult to bring any enthusiasm to her lessons, meaning I barely scraped a D in my GCSE German. I was utterly baffled by the amount of words that are as long as the alphabet itself. I flirted briefly with Japanese but without a real live Japanese person to talk to and explain the symbols, I was even more stuck. Then I met my girlfriend and she made it her sworn duty to arm with me with at least an infant school-level dictionnaire francais (I have no idea how to insert the French accents/letters). And so here I am, on my way to being “competent” in another language entirely! Currently I can say my name, I don’t understand a word you’re saying, count to five, and ask where the bar is. I’m practically a qualified translator.
She’s a smart cookie and tough taskmaster so I expect to be able to watch Amelie with the subtitles off by this time next year or I’ll dump her sorry ass. My blogs will cease to be written en anglais and I will have the Gallic shrug of an apathetic Parisian down to a tee. After French, I’ll probably learn Italian, then Russian, Japanese and Spanish; though I’m not sure how my girlfriend would feel about having all those “tutors” around.
Ou est le bar, s’il vous plait?
Google Translate is awesome.
Planning: fruitless waste of time or essential preparation for the future? If the Joker in The Dark Knight taught us nothing else it’s that planning and the desire to remain constantly in control of said plan is ultimately impossible; the world is chaotic and you cannot apply order to chaos.
This thought is also reflected in most Buddhism, in which I am finding a growing interest. Nothing has any inherent existance and so how can you control nothing? If you expect nothing from life then you will never be disappointed. (I should note that my knowledge of Buddhism doesn’t stem beyond an A-level in RE and a few books along the lines of Buddhism For Today’s Pretentious Westerner on my shelf so please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong). A plan is useless because there are any number of external influences waiting to explode into your life change the direction of your intentions completely. You can’t control the brain of the exhausted bus driver that runs you down on the street so why make any plans for the forseeable future when you could die a horrific death at any given moment? Surely we should be living more in the RIGHT FUCKING NOW, making every passing second count, watching every single bus driver with a cautious eye.
Well it’s probably because it’s in our nature to plan. It isn’t enough for humans to just Be. We can’t go eighty-odd years just Existing, floating along without a care like an anaesthetised jellyfish. We need direction and hope. For example, I plan to work at a summer camp in America next year, helping kids have a great time, enjoying the sun and keeping an eye out for Jason Vorhees with the fervour of a neurotic meerkat. I also plan to emigrate to Canada or Australia when I’ve finished my degree and ignore the crippling amount of debt I’ve built up. Perfect. But I could contract terminal brain cancer next Thursday or be stabbed in the face on the eve of my flight and then all of that would be flushed right down the shitter. Obviously, we cannot live with the fear of death hiding around every corner otherwise we might as well take our toasters into the shower and just be done with it. Fuck you world, I beat you to it, you dick. For the record, I’m not advocating any Branch Davidian suicide shit here.
To round off this somewhat depressing post, I think that we should plan for the future because planning and dreaming is fun; it sets us apart from animals, the stupid unambitious retards. Live life, love life. Just be aware that there could easily be a horny bull shark in your bed tonight waiting to tear your head off.
I write to music. I can write perfectly well without the aid of spotify or my beloved iPod, I just find it infinitely easier- and much more fun- to do it to Bon Iver’s Skinny Love or anything at all by Arcade Fire. It helps me to leap aboard the writerly flow, as it were; to really throw myself headfirst into my work, whether it be essay, poem, short story, whatever. It feeds my imagination and gives life to my characters, soul to their dialogue, makes it look as if I were actually riveted by the subject of my Wuthering Heights essay, makes my poetry less dire. I am writing this blog to Deadmau5’s ‘Cthulhu Sleeps‘, my current tune of choice when I need to bash out something with speed and enthusiasm. And yes, I am fully aware of the masturbatory undertones there. And no, I don’t wank to Deadmau5.
I know that not a lot of writers can’t write in anything but pure silence. Some write in bed. Some write in the middle of the day, some long into the lonely hours of the evening. I know one writer who has to been sky-high on energy drinks before he can even get a sentence down, the caffeine-jitters apparently being the only thing that get him all inspired. Personally, I write my best work in late afternoon/early evening, at my desk, music (lyric-less is best) on very loud, riding on the pent-up creative energy from a day of Crysis 2, coffee, and cruising Wikipedia. I find that I need to be bored and a tiny bit fed up with myself to get really stuck in to something. Perhaps I need to prove to myself that I’m not a complete drone, destined for the mines, by writing a couple of paragraphs of a story that’ll get a very limited audience, but an audience nonetheless. I don’t know. But that’s how I do it.
Before he moved away to Canada, my cousin- an absolute music fiend- kindly donated the entire contents of his musical library to me, instantly adding thousands of songs by hundreds of artists I’ve never even heard of, whose names I can’t spell, to my Fabulous Library of Musical Excellence, 1940- 2011. Even now, six months later, I find stuff that I swear wasn’t there the day before. Maybe he accidentally uploaded a Music Gremlin onto my iPod? It’d sure explain all of the inexplicable Paul Simon.
Paul Simon: Music Gremlin?
I’ve got a tattoo itch. And I don’t even have a tattoo; rather I desperately want one. For weeks I’ve been trying and testing dozens of different tattoo ideas. From owls to scarab beetles, my granddad’s RAF service number to a nautical compass (all kindly drawn on my skin in biro at some point by my infinitely patient girlfriend). None would do. I was utterly stumped; sometimes I even contemplating not getting a tattoo, so lacking in creative inspiration was I.
Then this morning I had my eureka moment. A map of the world. It’s perfectly perfect. Like most non-xenophobes, I enjoy visiting other countries; like most people my age, I plan on travelling the world upon completion of my degree, living out of a tatty suitcase, chatting about ‘finding myself’ and ‘seeing the world’ when really all I want to do is to get absolutely shitted on obscure Asian beer or go buffalo-tipping on the plains of Tanzania or playing blackjack with rednecks in Louisiana before punching a kangaroo in the stomach in Australia.
Ever since I was a chubby, socially-awkward adolescent (is there any other kind?), I’ve seen myself living somewhere away from the drab and grey of Britain. Even if I just end up in the drab and grey of Boston or in city-from-the-future Tokyo, I will be somewhere that ain’t here. The world’s so small now, why would you want to stay in one part of it for your whole life?
I can spout all the pseudo-spiritual crap I like, but at the end of it all, it really is quite a cool tattoo idea. Sitting in my students digs, I could look at the ink equivalent of far-off places and think of walking along a perfect Polynesian beach or staring at the Rockies as the sun sets, pointing out all of these incredible places on my tattoo, absent-mindedly wondering why my friends have stopped answering my calls. And I know it’s gonna hurt like a bitch and it’ll be there forEVER but I think I can handle having a map of my planet on my body. It’s not like it’s this:
Or Why God Why? this:
I’m restless. My feet are itchy and eager to go somewhere new and something new too. I’m flat in the water like a piece of rotten driftwood floating in the scorching summer doldrums, going nowhere, burning under the sun. I don’t think my ambitions are too lofty; I want to write a good story and I want to get it published and read by SOMEBODY other than those in my select circle of early readers. But I’ve read enough ‘How To Write’ manuals to know that you have to go through endless rejection before you eventually strike lucky and get a story out there, and to be fair, I’ve only submitted around four short stories to four online magazines over the last six months, all of which were sub-par and could’ve been a lot better. Not exactly dogged determination is it?
It is this dissatisfaction with my own work and my flushes of embarrassment and disappointment when I receive a rejection letter that’s getting me down. On the plus side, I’ve finished my cowboy story (aliens nuked the shit out of them), leaving open the opportunity to start on something fresh and exciting (please email me any and all ideas you may have. Thanks). I have countless half-written and abandoned projects stored away on my laptop, crying out for expansion and completion, which they sure as hell ain’t gonna get any time soon. Most of them deserve to rot, unloved and unread by anyone, reeking of amateurishness and limp-wristed writing. That’s fine. I’m completely cool with leaving them there and writing something new. That said, I am rather struggling with a few basic things: what is my writing style? What kind of stories should I write? When will I actually get a job and become financially independent from the parents? I don’t want to pigeonhole myself as a horror writer or a romance writer (shudder) or a sci-fi/fantasy writer; I could be a literary Danny Boyle, flitting from genre to genre, writing great stories that are more than just another cheque in the bank, because being a successful and competent storyteller isn’t about the money. It’s about how many swimming pools you can buy with the money.
I apologise for the whiny and self-obsessed nature of this, but all writers have big egos that need big love, no? We all believe that our work is worthwhile and why can’t they just fucking notice me already?! You pick up any shitty novel from Smiths, read it, laugh at how inferior it is to your own obviously better work, then quietly and bashfully wonder how it’s managed to be published and your own stories still sit on the edge of your desk, staring at you like a hungry dog.
But I’m only nineteen! Why am I in such a rush? The longer it takes me to get published, the older I’ll be when I am, probably a little less arrogant and a little more relaxed by that point, and less likely to become the subject of ‘his early stuff was better’ conversations. Sigh. I hear slash fiction has a substantial audience these days. Maybe my future lies in writing threesomes between Jean-Luc Picard, Edward Scissorhands and Gimli? Certainly niche enough.
No sextape storytelling or in-depth analysis here. Just wanted to see if I could get a spike in views by writing a blog about ‘sex’.
Also, can’t be bothered to write anything of any worth today but wanted to post something as I haven’t been here for a few days.