Finding My Happy Place…

Earlier this week a friend who also blogs on WordPress sent me a link to a weekly writing competition. While I’m not generally one for competitions I was quite taken by the remit for this one – And Now for Something Completely Different – and the idea of writing something that challenged me as a writer and took me, and my blog, out of our usual comfort zone. The problem I have, though, is that my blog is very much a mish-mash anyway, and between the two sites I juggle I have covered, in one form or another, just about all of the “different” areas offered as suggestions.

Now while some might churlishly dismiss me, on that basis (and possibly with good reason), as a Jack of all trades and master of none the reality is that I faced something of a dilemma. Until, that is, I hit upon the novel idea of writing a blog restricted solely to things I like.

To qualify that a little, I would advise here and now that I am not a miserable old git – well, not exclusively, anyway – and sometimes things I actually like do sneak into my blogs when I’m not looking. It’s just that when they do – usually in the forms of duk-duks, kids or favourite pieces of music – they do so as asides rather than as central themes, and are more often than not concealed beneath layers of smoky sarcasm or distorted by mirrors of mocking cynicism to conceal their true nature and the possible chinks in my emotional armour. Additionally, I do enjoy a bloody good rant, and as I don’t get out much the blogs give me an opportunity for venting my spleen on someone other than my long-suffering son.

So here, in no particular order and with the really important and personal ones left out, are a few of my favourite things:

1: A bloody good rant.

I don’t think there is much in life that is more satisfying than a good rant at the world and the idiots populating it. I’ve been a regular ranter for years now, and even on a bad day would put the slebs featured on Grumpy Old Men/Grumpy Old Women to shame.

The list of things I “hate” is extensive, and at a push I’m quite capable of ranting about things I am actually quite indifferent towards just for the sake of it. As examples, I would (*picks up Oxford Concise to look at first and last entries…*) offer that Aardvarks are ugly, long nosed, termite murdering bastards and that Zymurgy, while undoubtedly an important branch of chemistry, is a bloody stupid and pretentious name for what is basically a natural process, and it should just get over itself.

There. I’m glad I’ve got that off my chest.

2: Music.

I first got into music when I was about eight or so. My dad was a huge jazz fan (and a very good jazz pianist too), so that might be why I didn’t get into music earlier, but when I was seven he left my mum for good and she sold all of his records and used the money to rent a new Rediffusion telly on which I could watch Top of the Pops on Thursday and listen to the Hit Parade Countdown on Sunday. Being a poor little urchin I couldn’t afford to buy records, but I would occasionally be given handfuls of singles by neighbours who had grown sick of them, and mum would invest twice a year or so in horrible Music for Pleasure Hot Hits compilations of poor cover versions. The Music for Pleasure label, I think, was either a wonderful piece of tongue-in-cheek humour or the most flagrant breach of trading standards guidelines since the Titanic was advertised as unsinkable.

The singles I would play endlessly, firstly on dad’s good stereo player until mum sold that too, and then on a huge mahogany-look radiogram I bought for two and six at a jumble sale. Christ knows how I got it home or upstairs, but I think its arrival coincided with my older brother’s slipped disc and the final gasp of the Morris 1000 traveller he’d won in a game of cards. The Hot Hits albums would eventually be melted over a gas ring and reformed into “attractive fruit bowls” (as seen on Blue Peter in the days before sticky-back plastic and Health & Safety legislation on the use of gas appliances by minors); a fate that also befell an old Elvis Presley 78 that would probably now be worth a fortune if preserved in the pristine condition I originally received it.

From such humble beginnings lifelong passions are born. Music has been a constant companion throughout the years, on vinyl, reel-to-reel, cassette, minidisc, compact disc and MP3, and has served me faithfully and well. When I die they can bury or burn me in a cardboard box or a plastic bin liner – I care not a jot. If they can find one, a huge, mahogany-style radiogram would make a very fitting coffin. All I ask is that they play some good music (possibly one of Mark Lanegan’s ballads or the Holly Cole Trio’s version of Tom Waits’ I Don’t Want To Grow Up) after the vicar’s done his bit and chuck in a cheap and cheerful MP3 player loaded with banging choons just in case

3: Walking.

When I was a kid I used to run everywhere. If I wasn’t running I was galloping, which is very similar to running but with the right leg leading and lots of thigh slapping and yells of “giddy-yap”. Galloping should not be confused with skipping, which is for gurlies, fotherington-tomas, and that annoying short, fat, posh bloke off the telly whose head wobbles about too much. (Not to be confused with the annoying tall, thin, posh bloke off the telly whose head wobbles about too much and who doesn’t like paying his taxes. I don’t know whether he skips, but I wouldn’t put it past him.)

I carried on running for years, even running as an adult to the pub if I missed the bus, though I would do a run-for-two-lampposts-walk-for-one thing so I wasn’t too sweaty when I got there. That said I didn’t really sweat much as a young man; unlike now when a long fart can leave me with damp patches under my armpits and in need of a clean t-shirt. And possibly underpants.

But I digress… in a nutshell, I like walking, briskly, and if it wasn’t for the fallen arches and Morton’s neuromas (metatarsalgia) would probably still enjoy running. A bit. I probably don’t get quite the endorphin rush when walking that I used to get from running, but at my age that’s probably a good thing as too much excitement tends to trigger vertigo. I usually take my MP3 player with me too, which is an excellent BOGOF deal and worth every penny of the minimal Walkman battery-charging costs.

4: Words.

I’ve loved playing with words since I was a kid. When I was four I could recite all the books of the Old Testament. In all honesty we weren’t a religious family so I could have probably made most of them up without anyone noticing, and I’m pretty sure they had no meaning for me other than as nice, sing-song sounds that would earn me a majestic wafer biscuit if I recited them. I remember struggling at school to spot the relationship between the words I spoke and the words written on the teacher’s cue cards, but eventually it all fell into place and I could read and write quite proficiently by the time I was thirty-five or so (boom boom!).

These days I rarely have less than three books on the go at any time (ahhh… if only I could say the same for women *whistle*) and spend far more time than I ought writing inane blogs and other rubbish rather than working on my great unfinished (more like unstarted, if I’m totally honest) novel.

And of course I know the lyrics to around eight squillion songs off by heart, despite having the memory of a head-injured shubunkin when it comes to recalling anything useful or important like the names of my next door neighbours.

5: Ben.

My son. Nuff said.

I had originally planned to make this a Top Ten or something, but having glanced at the bottom of the page see I’m already over 1400 words in. I’m sure you can guess many of my other “likes” anyway, and you probably don’t want to know about my sexual preferences and/or alcohol consumption. And if you do you can just look back through previous blog entries.

I hope it’s clear too that much as I like a nice, healthy rant I also enjoy a good laugh; laughter having kept me sane in situations where even music, alcohol and literature combined failed to lift my spirits. I wouldn’t go so far as saying “laughter is the best medicine”, because when I’ve got a hangover I’d rather swallow a couple of paracetamol than have the Chuckle Brothers turn up on my doorstep, but god it feels good when something leaves you rolling on the floor and crying with laughter.

I think if there was more of that stuff doing the rounds I’d have a lot less to rant about, and while I’d certainly miss the ranting I think it would actually be a very small price to pay, don’t you?

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