Thursday, 16 June 2011

10 Things I've Never Owned

I'm not talking about having never owned a yacht or a pet eagle, more the everyday household items that make life a little more convenient or pleasurable. Even here I'm not talking about the ubiquitous posters of the female tennis player scratching her posterior (or its dialectical opposite, comrade Che & Charlie poster boys). Rather things that most households possess.

By never, I really mean that at no point in my life have I owned one, even though for limited periods I might have access to somebody else's. I am writing this looking back from middlish age...

1) An umbrella. Even living in rainy England, I have never owned one. Even before the commonplace of hoodies or baseball caps to keep your hair dry, I shirked the spidery strutted wind trap. Didn't like gumming up my hands having to hold things (never having been driver {though I have owned a car, so it's not in the list}, I didn't have the option of popping it in the boot or on the back seat). My wife has the asset of a voluminous handbag for fold up brollies, but even then she is always leaving them somewhere. They just aren't natural.

2) A tumble dryer. My wife and I have gone through countless laundry racks because water is a corrosive par excellence. It rots the wooden ones and rusts the metal ones, with the inevitable result that the racks collapse. Our home is too small to house a tumble dryer. It's things like this, my inability to drive, my one phobia of flying, that somewhat fortuitously means I have a relatively small carbon footprint.

3) A bicycle. I just never learned to ride. As a boy I was always in my or some friend's garden playing football in the winter and cricket in the summer, so never went pedalling around the neighbourhood. They tried to teach me at college, where student cars were banned, but my balance and reversion to primal simian fear of falling conspired to render me unteachable. No skateboards nor scooters either and this was despite me working for a skateboard company for 15 years!

4) A camcorder. Even my phone doesn't have video. Currently I don't own a camera either. Just not someone who likes to leaf back through photo albums or sit and watch home movies. Maybe I'm just weird like that. Mind you I don't like my photo being taken either. Like certain tribes I gauge the camera to steal my soul. Or something...

5) Games console. While I used to like arcade asteroids and space invaders, I cannot stand modern day video consoles. My sons are of course obsessed with them, making up for lost time as my wife and I held out against pester power for some considerable time. I loathe the compulsive nature of them; the physical passivity (WeeFit notwithstanding), the febrile involvement with shoot 'em up games. And each time a new game comes online and my son tells me to look and marvel at the amazing graphics, I do indeed look and see the emperor's new clothes. The graphics are still cartoonish rather than 'realistic'.

6) Newspapers. It might be moot to say that one owns or doesn't own something as disposable as a daily newspaper. But in all my life I have never been a reader, preferring to come by my news information by marginally less biased sources. Strange that I married into a family of journalists and for the last two years have been working in a news organisation that still thinks as much in terms of print journalism as online. Funny old world.

7) A set of weighing scales. I don't deal drugs, nor do I concern myself with a numerical marker of my own mass. I can gauge reasonably well when my bones and muscles feel discomfited with the burden they are being asked to carry around, or that I don't have a sufficient reserve of puff. I don't bake, consequently I don't have to weigh out flour. One of my twin boys however does make fine cakes and keeps asking me to invest in a set of scales.

8) CD player. Bit of an odd one this in that I always seem to be behind the trends in music delivery systems despite being a huge music fan. I used to buy records and tape them straightaway to play them on a cassette player. I was slowly building a top of the line hi-fi, but never brought it to fruition before having to sell the units to raise money and so rarely had the opportunity to play my records. When CDs came along I shunned them and continued my record-cassette nexus. Yes I loved the crackle of the grooves that were removed by digital CDs, but it wasn't just this since I don't have such a refined ear to appreciate the depth of difference. By the time I got with the programme, I just recorded CDs on to my I-tunes on my mac. Still do. Like my unplayable records, I am now building up a sizable collection of CDs I can't play since my mac eats all discs. Sigh...

9) Contact lens. despite being short sighted I am very squeamish about eyes, even looking at them for any time (that scene in "Un Chien Andalou" is a nightmare for me!), so that the thought of my fingers coming into contact with them, even with the membrane of the lens interceding is something I just cannot contemplate.

10) A Stephen King book. Or even borrowed...

5 Things I wished I still owned

1) My childhood cat. 6 months before I was born, my parents brought home a black moggy. I grew up with him, every night sleeping at the foot of my bed once I'd graduated from a cot. He lived to the ripe old age of 23. Unfortunately my wife is catphobic, so no chance of forging such a relationship with a moggy again.

2) Misty In Roots "Live At The Counter Eurovision" LP. An ex-flatmate of mine walked off with this album of mine when the flat broke up. Quite possibly the best reggae LP ever made. Don't think it ever made it on to CD.

3) Sony Betamax video recorder. Proof that I am a complete technofool, I grew up in a home that had opted for the betamax over the VHS. While not inherently foolish in and of itself, when my parents decide to yield to the inevitable and move over to VHS, I offered them £14o for the betamax, even though I didn't have anywhere of my own to live and consequently no TV to plug it into. I never got to use it and of course the brand succumbed to commercial oblivion not long after I made this useless purchase. File with my hi-fi that never left the launchpad either... I think I still have some betamax format videos somewhere.

4) A pierced ear. I got my ear pierced shortly before going up to perform at the 1985 Edinburgh Fringe. I went to work with it. I got married with it, over my wife's objections. I commissioned a jeweller to make me a specific design for a drop earring. I went back on the Tube hours later to an outside 5-a-side pitch when I realised it had fallen out while playing and I found it! Just after I started my current job my sleeper fell out and so inured to the sight of it I didn't even notice it was missing. By the time I managed to get round to buying a new one, I couldn't get it in. Despite having had the hole for 25 years. My wife is delighted.

5) An airmail envelope. Not just any envelope of course, but one in particular that I sent to a rock and roll hero of mine. Michael Gira lead singer of Swans, possibly the loudest band in the world during the mid-1980s. Gira also wrote visceral prose and I saw that he had a book out in the States through a small press and - this is the 1980s remember - I sent him a $20 I went to my bank specially to exchange. It was more than sufficient to pay for the book and I imagined plenty left over to cover P&P. I penned a short note , "I know I shouldn't send cash through the mail, but this is impossible to come by in the UK". Nothing until 6 months later my envelope is returned with to my relief, the $20 bill inside. I assumed it had simply been returned to sender as addressee had moved away. But as I was about to throw the envelope away, I twigged that my cover letter wasn't there. I scanned the red white and blue border piping on the envelope and found typed above the bottom horizontal "If you shouldn't, don't'. I wonder what became of that envelope. I never got hold of his book of stories.


Agnieszkas Shoes said...

Totally with you on the tumble dryer front - never seen the point of them. I have owned a couple of umbrellas but ever really used them - they blow inside out on the slightest whim, get in the way, and batter other people round the head constantly - not a bad thing in itself, but it's generally nice to choose the objects of one's violence. I'd always rather get wet.

Surprised to see car not on the list. Does this mean you've owned one that you couldn't drive? Or is it too obvious?

Sulci Collective said...

No, spot on Dan. At 17 I tried to learn to drive. To faciliate this I was persuaded to buy a car to practise on. I bought one on the strength of its radio's clarity. It had the engine of a motor cycle in it, so that hills or even small inclines were a struggle. My first outing in it, I rolled gently backwards the camber of our road and stopped at the bumper of a furiously hooting car behind with a farty bump. I got rid of the car at a loss (see betamax video and hifi above).

Anonymous said...

I have owned, broken and lost a lot of umbrellas; you're right, they are unnatural.
I did learn to drive, passed my test 5th go(it didn't come naturally) and for some years I drove the scruffiest, most disreputable vehicle you can ever imagine a clergy wife driving, an ex-army Lightweight(airportable) landrover, full camo in anti radar paint. She was wonderful. I forded rivers, greenlaned, carried anything and even served as a troop carrier for an English Civil War re-enactment on one memorable and very drunken day. I had to face the inevitable parting when a) my daughter banged her head on the roof everytime I went over a bump in the road and b) I realised it cost TOO much to maintain and run. I sold her to a man who supplied pig semen to farmers.
Ever since, I have felt less and less comfortable driving and it has evolved into a full blown phobia where I sweat and shake if I ever have to drive. I need therapy!!

Jen said...

I'm stuck at umbrella. Incredible. :)

And I really feel for you about the cat.

Cathy Olliffe-Webster said...

That is probably one of the most interesting things I've ever read.

Mark Kerstetter said...

Dude, you're going to have an army of King clones on your ass, ready to build a wall of abuse over you so you can never squeeze another word out. Tell you what, I'll take the first hit. I picked up a copy of the unabridged The Stand in a supermarket a couple of days ago just to amuse myself. He begins with a cheesy, completely unbelievable attempt at reverse psychology to tell you why NOT to buy the book. Quickly he moves on to words of advice, for which he is so famous. You write one word at a time, he says, just as the Great Wall of China was built one stone at a time, then he adds: "I've heard you can see that motherfucker from space without a telescope." Just as I was about to warm up to him for using the word "motherfucker" I thought about the utter stupidity of comparing the wall, which took countless slaves generations to make, to a book, even a 1,400 page one, pushed out word by word by a bloated egomaniac sitting in a comfortable room surrounded by Blue Oyster Cult CD's, Cheetos, Diet Mountain Dew and whatever else it takes him to fuel that shit. I did not buy the book by the writer who I would describe as, in a word, vulgar.

Sulci Collective said...

Bring 'em on Mark, I'll take a bunch of clones on with just a verbal rapier for my armament.

I think your story says it all really.

Anonymous said...

Fascinating article.
Very interesting voice, lovely tone.

Might I ask: the picture of the umbrella - is that a purchasable item? It looks very much like the umbrellas used in Ridley Scott's Bladerunner?

Kat said...

Hold up guys--so you're saying I DON'T have to be obsessed with Stephen King in order to be a good (or crap) writer? Seriously?

Pffft. What ever will I do with Saturday night now that I'm not stalking the man??? What?! LOL.

Kidding! I read one of his books. It was on our mandatory reading list in the 8th grade. I think it was called, "Eye of the Dragon." Maybe--been awhile since I read it. I just remember that Flag was the bad guy and when I watched "The Stand" years later that a different Flag was the bad guy. That always struck me as lazy. Two villains? Same name? I feel robbed. :p

Sulci Collective said...

Not just villains Kat. He uses certain archetypes over and over again. Old Afro-American wisdom with second sight or great wisdom being one for example.

Kat said...'d think his followers would pick up on that.

This goes along with a post idea that I've been thinking about lately--about maintaining relevancy with readers. I noticed awhile ago that my favorite author has basically fallen into doing the same plot, same characters (with new names), etc. And now I'm bored to tears with her writing.

Maybe I will post something when I solidify my thoughts a bit more...

Jen said...

I'm a fan of Stephen King's writing and yet I didn't feel the need to build a wall of abuse. Weird that people who have read ~1 of his books did, though. :P