Monthly Archives: March 2004

Who takes a hole punch to a restaurant

Who takes a hole punch to a restaurant? Well I do. Not all the time obviously, but certainly sometime. I have one with me now and I’m in a restaurant.

Certainly the sentiment, “who takes a hole punch to a restaurant” was one felt by the waitress who took my food order. When I pulled out the paper I was to file a look of genuine relief went across her face. What she had thought I was planning to do with it is beyond me.

You see I like to do my filing on the move. And my writing all out in the open. And so it creates some odd situations.

One day everyone might catch up with me but until that happens I will keep getting these looks every time I wield my hole punch in public.

Short term, long term and another type

How do the blind dream, I wonder? Obviously there are two kinds of answers to this question depending on if the individual ever had sight or not.

If not I imagine they have dreams where they sense things through touch, smell and all the rest. It seems obvious.

But maybe it’s not like that. You see I dream in a very unusual way. My dreams are like an audio book. I see nothing but hear myself describe it. It’s because of a problem that I have with memory.

I can never remember anyone’s name and I can never remember what anyone looks like when I can’t see them anymore. These are just some examples of the fault not the fault itself. Another is the way that I dream. And if it doesn’t seem like these things should be connected to each other then I should probably explain how they are.

In general there are three kinds of memory. Short term, long term and another type which has lots of different names but for now I’ll call unconscious memory.

Now imagine you’re having a conversation with someone. All of the conversation is being held in your short term memory but some of it is being transferred, if the information seems important enough to your long term memory. The information usually goes in in pairs. So you get soandso likes fish. You don’t copy the entire conversation just the important stuff.

But the thing is that you don’t copy “Michel likes fish” you copy “soandso likes fish”. And you also copy “soandso is called Michel”. And “soandso looks like…” well whatever they look like.

So far so simple. My brain seems to be very good at copying such things into my long term memory. I can remember all kinds of random stuff that I may have been exposed to only briefly.

So where’s the problem you may ask. Well it’s getting the info back out again. I have very slow visual comprehension, by very slow we are only talking microseconds longer than average but it’s enough. My brain is so concentrating on delivering me the information that I can’t usually deal with retrieving from memory something like a name at the same time as recognise who they are and all the other things that happen when I first meet somebody. However my memory will let me do things like pick up 11 hours later exactly where I was in the last sentence, without having to read the first half again, and finish it.

So how do I ever remember names you may ask. Well generally I don’t except a small circle of people. These people have entered into my memory via a different method, this mysterious “subconscious memory”. This memory is all the stuff that you just take for granted. The kind of memory where things stop having names but the name is the object. They become automatic.

Imagine a small bowl which has little grooves in the lip of it. When you first see it, that last sentence is how you would describe it. But once you see somebody use it, it becomes an ashtray. With objects and things this is quite an easy process and one which we did, in the main, in childhood. But it also happens with people. After a while people stop being “oh he was that guy who… what was his name?” and instead he becomes Paul. This process takes longer for me too but does enable me to remember some people at least. Also it’s handy for if anybody ever accuses you of objectifying them. Show them this and they’ll soon realise that it’s a good thing.

Interestingly this odd section of memory is also where prejudices are stored. If you don’t consciously think about it then it’s stored here. But most names are stored in long term. Just most people can access these bits of their long term memory better than I can.

The connection with dreams is simple. In visual dreams the part of the brain that deals with the images is working flat out, you see things very quickly and digest later (it is believed). My brain can’t really deal with this so just doesn’t bother (or it can’t express directly what it saw). Blind people, of course, may very well have underdeveloped visual areas of the brain – I don’t know.

So yes, how do blind people dream? I suppose I’ll have to ask somebody who is blind and see if they’ll tell me.

I’ve been a bit behind with my articles recently.

I’ve been a bit behind with my articles recently. This is mainly because I’ve been very busy. “What”, I hear you ask, “kind of excuse is that?”

And you’d be right.

I have recently been working for money. An interesting step for me. But much more importantly for gamboling.co.uk I’ve been desperately trying to finish a play. This has now occurred and while normally it’s been possible to update the site and write other things at the same time on this occasion things were a little bit different. Partly this was a because of the work business and partly it was because of a concrete deadline. I had to finish by a certain time and this, in an od itself, offered me some wonderful opportunities. I was able to spring clean my entire flat just while avoiding doing it. But the one thing I was unable to do as write articles for gambolling. Because I would have felt very guilty writing a gamboling article when I needed to be finishing the play. Somehow I didn’t feel as guilty scrubbing the toilet.

Anyway it is done now. It is called At Play and is available on request.

Important at the time

She pulled apart her scrapbook some years ago. At the time there had been a point to it. She had needed the pictures, the postcards for something. Whatever it had been it had obviously seemed important at the time.

Important at the time. This book had once been important at the time. She had won a prize for it. It had been the best one. And now there was just the echoes of the book itself. The one line notes. The coloured-in map. And the holes that stared back at her. The glue, unseen to her as it had been smushed up behind the pictures, had formed into little streaks which looked now like tears. As though the book had cried when it had been ripped apart.

She realised that she had been holding her breath while she had been thinking about it. She exhaled and the breeze she produced moved a piece of tissue paper. She took the paper and wrapped the book back up in it.

She wouldn’t have to cry if she hid the book away again. She hid the book. And cried anyway.

This wall seems pretty stupid

The car travelled by slowly enough for me to get a pretty good look at him. And suddenly as I was looking I realised that car window glass is just like regular glass. It works both ways. You may think that that’s a pretty obvious thing to realise and so do I. So do I now. But then the revelation dawned on me only slightly more quickly than a British train.

But now I moved quick. There was a wall about three feet behind me and I moved over towards it. It was only a little short thing about a foot high. And I remember thinking. This wall seems pretty stupid. It was so short that I pretty much threw myself over it. It was about two second later that I realised what the wall was for. It was to demark the edge of a sudden drop. A drop that in a very real sense I was about to experience first hand. Except I had managed to catch the seam of my jacket on a piece of metal that was embedded right into the wall. I was hanging, quite literally, by a thread.

I thought about whether I should think of something to do. Yes. That’s right dear reader. I did not think of something to do but instead I debated internally whether it was better to think about what to do or just do something. I had just about got to the point of realising that by just simply having had this thought I could no longer just do anything when I started hearing footsteps.

Before I could think of anything else I felt a hand grab me. Whoever it was they were strong. They picked me up by the top of my jacket. Lifted me up into the air and held me there.

He looked like a perfectly normal big guy. I’d love to say that he had a dangerous scar. Or that he had deep set eyes. Or that his eyes were too close together. Or well anything. But actually he looked nice enough. Albeit a bit angry at present.

He threw me to the ground on the altogether more pleasant side of the wall and while my eyes closed automatically I heard him walk off and get back in his car. And then I saw him drive away.

He looked over at me. He was hunched over and scowling. He gave me a look which said something to me that was much plainer than he might well have been able to articulate into words. His expression said, “If you think I’m angry now then imagine how angry I’ll be if you go to the police.”

And so I didn’t go to the police dear reader. Instead I simply went home. And that is where I am now. All of these events happened earlier this evening, and if you are having trouble deciphering what I have written then it is only because of how much my hand is shaking.

I wanted to go to the police obviously, but I was too afraid. I came back home and tried to sleep but I could not. And so I have decided to write down what happened That way I can relieve myself of the burden of what happened tonight without having to tell a living soul. Wait. There is someone at the door.

It was him at the door. And he’s still here now. He’s sitting on the opposite side of the desk. Staring at me. He’s asking what I’m writing. I tell him hat it is my journal. He asks if I usually keep writing in my journal while somebody else is in the room with me. I mention that I have but I’m usually not writing about the person who is sharing the room with me. He’s looking at me oddly now. Differently than before. I think I might have read him incorrectly before because this look looks more like angry than that look of his before.

He’s walking towards

A time of great happiness and great sadness

I recently included as a series of articles my diary from a few years ago (I wonder if you’ve remained stripy or if)

The diary was from a particularly odd time for me. A time of great happiness and great sadness.

I’m not sure if that’s not what it’s all about. The fact that we are more prone to notice other people when we are happy or sad means that times of strong emotion in both directions seem to go together.

We seem to love situations where there is an ending or a resolution but at the same time we tend to have situations where we actually get what we desire. Only through death do we get a final conclusion. The thing that seems missing from every story. The ending to which you can never do justice.

The law of diminishing weirdness

I have been asked since the appearance of my article the other day (LINK: If, as we may assume, weirdness is absolute), what kind of weirdness was I talking about. And in fact, by some, what I was talking about at all.

Well, let me explain. An exact situation where the law of diminishing weirdness applies is with people who have obsessive compulsive disorders. These people have completely fixed weird ideas about, say never stepping on a crack in the pavement, turning on and off light switches, washing their hands thousands of times a day. Or what have you.

To them the ideas seem normal. To others they seem weird. But here’s the twist. Because the people with these disorders believe that what they are doing is normal they think the weirdoes are the ones who don’t do these things.

And this, my friends, is the law of diminishing weirdness.

As I hung on the corner of the crescent moon

As I hung on the corner of the crescent moon,
I thought to myself. Really? So soon?
So I hung on that corner of the crescent moon,
And sang to myself in the language Walloon.

The third possibility

Sometimes you get that flash of recognition don’t you. That feeling of “I know that person from somewhere.” And seconds later you enter into one of four states.

One possibility is that you stay wondering desperately tying to figure out where you know this person from. In this scenario there are three subsets either you are certain that you know them but can’t quite place them and the annoyance at not being able to remember their name is so strong that you just go and ask them. Or you want to do this first thing but are too embarrassed and can’t or thirdly you aren’t truly sure that you remember them so you say nothing and it bugs you for the rest of your life.

The second possibility is that you remember them and go and talk to them. This is common I suppose but somehow not as common as…

The third possibility. They recognise you and come and talk to you. This, in my experience, is much more common than the second possibility but in reality it can’t be. Because from their point of view they are seeing the encounter as “possibility two”.

Or there is the fourth. And this is quite a subtle one. You both see each other. You both recognise each other. You both remember exactly why you never bothered to keep in touch all these years and so you both continue to ignore each other. The only problem is that I can’t remember anyone’s names. So all of these people get ot go off to their friends and say “you’ll never guess who I saw the other day.”
“Who?” they’ll ask.
“Alex Andronov”
“Really?”
“Yes.”
“Did you talk to him?”
“No.”
“Why not?”
“I always hated him.” Or whatever.

The thing is that I can’t do that to them. My conversations go something like this.

“He was kind of short and wore shorts.”
“We were all short and worse shorts. We were at school.”
“I know! This is useless isn’t it.”
“Yes.”

And I know they’re right. It is useless.

That there was a bar over the road called “Fiction”

Nowadays I write wherever I am. I suppose I’ve just got used to it. Since starting to write the gambolling articles was supposed to be in addition to my existing output I suddenly noticed that I couldn’t just wait until the situation was ideal. I had to write so much more often that I just had to hunker down wherever I was.

But before. Before gambolling I always used to write in cafés. In a select few cafés that I thought offered the right things that I needed.; The most important thing was coffee I liked, then came music that wasn’t too loud. (And not too repetitive. I once had to ask a café not to play Radiohead’s “OK Computer” again. I had been there for eight hours and it had been on a constant loop since I arrived.)* The final thing that was important was the café be quiet enough that I could always get the same table. But noisy enough that I didn’t feel like I was sticking out. And also so that I could steal all their characters. If it’s too quiet I only have myself for inspiration which is all very well until you have to write 260 articles a year.

One of these cafés is very close to where I am sitting now. It was a café I used a lot. And after some years of using it I suddenly noticed something rather odd (other than I was probably addicted to caffeine). That there was a bar over the road called “Fiction”. All that time I’d been sitting there writing fiction with a ruddy great sign over the road explaining what I was doing. And I never noticed it.

* They agreed and put on Radiohead’s “The Bends”.