FTMT's Favourite Five Top Tenets

Monday, December 26, 2005

Driving.. Part 2


You feel the water pulling at you, spray in you face, a cold, hard wet shock, with an iron core. The force pummels you down but you fight back to your feet, skidding on the bottom, skidding against the torrent, straining back and leg muscles to stand and find some shot of air in this deluge. Was this the great rain, or a burst from some random cloud, a swimming pool leek or a monsoon at midday venting its anger in tropical rods of water? Drip on your forehead, drip in your arm, drip sounds resonate and resound in your ears, far away ears. Sonar bleeps fathoming an unconscious depth, striking the bottom and return back as bleak messengers from the unknown.

When Franco died the streets were empty.

Your watching Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper on the big screen. It’s getting near to the conclusion, you feel it as you swallow hard on the tension, Peter’s character says to Denis “We blew it, we blew it man!” Denis’s character looks confused and stares into the campfire. The film colour seems to change and you think, “What did he mean, blew it?” The two of them in their scripted lives only have screen moments to live. Their Transamerica journey will end in a few gunshots, almost whispered bullet sounds and the clunk of metal falling. Fire and smoke and peace. The end to all battles, the end of all battles and a portrait of martyrdom to an undocumented cause that never existed, and you had to blag your way into the theatre ‘cos you’re not sixteen yet.

Fruit juices and seasonal snacks, handwritten signs, dust and trouble and a lack of clarity in the price. You were searching for some shade, like searching for space in a theme park, or hiding in a supermarket. You don’t trust the locals, you never trust the locals. A rule of travel you were never taught but decided to invent as it seems so justifiable. They are all out to get you, well get your money, that’s all they really want. As for you, yourself, and your raggle-taggle family that trails along behind or peers through the grubby car windows, they don’t car. More water drips, more sounds without sources, more pegs squeezing into the wrong shape of hole, the grinding and the force, the wasted force.

The first time you became a vegetarian it was all so serious and definite, so right, so tasteless, so difficult. You lived on chips and rice and sweets. Fruit was too much bother and it went bad, who really likes fruit? What good is fruit when you are hungry? How do castaways survive on bananas and coconuts? “The empty kettle destroys the sweetest seagull egg”, so said Robinson Crusoe.

There are many rooms in the mansions of my weird father. Many staircases, doors and interior garden ponds, light switches and dimmers, skirting boards and keyholes. Drummers drumming, dancers dancing, lords a leaping. I wonder how he will introduce me to them or show me around, by guidebook? By Walkman? By personal assistance? These mansions are in the sky, in a place where our airliners and satellites do not go, a sky above our sky, with houses and mansions. There will be no selfish solitude here, no place to sit quietly and reflect, only eternal wandering through the mansion to get to the correct places where we sing to father. Great crowds of us singing, even of you are not a particularly good singer, or poor at remembering the words, or have a sore throat. The songs and words will come naturally to you erasing all else in your troubled mind. Forget science or law, handcrafts and music, literature, philosophy or art or theology. There are no need for these troublesome things, there are no books in my father’s mansion. Here is no trouble in my father’s mansion, those who wish to escape the flaws of their humanity will love it there, and the rest of us will remain lost. In a way it’s like Willie Wonkas’s Chocolate Factory - if it really was in Munich.

You are diving for pearls, deep diving, blowing precious bubbles from the corner of your mouth. The shell is too big and heavy to bring to the surface and to promising to leave behind or ignore. The sharpest knife snaps open the shell, twists the jaws to reveal the glittering interior. No man has seen this before, or will again. Lungs hurt, hands tremble, pearl drops.

You feel for your thoughts, they are there, close by, and burning like biblical bushes in barren deserts. Beams of thought light shining up into the sky, revealing what you think are their locations, but are not. They have no roots, no locations, no directions; your thoughts have no existence.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Driving somewhere - Part 1


You are driving in your car, quickly but safely on the motorway, you are travelling at about seventy miles per hour. You look at the dashboard clock, it is 2316 on a December night, the traffic is light and the road is dry. On the stereo the White Stripes track Seven Nation Army is playing. You home in on the guitar riff and your heart beats a little faster. Suddenly a blinding white light is in front of you, a lorry cab is facing you, heading for you, going the wrong way, it’s driver asleep. You have milliseconds to live as Jack White’s guitar slurs around that familiar riff.

You wake up in a white room with a black ceiling. You are lying on a couch. The room is strange and though you could move you feel uncomfortable about doing so. The walls look strange and you don’t want to touch them, you realise this white room is really a large box. You fall asleep again.

You wake up in a black room with a white ceiling. The black walls draw you towards that white ceiling. You begin to rise, you float towards the ceiling, the air feels thick, as inch by inch the ceiling gets closer as your horizontal body obeys some unconscious, unspoken command. You rise until your nose is only a fraction of an inch from the white light of the ceiling. Just when you think you should touch it you fall back, back down into the black walls, back into a warm but suffocating dark depth.

You wake up in the wreckage of your car, all twisted and contorted around you. Like some damaged relationship woefully beyond repair you are tangled in this metal and plastic. Some burned black, some stained, some bloodied. You recognise your car but it is now out of shape and strange as if some surrealist had painted it for you and place it around you in broken frames. Right things are in wrong places, shapes have changed and functions are now impossible. Then you realise you can see this wreck of a car but you are not actually inside it, you are elsewhere. Darkness falls.

Ambulance, silence, noise, your own internal panic and confusion. Shaky movement, voices and blurred edges to everything. Walking across dreamscapes, warm, cold, happy. Sharp pain dull pain and the constant relay of near and far memories.

Back to the white room, back to those white liquid walls that stand and yet flow at the same time, solid yet pulsating, thick as hard concrete one moment and paper thin the next, so thin you can see light and shapes, movement and shadows run behind them. The white room is peace. All is peace and then the black ceiling descends.

Them smell of 1959 is in your nostrils, first day at school, lady teachers with soprano voices and floral prints. The smell of the teacher, the class, the noise, the crack of the chalk, the snap of the book shutting. The cream portable loudspeaker is brought into the room for radio plays and music, static and trailing wires. Sitting cross legged on the linoleum and not daring to move, wanting to whisper, snigger, fidget, give in and forget to be good.

Kennedy is dead, black and white TV in 425 grainy lines, polished wood and open coal fires, I don’t know when, you don’t know when. Brown coins, grey shirts, scarves, a grey landscape and wish for time to pass. You have the feeling of powerlessness and entrapment. School, home, school and a dull inevitability that gnaws. The steady dropping of the leaves of a dying house plant, over fed but under nourished, drowning in water and dying of thirst, needing warmth and light, getting only reflections and cold.

You don’t give a damn about Vietnam because this is Scotland and everything that is in the fire will always burn eventually. What are computers anyway (?) and all the cars have funny names and people think that going on strike will solve their problems. You shift you weight from Tuf shoe to another Tuf shoe, animal trackers with a secret compass in the heal but what’s the point of knowing where north is, when you in the street outside you house? Twin tub washing machine leaks and squeaks and needs constant repair and there are only one or two phones round here. No adventure.

You search for the hidden paragraph buried in the book, page after page of blinding words and perfect sentences. The grammar trips and rushes, the punctuation like railway points and signals governing your speeding breath and lurching pace. Sailing away on this tall tale while the rain pelts at the thinnest window glass, no adequate barrier for cold, but you remain undistracted. Knees drawn up under the blanket, bell, book, torch and candle, the wicked witch of reading and secrecy. Silently turn the cream pages and break your concentration as you think about esparto grass and how bales of it come into the country on rusty ships and are unloaded in more rain or under watery sunlight. That paragraph’s location remains a secret.

Man has landed on the moon. You hear that an American man has stepped on the surface of that great cheesy, distant orb. Somehow the moon is not far enough away to matter. Summertime in Midlothian. Fried eggs and burnt bacon sizzling on black hot plates, tortured by sweaty army cooks. You are watching Top of the Pops and starting to dislike it, you are not quite sure why.

What is the point of having power if you cannot abuse it?

A fine dusting of snow is covering the cracks on the pavement, walking to school, shorts and anorak. Your legs are red with the stinging cold, you head is down. The snow starts to blind and you realise that this kind of snow is no fun, it is panic snow and the coldness on you, gripping you is now a bitter pain. The wetness on you cheeks is snow mixed with tears you don’t recall crying, you want to be home, you want your legs to move faster and eat up these daily seen familiar streets, the bumps and breaks in the surfaces, the splitting tree roots, the uneven kerbs, the bright gates, the rotting gates, the cast iron gates. The cars that are parked and never seem to move, the vegetable man and the post office van, all for once with an added free frozen topping. You want to get home.

Smoking is not what you thought it would be, why should you have to learn to smoke, isn’t it a natural thing to do? Does it make everybody seem so sick? Growing up and the pleasures that grown ups enjoy are all so bitter sweet, so much so, in the midst of this sick, queasy and dizzy feeling, they are only ridiculous. Why can adults refrain from smoking and drinking? I’m sure that goes for all those other odd pleasures they hint at, those x certificate things you don’t understand. Why don’t they just eat sweeter and more elaborate sweets and avoid all these acrid and acidic adult poisons?

Boys have nobs (do you spell it with a silent “k”?) and girls have fannys. Silent letters are fun. Teacher tells you all about them, rules and rhymes to help you remember the contradictions in English. So why isn’t it called British? Do Burns and Walter Scott and R L Stevenson figure in English Literature? Questions come far too quickly and easily to you at this age. I wish that I were you now but back then.

You don’t like Garry Glitter or T Rex, those guys are twats, and as for the Bay City Rollers, you wonder what on earth has become of decent music. The seventies started with such promise, where the hell did glam rock come from? At least we finally got a colour TV, how strange a best it is, a total distraction in this dull sitting room, like some fountain of acid experience running over and over, getting brighter and more explosive each moment. Swimming pools and palm trees and green hills look fantastic, such a colourful world out there yet to be explored.

Trauma, more lights, more action, more muffle voices far away, is that rain. You feel rain on your face, warm rain? Blood. Some body is singing in your ear, or is it a tannoy message or a phone or lo-fi lift music? You hate the questions forming in your head; they pile up like unanswered emails in a traffic jam of riotous information not flowing or making sense. You fall asleep again.


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Projects (FTMT Homework)



Writing projects you may care to try.

Polish Tomato customs

Bringing together all the FTMT stories.

Looking up skirts without being noticed.

A deer in the bushes and other local wildlife.

Syrus Sea Cat revisited.

The giant black bunny.

Two eyed Cyclops.

A single singed eyebrow.

Shelves stuck to walls.

In search of a quiet life.

Titles listed like a library.

Index of snakes.

Bloody twisted Tuesday.

The sacred heart of Dora Bryan.

A list of all that’s good.

Clouds on view.

A dictionary of facial expressions.

Tippy tappy keyboards.

My answer's in the guitar.

Family squabbles.

I married somebody else.

The legitimate guide to fraud and robbery.

Ways to make it with witches.

Misleading signposts.

Why bother with motorways?

An education for West Coasters.

Types of ginger snaps not made by Macvities.

Why you can’t kick start your motor cycle

A wide enough aeroplane seat.

Cooking with onions.

Have a holiday on £10 a day.

The children’s secret film book.

Mud slices.

The Dummies guide to crossing bridges.

New York’s tattoo parlours in the 1940s.

The single pearl.

Terms of adornment.

Cultivating human hair.

The Scottish bamboo planter’s handbook.

Banjo playing made easy (deaf edition).

How to prevent a singed beard.
Rabbits and their habits

Is a Twix well named?

The difficulties of steering a steering committee

Plundering the Andes for fun.

The fake shipwrecks of Wester Ross

Soon to be an orphan

The fudge and marshmallow dictionary

My self portrait justified.

Seeing is not the same as believing.

Thin friends and how not to upset them

The single man’s guide to dealing with uptight women.

Body language in Samoa

Short Stories about short lives

Why pipe smoking is coming back

The proper use of full stops in business conversations

How to estimate your bodily hair count.

How to make a will that will annoy your family

Thinking about rock pools

What foods not to add an egg to.

The single happiest day of my life

Collecting kettles from old farm houses

Confessions of a charlatan

The many ways of arranging socks

Midsummer nights scents

A cock crowed and a crow answered

Not all of the Rolling Stones are still alive

How to recognise motorway madness when it strikes your family

Budget air travel in Pakistan

The House of Tudor: Pioneers of wooden confectionary.

The black heart of Africa transplanted by Dr Christian Barnard’s ex wives.

Piffle from the pulpit

A number of late nights in Scarborough

Random kinds of actress

The strange smell of a muddle

Booking train seats on-line

How to lip-read swearing priests

Bar code strategies

Seven great ways to win in life

Motorcycle madness examined

Other forms of English

The cat’s pyjamas don’t fit him

Smuggling bibles into heaven

The Indian rope trick in 27 languages

Smiling with false teeth.