Since mums death, I have been living in her bungalow. I put the place up for sale shortly after the funeral and have been lucky to have found a buyer. Now it's just a case of waiting for the surveyors report and then signing contracts. The fact there is damp in two rooms is a worry. Fortunately, as I am so impractical, a neighbour pointed it out to me before telling me how to remedy the problem which I have done.
I claim to be a loner. That is someone happy in their own company. That is true, however, living totally on your own in someone else's home with the ghosts of their memories is proving to be far harder a task than I thought.
Every time I enter the garage, which was once dad's domain, I feel his presence. His jacket, jumper and old carpet slippers are still hanging from a peg on the wall. Sometimes I see him there, bent over a length of timber, sawing it in half.
I found I had to either give mum's things to charity shortly after her death or throw them away. I guess we are all different but I couldn't face the prospect of opening a wardrobe door and seeing her clothes lined up on hangers. Her face, that final last gasp where she seemed to suck in as much air as possible, haunts me.
Even though Thumbscrew pops over every week bringing my grandsons with her (Oh, what a joy they are!) and Saturday having been renamed, by me at least, to Squidday, is the day upon which, come hell or high water, I see Charlotte. Or even the Café met-ups shared by Tweezil and me are insufficient to take away the hollow hours that evening drags in. Those long hours of night time. This means that I either spend time writing, watching a DVD or TV, listening to music or reading.
Yes, I know loads of people are on their own but it's not the being on my own that I dislike, it is the living somewhere, albeit temporarily, that gets to me. It isn't my home. I miss the lack of intelligent conversation. OK, you might say that is a one way street for how can anyone hold an intelligent conversation if I am involved? The only answer I can provide to that is with a loud raspberry.
This is being a loner. This is a total absence of companionship.
Thank goodness for music. Specifically, these three artists whom I have been playing. Sturgill Simpson's 'A Sailor's Guide To Earth,' isn't actually released until the 15th but I have heard bits, some very interesting songs, via the FREE CD that comes with 'UNCUT' magazine, the cover version of Nirvana's 'In Bloom,' and by checking out iTunes.
It is a stonking album. Rough around the edges but solid at the core. There remains a country sensibility but it is not easily dismissed as purely that. It is so much more. 'Brace For Impact (Live a Little)' has muscle. It had me prancing around the room, windmilling my arm as I played my invisible guitar. Definitely an album for this year. One for repeated playing.
Same with Ben Watt's 'Fever Dream.' Ex-Everything But The Girl songwriter Watt's has conceived an album that links arms with pop, folk, rock and jazz yet never compromises its vision for producing well-honed songs. Having Bernard Butler on guitar adds a vital ingredient. Again, this is an album that demands to be heard, to be listened to and then absorbed. The lyrical content seems to be about relationships. Truly worth a listen.
Finally, there is that girl, Cate Le Bon, who, in my mad mind, at least, is floating somewhere between Bjork and St. Vincent. Not floating as such as that implies drifting. Cate doesn't do drifting. Cate has an objective, a thrust that is as irresistible as it is compelling. 'Crab Day' challenges; especially with the top cropped melodies, the brittle guitar and the warped feel of sliding across a frying pan, gas lit beneath you while holding a box of matches in your hand.
Then there'ss been TV. Too often a complete waste of time. Programmes that are either repeats or merely dull. Sometimes simply dull repeats.
Two shows did it for me. I found them to be compulsive viewing. They were good in every regard. They were: 'Dickensian,' and 'Shetland,'
'Dickensian' deserves all the praise, along with the obligatory awards, it has received. Tony Jordan took a multitude of Charles Dickens characters from their various novels, gathered all the loose threads, then wove them into a single narrative. Set in the period piece best equipped for such a tale to be told - Christmas. We bear witness to the intrepid Inspector Bucket as he investigates the murder of Ebenezer's partner, Jacob Marley. Yes, it was a murder mystery with the slight feel of a soap-opera. It was an incredible piece of television with a cast of actors selected impeccably well especially Stephen Rea whose deliberate, measured, clipped delivery was a delight to hear and watch.
'Shetland' is a detective series set on, unsurprisingly, the Scotish island. It is one of Anne Cleeves crime fictions, a quartet of books featuring Inspector Jimmy Perez. The six-episode series impressed me with its imaginative plot, its utterly believable characters and the manner in which the story twists and turns upon its self which has the effect of keeping the viewer forever on his toes.
Without going into too much detail as the plot is quite dense, a thread within the tale features the rape of a female police officer - Detective Sergeant Alison Macintosh, or 'Tosh' as her colleagues call her. Only two people know of the rape, three if you count the rapist, 'Tosh' and her boss Jimmy Perez. She tells him she doesn't want anyone knowing and tries to continue working on the case as though nothing has happened. She wrongly assumes guilt for the crime committed against her even though Perez, and the viewers all know there is only one person guilty here - the man who raped her.
"called names, you know, the names women always get called. I’m police, I’m trained, I should’ve known better…I made it easy for him.”
At this point, eyes filled with tears as I screamed in rage at my poor old TV set. "Don't blame yourself, get the bastard." Pointless I know but it goes some way to show how tense, how good the drama was.
The scene that so impressed me was the point at which she decides to tell her older colleague, the rather plump, patriarchal, desk sergeant, Billy McCabe. She walks in the door, he is sitting at a desk typing at his laptop. A bit of banter ensues then she tells him the truth, NO, she infers it. He rises from his seat, tears in his eyes, seeking to comfort 'Tosh' yet knowing he can't, even going to far as to say how he wants to hug but knows that's the last thing she wants. It was an amazing piece of acting. How actor Lewis Howden managed to portray the reactions of the fictional policeman is beyond me, as was the withdrawn, tense way in which actress Alison O'Donnell conducted herself. Absolutely staggering. So very moving.
'Legend.' The film, the second I can recall relating the story of the infamous Kray Twins was horrible. The film, the cast, especially Tom Hardy, were excellent but the subject matter, the truth if you like, the things that they the Krays did, alarmed and terrified me. How two men could so enact such random violence is detestable. I enjoyed the acting but the fild filled me with dread.
Books I have read have been, as ever, many. Phoebe Hoban superb biography of Lucian Freud, such a great artist given a biog that fits the subject well. W. Stephen Gilbert's equally good 'Jeremy Corbyn - Accidental hero.' Baroness Orczy's 'The Scarlet Pimpernel,' good perhaps, a classic maybe but not for me. Michael Peppiatt's acclaimed biography on Francis Bacon, 'Anatomy of an Enigma,' which I thoroughly enjoyed and finally, the virtually unknown Frances Veron's debut novel, 'Privileged Children.' Again, not an obvious choice for me but what an incredible author - still worth a read.
Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.