An Unclever Day

This isn’t a great entry. I keep starting and stopping at it, then giving up. I think I’m just having a rather unclever day, and that’s fine. At least there’s been recent diary entries which have spawned three lines I’m pretty pleased with (“My CV has only one sentence: “Don’t you know who I AM?”; “Happiness can be so depressing”; and “Crowds can make one feel so lonely”).

If there were three novels which each had one of those lines as their opening sentence, I’d buy them. That’s the benchmark for me. The only point-scoring is with oneself.

Much of this sluggishness is probably just being hungover. Last night I happily polished off a bottle of extremely pleasant Bulgarian Chardonnay while half-watching the Eurovision Song Contest with Taylor Parkes.

Suffice it to say that there is no way on earth I would watch this broadcast alone or sober. Getting drunk with a friend in front of bad TV (by which I mean the kind which invites talking over, or indeed shouting at) is such a simple and lovely pleasure. Particularly with someone with whom there’s less than zero chance of any tipsy snogging. There’s a line from one of the newer Fosca songs where a character accidentally says out aloud “If alcoholic sex doesn’t count, I’m a virgin”.

And again, because I’m not feeling particularly clever today, just typing out that lyric is terribly comforting. I find my daily life is a constant battle of self-justification, and I now realise why there are so many award ceremonies. I’ve yet to won a proper award of merit myself, unless you count a poem I wrote at school about South Africa, which won Highly Commended in the Suffolk Free Press. Ye gods, it was terrible. Like those films which win Oscars purely because they contain the things Oscar-winning films are meant to contain, I was only too aware I was writing to an award-baiting formula, writing to please the competition judges, not to please myself or to find out new things about myself. I also suspect there were no other entries.

Similarly I’d much rather read and indeed write a strange but fun novel about, say, a sarcastic iguana driving a lorry full of eyelids to a winking conference, than some brow-beating tome about characters ‘finding themselves’ and ‘learning a valuable lesson about life’. Unless it’s the iguana with the eyelids doing the self-discovery in question.

But this approach can work against oneself, too. There’s a notorious cliche of pompous rock interviews that goes “We just do what we do and if anyone else likes it it’s a bonus.” Still, that’s entirely fair enough, however hoary and common the sentiment.

I would say I do write to be read, or to be listened to. But I also write in order to make what doesn’t exist, and should exist, exist. Whether or not I’m successful in this, and how original or not it appears to be is down to the reader or listener. I start some dance steps, and offer my hand, and try my best. With this entry I’m tripping over my own feet somewhat, but better that than sitting it out and leaving the dancefloor empty (or indeed my metaphors flailing like dying insects).

Of all the songs released since time began, I’m fairly certain not one contains the lyric “If alcoholic sex doesn’t count, I’m a virgin.” And I really want there to be one. That’s why I want to make the song, finish it, and release it to the world.

Yesterday I applied this approach to deciding what to do with my daytime. “Today, I must see new things and visit new places, within my budget of next to nothing,” I promised myself.

So I visited a giant squid preserved in a tank, touched specimen jars from Darwin’s Beagle voyage, opened a beehive door to take a look inside, and drank a coffee in the quiet yet airy and stylish RIBA cafe.

(All of which win Highly Commended at today’s Dickon Edwards Awards for Nice London Things. The squid and specimens are on the Natural History Museum’s Darwin Centre tour, and the beehive is a new addition to its Wildlife Garden outside. The RIBA cafe is at 66 Portland Place, first floor.)