Moving Ahead Of The Weather

“Grab a shower.”

Sheep roaming on the green hills of Mortehoe. Blue sky. Clean, cold wind out of the west.

“No offence, mate, but you smell like a Frenchman.”

Thus, Bloggers, with the single most incredibly English remark I have ever heard IN MY LIFE, my November adventure began. And all the time I was moving ahead of the weather, though I didn’t know it.

One way or another.

So it was off to Sunny Devon, to Ifracombe and Woolacombe and all the other little -combes, to the jutting chaos of Morte Pointe, rambling all over it with a hyperextended knee like the guy in the movie where the ankle turns and the fog comes down, but…rocky coastline, cold water, lots of weather? EXACTLY MY TURF, and when you grow up on episodes of The Beachcombers you know all about turned ankles, you think about them constantly. So many people caught in Jack London scenarios not five miles from their homes, in that show! Stranded in the backyard. So maybe it wasn’t the best show we ever made, but HOO BOY the cautionary tale-ness of it for those who lived in Howe Sound! Because when the fog comes down and you’re thirty feet from shore, suddenly you might as well be thirty miles from it…if you’re not exceptionally mindful of your business…

So things went well, and I saw shows and played ping-pong with kids, enjoyed a civilized eating and drinking culture (GOD but I miss that when I’m back at home!), and I went to Wales. Such a pleasure to be back in a bilingual nation! And I had Proper Welsh Cheese, and Proper Welsh Ale, and Proper Welsh Rarebit, and got Proper Welsh Food Poisoning and had to take some Proper Welsh Codeine on the four-hour ride back in the car, but when you’re five thousand miles from home every point is the same distance away as any other point, really, and so then it was Off To Manchester, where they keep Dead Sea Scrolls in the public library. No doubt they have the King Tut exhibit going on alternate Wednesdays at the…

as seen on TV!

…Tattoo parlour across from Shudehill bus station, too! An important city in an important country, with an important history of pilfering stuff from other countries…so maybe the Dead Sea Scrolls came on loan, but still I was shocked to discover what I’d forgotten: that there’s noplace in this country where you might not happen upon archaeological treasures.

And then it was Glasgow again — Sunny Glasgow! — and the whole place quite mild enough to walk around it in a Hawaiian shirt and tablecloth-coloured shorts, and never did I come close to seeing any hint of violent tendencies wherever I went in the UK, but maybe that’s because I basically looked like a cartoon bear walking down the street, thus the street toughs (if such they were) no doubt took me for an hallucination, and thought it better not to appear disquieted just in case no one else could see me. So, y’know…

God bless the weather.

Though in Glasgow, that insouciant city, it does seem (albeit to a mere two-time visitor) that irreverence is the virtue most highly-prized among the people! “No act of spirit can be wrong against Karanada,” and all that: in Vancouver nobody likes a wiseguy, but in Glasgow everyone IS a wiseguy, and so if there’s nothing about you of the merry cosmic Go Fuck Yourself then you might’ve come to the wrong place, Traveller. And so I might have expected to do as well with the Hawaiian shirt even in colder weather. A guy on the bus tossing me the most enthusiastic thumbs-up I’ve ever seen…girls in coffee shops throwing in a little extra flirty sarcasm with the foam in the latte…kind Scottish ladies giving me directions on Garnet Hill, fareweel and adieu oh you ladies…well, what can I say, I really like the place. And for a while there it felt like scouting locations for Astro City UK, it really did…because surely there’s room yet, in this wide world, for a robot superhero named Irn-Bru?

Irn-Bro?

(Also, if you find yourself in St. George’s Cross, you could do a lot worse than to visit the William Bros. pub…)

…Aaaaand then it was back to Sunny Manchester, to continue my delightful stay in Levenshulme, then once again off to Sunny Leeds, where they had some sort of a comic book convention going on.

A few things to say:

1. Nobrow Publishing is like my new favourite publisher now.

2. There was some lovely poetry there.

3. I bought some quite nice things:

all good stuff...

...must come to an end

4. But didn’t get everything done that I’d meant to, because of all the places I might’ve chosen to go see Kate Beaton (which was my whole intention: I wanted to thank her for her bracing comments about the War of 1812, and also ask her what she thought of Chester Brown’s Louis Riel), this was the place where I had the LEAST chance of doing so, as this appealingly female-friendly con (so many girls who look like they play ukelele on YouTube!) with its gratifyingly VERY LONG lineup for the “Women In Comics” panel, was made for Kate Beaton fans. Seriously, I’d have a better chance if I just went to Cape Breton and sat on a bench ’til she turned up. Of course, I could have tracked her down at the afterparty…

G. Lactus and new herald the Grey Glaswegian at Taa-ship Xmas party 2012

But I was too busy playing chess with Steampunk HAL. Actually this party was quite amusing, as I got a chance to explain to Bobsy Mindless of the Clan Mindless what a “Gangnam Style” was — in the process reminding him, just as I’ll remind you, that we all agreed the Macarena must go, we all wanted it dead, so now we must live with the consequences of that decision — as the liquor flowed and the inhibitions dropped, and the comics folk that at the beginning seemed to feel a bit daunted by the space began to flood the floor in what I took for our own little Dance of the Saudi Princes, very heartening stuff indeed. “We belong here, in a room like this; we are the coolest of the cool now, and this is our time.” God is great, and only the Princes shall elect the King! Hah-ha, we used to be kings of sand, kings of nothing, but now look at us! It’s quite true, if you think about it…Janis Joplin pointed it out in the late Sixties, when it was true for musicians: “What’s the coolest city? San Francisco. And what’s the coolest neighbourhood in San Francisco? This one. And who’s the coolest person, in the coolest house, on this the coolest street, of the coolest neighbourhood, in the coolest city of the coolest country in the whole wide world?” ‘Cause as a matter of fact, as we discovered on the train, tomorrow never happens, maaaaan…

So: fun talking to Bobsy. But it didn’t stop there! For as the evening wore on I also got to see The Beast Must Die’s eerie teleportation powers at work, as he mysteriously shimmered into view — not unlike a boozy Jeeves — at odder and odder spots throughout the techno-zeppelin in question. Relocated on the supersphere! The Time-Traveller’s Drinking Buddy! Of course the beer at these things is always too pricey, and the bass too juddering for ears as ancient as mine once midnight rings, but it was worth it to see the genetically-engineered superbartenders and wait staff zip through the crowd on what must’ve been wires, because where I live we do not get that, we simply don’t get to see the effortless physical prowess of so many extraordinarily agile Spider-Women in clean white shirts and flat black pants practically pirouetting through the air to deliver drinks and remove trash! Where do these people really come from? How did they get so very, very good at this particular job?

But eventually one gets too tired for admiration, so off the Beast and I drifted, him to his hotel room and me to the hotel room of Messrs. Volume and Attack, where upon waking I beheld sunlight filtering through:

wake up screaming

A bottle of Irn-Bru, naturally; in that momentary lull before the hotel started to fold itself down into a fourth-dimensional sinkhole, toilets and elevators first…oh, you Lovecraftian Leeds!  And then it was back to the con.

And then Manchester again, and then on a bus to Sunny Somerset. Manchester was just starting to get tremendously grey as I left it, but it wasn’t just that weather I was ahead of. You know how in the States, when they make a movie about aliens possessing peoples’ bodies it always stands for Communism? Well, that happens in Doctor Who as well, but it isn’t about Communism.

It’s about the FLU. My God, I asked myself, is there nothing people in the UK are prepared to do about the onset of the flu? All around me on the train from Levenshulme, the tram to Shudehill, and all over the Northern Quarter, like the pitter-patter of tiny rainy feet: cough-cough, cough-cough. Cough-cough as they get on the tram, and cough-cough as they get on the coach, and the density of the sound always rising, like a chorus of frogs as night falls. Night falls, and in the morning we may not be the same as we were. Zombies, too, when seen through a British lens lose a bit of their philosophical heft for an altogether more quotidian sort of horror: cough-cough, cough-cough, you may be faster than us but you can’t outrun us. Aim for the head…

And then Exeter at last — and I should stress that each one of these cross-country trips was a lot like being mailed, another little glimpse of a science-fictional reality of the Galactic Empire kind…as Planet Manchester, so obviously the Trantor-like centre of the Galactic Empire we call the history of the Industrial Revolution, takes a good long while to get to from the Outer Planets, and a good long time to leave as well…for in Galactic Empires, even with hyperspatial people-mailing technology, the planets are still NOT VERY CLOSE TOGETHER if you want to get anywhere besides the very next planet over, so the thing works but it still isn’t easy, it works but it still demands exceptional effort from the individual to get along with it…as time and space still matter, and their proportionality still matters, even in the presence of transformative technology. The proportionality of space and time is not done away with by the miracle of rail line or motorway, only the impossibility of moving goods through it with any speed is done away with…and that doesn’t necessarily make things much easier on the people who have to do the moving, only on those doing the sending and receiving. But anyway only the courier, the soldier, and the spy move around as recklessly through time and space as the tourist does — perhaps because only to them is “home” so ludicrously distant as to make all locations as-good-as equidistant in the mind. Myself, I’m wont to travel with nothing but a knapsack — well, you would too, if there was no labour peace in your country anymore! — and my brain folds itself up in trains and buses and airplanes and ferries like a sweater long used as a pillow: anywhere you can recline is “home”, on a strictly provisional and temporary basis. So you don’t think about home, you think about where the knapsack is, and you just build a lot of contingencies into your plans, so you always have a Next Place to go to even if your Plan A screws up. But, Exeter…

Exeter was my one untethered leg of the trip, with no contingencies built onto it. What a strange place, is Exeter! Half the women in shapeless jeans of some apparently local manufacture, and the other half in tight leather pants. The other HALF in tight leather pants, just let that sink in. The strangest of places, in many ways by far the strangest place I’ve ever been. Exeter at night after the alternator belt blew on the bus, with time getting skinny for making it across town to the train station, from thence on the very last train to the station near my cousins’ house. The rain chasing me all the while, it should be said; as though when the rain caught up with me so would the space and so would the time, so would the flu and so would the shortcomings of the plan. Down, down to the Underworld! Out, out to the Galactic Rim! If there are many places in Britain that haven’t lost something they used to have, then I didn’t see them; if there are many places that haven’t chosen to take that loss on the chin and then keep on keeping on, somehow, then I didn’t pass through them. Everyplace you look, there was once a sturdily-anchored sort of wealth, that’s now gone…but that doesn’t seem to stop anyone, at least it doesn’t seem to be capable of stopping them forever. Down in Somerset at last, the sort of place people like the people in my family (including me) go to escape the frictions of a passing, possibly worsening time — such a talent we have for making cozy houses! — there was nonetheless a kind of weather beyond the kind that falls out of the sky at you and floods the roads…

Although my God, those roads! It’s been raining extra-heavy for a YEAR in some of the places I visited, and the modern infrastructure isn’t built to take it. Helicopters over the M5 certainly show that it doesn’t take any global-warming-driven hurricanes to lay the works of man low…even in the country, ten extra millimetres of rain a week will get that job done. So imagine what it’s going to be like in the cities! Those finely-tuned instruments, those meticulously-turned systems pressed into laminate…you don’t have to take them very far out of their operating parameters to get them losing money, and then it doesn’t even matter how much they lose, if they lose it year-over-year…

Yet even in Somerset, this still is: the chalk river in Dorchester flooding the nearby fields, while not too far away Prince Charles’ massive folly of a Model Village seems to be only missing Rover bouncing down its empty streets to signify a perfect horror. Machine-like, horrendous, it’s more Doctor Who villainy: the ghastly looming buildings only staying put while you’re looking at them, and when you look away off they go stamping out dreams of a livable life. Wind screams over the plain outside as you shop for little tidbits in the Waitrose in advance of Christmastime, inside a massive upended cereal box of cold brick — it definitely looks and feels like something, and unfortunately I’m only too well-placed to tell you what that something is: it’s the Arctic. Model town now; twenty years from now a place where Helen Mirren goes to convince people to testify about a murder, as all fiction is doomed to collide with reality at the other end, one day…as man is born to trouble, as indeed the sparks fly upwards! Last time it was impossible War-Of-The-Worlds windmills on the way up to Scotland, this time it’s Prince Charles as a villain whose grandiose plans Steed and Mrs. Peel have to foil. But back in Dorchester, back in Coker Marsh, and back in the rest of the non-Arctic UK generally, people still manage to keep ahead of the weather somehow, fictional and otherwise. I once said that London seemed to me like a place where people navigated shoals of fakery: new fakes that chafed, old fakes that soothed, and real things both new and old that every fake might be preferable to, except for the odd time when they were not. A hive of emotional activity, is London! is what I said then…

But perhaps that’s also true more generally, as clouds of all sorts threaten to roll in, and then out again, everywhere you look. People in specific seem quite capable of dealing with it all in good faith, even if people in general seem to lack this ability: the alternator belt blows, and driver and dispatcher execute a comedy routine with effortless grace over the radio — and everybody manages to get where they’re going. The man up the road in Coker Marsh digs out the old ditch that carries the water away from the flats, and the homes survive. Around the corner the goose farm has all the emergency provisions one could want, as doubtless back in Devon it’s not too hard to find a reason to stay out of Barnstaple for a few days. Perhaps the pub?

Perhaps the pub; but as for me, I managed to make it out, catching a train and then another bus when the rain briefly let up, and then I was heading east, just ahead of the weather, and just in time to see Heathrow vanish in the rear-view mirror as the plane took off and headed for Greenland…

Never to be heard from again!

At least, until next time.

terror in a teacup

man of the hour

sex sells, innit?

7 responses to “Moving Ahead Of The Weather

  1. Damn, WordPress doesn’t seem to care for my funny little alt-text things…maybe they’ve decided that alt-text is serious business, and if people want to use captions they should damn well use the captioning tool?

    Sigh. I’ll try to stick ‘em back in…

      • Fucking irritating. Something that worked perfectly fine last post, now works in a totally different way, and the thing I was doing before apparently I now cannot do.

        Musta been an “upgrade”, while I was away! I swear to God this upgrade-itis seems so childish to me at this point…

        “But wait, Yugi, there’s more! Now I’ll play my trap card, and summon an even BIGGER monster!”

        “Now you’re TWICE as fucked!”

        “But wait, Yugi, there’s more!”

  2. Oh my goodness, I just saw my comment-reply there again…my apologies, Ekko1, that was pretty rude and abrupt of me! I can only plead the bad day I must’ve been having, and hope you’ll see this and find yourself in a forgiving mood.

    Trading links still sounds like work, though? And vaguely SEO-oriented, and I have no interest at all, none, in SEO-anything. This is not a for-profit operation, no matter what may stand in for the currency, and even if it were I fear the days of Peak Plok are behind us. So…

    Forgive my previous impoliteness, but I still don’t know what that is, and still suspect it is not fun-based activity.

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