A Day that Made Me Think about Pleasant and Unpleasant as Things

Bank Holiday Monday arrived.  I felt relatively fresh but we woke late.  Breakfast was pretty simple : just cereal, coffee.  Laura and I ended up feeling a bit hungrier than normal at lunchtime and we wanted to go out somewhere.  I briefly pondered driving to Beckton Nando’s but I thought, you know what, let’s support the local economy.  By local, I mean, the Upton Park segment of Barking Road.

We mooted a few destinations.  It would have been really nice to head to Ercan’s Fish Bar, or Robin’s Pie and Mash, but both were shut (sensibly, it being a Bank Holiday and a day of rest).  So, good luck to them.  We ended up in Friends Cafe and I plumped for a fry up.  Laura got a sandwich as they had run out of bagels.

We sat near the front of the cafe and behind us were three guys, one of who was the ringleader.  He was a small time wrong ‘un, who in between speaking with his mouth full of various bits of his fried breakfast, spent his time liberally filling the place with swearwords.  He told of us riding round in stolen cars, his friend headbutting a PCSO, him getting beat up in ‘deep, deep Plaistow’.  It was unpleasant.  He was very loud and he must have known how unpleasant he was.

My breakfast was unpleasant.  The fries (I know, I know, but it came with either fries or hash brown and I went for fries) were soggy and limp and cold.  The beans lukewarm.  The sausage was a strange saveloy type of thing.  I mean, it’s not hard to do a good fry up.  The eggs and toast were okay.

We hopped on a bus to Stratford and got stuck in stop-start traffic.  At one point the driver deigned to switch on the air con, which in a rare diversion for the day, was pleasant.  Then we got to Stratford and had a pint at Eddy’s, which was pleasant.  But these were rare beacons.

Then we headed through the mega busy town centre, now strewn with tin can high rise rotundas.  In the plaza, loud music blared and a man dressed in a monkey suit half-heartedly did some strange ‘dance’.  Kids rode through thronged crowds on BMX bikes, narrowly missing pedestrians, each other.  We walked to the fun fair but it was charging an entrance fee.  That’s right.  £1 a head to get *in* to a fucking fun fair.  Things have changed.

Then we rode back, and the guy behind us had a hugely loud phone conversation right into our ears, all the way back.  We moved but in that seat, too, loud phone conversations.  Generally I just sat there and stared into space and I thought about how generally unpleasant it was and that, perhaps, it was down to the selfishness of others that this busy bus was also turned into a telephone exchange.  Perhaps it is to be expected in a big City, but the soggy fries and sad lukewarm beans and the shouty thug in the cafe showing off to his two eager friends and the bedlam of late period Capitalism that is Westfield Stratford, its £6 ShakeShack burgers drawing gawping crowds, I don’t know.  All very unpleasant.  There were beacons, you know.  But a general mien of ‘this isn’t really that nice.’

 

Canadiana

I’ve been on holiday in Winona, Ontario these past few days with my wife, staying at her parents’ house.  It’s a bit of a shift from our red brick terrace in East Ham, London.  Right now I am drinking a Jack Daniels Gentleman Jack from a plated silver chalice.  If this were a lifestyle blog I would add a picture but it is better if you imagine the chalice.  It is slightly bent out of shape and I could only half clean it (I ran out of Silvo, Brasso’s posher cousin) so it has dark patches of oxidization.  It has some inlay on the handle (leaf patterning) and a circular base of around an inch in radius.

Gentleman Jack, by the way, is twice mellowed.  They run it twice through the charcoal filter (the Lincoln County Process), once before ageing and one again after.  It really is exceptionally smooth and can easily be drunk in large measures with no ice or mixer.  Especially from a silver cup.  I recommend it.

We’ve been driving around in Betty’s Pontiac Sunfire (Laura’s relative, who is over 90 and doesn’t drive any more).  The Sunfire is aubergine coloured, purchased from Nissan Leggat, and automatic transmission.  The suspension is pretty much shot and it doesn’t like uphill gradients anymore, but the tape deck works just fine and we’ve been listening to some old tapes – Elton John’s Yellow Brick Road and The Cranberries.  In the Pontiac Grand Prix, my wife’s parents’ car, the only CD we have for the CD player is “Grammy Nominees 1996” (or possibly ’97).  Coolio’s ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ and Alanis Morrisette’s ‘You Oughta Know’ have been on repeat along with TLC and Joan Osborne.  Rolling up to the lights, window down, singing along to Coolio’s haunting paean for a gritty project life that is difficult to escape from was a particular highlight although it lost much of its effect as I was/am wearing a camel-colour duffel coat with wood toggles.  No one else is dressed like me, right up the Lee Cooper high-tops with faux fir trim.  I felt out of place browsing the Dad jackets and terrible golfing polo shirts in Sears, yesterday.  The prices were good: they are unfortunately made for the wrong decade.

I wrote ‘CLEAN ME PLZ’ on the Pontiac while we were stopped over in Hamilton and I got a lot of shit for it.  It’s hard to keep cars clean here as the road up to the house is a private dirt track.  No one found it funny when we got back home and Laura had to wipe it off with a napkin.  She refuses to take it to a car wash and the dirt trapped in the headlamps has run out, making it look like the car is crying and its mascara has run.

I have been writing the third installment of ‘B30’, my Michael Trilling short story series.  It is nearly done and I will hopefully get it up on the Kindle Store soon for 79p, please do drop by and pick up a copy.  Parts 1 and 2 are already up there.

As I write this I look out on the Fifty Cemetery.  It’s right next to the house and a sobering reminder to drink up, drink up: it’s later than you think, friends.

Fridays

Miasmic kind of humidity that saps the energy.  This is the ground-down fag end fuck up at the end of the week.

SOHO and a bottle of wine in one of those fancy wine coolers that no one wants to drink and

At one point I have three drinks on this table, a whisky, a lager and a wine.   There is:

A nightclub called, in all caps, “STRATFORD’S GOT SWAGGA” and Ye Olde Black Bull is Hopper tonal colours into the dusk and we have:

A BIG shopping centre and a new(ish) train station selling all manner of worldy goods at top dollar prices.

This is the 104 bus and it sweeps past the old shopping centre and we’re onto the Portway and back into a land of aloo chana in a tray for 99p and someone is cooking something and I make some fish and chips but its battered oven cook haddock and I wonder about that aspirational quality that YOU had for the Instagram filtered perfection of a life already looked at in vintage rose-tint.

We all have our nostalgia fetishes I guess.

USA: 1

Where do I stand when I exercise an inward reflection? I sit and ponder because something has been nagging at me in Dallas.  I’ve been having bad dreams with long, narrative stretches.  I have woken early, unsure of their reality, and beset by their visceral nature.

Dallas is uneasy. The Downtown area has large empty buildings and a large vagrancy problems. The 7-11s are bright and disturbing.  None of us feel safe walking anywhere. Nor is the city designed for walking.

There is something I need to do and a sense of homesickness that manifests itself as a keening distate at the size and vulgarity of certain things. But it’s not a fair judgement and it isn’t even based on very much evidence.

I sit and feel the fretful energies of childhood anxiety beat out their unearthly half-life.