Friday, 24 September 2010

Roy Hodgson's appearance in Christina Aguileras Dirrty Video

For those that know me, they will know that my brain synapses fire in some bizarre ways....

On witnessing the dejected figure of Roy Hodgson the other night, tramping onto the Anfield turf in pouring rain, following their defeat on penalties to Northampton town, soaked to the bone, but still maintaining some semblance of Croydon dignity (always keep your suit buttoned up son, and never take your tie off), a seed planted itself in my mind.

That night, I had a dream, that Roy Hodgson had a bit part in Christina Aguilera's Dirrty video, so on waking up I trawled youtube to see if he had some little cameo, as a site foreman, shaking his finger at the soaking wet dancers because of health and safety concerns as they hip thrusted and gyrated towards each other, battering each other with their powerful invisible sex waves, pounding poor Roy back through the door and out of the video altogether.

But on review (and I reviewed it several times) he wasn't actually in the video, despite me convincing myself that he was.

Dreams are a powerful device, Jung would have loved me.

Anyway, seeing as it would cost several million dollars to make my dream a reality, I've mocked up how this video would have looked through the power of my limited MS Paint skills.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Nansen and the Fram

I’ve just finished reading Nansen, by Roland Huntford. Below is my review of the book. I’m into books on extreme conditions and how it effects the human psyche, the impact of leadership and how even great people can be flawed. Fridtjof Nansen ticks all of these boxes. I really felt for him reading this book, despite his achievements, deep down he was fragile and full of doubt, something we can all relate to I’m sure.
As an aside, the Fram museum in Oslo is wonderful, you get to crawl around the ship and it’s full of mementos and artefacts from the expeditions by Nansen and Amundsen. In some ways, the Fram is the embodiment of the whole golden age of polar exploration, getting to farthest north, surviving the ice pack, then later carrying Amundsen to the brink of the South Pole, where he beat Captain Scott in that legendary race. So it was a real privilege to climb aboard!
There’s a picture of me at the wheel (or whatever mariners call it!) somewhere, grinning like a twonk, which I’ll dig out at some stage.
But for now…

Review: Nansen, Roland Huntford.
Having been to Oslo and visited the Fram, the ship almost as famous as those great explorers who sailed in her, Nansen and Amundsen, I wanted to finally get to grips with this weighty tome which has sat on my shelf gathering dust for a few years.
Huntford presents a brilliantly researched book building up a character profile with little need to make broad judgements as to Nansen the man. Conjecture is kept to a minimum in light of journal entries and letters supporting the conclusions made where fact is perhaps ambiguous.
To say Nansen was complicated was an understatement. I felt a deep sense of sadness when reading about him. An academic, an intellectual, a visionary genius, yet a true man of action in the Viking tradition of hardy adventure, he was able to adapt the polar experience of indigenous peoples, be they Sami or Inuit, without any western arrogance. He was ahead of his time.

Compassionate on a broad level, dedicated to the survival and health of his men, yet unable to relate to people at an individual level, he must have been extremely confusing for those closest to him. Be they his colleagues out on the ice or his loved ones back home. Letters and diary entries from those that explored with him were filled with anger about his mood swings and occasional arrogance. Following his first crossing of Greenland, he commissioned the building of the Fram, a tough ship customised to handle the intense pressure of polar ice.
After leaving the Fram embedded in ice, he struck out with Johanssen for the pole. After getting "Farthest North" but sensibly not overextending themselves in trying to reach the pole itself, they suffered together, eventually reaching Franz Josef land where they overwintered, sharing a sleeping bag together for months, through dark polar winter. Nansen was unselfish and truly democratic in the necessities of survival and yet it didn't seem he forged any great friendship. Loyal he was to a degree (sometimes apparent in later life when he intervened to get his former comrade work or send him loans) yet it was all arms length. And it was a tragedy that Nansen couldn't face the funerals of those closest to him as they slowly fell around him as he got older. Huntford captures this well, the inner turmoil of the man so emotive in his letters and diary and the cold outward exterior becoming of a statesman. He wanted the best for people, but even his own children found him oppressive and perhaps unloving (unless they were skiing). The relationship with his wife Eva comes to life through extracts of letters and telegrams. There is a sweet innocence about their love for each other, but he couldn’t communicate with her when he was with her, away in reveries or research, or in the confidence of other women.
It's awesome fast paced stuff, but fizzles out a bit.
He seemed continuously searching for purpose in his later life and it seemed a recurring theme was he only came to life, when talking about his exploits on the ice.

I feel the weakest chapters relate to the work around the soviet union, famine relief and the population exchanges between Greece and Turkey after the first world war. The complexities around the politics were briefly covered (even this was hard going) but some subtlety seemed to have been missed. All soviet officials and leaders seemed to be fundamentally flawed for instance, ogres or effeminate conniving bullies but this is probably unfair in light the book would needed to have been twice the length to capture all the subtleties needed.
All in all, a great read about the father of modern polar exploration.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Bones and ligaments and flesh and blood……

It’s weird, I can write quite happily about torn flesh, splintered bone and gushing blood. My short stories contain quite gory details at times, but this is cartoon violence, ridiculous, over the top, from the stygian depths of my imaginata (as Garth Merengi was oft to say).
Should I see some mundane act however, for example an injection, or pretend surgery in some tv doctor drama, I immediately go pale, feel queasy, break out in a cold sweat and adopt a floppy helpless manner like someone whose taken a cup full of horse tranquilisers. It’s mostly about blood, not the site of blood, but the thought of it. It’s hard to explain…. but blood keeps us alive, it surges through us thousands upon thousands of times a day. The thought of lacking in blood makes me feel weak. I don’t want to be an empty husk… I think this is what its about. Being transformed into a medjool date. Shrivelled and full of dust, like a mummy.
So when I had an MRI scan on my knackered ankle and was told I needed to be injected with a dye half way through (cue scanner operator saying without irony “you’ll feel a small prick”) I felt a vague anxiousness. They were going to corrupt my blood. They were going to poison my very essence. As opposed to “steal” my blood, which causes an equal effect of horror within me.
I lay down on the table, my leg was immobolised in a cradle, the headphones I was given were playing low volume classical music, Pachabel’s canon I think. It was barely audible above the noise of the creature who consumed me, the MRI machine loomed above me as I slid into its belly. I closed my eyes to relax. Menacing and clinical it snarled and growled at me. Grinding cogs and levers seemed to be churning inside it, like some Victorian steam powered calculating engine. I loosely held the emergency button, I guess it’s there for those people who find the whole experience claustrophobic. But I didn’t mind the confines of the room, or the disconcerting din of the scanner splicing and dicing images of my bones and flesh this way and that.
See examples of my ankle scans below – disgusting isn’t it? That there’s this sort of shit inside you?!
This is a cross section across the ankle, tibia and fibia being clearly visible. The second shows a cross section of the foot itself. The ligament I’ve torn connects the tib and fib. Yuk.
After what seemed like an age, the classical music was interrupted by the scanner operators jolly tones. “The first parts finished, I’ll come in and inject you with the dye now.”
Silence from the machine. The music stopped. The table slid back out. Jonah had daylight again.
I didn’t make eye contact with her as she came in, I was businesslike in my tone, perhaps brusque verging on rude. I hope she appreciated she knew it was because I was nervous. I tried to explain. “I don’t mind injections, as long as I don’t have to watch.” She chuckled and started telling me about previous patients, who couldn’t take the dye, whose veins collapsed. This is not what I wanted to hear. When she asked me to clench my fist and I felt the wet dab on the soft flesh inside my elbow joint, I imagined the blue veins glistening and prominent on the skin. I clenched as hard as i could, but the strength was ebbing away, my hand was weak, I scrunched my eyes. I felt the needle, no real pain, as I expected, just that small prick she promised. She rattled about, i guess trying to get the dye in. “What’s happening?” I asked, head facing away, eyes closed. “It’s not taking I’m afraid… in fact, your vein has collapsed. Going to try another.” There was a tiny hint of doubt in her voice, maybe she was inexperienced at this? Maybe I didn’t clench hard enough, but I imagined the needle shooting out and a spray of blood caressing the walls, which was of course ridiculous, but my mind had gone into mental mode. I felt weaker. Sicker.
“Clench your first again please” she said. I did as bidden, again, my fist was weak. The cold dab of wet cotton on my arm. Vein no 2, needle no 2. Collapse no 2. She was trying to be upbeat, perhaps to hide her inexperience and put me at ease. But telling me “oh dear, this one’s collapsed too” was not the best choice of words. So when she did it a third time and announced it with the same happy nervous chirp my arm felt like a cold mackerel with no strength left to lift, let alone clench a fist, she grabbed the emergency buzzer from my other hand and pressed it herself! “I’m so sorry, you’ll have three bruises tomorrow.” I imagined my poor butchered arm, fit for nothing, no blood pushing through the broken veins, my fingers cold and dead, like a vampire.
Her colleague came in, she just told her to do her best with the procedure without the dye. I felt her sticky plaster me up. She was apologetic. It wasn’t her fault, she didn’t know what was going through my brain though. So back into the belly of the beast, more classical music (J.S Bach) more grinding and whirring, snarling and chomping. The MRI machine was smacking its chops. It tasted my blood.
My most creative moments of inspiration are at times of unhappiness or great stress. So whilst being devoured by the machine I imagined that perhaps they were preparing me, to eat. The scan was… Analysing my calorie content, nutritional value, body mass index, whether my flesh was more suited to garlic or thyme. A slight smile developed. I’ll write a short story, a vaguely funny one, but dark. The following will appear in it, in some form. It’s a bit formulaic, but I like the concept, something to build on.
As he emerged from the machine, he heard her voice, distant and tinny. He felt the medical lamps, warm and bright knocking at his eyelids, but his eyes remained shut.
“there is no immediate visible damage from the scan, your leg looks perfectly delicious, I mean healthy. We do wish to keep you in overnight however.. for a marinade. I mean, observation. And tomorrow, all being well, the chef, I mean doctor, will come and prepare you, I mean discharge you.”
Aghast at what he’d just heard, he rolled his head towards the voice and opened his eyes. He screwed up his face, trying to protect his eyes from the glare. The young woman stood there, a small glass, drained of liquid just leaving her lips, a messy scarlet glob trickled down her chin. She put the glass aside and wiped the liquid away from her lips with the back of her hand, leaving a red smear across her mouth and hand. She hungrily licked at the hand, slurping noisily.
“My blood, give me back my blood….” he whispered. He tried to raise his arm, but it didn’t respond, just a slight flicker of registration, he glanced at it, pale, skeletal and emaciated. He had no strength, they’d taken it from him. Stolen it.
She walked towards him. She rubbed his forehead, as if she really cared, her hand was soft. She dabbed a finger in his mouth, he tasted the metallic tang of his own blood still hanging on her skin. “You need to relax. Stress makes the meat less tender, I mean pushes your blood pressure up. So try to sleep my sweet. You’ll be well looked after here.”