Michael Praetoriuswith the fourteenth act in his satirical series.So long, Hopalong Cassidy

So long, Hopalong Cassidy

Jean has hurt her leg.
 
Anyone who knows me will testify to my compassion nature.

But for several days now I have had to light the fire, and vacuum, and heat stuff up in the oven, and then wash the dishes. Not to mention taking the clothes out of the washing machine, and hanging them on the drying horse - which is a fiddly and annoying task.

On top of this I have to take Miss Lotte Lenya for walks, feed her, practise guitar, and continue reading a big biography of Harold Wilson that I've just started.

Maintaining Jean's good health is critical. But, mine is important too, and it's a heavy cross I bear now with all this extra work. And not only physically. I don't mind admitting that mentally, too, I'm close to breaking point. The pressure, for instance, of monitoring whatever I've taken out of the box, pierced the film cover of, and put in the oven, is intense, because if I forget to ask Alexa to set an alarm for the required heating time, the stuff will be burned to a crisp.

And I could give many other examples of such stress stacking up on my shoulders. So much so that I've been left with no choice, if I'm to come out of this alive and still sane, but to trawl the local nursing homes to find her a place where she can limp along for the rest of her life.

Buddy, can you spare a dime ... ?

Canny busking coup by yours truly.

Who was musicianing outside Waterstone’s bookshop at 5 am one morning recently ... ? Knowing that it was opening at 6 30 to meet the huge demand for Harry's blockbuster. Long, long queue of morons, stretching way down the street and round the corner. But, when in Rome do as the Romans do, so I knew I had to lay into the other Royals.

Yes, the rest of them are a pack of evil bastards, I said to a woman who, almost in tears, was lambasting Harry's birth family to me.

He and Meghan have been treated like lepers, she wailed.

Apparently, there's still one leper colony left in Europe, I said, somewhere in Romania. I bet you Phil the Greek wanted to send them there ... !

Who’s that ... ? she asked.

The Duke of Puke ... ! I replied, laughing, to let her in on the joke.

That’s just nasty, she said, and walked off.

Oh dear.

I felt on safer ground, though, with a woman who denounced the whole family for excluding Meghan Sparkle so blatantly

Yes, I enthused, hanging's too good for them, even though it's the only language Nazis like that would understand.

Nazis ... ?
she asked.

Yeah, I said, you know, Krauts ... Jerries ... Square Heads ... Huns ... Sausage Eaters ... Germans ... ¹

They’re not German ... ! she cried indignantly. Who do you think you are ... !?!

Somewhat fortuitously, the queue moved forward at that moment, taking her with it.

It's Diana all over again ... ! said a guy as he put a £5 note in the case, Charles has a Hell of a lot to answer for.

Exactly, I said, what a petty, nit-picking bollix. Do you remember he even got at Diana for liking Dire Straits, while his idea of good music was the crappy Three Degrees ... !! Fair enough, like, Dire Straits are diabolical, but he was one to talk ...

Dire Straits were a great fuckin’ band, mate,
he interrupted, wise up ... !

And he took his fiver back.

Later on an old woman said to me, Like, they’ve a nerve, ganging up on Harry, and what are they after all ... ?

A bunch of congenital idiots, spongers, perverts, parasites, I answered, helpfully, as I thought.

Eh ... ? she said. No need for that kind of talk about our Royal Family.

And off she went.

It's all because she's half darkie,
said someone else.

Racism ... ? I replied, they have it in spades ... boom boom!

I didn’t see her laughing.

I made £5.90 and €3.

[ ¹ I am indebted to my brother's collection of Battle Picture Library comic books, which I read many times when growing up, for these nicknames.]

Lie-la-lie, Lie-la-lie-lie-lie-lie-lie

Do you know that little run Paul Simon plays at the start of The Boxer ... ? I don't either. Last Saturday a passing muso said to me, It's simple, lend us the guitar for a minute and I'll show you ...

I didn't, because a PSNI officer once stopped, and she told me there are rascals who run off with a busker's guitar in similar circumstances. I wasn't thinking the Bert Weedon guy would do that, of course, but best just to be consistent, never lend the guitar, and so take no risks (it's a National ... !). Nevertheless, you could see he was annoyed.

A girl, who described herself as an animal rights activist, asked if I didn't think the volume of my (tiny, practice) amp was damaging Miss Lotte Lenya's hearing. Then she worried that Lotte must be bored, and proposed taking her off for a walk while I played.

I didn't let her; the same PSNI officer had advised me never to take my eyes off Lotte, because there are people around who steal pet dogs as fodder for fighting dogs. I wasn't thinking the animal rights activist would do that, of course, but best just to be consistent, never lend Lotte, and so take no risks. Nevertheless, you could see she was annoyed.

I missed the train home, which meant our tea was delayed ... So Jean was hungry, and cross.

Late again, she said, why are you always so annoying ... !?!

Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da

Another very English thing: spying for the Soviet Union. Take Kim Philby. Sure, as Graham Greene wrote, 'He betrayed his country – yes, perhaps he did, but who among us has not committed treason to something or someone more important than a country? In Philby's own eyes he was working for the shape of things to come from which his country would benefit'. That's good enough for me.

Anyway, the point being that when he was holed up in his luxury, not so luxurious, flat in Moscow, one of the things he missed most about home was a great gift for which we are indebted to the English. Marmalade, of course - most specifically Frank Cooper’s Oxford Coarse Cut Marmalade. If family or friends were going to visit him, they were under strict instructions to bring some pots. Buy one and you'll understand why.

[Captain Scott took some on his Polar jaunt. A pot was found many years later, buried in the ice. Typical of him; he couldn't even beat a jar of marmalade in the race to survive.]

Brexshite

During the EU referendum campaign I was appalled by Vote Leave's concentration on, and blatantly cynical exploitation of, the alleged 'ills' of immigration. It seemed, at the time, to be explicitly racist. Now, when I look around me here in N Ireland I'm not so sure.

You can't help but notice the number of foreigners in every walk of life. They have come and availed themselves of all the benefits and advantages of living here, brought over family, got houses, worked only if it suits them, and so on - yet most do not share, or even have the slightest interest in, resident culture, mores and aspirations. Many don't even speak the native language. To be blunt, they seem always to have been here only for what they can take from the original inhabitants.

For this reason, I now firmly believe that these relatively recent arrivals should all be put on a boat and sent back to where most of them came from, i.e. Scotland, where they can sponge off their Protestant co-religionists.

Where's Niamh, though ... ?

Riveting story line on Fair City. Deano's girlfriend, Anna, is the only one who sees that if they grass up young thug Kevo, for mugging and terrifying Maria, to the Guards, he'll get 'lost in the system', fall in with the wrong crowd, and have a miserable life.

I sympathise with her, and, indeed, with Kevo. For I too was 'lost in the system', and can testify to the awful consequences. It began with me passing the Qualifying, as we called it, and, as a result, being forced to attend Grammar School.

The inevitable, and all too familiar, downward spiral ensued: average A-level results; just about adequate university degree; dispiriting succession of soul crushing jobs that involved no more than sitting at various desks, wondering if I should head off to the water cooler again for a bit of a yarn, before dozing through the afternoon.

How many more years have I got to let you dog me around ... ? (2x)

I'd soon rather be dead, sleeping six feet in the ground ... 

Nothing to show after 40 years except a comfortable pension, and a Tyrone glass bowl. Sat on the sofa here, listening to Howlin' Wolf:

How many more years
have I got to let you dog me around ... ? (2x)
I'd soon rather be dead,
sleeping six feet in the ground ...

The Wolf expressing perfectly the unmitigated despair of those of us lost in the system ...

The price of love

In fact, Jean and I met on a dating site.

She told me she was a diver, working off the coast of Norway then. After chatting for a month or so we were getting on very well. Then she encountered a serious setback: her Diving Bell sprung a leak. This meant she'd be unable to fulfill the terms of her contract, and would not be paid.

To fix the Bell would take about £2000, she said, and she was at her wit's end as to how to get a sum like that. Naturally, me being me, I offered to help out, and transferred the amount into her account. The Bell was repaired, and work resumed. She sent some photographs of her inside it, being lowered overboard.

She finished the job and was heading back here (we had agreed, finally, to meet in her home town of Cullybackey). Unfortunately, just as she was boarding the flight, word came through from her equipment courier that the Bell had been impounded by the Norwegian authorities due to some or other unpaid carriage levy.

She didn't know where to turn. She hadn't been paid for the job yet, the contractor dragging his heels, like they always do. Without the Bell, as she said, there'd be no more work. Panic stations. I stepped in, of course, and paid £3,500 to get the Bell released.

So far so good. Her and the Bell arrived back in Belfast. But bad luck struck again. There'd been a burst pipe in her wee house in Cullybackey, and the whole place was wrecked. Still without any money from the contractor, she begged me to help her out one last time. Knowing how much we now meant to each other, I gladly remortgaged my own house and loaned her the 100 grand needed to do her place up.

Our dream of having two homes collapsed though. She texted me one day to say the builder in charge of the job had absconded to Jamaica with her dough, and the work was never done. Plus, he took all her diving equipment, including the Bell.

Finally we met up at the roundabout in Carryduff. She was jobless and poor. She pleaded with me to let her share my house just, as she put it, 'til she got herself straightened out.

That was 7 years ago. But it's not all bad news. Since then Jean, even though penniless, has been lucky enough to make friends with a great set of girls. I've never met any of them: Armagh is far too way out West for them, says Jean. Nevertheless though, they're generous and kind enough, each year, to take it in turn to bring her on a couple of holidays, kit her out with the best in new clothes, and treat her to frequent nights out wining, dining, dancing, partying, and so on. It's thanks to them, she says, that she wants for nothing.

I don't begrudge her the high life. Ok, financially I'm ruined; bailing her out cleaned me out. But I'm happy to sit here, alone with Miss Lotte Lenya, and beans on toast.

Where black sheep may safely graze

You’ll be surprised to hear that I was the black sheep of the family. It simply doesn't fit with my reputation for empathy, conciliation and mediation; a popular, raunchy, talented, devoted family man.

Over the years my birth family was rent by internal squabbles. When I returned from university with my degree in Philosophy (subsid. Social Anthropology) the situation was dire. But, armed only with the tools of philosophical discourse, and an awareness that ethnocentricity was just not on, I tried to bring the warring sides together. At my mother's behest, I convened meetings during which, with an air of Homeric detachment, I listened to each side's nincompoop complaints about the other, and then advised a rational, culturally relativist, inclusive path.

No use. They still bickered. So I got subtle. I became a rebel, the black sheep. I rejected everything they stood for. I gave up religion, denigrated Irish Country and Western Music, ridiculed all things ‘Gaelic’, derided Elvis Presley, read a book, once went to Venice, took up darts, subscribed to Private Eye, and became a pseud.

Within a month family members, who up until then had been denouncing each other as bastards, united in enthusiastic censure of me as an ingrate renegade hellbent on trampling the familial values they were now learning to embrace as a consequence of my diabolical apostasy.

Result! They never fought among themselves again. Never needed to, since everything was now, officially, my fault! Yes, the arm of history was round my neck. I've never been given the credit I deserve for this miracle of conflict resolution. I'm amply compensated, though, by the fact that they never speak to me.

Hello, non-graduates, wherever you are

Like many a pub gigging, famous in parts of Newfoundland, muso cum painter cum film director cum philosopher, and advocate of conserving my non-evidentiary based, self endowed importance, I pepper my Facebook posts with literary and other cultural name checks.

I know my readers are too dim ever to have heard of any of these artistic heavyweights, and I derive great pleasure from modestly enlightening them; doing so allows me to show off my wide reading in that area of literature reserved for the clapped out muso - the 'tough son of a bitch' school of writing.

This genre usually means an overdose of Ken Kesey, Hemingway minus the ability, lots of allegedly laconic 'heroes' (retards actually), much drink, steaming women, and 'karma', in the novels; and a dearth of metre and rhyme and poetry in the poetry. Many of these 'writers' are legends in the sparsely populated countries from which they depressingly often come.

Nevertheless, it can be tiresome having always to acquaint folk with, for example, the fact that Charles Bukowsi was a dreary alcho chronicler of alleged American low life, much revered these days by ancient, and sometimes delusional, 'hipsters'.

So, let's get it all over with. Over the next few columns I’ll give you the inside track on all my forthcoming allusions.

Richard Brautigan: relentlessly 'quirky', unamusing and turgid American writer; doppelganger for Vivian Stanshall of the Bonzo Dog Do Dah Band;

W B Yeats: histrionic head-the-ball;

'Wee' Jimmy Nesbitt OBE: desperate smug little bollix who, like Stephen Rea before him, has to be in every fucking thing;

Thomas Hardy: top poet; doom and gloom merchant;

A E Houseman: top poet; doom and gloom merchant;

W H Auden: top poet; homosexual doom and gloom merchant;

Eamonn Holmes: dreadful man; his son and mine got into a fight at Methodist College. And that awful wife, with her ‘high grade’ polyester fashion line;

George Harrison; the low to no talent Beatle;

Elmore James: Olympian father of civilisation;

Kate Bush: tin eared, hysterical twat;

Flann O'Brien: very funny man; now, sadly, an icon for every failed and 'misunderstood' crap artist in Ireland.

A man sat down beside Lotte to fuss over her.

Is she a bit hyper ... ? he asked. We have two Springers and we daren't let them in the house or they'd wreck the place ...

So, where do they live ... ? I ask.

A wee shed out the back, he said.

What ... even in winter ... ? I ask.

Bring back the death penalty for these bastards.

Don’t get a dog unless:

there is room for her on your sofa;

you are prepared to write poems for her, such as this one I composed for Miss Lotte Lenya:

Dearest Lotte, Miss Contrary,
though my love for you won't vary,
I would like to make this enquarey:
why is your hair so hairy?
And how does it get so everywherey ... ?;

and, you don't object to being reminded constantly by her that you should live in the moment, even though you just can't do so, and will bitterly regret you didn't.

Oh no, it isn’t ... !

I watched a vapour trail in the sky. Surely a metaphor for my existence: a brief trace of light, the appearance of making a mark, then dissipation and obliteration; a tiny flare, of which nothing will remain seconds later; glimpsed once by others, but instantly dismissed and forgotten by them. The story of my life.

Such dark thoughts haunt my old age and hasten my departure from this lonesome valley. The burden of impending mortality, and non existence, weighs heavy.

I go home and read in the paper that there are now, officially, a million and one singer songwriters in the world. We can never be free of gormless, self absorbed, whinging wankers who imagine they have some kind of insight into 'lurve', relationships, and the universe that the rest of us don't.

The thing is, you never see anything as it really is. It takes light about 1 nanosecond to travel 30cm. So fast you don't normally notice it. However, it does take some tiny, tiny time for light to reach your eyes, even from just across the room. Your life is all in the past. It’s all behind us.

Michael Praetorius spent his working life in education and libraries. Now retired, he does a little busking in Belfast . . . when he can get a pitch. He is TPQ's fortnightly Wednesday columnist.

Joy And Fun Are Fucking Killing Me ✑ Act XIV

Michael Praetoriuswith the fourteenth act in his satirical series.So long, Hopalong Cassidy

So long, Hopalong Cassidy

Jean has hurt her leg.
 
Anyone who knows me will testify to my compassion nature.

But for several days now I have had to light the fire, and vacuum, and heat stuff up in the oven, and then wash the dishes. Not to mention taking the clothes out of the washing machine, and hanging them on the drying horse - which is a fiddly and annoying task.

On top of this I have to take Miss Lotte Lenya for walks, feed her, practise guitar, and continue reading a big biography of Harold Wilson that I've just started.

Maintaining Jean's good health is critical. But, mine is important too, and it's a heavy cross I bear now with all this extra work. And not only physically. I don't mind admitting that mentally, too, I'm close to breaking point. The pressure, for instance, of monitoring whatever I've taken out of the box, pierced the film cover of, and put in the oven, is intense, because if I forget to ask Alexa to set an alarm for the required heating time, the stuff will be burned to a crisp.

And I could give many other examples of such stress stacking up on my shoulders. So much so that I've been left with no choice, if I'm to come out of this alive and still sane, but to trawl the local nursing homes to find her a place where she can limp along for the rest of her life.

Buddy, can you spare a dime ... ?

Canny busking coup by yours truly.

Who was musicianing outside Waterstone’s bookshop at 5 am one morning recently ... ? Knowing that it was opening at 6 30 to meet the huge demand for Harry's blockbuster. Long, long queue of morons, stretching way down the street and round the corner. But, when in Rome do as the Romans do, so I knew I had to lay into the other Royals.

Yes, the rest of them are a pack of evil bastards, I said to a woman who, almost in tears, was lambasting Harry's birth family to me.

He and Meghan have been treated like lepers, she wailed.

Apparently, there's still one leper colony left in Europe, I said, somewhere in Romania. I bet you Phil the Greek wanted to send them there ... !

Who’s that ... ? she asked.

The Duke of Puke ... ! I replied, laughing, to let her in on the joke.

That’s just nasty, she said, and walked off.

Oh dear.

I felt on safer ground, though, with a woman who denounced the whole family for excluding Meghan Sparkle so blatantly

Yes, I enthused, hanging's too good for them, even though it's the only language Nazis like that would understand.

Nazis ... ?
she asked.

Yeah, I said, you know, Krauts ... Jerries ... Square Heads ... Huns ... Sausage Eaters ... Germans ... ¹

They’re not German ... ! she cried indignantly. Who do you think you are ... !?!

Somewhat fortuitously, the queue moved forward at that moment, taking her with it.

It's Diana all over again ... ! said a guy as he put a £5 note in the case, Charles has a Hell of a lot to answer for.

Exactly, I said, what a petty, nit-picking bollix. Do you remember he even got at Diana for liking Dire Straits, while his idea of good music was the crappy Three Degrees ... !! Fair enough, like, Dire Straits are diabolical, but he was one to talk ...

Dire Straits were a great fuckin’ band, mate,
he interrupted, wise up ... !

And he took his fiver back.

Later on an old woman said to me, Like, they’ve a nerve, ganging up on Harry, and what are they after all ... ?

A bunch of congenital idiots, spongers, perverts, parasites, I answered, helpfully, as I thought.

Eh ... ? she said. No need for that kind of talk about our Royal Family.

And off she went.

It's all because she's half darkie,
said someone else.

Racism ... ? I replied, they have it in spades ... boom boom!

I didn’t see her laughing.

I made £5.90 and €3.

[ ¹ I am indebted to my brother's collection of Battle Picture Library comic books, which I read many times when growing up, for these nicknames.]

Lie-la-lie, Lie-la-lie-lie-lie-lie-lie

Do you know that little run Paul Simon plays at the start of The Boxer ... ? I don't either. Last Saturday a passing muso said to me, It's simple, lend us the guitar for a minute and I'll show you ...

I didn't, because a PSNI officer once stopped, and she told me there are rascals who run off with a busker's guitar in similar circumstances. I wasn't thinking the Bert Weedon guy would do that, of course, but best just to be consistent, never lend the guitar, and so take no risks (it's a National ... !). Nevertheless, you could see he was annoyed.

A girl, who described herself as an animal rights activist, asked if I didn't think the volume of my (tiny, practice) amp was damaging Miss Lotte Lenya's hearing. Then she worried that Lotte must be bored, and proposed taking her off for a walk while I played.

I didn't let her; the same PSNI officer had advised me never to take my eyes off Lotte, because there are people around who steal pet dogs as fodder for fighting dogs. I wasn't thinking the animal rights activist would do that, of course, but best just to be consistent, never lend Lotte, and so take no risks. Nevertheless, you could see she was annoyed.

I missed the train home, which meant our tea was delayed ... So Jean was hungry, and cross.

Late again, she said, why are you always so annoying ... !?!

Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da

Another very English thing: spying for the Soviet Union. Take Kim Philby. Sure, as Graham Greene wrote, 'He betrayed his country – yes, perhaps he did, but who among us has not committed treason to something or someone more important than a country? In Philby's own eyes he was working for the shape of things to come from which his country would benefit'. That's good enough for me.

Anyway, the point being that when he was holed up in his luxury, not so luxurious, flat in Moscow, one of the things he missed most about home was a great gift for which we are indebted to the English. Marmalade, of course - most specifically Frank Cooper’s Oxford Coarse Cut Marmalade. If family or friends were going to visit him, they were under strict instructions to bring some pots. Buy one and you'll understand why.

[Captain Scott took some on his Polar jaunt. A pot was found many years later, buried in the ice. Typical of him; he couldn't even beat a jar of marmalade in the race to survive.]

Brexshite

During the EU referendum campaign I was appalled by Vote Leave's concentration on, and blatantly cynical exploitation of, the alleged 'ills' of immigration. It seemed, at the time, to be explicitly racist. Now, when I look around me here in N Ireland I'm not so sure.

You can't help but notice the number of foreigners in every walk of life. They have come and availed themselves of all the benefits and advantages of living here, brought over family, got houses, worked only if it suits them, and so on - yet most do not share, or even have the slightest interest in, resident culture, mores and aspirations. Many don't even speak the native language. To be blunt, they seem always to have been here only for what they can take from the original inhabitants.

For this reason, I now firmly believe that these relatively recent arrivals should all be put on a boat and sent back to where most of them came from, i.e. Scotland, where they can sponge off their Protestant co-religionists.

Where's Niamh, though ... ?

Riveting story line on Fair City. Deano's girlfriend, Anna, is the only one who sees that if they grass up young thug Kevo, for mugging and terrifying Maria, to the Guards, he'll get 'lost in the system', fall in with the wrong crowd, and have a miserable life.

I sympathise with her, and, indeed, with Kevo. For I too was 'lost in the system', and can testify to the awful consequences. It began with me passing the Qualifying, as we called it, and, as a result, being forced to attend Grammar School.

The inevitable, and all too familiar, downward spiral ensued: average A-level results; just about adequate university degree; dispiriting succession of soul crushing jobs that involved no more than sitting at various desks, wondering if I should head off to the water cooler again for a bit of a yarn, before dozing through the afternoon.

How many more years have I got to let you dog me around ... ? (2x)

I'd soon rather be dead, sleeping six feet in the ground ... 

Nothing to show after 40 years except a comfortable pension, and a Tyrone glass bowl. Sat on the sofa here, listening to Howlin' Wolf:

How many more years
have I got to let you dog me around ... ? (2x)
I'd soon rather be dead,
sleeping six feet in the ground ...

The Wolf expressing perfectly the unmitigated despair of those of us lost in the system ...

The price of love

In fact, Jean and I met on a dating site.

She told me she was a diver, working off the coast of Norway then. After chatting for a month or so we were getting on very well. Then she encountered a serious setback: her Diving Bell sprung a leak. This meant she'd be unable to fulfill the terms of her contract, and would not be paid.

To fix the Bell would take about £2000, she said, and she was at her wit's end as to how to get a sum like that. Naturally, me being me, I offered to help out, and transferred the amount into her account. The Bell was repaired, and work resumed. She sent some photographs of her inside it, being lowered overboard.

She finished the job and was heading back here (we had agreed, finally, to meet in her home town of Cullybackey). Unfortunately, just as she was boarding the flight, word came through from her equipment courier that the Bell had been impounded by the Norwegian authorities due to some or other unpaid carriage levy.

She didn't know where to turn. She hadn't been paid for the job yet, the contractor dragging his heels, like they always do. Without the Bell, as she said, there'd be no more work. Panic stations. I stepped in, of course, and paid £3,500 to get the Bell released.

So far so good. Her and the Bell arrived back in Belfast. But bad luck struck again. There'd been a burst pipe in her wee house in Cullybackey, and the whole place was wrecked. Still without any money from the contractor, she begged me to help her out one last time. Knowing how much we now meant to each other, I gladly remortgaged my own house and loaned her the 100 grand needed to do her place up.

Our dream of having two homes collapsed though. She texted me one day to say the builder in charge of the job had absconded to Jamaica with her dough, and the work was never done. Plus, he took all her diving equipment, including the Bell.

Finally we met up at the roundabout in Carryduff. She was jobless and poor. She pleaded with me to let her share my house just, as she put it, 'til she got herself straightened out.

That was 7 years ago. But it's not all bad news. Since then Jean, even though penniless, has been lucky enough to make friends with a great set of girls. I've never met any of them: Armagh is far too way out West for them, says Jean. Nevertheless though, they're generous and kind enough, each year, to take it in turn to bring her on a couple of holidays, kit her out with the best in new clothes, and treat her to frequent nights out wining, dining, dancing, partying, and so on. It's thanks to them, she says, that she wants for nothing.

I don't begrudge her the high life. Ok, financially I'm ruined; bailing her out cleaned me out. But I'm happy to sit here, alone with Miss Lotte Lenya, and beans on toast.

Where black sheep may safely graze

You’ll be surprised to hear that I was the black sheep of the family. It simply doesn't fit with my reputation for empathy, conciliation and mediation; a popular, raunchy, talented, devoted family man.

Over the years my birth family was rent by internal squabbles. When I returned from university with my degree in Philosophy (subsid. Social Anthropology) the situation was dire. But, armed only with the tools of philosophical discourse, and an awareness that ethnocentricity was just not on, I tried to bring the warring sides together. At my mother's behest, I convened meetings during which, with an air of Homeric detachment, I listened to each side's nincompoop complaints about the other, and then advised a rational, culturally relativist, inclusive path.

No use. They still bickered. So I got subtle. I became a rebel, the black sheep. I rejected everything they stood for. I gave up religion, denigrated Irish Country and Western Music, ridiculed all things ‘Gaelic’, derided Elvis Presley, read a book, once went to Venice, took up darts, subscribed to Private Eye, and became a pseud.

Within a month family members, who up until then had been denouncing each other as bastards, united in enthusiastic censure of me as an ingrate renegade hellbent on trampling the familial values they were now learning to embrace as a consequence of my diabolical apostasy.

Result! They never fought among themselves again. Never needed to, since everything was now, officially, my fault! Yes, the arm of history was round my neck. I've never been given the credit I deserve for this miracle of conflict resolution. I'm amply compensated, though, by the fact that they never speak to me.

Hello, non-graduates, wherever you are

Like many a pub gigging, famous in parts of Newfoundland, muso cum painter cum film director cum philosopher, and advocate of conserving my non-evidentiary based, self endowed importance, I pepper my Facebook posts with literary and other cultural name checks.

I know my readers are too dim ever to have heard of any of these artistic heavyweights, and I derive great pleasure from modestly enlightening them; doing so allows me to show off my wide reading in that area of literature reserved for the clapped out muso - the 'tough son of a bitch' school of writing.

This genre usually means an overdose of Ken Kesey, Hemingway minus the ability, lots of allegedly laconic 'heroes' (retards actually), much drink, steaming women, and 'karma', in the novels; and a dearth of metre and rhyme and poetry in the poetry. Many of these 'writers' are legends in the sparsely populated countries from which they depressingly often come.

Nevertheless, it can be tiresome having always to acquaint folk with, for example, the fact that Charles Bukowsi was a dreary alcho chronicler of alleged American low life, much revered these days by ancient, and sometimes delusional, 'hipsters'.

So, let's get it all over with. Over the next few columns I’ll give you the inside track on all my forthcoming allusions.

Richard Brautigan: relentlessly 'quirky', unamusing and turgid American writer; doppelganger for Vivian Stanshall of the Bonzo Dog Do Dah Band;

W B Yeats: histrionic head-the-ball;

'Wee' Jimmy Nesbitt OBE: desperate smug little bollix who, like Stephen Rea before him, has to be in every fucking thing;

Thomas Hardy: top poet; doom and gloom merchant;

A E Houseman: top poet; doom and gloom merchant;

W H Auden: top poet; homosexual doom and gloom merchant;

Eamonn Holmes: dreadful man; his son and mine got into a fight at Methodist College. And that awful wife, with her ‘high grade’ polyester fashion line;

George Harrison; the low to no talent Beatle;

Elmore James: Olympian father of civilisation;

Kate Bush: tin eared, hysterical twat;

Flann O'Brien: very funny man; now, sadly, an icon for every failed and 'misunderstood' crap artist in Ireland.

A man sat down beside Lotte to fuss over her.

Is she a bit hyper ... ? he asked. We have two Springers and we daren't let them in the house or they'd wreck the place ...

So, where do they live ... ? I ask.

A wee shed out the back, he said.

What ... even in winter ... ? I ask.

Bring back the death penalty for these bastards.

Don’t get a dog unless:

there is room for her on your sofa;

you are prepared to write poems for her, such as this one I composed for Miss Lotte Lenya:

Dearest Lotte, Miss Contrary,
though my love for you won't vary,
I would like to make this enquarey:
why is your hair so hairy?
And how does it get so everywherey ... ?;

and, you don't object to being reminded constantly by her that you should live in the moment, even though you just can't do so, and will bitterly regret you didn't.

Oh no, it isn’t ... !

I watched a vapour trail in the sky. Surely a metaphor for my existence: a brief trace of light, the appearance of making a mark, then dissipation and obliteration; a tiny flare, of which nothing will remain seconds later; glimpsed once by others, but instantly dismissed and forgotten by them. The story of my life.

Such dark thoughts haunt my old age and hasten my departure from this lonesome valley. The burden of impending mortality, and non existence, weighs heavy.

I go home and read in the paper that there are now, officially, a million and one singer songwriters in the world. We can never be free of gormless, self absorbed, whinging wankers who imagine they have some kind of insight into 'lurve', relationships, and the universe that the rest of us don't.

The thing is, you never see anything as it really is. It takes light about 1 nanosecond to travel 30cm. So fast you don't normally notice it. However, it does take some tiny, tiny time for light to reach your eyes, even from just across the room. Your life is all in the past. It’s all behind us.

Michael Praetorius spent his working life in education and libraries. Now retired, he does a little busking in Belfast . . . when he can get a pitch. He is TPQ's fortnightly Wednesday columnist.

2 comments:

  1. Funny as hell; this guy is a genius.

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    Replies
    1. I love his stuff - he should be writing books on the stuff.

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