An irregular, irreverent, post-modern account of the surreal, the ordinary, and the bizarre happenings on and around the Felia lavender farm in Crete

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Is Dave there?

Gilbert sipped his beer - cheap pale beer from Lidl's in a squat green bottle with a twist-off cap this time around - the budget comes first. No condensation - yet. He rocked back in his chair and grabbed his tobacco pouch. He rolled himself a cigarette poorly. His hands were shaking. Putting the roll-up in his mouth he realised that it was the wrong way round - nowadays he used filters and so there was a right way and he had inadvertently chosen the wrong way - an uncharacteristic mistake, But he was shaken - not just his hands. He was rocked to his very core. Lighting the cigarette he looked up and out of the kitchen window. The sky was a clear blue and glaring again. The heat of the sun was clear but this was a summer sky and so not as clear.

Life was becoming intolerably complex. Either that or his necessarily subjective perception was twisted out of kilter. He smelt conspiracy. Conspiracy and connivance. Conspiracy, connivance and coincidence. As a mechanism or as software the human mind was primarily a collection of pattern matching algorithms or components - he knew that. Perhaps his was overactive. Perhaps too much exposure to the effects of fictive lives on reality was the problem. Perhaps he had developed some meta-pattern matching algorithm - one that detected patterns about patterns. Maybe that was what others called paranoia. Any device that has as its main function the detection of pattern and the integration of that pattern into the pre-existing patterns could, if it were equipped with learning mechanisms, become overly sensitive or possibly over sensitized. Surely too much activity could do that? In too short a timeframe? The end of his cigarette was damp and tasted sharply of tar. He had been gawping.

He was looking over his notes of the night before and mentally replaying the radio programme in his head simultaneously. Flashing back ( a hideous cinematic expression I know but ...) he was trying to recreate the shock - the instantaneous frisson - the stomach churning - the hairs on his arms hackling that had overwhelmed him then. The smell of a chilli cooking filled his nose again suddenly and the Proustian passage was achieved - he was back to that moment when the presenter had announced, "Chancey Other's new book comes out this week and deals with a mythical future where the writings of a London taxi cab driver have become a religious - an hermeneutic - text for followers the world over ..." "Right", he thought, his pattern matching running in top gear, "sub-Ballard I'm sure, though plagiaristically inclined, and doubtless mired up again in that nasty mockney that Other somehow has convinced himself is the equal to Burgess's Nadsat. Poor deluded fool!" And then she, the hostess, had announced the name of the book in question - THE BOOK OF DAVE". Had he heard arights? Yes he had indeed - for she repeated it to begin her next sentence. That is when the hairs on his arms had hackled and his pattern matching had hit hyperdrive. That is when he no longer attended. Chancey Other was speaking now and Gilbert was far away. Other's self satisfied smirk was almost visible over the airwaves and his huge horse like head nodded smugly as ever. His strangely strangled vocalisations betraying a West London/Oxbridge miscegenated journalist wafted cacophonously from the speakers as Gilbert recalled in vivid detail the number that he had done on poor old Derek Raymond with his last book but one (he had not dared to investigate the harm that he had done to poor old Oscar in his next - Oscar speaks mockney? "Ain't got nuffing but this ere genius to declare guvnor" or "Its all abaht them what you carnt eat being chased by them as carnt speek proper innit? ). Stolen the title of Cookie's book Other had albeit when he was dead: just as the Laz had accused him of stealing his own novel! And poor old Cookie had had the misfortune of having, and this while yet alive. He had had to change his writing name to avoid being confused with some best selling tall tale merchant from the wrong side of the Atlantic. And to top it off he had never given his main character in the Factory series a name of his own, most certainly a reflection of his personal take on the impermanence of naming. Alice herself would be surprised by these turns of events all coming headlong upon themselves.

Dave though. THE BOOK OF DAVE! Where did this twist lead him? Was Other writing the Laz or vice versa? Laz writes Other writing Gilbert? No - surely not - he'd know: but, Other writes Laz writing Gilbert - yes that was possible. Possible indeed but likely? And was it because his writings, Dave's, were to become a gospel of sorts that the phrase "You're a very lucky man Dave" resonated so? Was it immortality in text that the congratulations acknowledged? Was this the Dave? Or another? An Other? And as he pondered the mystery he recalled one more disservice that had been visited upon the unfortunate Derek Raymond: the BBC had bought the rights to the Factory series. And had just sat on them! Oh yes, and he, DR, had been appropriated, his persona itself, in the work of a second rate pulp writer and left on the cutting room floor. How badly put upon had been poor Cookie, the skull on a stick had had a bad time of it - dead and alive. How the dead live indeed.

Abby found him disconsolate and confused when she came in from the garden smelling of borage. Sitting in front of the iMac that had slipped, by then, beyond screen saver mode and into sleep. Gilbert was far from sleep. His pattern matching was running so rabidly that he had precious few cycles left for normal life, rendering his appearance catatonic. Three stubby little beer bottles, empty, blocked the path of his mouse, the ashtray was full to overflowing. The little block of resin was half its previous size. She'd seen him this way before - usually when he finished a book - written out. This time however, she could not rouse him - he was there and not - all at the same time. Rather full than empty this time.

She was glad that they had provisioned already this week; that they had picked up mail and the first of last winter's olive oil from Georgi. Pure and green, organic and healthy. "Well," she thought, "the oil may be healthy but Gilbert isn't". They would need spring water tomorrow but he should be better by then: these things seldom lasted long. "Come on Gilbert, let me in. Let me help. What is it?" She hit the return key and checked what he had been looking at. The page of notes was terse but she recalled his shock at last night's radio programme. She put two and two together and probed him, "Is it Dave? Is it? Look - that programme was just a coincidence. He's not involved. You know the writer. It's Laz. That Other isn't fit to sharpen your quill: not fit to fill your fountain pen. He couldn't do it. No way!" A glimmer, a twitch worked its way across his torpid features. "Think longhand Gilbert. The power of longhand". She knew that talk of the physical act and accoutrements of writing would often rouse him from vapidity - perhaps it would work. She carried on "Sheaffer, Parker, Lamy, Rotring, Platignum". Another twitch. "Mont Blanc, Pelikan, Conway Stewart". A tremor. She racked her memory "Pilot, Cross, Waterman!". She faltered as his eyelids opened. "Caran D'Ache, Parker" she repeated herself. "Bic" she declaimed desperately.

"Bic? Bic? For Turing's sake, that's a biro not a fountain pen Abby! A bloody ball point. What are you thinking of?".

And he was back. Completely. "It's a good job you got me out of that", he said kissing her forehead "I was almost gone there". He fingered the exquisite Namiki Emperor Treasure on the desk: a gift from his publisher. "Your forgot the Namiki Abby!" He was behind her, massaging her shoulders. "How could you forget the Namiki? But. I think you've cracked one of the other puzzles. The power of longhand indeed. Now that rings a bell."

(to be continued ... )


  1. This is rerr stuff (local dialect from my homeland, basically uttered as a means of expressing approbation).

    See what you can do when you glue bum to seat!

  2. BTW, I can't stand Namiki Emperors - far too fat and ungainly. For me it's got to be the Yard-O-Led Corinthian. Either that or a simple sable brush and an ink stick.