Monday, 18 January 2010

You’ll Never Get Well No More


Perry Iles

“He would do better if he concentrated more on his work and less on entertaining his classmates.”
– Headmaster’s comment, Perry’s school report, 1965.

“Fuck right off.”
– Perry Iles, 2009.

The Annandale Book Month (August 2009)

I could blame God if I believed in him, or fate if I thought I was important enough to merit its notice, but as it is I’ll blame Sod’s Law and circumstance. Three days before the event, I was struck down with food poisoning and spent forty-eight hours in bed, fretting and cursing and discharging bodily fluids in random directions. The doctor gave me Immodium, which set the contents of my stomach solid and made me feel like I’d eaten a breezeblock. I was still unwell when people started arriving, so unwell that I couldn’t eat, drink or smoke, and by my standards, that’s ill, believe me.

If it hadn’t been for the efforts of my wife, the event would have been cancelled. She managed all the organisation, preparation, food, drink, room decoration, publicity, posters, invites and everything whilst simultaneously looking after the kid and the dog and playing host to various friends who filled the house to such an extent that my daughter had to sleep outside in the back of a van.

And after all this, Annandale, responded to my invitations and publicity with its usual apathy. It’s a small town, set in its ways, run by the sort of people who have committee meetings about flowerpots. It’s the sort of town that’s still having problems coming to terms with the concept of garlic bread. If you took Annandale out to dinner, it would have prawn cocktail followed by a well done steak and a nice piece of black forest gateau. And of course it was absolutely arsing down with rain, because it’s Scotland, and that’s what it always does. So I will deal with Annandale mercilessly in fiction at some later date. Of course, when the local press comes calling, I shall say that the opening party was well-attended, well-supported and that we sold loads of lovely books.

But I’m afraid the public stayed away in droves. So we still have some wine left. Having said that, we had some authors come out to play, and it was interesting to see people in the flesh and find out if their online personalities reflected reality. We had a good time, although I was still a bit woozy. My daughter kept everyone entertained with glow-in-the-dark bangles which may yet prove radioactive, and we had a meet-the-whippet hour too. The dog finished the sausage rolls when no one was looking. I was in charge of the music, supervised by my wife’s occasional demand to “take that fucking noise off.” At some point in the proceedings I realised how much I liked Mogwai, and how the fundamental flimsiness of the Cocteau Twins has dated rather badly (other than the title track of Blue Bell Knoll).

It was, all in all, a rather lovely night, full of writers and writerly stuff like alcohol and huddles of people standing on the steps outside smoking and trying to keep dry. Thanks are due to those who came. Bedtime, exhausted, 2am.

When Shall We Three Meet Again?

So there I was, trying to get cleared up, still feeling under the weather, but with a slight edge of hangover too, when into the shop came a trio of Dumfries’s finest, up for a post-menopausal bus trip while their husbands vegetated in front of whatever televised sport was on or (if they were lucky) rested in pieces beneath the back-yard patio.
‘We’re not really open,’ I said, ‘I’m just clearing up after a party.’
‘Ye’ll huv a hangower then, sonny. NNEEEEEARGHH-HAH-HAH-HAH-HAH-HAAAAAARGHH’. Imagine Tom Waits speeded up to 78rpm. That’s what their laughs were like. They had faces like burst blisters and the kind of voices you could curdle milk with. I wondered if there was a cauldron that needed stirring out on some blasted heath somewhere. They wandered in with that particular Scottish aroma that’s half cheap perfume and half Embassy Regal.
‘Ye’re sellin books, then. I like a drama, so I do.’
‘Aye, Hettie, ye dae,’
‘Would that be the Prince of Denmark or Albert Square?’ I asked, suddenly feeling like that Irish guy out of Black Books.
‘Whit’s he oan aboot?’
‘Dinnae ken, Hettie, it’s the Queen Vic in Albert Square, no the Prince ay Denmark.’
‘Ah’ve got a vulture,’ the oldest one said. I wasn’t surprised, but thought it irrelevant.
‘Aye, she hus. She’s got a thingaby, ken? A gift vulture, like.’
‘Fae the shoap, see?’
I scratched my head for a little while. ‘Oh, a voucher,’ I finally managed, when the woman put a crumpled book token down on the counter.
A pissing book token.
What the fucking fuck? I mean, what the fuck am I supposed to do with a fucking book token? What does she fucking think this is, a fucking bookshop or something?


Anyway, I told her that the Author’s Book Council Guild had refused to grant us Book Token Availability Insurance due to our independent status following the personal intervention of JK Rowling who was worried about how badly we’d influence her sales figures. I advised her to contact her local branch of Waterstones, who would no doubt find her something with a bit of romance in it by a woman with three names. Then I locked the door and hid for half an hour until I was sure they’d left town.

Recently, on the peer-review website YouWriteOn, I took some flak for suggesting that 98% of the book-reading public were morons. I don’t know what the fuck I was on about. I should have said 99.5%. The other 0.5% are writers.

God help me, I’m not cut out for this.

Is it Safe?

Toothache is a bastard. I figured my immune system had been laid low by the effects of food poisoning, and I’d acquired an abscess. So, weeping a little, I went to the local dentist this morning, who told me to come back at four for a checkup. At the appointed time, I put the Back in Ten Minutes sign on the shop and wandered off. My normal dentist was on holiday, and I was ushered into the treatment room by a Polish man with tattoos who looked like he’d be at home on a road crew.
Yep, he was the dentist. Klinik Dentikal Warszawa, his card said. I thought that was track three off David Bowie’s Low. He sat me down and had a look. He rapped the end of his dentist’s prong thing against the tooth.
‘Ummmmmmfffffff!’ I wept some more.
‘I take out,’ he said.
Ok, I thought, I’ll make an appointment and try and scrounge a scrip for some more of those industrial-strength painkillers I like so much.
‘I take out now,’ he said.
Oh fuck.
It took him two hours. He shattered the tooth, drilled it out in pieces, tugging broken bits out, grunting with effort and swearing in Polish, and told me that I would feel my jawbone in the base of the socket for a few days.
Anyway, books. None sold today. Sorry. Far too self-absorbed.

Chucking the Yogurt.

It wasn’t God, fate, Sod’s Law or chance. It was yogurt. Three weeks ago I went shopping and got a cheap four-pack of Danone Activia from the Co-op. It was cheap because it was at its sell-by date. I put them with the other yogurts in the fridge, forgot they were there and ate one last Tuesday when it was ten days too old.
Bad move.
So, last night when the anaesthetic from the dentist wore off and I felt like I’d lost a fight with a group of fifteen-year-olds in baseball caps (you know, the sort who look like they’ve been raised by rats), I couldn’t eat much. I know what I’ll do, I thought, I’ll have a couple of those nice yogurts.
Even worse move.
Two hours later, I was back in the state I’d been in last week. The yogurts were now three weeks too old. Their adverts say the live pro-biotic bacteria improve digestive transit, which as far as these particular yogurts goes is a bit like saying Josef Fritzl grounded his daughter for a little while.
They went through me like castor oil through a short grandmother.
At some point I was awakened by my wife, brandishing the last yogurt under my nose.
‘Have you been eating these?’ she said.
I nodded.
‘You fucking idiot.’
So the shop stayed shut today, unlike my fucking sphincter.
I promise I’ll talk more about the books and less about my own self-pity soon. On the plus side, I’ve lost eight pounds in six days and my wife is pleased that I haven’t dared to fart in a week, so hey, every cloud…


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