Sunday, April 30, 2006

Buffalo Bill's defunct

Has it been so long? Were I sufficiently deluded to believe in an audience I would by now presume that they had left their seats and demanded a refund. Or unBookmarked me. Anyway they'd be gone, so I'd talk about them behind them behind their backs.

x was impatient.

y was disloyal.

Don't get me started on n.

I feel okay. I sat down last night with a bottle of Havana Club thinking I'd empty it. I had about a quarter of it. Which is good news. The bad news is that CCTV footage reveals me looking like this:-

this morning. I am three days shy of my thirty-fifth birthday. I quit smoking years ago. I haven't ingested anything illegal since my daughter was born. I can't drink anymore. And still time marches on, and I look more like Marie Curie everyday.

Jane Seymour, the newsstands tell me, is Still Fabulous At Fifty-Five. Tom Miles, I can tell you, is Already Fucked At Thirty-Five. There's a fine line between looking distinguished and looking wizened, a line which I'm not close to straddling. But I feel okay. I keep a portrait of myself in the attic and do you know what? It doesn't look a day older than when it was painted, some surface dust notwithstanding. My joints are pretty good at the minute. I've lost some weight. I feel okay. I just look like a dying man.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Regarding the Efficacy of Veiled Threats

Dear Sir/Madam,

Thank you for your e-mail.

We apologize for the inconvenience.

We confirm that we have cancelled the membership.

We trust that this now clarifies the matter for you.


Customer Services

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Books For Children

I'm having difficulties with my membership of a book club that I've never joined. They're threatening to sue me. For £7.98. I tried ringing them to sort it out, as instructed. It's a completely automated service. But I managed to find an e-mail address so I wrote to them.

I have received a letter from yourselves threatening me with legal action because a "Miss Tom Miles", an entirely imaginary person, has not paid for some goods which he or she never asked for and indeed, never received. It is impossible to speak to a human being on the number given on this letter, giving rise to the suspicion that your organisation is also imaginary.

How's this for a scenario:- the imaginary "Miss Tom Miles" drives down the M4 and torches the imaginary building which houses the imaginary employees of the imaginary organisation pursuing payment for the imaginary delivery.

Please instruct your recoveries department to credit the membership number above for any outstanding balance and then delete the account or face the imaginary consequences. I await a prompt response.

The idea was to elicit a reaction. They came back to me in a matter of minutes.


Thank you for your e-mail enquiry, our team will respond as quickly as possible.

Thank you.

Monday, April 17, 2006

The Dislocated Thumb of Ian Kinsler

I'm glad that I didn't delineate any rules when embarking on this blog; rules about regular posting or subject matter. It's a long weekend, the baseball season is under way, we're redecorating. I offer this as an apology to an entirely imaginary public. Must stop using "entirely imaginary". And hello to Claire, sad-eyed lady of the lowlands, if she sees this. I hope that thirty-five is treating you well. I have new spectacles, and paint on my knuckles. And so to bed.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Mending Wall

It's beautiful title, isn't it? I've appropriated it from old Robert Frost, who specialised in finding the significant buried within the mundane, something I'm obliged to do too, given the relative lack of incident in a typical week. It's a cheat, though. I've mended a fence. And while doing so I wasn't moved to reflect wryly on the way that the boundaries we erect to keep others out often imprison us. Instead I thought about the cold beer in the fridge that awaited me upon completion of the repair, more Ferlinghetti than Frost, that. Or perhaps it's William Carlos Williams I'm thinking of. Meanwhile, around the world other people were falling in or out of love, planning for their futures, or their immediate ends, shopping, fucking, being born or dying. The fence is finished, it shivers in the wind, looking impermanent and not a little sad.

I confess that I am jealous of the journals I read of globetrotting Twentysomethings and their fabulous, unexpected lives. It isn't a question of the grass being greener. If that were so then these kids would write about their yearning for the stability of a suburban family life. And I would not could not swap what I have for what they have. I am jealous because I never risked anything. I never lived abroad, I never immersed myself in another culture. I never took a chance on my own adaptability.

Still, I have my family, my four walls, my tiny garden and the fence that surrounds it. I should remember that that is enough.

Sunday, April 02, 2006


Mindaugas Ramonas, the bandy-legged Lithuanian bricklayer who lives downstairs, is moving out. He's waiting for FO passports for himself and his wife Olga and has asked me to keep them somewhere safe until he can retrieve them if they arrive after he's gone. I asked him where he was moving to. He pointed eastwards and said "Odessa", with a noncommittal air. I was a little confused, but remembered that there is an Odessa Road down towards Forest Gate, and surmised that it was to there, rather than to the port on the Black Sea that he was intending to relocate.

Odessa has always interested me because of its historical status as a Free Port. One imagines the streets peopled with misplaced citizens from everywhere on Earth; exiled poets, war-sundered lovers, deserters, agitators, people running away from their old lives and towards an uncertain future. But it is not these streets that await Mr and Mrs Ramonas, not for now at least. The flat roof above their bedroom is leaking rainwater and they are having trouble with the letting agents. It's time for them to move on. To E7.

Saturday, April 01, 2006


Mr Thomas came out of the loo. He was wearing a grey blanket to which flakes of pastry adhered. He gave a sobbing cry. 'My house,' he said. 'Where's my house?'

I worked something out earlier today, on my knees, replacing the lids on felt tip pens scattered by my daughter. Youth is an exploration of the possibilities of chaos; age is a quest for order. As children we resent any control, any delimitation of what we can do. Adults require a robust police service funded by reasonable taxation.

Let's say I'm playing a computer game, my daughter is watching and the character representing me within in the game falls to their death or is otherwise thwarted by a glitch or developmental quirk. As the on-screen me spirals towards oblivion I'll attempt to wrench the joypad into pieces cursing the game for its non-linear reasoning and general shittiness. My daughter will pull her knees up to her chest and giggle irresistibly. For her, the fun starts when things go wrong.

I can't train myself out of the problem-solving habit, nor should I, not now. It's part of what a father does. But it wouldn't hurt to swim with less caution in the choppy waters of the unexpected, I live comfortably in a affluent democracy, after all.

This is an oversimplification, of course. Most children depend on routine and are wary of the unknown. And grown-ups dream of a job where they do something different and exciting everyday. The difference lies in how we respond to a setback, perhaps. If she writes a number the wrong way round my daughter won't mull over her error, she'll raise her eyebrows and write it again correctly. She says "Oh, sorry," sotto voce, to herself. She is still at that age where failure can be spun as an opportunity to do something again and to do it better. As I approach middle age I am struggling to hold on to my belief in the perfectibility of human nature. But I want to believe. That we can get it right. Meanwhile small children everywhere are hoping for the worst, for bombsites to play amongst, for rubble to sculpt.