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Worn down to the nubs of its last legs, it looked like I would need a new car and pretty promptly. I am not, nor do I profess to be, a car person. I would describe my car by its colour first and if asked my engine size or the ‘year of my car’ I would say that I don’t have a ruler or the appropriate astrological calendar. Turns out it’s written on front and back, buried in the registration in some half-encrypted cipher. Funny cas I always liked Mensa code-breaking books when I was a kid, never cars.

Much like football I no longer feel obligated to know some inane trivia in order to save face if the opportunity arises. If someone asked me which team I support within the first minutes of meeting them, once upon a time I might have said that I don’t follow football anymore and watch them wince as they reconfigure how to talk to me, dealing with this sudden plummet in respect and relatability. Now I’m more comfortable expressing my disinterest, ready to jump on the offence and point to the strange mix of it’s brutish culture and theatrics; or how you could spend the length of a decent film watching a match resulting in 0 – 0. Generally I duck the question with a straight but not sheepish “I’m not into football” shortly followed by “a number two and a little off the fringe”.

I don’t hear the question all that often anymore. The situation is avoidable, whereas, thanks to this last vehicle’o’mine, I have had to make a number of visits to different garages with different specialisations (they tell me) but the same manner of speaking and the same way of making me feel like a defenceless alien child.

I had avoided the face-to-face purchase of my two previous cars, so today was a milestone as I sucked up my pride and walked into a car dealership asking to buy a car. Instantly I began recognising little word games and tests, ones that Mensa hadn’t quite prepared me for. Asked about my preferences of mileage and shown an array of very similar looking cars on his monitor, I note only the difference in price and colour.

I point to the black one that has the lowest cost and then am taken out to view it on the lot. Not sure what to look for, I check that is has tyres and a steering wheel, enough room in the back to strap a child and a radio to keep me occupied. Good. Now the simple matter of payment and documentation. I’m shown a price that doesn’t match the one hanging from the rear-view, and told about payment methods, the dealer’s expressions and awkward jokes allow me to see his own desires but I can’t trust that he’s on my side. Then, from nowhere, another more geezerish dealer manifests to breakdown why I need GAP insurance. I don’t trust this man. I don’t trust anyone anymore. I realise now that of course they’re salesman performing a routine. Classic good cop – gooder cop. I spot another additional payment which I’m told is a protective coat for my interiors, something I’m assured I’ll need from my son. I’ve watched Fargo enough times to know that this is by-the-book and I that I do not want this, even after he squirts some water from an eye-dropper on a protected business card asking me to imagine that its chocolate. I don’t know what the fuck is going on anymore and so I tap out and phone-a-friend to come hold my hand before I sign anything.

10 minutes later, my car-savvy saviour arrives and is recognised by all of the dealers. He is one of them – he speaks their language and shares their hobbies. Immediately he flags up things I had accepted as given. He alerts me to hidden fees and interest rates that hadn’t been mentioned to me. Evidently, our man gets a commission on the extra interest I spend. In other words: he is working against me. When I hear this and tell him I don’t want to pay interest, that I can’t afford to, and that I want to pay for it here and now, he squirms and sulks. He offers a discount on the interest. He forgets to mention the deposit that I would save on until prompted by my newly recruited advisor, grumbling it under his breath and blocking the display of his calculator.

At this point he leans on me with some advice of his own – what with Christmas coming up I shouldn’t commit to the car, I should buy presents for the family and see what I think next year. What if the boiler explodes, or if our house gets broken into… “Is this a threat?” I ask, receiving a burst of laughter, but honestly this is emotional blackmail. He knows how little I earn, that I have a child and that I’m saving for my own place, he knows all of this and is still trying to trick me into giving him more money than I have.

I want to pay it all now. Fine. He retreats to an office and finishes off the paperwork when my saviour leaves me alone once more, a swift job well done. I am then called into the office where the pride of three dealers are gathered, perhaps sensing my vulnerability he asks me AGAIN how much I would like to pay, as though we hadn’t gone over this. All of it. He looks me in the eyes and in a move of desperate audacity insists: “Let’s call it half”.

I pay the full amount and avoid the TruCoat, but settle for the GAP insurance. I hand over the keys to my well loved but useless blue car when he spots the house key. “Guess you’ll be needing this” he says as he takes it off, “otherwise I’ll have to come around to see your son”. I have no idea what this man means to say. His tone is playful so I assume it’s a joke, but I cannot for the life of me work it out and perhaps my face shows this. “I’ll have to bring him some sweets”. What does this mean! Should I be worried? Is he going to burgle me or sabotage my boiler?

I spend the drive home thinking about this ordeal and the strange way that it ended, neither of us really happy, both convinced we had made a bad deal. The most I can hope for is that this car lasts long enough to prevent me having another of these interactions anytime soon.

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capitalist

The child has apparently started to question his role in the universe, why he is here – specifically why he lives in this house, with this family.

Alan Watts talks about cultural differences between the East and the West and looks at the role of God and society in shaping the way you see the world and your place in it.

He says of the West that there is the image of God as creator and so we see the world as matter that we shape and put our mark on. So it follows that a child would ask ‘how was I made?’

In the East however, a child is more likely to ask ‘how did I grow?’

Despite our best efforts to have him involved in growing tomatoes, in looking after a chicken and fetching it’s eggs of a morning, the way our son phrased his existential quandary: ‘Where did you buy me?’

Oh dear.

mandala

I am barely awake before thrust into a world far stranger than the dreams that had proceeded. I sit with the boy in his room and follow strict instruction. I must construct a dinosaur out of Duplo bricks. It must be tall and strong and yellow. Containing a door, slide and a gate apparently. Meanwhile he creates a robot of a less precise nature.

I do my best, managing to keep it symmetrical and give it some likeness: head, feet, tail made from the slide (not my first rodeo). He likes it. So much so that he immediately dismantles it, and uses its skeleton to form a zoo. How meta.

Just like the Marble Run tracks that I obsessively construct to turn into a race with an unknowable outcome, to teach him that winning and losing are both fun aspects of a game – he celebrates by immediately taking it apart, sometimes so carefully that I find it difficult to pinpoint the emotion I’m feeling.

It happens on such a regular basis that I have stopped insisting that we leave a fully constructed dinosaur on the bedside, or have a few races before packing away the circuit. I let it go. I move onto the next thing. And still I will put the same level of effort into it because what would be the point otherwise.

I’m being taught a lesson here – of the transient nature of creation, how something is never complete or perfect, it is just one in a series of things, a necessary intermediate between this and the next. There’s another dinosaur in here somewhere, or better yet a zoo that will house Batman along with the fish and polar bears, because after all he’s not merely a man.

A bit grandiose I realise but it makes sense to me the more I repeat it, and I’m getting pretty good with these bricks.

Sirens

It was past midnight. I had just dropped a friend home after work when he had text me to say one of my tail lights was out. Another fault to add to the list. Bombing it home a white car comes up behind me, and after flying over a roundabout it keeps my speed so I assume it’s going to overtake and speed ahead. Thats when the blue silent disco starts in my rearview.

One officer checks the back, the other the front. He says he smells unburnt fuel and notices the engine light on. Apparently I have a headlight out, as well as a tail light. Aw I know that one! I pull out my phone with the perfect alibi providing text. He shines a torch on my face. Don’t I know you? Have I pulled you over before? No, never been pulled over before – I say, perhaps too proud of myself considering the situation. Was I going a bit fast? (I offer forward like a brazen fucking idiot. It must have looked like I was speeding away from a crash). My instinct was to speed up as you pulled up behind me. Yeah you shouldn’t do that.

Order Effects: Lanthimos and Nichols

Having just caught a preview of The Killing of a Sacred Dear, one brilliant detail that keeps you in suspense is not knowing the reality of the film.

Lanthimos’ previous films Dogtooth and Alps were both extreme and farcical in their own way but set in the real world. Then The Lobster made this absurd surrealism the reality in the film. In Sacred Deer, when a family are the subject of a superstitious hex, you have no idea what the film is capable of and so it throws off all expectation by making anything possible. So so very clever.

I experienced this same effect recently when watching Take Shelter by Jeff Nichols. Having watched his debut, the gritty realistic Shotgun Stories and then his more recent science-fiction Midnight Special before going back to the acclaimed Take Shelter – I had no idea of the reality of the film and it kept me guessing, and I think I enjoyed it all the more for it.

 

cinema

Snacking on too salty popcorn made all too available in this place, made perpetually and inconsolably hungry, I am interrupted by a delivery of posters. One tube is full of quads for the upcoming Jigsaw – the eighth in the series of glossy gore torture porn. As I try roll an elastic-band down the tube I papercut myself deeper than I thought possible, making a bloody muppet-mouth of my middle finger, a slice right across the crease of my top phalange. Back to work and my feverish snacking I see the popcorn box where I left it on the desk.

“DO YOU WANT TO PLAY A GAME?”

only human

First time I’ve broken a phone-screen this past weekend. The buttons I used to be so fond of meant that my handsets were quite sturdy so they survived constantly being dropped. Now I’m onto a touchscreen smartphone like the rest of the world, I sat on it awkwardly and broke it.

Fortunately I pay insurance for moments like this. Unfortunately insurance is a scam that has been designed to test me, my patience and my grip on reality.

Apparently 3 Mobile offer a 24 hour replacement service. However, if you’re account was opened by your mother 15 years prior and since then your attempts at changing the name and authorisation have been ignored or forgotten, this means a total of over 5 hours on the phone explaining your fictionally estranged family dynamic to various strangers through gritted teeth.

I treated each phone operator as opponents on successive levels of this arcade game and each ended phone call as Game Over – before having to start again, no cheat codes in the form of extension numbers.

Of all my burned phone-time – 10% was them repeating themselves (their advice and the process) 20% was me repeating myself (my problems and describing the ways that they should kill themselves) whilst 70% was being kept on hold, listening to the music carefully selected to calm me down, instead winding me up to the point of poisonous rage.

Hitting a wall I would receive the same Combo-breaking cool-down period in which I am forced to listen to Rag’n’Bone man as a buffer, explaining how these poor telephone operators are only human after all and that I shouldn’t put my blame on them – ‘some people have real problems’ apparently.

I am livid.

I am rage incarnate.

I could crush this phone in my hand but won’t for fear of having to repeat the process.

Now I’m fully aware that ‘hold music’ is calculated, that lyrics with the words ‘hold’ or ‘wait’ are swerved in order to not remind you of the length of time you are waiting, but this is a bit on the nose isn’t it? The audacity. I feel like each person who puts me on hold is giving me a time-out to think about how angry I’m getting – I can picture them leaning back in their chair wearing a smug grin, not even pretending to make any progress, poking and prodding me. I should appreciate these fuckers as gurus, they will bring me to enlightenment. Or at least they would if I could get past the violent fantasises.

The first operator was called Angelo. The second Michael. With enough time to ponder I see the connection. If the boss of the next level is called Leonard, Donna or Splinter, I’m going to start breaking things.

So now I’m three days without a phone and zero progress has been made.

Wooosaaahh