Le Danse (ne) Macabre (pas)

There’s a ghost, you won’t have seen him, but he’s there. All the time, he dances; every where he goes – always dancing. Dancing as if he didn’t have a care in this world, or the next. Who knows? Maybe he doesn’t.

What I do know is that he never stops dancing – sometimes he dances slowly. Sometimes he dances fast. Sometimes it’s the most most beautiful thing you ever saw (but you won’t) – as if he were dancing what a thousand hearts breaking for the love of the same woman all at once felt like – sad, and lonesome, and somehow right at the same time. Sometimes, it’s bad tap routines from hideous old black and white films, and you’d hope his ghostly tongue would be poked firmly into his ghostly cheek – it’s hard to tell. But he’s always dancing. Always.

Some simple folks say that he’s got dancin’ feet, that it’s the night fever, the light of the silvery moon, that he’ll always be dancing and the always has. But he might not, and he hasn’t.
Some slightly more together and knowledgeable types have been heard to say that it’s true – the rhythm DID get him, but that’s a joke that worked better when Chandler said it, and, besides, it’s not even the half of it.
The truth of the matter is, pure and simple, the music took him. It took him and it never let him go.

All of his life, he had loved music. He would sit staring, transfixed, into the speaker of the radio his mother had playing in the back-ground when he was learning to move about – as soon as the music started he would sit where he was and stare at where the music was coming from, when the music stopped and the talking began, he would turn away and his mind would move to other things, but once the music started again he was back round like a whip and staring deep into the speaker.

Of course, his mother fed his fascination. It kept him out of the way, and seemed to be stimulating his little brain, she quickly learned that it didn’t matter what type of music was playing, so long as it played.

As he grew, he started trying to learn about music, but had no aptitude for it whatsoever, which rather than frustrating him, fascinated him all the more – how could something so foreign to his understanding affect him so deeply? All his spare time was spent reading about music, all his pocket money spent on tapes and then later CDs and vinyl. He made friends with people who liked music, hung around with musicians, but soon stopped when he started to feel inferior – it was one thing, not being able to make music or understand it himself, but to listen to conversations about the thing he loved most and not be able to take part at all, the first feelings of jealousy – that these people had a deeper relationship with the thing he loved than he ever could.

So, he retreated behind the music he bought from his meagre earnings at the record store, and all the time they wouldn’t let him work – “You need some time off, we’ve got enough staff to cover the weekend, we’re closed on Sundays.” – he wandered around listening to his music, getting more and more taken up in it as time went by. He quit his job, resenting the interruptions that people made on his listening schedule, moved back in with his mother who fed him and didn’t talk any more, and walked around the town, listening to one of his two i-pods, carrying the other in case the first ran out of power half way through the day.

Every day he would listen, and every day he would become a little more frustrated – he knew he loved the music, but he couldn’t understand any of it! He knew as much of the theory as anybody had any right to, and his head was full of crotchets and key and scales, arpeggios, harmonies and dodgy middle eights, but he still didn’t get it. It was driving him mad and he knew it, but he didn’t know what he could do.

Some days he tried not listening at all, but after an hour or so, he couldn’t cope any longer and back on went the headphones. He tried talking to people, with music on in the back ground, of course, but after the first, “Hello,”s he’d drift away into the music and only notice that the other person had left when the CD needed changing. He couldn’t make any progress, nor could he get away from the need to try.
It was driving him mad.

One day he was walking along the street, down by the old monument in town, when something distracted him. Some say it was a beautiful woman walking past and turning her head for a second glance. Some say it was the bleakness of the newspaper headline blowing around his feet. Some say it was the sheer joy and pleasure on the faces of two children chasing each other around about. Some say it was the pain as he stubbed his toe on a wonky paving stone. Some say it was a minor stroke, causing his brain to stop just for one moment. Others say this is all largely dependent on what people think music is.

It doesn’t matter. That moment’s distraction was all he needed. When his brain started again, everything fell into place, and for the first time in his life he found himself dancing, not just caught up in his head, but all of his being. And he couldn’t stop. Crowds gathered, some cheered, some danced with him, all went away tired as he carried on dancing. At some point he was mugged, and his i-pods with their precious music stolen, but the dance went on.

There’s not much more to tell: how, to get away from the crowds and the jeers, he danced his way to the quiet places; how, one day, some kids, out for kicks, murdered him – their blows and stabs falling as his dance became ever more fluid and graceful as if, with the blood and conciousness leaving him the music took an even greater hold, and how his killers ran screaming away as he kept on dancing long after they’d spent their energies; how, after that, it was all a matter of time running its course and as the dance went on, his body drying out and shrinking until a skeleton in rags danced over the fields, scaring birds. Every so often, there would be a report of some drunken farmer being scared half to death by a dancing scarecrow.

Then, nothing. No trace was found of any remains. The music took him, utterly and completely. He danced until there was nothing left but the ghost of a dance.

And the dance goes on.

The Waiting Room

You are ushered into a comfortable waiting room with two huge, ornate lift-fronts at one end.  There are rows and rows of chairs opposite the doors – full of people, quietly sitting, watching.  Some are calm, some fidgety, all have noticed that the lifts’ call buttons only have a down arrow and that the arrow on the dial above each door moves very slowly until it reaches three o’clock – as far as it can go – and the door opens, but very, very quickly back the other way to the point at which it stops – somewhere different every time.

The only people you ever see emerging from the lifts are the bell boys.  They walk from the doors to the front of the chairs and point, and nod, and escort a nervous patient to the doors, walking strangely (the bell boys, not the patients) as if their legs weren’t jointed in the right places.  You get the impression that they never point directly at anybody, but, every time two patients start to stand up together, one always sits down very quickly, looking very relieved.

A neighbour turns to you and whispers with a profound air of authority – somewhat like a war veteran who seems far too sane to be saying such crazy things – or like a drunk who grabs you in the street and almost convinces you, until you realise that something does not compute.

“They take them downstairs,” he says.  “Downstairs to talk to their boss.  The patients’ boss, not the bell boys’.”

“Patients?” you ask, worried to have a crazy whispering guy confirming what the narrator had implied you’d been thinking yourself.

“Yeah, patients, customers, whatever.  More applicants really.  Applicants is better.  You see how they’re nervous – the applicants, not the bell boys – you know why they’re nervous?
“They’re nervous because they know they have to go downstairs and convince their their boss to let them stay.  They’re trying to remember everything they’ve ever done for their boss, what went right, what credit they can claim, what lies they can slip past, what excuses they need to make – why they deserve to stay – they have to convince their boss to let them stay.  It’s why they’re here.  They shouldn’t be nervous though, once they get in the lifts, they’re guaranteed the position they’ve worked for, what they deserve.  There’s no need to grovel and beg, but they all do.”

You’re just about to ask him how he knows all this, when a bell boy shambles over, points and nods.  Your neighbour stands up, turns to you and says, “Gotta go, nice meeting ya, funny how it’s never empty in here.” and then shuffles over to the lifts becoming more and more agitated and reluctant as he goes.

You look around and glance around behind you – the place is full, at least as full as when you arrived, if not fuller, but suddenly the strangest thing you know is that you don’t know how you got there, you can’t remember your journey, in fact, you’re reasonably certain that you couldn’t have come all this way (where are you again?) just to beg for a lousy job it seems you’d get anyway.  As you try to work out what exactly the hell is going on, a bell boy approaches and you feel yourself standing up.  You look around desperately, but all the chairs around you are filled with people resolutely sitting and just-as-desperately avoiding eye contact.  You drag your feet as you follow and suddenly it becomes very important to remember something:

Reasons to stay?
No, that’s not it.

Something else you’d rather be doing?
Closer, closer.

Promises made in the heat of the night?
Closer, closer.

A life pact made with your best friend?
Closer, closer.

The arrow hits three o’clock with a dull “PONK!”
Did you leave the gas on?
Closer, closer.

The doors slide open.
No, that’s not it either – if only you could think!
Closer, closer.

And then it hits you:
A gust of hot stale air from the lift shaft,
The truth, the question, and the answer,
A hint of fresh air from a door you hadn’t noticed before – right next to the lift.  It is open, there are steps beyond it, steps leading upwards, and you…

Going Camping

I’ve got three days booked off this week, so I can go and spend a week sleeping under the elements.
We might be going to Kielder Water or somewhere in the Lake District.
That’s about it.

In other news:
I’ve got my record player hooked up to my PC now and am in the process of transferring my LPs to CD via the hard-drive. First up: The Muppet Show (first cast album).

Vote for me

Well, kind of.

Today I was reduced to voting for the Green Party as a protest vote.  None of the real lunatic fringe were in evidence, and I thought, “There’s an opening there.”

It would be great to stand as a representative of The Protest Party – a non-aligned collection of candidates whose only point is to provide an outlet for voters’ frustration and sense of outrage at being offered the same old non-choices.  Of course, we wouldn’t have any policies ourselves, but there are bound to be more people out there (surely?) who would welcome the chance to officially register a protest by other means than not voting or supporting the Conservatives.

Of course this could backfire utterly and completely, but I doubt I’d find myself in parliament or even on the council.  I’d merely have to find a way of raising the deposit money without much hope of ever seeing it again.

What do you think?

(and I know the “none of the above” campaign in Brewster’s Millions was a roaring success, but how often does life imitate art?)

One week on (almost)

And I can just about bear to look at a computer again. It’s not a general encouragement to look at the screen to have a beautiful day outside, all a manner of interesting feathered birds hanging around in plain view of my window (I’ve seen goldfinches, woodpeckers, pigeons, blackbirds, greenfinches, blue tits, starlings, cole-tits, sparrows, bullfinches, possibly a crossbill and a large thrush like bird whose name I keep forgetting), and the mother of all headaches – it felt like I’d been stabbed through my left lobe.

But life is good, I managed to use the kitchen to cook this week and haven’t died of food poisoning, I’ve got my ticket booked for Rodrigo y Gabriella at the Newcastle Carling Academy in June, I’ve got my ticket booked for Spiderman 3 on Friday afternoon, one of my friends launches an exhibition of her photography at a local gallery this evening, I’ll be at a barbeque on Friday night and it’s lunch time.

I haven’t mentioned the cricket ground just outside my office – it’s infuriating, but just as well that there’s a six foot fence interrupting my view, or I’d get absolutely no work at all done during the summer – I love hearing the sounds of cricketting and bird song. I couldn’t really ask for a better location.

And now the end is nigh

And so I write one final cliche…

Ahh, but was it as much fun for you as it was for me?

We’ve had weirdness – the time-stampery-jiggery-pokery where the server clock kept jumping forwards hours at a time was very strange and when it jumped back it messed up the comments, but we defeated it! Kind of. Worked around it.

We’ve had chat, we’ve had silliness, some serious bits, and raised a bundle of notes for good causes.

All that remains is:

For me to thank my gracious tech-support and wonderful fellow LifePoster: Nicky I couldn’t have done it with out you – you’ve been great.

To thank the many commenters and chatterers who’ve helped keep my spirits up through the night.

To say that I’ll be happy to do the same again next year, and that in the mean time my Justgiving site is still running and I’m prepared to write more polished entries more or less to spec for similar levels of donations until it closes.

Thank you, and good night Vienna.


It’s been great fun writing for the blogathon.

Here’s a list of the physical resources that have gone into making this blogathon possible (and that’s just the writing of these bits):

Two large pots of coffee

Six cups of Yorkshire Tea

Three Peperami sausages (two black, one green)

Half a giant bag of  chilli tortilla chips

One pot of cold pasta bake

Several pints of orange squash

Five cotton buds

Eight sheets of tissue paper

A quarter inch of each of my typing fingers – that’s maybe seven eights of an inch between them.

And, has it been worth it.  You bet your life it has.  It’s been great fun.  And money to a good cause too.