Holiday Blues Jam

My dearest Jane,

While I was on holiday (which was lovely thank you), Japan beat Wales at the rugby. This was something of an upset (he said with typically British understatement).

‘Japan harpoons Wales’ would’ve been my headline if I were a tabloid journalist still. Crying shame that unhappy business.

Back here in Blighty the weather continues very hot. I have requested of her Majesty’s government that the Spanish siesta tradition is imported for the duration, but to date my communiques have gone unresponded to. Such is life under the perpetually face-grinding boot (which my good friend Eric B so eloquently alluded to in his recent novel).

The silver lining of this sad little tale is that I remain of buoyant mood despite being forced to work in conditions that would be positively sweltering were it not for the office’s highly capable air conditioning system. As you might guess, I was recently able to indulge in one of my favourite pastimes – becoming inexplicably, albeit cathartically, angry at airports.

It never fails to enervate me that they persist with the ludicrous fiction that flying is a glamorous mode of travel. So glamorous in fact that the only things available for purchase are sunglasses, perfume, booze, poor quality, high cost clothes in lime green and hot pink, cigarettes (albeit only on one’s return) and electronics. Because nothing says ‘impulse buy’ like a desktop computer.

I suppose that if you’re going to spend that much money on a polo shirt you damn well want to make sure that no one can miss it. It seems a sad irony that the people who can be least trusted to spend money wisely and with taste are the ones who have plenty of it. Money, not taste – that’s a given, unfortunately.

And don’t get me started on the food, the purveyors of which exist to cater purely for those whose dollars exceed their quotient of taste buds.

In fact I became so apoplectic when forced to produce a passport and boarding pass in order to buy a bottle of water (you wouldn’t believe the cost) that I felt I might explode into a puce fireball. But I remembered too late that one mustn’t use words like ‘explode’ or ‘bomb’ in an airport.

At least the chap who performed the cavity search had nimble, gentle fingers that reminded me of those long ago days at Charterhouse.

I find the airport bookshops these days to stock a much narrower range of reading material; confined largely to the chart toppers and such literature as has previously been adapted into picture shows for the masses. They are indisputably harder to comprehend, with new categories like ‘genuinely true crime thriller’ and ‘dirty gubbins’ replacing those of my youth. I found an entire shelf apiece dedicated to those three fifty shades books I once had the misfortune of skimming through twice each from cover to cover. My ex-wife says she flicked through it.

But alas, happiness is fleeting and I fear the post-holiday blues will soon overcome the invigorating rage of the departure lounge.

It was dark upon my return and the seductive night air put me in mind me of you, which in turn left me with a short-lived but profound sadness. I deeply regret the manner of our parting and the pain we caused your husband – I’ve heard his new album by the way, exceptional. I received your regards and hope in turn that you still have the rose I gifted you, not to mention the lock of my hair. And I hope your husband has repaired that ratty old raincoat of his, because it does suit him rather famously.

Intermittently yours,

Simon

‘Sleb Power Couple Jam

Bennifer has long since been consigned to Closer magazine’s archives division, but the proud tradition of mashing up the names of romantically entwined heavenly bodies of the celebriverse lives on.  Brangelina, Speidi, Kimye; Simon Cowell.

Sadly, the firmament appears to operate a rigid caste system based on star wattage.  Most mono-monikered star couples seem too cowed or unimaginative to incorporate asymmetries of fame – red dwarf pairs with red dwarf, nova with nova.

A supernova with a white dwarf?  Not only unthinkable but against nature.  You might as well ask Betelgeuse to pursue a tryst with a goat.

This is clearly anomalous in our latter-days-of-the-Roman-Empire culture where anything goes.  In order to upset the balance of the force, then, here are some proposals for new power couples.  Public Relations bods looking for a coup take note.  Should that be ‘Pubic Relations’ given the subject matter?

Seaworld

Interests align for Kung Fu Buddhist Steven Seagal and massive multiplayer online role player World of Warcraft.  A world of pain for orcs, trolls, non-vegetarians and illegal entrants to Arizona, where Seagal is an honorary sheriff.  Innocent bystander dogs may wish to give this couple a wide berth.

Zeta-Stone

Catherine Zeta-Jones and the Rolling Stones.  Existing partners notwithstanding, of course.  There’s nothing to say about this that would not wildly overstep the bounds of taste and decency.

Boring

Blonder than blonde London mayor Boris Johnson and Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman (of Casablanca fame).  Would have to be entirely manufactured, sorry, speculated on by the gossip rags, mind, given Bergman sadly passed away in 1982.  But if a time machine could be arranged, they’d give some seriously frothy copy.  A boon for any features editor.

Warinona Ryder

Sometime Super Mario Bros antagonist Wario and Winona Ryder.  Were they spotted canoodling over a dastardly plan to steal Princess Peach?  She certainly stole his heart.  One denies any malicious or potentially libellous content in the previous 2 sentences, naturally.  In any case, such events as you may be picturing occurred long ago in the past and as such are utterly irrelevant (although they did make me love her even more).

Tom Cruise Jam

Jack Reacher is a drifter, a man of no driving licence or last known address. He’s also a highly decorated former military policeman rank of major. He’s a man with a past.

A beautiful young woman lies dead on the hotel room floor, the victim of a brutal gunshot wound. Misogynist self-help guru Frank Mackey is the only suspect. He’s on trial for his life. The prosecutor is Mitch McDeere, the latest wunderkind of the firm Bendini, Lambert and Locke; a young man with a very promising legal career ahead of him. The prosecution’s star witness John Anderton heads up Precrime, an infallible precognition unit that points the finger at Mackey.

The case is cut and dried. The only thing is – Frank Mackey didn’t do it.

There’s a conspiracy afoot, but even Mackey’s own brief doesn’t seem to believe him. The defendant’s counsel, a hotshot navy lawyer name of Danny Kaffee, is looking for the path of least resistance. Could it be that someone hopes it never sees the inside of a courtroom?

Ethan Hunt of government agency IMF seems to think so. Something about the woman’s murder doesn’t ring true. It puts him in mind of a series of murders carried out via taxi. It puts him in mind of a hit.

More to the point, a hit carried out by someone with a military background.

But there’s a problem – IMF won’t authorise an investigation, in fact stonewalls it. Hunt is concerned – this goes high up. To get to the truth he needs to go off the grid. He needs a man with savant-like investigative skills, a man who can handle himself in a fight, an unstoppable force. A man with a past. A man who doesn’t want to be found.

Trouble is Jack Reacher doesn’t want to be found.

But they don’t call it the Impossible Mission Force for nothing. As the body count mounts to include car dealer narcissist Charlie Babbit and ex-army bartender Brian Flanagan, it becomes clear that someone out there has a grudge. And his next victim: celebrity sports agent and potential future presidential candidate Jerry Maguire.

Together Hunt and Reacher must race against the clock, must face their respective pasts; must face a truth they perhaps can’t handle:

They know the killer.

Could he be the hotshot pilot, Maverick, or superspy Roy Miller, who both trained with Hunt? What of Captain Nathan Algren, alcoholic and samurai, investigated by Reacher? Or the troubled Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic, likewise the former subject of Reacher’s attentions?

And just how is studio honcho (and Precrime investor) Les Grossman involved?

Luckily, they’re assisted by former special ops turned private sector hitman Vincent, a superlatively skilled assassin with a specialism in identity theft.

Produced by Tom Cruise, with a soundtrack by Stacee Jaxx and a twist you won’t see coming… Nominated for no Academy Awards: this is one shot you won’t want to miss!

In 3D!!!

Book Jam: The Party

“Call me Ishmael,” I said to the girl.  “So”, said Estella, “I must be taken as I have been made. The success is not mine, the failure is not mine, but together the two make sense.”

I understood her pain – I have always felt that you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.  My friend Jame Gumb also understood.  He said “It puts the lotion on is skin or else it gets the hose again.”

I left Jame and Estella to it.  They danced down the streets like dingledodies, and I shambled after as I’ve been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”

Watching them leave the party I recalled how I first entered this society, months ago. Like more than one Englishman in New York, I looked upon Americans as hopeless children whom Providence had perversely provided with this great swollen fat fowl of a continent. Any way one chose to relieve them of their riches, short of violence, was sporting, if not morally justifiable, since they would only squander it in some tasteless and useless fashion, in any event.  I believe that on the first night I went to Gatsby’s house I was one of the few guests who had actually been invited. People were not invited–they went there. 

Walking back, I chanced upon a conversation between two of the guests, though I did not know their names.  He said, “Everyone suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known.”  She said “It is hard to forgive, and to look at those eyes, and feel those wasted hands,’ he answered, “Kiss me again; and don’t let me see your eyes! I forgive what you have done to me. I love my murderer—but yours! How can I?” 

I did not know what to say to this…there is an idea of a Patrick Bateman, some kind of abstraction, but there is no real me, only an entity, something illusory, and though I can hide my cold gaze and you can shake my hand and feel flesh gripping yours and maybe you can even sense our lifestyles are probably comparable: I simply am not there.

All these thoughts made social discourse impossible. Lacking a response I simply nodded noncommittally.  But he carried on “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

I was bored now when Emma Bovary suddenly began to sob on my breast; and my heart, like the people who can only stand a certain amount of music, became drowsy through indifference to the vibrations of a love whose subtleties I could no longer distinguish.

We walked off together.  “A plague on both your houses”, shouted Mercutio.  He loved Big Brother.

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 …Answers on a postcard…