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223 – Mosquitoes and Lemons

I’ve been fighting a war here recently. Each morning waking up a puckered corpse. Ravaged in the night by an elite squadron of mosquitoes whose only objective is to bleed me dry. So much so that I’ve been thinking of sleeping in a bath of bleach with a snorkel to breathe through simply to get a good night’s sleep.

The towns and villages on the Arcachon Basin are built on tidal swamps. A giant game reserve in which pink faced Homo sapiens are the prey and the red-necked harpoon toting mosquitoes, the hunters.

Luckily, help is at hand.

The old Algerian cleaning lady who I work with – and who I incidentally found four crates of out-of-date Heineken in the cellar with yesterday (coincidence? I think not) – told me to cut a lemon in half and rub it on my body as a repellent.

I did and it worked. Not a bite all day. Until I dived in the pool for my evening swim and got ravaged the minute I stepped out. In agony, screaming and stinging like a freshly pickled cat, I ran into my apartment, downed a can of the out of date Heineken and then pelted it to the shop to buy a crate’s worth of lemons. Plus a bottle of gin to make my blood too toxic for the mosquitoes to drink. A trick my father taught me on a camping trip to South Africa in the 1980s. Gin being cheaper than insect repellent. Or so he said.

I’m normally quite resistant to bites – even in the proper tropical countries I’ve visited. This year though in boring temperate France, I’ve been slaughtered by them. Their persistence astonishing. As is their powers of stealth. Appearing from behind cupboards, curtains and cabinets the minute I step in the shower. A blood bath!

I’m a hot and humid weather kind of guy. A result of someone in my ancestral line picking up some tropical blood from somewhere at some point in the dark distant past. I can sit in humid 35 degree heat all day. Doesn’t bother me in the slightest. But of course with hot humid weather in swamp land, you get mosquitoes. Millions of them.

I now have a solution though. Lemons. Now I can sit outside all day long and not worry. And there’s even the added bonus that I’ll never run out of lemons again for my gin and tonics. Which is proof – if ever I needed it – that there’s always a satisfactory solution to everything if you put your mind to it.

lemons3

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222 – A Bottle of Wine, a Piece of Meat, a Knife, and a Stove.

My contract as Pool Boy terminates in 15 days time. My services are redundant and I’m moving on again. Jobless and homeless in two weeks. But not concerned.

It’s my long held belief that there’s always work and a bed to sleep in if you put your mind to it. Ask around, see what’s going on. Chances are there’s always someone who needs something doing that they can’t be bothered doing themselves. That’s how economies work. And if there’s no work, you move on. That’s called migration. And if you can’t find work, you sleep on it and see what comes up the next day. That’s called life.

Elizabeth said to me yesterday, ‘You don’t need much do you, Oggers? A bottle of wine, a piece of meat, a knife, and a stove.’

I’m not very good at being in the same place. Too many reasons to get bored. Looking at the walls for instance, wondering what colour to paint them. Eggshell, Sunflower Yellow, Lilac, Emerald. So many options. So many possibilities.

People say that’s why you go on holiday. To have a break. But surely the walls will still be there when you return. Unless someone’s knocked them down, rebuilt new ones, moved your furniture around and hidden your possessions. All in a charitable attempt to make the next year a little bit different from the last.

I always enjoy reading Bruce Chatwin at times like this.

“Man’s real home is not a house, but the Road, and that life itself is a journey to be walked on foot.”

I’ve moved around a lot in my life. I’m not a Nomad in the traditional sense – I don’t have animals for one.  But I do understand the pull of the road and being on the move.

I was born in Durham in the north of England almost 41 years ago (my birthday is in two days) and even though it’s only 1430kms from where I am now, it feels like a million. I only stayed there until I was two, before moving to Leeds. Now 41 (almost), I’m still moving, and as normal, even with fifteen days to go, my plans are vague. Fifteen days though, in anybody’s life, not just mine, is a long time. Anything could happen.

As long as I have a stove, a good Bordeaux, some sausage and a knife, nothing can go wrong.

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220 – Blogley Takes a Break

Today is the last Blogley for a while. No reason. Just fancy a break from the ramblings. Things to do. People to see. Places to go.

I’ve been writing a lot in longhand recently on old fashioned paper and need some time to read what nonsense I’ve written and whether any of it is usable for some project.

I’ve therefore decided that it’s time to let the blog go for a while and concentrate on other things. I don’t spend a great deal of time on the blog, but it’s enough to distract me. And I don’t like distractions.

Blogley will return soon. In the meantime, here’s a video of a trip to the shop I did today with Elizabeth. Call it an intermission: pop corn, ice creams, sodas.

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219 – The Pool – Revisited (again)

The pool still isn’t clean. Despite weeks and weeks and weeks and weeks of hard work, it still looks like a silage pit. A deep green vat of algal snot covering every surface like discharge from a gigantic sneeze. The fabled natural swimming pool of the villa, no longer a clear blue green embodiment of ecological modern living, but a huge used Kleenex sunk into a hole in the ground.

However much I clean it, hoover it, deploy the pool robot, skim off leaves with the net. By the morning there’s always a thick layer of green algae creaming every surface like someone went nuts in the night with a Gloop Gun.

The main problem I’ve deduced is the wind. Which has been blowing all sorts of crap into it on which the algae feed off. The human equivalent of bringing a fresh barrel of beer into a student house every evening. Suddenly the music’s blaring, people are dancing and the neighbours are banging on the ceiling. It’s a total disaster. Yet however hard I try, the party just goes on and on.

Tomorrow is April. I should be practising my backstroke by now in the hot sun, not poncing about in my Peter Storm cagoule scraping slime off the sides of the pool like I’m cleaning a communal toilet. It’s really starting to get to me.

Every night I dream of gigantic life size algae with razor sharp teeth eating their way through a mountain of leftover kebabs that have blown in from nearby Arcachon. Gorging themselves on junk, growing bigger and bigger, spreading across the surface of the pool as I lie sleeping. Their horrible evil grins I can see in my nightmares as they destroy everything I’ve worked for over the past three months.

The word ‘Thankless’ often comes to mind. As do the words ‘Litre of bleach’. That would do the trick. That would bring their algal fiesta under control very quickly.

A controlled dose I’ve calculated – say half a litre – might actually work. Kill off the algal blooms but leave the plants intact. The only problem is, I can’t be sure it’ll work. If it went wrong, there would be some difficult questions to answer from my boss.

Namely. ‘Why is everything dead?’ Quickly followed by, ‘Why are you still here? You’re fired. Get out.’

I can’t risk losing my job at this critical stage. It’s not my accommodation or the money I’m bothered about. More my conscience.

I want to leave here on my last day looking at a pool so clean I could boil potatoes in it. Drink from it. Deliver babies in it. I want it to look as pristine as the photograph in the villa’s brochure. So that when people visit, they think it is a photograph.

‘My God,’ they’ll say. ‘It looks exactly as it does in the photograph. Must have a good Pool Boy.’

‘You betcha ass they do,’ the Ghosts of Algal Past will reply. ‘He’s the best!’

pool perfect

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Wine Box Bike Racks

I’ve been doing cycling tours on and off for years. Bike, couple of panniers, tent, sleeping bag, set off, see where I end up. They’ve always been great fun, either alone or with a friend. Total freedom, plus a clean and cheap way to see the world. But where do you put your wine?

There’s nothing more invigorating than drinking a bottle of wine while cycling. I normally keep it in the water bottle holder on the frame, so that when I come to a difficult hill, it’s within easy reach. A slug of Pays D’Oc decreases the gradient of any hill. Even a tortuous Alpine pass suddenly looks possible.

I’ve loved touring since I was kid. Me and my school friend Duncan used to cycle round Cornwall in the rain and hail of the British summer. We stayed in youth hostels back then and didn’t drink wine. Just the odd fag now and then to fire our lungs up before an ascent of those ludicrously steep Cornish hills.

My smoking days are done, but the cycling continues. And so does the wine. Even though it’s never been particularly secure, jammed into the flimsy metal wire cradle that was originally designed for a light plastic water bottle and not a heavy Bordeaux.

It of course goes without saying that over the years a bottle of Claret has broken free and shattered all over the road. Total disaster for me and any cyclists bringing up the rear in their skinny wheelers.

Despite the water bottle holder’s shortcomings though, I’ve kept on using it as my wine rack. Until yesterday. When I found an old champagne crate in a dustbin up the road from where I live.

‘Oh Lord,’ I thought as I measured up the dimensions. ‘It’s perfect. Not only for wine, but beer as well. I wouldn’t even have to stop. Just a quick reach around into my portable bar for a chilled beer or a slug of wine.’ I’m already planning my first trip. Probably to a nearby vineyard. Camp out among the vines with my new companion.

It’s certainly made me think that in our world of endless technology and gadgets, where even books are becoming erased by computer screens, it’s so pleasing to know that I can still derive great pleasure from such a simple (and free) thing. So much so that I can’t stop looking at it.

It’s not just that it fits exactly twelve cans of beer and two bottles of wine in it. It’s the utter simplicity of it that I find astonishing. A old box strapped to a bike. And yet it serves its function perfectly. Not just for alcohol. For anything. Books, groceries, vegetables, fruit, wood, dogs, fish.

I’ve seen bikes with boxes on them for years. Even on those Cornwall trips I saw crazy cyclists with gigantic trunk like containers on their bikes as though they were heading off to Africa. And yet I never thought of having one myself. Even as an adult.

‘If only everything was as simple as strapping an old wine box to a bike with an old bungi cord.’ I kept saying to myself yesterday evening.

Now I think about it. Maybe it is.

wine box

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217 – The Mugwump

Yesterday I started reading a post from a blog I subscribe to. It’s called 101 Books and is a journey through all of TIME magazines best 101 books. I wrote about it in Blogley 130.

The blog’s author is currently reading Naked Lunch by William Burroughs, which is a personal favourite of mine because of its powerful descriptions on how far human beings will go to satisfy their craving for depravity and debauchery.

I’ve read it twice and loved every minute of it. Mad, sickening, incoherent, unsettling, and totally crazy. Or as JG Ballard said:

“A comic apocalypse, a roller-coaster ride through hell, a safari to the strangest people on the strangest planet, ourselves.”

It’s not everybody’s cup of tea I admit. But that’s OK, there are lots of books I don’t like. The reason I took offence at yesterday’s post was because the blogger had taken it upon himself to include a page from the book where The Mugwump (a male prostitute) has sex with a client.

YES! The writing is certainly vivid, but it’s also ridiculous. The Mugwump isn’t even real. (From Naked Lunch):

Mugwumps have no liver and nourish themselves exclusively on sweets. Thin, purple-blue lips cover a razor sharp beak of black bone with which they frequently tear each other to shreds in fights over clients. These creatures secrete an addictive fluid though their erect penises which prolongs life by slowing metabolism’

It’s a swamp beast. A creature from the depths. The scene takes place in a brothel located in hell. It’s NOT real. It’s so OBVIOUSLY a metaphor. Yet, the reaction to that one page on his blog – AND I STRESS ONE PAGE OUT OF 200 – was maddening. Suddenly I was wondering whether all his readers had converted to reading the Daily Mail.

‘Promotes paedophilia’

‘Should be banned!’

‘Sicko stuff.’

‘Nothing more than pornography.’

‘Truck stop filth.’

Really! I’m thinking. That bad? I mean where do these people live? What do they think lies behind any internet search engine if they type in the right words. Far worse stuff than Burroughs ever wrote.

People are entitled to their opinion. Even if they want to base their opinions on one page of a book. However, the worst aspect of the post for me was the constant going on about how the book, ‘Is in no way art!’

This really confused me. Of course, it isn’t art. It’s a fictionalised account of William Burroughs’s travels and experiences. I don’t want to get onto the subject of whether books are art. Personally, a book is a story. And a story isn’t art. Sure there’s an art in creating the characters, the setting, the plot. The craft of getting the words onto the page. But in my mind, a story is a story. A journey from A to B. And in this particular book, as JG Ballard perfectly put it, a journey through the strangest minds on the planet. Ourselves.

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Film, Taussat

216 – MockVert

If you read my last post, it was about not feeling guilty. Not being harangued by Mister Guilt every time I try and do something different or creative.

If you remember, ‘I was wasting my time writing a story no one would ever read.’ So I made a video of me writing it and posted it on the internet along with the blog.

So how did it go? Well, it made me feel pretty damn good actually. I felt proud and powerful. ‘Who gives a monkeys what I do,’ I thought. ‘If someone wants to laugh at me and say, “Well, you’re a rather silly fellow, Oggers,” then good for them. Meanwhile, I’ll get on with my life.’

So what’s a MockVert?

It’s an unofficial advertisement for a product featuring real life people.

So who invented it?

I did. Today in fact as I was standing in my kitchen making a coffee wondering how I would advertise the particular brand I was using.

Who’s in it?

Me. As later in the day, I thought what would happen if I actually filmed myself promoting a product – say a beer – and put it on the internet? How silly would that be?

Is it legal?

I don’t know. The only way to find out is to try. The Orville brothers didn’t invent the aeroplane by sitting on their fat American asses wondering what would happen if they glued a couple of long flat pieces of wood together and attached it to a motor.

What’s the product?

Export 33. It’s not my regular brand, but they’d run out at the shop. This was all they had.

Will I get sued?

I hope so.

Where can I see?

Here:

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215 – Mister Guilt

On a Sunday I like to sit on the veranda and write a story. Just me and a piece of paper. The house I look after is generally empty from noon onwards, so it’s a good chance to sit down and do some solid writing.

Today’s story was about a man who had bought a large villa and yet had no need for it. He bought it because he could. It was big and expensive. He was rich. He knew as soon as he’d signed the contract that it was a mistake. He didn’t even like it, but had the deranged idea that buying it might win his wife back.

The story doesn’t matter. For now. It may appear somewhere at some point – it’s called The Castle. What does matter is that halfway through writing it – at about the time where the man is going through an alcohol induced breakdown in his huge house that he hates in the middle of nowhere – I had a block. Not a writer’s block. But a guilt block.

‘What are you doing? Can’t you spend your Sundays any more productively than writing your silly little stories, Phil? I mean no one is ever going to read them. Don’t you think you’re wasting your time? I mean who do you think you are, Charles Dickens?’

For those of you who write (or paint or create music or dance) you may be familiar with this. From somewhere out of nowhere, just as you’re enjoying yourself, storms in that demented beast of all creation, Mister Guilt. Coming over to destroy everything you’ve ever worked for.

I have a strategy for dealing with him though. Whatever I’m doing that is so silly and worthless, I double it, triple it, quadruple it. Make whatever I’m doing even more stupid, more ridiculous, more juvenile than it already was, so that Mister Guilt is simply lost for words. Then watch him run back to whatever angst ridden nightmare he lives in.

To combat him today, I decided to film myself finish the story I had started.

‘That dumb enough for you, Mister Guilt? I’m Philip ‘Oggers’ Ogley, I can do anything I want. I’m my own creation. So stick this in your fusebox and piss off.’

So that’s what I did. I got out my camera and filmed myself writing the second portion of my story, which I finished. (The owner of the Castle living happily ever after – sort of.)

The results of my experiment are below if you’re intrigued to see how I destroyed Mister Guilt. Maybe try it for yourself one day.

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214 – Beer Cans: Recycling or Rubbish

(this audio blog first appeared in Alexander Velkey’s highly acclaimed Doubtcast on 10 March 2015 – see end of post for further details)

I live in a small cottage by the sea. I’m the caretaker for a holiday villa that caters for people who drive cars that look like chocolate bars. Smooth soft-topped motors designed for fast driving. No roof racks, baby seats, car stickers, tow bars, awkward edges or angles to spoil the view.

I do most of my chores in the morning, so that I have the afternoons off to write and drink beer. I drink a lot of beer, and as a result accumulate a lot of rubbish. Or is it recycling?

It’s good that I can recycle the mountain of cans I see on the floor each morning. Stick them in the recycling box. Out of sight, out of mind. Buy another crate. Get smashed.

I don’t feel too guilty about buying them because they’ve got a green swirly logo on the side that gives me the licence to buy as many as I want. It’s not technically rubbish, is it? It’s recycling. Great! Let’s buy more of it. Let’s get smashed.

Sometimes I use cardboard from cereal boxes as kindling for my woodburner and feel guilty when I do. I should be recycling it. But why? Doesn’t the lorry that take it all away use fuel and create carbon. Cause congestion and traffic accidents. And if I didn’t use the cardboard for kindling, I would only use more wood.

I buy my beer in 33cl cans because it limits my alcohol intake. I could buy the same beer in 5 litre home barrels that cost less and create less waste. But that would create problems. One, I would drink it all. And two, if I didn’t, it would go flat. And I can’t drink flat beer.

In short, the best way for me to save the environment is to drink less beer. Or buy it in bigger containers. But that’s not going to happen. I like the ritual of popping the can. That gratifying metallic snap the ring pull makes.

There’s nothing better is there? Something so precise and conclusive about the sound. Followed by that calm hiss as the beer gently fizzes up to the rim of the can. That is, unless you’ve just carried it back from the shop. Then it just fizzes all over the floor.

The 5 litre home barrel wouldn’t work for me. I’d drink it for starters. Plus the pure enjoyment of popping the can would be lost forever. So it’s something my environmental conscience will simply have to live with.

It’s lucky there’s recycling. Otherwise all my cans would simply become rubbish.

(Listen to the entire Doubtcast below)

Or visit website http://www.doubtist.com/2015/03/10/doubtcast-1-rubbish/ for further details.

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