All entries for Wednesday 11 January 2006
January 11, 2006
Another cabaret story.
My Granny the Tranny
When I was just a boy, I felt extremely lucky to find out that whilst most other children were fortunate to only have the regulation four grandparents, two grandfathers, and two grandmothers, I had an extra grandmother, who only visited on weekends. And I didn’t find it odd that her name was Roberta, or that she lived with nanny-Abigail, or that I never saw her and grandpa-Bob in the same place at the same time, or that sometimes she had the beginnings of a beard, because sometimes old women are a bit stubbly, and it’s not polite to point it out.
Every now and again I went to stay at their house, in the spare room that smelt unused but very clean, with the bed that had floral patterned and held a slight scent of perfume, which I later found out to be Chanel number 5 as Roberta liked all her rooms to smell pretty. Over the course of the weekend I’d play games with my varied grandparents. I’d go travelling with grandpa-Bob, clambering over, around, and below the furniture, through Antarctica battling polar bears, through the regular Artic running from the penguins and more polar bears as we could never remember which pole they lived at, all the way to Africa where we were dodged and danced through Zulu spears in the dessert, then on into Asia to meet Maharajas and Samurai, and, with a startling disrespect for basic geography, we plunged into the Amazon, and Bob called the Amazons a gaggle of hussies who should put some clothes on. Finally on to the most dangerous place of all: Canada, where the Cannibals lived.
And all the time granny-Abigail would keep us supplied with glasses of ginger beer, pots of tea, steaming mugs of hot chocolate, biscuits, cakes she claimed to have baked herself and all the other stereotypically English things to eat and drink that grandparents think they’re supposed to give their grandkids because that’s what their grandparents did, and that’s what our generation will do to our grandchildren too, if only because we read it in Famous Five, and tooth decay be damned. Though none of my five grandparents ever gave me a Worthers original. Whoever made those adverts can fuck off and die.
Then on Saturday would always come the favourite part of my visit, granny-Roberta would descend one morning, make-up perfectly applied, summer dress swirling just below the ankles, hair held up with varied shining hair pins, breasts expertly in position and realistic as always. She’d sweep into the breakfast room, give me and granny-Abigail a kiss, then casually ask her that’s really what you’re wearing today Abi, darling? Then we’d all be whisked off for a nice breakfast at one posh hotel or another and one granny would try to feed me up, while the other tried to slim me down. Then we’d hit the shops and Roberta continued my education in looking damn good. She would point out to me which shirts looked good with my complexion, which jeans were too ripped, and which weren’t ripped enough and try and try in vain to wean me off wearing Hawaiian shirts. She bought me my first jar of hair gel, and taught me to style it in five different ways, each of which made me look like a marine from WW2, but in a retro kind of way, it really worked.
It was invariably granny-Roberta who I came to when I needed further education, when I started to realise that looking good was only the slightest of comforts in the battle of the sexes. Knowing the minds of both men and women she always gave me pertinent and sensible advice and while I always ignored it, I always realised I should have.
Eventually I had to find out exactly why I had a surplus grandparent, and suddenly a lot of things made sense to me. Like why granny-Roberta had fake breasts but never had breast cancer, and why she used a beard trimmer to shave her legs, and why grandpa-Bob had shaved legs, and why I was the only person whose grandmothers frenched. Though I never did find out why they still did that aged 80. I felt like they’d been lying to me all that time, maybe because they’d been lying to me all that time. It was like finding out Father Christmas wasn’t real, really like it actually, as my sister told me this one too.
But even though I knew, I never let on. It was a comforting illusion to us both to think we’d never figured each other out, even though he/she must have known that I/ … me(?) knew, and that I must have known that he/she knew that I/me knew, and if I say knew one more time it’ll become a really uninspired gag, won’t it? So we both knew, but to admit it would mean that I didn’t have an extra grandmother, merely a grandfather who liked to wear really nice dresses, perfume, make-up and a garter.
I kept up the pretence and one day when I went to visit granny-Roberta I was told by granny-Abigail that she was upstairs, getting changed. I went up the stairs and knocked on the door and, hearing no answer, I went in uninvited. Inside I found grandpa-Bob, face down on the floor, suit jacket half off, limbs splayed on the bright, yet tasteful, carpet. One hand reaching towards the red dress he’d picked out for Roberta that day. I saw all this, I took a deep breath, then I carefully picked up the dress and placed it carefully back in Roberta’s wardrobe and closed the door. After straightening Bob’s jacket, I went downstairs to tell my grandmother that her husband had died.
So grandpa-Bob died, and we had the funeral, and it was all very sad, people cried, old women got out of their wheelchairs, things like that. But we never had a funeral for Roberta, she never died. And she’s still with me, in the back of my mind, and every now and then I can almost hear her. Criticising my outfit.
Read this one out at a cabaret last term, hope the bloggers enjoy it.
A Happy Story
You know it seemed to me that with this atmosphere of death, destruction, vague pessimism and general despondency, the world could use something a little upbeat. Some cheap and cheerful, nicely positive, cute and mostly inoffensive, bit of fiction. So I set myself to thinking: what happy thing would be appropriate? World peace? Well that’s too big, too unlikely. A whirlwind romance? Too unpredictable, too racy. A lottery win? Too material. A random shag? Too macho. A completely happy story, without a trace of irony? Now that’s just ridiculous. I was stuck, and all the thinking was making my head hurt. I needed to get out. Get some fresh air. Things were getting stuffy in my head.
I walk out and two things happen at once; a black cat crosses my path, and I sneeze as I’m allergic to cats. But out of this dual badness, goodness just happens to arise. Amidst the post-sneeze head rush and thoughts of how neat these little turns of fiction can be, a clear idea rises from the ocean of my subconscious mind, onto the beach of my imagination: a cute, fluffy little kitten, eyes wide and adorable in that way kittens’ eyes are when they’re manipulating you. Everyone loves kittens, right? How could it go wrong?
I approach my muse, holding off another sneeze, so as not to scare it away, and I absorb its glorious visage. And sure, it’s a little scruffy and old and flea-ridden and scratched and bruised and skeletally thin and frankly a little on the diseased and smelly side, but I decide this is perfect. I will make this dilapidated creature beautiful through my art. As long as I don’t have to touch it.
So I take my quill and parchment, read: biro and scrap of paper, and I write the story of the poor, yet adorable, kitten that is, quite inexplicably, totally unloved. Homeless and forlorn, this little black kitten wanders the streets until, one day, I cross his path. He follows me home and before I can slam the door in its face, as the poor creature expects, and as I, frankly, am wont to do to strays who follow me home, she opens her dark eyes wide at me, and I’m overcome by this adorable and pathetic little kitten. So I open my door wide and I adorably feed the adorable kitten saucer after saucer of adorable milk, as I think this is what you’re supposed to do. And the kitten is definitely not sick from all the milk, and I definitely do not have a sneezing fit, and despite the fact that I am a vegetarian I find some left over roast chicken in my fridge to feed her and she purrs appreciatively. And it was funny, because no sooner had I written this than an adorable little kitten followed me home.
So my kitten and I were happy, I was miraculously not allergic to her, and she never shat in the house, brought mice inside, or even grew up, but stayed forever a sweet little kitten, who never had to be ‘fixed’, who was never chased by dogs as she was too cute, and was never violently buggered by tomcats as she was too small and innocent. And if ever I had a bad day and felt the weight of the world on my shoulders then she would be there to nuzzle me, purr sweetly, and reassure me that the world is warm and fuzzy after all.
However … however, I could not stop myself writing. Before I knew it I had raised my quill once more and while my left hand tried vainly to tear the paper away, my right hand was writing away, turning my endearing happy story, into a tragedy. I wrote that my adorable kitten grew bored of me, bored of never aging, bored of milk and roast chicken, bored of living in a warm and fluffy little paradise, and it ran away. And it wasn’t funny that no sooner had I written it, my kitten was off out the cat flap, down the garden path and straight over the fence, which was an odd melodramatic image, as the door was open at the time.
So I was sad for awhile, missing my poor, pretty, pretentiously perfect, little kitten. But I decided to be brave, to be strong, to try and hold on, and soon I decided it was best to get over the kitten, there was no use dwelling over the tragedy I’d written of her life, making it an even sadder story, nor any point trying to write it a satisfying conclusion as I’d only end up killing it in some horrible and tragic way. I decided to write a new story, a better story, slightly more realistic, but nevertheless very upbeat. The kitten, this boy’s dream, had failed, but what about man’s best friend?
I wrote a dog, a big golden retriever, with a lovely, glossy coat. This would be a real man’s dog that would fetch sticks, chase cats without catching them and scare children, old people and charity workers away from my house. A dog I was proud to take on long walks through parks, and who was trained to sniff the dogs of attractive female dog-walkers, hence providing an obvious and clichéd opening to talk to pretty women.
True to form this dog arrive, bounding down my garden path into my arms, knocking me over so that we wrestled in the mud in a manly and good-humoured way, yet, in a stroke of good fortune, neither my designer jeans, nor his coat got the least bit muddy. And by the end of the week all the people I didn’t like knew to steer clear of my property lest the dog should bark aggressively at them and snap at their heels, whilst never actually hurting anyone. And in the first long walk alone I had three phone numbers of stunning female dog-owners, who I seldom called as they had hairs everywhere in their houses and over their clothes and smelled of dogs, but the fact remains I had the numbers, and unlike with the kitten, I could leave my dog out at night so that I could go on the pull, safe in the knowledge that even as I would just manage to score a goodnight kiss from one bitch, he would have already shagged about three.
But again I couldn’t keep my hands off the quill, this time I got greedy, I was nostalgic for my kitten and wanted both her and the dog, so I wrote my kitten again, wrote her returning, haphazardly over the road to my front door, as cars swerved to avoid her, always just missing serious accidents. As this happened, I was waiting on the pavement to scoop her up into my arms, when the dog ran out of my house, a golden blur, straight into the middle of the road, straight for my kitten and once more given the opportunity I could not stop myself writing this into a tragedy. He snatched the kitten up in his jaws and shook her this way and that, tossing her to the floor, a poor broken ball of fluff, matted with blood. And my dog turned his golden head and looked at me, his eyes aflame, blood dripping from his maw. Then the truck hit him.
Maybe animals weren’t the way to go? Maybe something a bit more human, a bit more grown up would work. So I wrote a wife, not the masculine dream wife, the product of years of misogyny, but a balanced woman. She would be gorgeous, yet subtle, slender, but not thin, small, but not short, intelligent, but not pretentious and funny, but not comic. She would be a fantastic cook, who regretted the fact that she did not have much time to cook, due to her career as a hugely successful international human rights lawyer. And when she came home at night and ate the meal I prepared lovingly for her, humouring me that it could actually match up to her fabulous culinary expertise, and then we would retire to the bedroom to have absolutely red-hot, fantastic, explosive sex.
This time I couldn’t even wait for it to come true before I wrote the tragedy, and before I even got to try her cooking, brag about her career, or take her upstairs even once, she had cheated on me. Then she left me. Then she died. I spiralled into a deep depression, and burnt all my stories, threw away my pen and never allowed any writing implements near me again in case I felt the urge to write once more.
Instead of writing, I went back to where I found that first diseased and dirty feline. I searched for hours until I found it, or one that was suitably disgusting, and I carefully guided it into a carrier with a sharp stick. I took it to the vet and I had it fixed up, given medicine. Then I took it home with me and fed it the proper cat food and a bowl of water every day. And I was happy that I finally had something real, it wasn’t perfect or spectacular, it wasn’t house broken, it scratched and bit sometimes, it brought in rodents of all shapes and sizes, but I was patient with it and knew that I was making its life better. But no matter how patient I was, I was still allergic, and the constant sneezing really got to me after a week and I had to turf it out and give it to someone else. Still, I tried.
So we all lived. Except for the kitten, the dog, and my ex. Who were dead.