Archive for December, 2007

Slightly rippled with a flat underside

A friend of mine categorises his CDs according to colour. Not the colour of the sleeve or any reference to colour in the title, but the perceived colour he associates with each artist or collection of songs.

This system makes perfect sense to me, I think because I have a pretty strong and freely associative imagination. For example, To the 5 Boroughs is a coppery orange, whereas Mezzanine is a deep aubergine purple.

I think of myself as bluey green and driftwoody, and make sense of this by imagining all the wires in my head as loosely and sometimes wrongly connected. Unsurprisingly, I am a laugh riot on psychedelics.

Another feature of this loose wiring is that I am mildly synaesthetic. This wonderful little word describes a condition where stimulating one cognitive pathway leads to involuntary experience in a different cognitive pathway.

In my case I see sound, at such a basic level that I didn’t even realise this was unusual until I read about synaesthesia in my late teens. If a sound is loud, unexpected and reasonably monotone, I see it as a shape formed from bright white light.

At its most sophisticated, I once heard a person run across the room in the flat above me, and saw the sound as a series of white footprints tracking across the ceiling. Mostly the shapes are abstract, although recently when I see them I’ve started feeling an accompanying lurch in my stomach, like I’ve just driven too fast over a hump-backed bridge.

I find the condition absolutely fascinating (which might explain the psychedelic predilections briefly alluded to) and suspect that it’s fairly common but have so far not met anyone else who’s similarly affected.


Notes from my Christmas trip

I wrote this on the back of my e-ticket in Gatwick airport, on Sunday. Bear in mind that I really wasn’t feeling well at the time, and that my flight was subsequently cancelled. It might help you excuse the swearing.

In camera, in deed

I’m still hungover from the craziest case of ‘flu I’ve ever had. Every sound is absurd. Every muscle in my neck and shoulders screams as I move. I struggle to process the light. I’m Henry fucking Miller and I’m not happy.

The imitable Mr Miller

And yet where am I?

In the “Shake-a-hula” cafe (bright lights a-plenty), listening to early 90s rave music at full volume while the ridiculous staff throw mint Aeros into a blender. The worst bit? My flight is delayed by three hours.

Please kill me now, ’cause if I’m already dead I’m screwed.

A very short poem, or a very long question

Was I a mystery when small,
The actor in my one-man show;
Writing poems you’d never read,
And reading books you’d never know?

Actually, I don’t think this is either a short poem or a long question. I suspect this is the first of several (mediocre) stanzas, but I’m not quite ready to go where they’d take me.

Cheese sammiches and pho ga

I am being raped from the inside out by an army of angry and effective Orthomyxoviridae.

That is all.

Atheist and proud

On Saturday night, I got sucked into a discussion about Dawkins with a Calvinist. It made me quite sad because for this gentleman (the Calvinist, not Dawkins) to be Christian he has had to accept a model of the world that seems frankly sickening.

How can an omnipotent god with an infinite capacity for love be responsible for a world in which the majority of people don’t believe in him and are therefore going to hell? I find this paradox very unpleasant indeed.

The answer apparently and briefly, is free will, faith and grace. Hum. That sounds to me like an infinite and supreme being that’s insecure enough to need to measure its worth (or ours) in units of blind faith. And is vengeful enough to punish people lacking in faith by sending them to a hell of its own creation.

I am very glad not to be a part of such a nasty, petty paradigm.


I was brought up in an a-religious household but went through a period of praying when I was about 14 and rebelling against authority. I used to (earnestly) start my prayers “Dear god, who I don’t believe in…”

Clearly an existential humanist from an early age!

I see dead people

Some while back – it was in the old flat and after a night at Turnmills so I’m guessing early 2004 – I was lying in bed in the wee small hours when I experienced a very strange sensation.

I had the overwhelming impression that my maternal grandmother, who’d died some four years previous, was sitting in the next room, in the armchair by the window.

The feeling was quite trippy or out-of-body, with a huge up-swelling of love and euphoria, and I immediately wanted to go and get on Nanna’s lap and tell her everything she’d been missing out on.

However, I had a tiny suspicion that if I got up and went to the living room, the armchair would be empty. I had been close to my nan and still miss her frequently today, so I couldn’t really accept the thought of her not being there when I felt so sure she was.

Instead I stayed in bed and enjoyed the love that I felt washing over me from the next room, and the idea that Nanna was back in my life and smiling over me again for a bit.

It didn’t occur to me at the time, but I had caught myself in the act of editing my perception of reality – something we have to do constantly in order to manage all the data we process.

It’s interesting that even in the fleeting moments when we know we’re doing this, we still prefer to believe the constructed version over any alternative.

Are you lonesome tonight?

What a strange night. I woke up at half twelve feeling like I’d been asleep for aaaaages, then half-woke every 40 minutes or so for the rest of the night, so that I was treated to a fractured series of REM dreams.

They often seemed to feature some banal waking anxiety, such as my bike brakes failing or leaving my mobile phone at work (which I’d done IRL), and then at about 3am they went lucid.

I woke up in my own, day-lit flat to find Jonty making breakfast (he’s actually away on business at the moment.)

—Are you really here?
—Yup, of course.
I look down to see a tiny dead bat, smeared crimson on the white floorboards. Looking right I can see another body, a mouse I think. Beyond it there are more, too small to distinguish.
—Are you sure you’re definitely here?
—Yeah, why?
—Well, if I’m dreaming, my apartment* probably isn’t really full of dead animals, but if I’m not dreaming, and we’re both here, and it’s light, it must be Saturday morning.
—It’s a win-win situation.
Still trying to puzzle it out, I duck as a small black and white hummingbird flies at my head.

Dead animals aside, the lucid dream was kinda charming. By 6am things had really deteriorated.

In my final dream I was chased into an isolated public toilet by an angry looking girl. She crawled under the door into the cubicle where I was hiding, and then morphed into a man from two dreams earlier.

The man then proceeded to feed me my own raw liver while alternatively threatening to rape me and promising me that my liver would grow back.

Very Greek indeed, and the therapists would have a field day.

*The American vernacular should’ve been a dead giveaway.