Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Cruising the Mediterranean ... and the Red Sea

My lip is still a riot of pain and swelling (is it possible I can count five cold sores now?) meaning food, coffee and talking are no fun. If this is the penalty for drinking nowadays I’d rather not. I am resolutely unkissable and that will never do. Still, it’s a beautiful sunshiney day and fairly impossible to feel bad.

Today the sunshine is causing anticipatory thrills about my forthcoming holiday. From the 17th to the 24th I will be cruising the Med (on a ship, smartarse), with my folks, starting and ending in Barcelona, my favourite place in the world. On the agenda are historical tours of Rome, Florence, Pisa, Pompeii plus days out in Ville Franche, Naples and Palermo. Eek! My step-dad turned 50 this year and this is to celebrate. It’s the first proper holiday ever taken by Ma, Pa and us four sibs together. It will make us or break us. I am mostly intensely excited but also partially frustrated at having missed so much gym time in the last fortnight that when I’m eventually forced to take my shirt off I will look like an overweight ten year old. The ship holds about 3000 people which is actually quite frightening. I intend to dress to the nines nightly and shmooze my way around the decks romantically fleecing as many wealthy divorcees as it takes to pay off Neil’s mortgage.

Reading and writing aside …
The reason I’m forbidden to read John Kennedy Toole, or any fiction in fact, is that I am forcing myself to work on my own fiction which makes it impossible to read other people’s. ‘Forcing’ is a little strong. I enjoy writing very much but time spent writing is time spent away from boyfriend, gym, movies, cat, pub, not to mention the busman’s holiday aspect when one has already spent all day in front of a computer screen. After my hol though it will be my main priority, the gym won’t matter so much and I won’t be able to afford a social life anyway.

The reading embargo stays however, for these tried and tested reasons: Firstly if you like what you read you end up a) copying the style, and b) despairing that what you write will never be as good. And if you don’t enjoy it you find your own efforts mired in bitterness because ‘How can this shit get published while I’m doomed to flounder in obscurity?’ Plus it’s a question of time, word overload, eye strain and so forth.

Speaking of books I don’t enjoy I‘ve had to give up halfway through Steven Hall’s Raw Shark Texts. I found the beginning most intriguing but dear God can I be expected to remain intrigued for a further 200 pages? His writing is nice and serviceable but never quite convincing enough for the metaphysically demanding plot he’s set up for himself. I am forever tempted to read ‘just ten more pages’ and see if the thing picks up but I just don’t care enough what happens to them. In fact I will go online tonight and read a spoiler to deter further efforts. After ten more pages …

If I must read something from time to time (and I must) I pick up The Manga Bible (a Xmas present from monkey) which is great fun and quite beautiful in parts (especially Adam … phwoar). I’m just at the bit where Moses has freed the Israelites from Egyptian bondage only to find they are a bevy of irredeemable whiners. In his temper he smashes the Commandment tablets then somewhat sheepishly has to begin them from scratch. I have to admire the nonchalant ingratitude of the Jewish folk in this story though. Not only does Moses release them from a life of servitude, he parts a vast body of water to aid them to safety then obtains nourishment from the very skies to feed and water them. Their reaction? ‘At least in Egypt we had proper meat.’ I love it. Surely this contains the origins of Woody Allen’s apocryphal Jewish old ladies skit: ‘The food was awful ... and such small portions.’ Genius.

Soundtrack: Freedy Johnston, Felt (thankyou Matthew!)

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