Diacritical but not serious
November 29, 2013

Sometimes I can spark a lyric by sticking a pin into Snippets or Life’s Like That, the kind of magazine I imagine sells most of its print run to hairdressing salons with teacups and stand-up dryers. It is a technique I borrowed from Lloyd Cole, though he applied it rather sweetly to Beginning Camus.

Today’s story, with I pricked with the pin of a Jobriath lapel-badge I bought from a stammering vendor in Hull, was of a wide-toothed Pons Aelian who had swapped her washing machine for a designer dildo. “The hand-washing’s a reet gan-on,” she admitted, or possibly declared, “but the family says I’ve never been happier.” Her skin, of which there was both too much and not quite enough, was mottled with livid umlauts, as if a corpse had been inflated almost to the point of popping and then laid for four hours on a sack of chestnuts. The sight defeated my pen.

But was it the picture? Wasn’t it rather envy of her capacity for unproblematic delight which made me recoil from the soy-ink Marimekko Yellow? In either case, I abandoned work and propelled myself out into Holloway. It was cold with the blunt unembarrassed cold of a North wind. My face eyed me pugnaciously from between asterisked breasts and iPhone manuals on the shelves of Harry’s Hut.

Pictured on an inner page I saw my former guitarist and occasional chess partner Tim “Tam” Tunnelling, beside an interview so unremarkable it threatened to reverse time: I swear I could feel it bore me before the light even reached my eyes. “He is no Johnny Marr,” was the consensus on my first venture with Tim. In one way it was rather a kind consensus: the list of guitarists Tim was not could have filled the NME twice over. I felt a pang of fondess nonetheless, as I involuntarily compared our hairlines. The weight suits him.

I had a friend who used to summon the image of Julie Burchill to delay the moment of sexual rapture. He did this so often in our touring days that the association stuck. Happening upon her unexpectedly in a BBC studio ten years later, he was forced to retire briefly and borrow a long sweater from Richard Osman.

This melancholy was a mask once. I fear it has fused to my skin.