Monday, November 19, 2007

Tango orange and salmon pink

I want to write about EVERYTHING today. Once I met this guy in a pub in central London who asked me what my novel was about. Doppelgangers, I told him. (This was the truth, incidentally.) He was a distinctive-looking character - Joe, I think his name was - tall and gangly, dark-skinned and bespectacled. He recounted how one day he had been swimming in his local pool when from the other end of the pool a group of swimmers started shouting his name excitedly. He wasn't wearing his glasses, so had to swim over to them to see who they were. He didn't know them and they, it turned out, didn't know him either – he'd been mistaken for a friend of theirs, also named Joe. It took some persuading before they would believe that the stranger they'd just called over was also called Joe.

After his swim, Joe went home. Over tea, his mother mentioned that, earlier that day, she'd seen him on the bus and gone over to say hello. Except, as she discovered when she got closer, it wasn't Joe. It might be fanciful to make the leap, but this was surely The Other Joe. I was delighted by the story and told Joe that it would be a valuable addition to my thoughts about the book.

Unfortunately, I've come to realise that there are several remarkable modern novels about doppelgangers: Anthony Burgess's M/F, Philip Roth's Operation Shylock and Jose Saramago's The Double, to name three. Yep, I'm up against it. I only discovered and began to read the latter recently and on the tube ride home today, I was distracted by the words on p191 - "...there's nothing stopping him getting in the car on Monday morning and going to show his mother all the cards that make up this puzzle, all of them, because it would be one thing to have told her some time ago, There's a man who looks so like me that even you couldn't tell us apart, and quite a different thing to say, I've met him and now I don't know who I am…" (italics mine) – partly because of their similarity of the above anecdote and partly because it appears 101 pages before the novel's final page. The number 101 always reminds me of the Bristol flat I lived in as a student, which was known to my fellow former flatmates simply as "101". (And if we're doing lists, we'll have Orwell's Room 101, Disney's 101 Dalmations, the album track by Strokes man Albert Hammond Jr, 'Back to the 101'.)

One-oh-one was extraordinary for both its dampness (which I wrote about here, many years ago) and its eye-catching exterior colour. Frequent arguments were had amongst its inhabitants about whether the colour qualified as "salmon pink" or "Tango orange", although these discussions have since been rendered academic, as the building has now been painted white. Maybe this is no coincidence, but at lunch earlier today I very nearly bought a salmon sandwich from Marks & Spencer, and in the morning I had been close to picking up an orange from the Orange fruit trays, but decided against it in both cases, opting instead for a turkey and stuffing sandwich and an apple and a banana.

Before I ate the foodstuffs, I went into Paddington station's only record shop, Impulse, which is surprisingly often the home to bargains. Sometimes I have this kind of shopping impotence; I'll go into a record shop and see records I reallly should desire, but find myself unable to go through with the purchase. Today this was not the case and I purchased Strange House by The Horrors, which I am expecting to be unlistenable tripe and Elliott Smith's XO, which will probably hide itself in my iPod, never to be listened to. And later, some hours after the turkey sandwich, the orange, the banana and page 191, I got home and found three packages on my doormat (I mean this in the figurative sense – in fact the items had been picked up by my co-habitee and placed next to the toaster): Manic Street Preachers' Send Away the Tigers, R.E.M.'s Around the Sun and Michael Jackson's Dangerous.

I'm listening to the latter now (it's nauseating and samey, though it has its moments, and will probably be a ton better than R.E.M.'s terribly-reviewed 13th album) as I type this, though a few minutes ago, for no discernable reason, I did a spellcheck and found that my word count was 666 words. This was a little shocking, but immediately recalled an image of a taxi I'd seen on just two days previous in Birmingham, which had the phone number 666666 plastered on the side, as if 'twere Satan's own cab. My friends and I had just been watching several hours of stand-up and the combination of drinks and humorous observation had surely simultaneously sharpened and dulled the senses enough for that kind of detail to stick out and perhaps stick in the mind.

Aside from the weekend's live show, I've been watching a lot of comedy lately - on the box, mostly - but particularly enjoyed this segment from the new so-so BBC4 stand-up showcase Comedy Shuffle, from up-and-coming comedy minstrel Tom Basden. He does a great song about Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, which isn't included. That doesn't matter though, his other material's great and he's going to be massive.

Love the Richard and Judy song. They may be leaving our screens, but they're still the UK's greatest double act. Hey, speaking of doubles...


Jo said...

All praise the bumbling Richard and Judy...Evenings won't be the same without Judy's constantly aging face brightening up the screen :(

* (asterisk) said...


Doppelgangers are cool, aren't they. I think you should write your book regardless.

And you must listen to Elliott's XO... indeed, listen to any Elliott you can find. And it's all depressingly affordable in Virgin right now. Wife and I saw him at Kentish Town a few years back (obviously). And if you scour my blog, you'll find a link to a great download site once you realize what you've been missing.

Will said...

I got Either/Or, it's good. It's just that XO is the kind of thing I can imagine sinking to the bottom of the iPod. Must've been cool to see him alive though. Live! I meant live!

* (asterisk) said...

Yeah... Unfortunately we weren't very familiar with his oeuvre when we went; but he was good enough to convince the missus that this was to be her favourite artist ever. So, in a way, a missed opportunity. Oh, to see that gig again now, knowing the songs so much better, y'know?