12 October 2008

Looking down from long French windows at a provincial town

Okay, look, I know I said this would be up like, Wednesday or some shit?, but what happened is that, see, me and my friends kinda did some acid, not too much but y'know, acid is acid and all, and one of them had just got the new Stade Français shirt and we kinda ended up having a conversation with fifteen Blanches of Castille, and they were, like, really cool and shit, and they said they were messengers from God here to tell us the meaning of life, and it was so cool but it was really late and I was like, I have to get this post on, like, my blog?, and they were, like, it's cool man, and I said, no, I really have to do this, I soooo promised it but they said, hey we're messengers from God about to tell you the meaning of life, doofus, so just sit down and shut up, and I was like okay, ladies, cos I wasn't really angry that they called me a doofus cos they were actually real nice for a bunch of chicks who've been dead for, like, forever, so they told us the secret of life, and we kinda talked about, y'know, shit, and shit, and now I can't really remember the meaning of life, it was, like, something to do with, I don't know, dolphins or trees or some type of shit like that, y'know, boring stuff, but my head was kinda all over the place for a few days trying to remember this shit so I broke into my friend's house and took some more acid and opened his closet and tried talking to the Blanches of Castille again but they just kept repeating the words Dundalk Late Season Collapse over and over and over, and I kinda knew what they meant but I couldn't really believe it, y'know?, and the next thing I knew I was, like, waking up on top of a hedge somewhere like, man, I don't know where and that's what happened, oh yeah, and the dog ate my homework.

So here it eventually is, the third rivulet of drivel on Newcastle (and here are parts one and two). Actually, despite the vain attempt at tying the whole thing together in the opening paragraph below, it's a bit of an unfocussed, wild tangent, only linked to the black dog on the Tyne and, indeed, sport itself quite tenuously. That'll teach me to make rash promises. So, if you want, you can pass over it. In fact, don't read it. Go on - don't. I dare you...





Let's steer this back to the original point. Why would someone not cursed to be a foot-soldier in the Toon Army dwell on their troubles as if they matter?

In an article on the Guardian's website last week, Rob Bagchi observed that the mockery directed towards Newcastle was a mask for the insecurity of other teams' supporters:
...it stems as much from relief as pleasure, as if a bully has picked on someone else and you're cackling mirthlessly while trying not to catch his eye.
The impulse that sparks this mildly sadistic humour is the same thing that inspires sadness in the pathos-sensitive amongst us. It is merely a different part of the same spectrum (a spectrum one may move across depending on mood). Such turmoil could happen to anyone; it could happen to me. There but for the grace of a million minute occurrences go I.

There must be some innate human desire to connect with tragedy (to employ the word rather loosely, in this instance) which is occurring at a safe remove from ourselves. When there is tragedy in your life, it hurts, seemingly unbearably so. When it happens to someone else, a stranger, empathy can allow us to feel the stinging part of the pain without the real debilitator: grief. We can be like the women watching Philip Larkin's Ambulances: "Poor soul, / They whisper at their own distress".


It may be coincidence, but while thinking about Newcastle, I've been listening to the Manic Street Preachers a lot. You don't listen to the Manics to be uplifted, to have a happy tune to hum as you skip to school. Their lyrics are characterised by the jagged, self-mutilatory vituperation, both psychic and physical, of former member Richey Edwards (he disappeared in 1995) and the smothering melancholy of Nicky Wire. Frankly, it's all a bit of a downer, yet millions of people have bought and willingly listened to their records.

(Strange things happen when you think too much about something, such as seeing all manner of weird parallels between Newcastle and various Manics lines: "Drown that poor thing, put it out of its misery"...What is the most accurate way to describe all of those second-half Michael Owen goals but "Pathetic acts for a worthless cause"?...One could imagine Mike Ashley witnessing the first stirrings of fan protest and muttering to himself "I am an architect, they call me a butcher", and his open letter to the fans could be reworded as "I repent, I'm sorry, everything has fallen apart" (if you discount the self-serving parts, of course)...I would venture 'Symphony of Tourette' for Joe Kinnear's press conference but, honestly - the fact that you could count the number of swearwords would make him, at best, a light-middleweight where I come from.)


Then there's Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?, a sitcom mainly in technique. It is rare in that the sit- is far more potent than the -com. That isn't to say that it's not funny, because it very much is. But it's the relationship between Bob and Terry, renewed after Terry's five-year stint in the army, which leaves the most lasting impression. It is in the diverging lives of the two protagonists, their drifting apart even as they are still somehow tethered to each other, which ensures that you never finish watching an episode feeling as easy as you should after a comedy.

(Thanks are due to Bagchi who mentions Whatever Happened... in the article linked above and put me in mind to watch the DVD for the first time in a while.)

The BBC recently broadcast a 1964 interview with Alfred Hitchcock in which he talked about why people watch films knowing they are going to be upset by them, be that through fright or through having "a good cry", as he puts it. He sums it up as "the satisfaction of temporary pain". You can experience the pain and the terror, but you know you can get off the roller-coaster at the end.

Of course, to engage in such wilfully depressing activity may be deemed more than a little mawkish. No doubt you are expecting me to break of from this post to rewrite one of my classic hits to sing to a packed church at Newcastle's funeral - an understandable conclusion, because I've probably over-egged the brown-ale-and-sorrow pudding in trying to make whatever point it is I've been trying to make. I think that point is that all the best songs are not about love, but heartbreak. All unhappy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, as the pithy phrase I just invented right there this minute puts it.

Or, even more pithily: poignancy is poignant, duh.

Any suggestion that I've just devoted 2,500 flippin' words to Newcastle in order to distract from pre-season Gooner optimism disappearing into the night sky like so much black smoke from the thatched roof of a cottage set alight by a group of bored and cider-fuelled teenagers is nothing but a facking lie, and you'll be hearing from my facking lawyers, you facking cants.

In the name of all that's legoly: anosmicovni, 713 Avenue, Irregular Shed and rhino neal.

1 comments:

Fredorrarci 13/10/08 12:41 AM  

Re: all that Lego: after going with the Legoly Bible picture (not for the first time) I decided to go the whole hog. If you search Flickr for "lego", you get almost 300,000 images. I'm seriously considering using only Lego images in all future posts...

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