It wasn’t until recently that I became aware of how little actually happens in my life, and this is a cause for gratitude rather than concern I should stress. My average day consists of getting up, having a bit of breakfast, doing some work, having a bit of lunch, doing some more work and then reading or watching TV for a bit. There’s a brief adrenalin rush at about quarter to one each weekday when it is momentarily unclear whether or not the teams will be taking the bonus buy on Bargain Hunt, but that’s about it.
There’s a lot less stress in crossword compiling than there ever was in bookselling (and there isn’t much in bookselling). As long as you stick to deadlines and keep the embarrassing factual errors to a minimum the worst that can happen is that you fill a diagram in almost all the way and then discover that the final spaces you’re left with will only accommodate the word prepuce or vaginismus or perineum or something. (Charmingly my Microsoft spellchecker recognises prepuce and perineum, but not vaginismus. What does this tell us?)
The action highlight of today for instance (and we are not including the one all draw with Wickham Wanderers, who are liars by the way: they weren’t wandering at all; they were moving consistently and concertedly towards the Leeds goal) was that I finally filled my car’s reservoir with screen wash.
I had run out on the last leg of my Christmas journey back from Leeds, right at the start of the long and pitiless A9. It was interesting in a sort of way, turning my windscreen for the last 100 miles into a variation of the game show Deal Or No Deal which I like to call Opaque Or Not Opaque. There were bits where the spray from oncoming traffic helped out a little, but mostly that last hundred miles was memory and guesswork.
The thing was, as soon as I got home I forgot all about it, that is until the next time I got in my car. The one time I remembered and was in a position to buy more screen wash Tesco had sold out. People must have been panic buying, or maybe they were drinking the bloody stuff I don’t know. It was New Year. Anyhow it’s sorted now, so we can all relax. Not exactly Die Hard is it, my life?
Neither is it American Psycho, and for that we can all be thankful.
American Psycho (Mary Harron, 2000) is another one of those films that I feel a bit silly for not having seen before. I have at least half an excuse that I presumed (correctly as it turns out) that not having liked the book I’d find the film pretty unappealing. But it does seem to have a certain cachet among horror fans, so what the hell?
Of the book I should say that I don’t think I missed the point. The writing is amazing and the satirical point is well taken. What I felt a bit uneasy with was that Brett Easton Ellis appeared to be claiming artistic credibility at the same time as he was getting off on the pornographic violence. I prefer to be able to take my fine dry satire without the distraction of an unkempt man, smelling of raw meat, breathing heavily just behind me. Worrying lip smacking, that’s what I could hear.
The film is cruder in execution than the book, though more restrained in its details. It works well and has a lot that is technically commendable but blimey it’s hard to love. The highlight is Christian Bale’s performance as Patrick Bateman. What a disturbing actor he is. He totally inhabits the part of an amoral murderer in the same way that he inhabits the isolated figure of Bruce Wayne/Batman in the two Christopher Nolan Dark Knight films. Is it reading too much into him to suggest that maybe he’s like this in real life?
There is an infamous audio clip (probably still on YouTube) of him losing his rag with a member of the film crew on Terminator Salvation. I am not an actor so I don’t know how hard actoring is – harder than it looks, probably. But Bale’s outburst is incredible. It goes on and on and just when, blessedly, you think it’s ebbing it starts up again. Nobody likes to get interrupted in their work, but acting in Terminator Salvation? It’s not bloody Uncle Vanya, is it?
I have a soft spot for co-star Reese Witherspoon too, and have done ever since I saw her in the very splendid Pleasantville. Apparently when a perfumer is preparing a scent it is important for him or her to include something unpleasant, almost putrefying, in the base of the scent otherwise it becomes overpoweringly sickly. So it is with attractive people I reckon. There should be something slightly unusual about them to complete the attractiveness. With women it might be hairy armpits, a massive tattoo or, as in Reese Witherspoon’s case, the chin of Jimmy Hill.
I got a lovely message from my pal Fiona the other day in which, inter alia, she described herself as a flâneur. A flâneur! How fantastic is it to have that as part of your everyday vocabulary? I’m not even sure we have a word that means the exact same in English. Well, we do, but it’s flâneur.
It made me think about words I like (which is pretty much all of them) and I compiled a list. I don’t wish to be arsey about words. You can after all get by very elegantly indeed with a vocabulary of a few hundred. But I do find some of them really attractive. I’m aware that there is a danger with this sort of thing that you can start by saying “Ooh, that’s an interesting word” and then, before you know it, one day you wake up and you’re Nigel Rees. I hope to avoid that.
Here’s my list anyway. It’ll be different tomorrow. You should feel free to join in at home.
1 The c-bomb – People are always disappointed when I say that this is my favourite word, but it just is. So much power in four innocuous looking letters. My personal choice is not to bring it out for everyday use, not even here you’ll notice. But it’s nice to have in the cupboard for special occasions. Weddings, funerals, papal audiences that sort of thing.
2 Flâneur – see a few paragraphs above.
3 Pleonasm – The use of more words than are necessary to convey meaning. There’s one word for that. It’s pleonasm!
4 Decimate – This appeals to the hair-splitter in me. People use it wrongly all the time. To decimate means, as I’m sure you all know, to reduce by one tenth. It doesn’t mean to destroy utterly and it’s not the same as devastate, although it is coming to mean this through persistent misuse. It was originally a Roman punishment for mutiny wherein every tenth soldier was killed. Indeed I have a friend who told me about a cartoon she’d seen of ten Roman soldiers, one of whom was lying dead. One of the survivors is saying to another one, “This decimation is nowhere near as bad as I thought it was going to be.” It happened on the BBC News this lunchtime: “Today’s sporting fixture list has been decimated.” No it hasn’t.
5 Quotidian – It just means ordinary or everyday. Such a joyous way of putting it though.
6 Fiasco – A ludicrous or humiliating failure. It’s a bad thing, but it sounds like a good thing. If a big fat man in a Hawaiian shirt invited you to a fiasco you’d go, wouldn’t you?
7 Concupisant – Because, as with quotidian, it’s far and away the nicest way of saying what it means…
8 Fuckwit – Best insult ever.
9 Oblong – Which I like a lot better than rectangle. Something to do with the way it makes your mouth small. You can’t say oblong and smile at the same time.
10 Jodhpurs – a word that just looks funny on the page.
Words I don’t particularly like are: pantyhose, feisty, discharge and decaffeinated. Also I’m not too fond of the vogue for swapping nouns and verbs around. This is an insecure, imprecise business jargon way of doing things. “Action the plan for early gifting,” was the sort of head office instruction that used to make me sad.
Early night for me tonight, but I might get a movie in before bedtime. Tell you tomorrow.