Blog : Posts tagged with 'surprise'

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Maybe things are changing, after all

In which politics might actually be looking up


When yesterday I wrote that everything was changing in politics, I was being largely sarcastic. I didn’t realise, though, that some things have changed slightly, in a small way.

A while back – over a year ago, in fact – I wrote about one of the things I hate about modern politics: the fact that all speeches, all announcements, are leaked to the press, trailed in advance, revealed to the papers, so that no political announcement, when it comes, is ever a surprise if you’ve been listening to the news. If you’re going to do that, why bother to do the speech at all?

Well, the other day, the new Prime Minister gave his first speech in Parliament since getting the job. And noone, other than the government, knew what was going to be in it. It’s a small step, and I’m not suddenly going to start loving politicians because of it. It’s a start, though, and it’s in the right direction.

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Phone conversation

In which someone discovers Ultimate Crisps


Taloollah: Oh, something happened the other day, and I’ve been waiting for someone to tell.

Me: Yes?

T: I came home from the pub the other night, and I was feeling hungry, so I got a packet of crisps out of the cupboard … and it was full of crisps. You know how most crisp packets have lots of empty space inside? This one was packed full.

Me: Wow.

T: I know! I only realised when I’d been eating crisps for a bit, and I suddenly thought: hang on, this packet of crisps is lasting a long time.

Me: That’s the ultimate packet of crisps ever. The best crisps in history.

T: You should blog about it. Say it happened to you.

Me: No, I can’t do that! I’ll blog this phone call, though.

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All The Dead Writers And Me: Jan Mark

In which we remember a great writer


This post has been a long time coming. Ever since I read her obituary, I’ve been meaning to write it, and been putting it off; and that was back in January.

Jan Mark is probably one of the writers who has meant the most to me over the years, at least in terms of understanding writing, and storytelling. She was mostly known as a children’s writer, producing prizewinning, wonderful work such as Thunder And Lightnings. My own favourite piece from her children’s books was a short story, “Nule”,* about two children who treat one of their house’s newel posts as if it’s human, then start to worry that it’s becoming slightly too human.

My favourite book of hers, though, is her single “adult” book, Zeno Was Here. It’s a love story, a very touching one, but it’s mostly about writing itself. It’s about the writing process, the nature of writing, and the feeling of being written about. It’s a novel about the structure of novels, and it’s the book which introduced me to the works of Flann O’Brien.** It’s about coincidence. It ends with the kind of bone-jarring unexpected coincidence that just doesn’t happen in novels; and then you remember that a hundred pages earlier, the characters were discussing just why those sort of events don’t happen in novels, when they crop up in real life all the time.

It’s quite an obscure book, and – as far as I know – has been out of print for ten years, at least. I found my copy of it by just the sort of coincidences that don’t happen in books: finding out that it existed, and going to my local library to see if they had a copy, I found it among the fifty or so tatty things on the “Withdrawn, For Sale” table. It’s only right, I suppose, that you should find a book about coincidence in that sort of way. If you find a copy yourself, read it, because it deserves to be better-known.

* from the collection Nothing To Be Afraid Of

** Another writer I’ve been meaning to post about, but haven’t

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Surprise meeting

In which we bump into someone from the past


Do you like it when random people from your past bump into you in the street?

In my case, I generally don’t think I do want to get in touch with many more people from my past. All the friends I wouldn’t want to lose, I’m still in touch with; I still see them at least every year or so. The rest of my schoolfriends, to be honest, I don’t particularly care about. It might sound harsh, but it’s true. If I’d wanted to stay in touch with them, I could have done.

I’m thinking about this now, because yesterday afternoon I was sitting in a pub, having a bit of a munch with a few friends, when some random people start pushing their car into the car park. They come into the pub, and idle time away by the bar waiting for the AA to arrive. I glance at them and don’t think anything of it; but then, listening in, I suddenly recognise one of their voices. I sneak another look: it’s someone I knew fairly well at school.

I hesitated for a moment. But I didn’t particularly want to talk to him. I last saw him ten years ago, and have barely thought about him since. I didn’t want to tell him how my life is going now, what I’ve been up to, who these friends I’m with are, how I know them.

I looked up for a moment, and caught him looking at me, as if he was trying to place where he’d seen me before. I turned back to my friends, and back to the conversation.

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