Diary – St Andrews, Beinn Nairnan, The Magus, O.J. Simpson, Michael Dowd

It is Monday and I am sitting in my living room, which is flooded with morning sunshine. I have a pot of coffee, made from freshly ground beans, I am listening to the Women’s Hour on Radio 4, and my bliss levels are high. The plan for the day is: write the diary, have a go on the turbo trainer, then I’m off for a sauna, then out for dinner this evening. We decided to take a long weekend off work, and it has felt long.

On Thursday we went to the pub for dinner after work and ended up taking part in the pub quiz. We started strongly, but faded in the later rounds, but at least won the consolation prize (a ‘signed’ photograph of Warren Beattie) for the best team name—PriceWaterhouseBloopers. I was disappointed to later discover that this obvious pun had been independently invented by half of the people in the world, but we were the only ones who achieved the feat in the particular confines of the Crafty Pig on Great Western Road on Thursday 2 March, so I feel we deserve our trophy. Incidentally, I have not seen the infamous Oscars goof up, and have no desire to see it, due to my suffering from Hyper-Empathetic Embarrassment Response Syndrome (HEERS); a condition I invented a few seconds ago.

On Friday we took a drive to Anstruther, a fishing town on the East Coast famed for its fish and chips, which I felt a duty to visit since winning its short story competition last year. We had some excellent chips, and I found a shop that sells my favourite sweets (Haribo rhubarb and custards) and I bought a hundred of them, which has been my diet this holiday weekend. We then drove on to St Andrews, where we looked at the ruins of the cathedral and the castle, walked in bitter winds on the pier, and generally enjoyed the sights of students scurrying down ancient streets with carry outs and weekend anticipation.

Driving home at night was frankly terrifying; I am astonished by the aplomb with which nearly every other driver seems to display in speeding down windy single lane roads in pitch black, barely able to see more than five metres ahead.

On Sunday we attempted our first munro of the year. The (grand, delusional) plan was to reach the summits of both Beinn Nairnan and Beinn Ime. The weather was pretty good, a bit drizzly, but warm, so we thought this would be achievable. I say, ‘we’, but Steph hadn’t checked the route and was largely unaware of the altitude to be achieved and the distance to be covered. I have found it is much easier to get her to come hillwalking with me if I lie about the difficulty envisaged. Beinn Nairnan is a hard climb; we managed the first 630 metres. The route involved basically walking directly up  a stream, the average gradient must have been 15-20%, and it involved a lot of scrambling. We were forced to turn back as there was too much snow in the top third and we didn’t have the equipment to deal with that safely. Steph fell over about twenty times on the way down, but luckily she didn’t hit her head, only everything else.

I finished reading The Magus this week, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It delivers in almost every respect; the story is beguiling and compulsive, it leads the reader down all sorts of routes. For a while I thought it may be a story about ghosts, about religion, about magic. At times I doubted the sanity of the narrator, or doubted that what he was describing was true. At other times I was frustrated by his inability to suspend his disbelief—I urged him to desist in questioning the strange experiences, to just accept the ‘magic’ and enjoy it. However, as the novel continues, and the experiences foisted upon him became crueller, way beyond what I would consider to be unforgivable, even criminal, I was further bewildered by both his reactions, and by the apparent expectations of his tormentors. Beyond the plot, there is so much to take from this novel. Many funny moments, and lots of little stories within the story. I felt that I left a lot of meaning on the page however; on the Franzen/Gaddis scale this definitely ranks as difficult. We encounter untranslated French and references to Greek mythology, and, dear reader, I just let that wash over me unanalysed.

As a counterweight to the difficulty of John Fowles, perhaps, I also watched a good four hours of the OJ Simpson documentary available on iPlayer just now. I got about two hours into the first episode before realising that the episodes were in three hour chunks. I enjoyed the first episode particularly, which deals with OJ before the murder, but also provided a history of race relations in LA, the civil rights movement, Rodney King, Latasha Harlins and the LA riots. Shocking, and worth remembering as the authoritarians tighten their grip on power both in the UK and the US, and as Europe considers the option. Ultimately all these baddies got away with it. Within our lifetime; they still walk the streets.

Which reminds me of Michael Dowd, who I discussed last week, the corrupt sociopathic cop who starred in Precint 75. He only did 12 years in jail for astonishing abuses of power and is now free. After I wrote about him last week, he liked my tweet about my diary entry. I wondered at first if I should be scared by this, but I figure the only thing he could possibly want from me is attention, which I have already duly delivered. I may panic if I ever see a red Corvette however.

I am an amateur novelist, an aspiring tax advisor, a cycle commuter, and a graduate of philosophy, politics and law

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Posted in diary, Literary criticism, television

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