The old woman on the bus seems to be attempting to eat herself.
Clearly I’m in one of my Strange Moods because a range of possibilities runs through my head as I stand a few steps back, hang onto the pole and try desperately not to stare at her.
Perhaps she’s been affected by the recent snow and is preparing for when we get stranded and have to eat one another, perhaps she has some peanut butter stuck under her dentures, quite possibly she has some weird facial tick (in which case I am clearly evil for thinking anything like this).
The extreme possibility that she has some kind of aural vibrator and is secretly pleasuring herself pops into my head and won’t dislodge. This may seem bizarre and, frankly, disturbing – but there was a recent case where a woman passed out in a Major Name Superstore. When the staff came to assist her they could hear a strange buzzing sound and it turned out that she had a vibrator fitted into her knickers and had passed out through sheer pleasure. The manager of the store (who must surely score 100,000,000 points for Comedy Genius Style) was recorded as saying that he would have thought shopping at their store was pleasurable enough as it was…
I realise immediately that I will have to get off the bus early – I feel awful for staring at this woman and thinking these strange things when it’s clear that she has some kind of affliction. Eventually a seat clears and I sit down – but this only makes it worse, because I know that somewhere – unseen – she is still doing it. Mouth going up and down, eyebrows moving in time (I try later to recreate the movement myself and am unable to recreate it – so perhaps she is some kind of facial gymnast preparing for the 2012 Olympics)
Eventually I flee the bus several stops too early and walk down the road – thinking of all the strange habits I intend to adopt when I get older in order to freak out younger people. Until recently I had been oddly keen to fake Tourettes, but this has got rather too much exposure recently and besides its so hard to tell the real sufferers from those on hands free phones (back in my day the man walking down the subway swearing loudly to himself was clearly insane or heavily inebriated, now he could simply be making a phone call to his maiden aunt in Totness)
I pause briefly to consider that in the interests of Equal Opportunities (and my own personal amusement) the Call Centres of the world should be actively recruiting from the Tourettes community (Imagine that: “Welcome to Barcla-ARRGH GERROFF YER BASTARD”) and walk down the hill, knowing that as a result of Gummy-Lady I will now be even earlier to my art group than I had originally envisaged.
So far at the group I have been relatively well behaved and not started doing anything subversive: although to be honest I’m itching to do something that will shake a few of the cobwebs out of their hair.
If you really want to annoy a British person there are two very easy ways to do it. Firstly – not queuing properly. Although the British ability to queue nicely and wait our turn for hours on end without complaint is sadly diminishing there is still very little else that will annoy us more than someone jumping a queue, not standing in line, talking on their phones about how much of a pain the queue, engaging in deep and prolongued conversation about their haemorrhoids with the assistant once they reach the front or doing anything more than the occasional disgruntled look at their watch followed by a “tut” noise.
Another fun way to annoy the British is to sign up for a course, go along to that course for a couple of weeks and then, once everyone is nicely settled into their routines, deliberately change seats.
This is also true of the art group – everyone has their desk set out in a space in the hall where they have been sitting each week since 1952 and woe betide anyone who sits in their space. Of course being British they are far too polite to say anything and just shoot you a series of increasingly hostile looks that if their eyes could shoot laser beams would have you incinerated in a second.
Still: a couple of the things that I have found out about the group disturb me – in as much as how introverted their approach appears to be.
Firstly: they have no website. I recently got into trouble with someone for making a joke about a website being out of date, but in this dog-eat-dog, get-it-now-this-minute world that we live in you can’t expect people to just find you through some kind of osmosis. Letting a site get out of date may well be the cardinal sin of the computer chip age. After all – if you had two sites and one was up to date, which would you go with?
Secondly: one of the people at the group (another trouble causer like me) has suggested that it might be a nice idea if the group was to produce a booklet or catalogue of their collected works to be available to the public at their displays. However, this has to be passed by a majority vote of the committee and a lot of the committee still feel it beneath them to advertise, or that not everyone will want their works displayed. OH COME ON PUH-LEASE
Finally, and most annoying to me: you can only go to the Wednesday workshops for so long before they expect you to become a member (allowing you to go to the Monday meetings). In order to become a member you have to submit three (original) paintings for assessment. If the painting is not considered to be up to their standard then you cannot become a full member (allowed to exhibit and sell through the group) and can only become an associate member.
My question to this is: how do you assess what is and what isn’t an acceptable level of art? After all, a quote I read recently said that “Science is everything we can explain to aliens, Art is everything else”
I’ve said before that I’m not a fan of some modern art: I don’t see the point of Tracy Emin’s unmade bed (although I enjoyed the Japanese Performance Artists who had a pillow fight on it) and Damien Hurst’s pickled shark is a waste of good formaldehyde as far as I’m concerned – but the fact remains that people pay lots of money for the work of both and both are considered by the Art community to be “artists”
When I finally start my own local group (currently called the Combined Real Arts Project: though I think the mnemonic needs a bit of work…) it will be open to anyone regardless of ability so long as they have passion. We will not be afraid to try new ideas or to publicise what we are doing and…oh hell, who am I fooling?
The truth really is that all such groups or gatherings of people eventually become secular: sticking to the ways they know best and unable to see that the cheese is slowly being moved. Sooner or later the power would go to my head. Look at the circles of power and control that have formed within your own workplaces, your street, your families
This is why, when I finally retire, I intend to spend all my time walking through subways and shouting obscenities to thin air: if nothing else it will give people a laugh!
On a final note: this is my 100th posting on this blog. Thanks to everyone who's kept reading so far - i'm glad that this post turned out so totally random: i really wouldn't have it any other way!