Monday, 27 April 2009

The Tower

Another day, another odd little adventure.

Menorca has a constant and unrivalled ability to surprise. Today I was picking my way cautiously across an isolated headland, crisscrossed by Martian-red soil channels and blooms of thistles and wildflowers, when I came across something unexpected. It felt like a place of extreme wildness, in which one could quite easily close one’s eyes, listen to the sea and the birds, and imagine themselves a thousand miles from any material sign of human life. But today that impression - that sense of "wilderness" - was punctured suddenly and utterly, by this:

Lurking on the horizon. Oozing up above the crags and bushes with every step.

What I found really strange was that there was no sense of disappointment in its sudden appearance. If I’d been adventuring alone through some mosquito-buffet jungle, only to turn the corner and come face-to-face with a 300-acre shopping mall, I’d be justified in feeling a little miffed. Not so with this.

It just… sat there. Empty, silent, cut-off. Completely out of place, but somehow all the more fascinating for it. There’s something breathtaking about that sort of juxtaposition; that boundary between chaos and order, wildness and construction. Someone had built this; had carted rock and metal across the broken ground, dug foundations into the stone, cut bricks into shape; all in defiance of the geopgraphy. It was an old thing; a barred-up fortlet without fanfares or tourist signs. Just forgotten: perched on a cliff like a flimsy fez.

It took me half an hour of scrambling, but I couldn’t stop myself from going to it. I’m still not entirely sure why. It’s not as if I was fancying it as some fantasy home; some Perfect Place of isolation. No: the sense of loneliness that clung to it was almost tangible – it would be an awful place to live. And the thing itself really wasn’t much to get excited about. A pillbox blot on the cliff-edge, without frills. But still… There was something magnetic about it. The way it just loomed, from whatever direction you approached. Not an eyesore, exactly, but brutal in its presence all the same.

It had no right to be there, and by defying its surroundings it had taken-on an irresistible sort of preening smugness. I almost felt like congratulating it.

Plus, of course, it went off like a landmine of romantic clichés in my head. Every lonely maiden ever locked-away in a doorless turret, every heartbroken fisherman watching the sea for his mermaid bride, every mournful King awaiting the triumphant return (or not at all) of his questing son. Black sails on the horizon, villagers with flaming torches, seabeasts and virgin sacrifice. Great stuff.

I’ve since learned it’s one of a trio: Martello towers positioned several miles apart along the coast, built by the British army in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars to guard the mouth of Mahon harbour from invasion. It’s a nice little touchstone of unexpected history, and I suppose there’s a hint of romantic realism to imagine the cold watchmen, staring out to sea all day, keeping half an eye on the beacons from their fellow towers along the coast…

…But another part of me wishes I hadn’t bothered to research it at all. The mermaids and Kings and serpents are a far better cast with which to people this amazing little Island, than a bunch of bored soldiers with eyestrain.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

MY HATINGS: #6 (Week beginning 20th April 2009)

A day-by-day guide to That Which Annoys, as culled from the procrastination-heavy Bileduct that is Twitter's @SISPURRIER.


TUESDAY: HATING OF THE DAY: The alarming ubiquity of the word “cunt”, and the lack of a conversation-killing CussNuke to replace it.


THURSDAY: HATING OF THE DAY: Job-quotes from Esoteric Professionals. “Yes, Oh Mechanic, I know you’re scamming me. No, I can’t fucking fix it myself.”

FRIDAY: HATING OF THE DAY: The child who stares from the The Car Ahead with ageless malevolence. ONE DAY YOU WILL DISTRACT ME FROM BRAKING, FOOLBRAT

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Menorca in the Spring

Ancillary bloggage: have just been out for a cycle. Found a strange and dark deserted track through a strange and dark deserted wood. More silence than anyone who lives within 20 miles of a city can imagine. Caves and overhanging branches and oh-so-ever-slightly-spooky in a wonderful way. Almost certainly full of duendes.

Finally opened-out into a sheltered sea-cove. Cliffs and caves all around. Water rolling and lapping like inverted clouds; gurgling along secret rocky paths with something very akin to a human voice.

If this were a movie, someone would mutter: "This is a magical place..."

I'm used to visiting the Mediterranean at the height of the holiday season, when its beauty is a thing of russet browns, dessicated wood and the distant smell of cedar and salt. Menorca in the Spring is an astonishing place -- far greener than I ever imagined -- with hidden coves no human eye has seen since the Winter began.

Baaad Trip

So: a new dawn! A brighter future! Sirius rising! The Age of Aquarius! The tumescence of tomorrow! The—
A brand spanking new home.
I write from a charming corner of a charming apartment in a charming town on a charming (tiny) Island in the middle of what is – by any standard – a charming sea. I’ve just spent several days variously driving, panicking, sleeping, shouting at French people, attempting to avoid Technicolour Yawnings (the ferry), and unpacking a car full of let’s-take-it-cos-you-never-know-we-might-need-it into a home which is…
…well, I’m almost ashamed to admit this, but…
…is perfect.
I can find nothing about it to hate.
I know, I know. Plagues of locusts, rains of fire, the seventh Angel sounding its horn, Simon not hating something. Hold the front page, arf arf.
But, really, it’s great. Bigger, brighter, cleaner, more modern and basically Just So Fucking Much Better than the festering smogpit on the 4th floor above Kilburn High Road which, for the past year, we’ve optimistically been calling Home Sweet Home. This place has a garden. It has a dishwasher. It has a fucking utility room, and a spare bedroom, and windows that actually open, and an underground carpark, and direct Balearic sunlight, and, and…
And everything. I’d feel sort of smug about the whole thing, and that in turn would make me feel sort of ashamed, if not for one simple thing: we’ve earned this. Oh yes.
See, the journey was a cavalcade of hi-tension moments, godawful continental drivers, greasy food, shit beer, and one protracted stretch of utter hair-whitening hideousness which I shall now describe in overblown I’m-Never-Happier-Than-When-Rambling prose. We’ve been travelling the backroads of France and Spain for four days – each segment packed with its own highs and lows, gorgeosities and pure coalblack haaaaaaatings – but there’s one event that stands out above all others.

Our little adventure (to recap: driving from London to Menorca, via Orleans, Toulouse and Barcelona, in a 12-yr old car of dubious reliability, with a pair of bikes strapped to the back and a Navigator who has difficulty differentiating left and right) reached its climax on the third day, in a moment of sphincter-gaping terror which I suspect Will Shit Me Up – like the psychic equivalent of a bad curry – for many nights to come. Throughout the whole journey we’d opted to take scenic routes and backroads on the triple grounds that they’d have more Kodak Moments than the usual Urethras Of Congestion (great band name, there), that we wouldn’t be quite so embarrassed at travelling 50% slower than everyone on the motorway (thanks to the valiant but futile strugglings of our jalopy), and above all would avoid all the fucking tolls these semi-civilised European types insist on charging at the merest whiff of tarmac. In this particular instance the “scenic route” – in avoidance of the regular road through the Pyrenees between Bourg-Madame and Barcelona – was a four hour marathon along narrow, blighted mountain roads with more twists than a deviant slinky, via unseasonal snowfields and occasional blasts of apocalyptic rain. Since I was driving a British car (right hand drive) on a European road (right lane drive), I spent the entire time uncomfortably aware of the vertical gulf a foot or so beside me, with nothing between my cheap-as-fuck motor and death’s misty arsecrack but a few startled mountain goats and (probably) a bunch of Basque bumpkins itching to sodomise a pair of mangled gringos with their garlic-scented Buggering Sticks. Or something.
Pretty scary, right?
Yeah, well then my fucking brakes failed.
Approaching a blind bend, staring at nothing beyond the corner but an empty expanse of drizzle and mist, as ours ears popped from the altitude and the radio blared to the sounds of Inbred Locals discussing this year’s Dew Harvest (or whatever), the brakes lost all pressure. What should’ve been a smooth deceleration to take the corner became a panicky yoink of the wheel, followed by a protracted period of sweating (copious), swearing (admirably restrained), trying to find somewhere safe to stop (impossible) and generally Not Having Fun. Given that we hadn’t seen another driver for about quarter of an hour, had travelled too far along this meandering stretch of the devil's backbone to contemplate turning back, and were too fucking knackered to even contemplate delaying our arrival in Barcelona, we… well. We carried on.
Do not try this at home.
It turns out the problem is/was probably something to do with the vacuum-hose which connects the brakes to the servos (means nothing to me either), and what felt like a complete loss of Ability to Stop was in fact a sudden and dramatic reduction in the same. Thankfully, over time, the pressure returned bit-by-bit. It failed a second time a bit later (in a town – no worries), but it was that first moment of confusion and realisation that really shook us. Or, rather, me, because in a slightly stupid attempt to Not Freak Out My Copilot I didn’t actually mention what was happening until three or four corners after the Ohshitohshitohshit moment. She, characteristically, took it all in her Most Awesome stride, and managed to keep me calm long enough to get the fuck down away from the mountains/rain/twisty bits/sodomitic basque types.
It’s now two days later. Two days of cancelled ferry journeys, unexpected upgrades, panicky sprints through traffic in Barcelona (she’s got the hand of right/left now), and finally arrival on Menorca. Every time I shut my eyes and think about it I’m still feeling that curious little lurch in the pit of my guts – a freaky blend of raw primeval terror, bubbling hate, and a dirty, sleazy taint of pure thrill… but now all I’ve got to do is look out the window at swaying palms and terracotta tiles (still steaming from the Spring shower overnight), and: yeah. It was worth it.
The manifesto for the next six months is: Write Lots, Be Healthy, Don’t Worry.
(There will be room for hate).

Saturday, 11 April 2009


As frequent visitors to the Spursphere may have gathered, all is not normal. Your daily Guide To Hate has been interrupted, various work tasks have been prolonged beyond all expected deadlines, and a general air of Fare-Thee-Well has permeated my circle. Arf arf. Yes: there is upheaval and strife afoot, and like all creatures of order and habit I. HAAAAATE. Change.

Which bodes well, really, for the future creativity of your bile-powered host.

As of this writing, I have left the sweaty streets of London behind. I won’t be back for upwards of 6 months and – in spite of all the hateful spuff coming up in a moment – I’m kinda sad to leave it. See, alongside all the crap London manages to have good sushi, several nice pubs, one or two excellent human beings, and a fascinating assortment of smells. Plus the world’s finest accumulation of things to cheerfully hate. I shall miss them all.

But it was time to go. My fiancée and I – without wishing to bait the violinists – had reached a point of general existential stress, a bitter mindset of Us Vs Everything, and a state of health which oscillated between “terrible” and “almost dead”. There are only so many times you can cheer yourself up by stamping on kittens before the ugly reality is unavoidable: Something Had To Be Done.

The real kicker arrived only recently. It came in the shape of a series of posters – THIS ONE and THIS ONE, in fact – which illustrated, in 12-foot-high horror, something which had been on the tips of our psyches for all too long. London has become a place where The Security To Remain Alive threatens to outweigh The Point Of Being Alive.

I don’t want to overstate this, but there’s a genuine and creeping sense of paranoia, suspicion and (worst of all) guilt, which imbues every part of the Urban Experience, and is not only growing unchecked but is being actively encouraged by those whose lives become easier the more we all watch each other.

Politicians make a big fuss these days about including the police in their consultations on security. Let me be nice and clear about this: If you ask a Removal Man to legislate on how Normal People live their lives, all heavy furniture would be illegal and we’d all live on the ground floor. Right? If you ask a postman for advice on National Regulations all letterboxes would be within easy reach of the kerb, all envelopes would be transparent (with special flashing LEDs on letters containing money), and all dogs over the size of a gerbil would be culled.

People want their jobs to be easier. Yes?

You Do Not Ask The Police How To Run Society, and expect it to Make People Happy. IT’S OBVIOUS, PEOPLE.

Look: the cops exist because we, the people, want them there. We have collectively agreed that we want to live in an ordered society, in which we can all get along without fear or persecution, and we have agreed that the price for doing so is to empower certain people with the right to prevent injustice and repress Fear.

"Repress" yes? They aren’t supposed to make me afraid. They aren’t supposed to make my palms go sweaty every time I pass one in the street. They aren’t supposed to send me into a crazed fit of “should I make eye contact, oh god I made eye contact, oh god now I look suspicious, oh fuck I looked away now he KNOWS I’ve got something to hide oh god oh god oh god” every time I go through the barriers on the tube. (Even though, honestly, really, truly: I have nothing to hide.)

Did you know that the average IQ of policemen is marginally lower than that of society at large?

Okay, I made that up. But it’s plausible, isn’t it? Because we all know some gimpy fuckwit from our school days who smelt of wee or couldn’t do up his shoelaces, or couldn’t blow his nose without snotting down his (clip-on) tie, who went on to become one of her majesty's finest. Or we’ve all had a run-in with some dickwit in a blue uniform, who honestly and truly believes that his shiny little badge not only permits him to a sense of entitlement the size of Nicaragua, but Actually Truly Honestly makes him More Important Than You.

They don’t just arrest you, they make bad jokes about it.

This is not the attitude I want in someone who has the right to hit me with a stick. This is not the attitude I want from an institution which can shoot me seven times in the head because my skin’s the wrong colour and I Might Maybe Possibly Oops No Not At All be a terrorist. And this is definitely not the attitude I want from the city which, most of the time, I love.

So we’re going to live on a tiny tiny Island for six months.

I’m lucky enough to have a job that has only one geographical criteria (that my hands be within reach of a keyboard, which itself is – by whatever abstract means – attached to That Internet), while my fiancée felt it was the right time to take a half-year out of A Real Proper Job, and spend some time having a Real Proper Life.

You’ve heard the expression: “Work to live, don’t live to work”? There’s a reason some platitudes become hackneyed: once in a while they’re right on the fucking money.

So there you go. We’re going to drive across Europe in a shitty £600 car I bought from a questionable source a couple of weeks ago, catch a 9 hour ferry from Barcelona, and exist – happily, I hope – on a lump of land which would fit inside the M25 with room to spare. We will swim, we will cycle, we will drink too much wine and eat a ridiculous amount of seafood. It is my sincere hope that among the sleepiness and self indulgence I’ll find something – probably in the guise of tourists – to Hate. (And yes, before you say: I shall indeed be a tourist myself. Hypocrisy does not dilute the value of a good, solid, Loathing).

There will be Internet. I will remain in touch. I shall simply be doing so accompanied to the sighing of the sea on the beach and the clatter of ice in my fresh G&T, rather than the dopplering of a passing squad-car or the squawks of a dying pigeon.

So, here’s me taking one for the team:

HATING OF THE DAY: Smug bastards who can’t fully enjoy their happy circumstances unless they fish for jealousy from others. MAY THE SUN SCALD THEIR PASTY, FLABBY SKIN.

MY HATINGS: #5 (Week beginning 6th April 2009)

A day-by-day guide to That Which Annoys, as culled from the procrastination-heavy Bileduct that is Twitter's @SISPURRIER.

MONDAY) HATING OF THE DAY: Urban spitting. 200k yrs without evolutionary change and you, o pubeless juve, decide my shoe beats the swallow reflex?

TUESDAY) HATING OF THE DAY: Unconvincing Liars. It is not your fuckwitted crime that dooms you, but your inability to entertainingly disguise it.

WEDNESDAY) HATING OF THE DAY: People who think negativity is unhealthy. Opposite is true: your cheery fuckery will get you stabbed. JOY THROUGH HATE.



Missing posts throughout 2nd half of the week not due to general diminishing of Hate, but unavoidable environmental factors.

ALL WILL BECOME CLEAR. Normal loathing will resume as soon as possible.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

MY HATINGS: #4 (Week beginning 30th March 2009)

A day-by-day guide to That Which Annoys, as culled from the procrastination-heavy Bileduct that is Twitter's @SISPURRIER.

MONDAY) HATING OF THE DAY: Visual dieters. “I can’t eat that! It still looks like a fish!” May the arsebits in your reshaped disguisemeat choke you.

TUESDAY) HATING OF THE DAY: Gitwits who think their mutant pitbulls make them look doublehard. I EMASCULATE YOU VIA PUBLIC CUDDLING OF YOUR CUTE PET.

WEDNESDAY) HATING OF THE DAY: “Pretend sculpture” buskers. Why pay to see you move? The TALENT is in standing still! You're doing it for free, fuckwit!

THURSDAY) HATING OF THE DAY: The word "moist". [Brought to you in Loving Memory of a truly wonderful bugger, who booked his exit 1 year ago today.]

FRIDAY) HATING OF THE DAY: Those whose mouth-corners accumulate frothy lipsnot. They are Karmic enemies of coherent conversation. WIPE FOR VICTORY.