Monthly Archives: March 2017

Leaving

When they ask what you were doing that day you can say you were commenting on the new Samsung Galaxy S8. You know ? The one that kept catching fire. That was considered an unhelpful feature in a device designed to be held in a hand or carried in a pocket. If it’d been marketed as a device that might, at random, come in helpful on a camping trip when you had a bunch of twigs but no lighter nor the desire to rub sticks together for a long time – and believe me you have to do it for a long time – then things might have worked out okay for the South Korean tech giants but it wasn’t marketed as that. It was marketed as a phone. Hey, good to hear from you baby. Just hearing your voice makes me feel warm. Wait a minute. Really warm. Like, shit, my hand is on fucking fire. Nobody wanted that. So now they’re giving it a three month unconditional refund and everyone wants to talk about that. Everyone, that is, that doesn’t want to talk about the film version of Stephen King’s “It”, or the twentieth anniversary of Buffy, or John Legend playing a piano in St Pancras station or Coca-Cola. Slow news day, right ? Nothing going on.

When did we get so stupid ? So bovine ? If there’s anyone left to study History when we become history – assuming of course that we haven’t Goved our way out of studying any History that isn’t some painstaking, chronological recitation of Anglo-centric dates and “facts” rather than any attempt to understand the lessons the past has to teach us – then what will they say of us ? Will they draw out the underlying fractures in our society, the fissures created by a model of capitalism and globalisation that widens the economic divisions between people ? Will they nod sagely at our instincts to look for scapegoats and people that might appear a bit different ? Note that we failed to learn the nationalist lessons of the twentieth century and took for granted the 70 unprecedented years of peace in Western Europe ? Or will they laugh and wonder at how we gave up on thinking, learned to distrust debate, and came to value invective over information ? Maybe they’ll be researching all of this on some future Samsung device that also catches fire and they’ll do none of these things: they’ll just die in some school disaster as an inflammatory piece of technology bursts into flames as they try to get to grips with an inflammatory time.

I reckon the exact moment we got so stupid was emojis. LOL. What’s that you’re carving up there on that cave wall, Grunt ? Go with it, okay ? I know Grunt is a highly stereotyped name to give our imaginary caveman and it’s intensely patriarchal for us to make him a man but just go with it. These are stupid times so let’s get involved. What’s that you’re carving ? A pictoral representation of a hunting scene ? Oh, I get that. It’s a means of communicating some of the things that we do, so that we might learn and take pride in that time that you guys (and it would have been the guys) brought down that giant fucking mammoth or whatever it was they hunted. I’m not that au fait with anything that that happened pre… well, pre 1649 to be honest. Chopping the head off a King got my attention. So it’s a picture that produces a permanent record of something we should remember. Hey, Grunt, as we learn to, well, to grunt at each other and those grunts become recognisable sounds that are different to each other and attached to specific objects maybe we could learn to somehow write those grunts down. We could describe that picture. We could call it language. Eventually we could have a rich and varied way of articulating ideas and emotions and facts and we could have a means of communicating with each other that opened up the beauty and full extent of human interaction. We could have sentences with too many “ands” in them. We could self refer in text. It would all be meta and it will all be wonderful. Hey, you could even use some of that language to critique what I’ve just written. It was rubbish. I can see what it was trying to do but it lost me back up in the Samsung phone section to be honest. We could do all of that or we could send each other little smiley faces. Or sad faces. Or that really annoying crying face which I think is supposed to be laughing-so-hard-that-I’m-crying. It’s so annoying that we need an annoying face that we could use to respond to it. We have one ? It’s red and frowning with some steam coming off it ? Got ya.

I’m not saying emojis are the only thing to blame for Brexit. Maybe they’re not even part of the slow march to stupidity. What’s left of our language is so abused that we “trigger” articles. How do you trigger an article ? I know it can be a verb. “To cause to function” right ? So, yes, you could cause an article to function I guess but it’s so clumsy. But I suppose it’s helpful given the connotations when you consider the word as a noun. You only really pull a trigger on a gun. The real question is who’s on the other end. Maybe we’re pointing it at our own face ? So we trigger articles and we “reach out” to someone at work when we mean that we’re either trying to talk to or e-mail someone. And we are forever “going forward”. And we “touch base” without ever playing baseball or rounders or softball. As an aside how did we end up with three variants of a game where someone throws a ball at someone who tries to hit it out of a diamond marked at its four points by fielders, where the principal variant between them is either the size of the bat or the ball or the velocity at which the ball can be thrown ? We don’t need three versions of that surely ? Maybe that was when we got so stupid. Either then or when Rugby figured that the world needed slightly different versions of people running into each other with an ovoid ball. Don’t even get me started on American Football. At least they throw it forwards. Whilst wearing armour. I could buy a version of baseball / rounders / softball where they wear armour or there’s a spike pit between second and third base or something. Shake things up a bit.

I’m rambling. I get like this recently. I want to say that I feel like Don Quixote tilting at windmills but if I’m honest I don’t remember why he was doing that, if indeed I ever knew. So I’d just be borrowing it as some kind of badge of intelligence, hoping you wouldn’t call me on it. Which would be stupid. Perhaps that’s the first step. Admitting to our own stupidity and then we can go from there. Gather round some digital cave wall, someone can add some emojis, and the rest of us can grunt at them for a while until the noises start to make sense. We could call it language, have a conversation, start a debate, learn to co-operate, and then see where that takes us.

 


This is a sort of spiritual successor to Moonshot which I wrote last year. Just a stream of consciousness vomit inspired entirely by the list of trending conversations on my Facebook page today. Charitably you might call it an exercise in “voice”. I think March 29th will be an ignominious day in British history. I hope I’m wrong.

Riffs and variations on loss and friendship featuring Chantenay carrots, bad French, Taylor Swift, and a stuffed rabbit

“You know that Taylor Swift song ?”

“I may be familiar with Swifty’s work. Which one ?”

“Shake It Off.”

“It’s a fine, fine thing. Didn’t think it’d be your cup of tea though.”

“I’m a broad church. But why’s there that whole bit about baking ?” asked Pete.

“Baking ? What are you talking about ?” replied Jen.

“You know… players gonna play, play, play, and then haters gonna hate, hate, hate…”

“Yeah, then it’s I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake.”

“But after that,” interrupted Pete, “it goes bakers gonna bake, bake, bake. Like she’s doing a shout out to sous chefs or something.”

“Sous chefs don’t do the baking you idiot. They’re like second in command chefs. Literally, they’re under chefs. Well, literally linguistically, I don’t know if they’re literally under them physically. Depends on how cosy the kitchen is I guess.”

“Really ? What’s that sous pastry then ?”

“Choux pastry you tit. What were you doing in French ?”

“J’étais pas attention,” replied Pete in a more than passable accent, enunciating each syllable of att-en-ti-on with relish.

“Non ?”

“Non, j’ai seulement pris parce que je pensais que le professeur était très sexy.”

“You’re a man of hidden talents. And did you really just take French because you liked the teacher ?”

“Oui. It’s why I ended up doing Drama and Economics as well. My qualifications are really weird but I have a lot of happy memories in my formative years of vaguely stern older women trying to teach me things.”

“That’s quite enough insight into your adolescence thanks and it doesn’t get you off the hook with the baking thing. She doesn’t sing bakers gonna bake, bake, bake. It’s heartbreakers gonna break, break, break. The whole point of the song is that people are going to try and play her, hate on her, break her heart, or be a faker but she’s not going to let it get to her. She’s just going to shake it off.”

Pete answered quietly, reciting part of the verse. “Shake it off. I’m dancing on my own, making moves up as I go. That’s what they don’t know…”

Jen sighed. “You too, huh ?”

“Oh god yes, me too. After a while I just couldn’t listen to all that miserable stuff anymore. I couldn’t work out whether my own sadness would fade if I didn’t keep stoking it with songs in minor keys so I went through a phase of just playing pop music. I must have listened to Shake It Off ten times a day for a couple of weeks.”

“You heard the Ryan Adams version ? Covered the whole album for some reason.”

“Yeah, I have but you know what ? It doesn’t make any difference. I hear more sadness in her version than his. I know he broke it all down and plays some sparse, stripped back, slowed down take on it but it’s all borrowed…”

“…that’s kind of how cover versions work…”

“…no, I know but you can borrow the song but make the emotion your own. Listen to Buckley’s Hallelujah. Or, while we’re on Adams, listen to his version of Wonderwall, it’s like he found depths in it that Noel Gallagher didn’t even know he’d started digging. But the pathos in Shake It Off is all there in Swift’s original. All sunny on the outside but all dancing on my own on the inside. It’s the girl who didn’t fit in at school, the person who always felt a bit out of place, someone who retreats to their self when they don’t know how to deal with the world.”

“You seem to have given this some thought… Are you sure it’s not just a song about shaking off your troubles and jigging about a bit ?”

“Ten times a day. Two weeks. I know that song like the proverbial back of my hand. It’s not about jigging about a bit. Not for me at least.”

“So…,” Jen paused. “I’m guessing it didn’t actually help you shake it off ?”

“I’m not sure what would help that. The sad songs aren’t doing it and the bouncy ones aren’t either. It doesn’t seem to matter what it is but I just see her or hear her in everything. Always in the most unexpected places. Did I tell you about Valentine’s Day ?”

“Nope, I don’t think so.”

“It had become a bit of an in-joke between us. You know Georgie, she didn’t really go for the whole hearts and flowers thing but underneath it all she was romantic. Not that she’d much admit it but it was there. She liked it if I surprised her with something. It didn’t have to be anything traditional but just something that showed a bit of thought, I think that was what she liked.”

“Is that what prompted the teddy bear thing you two used to do ?”

“Yeah,” Pete laughed. “Sort of. It started as a joke one Valentine’s Day when I bought her the cheesiest bear I could find. It was holding a pink heart that had ‘I love you’ written on it and it had a matching pink bow on its ear. I mean it was just this awful thing that we just had a big laugh about. She went out the next year and got me this massive stuffed rabbit, all doe eyed…”

“Rabbit eyed, surely ?” said Jen.

“It’s an expression. You’re in a very literal mood today. Doe eyed. They’re stuffed toys, they’re not anatomically correct representations of woodland creatures. Anyway, it was all doe eyed, floppy ears and it was holding…”

“Wait, don’t tell me… Was it holding a love carrot ?”

“Hey, leave my love carrot out of it,” laughed Pete.

“With pleasure. Although… If it’s that orange and knobbly then you really should see a doctor, you know ?” Jen was trying and failing to suppress a fit of giggles. “Would you say your love carrot is from the Nantes variety or more of a stubby Chantenay ?”

“What are the ones you get in the shops ?”

“There’s loads of different ones. From the small but tasty aforementioned Chantenay, more of a snacking carrot that one, right through to the Purple Dragon. Ten inches of purple carroty pleasure.”

“You just made that up,” Pete protested.

“No, seriously. When I was at Uni I used to do some part-time work at a greengrocers and so now, along with my degree in History, I have a pretty decent knowledge of root vegetables.”

“Must come in handy.”

“Well, until now, not so much but I can confirm with some authority that the Purple Dragon is an actual thing. It wasn’t that popular, I think the colour put people off, so I used to get given bags of them to take back for the house. We pretty much lived on carrots, Marlboro lights and Thunderbird that year.”

“Was always Asda sherry in our house. Foul stuff but it had the best alcohol content to pound note ratio. I don’t remember many carrots, or vegetables at all to be honest. There was a lot of tuna pasta and a lot of toast. Especially in the third year after me and Georgie got together. We used to sit up after a night out, just talking and drinking coffee, eating toast…” Pete trailed off and there was silence on the line for a few seconds.

“You were telling me about the Valentine’s thing…” Jen nudged.

“The rabbit. Right. She got me the big stupid floppy eared thing and the next year I got her something sillier and it just carried on. She always said that she didn’t like those staged, formal occasions when you were supposed to declare that you were in love but I don’t know. We thought we were being all ironic and above it all but I know we both used to really look forward to that time of year.”

“It was just a different way of taking part,” said Jen.

“I guess. Now though, after the accident, I wish we hadn’t. Every February is just going to be an emotional assault course. I can avoid the card shops easily enough but there’s Valentines stuff everywhere. Supermarkets, petrol stations…”

“Nothing quite says I love you like a bottle of de-icer.”

“That must be the most passive-aggressive Valentines gift you can get your lover.”

“I don’t know. A Chantenay carrot might run it pretty close.”

“I have a run of decent days, maybe even a week, but it’s just too hard when the world is screaming reminders in your face. If we hadn’t made Valentines a thing then it’d be okay but…” Pete trailed off.

“But it was your thing and you should treasure that. Find some comfort in the things that you did and shared rather than mourning the ones you won’t have.”

“You sound like my counseller.”

“That probably means we’re right, yeah ?” said Jen gently.

“You probably are. You both are. But it’s easy in the text book version of stages of grief and not so easy when you’re dealing with it…”

“I know. I’m sorry Pete. I didn’t mean…”

Pete interrupted softly. “Don’t apologise Jen. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to snap at you. I know you’re looking out for me and you’re right. I do hang on to the happy memories of her but they’re all jumbled up with the feeling that I’ve lost the best part of myself. The past just reminds me that I’ve lost my present and lost my future.”

“It’ll be a different future.”

“I know but I’’m not sure I’m ready to accept that yet.”

The line was silent for five, ten seconds. Eventually Jen asked the same question she’d asked every week or so for the past five months.

“I’m sorry Pete but I’ve gotta go now, early start again tomorrow. Are you alright ?” There was the same pause he always left before answering and then the same answer before the line went dead.

“No. Not today Jen. But ask me again tomorrow.” Pete put down the phone and picked up the large, stuffed rabbit that was lying in front of him, held it up in front of his face. “Do you miss her too ?”

 


This is the third time I’ve felt the need to just let Pete and Jen talk to each other. Format is always the same and the title continues to borrow (steal) from Sufjan Stevens. I just like hearing them try to work things out.

The other two are here: Riffs and variations on loss and friendship featuring balloons, AA Milne, Sufjan Stevens and phone sex

Riffs and variations on loss and friendship featuring onion rings, Nick Cave, tinnitus, and Brexit

 

Boldly go

The lake was still. Will checked his watch and considered setting out to find the others; it’d been over an hour now and he should put them out of their misery. He definitely didn’t want a repeat of what had happened with that graduate scheme group who’d wandered off, found the pub in the local village, and then refused point blank to do anything other than sit tight and drink all night.

Why this ? Why didn’t you take up cycling like everyone else ? Do a triathlon. Invest heavily in lycra and join all the other middle aged men staring down the barrel of their own mortality by taking up some extreme physical endeavour. Just to, you know, show they’ve still got it. Even a vintage Porsche or an ill judged affair with someone almost half your age would have been better. But no. Not you. You couldn’t have a midlife crisis like everyone else. You had to jack it all in, sell your house, and plough everything in to ‘Next Generation: leadership and life development lessons from Star Trek’. There had always been that nagging sense, from way back, that you were in the wrong place, not quite sure why you were there. Even back to university and studying. Taking that degree in Politics, a Bachelor of Arts in having an opinion with conviction, and then graduating with a Desmond. Just a half arsed, couldn’t be arsed qualification. Graduation pictures were always taken with all of the hats thrown up in the air. Hats ? Mortar boards. Whatever they were. Those things you wore once in your life at that moment of jubilation, frozen in time. There was never any record of those awkward moments afterwards when everyone had to scrabble around on the floor trying to retrieve the object of their celebration. Sorry, I think you’ve picked up my hat by mistake. No, really, it does matter. That one was mine. I’ve only rented it for today and I’m pretty sure you’ve got mine. There was a deposit. Some people, of course, caught their hat. Probably tossed casually just a few inches and effortlessly plucked from the sky. Confident in what came next, just marking off another step in a pre-determined journey from school through college to some expected destination in the City or at the Bar or into consultancy. You weren’t one of those people.

Will heard them before he saw them, laughter carrying across the water punctuated at irregular intervals by the splash of an oar. They came into view around the side of the small island in the middle of the lake, the six of them sprawled across a bright blue row boat. They were either the worst mariners since people had ever ventured out onto the waves or extremely drunk. Or both. Will watched them lurch across the the water. Eventually they were close enough to shore for him to shout across to them.

“What are you doing ? Where’d you get that boat from ?”

“It’s not a boat.” said Rich, sat at the front, feet dangling over the side. “It’s our starship. The Enterprise.”

“The Enter-surprise” someone reminded him from behind.

“Ah yes. ‘Course. The Enter-surprise. Boldly going where…” he looked around, shrugged. “Well, across this lake mainly. But boldly.”

“And surprisingly,” offered the voice from the back of the boat. The crew dissolved into giggles. An oar was relinquished and bobbed away back towards the island.

It wasn’t meant to be like this. Setting up on your own was going to be the thing you finally committed to, something you could believe in. It had all seemed so right at the time, such a good idea. All the big corporates wanted leadership development and all of them wanted it delivered with some kind of new angle. A hook. Colleague engagement was the thing. No more sitting in pseudo class rooms listening to lectures, it was time to get out into the real world and discover how to lead and grow by doing things. You’d looked at the competition and, sure, opportunities to go pot holing or climb a mountain or walk on hot coals or break wooden blocks with your bare hands were all available. Unlock your full potential by standing on burning ashes. All of that stuff. But no-one offered the chance to go into space, to lead in an imagined environment unburdened by earthly constraints. No-one had understood the essential leadership archetypes and lessons contained in the various Star Trek captains over their many iterations. The emotional, impulsive, instinctive, charismatic brilliance of Kirk. The considered, rational, intellectual rigour of Picard. The paternal, consensual warmth of Sisko or the maternal, resourceful, protective strength of Janeway. What kind of leader are you ? No one ever claimed to be the Quantum Leap guy who appeared in Enterprise. No one ever remembered it to be honest. There were a lot of Kirks. There was also a fair amount of bemusement. But, undeterred, you’d done it. Bought a plot in some remote corner of Devon and built your own version of Star Fleet Academy. 

“Where have you been ?” asked Will. “I thought we were going to finish this task and then work on a case study of conflict resolution in the workplace by looking at tensions between humans, Klingons and Romulans throughout galactic history. It gives an interesting perspective on diversity too.”

“We’ve been…” started Rich.

“We’ve been at the pub,” offered the ever present voice from the back which Will now identified as Simon.

“Yes, that’s right,” acknowledged Rich. “We have been at the pub but… but we were initiating first contact…”. The boat howled again. Will stood stony faced. “First contact with an important new sentient race previously unseen by us.”

“Really ?”

“Really. Scrumpy. Unbelievably advanced. It’s like cider but with pan-dimensional qualities. We had to study it very hard to try to understand it.”

They’d said there would be moments like this. Obviously not exactly like this. No one had said to watch out for the time when a cohort of delegates on the “Accelerated Leadership: Warp Speed One Engage” program went rogue, got pissed, and nicked a boat. They’d said there would be times you’d want to jack it in. Times when you’d wonder if your grand idea wasn’t just the tiniest bit ridiculous and that you should have just sucked up the quiet and predictable corporate route instead. You wonder what your heroes would do in this position. Kirk would probably be sleeping with Kate, the startlingly pretty accountant that seemed to be able to consume vodka at levels disproportionate to her frame. Then he’d get Spock to work out the hard stuff. Picard would maybe send Riker to ingratiate himself with the group, get them back on side. He’d be clinical and detached and resolve it through reason. Sisko and Janeway ? Who knows ? The die-hards would know but who are you kidding ? Hardly anyone coming on the courses knows who they are. If you’re going to run a theme based in space then at least do Star Wars. That’s what your friends had said. And you’d thought about it – Solo as the reckless, impulsive one with a heart of gold, and Skywalker as the earnest believer following his destiny, and Kenobi with wisdom, and Leia, all feisty spirit and resolve. But it was less obviously corporate. Where were the structures and hierarchies ? So you’d gone with Trek. And here we are.

“You were supposed to be liberating the Federation colony from an invading Dominion force.”

“You mean we were supposed to be trying to get on to that island to pick up a piece of paper that said ‘you have liberated this colony’ ?” shot back Rich.

“The program is designed to use your creative and imaginative skills as well. If you went along with the role play you’d get much more out of it.”

“We did. We got fully into it.”

“No you didn’t. You went to the pub.”

“Two words for you Will,” said Rich. “Kobayashi Maru.”

“Kobayashi Maru ? What’s that got to do with you lot getting pissed when you’re supposed to be learning and developing ?”

“You know what it is. I’m Kirk, right ?”. Rich gestured at himself and Will nodded. All of his questionnaire responses indicated that he was, characteristically, Kirk. “Well, when Kirk gets given a task that can’t be completed what does he do ?”

Will shook his head. “No, no, no. When Kirk was graduating Star Fleet the Kobayashi Maru mission was deliberately designed to teach potential captains the nature of failure. This wasn’t like that.”

“Well on balance we decided that it was. Sorry Will. We figured it was too hard and that it would be better for all concerned if we went to the pub and got very, very drunk.”

There it was. One of the essential lessons at the heart of the thing he loved – when you are tested against literally impossible odds then find a way to win – reduced to a lazy retreat to alcohol induced stupor. To be fair you might argue that Kirk cheated and that, perhaps, sometimes in life you need to cheat. What had they learned though ? What had you learned ? Was it all just a waste of time ? What does anyone take from one of these courses ? Burnt feet ? A tick box appreciation of their own inner quirks and personality ? A chance to boldly go deep into the human soul where no one has gone before. The final frontier.

There was a long pause before Will finally spoke again: “Do you think that pub’s still open ?”

 

O.

It never usually felt like the end, the close of another cycle, but this Autumn, the one after she’d gone, hit hard. I couldn’t blame her. God knows I’d tried but I really couldn’t. I fell too fast and too hard. And you had warned me that you wouldn’t, couldn’t. That if you fell, when you fell – you sensed that you probably would – that you’d descend gently, carefully. That you’d only just picked up your own pieces after last time you lost your footing and tumbled into something too quickly. It wasn’t that I didn’t listen but I couldn’t do anything about it. I went head over heels and figured I’d wait for you to catch me up. It’s a hard thing to fall like that, so suddenly, so violently, and to turn around reaching for the person who tripped you up, thinking that they’d be right there beside you, dusting themselves down, and to discover that they’re not. You were off balance but steadying yourself. I was splattered all over the pavement.

I’m not making excuses. I know that you could never understand how my feelings seemed to wither, just as this seasons’ leaves lay scattered like rust inflected relics of summer’s faded glory. And I’m sorry to wax lyrical. You never warmed to all that poetic stuff, early on when I was pouring my heart out. Or at least I didn’t think that you did but turns out the truth of it was that it did touch you, found a part of you that you’d locked up, stashed away so it was safe. I guess it was some of that stuff that helped you pick your way down to me. I took the short cut – pitched myself head first, head long into what I hoped was your heart. Knocked the breath out of myself in exhilaration. You were careful with what you considered precious. You were slow to love but it ran deep and left its mark – I was the wave, all crashing energy and pulled off my feet, and you were the steady, inexorable, relentless drop of water. My wave got us soaked but left no real mark in time. You etched yourself in stone.

But I was hurt. I was too exposed too soon and never understood your reticence. And you say that’s not fair and that I should grow up and that I should have waited and that if it was real it’d have lasted. And you’re right. But I was hurt and those feelings slipped away, silently stealing off into the night just as you were ready to take the final steps down to me. We should have held hands together and leaped. Or I should have taken your hand and we could have picked our way down slowly, together. Is that all love is ? Two people ready to fall at the same time, at the same rate ? It was too fast for you. It was too slow for me. By Autumn it was done.

Old, new, borrowed, blue.

Hey Siri.

What can I help you with ?

Play something old.

Which old ?

I scan the list and settle on “Seems Like Old Times”, remembering when we watched Annie Hall and fell in love with Keaton breathing into that microphone, red rose pinned to her lapel, awkward and adorable. Siri doesn’t remember Annie Hall and offers me the opportunity to buy some film of the same name starring Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn. You always hated Chevy Chase. I had a soft spot for Three Amigos but tended to keep quiet about it.

Hey Siri. Play something new. We’re past the pleasantries of what can I help you with now. Straight to business.

Which new ?

Option one is Star Wars: A New Hope. Who says algorithms can’t know you ? Of course that’s what I’d choose in almost any other circumstance but it’s not going to help tonight. You love that film. I prefer Empire Strikes Back, ever the connoisseur, but it was always “these aren’t the droids you’re looking for” and “you came in that, you’re braver than I thought” for you. Two questions in and we’re still stuck in the late 70s and I’m still stuck with memories of you.

Hey Siri. Give me something borrowed. I change tack slightly. Conversation with my phone isn’t playing out quite how I wanted. What did I expect ? A curated cure-all list of content custom crafted for circumspection and forgetting ? An abbreviated alliterative  approach to answering angst through algorithmic artificial intelligence ?

Two options. Two films both called “Something Borrowed”. Way to go there Siri. I click on one of them and it promises a story of Rachel, a successful attorney, and also a loyal and generous friend. She is, alas, still single. After one too many at her 30th birthday (we’ve all been there Rachel) she ends up in bed with her long term crush Dex (okay, so we’ve not all been there). Dex, it turns out, is engaged to her best friend… I have not seen this movie. We, certainly, would never have gone to see this movie although, ironically, you did  sleep with my best friend so perhaps it would have been helpful. Some involuntary twitch, popcorn spiralling into the air during a scene that was a little too close to home. Maybe it’d have prefaced some guilt induced confession. Maybe we’d have been sleeping together afterwards and lost in the moment you’d have called out “Dex” in faint ecstatic desperation and I’d have pieced together that all was not well. My name is not Dex for the avoidance of doubt.

Hey Siri. Play something blue.

Hmm. I’m not finding anything called “something blue”.

Play blue.

The phone screen fades black before a woman’s face fills the screen, blue grey, frozen in silent contemplation. Joni. I say a silent prayer that Siri has picked this ahead of boy band Blue’s “All Rise” which I suspect is lurking somewhere in my iTunes folder. That was you. You liked Blue and Take That and Five (or technically, if stupidly, 5ive) and all of that chart fodder for kids that don’t know any better and grown ups that wish they didn’t. I like Joni. Depressing as shit. Isn’t that what you said ? Joni and Bob and Leonard and Neil and Carole and Warren. All dismissed. I played you “Big Yellow Taxi” once to try and convert you by stealth. Said you preferred the Counting Crows version. That should have been enough. I should have slept with John then, saved you the bother of doing it. Paved paradise and put up a parking lot. You said it Joni. You said it.

Hey Siri. Play something old. Play something new. Play something borrowed. But mostly, right now, just play “Blue”.