Wednesday, December 15, 2010

the frequent flyer's* advent calendar

*frequent flyer – noun phrase: regular caller without good cause

The picture: A snowy street scene. An ambulance skidding along between iced cars, its headlamps wic-wacking, its emergency lights rippling blue and red, front and back. A generous scattering of glitter.

Hidden around the picture: twenty four numbered panels. Each one has a tiny scene behind it, with a little clip of dialogue as the panel is opened.

1 The lobby of a run-down hotel. Pete, the cowardly lion, sitting in a ruined tub chair with a couple of crutches propped against it. He is wearing a spivvy black leather jacket, dirty jeans, smoking a roll-up the size of a matchstick.
‘I can’t walk.’
‘How did you get down to the lobby?’
‘I can’t walk very far.’

2 A cold, curtainless room lit by a bare light bulb. A ginger tom delicately licking its paw over on the window ledge. Below him, such a scattering of rubbish it could be a sorting room at the recycling depot. Clara, staggering around with a half empty bottle of Perry cider.
‘The door! Don’t let Garfield out! Is he out? Don’t let him out!’

3 The landing of a concrete housing block. Mr Sylvester, rattling around in a dilapidated blue blazer and slacks, propped up against the railings, shaking a brown inhaler.
‘Hello chaps. I need another one of these. But Kathleen should be home soon.’
‘Oh I don’t know. I don’t like to pry.’

4 A long and narrow lift, sheet steel and graffiti tags, a fold-down chair in the corner. Mary, shuffling out in a leopard-pattern fur coat and red slippers, fag smoke billowing around her.
‘Oh hallo boys. Is it cold out? Will I need a hat?’

5 Dolly, Queen of the Wallop, swearing and cursing in her chair, as easy as an elephant that accidentally sat back in a laundry basket.
‘How are you, Dolly?’
‘Fantabulosa, darling. What do you think?’

6 Zachary, walking out of a seafront bar, escorted by a doorman. He casts sharp looks left and right along the street, a strip of fluorescent orange hair draped across the centre of his bald head, his combat jacket zipped right up, collar up, a Chad Valley chess box tucked under his arm.
‘I will speak with you in the language you know. If I revert, I apologise. But there are certain secrets I cannot reveal to you, many of them connected with this ancient box. You’ve heard of the Knights Templar? Then you’ll understand. Dark times, my friend. Strange, dark times.’

7 Ella Mae – careening forwards on her mobility scooter, her cowboy hat slipped back on her head and her eye patch folded up, a fag trembling in her lips. She tugs it out with yellowing fingers and smiles, revealing a dental graveyard of blackened stumps.
‘The bastards have banned me from Waitrose.’

8 Stanley, standing with one hand on the door, his tousled head turned back into the flat where a beautiful springer spaniel leaps from sofa to armchair.
‘Dookie! Decorum!’

9 Miranda, swaying in the hallway of a Glade-drenched bungalow, her eyes swimming in and out of focus behind the dirty lenses of her glasses. Josh Groban emoting on the DVD
‘We understand you’ve taken an overdose.’
‘Will you be coming to hospital?’
‘No. Fuck off.’

10 Mrs Jessom, standing in the middle of a plush lounge, seemingly aghast to find herself in a quilted, leaf-patterned housecoat. In the corner of the room, beneath a display shelf of porcelain fairies, the life-sized mannequin of a small child in a red raincoat, her face to the wall.
‘I look a fright.’
‘No, no.’
‘I do. I look a fright.’

11 Janice, simpering in a WWF bed beneath a wall of WWF posters and WWF DVDSs. The quilt - Bret Hart, golden belt over his shoulder - has been artfully arranged to reveal teasing flashes of naked shank and brisket.
‘I was just getting ready to take a flannel bath when the cat head butted me and I fell backwards onto the bed.’

12 Jose, sitting on the steps of the entrance way, devouring a cigarette. In the half-light of the courtyard he could be a Spanish movie star, but close inspection reveals such a slack and dissolute face it’s all you can do not to bite your knuckle.
‘I see espiders. Everywhere. Espiders.’

13 Ralph, enthroned on a ruined chair amongst the detritus of his basement flat, his friend Bobby bustling about like a large, solicitous woodlouse.
‘He was knocked clean out.’
‘Clean out.’
‘And that’s some of his hair in the ashtray.’

14 Joy, a frail woman of indeterminate age in teddy bear PJs, mouthing instructions from round the corner of her curtains.
‘Whatever you do, don’t say you’ll look at her chinchillas.’

15 Michael, a falling down, fag butt Father Christmas in a foetid raincoat, slumped on a bench outside the Co-op, a festive carrier bag hanging on his zimmer with a packet of sandwiches and a litre of vodka.
‘Fuck off.’

16 Jenny, perched on the edge of her sofa like an Egyptian mummy unexpectedly reanimated, reaching down to where an equally ancient and over-stuffed black Labrador Maisy lies sleeping on her side.
‘ Maisy, Maisy, Maisy. Just look at you now. You dear and lovely little thing.’

17 Sonia, lying on the pavement beneath the bright department store display, shaking her arms and legs in a psychogenic fit, a small crowd watching from the taxi rank alongside.

18 Susan, a young, tidily dressed girl sitting patiently on the platform bench with a flowery bag by her side and a couple of fluorescent jacketed staff standing with radios right and left.
‘Hello Susan.’
She smiles pleasantly - ‘How are you?’ - and then slips the strap of her bag over her shoulder ready to go.

19 Kevin, sitting with his head in his hands at the kitchen table, a Tupperware box of medication in front of him.
‘I simply need you to write me out a prescription for the drugs I need.’
‘We’re not doctors, Kevin. That’s not what we do.’
‘Then I have no further use for you. Good day.’

20 Connor, bare-chested and exultant in the bedroom of a devastated squat, swigging from a carton, a white moustache of milk beading his upper lip.
‘I swallowed a razor blade.’

21 Jeannie, sitting cross legged on the double bed that takes up most of the floor space of the bedsit. Behind her, almost covering that wall, a spread of A4 photos printed off the computer - hazy, pixelated family shots of babies in prams and on laps, a sister and brother, school photos, a beach holiday.
‘And see that one there? Isn’t he gorgeous? My brother’s baby, such a cutie.’

22 Michaela, immaculately tragic in chiffon, taffeta and Maybelline gloss, one great hairy foot up on a Moroccan pouffe beside the Ottoman.
‘I’ve been such a fool.’

23 Cynthia, crying as she opens the door, waving us quickly inside, her Jack Russell skittering at insane speed around the room like an over-wound toy. Cynthia’s image is reflected a dozen times in the seventies-style hang of little round mirrors on the far wall.
‘I may have had a little bit to drink. It’s not a crime.’

24 Burt, a generously proportioned character balloon from the derelict collection, occupying three quarters of a four person settee, his t-shirt ridden up beyond the dreadful horizon of his abdomen. Above him, a wall of clocks begins chiming the midnight hour.
‘The pain? I don’t know. It’s there all the time. Sometimes I hardly notice it. Sometimes it’s completely gone. I don’t know. It’s just a pain-type pain.’
‘Have you seen your doctor?’
‘Him? Well, he’s not interested.’

All the panels stand open now.
I faxed my annual leave request through at midnight on September 1st last year.
This year, I get to be home for Christmas.


fiona said...

GOOD FOR YOU! You deserve a nice break. Happy holiday!

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Happy Christmas, hope you have a wonderful time with your family. I'll be working on my bid to become Ella Mae in 40 years time ;) BG Xx

Kim said...

I just have to say that I've become an avid "lurker" of your blog. I'm throughly impressed with your descriptive writing skills. In my minds eye, I can see what you see. Enjoy your Christmas off! Be Blessed

Angeline Quick. said...

Well-earned!!! Have a great one :)

paul said...

‘I was just getting ready to take a flannel bath when the cat head butted me and I fell backwards onto the bed.’

:) reminds me of my own favourite

'dave, how come you lost that middle fingernail?'
'i kicked a Rangers fan to death with it!'

Eclipse said...

Perfect! I hope you enjoy it with your family. I rarely comment, but I really do love reading your blog - your ability to transport the reader to the scene is a rare talent.

Fluid Idleness said...

I absolutely loved this. Thank you for sharing.

Baglady said...

Spence - these are simply stunning. 24 amazing visual paragraphs, each character absolutely three dimensional.

Enjoy your break. You've earned it.

lyndylou said...

Enjoy your time off and I hope you have a great Christmas

saffy said...

Yay best christmas present ever to you and your be able to spend it together :) i am so happy for you .
hugs and light

Nari said...

That was a great post.

I found myself giggling over number 11. I guess if you entrench yourself in the WWF, you should expect your pets to support you in that passion.

Enjoy your Holiday...based on this've earned it more than anyone I know.

Bouncin' Barb said...

My goodness...while some of this was funny it really is sad isn't it? So glad you'll be home for the holiday. I give you guys so much credit.

Anonymous said...

Have a wonderfull christmas and a very happy new year
Thank you for sharing with us your wonderfull pictures of life sad, funny and very real
love the christmas cart too.
best wishes

Spence Kennedy said...

Fiona - Happy Christmas! Hope you have a great time.

BG - Happy Christmas to you, too. I wouldn't mind riding Ella Mae style when I'm that age. Yee hah!

Kim - Thanks for all the lurking. Have a lovely time this holiday season...

Angeline - Thanks! You too. I think we could all do with a few treats...

Paul - Great line! I love those nuggets you get in this job - a real perk! (That and the alco-gel)

Eclipse - Thanks v much. The kids are gearing up now (me, too). School's out the end of the week. :)

Fluid I. - Cheers for reading, and for the lovely comment!

Baglady - That's very kind of you to say so - thanks so much. I hope you have a great Christmas...

Lyndylou - Certainly will - you too!

Saffy - So nice to get that day off. But it was actually a friend at work who had the insight and foresight and general all-round twenty twenty to batch-fax a load of our requests - I owe M. big time!

Nari - Yeah - wrestling, ay? I lost touch when Kendo Nagasaki left the ring for the last time.... But you know, her cats aren't that big. Maybe they've just got great technique.

Bouncin' B - It's such a mixture of funny / sad. I know a lot of what I write tends to the melancholic - just a twitch in my writing, I think. We have a much better time than I often make out (self-preservation style). Diff to convey without sounding terribly callous, though! :/

Lollipop - Thanks a lot! Happy Christmas to you and yours, too. Have a great one.


Thanks to everyone for the lovely comments. I'll prob put up a few more posts before the end of the year, just to keep my hand in. But anyway - Happy Christmas! xx

Lynn Hanbury said...

I've been reading your blog for a few weeks's brilliant!! Entertaining but makes you stop and think more than a few times "there but for the grace of God".... Keep writing..please!! and have an excellent Christmas :)

Wren said...

Fabulous vignettes, Spence! "Solicitous woodlouse." What a wonderful Christmas gift you've given us.

Enjoy your break! Here's wishing you and yours a very merry Christmas, filled with warmth, laughter and love.

Spence Kennedy said...

Lynn - Thanks v much! I often think that - 'there but for the grace...'. Often a fine line :/ Have a lovely Christmas :)

Wren - Yeah, one of those characters that make you shiver slightly and stand a little further back...

Happy Christmas to you and yours, too. I hope you have a great time! xx

The Real Housewife of Greensboro said...

ROFLMAO!!! That was so funny I was crying from laughing. The stuff you have to go through. You have to have a sense of humor to get through some of the things you deal with. Just hillarious. LOL

jacksofbuxton said...

I shouldn't laugh,but head butted by a cat?

Havbe a great Christmas Spence,enjoy the break with your nearest and dearest.

Spence Kennedy said...

RHOG - It is amazing the people we go to. 'Nowt queer as folk' as the great philosopher said...

JoB - What's even more incredible is the no. of times she calls with similar complaints. Not sure what can be done, though, short of an ASBO, or maybe the Corleone family.


Hope you have a lovely Christmas break! :)

Jane said...

' Strange, dark times’ indeed.
This was wonderful and terrible at the same time.
Have a great Christmas break and watch out for those head-butting cats.

Anonymous said...

They are like prose haikus, creating a crystal clear image in our minds. Have a great holiday season!

Spence Kennedy said...

Jane - Def a worrying case! I've seen him a few times, and he's always v intense / apocalyptic / paranoid. Despite his v bizarre behaviour, no special measures in place, apparently...

Those cats don't scare me - yow!

kmkat - I like that haiku idea - thanks!

Hope you both have a fantastic Christmas.


Miss Havisham said...

Strange, dark times, indeed

Makes for a fantastic blog though!

Hope you and yours have a fantabulous Christmas xxxxxx

Grace said...

Merry Christmas to you and your family, Spence.

Spence Kennedy said...

MH & Grace - Thanks v much for your support and comments throughout the year. I hope you have a great Christmas holiday! xx

Anonymous said...

Everyone a gem
(I've been head-butted by a cat, it hurt! I bent down as it jumped up, got me straight in the eye :)

Spence Kennedy said...

uhdd - ouch! You can bet that cat knew exactly what it was about. Had you given it the wrong kind of biscuits that day?

Happy Christmas, J. I hope you have a lovely holiday - and your New Year is bright and lucky! x