gurdeepmattu

Author and Publisher. I work in academic publishing. I live in London and am currently writing my second novel. I can be contacted at @gurdeepmattu and gurdeep.mattu@gmail.com and would especially like to hear from literary agents interested in representing my work.

Category: Diary

A Day that Made Me Think about Pleasant and Unpleasant as Things

Bank Holiday Monday arrived.  I felt relatively fresh but we woke late.  Breakfast was pretty simple : just cereal, coffee.  Laura and I ended up feeling a bit hungrier than normal at lunchtime and we wanted to go out somewhere.  I briefly pondered driving to Beckton Nando’s but I thought, you know what, let’s support the local economy.  By local, I mean, the Upton Park segment of Barking Road.

We mooted a few destinations.  It would have been really nice to head to Ercan’s Fish Bar, or Robin’s Pie and Mash, but both were shut (sensibly, it being a Bank Holiday and a day of rest).  So, good luck to them.  We ended up in Friends Cafe and I plumped for a fry up.  Laura got a sandwich as they had run out of bagels.

We sat near the front of the cafe and behind us were three guys, one of who was the ringleader.  He was a small time wrong ‘un, who in between speaking with his mouth full of various bits of his fried breakfast, spent his time liberally filling the place with swearwords.  He told of us riding round in stolen cars, his friend headbutting a PCSO, him getting beat up in ‘deep, deep Plaistow’.  It was unpleasant.  He was very loud and he must have known how unpleasant he was.

My breakfast was unpleasant.  The fries (I know, I know, but it came with either fries or hash brown and I went for fries) were soggy and limp and cold.  The beans lukewarm.  The sausage was a strange saveloy type of thing.  I mean, it’s not hard to do a good fry up.  The eggs and toast were okay.

We hopped on a bus to Stratford and got stuck in stop-start traffic.  At one point the driver deigned to switch on the air con, which in a rare diversion for the day, was pleasant.  Then we got to Stratford and had a pint at Eddy’s, which was pleasant.  But these were rare beacons.

Then we headed through the mega busy town centre, now strewn with tin can high rise rotundas.  In the plaza, loud music blared and a man dressed in a monkey suit half-heartedly did some strange ‘dance’.  Kids rode through thronged crowds on BMX bikes, narrowly missing pedestrians, each other.  We walked to the fun fair but it was charging an entrance fee.  That’s right.  £1 a head to get *in* to a fucking fun fair.  Things have changed.

Then we rode back, and the guy behind us had a hugely loud phone conversation right into our ears, all the way back.  We moved but in that seat, too, loud phone conversations.  Generally I just sat there and stared into space and I thought about how generally unpleasant it was and that, perhaps, it was down to the selfishness of others that this busy bus was also turned into a telephone exchange.  Perhaps it is to be expected in a big City, but the soggy fries and sad lukewarm beans and the shouty thug in the cafe showing off to his two eager friends and the bedlam of late period Capitalism that is Westfield Stratford, its £6 ShakeShack burgers drawing gawping crowds, I don’t know.  All very unpleasant.  There were beacons, you know.  But a general mien of ‘this isn’t really that nice.’

 

Canadiana

I’ve been on holiday in Winona, Ontario these past few days with my wife, staying at her parents’ house.  It’s a bit of a shift from our red brick terrace in East Ham, London.  Right now I am drinking a Jack Daniels Gentleman Jack from a plated silver chalice.  If this were a lifestyle blog I would add a picture but it is better if you imagine the chalice.  It is slightly bent out of shape and I could only half clean it (I ran out of Silvo, Brasso’s posher cousin) so it has dark patches of oxidization.  It has some inlay on the handle (leaf patterning) and a circular base of around an inch in radius.

Gentleman Jack, by the way, is twice mellowed.  They run it twice through the charcoal filter (the Lincoln County Process), once before ageing and one again after.  It really is exceptionally smooth and can easily be drunk in large measures with no ice or mixer.  Especially from a silver cup.  I recommend it.

We’ve been driving around in Betty’s Pontiac Sunfire (Laura’s relative, who is over 90 and doesn’t drive any more).  The Sunfire is aubergine coloured, purchased from Nissan Leggat, and automatic transmission.  The suspension is pretty much shot and it doesn’t like uphill gradients anymore, but the tape deck works just fine and we’ve been listening to some old tapes – Elton John’s Yellow Brick Road and The Cranberries.  In the Pontiac Grand Prix, my wife’s parents’ car, the only CD we have for the CD player is “Grammy Nominees 1996” (or possibly ’97).  Coolio’s ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ and Alanis Morrisette’s ‘You Oughta Know’ have been on repeat along with TLC and Joan Osborne.  Rolling up to the lights, window down, singing along to Coolio’s haunting paean for a gritty project life that is difficult to escape from was a particular highlight although it lost much of its effect as I was/am wearing a camel-colour duffel coat with wood toggles.  No one else is dressed like me, right up the Lee Cooper high-tops with faux fir trim.  I felt out of place browsing the Dad jackets and terrible golfing polo shirts in Sears, yesterday.  The prices were good: they are unfortunately made for the wrong decade.

I wrote ‘CLEAN ME PLZ’ on the Pontiac while we were stopped over in Hamilton and I got a lot of shit for it.  It’s hard to keep cars clean here as the road up to the house is a private dirt track.  No one found it funny when we got back home and Laura had to wipe it off with a napkin.  She refuses to take it to a car wash and the dirt trapped in the headlamps has run out, making it look like the car is crying and its mascara has run.

I have been writing the third installment of ‘B30’, my Michael Trilling short story series.  It is nearly done and I will hopefully get it up on the Kindle Store soon for 79p, please do drop by and pick up a copy.  Parts 1 and 2 are already up there.

As I write this I look out on the Fifty Cemetery.  It’s right next to the house and a sobering reminder to drink up, drink up: it’s later than you think, friends.

Fridays

Miasmic kind of humidity that saps the energy.  This is the ground-down fag end fuck up at the end of the week.

SOHO and a bottle of wine in one of those fancy wine coolers that no one wants to drink and

At one point I have three drinks on this table, a whisky, a lager and a wine.   There is:

A nightclub called, in all caps, “STRATFORD’S GOT SWAGGA” and Ye Olde Black Bull is Hopper tonal colours into the dusk and we have:

A BIG shopping centre and a new(ish) train station selling all manner of worldy goods at top dollar prices.

This is the 104 bus and it sweeps past the old shopping centre and we’re onto the Portway and back into a land of aloo chana in a tray for 99p and someone is cooking something and I make some fish and chips but its battered oven cook haddock and I wonder about that aspirational quality that YOU had for the Instagram filtered perfection of a life already looked at in vintage rose-tint.

We all have our nostalgia fetishes I guess.

USA: 1

Where do I stand when I exercise an inward reflection? I sit and ponder because something has been nagging at me in Dallas.  I’ve been having bad dreams with long, narrative stretches.  I have woken early, unsure of their reality, and beset by their visceral nature.

Dallas is uneasy. The Downtown area has large empty buildings and a large vagrancy problems. The 7-11s are bright and disturbing.  None of us feel safe walking anywhere. Nor is the city designed for walking.

There is something I need to do and a sense of homesickness that manifests itself as a keening distate at the size and vulgarity of certain things. But it’s not a fair judgement and it isn’t even based on very much evidence.

I sit and feel the fretful energies of childhood anxiety beat out their unearthly half-life.

6:30am, Dallas, TX

Morning chorus: birdsong unlike *anything* I have ever heard before.  Trilling, insistent noise like the cat-calls of a stadium full of fans.  The world is so vast.  At first I thought surely this noise is recorded? I’m still not sure either way.

US Photoblog : 1

From Hatton Cross to Dallas Fort Worth

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O

Orange orange orange in the mouth again

Straight in —

Tenerife: 3

For once,  (not the first time, if I am honest) I am glad of my raging hangover.  I drink an Irish coffee at 9:50am.  I am glad because Simon admitted to me, in the last,  awful bar we were in, his infidelity to Debbie.  The man had been in danger of seeming okay in my eyes.  The father figure I might grow to like.

“Twice,  she caught me,” he said.

The other times?

“Many, many times” he says.

I realise I need to get drunk because the truth hurts.

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Tenerife: 2

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Simon and Debbie have been married as long as I have been alive.  They ran pubs, all over, including The Gypsy Moth in Greenwich. I tell them I know it.  Simon’s job is to sweeten the barman.   Debbie checks the rooms.  He is now a stout used-car salesman and they live in Blackpool.  “Shithole” he says,  with a smile.  He’s driven Jags and lived through days when you could pile into a car and just go for a drive.  “Now it’s all tax” he says and the thing is, he is right, to some extent.  That purple patch is long gone.

Carol, or Karen (it is loud, she is quiet) makes up the group.  Her husband died two and a half years ago.  We drink lurid cocktails the colour of anti-freeze.  She is hesistant to speak.  Simon makes terrible jokes that make me laugh.   He sends around 12 texts a year.   “I like the email though,” he allows.

The next day, my hangover subsides in slanted hot sunshine.  I walk, and walk.  Directionless and motive with You on my mind.

Carol sits outside again the next night as ‘Cabaret’ is in full swing.  She lights a Berkeley. 

“He made me confident,” she says.  “When he died, my confidence just went like that.”. She mimes a fall with her hand.  “Oh, I’m getting maudlin.  Just tell me to shut up.”. But I want her to tell me the bitter truth.

“We never really talk about.  Dying, I mean” I say.

She goes on to slowly, hesitantly tell me about her son, her daughter.  The plans her and her husband had.  Her father is 84 and hasn’t had a passport since his wife, her mother, died.  She was 77.

“What religion are you?” she asks. 

“Sikh.”

“Oh, I like them.  They’re a bit more like us.”

Who ‘us’ is isn’t clear but I can see that since her husband died, her entire system of self-confidence and action has taken a battering.  “He used to tell people I was better than I was, you know.  So I’d … ” she tails off.  Her anecdotes about Raj Motors and the genial Sikh guy who fixes their cars are like comic relief.  They sound like Alan Bennett’s “Talking Heads”. 

“He’s a lovely man”, she says.

It is late and my hangover is catching up with me.  I make my excuses and head up with two large glasses of water.  In my room, I read “Diary of a Nobody” by George Grossmith and there is something delicious about thinking of it as I pen these lines.

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Tenerife: 1

I smoke a Marlboro.  The Bahn Mi baguette salves a lunch. Gatwick is nicer than I expected.  I am too tired to shop.  I made a pin badge for a girl this morning and told her I was in love with her.  I’m shaking under the air con.  I drink a Diet Coke and all I can taste are saccharine bubbles.

This is the Year of the Knife

What does that lyric even mean?  I play it, ponder it.  Rewind it.

Here’s my excuse / here’s my excuse /
That I don’t any better

On the plane over I sit, or have sit next to me (you choose: this is as much your story as mine) some mothers who do their best to fill every vacant second with chatter. My annoyance ebbs and flows.  They are not so bad, but then I think, wait: yes, they are.  A sense of a lack of direction informs their chat.  It is talk of many holidays, of skiiing, of husbands and curly haired children.

You baby boomers had it good huh? Affordable housing, secure pay rises, free education.  You really pissed in the pot huh?  I look around and my friends have wrinkles forming around their eyes and we are not married and have no children and we are either happy or sad or somewhere in between but the difference is that we don’t have the upstairs downstairs des res on good mortgage terms.

I think of baby boomers as I fly to the Canaries.

Yes I think of you too.  This is as much your story, as it is mine.  This is as much you as me.