Living with the Truth Stranger than Fiction This Is Not About What You Think Milligan and Murphy Making Sense

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Rocks and Hills

Something different today. A couple of days ago I was rummaging around on my desktop in a folder called ‘Left’ which has nothing to do with my novel. It just happens to be on the left side of the screen. Inside it I found a Word document called ‘Rocks and Hills’ which I apparently created last December. I read it and I remember nothing—I mean ab-so-lutely nothing about the piece. I don’t remember writing it and even after reading it I’ve no idea what might’ve inspired it. I did once work with a guy called Kevin—he drops me an e-mail every few years—but he’s nothing like the bloke in the story. 

I had a friend once called Kevin. Since we never fell out I suppose technically we're still friends but it doesn't feel like it; I've not seem him for years. I don't believe in luck but if anyone wanted to state the case for luck then I wouldn't be surprised if they cited Kevin as an example. Of bad luck, I mean. I don't think I've known anyone for whom so many things went wrong. He went through cars and wives and jobs and friends like I go through paper hankies and yet he's the least bitter or disillusioned person I think I've ever met. We were in this pub once downing our sorrows after his most recent disaster and I said to him (this was while our friendship was still active), "Kevin, do you know what?" and he said, "What?" I said, "Kevin, I seriously think you're the unluckiest bloke I have ever met. No sooner do you get on your feet than something or someone comes along and knocks you down." He had, you will not be too surprised to learn, been involved in a number of… let's just call them vehicular contretemps but I was being metaphorical at the time or at least trying to be. "You think so?" he said, and took a long thoughtful pull on his pint. After a suitable pause I said, "Yeah. I do. It's positively…" and here I got stuck and it's not like me not to have an adjective or two to hand for moments like that. "Positively what?" he asked and then it struck me: "Sisyphean," I said. "It's positively Sisyphean." Of course I had to explain who Sisyphus was since Kevin had missed more than his fair share of schooling growing up due to a whatever the collective noun for childhood illnesses is. Now there I truly was stumped. Plague? Epidemic? Kevin nodded when I said that. It seemed to make sense to him. "But do you know what," I finally interjected into the silence, "at least you've always stayed chipper." With that he stopped nodding and said, "You're right, Jim. Different rocks and different hills I guess. Another pint?"


Kass said...

How interesting that you don't remember writing this simple and striking piece.

Jim Murdoch said...

I forget so much nowadays, Kass. I’ve been tested by the Glasgow Memory Clinic a couple of times but despite the name they’re really only interested in Alzheimer’s and I’m afraid I don’t score high enough on any of their tests. They admit I have what they term “mild cognitive impairment” but as I know what day of the week it is, what country I’m in and who the Prime Minister is for their purposes they’re not interested in me. When they called this year I passed on being tested because there’s been no real change. I can read a novel and write a half-decent review of it but ask me even a couple of weeks later to talk about it and you’ll see how little has actually stuck. I’m learning to live with it but it is frustrating. As long as I keep the plates spinning I’m okay which is how I managed to finish editing The More Things Change but the last two books I wrote from scratch were both novellas and written in modules to help me cope. I’d have to read them both to tell you what they’re about. I could write a short blurb for each of them but that’s about it. Christ knows how much else I have lying around that I’ve forgotten about. There are dozens of poems or scraps of poems and I know I’ve started at least three novels but been unable to get past the first few pages. I’m not saying I’ll never write another one again but it’s not looking promising.

Ping services