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In the early days of mobile phones, just after they stopped being the size of ghettoblasters, I used to pretend I had one. Not a ghettoblaster, but a mobile phone. Pretending you had a ghettoblaster would count as a certifiable personality disorder.
Before I tell you the hows and whys, do you remember ghettoblasters? And how blokes used to carry them on their shoulders blaring out their own favourite music as though they were doing the district a favour? That ought to count as a severe personality disorder, at the very least. Reminds me of flared trousers with brass buttons down the sides. From the knee. Right down to the shoes. Hanging over them, to drag in the dusty streets. As I think of it, those brass buttons come back to me with a vividness I can’t explain. In full technicolor. It’s like a terrible fashion nightmare. All vestiges of taste gone completely haywire. Perhaps they played a part in my own, personal, personality disorders.
I was out for a stroll near the old vineyard at the bottom of the famous bridge that spans the deep gorge at Ronda. I don’t know whether you know it? Not the vineyard, the bridge. In Malaga province, Andalucia. It was back in 2002. The vineyeard is just by the tumbledown, farm building that might’ve completely crumbled by now.
Ronda is the old town overlooking the Serranía de Ronda mountains, where Ernest Hemingway, and James Joyce used to do a bit of scribbling. I can’t quite remember why I was down there, except that it had nothing to do with either writer. Anyway, that’s by the by.
As I recall, I was minding my own business, walking along a rocky goat track in the heat of the midday sun, when a man kitted out in full Elvis Presley regalia, hove into view. Greasy quiff, wrap-round sunglasses, tight trousers, silk neckerchief, right down to his shiny, white, pointy shoes, he couldn’t be faulted. He had the lot. On his shoulder, he was carrying a dirty, great ghettoblaster glued to his ear. Not surprisingly, it was playing one of Elvis’s little ditties, In the Ghetto, at full volume. You could say rather appropriately, in some ways. In other ways, it would’ve been rather more appropriate had we not been on a goat track in the middle of the Andalucian countryside, and in a Chicago urban ghetto instead. But, as it happens, we weren’t. As he ambled casually by, he nodded his head and wished me “Buenos dias”. I nodded back, like you do when you’re in a state of mild shock. And then he disappeared over a rise.
He looked so much like Elvis Presley, it could have been one of those rare sightings of the King I occasionally read about in well-thumbed magazines you sometimes find on bus floors that appear to have been written for those lucky survivors of accidents, where falling pieces of scaffolding get lodged in their skull, which can’t be removed. The ends have to be carefully sawn off so they can get through doors. Well, I don’t know that for certain, but I expect they do.
I seem to have strayed radically from the point here. I started off meaning to write about mobile phones and pocket calculators.
So, when mobile phones got smaller, but not cheaper, and only those people with pots of money and personality disorders could afford them, if a conversation started to bore me, I would sometimes take a pocket calculator from my, well, from my pocket, and pretend someone was calling me on a mobile phone. I’d make out I had to be somewhere else really important at a meeting I’d forgotten about. It wasn’t exactly a lie, as it really was important for me to be somewhere else quick, before I put my hands round the talker’s neck to strangle every breath from his body.
Nowadays, I don’t have a pocket calculator or a mobile phone. Not that I ever really needed either. Most sums I ever had to deal with could be done in my head. Sums like adding up the price of two pints of Guinness. And the one time I couldn’t quite work things out, my mind having become befuddled and overexcited with alcohol, and a substance someone had decided might perk me up a bit, the barman almost slapped me in the kisser, as I didn’t stop tapping away at the buttons excitedly for a good five minutes. Good job he stopped me, as my pocket calculator seemed to think I owed him two hundred and thirty-three pounds and threepence.
Apart from that, the multiplication button never really worked properly after the well-chewed, chewing gum somebody slipped in my pocket. And I never learned how to work the percentage button. I’d always thought that was going to be the most important one, as I waited for my agent to call me on my real mobile, once I could afford one, and I’d have to work out the proportion he would receive out of my advance. Of course, I’d have to have an agent for that to happen. And then he’d have to get me a publisher. That would all fall into place once I’d written the book. Easy-peasy. But first I’d have to come up with a good title, to get me started.
Someone once told me it pays to think ahead. And I did. But he never quantified how far ahead. As I haven’t got an agent, or an advance, so far, I suppose he meant a bit further ahead than I’ve been thinking up to now.
I gave up my mobile phone because either the ringer thing stopped working, or nobody wanted to talk to me. Or was it because the pre-paid card finally ran out? I didn’t know you had to get them topped up. And I think my calculator is down the back of a sofa I once slept on somewhere in the region of Notting Hill one night in the previous century. Anyway, nobody would belive it was a mobile phone anymore.
Talking about personality disorders, which I was a few paragraphs ago, reminds me of my childhood. I think most of my problems stem from childhood. I was one of those timid little boys, who never seemed to have any friends. Well, I did have one friend. He was my imaginary friend called Alec. But then even Alec fell out with me and wouldn’t talk to me anymore. Things got so bad my mother took me to see a child psychologist for one of those personality disorder tests. You have to answer all sorts of questions, about your favourite colours and things like that. Mine’s grey. Then they can work out what your personality disorders are. My mother was so pleased when the results came through, and the psychologist told her I didn’t have any. Well, for about three minutes she was pleased, up to the point he had to explain he actually meant I didn’t have any personality.
Now what was this supposed to be about. Ah yes, politics. A correspondent recently asked me about my strong views on politics. I think this more than adequately answers his question.
Update: Since finishing this article, Anji found evidence that proves Elvis of Ronda still exists. Ten years later here he is miming to The King at Arriate music festival, a couple miles from Ronda, in October 2012. It appears he has achieved some local fame since I first spotted him strolling about the Andalucian brush. Below is another video with him still ambling round Ronda, though sadly carrying a smaller ghettoblaster. You have to wait a bit before he appears.
For more on the Arriate October music festival click : Fiesta en el Aire
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